My First Q&A Interview with Writer and Actor Laura Loane about Books, Reading, Writing, Acting and Disability @dudgeon_neil @Robert Daws @LouiseVisAble @samrenke @ITV #MidsomerMurders

About the Actor/Writer

Laura Loane is an actor and writer with an absolute whole-hearted passion for books. She has very kindly allowed me to interview her on books, acting, writing and her disability. She is represented by VisABLE People, of whom she is very proud of to be on their books of.

For those who don’t know. VisABLE People is the world’s first to supply disabled actors, presenters and models to the advertising industry, television and film companies, radio and theatre. The agency has been involved in several major dramas. They represent highly motivated artists with disabilities of all ages but above all, abilities, including acting, modelling and presenting. They also represent award-winning sportspeople, including World Champions and Paralympic medallists.

Laura Loane photo

The Interview

1. When we first connected, your love of books was very apparent. What genres do you enjoy? What is your favourite book as an adult and what was your favourite book as a child and why?

I am deeply in love with books in any format (my Kindle is the most precious thing I own), and I’ll read anything I can get my hands on. I was one of those children – y’know, the wee geek that read the back of the cereal packet! I am a fan of historical (Philippa Gregory writes beautifully about the Tudors and their courts), crime (the Inspector Morse books by Colin Dexter are amazing in many ways), and the Cherringham series, written by Matt Costello and Neil Richards, are also very engaging and well done. I’m also reading A Classical Education: The Stuff You Wish You’d Been Taught” by Caroline Taggart. It is the most riveting, hilarious thing. And it teaches me things I didn’t know, always a bonus! Terry Pratchett was and still is a literary hero of mine. The style of writing is glorious, not to mention the footnotes.

I bought everything I could find in Polish when I lived in Poland for a year as a student; it helped my knowledge of the language a lot. Death is female in Polish. Yep. Another small step for the ladies; we can channel Death if we so wish! (I also really like Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, Anthem, and We The Living. I don’t agree with Rand’s politics or outlook, I never did, but these books are wonderfully written. Please, readers, don’t come for me!) And of course, a honourary mention to the stunning Clive Cussler, who introduced me to the underwater world of the National Underwater and Marine Agency and its hero, Dirk Pitt. Atlantis and Raise The Titanic are still two of the best books I’ve ever read; the sheer level of detail is astounding, and the majority of it true.

I need to give a mention to audiobooks here, in particular the Morse books narrated by Kevin Whately, and Cherringham, narrated by Neil Dudgeon (he of Midsomer Murders fame). The wonderful narration and skilful deploy of accents really adds to the writing!

My favourite book as an adult… god, there’s so many. How much space and time d’you have, because I really could go on til the end of time here! Well, I’ll tell you my favourite at the moment, and it’s Francesca Martinez’s “What The F*** Is Normal?” She has cerebral palsy, like me, and if anyone should wish to understand how people with cerebral palsy feel about the disability and all it brings, the humour and the anger and the determination to do what you were always told you couldn’t, read that one. It’s a brilliant book, and it’ll stay close to my heart because it lays all bare.

My favourite book as a child? There was a massive anthology I had of Roald Dahl stories, a big white thing, and a slightly smaller anthology of Enid Blyton stories I had too. I don’t remember the name of the Blyton anthology, but god, I read those two books over and over; I loved them to bits.

2. Who inspired you most to read books and from what age did you start to really enjoy books?

Um. That’s a really good question, and one I can’t answer, really, because I don’t know! Books have always been my escape, really, and I’d read anything anywhere, so from whenever I actually learned to read – boom, that was it, the switch was on and then ripped off! I have never stopped.

3. What are you reading just now?

Right now, I am reading Bruce Dickinson’s What Does This Button Do? A candid, funny insight into one of the greatest men in metal, and how he ended up in one of the greatest bands in the world (lots of shennanigans happened). He’s lovely too, I met him last year at a book signing in a Waterstones in London. One of the best nights of my life.

4. You have said you are into heavy metal? Who is your favourite heavy metal band and are there other music genres you enjoy too? I read on the Internet you did some radio presenting. Did you have some freedom to squeeze in some of your favourite music genres/songs?

