Dyanne: Hello, Laura. It’ nice to meet you via email. Congratulations on being chosen as the host author for next year’s conference.
Laura: Let me just say first how excited I am to be part of Romance Slam Jam 2012. The Sisters of Color Book Club is a great group, so enthusiastic and planning hard to make every moment of your stay in Little Rock, Arkansas memorable. Looking forward to meeting all of you!
Dyanne: At the moment I’m not familiar with your work. If you don’t mind would you please tell me and the rest of the family about your books?
Laura: I have several books available at present.
1. Love On the Line, Avon A+/Harper Collins. Available as print and eBook.
“High-powered executive Thea Morgan (45) is marrying Rev. Xavier Thornton the former athlete and successful black businessman-turned-pastor. A fair-skinned black woman who cracked the glass ceiling in theTexasoil business, Thea assumes her identity difficulties are behind her. She hasn’t yet met Xavier’s new congregation in a down-on-its-luckArkansastown…nor Mrs. Hattie Patterson the matriarch of St. Hurricane Church who has fixed opinions about how a minister’s wife should behave. Will Thea lose her struggles to win over Xavier’s congregation, people who just don’t understand her big-city ways? It will take every bit of her humor, business acumen, and just plain hard-loving to deal with her crisis of faith and the sinking feeling that, just maybe, love can’t conquer all.
“Like mother, like daughter, Thea and her 18 year old daughter Jesse discover that sometimes to get what you need most you to have to put everything, even love, on the line.”
2. Icing On the Cake – MIRA. Available as print and eBook
“When forty-something Liz Talbot’s husband left her for a woman half her age, Liz put all her passions into her bakery. The problem is fad diets and fitness crazes are ruining sales. She’s barely staying afloat. Liz’s luck seems to be changing when her ex dies without changing his will, leaving her the main beneficiary. Unfortunately one of the things she inherits is the advertising agency she left behind to pursue her dream of baking. Worse yet, her partner is the newly widowed husband stealer—Brandi, with a 0ver the i. Talbot Advertising is in the toilet since the death of her ex (that’s right, she’s now the proprietor of two failing businesses.) But with twin daughters and a mother watching her every move, Liz doesn’t see failure as an option. She’s more determined than ever to make a name for herself as an artisan baker extraordinaire, providing her products can catch the eye of the sexy Nabisco Food scout who is as elusive as he is mysterious.”
3. A New Lu – eBook
“Lu Nichols is a columnist and the lifestyle columnist for FIVE-O, the magazine for women of a certain age. When her husband suddenly announced that he wanted a divorce, it wasn’t without a last weekend fling.
“A NEW LU takes readers for the ultimate midlife comedy crisis ride, when an endearing middle-aged woman unexpectedly discovers she’s pregnant by her ex but about to go it alone. Everyone has an opinion about that: her ex, her college-age son and her about-to-be married daughter, her boss at Five-O, her best friends, and even her 70-something widowed neighbor Cy. Far from being alone, Lu is about to discover life doesn’t just continue at fifty, it can move into fifth gear.
“And just to make things a little more interesting, the sexy doctor who delivers the news of her condition keeps popping up with more than a medical interest in Lu.
“The sometimes hilarious and always upbeat world of Lu comes to life in A NEW LU.”
Dyanne: Thank you Laura. You’ve given all of us some new books to acquire. They all sound fantastic. Can you tell me if you remember, what gave you the idea for your first book?
Laura: It was in response to a book I had just finished reading. I’d never thought about trying to write. This was back in the late 1970s when nobody I knew was a writer. But I’d run out of something to read and I wanted the heroine in the historical romance I’d finished to behave with more spunk. So I wrote a scene in which the heroine nearly killed the hero with his own sword in Chapter One. I didn’t know it would become a book but I just loved the idea of making characters do what I wanted them to do for a change, and so kept writing. That book was my first sale in 1980 SILKS AND SABERS.
Dyanne: ROFL. What a great answer. So, I can see you like control. It’s going to be great meeting you next year. Laura are you devoted to your genre or do you see yourself writing in another genre at some point in the future?
