Despite such evocative descriptions, Laken says that her fiction isn’t really about the world she lived in here: “I keep thinking that maybe when I’m old and gray I’ll have earned the right to write a true story, but the fact is I have an unreliable memory and will probably have forgotten or embellished everything by then. I suppose this is why I’m drawn to fiction; I instinctively feel the need to embellish every story.”
Which might explain an image I’ve been dwelling on since reading Dream House: when she lived nearby, I used to regularly see Laken walking her dog on the streets of the Old West Side. She didn’t amble or look about. She was always striding energetically, ponytail swinging, chin up, eyes forward but barely focused. I realize now that she had already moved beyond observing our turn-of-the-century workers’ cottages—her brain was busy embellishing the characters she was putting into those structures, deciding the lifelong effects they would have on each other.
“I fell in love with every member of the Price family as I wrote them,” admits Laken, who reads from the book at Shaman Drum at 7 p.m. on February 5 (see Events). “And it was comforting and enlightening to get beyond my narrow personal experience of the house and begin to experience it as others might have.”