The Dames of Dialogue are pleased to have our latest Dame, Laurel-Rain Snow, in the spotlight today. It was a pleasure interviewing her and getting to know her a little better. She is, in my opinion, a writer who not only writes what she knows, she writes from her heart. To find out more about her and her books, check out her awesome Laurel-Rain Snow page right here on the Dames of Dialogue blog.
1. Tell us about your latest published book, Web of Tyranny.
In this book, I illustrate the cycle of child abuse, in fictional form, spotlighting the emotional terrain of an abused child’s life. We follow the character Margaret (Meg/Lainey) Graham as she struggles with the tyranny that characterizes her childhood experience; she is constantly burdened with feelings of something just out of reach hovering on the edge of her awareness—memories that elude her for many years, even as she focuses on her goal of eventual escape. As she zeroes in on the prize of an independent life, with the freedom to pursue her dreams, one gigantic misstep throws her off-course for several more years. Eventually, with the support of her women friends and with the realization of her dream of a college degree, she finds a way to reach fulfillment in her life.
2. How did the idea for the heroine, Meg Graham, come to you?
In each of my books, I have combined personal and professional real-life experiences, albeit fictionalized; but in “Web of Tyranny,” I focused more closely inward to retrieve some of my own memories of childhood. Therefore, in creating the traumatic world of Margaret (Meg/Lainey) Graham, I was able to closely approximate the emotional landscape of this child’s experience in ways that I believe readers can relate to.
My career in social work also informed many of the facets of the victimized child’s life and added that layer of authenticity to the characters.
In many ways, “Web of Tyranny” became a story that freed me from some of my own childhood angst. Writing has always been a catharsis for me, so even as the words flowed from my fingertips onto the keyboard and then translated themselves onto the computer screen, almost magically the experiences transformed my own emotions; subsequently, I was able to detach, ever so slightly, so that I could examine them and find some closure in my own personal life.
3. Can you share a little bit about your current WIP?
I wish I could tell you that my WIP is nearing conclusion, but alas, I have reached a kind of impasse. I don’t think it’s necessarily writer’s block, since I have no difficulty writing articles and blogging (lol), but something about the book eludes me…I hoped that my week’s vacation would recharge my batteries, so to speak, and generate the necessary fuel to continue. So time will tell.
The story begins in the 70s, just as some of my other novels have, and focuses on a thirty-something couple, former radicals, who find a new and interesting project—protesting the sale of the old neighborhood hospital to a county department, knowing that such a transaction would totally change the character of their world.
Thrust into the midst of their fight, the couples bond and begin a social relationship within the neighborhood. They are young parents and professionals, and seemingly have much in common.
Then something happens one summer night—foolish and irreversible choices are made, and their lives are upended for decades to come.
How they cope, moving on from these life changes, forms the crux of the story, with multilayered consequences that ripple forward and outward.
It is entitled “Irreversible Choices,” and like many of my books, has a core of truth to the underlying story. In my own personal experience, many of the episodes actually happened.
4. Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
Certainly real-life events have been the starting point for many of my stories and books, and from there, I’ve embellished and fictionalized situations, tapping into my social work career experiences for an added dimension. My books tend to be about family dysfunction and the relationships that come out of these kinds of life events.
5. What is a typical writing day like for you?
I’m an early riser, which probably stems from my thirty plus years in a demanding profession, during which time, I found that I was at my peak in the early hours of the day. But these days, I don’t have to be at an agency at a specific time, which means that I can shape my mornings to my liking.
So you’ll more than likely find me plugging away on the computer in my pajamas, with just my coffee to keep me company. Often hours go by before I move from my office. Because I live alone, I can totally lose myself in my tasks.
I usually break by 7:30 or 8:00 to shower, etc., and then again at around 11:00—to watch a little TV for diversion, run some errands, perhaps go to the gym (if I’m being a good girl that day!), and then I return to catch up on e-mails, etc., toward the end of the afternoon. I also spend time reading throughout each day, as I have stacks and stacks of books to read and review. I consider this part of my work, too.
On some days, I am watching my youngest grandson, but he has learned not to disturb Nana unless it’s important!
The main ingredient in my days is the flexibility that I now have to build my activities around my own wishes and needs. As a result, I find that I am often quite productive.
6. You not only are a part of the Dames of Dialogue blog, but you have ten other blogs as well. I have trouble keeping up with only two blogs, but you have more than ten! Are there any secrets you can share with us about how you find the time to stay current on so many blogs and write too?
In some ways, I feel that during this period when my WIP has lost its “glow” for me, I have turned to the blogging as a way to write and to create something that holds my attention. I have found that the actual designing of the blogs, with the headers, widgets, etc., is almost as exciting as designing a room (another passion of mine!), so it doesn’t feel like work.
I do keep a folder with all my blogs and “ning” sites listed, and I enter dates when I post something, and the names of books I’ve reviewed and on which blog.
I should probably follow this same pattern with my WIP!
7. These days, promotion is a key part of an author’s life. Tell us a little bit about how you promote and what has worked best for you.
My focus has been on networking with others online and in the community, which includes the blogging, and participating in events throughout the state. I belong to a group of Central Valley authors that has been hosting Book Fests about twice a year. Of course, whenever possible, I also participate in panel discussions. I have gone to local book clubs and participated, responding to questions from the readers. I always especially enjoy these moments.
8. What is your most cherished reader reaction to your work?
I am delighted whenever a reader discusses the book with me and talks about the characters as if they are friends. When that happens, I know that the reader has connected with the characters, a response that I always hope for from readers. Another delightful experience is when the readers express their insights into the characters, describing the motivations they have seen within them.
9. Who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?
I first became an avid reader, curled up next to my big brother even before I started school, learning how to read as he read to me. And then my obsessive fascination with the written word was born on the day that I was first allowed to take a book out of the library…I was eight, and the book was “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.”
From there, it seemed only natural to progress to scribbling my own stories (also at around eight). I illustrated my stories with pictures I cut from magazines. Teachers reinforced this creative urge and friends seemed to enjoy reading what I wrote. Later, my high school English teacher mentored me and invited me to join the newspaper and yearbook staff, venues to further enhance my creativity.
10. What part of the craft of writing has improved since your first book?
My first two books had a lot of descriptions, which I love to read in novels, but in these instances, I probably overdid the tendency! Wordiness is a trait of mine—bet you couldn’t tell!—so I had to learn to curtail some of these compulsions of mine and leave the extra “descriptors” behind.
11. Tell us something about where you live. Is there anywhere you’d like to visit but haven’t had the chance yet?
Currently I am living in Fresno, CA. I have to laugh at my term “currently,” since I’ve been here (or in the nearby foothills) for thirty-eight years! My then-husband and I moved to Fresno County for his job, back in 1971, with plans of returning to Sacramento within a year or two. Within a few months, I also began my career in social services, which further entrenched us in the community. Also, because of the job market, it became increasingly difficult to leave the careers we were building. So we never went back.
Like many Fresnans, I find this area too hot and dry. But I have also adjusted to the Central Valley (I grew up about 80 miles north of here), and the city’s size is very manageable. Big enough, but not too big—almost 500,000. Now that I am retired, I could easily leave. But two of my grown children and four of my grandkids live in the area. So that’s a big factor that has contributed to my continued residence here.
I would love to visit my eldest son Craig, who is currently living in Berlin. Previously, he lived in Prague. His European adventures began in the mid-nineties, when he attended “London semester” as part of his college experience. We communicate by e-mail and Skype, and he does visit occasionally. But I would love to walk the pathways he treads and experience the culture in which he has immersed himself.
12. It’s apparent from your books that family is a very important part of your life. Can you tell us a little bit about yours, including any pets you may have?
Like most mothers, I imagine, I am proud and fiercely protective of my kids and grandkids. I was a single mother for many years, which probably informed the relationship I have with them.
I have three sons and one daughter, ranging in ages from 43 to 33; my eldest, as I mentioned, lives in Europe; Brett lives in LA and has three children; Christopher lives in Clovis (near Fresno) and also has three children. My daughter Heather makes her home in Fresno and has one son, my youngest grandchild, Noah, who is six.
The other grandchildren range from 14 downward.
Over the years, we lived in a series of apartments, and it wasn’t until we moved into a house in the foothills that we gave in to our desire for pets. My cat Sebastian, an orange tabby, loved to explore the foothill area. I tried to keep him inside, but he would push through the screens in order to escape. Once, in his explorations, he encountered a foxtail, which embedded itself in his eye. Unfortunately, the vet wasn’t able to save his eyesight, but he seemed to adjust anyway, and this “handicap” didn’t curtail his explorations! BTW, if you read “Miles to Go,” Sebastian is a featured “character” and the companion of my lead character Lindsay Malone.
About three years ago, coyotes captured three of our pets—Sebastian, and two of my daughter’s cats (she was living next door in my guesthouse). We were quite sad, and then had to rethink our practice of allowing the animals to pursue their outdoor adventures.
Sasha was my next cat, a gray tabby; she stayed indoors and seemed to enjoy it just fine. She was adopted by a friend when I left my house and moved into a condo that doesn’t allow pets.
I have what my friends call “grandcats,” in that they are members of my extended family. My son and daughter-in-law have Casey, a wonderful long-haired light orange cat—taffy colored—and my daughter has Janis (Joplin) and Stewie.