Oh, man, there’s LOADS! Iron Maiden are at the top of the list, they are great people and wonderful musicians. Nicko McBrain is what happens if Michael Flatley was behind a drumkit! Nightwish (with Tarja Turunen, and now Floor Jansen) are producing some really good stuff. … let’s not talk about the Anette period. Less said about that, the better… Aside from metal, Rush are also heroes of mine. There is no one that can write a song like Neil Peart, or drum like him. My apologies to another drum hero of mine, Mr Stewart Copeland, but it’s true! Sometimes there’s nothing like grooving to the beat of The Police’s So Lonely, or yelling about Roxanne. I also enjoy music in foreign languages; I discovered Ewa Farna, the band Perfect when I was out in Poland and I’ve been in love with their music ever since; not sure what genre they are, though. They do a brilliant version of Every Breath You Take in Polish; I’d love to see Sting tackle that one! Ewa is pop, and she’s brilliant at it. When I was on radio (shout out to VIBE FM, now defunct), it depended on the time of day and the song itself, but after eleven at night you could play whatever you wanted. I was a pro at playing the uncensored version of Social Distortion’s Don’t Take Me For Granted, and silencing it exactly as the curse came in. No one ever caught on! When the station closed and I did my final show, I played all sorts – Tarja Turunen’s “Oasis” (a Finnish language song), KINO (Russian punk) are the two I can remember. My short-lived stint on radio in Belfast was the same, but it was not a nice place, so we said hell with the rules and played anything we could think of. The station manager hated Eiffel 65’s Blue, so I played that to annoy him. It worked. I got away with most songs I loved, even if they were long. There’s nothing like a bit of Rush in the morning!

5. Music references get used in fiction books, what do you make of that and have you found any that have your favoured style of heavy metal referenced?

Kevin J. Anderson’s and Neil Peart’s “Clockwork Angels”, based on the album!

6. You’ve done some acting. What inspired you to act and how did you get into it?

I acted when I was younger, around 11, and then quit for a while, then got back into it, then quit… I don’t remember what propelled me into it when I was younger, but now? Now, it is a means of escape. I can be whoever the script asks me to be. Of course, I’m always going to be disabled, I’m always going to have my rollator walker with me in some capacity, but when I am acting, for a time, my body is not a complete mess that doesn’t do as it’s told most days. It’s just a complete mess in front of other people, in the guise of someone else! *laughs*

I was watching Lewis one night, and in nine series, there have been three or four disabled characters… and NONE of them are disabled. I checked. None. I love the show to bits but this information made me so angry. Morse is and was different; so is Endeavour, the prequel, in the 60s. Set in the 80s, there is one disabled character in Morse and she’s in a wheelchair. She gets to utter the immortal line, “Cripples aren’t allowed to have bad days, Mr Morse.”, and that’s sort of true. But I looked at what I was seeing and went, “Where am I?” Where are the disabled men and women doing Hamlet, Macbeth, etc? Where are we in something like Doctor Who, Strangers (ITV), Midsomer Murders? I do not want to be a “token”, but representation really is important. I don’t fault Shaun Evans (Endeavour), Neil Dudgeon (Midsomer), or Jodie Whittaker (Dr Who), it is not their decision who’s cast for what, but disabled people need to be on primetime TV too; we have as much right as anyone else, and casting directors should try to change their thinking. We’re not just “the victim”, we can be lawyers, mothers, friends, lovers too. Course, the argument about disabled actors not being allowed to tell their own story (see whatshisname from Stranger Things being cast to play the Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick, when he isn’t disabled whatsoever) is a current one, and will be until disabled actors are allowed to do just that. Adam Pearson can tell you more; he has a disability similar to that of Merrick.

7. Are there any tv dramas you would like to be in?

I would murder to be in Midsomer Murders, pun completely and wholeheartedly intended! I’m sure the show is great craic to work on; Fiona Dolman for one is hilarious, and Mr Dudgeon the same. I had the honour of meeting him one night in July outside the Royal Court, and actually said to him, “See this? This four-wheeled thing here? It’d make a great murder weapon!” I’m still mortified that I did such a thing, mind, but death by wheels would be cool. As long as it wasn’t me doing the dying.

8. From what age have you been acting from?

I started when I was 11, then quit for a while, back into when I was 15, quit for my exams and that turned into a decade, and now been back in it since 29.

9. You have a disability. To inform readers of my blog, can you describe what sort of disability and do you think attitudes in (a) the street and (b) in acting are changing for the better?

