The BKBF Interview: Lauren Francis-Sharma

The BKBF Interview continues this week with Lauren Francis-Sharma, author of ‘Til the Well Runs Dry and Book of the Little Axe. Tune in on Sunday, October 4 at 10PM as Lauren Francis-Sharma joins fellow novelists in a BKBF panel discussion about “Women on the Verge”. 

Where is your favorite place to read and why? 
The sensation of reading outdoors creates, for me, a heightened pleasure. The beach is exquisite for immersive reading and, by far, sitting beside the ocean is my favorite place to read. 

What book do you return to most often, whether passages or whole?
When I open The God of Small Things I immediately find something that resonates with me as a writer. Roy’s novel feeds me when I feel low about my work.

Who made reading important to you? 
I went to a Catholic elementary school in Baltimore. There weren’t many, if any, books with Black children in the library’s collection. One day, while perusing the shelves, I found a book that had Black kids on its cover. I’ve tried remembering the name of this book for years. I vaguely recall it having the name “Pookie” in it, but can’t be certain. Anyway, it was deliciously funny and I checked it out again and again until my friends got wind of my joy and began demanding that I return it. I was upset that others wanted to have it but soon we were sharing stories about the pleasures of reading it. Looking back, I think it was in this moment that I realized what books could do. So…kudos to the author I wish I knew and also to the school librarian who reached a little out of her comfort zone to bring that book to St. Matthew’s.     

Tell us your best book-receiving experience.  
I had just begun working as a lawyer and like at any new place, I was trying to create relationships. I was developing a new friendship with a woman, Andrea, and though none of us in this new circle of friends discussed holiday gift-giving, I decided to buy something small for her. I don’t remember what I bought now, but I remember how horrified I was that my gift seemed so insubstantial when I opened Andrea’s gift to me—a beautifully bound set of all of Toni Morrison’s novels. I didn’t even realize I’d let her know that side of me, which meant that she must have been listening really closely.      

How have the pandemic and anti-racist protests of 2020 affected your reading/and or writing? 
Ugh! It’s been so hard to write. I’ve had challenging times with my focus in the past, but one of the most insidious aspects of this time, in relation to work, is that we’ve convinced ourselves that because we’re not doing the same kind of ripping and running that we should be getting more done, when in fact, the ripping and running is still happening, just in a different way. There are people dying all around us. Some of us are in the streets protesting, others organizing. Parenting is different, the decisions around opening schools and universities weigh heavily. Going outside requires armor, physical and emotional. Job security is uncertain. I could go on, but for sure, I’m not writing as much and I wasn’t reading as much as I wanted until I decided to go back to audiobooks, which can be delightful if you choose wisely.    

Lauren Francis-Sharma is the author of the critically acclaimed novel ’Til the Well Runs Dry. She resides near Washington, DC with her husband and two children and is the assistant director of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Her second novel, Book of the Little Axe, was published in May.