LAURA MARIE ALTOM
WG: Welcome Laura Marie. Thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month. To start off, please tell us about yourself.
LMA: Hey, Winnie! Thanks so much for having me!!
Well . . . I was born in Grand Haven, Michigan, stayed there till second grade, did a stint helping my folks as caretakers on a hundred foot barefoot cruise sailing ship moored in Pensacola, Florida. Talk about magical childhood memories Back in those days, the beaches were deserted and there were mounds and mounds of shells. Alas, we returned to Michigan a year later, but to a hopping little resort town on Lake Michigan called South Haven. Our house was perched on a hill above a bustling marina and again, I have awesome memories of Mom and Dad loading up the boat and sailing us across the lake to Wisconsin or Chicago. My folks are the type who make friends wherever they go, so we always stayed in fun places wherever we landed!! At home, I literally had the run of the town, riding my bike downtown to hang out with friends or on the beach. The place was enchanted.
Then in sixth grade, I got a shock when the folks--both teachers--announced we were moving to Arkansas because it had low property tax. HUH? Okay, you know that scratched record noise? Insert that here!! :) For the first couple months, we alternated between staying with friends and camping in a VW van--which, actually turned out to be fun!!!
Before long, the folks bought a beautiful white farmhouse perched on a hill overlooking Hazel Valley. Think rolling green hills, towering deciduous forests, white-water streams, and the quintessential blond, blue-eyed neighbor guy three years older than me who gave me my first real kiss!!! Mmm . . . That Landon was the original bad boy!!
School was tough. This was small town rural Arkansas and I didn't fit. I did okay. It wasn't like torture or anything, but all the kids had known each other since birth, so I was somewhat of an oddity. My folks had quit teaching and were trying their hand at raising calves. Not an easy business, or one for the faint of heart. The calves frequently died, or they became my best friends and then we'd have to sell them. For sure one of the top ten worst days of my life was selling a playful, doe-eyed cow I found out was funding my braces.
A year later, the folks had had enough, found teaching jobs and moved us to the big town of Springdale, AR. Back then, probably population 20,000. We stayed here till I graduated from high school and college at the U of A in Fayetteville--fifteen miles or so south, but it might as well have been a million in attitude. Fayetteville is artsy and cosmopolitan. Very progressive in terms of city leadership, etc. Cool place if you ever get a chance to visit.
Met Hubby by accident at a toga party my freshman year. He was a senior and we were the only ones not wasted. I was supposed to have been out with another guy that night, but he'd been in a minor car accident on the way home from a family wedding. Talk about fate stepping in. That was it. I've been with Terry ever since.
We married my junior year, which my folks weren't at all happy with, but seeing how we're still mostly happy--he's currently pouting because he wants on the computer--I guess everything turned out okay. He's an engineer and I was an interior designer with one of the state's largest architectural firms. I'd just landed my biggest job to date (Rogers Public Library) when I found out I was pregnant. Two weeks later, I was put on bed rest and didn't get up for nine months.
On the other side of pregnancy, I found myself with boy/girl twins I couldn't let go, and so gave up my job and stayed home. At first I did the whole church group, civic club, Junior League thing, but got bored. Writing had been a hobby of mine in school, but now I figured why not try turning it into a career.
Thirteen years later, here I am in Tulsa, Oklahoma with two great kids, Hubby, one mutt named Sweet Pea, a spoiled mini, long-haired dachshund named Cocoa, and a stealth cat named Domino we rarely see. Hubby's grandmother also lives with us. Her name is Granny Sylv. She has Alzheimer's and truthfully, some days, caring for her is more than I can bear, but you do what you have to.
As for hobbies, lately, I've been so focused on writing, I've kind of lost sight of everything I used to love. I recently had a health scare that taught me about moderation and have since backed down on my work schedule and gotten back into things like cooking hearty meals and needle pointing and just hanging out with the kids. It's been wonderful, but I'm starting to have a pit in my stomach about not working more.
WG: Let’s talk about
your own personal road to publication:
Is there some individual, group or event that you can point to as the catalyst/impetus that set you on the road to becoming a writer? Explain.
LMA: When the twins were two, Hubby fulfilled a personal dream of moving to Colorado. While three years later, the tough economy out there sent us scurrying for home, I seriously think my road to publication would've been much longer had I not found Colorado Romance Writers. That said, I also learned the hard way about how the politics of writing aren't always pretty. I needed to do some growing up and did. I left with some amazing friends I still hang with at RWA national most every year!!
WG: Tell us about your own writer’s journey.
LMA: I finished a book I'd started in junior high when Hubby bought a PC for moonlighting. By the time I finished (1993), the kids were one. After reading Teddy Bear Heir by Elda Minger, I figured out Harlequin American was the place I wanted to be. I bought a book on how to query, fired off a letter and got a request for a full. I printed the entire thing on hundred percent cotton paper, bought an expensive fancy box to put it in, wrapped that up, sent it off, then waited for the phone to ring!!
Seven months later on a blustery day in our new home on the treeless plains of Colorado, I got the manuscript back. I cried for hours. Hubby drove me round and round with the babies in their car seats. I finally started a new book, and then that was rejected and so on and so on until my first book sold to Precious Gems in 1997 or '98. My mind's getting as bad as Granny Sylv's!! That was sort of a hollow victory in that the climate in RWA was such that PGs weren't considered *real* books. It gives me a huge thrill every time I see one of my fellow Gemsters succeed despite having been told they weren't even *real* authors.