Laura: Over the past 30 years I’ve written in every genre I wanted to including Historical Romance, Western, Saga, Paranormal, Romantic Suspense, Category Romance, Contemporary, African American and mainstream women’s fiction. I even co-authored a Young Adult Nonfiction book called “Careers In Computers.”
Dyanne: Time. I started this month’s column talking about how quickly it passes and you’ve just proven my point. Congratulations on staying sane during a 30 year stint. You’ll be a good person to ask this of. Since you’ve been in the business so long do you believe it’s important to write based on trends, or do you write from the heart?
Laura: I write from the heart. I don’t know any other way. Of course, I try to keep up with what’s popular but I write something only if I’m happy to spend months working on that story with those characters.
Dyanne: *LOL* At a recent chapter meeting I was telling of how a character made me so angry that in the sequel I wouldn’t give her any lines. We do become emotionally involved with our characters. And you’re right; you have to care enough for them to want to spend unlimited time with them.
How do you, as a writer, find your way into the story? Do you use an outline or let the story unfold naturally?
Laura: Because I sell on partials I have to write an outline. But it’s only a high-points outline. I never do it by chapter or by scene. That’s too much detail for me. I like to get up every morning knowing where I have to go but not how I’m going to get there. I’m a seat of the pants writer.
Dyanne: Where do you get your ideas? How do you know you have a good tale to tell worthy of becoming a novel?
Laura: Ideas come from everywhere. I got an idea for a historical romance after reading an article in the newspaper about a modern event. I cut out pictures for inspiration. I read, A LOT. I know that I have a good story if the characters talk to each other, or me, when I’m not trying to write. When I wake up in the morning and I have another idea to make the storyline I’m thinking about writing better, I know I’m onto something good. It’s like planting seeds. Some sprout and others don’t. I write the sprouters.
Dyanne: Since I just interviewed an author today for my cable show we were talking about where writers get ideas. She’s a mystery writer. When her grandmother was 90 she decided it was time to die. Every few weeks she’d call the family to her home telling them it was her time. They’d all arrive to find her watching Jeopardy. After several of these trips, this author thought on her way back home, ‘one day someone is going to kill her.’ Thus the idea for her book, Murder of a Sweet Old lady was born. LOL. Nothing is scared to a writer who’s looking for a new idea. J
How many hours a week do you devote to writing, including research?
Laura: That depends on where I am in a story. I’m fortunate to be able to write fulltime so when I’m on deadline I write 4 hrs a day, maybe 7 days a week. Some of that might be researching or not. Sometimes I do editing because I edit as I write. If I’m doing something historical or that requires a special kind of knowledge, like writing about ministers and their wives, or how to run an artisan bakery, I will interview people with that experience. And I read a lot on the subjects I’m writing about after writing time.
Dyanne: What do you find to be the most difficult part of writing? How do you overcome that difficulty?
Laura: The truth is it varies from book to book. Some characters are just there from the beginning and so I may have to work on the plot to tell their story in the most interesting way. Other times I have a strong storyline but no characters, or one of the characters is not working the way I want it to. Sometimes it’s finding the right words. I know what I want to say but it’s not coming out right. All these things require patience, the willingness to write, be wrong, and rewrite, sometimes several versions. I’ve thrown away as many as 150 pages of a book. And once I had to call my editor and say a plot wasn’t working and offered another one. I overcome by keeping on keeping on. Occasionally, I’ll put it aside, and write something else. Usually then, I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with the answer to whatever the block was. And, finally, I may just have to let that story go. I have a file of stories that didn’t work at the time. But I never toss anything away. You never know…
Dyanne: Don’t you just love how an answer to a plot dilemma comes when you’re not consciously thinking of them. Wouldn’t it be nice if all of life’s problems could be solved in the same manner? J What tips do you have for finding an agent and publisher?
