LS: Although I have been writing regularly since I was 12 and have tried now and then to find a group of writers to join, it wasn’t until I found the SARA group last year that I knew I had found my writerly home. Our group has a great mix of well-established authors, people actively submitting work, people self-publishing, and writers still at the beginning of their journey. SARA does it all—-the business side of writing, continuing craft education, critiques both online and in person—and is friendly and welcoming.
SC: What sub-genre of romance stories do you write?
LS: I write in many sub-genres and try not to limit the story based on genre. For example, some of my characters bring a New Age element to stories, which some readers/editors would automatically put into the paranormal realm and others wouldn’t. More and more, genres are blurring and mixing and I love it because it allows the stories to be told the way they should be told instead of stuck into neat little categories all the time. Romantic suspense/thriller is my current focus, but general contemporary, paranormal, light erotica, science fiction/dystopia, fantasy, and literary romance are all sub-genres I write in. I have awesome ideas for a few historical, but since they will take so much research to do them right, I’ve put them on the backburner.
SC: What about the romance genre appeals to you?
LS: I think happy endings are important. I believe offering a sense of hope and a sense of Love Conquers All is what people need, is what people are hungry for, and is why romance novels sell so well. People want to be inspired. People want to see that no matter how dark their lives may get, there are these inspiring moments of hope that lift us up and carry us forward. <Cue the music: Beatles “All You Need Is Love”>
SC: Do you consider yourself a romantic?
LS: Hmmm… I am not the candlelight and roses type of romantic, but yes, I would consider myself a romantic. I would describe myself more as a feminist romantic, a goofy romantic, a gritty romantic—I go for what I call “romantic realism.” I think our society gets too infatuated with the “first date” type of romance instead of the “I will stand by you even at your darkest hour” type of romance. I prefer the latter.
SC: What are your ultimate goals as a writer?
LS: My main financial goal is to be able to support myself well through my writing career alone—and I still have a long way to go on that.
My main artistic goal is to keep pushing myself across my boundaries, keep learning, keep improving. I want to transcend expectations. I want to be the kind of writer who gets letters from readers that say: “I couldn’t put what I was feeling into words but you expressed it perfectly.”
My immediate goal is to finish one of the many novels I have started. I am getting really close!
SC: If you could have any actor/actress cast as the hero/heroine of your latest work, who would you choose and why?
LS: Pinterest is awesome for narrowing this down and I’ve just recently gotten on board. (Pun intended!) I have Charlize Theron in mind for the heroine, but the hero has been harder to peg. I’ve had to stop looking for pictures for the hero because I ended up spending too much time looking at hot guys instead of writing. Oh, the writer’s life is sooo rough….
SC: What is the best book you’ve ever read about the craft of writing?
There are so many! It may be sinful not to list Stephen King’s On Writing first and foremost. I have also greatly enjoyed Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, and Betsy Lerner’s Forest for the Trees. Very useful books have been Madden’s Revising Fiction and Donald Maas’ The Breakout Novelist. And I’m always downloading and buying more books on writing. I have not yet read Save the Cat, but it is on my Kindle. I also have started collecting writing books from the previous generation, for example Writing and Selling by Jack Woodford from 1940. It’s great so far—an entertaining and witty look at the publishing world and the world of literature. What Woodford talks about from the 30s and 40s sounds an awful lot like what is happening today with print vs digital and “true literature” vs “pulp fiction.” It’s good to have the long perspective.
SC: Do you have a writing routine? What does it involve?
LS: When I was working 50-60 hours a week at a corporate job, my writing had to get stuffed in where it could and I ended up being most successful waking up early to write from 5:30 to 7:00 before having to rush into my work day. Recently though, I quit that job to be able to focus on my writing since several novels are in the “murky middle” and need my full focus. Some days I can only get 2 or 3 hours of decent writing, some days I have gotten 8 hours of (mostly) decent writing. I’m currently tracking word count and hours spent and am trying to narrow down when and how long is best for me as a writer now that I have my day to organize as I see fit.
SC: Do you have any writing superstitions?
LS: Other than fearing the day I have my best word count is also going to be the day my computer decides to fatally crash before I can back up the newly written stuff to the cloud? No, that’s pretty much it. No superstitions, just fears.
SC: What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have any hidden talents?
LS: I like to discover dives and hole-in-the wall places with good eats and search out live acoustic or bluesy music around town. I take in Broadway shows at the Majestic occasionally. As the weather gets cooler, we’ll be taking our Border Collie to area parks more often, going on hiking trips, and gardening and DIY landscaping (have plans to turn 30% of lawn into hardscape). I just got a guitar and plan to teach myself how to play, so let’s see how that goes.
SC: What is your favorite part of the writing process?
LS: I think all writers would say their favorite part is the beginning, when the ideas are freshly inspired and flowing like homemade wine at a summer soiree. It is great to be in the zone and frustrated only by your fingers not typing fast enough the movie that plays in your mind. But really, even the murky middle is pretty awesome compared to a corporate job, no matter how much I might cuss and crumble when the characters won’t behave the way I want them to. I would like to say that my favorite part is writing the words “The End” after the final edit, but I haven’t gotten there yet.
SC: What would happen if you didn’t write?
LS: I have been there before. After attaining my Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing, I was so discouraged about the publishing industry in general and my chances in it specifically, that I did stop writing for a couple of years.
SC: And wouldn’t you know, because I stopped writing fiction, I started journaling more and even wrote the occasional poem? A writer writes. A writer cannot stop the flow of words and images, even if she stops writing them down.
SC: How do you know when your research is done?
LS: I have not had to do much research yet for the books I write and so tend to do the research on an as needed basis with quick trips to the Internet or calls with friends who would know or even getting some feedback in critique group about the proper terms for technical things in various industries. One thing I have learned, though, is that reading deeply in a genre (spy thriller, particular historical time-period, etc.) can really help you get started with basics so you have the terminology in mind when you need to turn to more in-depth research. This “shortcut” works with reading well-researched fiction, but not with watching TV or movies, which frequently get details wrong!
SC: Name one thing you absolutely can’t write about.
LS: I feel that no topics are taboo. However, if the question means “what will you refuse to write” then I would have to say writing torture or rape as sexy. For example, some of the erotica being written today would try to make water-boarding look like the splashy scene from Flashdance. Umm, no. Torture is torture, rape is rape, and neither of them are sexy. Period. I consider books that try to make torture and rape look sexy to be dangerous dis-information.
SC: Name one of the challenges you had writing or as an author and how you met that challenge.
LS: The biggest challenge that I have always faced and will probably continue to face is to remember to focus on the bite-sized chunks of tasks until I reach my larger goal. Sometimes, when I look up from the daily process and see how much more I have to do and how far away the end goal is, and start comparing myself to other writers who pop out a book a month, and Geez Louise, there are SO MANY books already being published, do we really need any more, will anyone even care…? You get the idea.
Fighting discouragement and perfectionism is a constant battle, for many writers, which is why we need our writer friends and groups like SARA and RWA to give us a reality check and tell us we are not alone on this awesome but sometimes tricky path.
SC: Always a comforting thought, Laura. It’s good to know we have friends like you in SARA to help keep us grounded.
Article by Mary Brand