I've not had much luck in contests. Something about my writing folks either LOVE or HATE. Don't believe me? Check out my Amazon reviews!!! <g> All one and five stars!! :)
WG: How many books did you complete before you sold your first? Have all/any of them sold since?
LMA: Hmm . . . four. Maybe five. Probably about three have gone on to sell, but not without being TOTALLY reworked. My September book, Saving Joe, is a special personal triumph as it derived from a true, book-of-my-heart project I had begun to fear might never sell. It was nominated for an RT 2005 Reviewer's Choice award which made me really, REALLY happy!!! :)
WG: What changed most about your life as a direct result of joining the ranks of published authors?
LMA: My hobbies died. I used to garden, needlepoint, do crafts, volunteer at the kids' school, decorate the house, do laundry, cook, etc. Now, I make deadlines and fret over landing my next contracts. Gotta say that after over seventy confession sales and eighteen book sales, I feel less confident now than I did after my first. Back then, I thought all you had to do to become a writing rock star was make that magical first sale. <insert wild laughter here> EVERY book is tough. My journey hasn't been one of those fairy tale ones you hear about in so many conference keynote addresses. For every one success, I've had a dozen failures. You just have to dig in your heels and refuse to accept defeat.
WG: What about your writing process: Do you maintain a set schedule? Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?
LMA: Laughing wildly again here. With Granny Sylv, just when I think I've got a routine, her routine changes. Or the phone rings and my daughter needs me to bring her poms to school. I'm getting better in writing in stolen snippets of time instead of the nice, long stretches I used to have. I've also started setting up my laptop during TV time. If I get a few pages done during commercials and boring parts, I'm thrilled!!
WG: Do you do a lot of up front plotting before you start or do you just dive in?
LMA: I do a fairly complete synopsis that I use to sell, then, no matter how much I vow to stick to it, usually veer somewhere along the way!!
WG: Do you normally start with storyline or with character or with some combination of the two?
LMA: Most times, it's a hooky situation or character. Other times, I'll think of a catchy title and work around that. My second Harlequin American, Inherited: One Baby! was originally titled, Candy Kisses. The heroine is named Candy and she owns a candy shop given to her by her grandmother--hence the name. Candy just stuck with me, wanting her story told.
WG: Has anything about the way you work changed since you became a published author?
LMA: I'm MUCH more streamlined. I used to write a speedy rough draft, then rewrite and clean three or four times. Now, I write a rough draft, clean it on the computer, print it out for a cold read, make a few minor changes and it's good to go. Gradually, I've been getting better at writing on demand, but that's still hard. You know, like writing whether I feel like it or not.
WG: Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your process?
LMA: Sorry. <g> Not much else to tell. If I'm blocked, I sometimes get up in the middle of the night and write half-asleep. That usually helps turn off the internal critic agreeing with all those one-star Amazon reviews!! <g>
WG: You are currently published in more than one sub-genre of romance. Do you have a favorite sub-genre as a writer? as a reader?
LMA: I LOVE paranormal!!! I've tried hinting to my awesome Harlequin editors to bring back the great tradition of fun paranormals to the American line, but so far, my begging hasn't worked!! :) Remember all those wonderful Anne Stuart and Margaret St. George paranormal masterpieces? All BRILLIANT!!
WG: Is there a genre you haven't been published in yet that you'd like to try your hand at someday?
LMA: Young Adult!!! It would mean so much to me to write something that would be available to my kids in their school library. Also--but don't tell my agent--I'm working up a horror!!
WG: Do you have any advice to offer writers still striving toward publication?
LMA: NEVER give up!!! Get rejected? Find a way to rework manuscripts to fit somewhere else then send them back out.
WG: What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about being a writer. What do you struggle the most with?
LMA: Most rewarding would be first looks at covers which, for me, is when a book first breathes. Payday is always fun! Great reviews are awesome. Bad reviews hurt for days, weeks, months, years!! LOL!! Have I mentioned Mrs. Giggles? OUCH!! I don't even know how she got my books!!
WG: I love to collect quotes, all kinds of quotes - inspirational, quirky, motivational, profound, etc. Do you have a personal favorite you'd like to share.
LMA: I have a few personal mementos--notes, etc., sent by Hubby, my agent and friends that inspire me, but nothing off the top of my head that's fit for public consumption!! <g>
WG: Please tell us
about your current project.
LMA: My current project is a twin mix-up where double sets of twins are fooling each other. It's been waaaaay harder to write than I'd expected!! :)
WG: Tell us about plans for future books.
LMA: Let's see, I'm blessed with a pretty full schedule for the foreseeable future. In April, the third in my US Marshals series, His Bonus Baby was released. In July, the wrap-up book, To Catch a Husband. This series was such fun to write. I'm seriously proud of it and hope readers enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it!! In September, I've got a fun stand-alone called, Daddy Daycare about a billionaire CEO who suddenly finds himself inheriting his sister's baby and small town, thriving daycare!!
WG: And before we close, tell us how your fans can get in touch with you.
LMA: I'm always around at BaliPalm@aol.com or check out my website at lauramariealtom.com. Snail mail I share with my best writing bud and critique partner, Margaret Daley, who writes for Steeple Hill. Laura Marie Altom, PO Box 2074, Tulsa, OK 74101
Oh and you can also visit me at my blog,