A: Attend writers’ conferences and sign up for one-on-one with agents and editors. Enter writing contests that have agents and editors as judges. It’s not like it was when I started. You can’t usually write people blind and get a response. There are thousands more writers looking and less agents and editors and publishers. You have to do your homework, know who’s buying what and then offer that, if it’s what you’re writing. Be professional; know what you’re going to say. Be brief. But face-to-face is the best way to break the ice. The conference will pay for itself in the exposure.
Dyanne: I’d like to add that going to smaller conferences make the writer/reader experience more personal. That’s one of the reason I love the Romance Slam Jam conferences. It’s always like going home.
Laura, if you know, can you tell us what the market is like right now for your genre?
Laura: I’m writing women’s’ fiction, some with a definite African American slant. All my stories have multi-ethnic casts. Business is good but competition is stiff.
Dyanne: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your writing career?
Laura: A long career will have ups and downs. You may never make scads of money or the New York Times bestseller list but that doesn’t mean a writer can’t have a good career. You must learn to adapt as a writer to your audience. Books are shorter, sentences are shorter, stories have a lot less description in 2011 than in 1980.
Dyanne: That is very good advice. Thank you. What do you consider success as a writer?
Laura: See answers above. J In 30 yrs I’ve published 39 books in many genres and have seen some of those works translated into 15+ languages. That says to me that my storytelling is universal. I’m a writer first. Being a woman and an African American are not holdbacks but assets.
Dyanne: I would totally agree with you. Congratulations on your success. What literary organizations or writers groups would you recommend to writers in your genre?
Laura: I think writers should belong to groups. One doesn’t have to become secretary or president, but there are opportunities to share with other professionals in your field. Writers work alone. We need to be with our colleagues for affirmation. So, join a critique group, especially if you are self-publishing. Also join a large genre group like Romance Writers of American, Mystery Writers of America, Novelists Inc, Western Writers of America, Poets and Writers, The Society of Children’s Authors and Illustrators, whatever your writing interests are. To be long-term successful, you must keep up with the business and public interests.
Dyanne: What is your view of epublishing? What opportunities does it provide for you and for other authors? What do you think is the future of epublishing?
Laura: I think epublishing is here to stay. It will become the way of publishing for most commercial/poplar fiction and nonfiction. I have to admit that I like print books. I grew up collecting them and still prefer to buy in a bookstore over going online because I see things walking the aisles I would not know about online.
The opportunity it provides for me as a traditionally published author is the possibility of long life for my books. I began publishing in 1980. Most of my books are no longer available in print. Epublishing can give new life to those works, and give them a chance to find a new audience.
The opportunity it provides for new authors is that they can get their works out there without going through the traditional publishing process. That has good and bad aspects. I think the greatest pitfall will be the lack of vetting. Self-published authors won’t have to run the gauntlet of an editor asking why something was written this way, offering useful criticism to make the work better, easier to understand, and more compelling. Without that critique I wonder if good authors will miss the potential of becoming great authors. Every pushback I’ve ever gotten has made me dig deeper, work harder, figure out how to make my vision of a story one I can share.
Dyanne: With all that you have going on in your life, how do you keep a balance between family, work and writing?
Laura: When I began writing I had two boys in diapers (6 months and 2 years) and a daughter in kindergarten. I wrote at nap time and when I could steal a few minutes. Then I wrote when they were in school. I’m a daytime writer. Now, with my family grown life is easier. But I’ve kept the habit of writing during the day, before the dishes and the other aspects of my life.
Dyanne: Laura, I’ve really enjoyed talking to you. I’ll be checking in with you to see what updates you have for the 2012 conferences. I know the rest of the family will be looking forward to hearing what all of you are planning for us. Last question, Laura. Where can readers find you?
Dyanne: As usual, authors, let us know if you have a new book. We’ll be more than happy to spread the word. As for updating your websites, considering I need to do mine as well, I will let it slide this time. But seriously, we want to hear from you. firstname.lastname@example.org
Readers , we would also love to hear from you. There are so many books out there that we have no wait of keeping track of all of them. Let us know the books that members of the family have coming out.
Until next time