My disability is spastic diplegic cerebral palsy, which just means my muscles get tight and it affects my legs. It also affects the cerebellum in the brain, hence the name, and while we don’t know the full extent of what and where and just how it affects me, I do know it affects my balance, fine motor control (my handwriting looks like a drunk spider took drugs, crawled through ink and danced on the page), my hand eye co-ordination, and the processing of information in my brain. Signals from brain to legs do get there – they just disappear somewhere along the line for a second or two. In easier terms, I can pick up the phone at work and find out who it is and what they need, and then a microsecond after putting the caller on hold, I go, “hang on… who was that?” No one knows where the information goes. Other things, ridiculous things like song lyrics and quotes and whatnot, they’re still there! I can quote Meatloaf’s Bat Out Of Hell at the drop of a hat. And the fact that the guy who wrote for him started out in theatre, he never intended to be a producer at all. Your readers at this stage no doubt think I’m utterly mad. I probably am, a bit. RE attitudes. (a) it depends where you are. My energy output is four times more than someone able-bodied; the energy I use to do simple things is like walking up stairs all the time. Every second of every day, it’s sore. I’m tired. I am perpetually exhausted, even when I’m not doing anything. Even existing is tiring, and it drives me insane that people don’t understand, or don’t WANT to understand. I’m not sure which is worse. I can work and live a normal life, but just have to do it a little differently than most. My version of different involves coffee and Red Bull! I am a normal, tax paying, working member of society but sometimes it is difficult. Rationing your energy for travelling, for example, is hard. When you have to work long hours to make money for a trip you’re taking, but you know that IF you work those hours, you may not physically be able to rise from bed the next morning, or you might even be sleeping so deep you do not hear the alarm, what can you do? How can you do it? You just do what you can, really, and if anyone should ask or complain, tell them the truth. When I was in NYC, the guys I interned for (we were not paid), a company called Hara Partners in Manhattan, didn’t care a jot. When I tried to explain to my boss, Mai, about the effects and what I might need to do the work properly, he interrupted me and moved onto something else. subsequent attempts to speak about it went unheeded. I was operating in 30c temperature and I was exhausted all the time. I eventually quit and went to see sites and do the things I’d wanted to do. I didn’t go to NYC to be worked so hard and my needs ignored that it left me unable to function at the weekends. So leaving was the best thing for my health, although they weren’t pleased. Had they listened to what I asked for, I may not have left until my time was up. If employers can listen, it makes a world of difference. I can do in four or five hours of work what others would do in twelve, if they are able bodied – and that’s the difference. This said, I know that acting jobs may not work like that – if you’re in for a 12 hour stint, maybe you need to stay til it’s done. But the fact that many disabled people, including myself, exist on muscle relaxers like Baclofen and Botox, and we need a lot of sleep to function properly… well, that needs talked about. Just because I might need a few accommodations for something doesn’t mean I cannot do it. Disability and its effects – whatever disability it might be, and there are a lot of them – needs to be front and centre; it needs acknowledged.

(b) they’re making an effort, but no, they have a long, long way to go before disabled actors, disabled anyone is on an equal footing with the rest of society.

10. It says on your Twitter account you also write. What sort of things do you write and are you writing anything just now?

Yes, I am writing at the moment; I’m going to participate in National Novel Writing Month in November. I am writing a book about a bunch of journalists in the Bosnian and Kosovo wars of the 90s; the fictional bits are wound around the actual events, like the Siege of Sarajevo (5/4/92-29/2/96) and NATO’s bombing in 1998. I’ve been knee-deep in research for a while!

11. Where can people find your pieces of writing and how long have you been writing for and what inspired you to write?

A few bits of my writing were on a site that is now defunct, the things I did in the early days of journalism college. it’s not collated, there are bits everywhere, but is where most writing things I do can be found. I’ve been writing since I could hold a pen, probably, but really since I was about 13.

I don’t really know what inspired me to write; I guess I just had it in me somewhere. And now I can’t put it back!

12. Is there anything you would like to add about yourself?

I speak too many languages for my own good.

*yells* BOOKS. I mentioned books, didn’t I? *grin*

Thank you very much to Laura Loane, who has given wonderfully detailed, interesting and informative answers to all of my questions and for supplying the photograph.
It has been a pleasure interviewing you for, what is my first interview blog post.


2 thoughts on “My First Q&A Interview with Writer and Actor Laura Loane about Books, Reading, Writing, Acting and Disability @dudgeon_neil @Robert Daws @LouiseVisAble @samrenke @ITV #MidsomerMurders

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