Love, magic & hard truths Estelle Laure
This Raging Light charts a familiar young-adult plotline through first love, heartbreak, and self-discovery, but also tackles issues like depression, addiction, and adult aimlessness. Lucille’s voice is original — raw, vulnerable, and stubborn — and through it, Laure channels the tough conundrum of a girl grappling with the premature onset of adulthood all by herself.
At age sixteen, author Estelle Laure was living on her own, supporting herself by working at a Taos video store. “It was fun, but I was broke,” she told Pasatiempo. She had dropped out of high school in her senior year; after skipping two grades, the school administration informed Laure that in order to make up the required credits to graduate, she would have to repeat ninth grade. Instead, she left school to rent an apartment with two graduating friends; her mother had already moved out of state with her younger brother.
More than two decades later, the author bio for her first novel states, “Estelle Laure is a Vonnegut worshipper who believes in love, magic, and the power of hard truths.” Her striking debut, This
Raging Light, is narrated by seventeen-year-old Lucille, a New Jersey teenager who is abruptly abandoned by her parents and left to fend for herself and her younger sister. The book was published in December by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and foreign rights have been sold in more than 10 countries. This Raging Light charts a familiar young-adult plotline through first love, heartbreak, and self-discovery, but also tackles issues like depression, addiction, and adult aimlessness. Lucille’s voice is original — raw, vulnerable, and stubborn — and through it, Laure channels the tough conundrum of a girl grappling with the premature onset of adulthood all by herself.
Though she, too, was living self-sufficiently as a teenager, Laure, now fortyone, said that This Raging
Light is definitely fiction. She eventually earned a BA in theater arts from New Mexico State University, had t wo children, and began writing fiction after her son was born. After getting an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in writing for children and young adults, she said, “This was the story that came to me. ... I have never honestly had an idea that didn’t have a main character in that age range. I chalk it up to having a very strong sixteen-year- old inside of me, who is still alive and well and wants to express itself.” As for how the novel is informed by her experience, Laure said, “I had a very close-knit group of friends — who are still my friends — here in Taos, and we went through a lot together. So I knew that it was possible for a girl that age to survive without parents.”
Laure calls t he journey to her novel’s publication “one of those fairy-tale things .” She first got an internship, and then a job, working remotely for Folio Literary Management in New York. After the agent she worked for asked to see Laure’s own book-in-progress, she immediately sent Laure a contract. Soon after, Laure had several publishing houses eager to make her an offer. “I got two pre- empts and then it was potentially going to an auction, and I just called it. I totally connected with my editor at HMH. She came in with a bid that decided it, because it’s really risky going to auction … then they can come in however they want. I had a phone conversation with Elizabeth [Bewley, her editor], and I thought she was amazing and perfect. I mean, why mess around?”
The book has done well overseas, and Laure will be touring schools in London and going to book festivals in Romania and Italy this summer. She said she’s particularly pleased by how Italian teens have responded to This Raging Light: “Italy has been unbelievable — I get these broken English fan letters. I mean, I get them from the U.S. too, quite a bit, but it just tickles me when I get a fan letter from Italy, because they have to make such an effort, and it’s so awesome that they do. They send all kinds of cool pictures, too.” Laure’s next book, These
Mighty Forces, is scheduled for a July 2017 publication, and follows the same characters but with a new narrator. In juggling work, two kids, and a book contract, Laure cited yoga as a habit that complements her writing regimen. “I think yoga gets a bad rap. Especially around here, it can be so New Agey or whatever, but I do a lot of hot yoga and it is really hard. It’s something that I don’t always enjoy, and making myself go back to it over and over again helps me when I hit the wall in my writing. It requires the same kind of tenacity.”