It’s almost every bookworm’s dream when growing up, to one day walk into your local bookshop and see your very own book sitting on the shelf, nestled between the works of some of your favourite authors. For Lara Paukovič that dream became a reality when her debut novel, Poletje v gostilni, was published by one of Slovenia’s leading publishing agencies Beletrina and is now being read by young and old alike all over the country. For the twenty-four year old, who’s currently working on her master’s degree in anglistics and comparative literature, the dream of having her own book had been alive since she was a little girl and she never gave up on it. She laughs when she remembers her first writing endeavours, a big historical fiction novel she’d started in primary school. “It was terribly cheesy and I’d gotten all the facts wrong of course! I’d even sent it to a publishing agency but never heard from them.” She kept writing throughout high school and even finished two novels as a teenager, which had never been fated to become actual books. “Poletje v gostilni is the first novel of mine that I’d really thought out and took more seriously. I was determined to finish it and get it published. Looking back on all my previous writing endeavours and comparing them to it, I have to say I’ve progressed immensely as far as my writing’s concerned.”
Her first big step into the field of Slovenian literature happened when she’d joined the team of Koridor – križišča umetnosti, a cultural platform where she’s been the literature editor for the past three years. “As an editor I had to – and I still have to – be in a constant contact with different publishing agencies; I attended a lot of different cultural events with the team and met many and more writers of all generations. And I’m very grateful for all that this work has given me.”
The inspiration for her first novel came from working in a Serbian restaurant herself – that was where she’d picked up the setting from, but the novel’s not autobiographical in any way. “Most of the characters and events that happen in the book are completely fictional. “ When asked about the challenges and obstacles she’d faced while writing the book, her answer is time to write. “It’s something I struggle with to this day. One of the struggles was also picking out relevant advice from the people who had been reading the book while it was being written, realizing what applied and what would help the book evolve. There’d also been obstacles in the form of a writer’s block, when I’d go for weeks without writing anything coherent and I had no idea how and where to lead the story from a certain point on; or underwhelming comments from different people. Until your work is published, people are always a bit reserved and sceptical towards writing. ‘Are you sure you want to do this, I mean the novel has potential, but…’ – I’ve heard it all. But if you’re focused and have a goal in mind, these obstacles become completely irrelevant.”
Publishing a novel, especially a debut one, comes with attention – not just from those that surround you on a daily basis, but from the media as well. And if there’s one thing that Lara’s learned from the whole experience, it’s who’s genuine in showing their support and who isn’t. “Some people just respond badly to the attention you’re given when you become a published author.” As far as her book and writing experience are concerned, she wouldn’t change a single thing. “I’d perfected the book to the point where I was certain that I couldn’t add or take away anything anymore, I released it into the world and the rest is out of my control,” she laughs.
As far as the future’s concerned, she plans to start working on her second work of literature this summer and will be finishing up her master’s degree in her upcoming final year at college. “I want to primarily dedicate my life to literature and see where the road takes me.”
And does she have a motto? “It would have to be the saying that I’ve got tattooed on my arm – panta rhei, ‘all flows’. The way I interpret it is that everything flows, everything changes and everything passes. So there’s really no use in stressing out about the things that we aren’t in control of.”
Text: Maja Podojsteršek; Photo: Lara Paukovič; Portrait: Manca Kocjančič