Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Laurie! Tell us one strange and provocative tidbit from your life that nobody has heard before.
I used to be a stripper. Yes. That was my job title, although it didn’t involve taking off my clothes. I worked in graphic arts before I segued into writing. In the “old-fashioned” way of creating printing plates, negatives for each ink color had to be sandwiched together precisely on a light table, which were then covered with a thick paper mask, and windows cut so the text and images would show through to make the plate. Hence, I was a negative stripper—which meant I complained about my tips. Just kidding. The tips were really good. Especially the ones about not cutting myself with the razor blade or inhaling developer fumes.
Laughing…Tell us about your latest book.
InPlaying Charlie Cool, television producer Charlie Trager’s secret relationship with Adam Joshua Goldberg (Joshua, to Charlie) gets even more complicated when the mayoral staffer comes out in a very public way, leaves his post, and starts divorcing his wife. All Joshua wants out of the deal is shared custody of his two children, but with politics and the stress of Charlie’s job involved, what begins as a simple, uncontested proceduregets ugly fast—and might end up being more pressure than the two men can bear.
The book continues the storyline begun in novella The Picture of Cool. It’s also the sequel to Don’t Tell Anyone, if you’re keeping score.This novel has pushed my envelope in several ways: it’s my first sequel, it’s the first story I’ve outlined, and my first full-length gay contemporary novel.
Sounds interesting, Laurie. You’re breaking into a hot genre and I know you’ll do well. Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?
I’m working on a romantic suspense story and after that, I think Charlie has more to tell me. The Trager Family Secrets series may expand with a few companion novels and perhaps have a little crossover with characters from one of my other books. I’m not ruling anything out yet!
When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?
They are. At least for the first draft. The biggest problems I’ve had in writing have stemmed from defying their true natures and trying to push them into situations Author Me wants them to be in but they might not be ready or even suited for. Sometimes that’s because I don’t know them well enough yet. So I invite them in, let them get cozy, and listen.
Love that answer. What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?
Connecting with readers. I love that. It’s like completing the communication circle. I sit here alone and write a story, but it doesn’t feel complete until someone reads it and gets something from it: understanding a little better how another person lives, or at least some entertainment value. It’s especially gratifying to hear from readers who have connected with Drawing Breath, a story so close to my heart. I’ve heard from readers with loved ones living with cystic fibrosis, I’ve heard from relatives of the man upon whom I based the protagonist. It’s been quite humbling.
I agree. Interacting with readers is so gratifying. If you could talk for thirty minutes with any author (or person), living or dead, who would it be?
If I could get her to stop writing for thirty minutes, I’d want to talk to Joyce Carol Oates. She’s so prolific and deep and her stories are so gorgeously creepy and heartbreaking. I want to know how she does that. I want to know how she made me feel empathy for a serial killer.
What is your strongest and/or your weakest area in the creative process?
I love, love writing dialogue. I love how people in real life speak when they think no one else is listening, I love how they speak when they’re frustrated and the words can’t come fast enough and they’re sometimes the wrong ones. That’s one of my favorite and strongest areas of the creative process. What I’ve been working on over the last few years is my plotting and storytelling. I’ve been a proud, dedicated “pantser,” but I want to stretch and grow as a writer, so I wondered if some form of outlining could help me. I worried that working off too tight an outline would give me hives and completely bore me. But a looser, modified version called story beats, which author Lynne Cantwell shared with me, feels like a comfortable “halfway” step. I’ve used this process on my last two books and I really feel like it’s helped me focus on character motivation and storytelling.
How interesting. I’ll have to try that. What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?
How long do you have? I get a little passionate about this subject. I think it certainly helps to write about what has settled in your pores. But I don’t discount empathy and imagination for writing about things you’d like to explore and learn about. Or else how would we write science fiction? How would male authors write from a female point of view, and vice versa? Has J.K. Rowlings ever been a boy wizard?
Exactly. How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction?Specific genre such as mystery, short story, paranormal or more general such as women’s fiction, Appalachian, etc.
Oh, that’s hard. I write so many different genres. It’s all fiction—at least currently, because there’s a potential biography that’s been poking at me about one of my unsung baseball role models. One day when I can sit down and do all the research that will be required. Since I write so many different types of fiction—women’s fiction, contemporary, romance, romantic comedy, short stories—I’d boil it down to “realistic-style fiction about realistic characters going through sometimes trying situations with pathos and humor, often with an underlying romantic thread.” Yeah. There’s an Amazon category just waiting for me.
I like that. Describe your writing process once you sit down to write—or the preliminaries.
First I light a candle and sacrifice a goat… oh, wait. Wrong interview. Coffee is usually involved. I sit down and do a little deep breathing to clear my head. Then I just start typing. I’m working on a few different projects at any one time, and I think that flexibility helps me to drop pretty quickly into a project I’ve been away from for a bit. It’s like a muscle you need to keep fit, like any of the others.
Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?
I was given one as a gift a few years ago and I love it. Electronic publishing has brought reading into the lives of many people who had otherwise given it a pass. Although there is nothing like a printed book—I love the feel of them and that smell of ink and paper—e-books are not only here to stay but growing in popularity.
It appears ebooks are the future. I know I love my Kindle. Any good suggestions for overcoming writer’s block?
For me, there is no writer’s block. Other forces are often afoot. When the words don’t come, it’s usually because I’m tired or overwhelmedand try to compensate by thinking too hard. Maybe that’s true for other writers; I don’t know. I’ll take a small break and get some fresh air or go swimming. My favorite advertising professor used to tell me that creative blocks dissolve in water. If we were stuck on something, he’d tell us to go fill our heads with information and then take a bath. But for me, the pool works just as well.
I’ll have to try that. Thanks for joining us today, Laurie, for a fun, interesting interview. For more information about Laurie: