JANUARY 2010 AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT
LAURIE ALICE EAKES
WG: Welcome and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month. To start off, please tell us about yourself.
LAE: My background is pretty Americana. I grew up in a fairly large Mid West city, in a quiet subdivision, went to public school. Then things changed a bit. I left high school and started college at Asbury in Wilmore, Kentucky. After receiving my BA in English and French education, I worked for an international educational mission in New Jersey, then moved to Pittsburgh, PA. Don't ask why. There, I ended up teaching high school and doing some other work before moving to Iowa for a different, a sort of social worker, job. After that, I moved to Virginia, to the Shenandoah Valley for a different job... See a bit of wanderlust there?
In 2000, I was in a town called Boring, Oregon for some training, met a man and fell head over heels in love. We kept in touch and I ended up moving to the suburbs of Chicago. We got married two years later.Meanwhile, I began my master's program at Seton Hill University Writing Popular Fiction. That program, I am convinced, changed my life, took me from a writer with promise to a published author. In the middle of all this, my husband took a job with a startup tech company out in Washington, DC, so we moved there. He stayed with them for a few years, then started law school. I graduated from my writing program, got a corporate job, which I heartily disliked, and then lost it and sold my first book. My husband graduated from Georgetown Law in May, 2009, and got a job that brought us down to south Texas for a couple of years. That's been quite a switch from DC. But I'm not bored down here. Between December of 2008 and January of 2010, I received contracts for thirteen books, four with Avalon Books, Three with Barbour Publishing, and six with Baker/Revell. We love having the beach nearby and we love animals. We have a golden retriever, a black lab, two indoor cats, and something like five or six outdoor cats, who have adopted us. They line up on our front porch twice a day and meow until we feed them.
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.
LAE: I come from a family of readers. Books have been a part of my life since I can remember. And I was kind of a nerdy child, loving history and stuff, so made up stories in my head. So I would have to say my family led me to being a writer. Of course, other groups helped me become a published author, mostly American Christian Fiction Writers. Romance Writers of America helped a great deal, too, and my MA in writing popular fiction did a great deal to teach me how to turn an idea into a sellable story.
WG: Tell us about your journey.
LAE: This question is always difficult for me to answer, as the road wasn't straight or continuous. I started writing and getting published in things like the school paper, in elementary school all the way through college. But I just couldn't get down to being serious until after college. I wrote stuff, but it didn't' really go anywhere, though I sold a poem. Then I met some writers, who encouraged me. I entered a contest and won. I entered another one, one for short stories, and came in third. But, again, I had a lot of fits and starts, work and school and life interfered, and I stopped writing for long periods of time.
But I got really serious in grad school and, when the Lord convicted me to write for Him, I joined ACFW, got into a critique group, got an agent, and got really serious. From that point to sale, it took three years.
WG: How many books did you complete before you sold your first? Have all/any of them sold since?
LAE: Why are my answers never easy? I finished something like five books and sold them to small presses. Only three of them saw the light of day, as the one publisher went under before they were released. I'm just as glad, as they were secular works. Then I wrote two novels targeted at the CBA before I sold my first book, which was not a CBA publisher. Avalon Books is a publisher of family-oriented, thus sweet, books. Family Guardian is a Regency and won the National Readers Choice Award for best Regency in 2007. I sold the next book I wrote targeted at the CBA, too. Better than Gold was released by Barbour Publishing Heartsong Presents and is now available in a three-in-one collection called Wild Prairie Roses, along with Lena Dooley and Lisa Harris. I wrote another book that is still with an editor, and another book for Avalon, which I sold, and then started selling on proposal. In 2009, I had to write four books under contract.
WG: Can you tell us something about your experience in getting 'the call'?
LAE: It's quite vivid in my mind. It was July 18. I had a corporate job, was in the middle of moving, so was packing after commuting and working twelve hours, was exhausted and cranky. And I'd given myself until August 1 to sell before I just gave up. But my phone rang. It was my agent's number, and I knew she was at IRC, so had only one reason to call me. I was just kind of excited and stunned and too tired to do anything crazy like jump up and down and shriek. But I told everyone at work the next day.
WG: How has being a published author impacted your life?
LAE: I realize what a public person I am. I can't just have a blog to chat about whatever or post silly stuff on my Facebook page. I have to think about how it will impact readers. A tactless remark could turn people off from me and thus my books. In short-I'm not a private person any more. A perfect stranger actually recognized me one day. That was a little weird, as I'd only had one book out at the time. But she knew who I was.
Also, people don't think I work because I'm home all day. But I work full-time now. I have to. I don't write quickly and I have a lot of books to write. So it's not the same as when you go to the office every day. People are either in awe of what I do, or totally taken aback and haven't a clue what to say. Being a writer is just not normal like being a teacher or secretary or doctor.
WG: What aspect of life as a published author surprised you the most - either in a good or bad way?
LAE: How much work there is to do outside of writing books. I can't just research and write stories. I have to work on my web site, blog, keep up with social networking, interview, fill out forms for the publishing marketing people... All the minutia kind of surprised me. It is really time-consuming.
WG: What about your writing process:
Do you maintain a set schedule? Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?
LAE: I try really hard to keep a set schedule. It's pretty much 8:00-5:00 with an hour for lunch. Sometimes I go longer and sometimes shorter, but that's the norm five days a week. If I'm on a deadline and behind, or if other things during the week kept me from putting in my 40 hours, I work a little on weekends. But I like to keep weekends for my husband.
WG: Do you set writing goals for yourself?
LAE: Absolutely. I try to write a minimum of 2,000 words a day. Usually, I can average this in a week, sometimes more, sometimes less. One day, I actually wrote 6,910 words. I was shocked, but the story was rolling and I just kept going.
WG: Do you have a mood setter, something (music, ritual, environment, etc) you use to get you going when you sit down to write?
LAE: I always begin my work with prayer. That's pretty much the only thing close to ritual I have, if one can call it that. Music distracts me.
WG: Do you do a lot of up front plotting before you start or do you just dive in?
LAE: I am a plotter. That's one thing the seton Hill program taught me-to outline ahead of time. When on a deadline, that outline is a blessing. I know where the story is going. That said, I do deviate. Sometimes the outline is too rigid or too detailed and a scene won't work, but I like to have my major plot points right there in front of me. I also break down every scene before I write it, using the goal, conflict, disaster technique. I also fill in details to that. Excel is my friend.
WG: Do you normally start with storyline or with character or with some combination of the two?
LAE: I usually start with setting or character. It depends on the story. For The Midwives series, I started out with the heroine. I had such a clear vision in my head of the first scene, it could have been a movie. Then I started asking how she'd have gotten into that situation and all the whys of her life and the story was born. But for The Glassblower, just released from Barbour Publishing, I started with the setting and found the right characters for a story about a glassworks in New Jersey in the early 1800s.
WG: Do you find certain themes or character archetypes making recurring appearances in your stories?
LAE: Yes. I love the book Tami Cowden and others wrote on Character Archetypes. It's a nice guide. My heroes tend to be lost souls, though the hero in Bride of the Mist is definitely a bad boy. My heroines are strongly nurturers, though my heroine in the second book of the Regency series for Revell is a librarian type. I've never done that before and am looking forward to it.
WG: What do you see as your own personal strengths as a writer?
LAE: Being able to draw the reader into a time and place and have a really deep point of view so that the reader is inside the characters head and emotions. And my use of the senses, too.
WG: Are there any obstacles/conflicts, specific to your particular lifestyle, that get in the way of your writing? If so, how do you try and overcome them?
LAE: Because I am new in a town full of strangers and am kind of shy, isolation is a big problem. I don't go to the office to meet people, and haven't had much luck with finding a church that works for various reasons, so I think it's too easy to be alone with my work. Since I write about people, I need to be amongst people, too. I overcome this with making myself get out and meet people, though it's difficult for me, and calling friends. Gotta love unlimited long-distance.
WG: Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your process?
LAE: Just write. One can't wait for the muse, so I don't. Sometimes, that means I ditch everything I wrote in a day, but I make myself write something whether or not I want to.
WG: Do you have a favorite sub-genre as a writer? as a reader?
LAE: I am an unashamed romance writer. Romance just makes books go by so much nicer, that push and pull. And my specialty is historical fiction. But I love to read romantic suspense and mysteries and straight historical fiction, esp. Age of Fighting Sail type books. Occasionally, I even read science fiction or fantasy. Never horror.
WG: Is there a genre you haven't been published in yet that you'd like to try your hand at someday?
LAE: Romantic suspense
WG: Do you have any advice to offer writers still striving toward publication?
LAE: Write and finish and submit. And learn. Too many writers don't get anywhere because they refuse to listen to advice and take it.
WG: Is there a specific �ah-ha' moment you've had as a writer that you would like to share with us?
LAE: About a year ago, something inside me clicked-if I wanted to sell lots of books, I had to write the books editors wanted to buy. I figured out how to combine the stuff I like to write-historical romance with suspense-in a way that pleases the market, too. I am writing books of my heart that the editors want to buy.
WG: Rejections, notes from unhappy readers and less than stellar reviews are all part of this business. What is your own method for dealing with these and moving on?
LAE: I read them, take out any nuggets of useful advice, and throw them out. I don't' keep a file of negative stuff. I listen to it, take stuff to heart, if it isn't just mean, which can happen, and move on. If one dwells on it, one can get too much self-doubt going and not move forward to success. You can't please everyone.
WG: Is there some piece of advice you received or bit of conventional wisdom that you wish you had ignored?
LAE: Don't try to get published. This held me back for years. People said it was just too hard, and I listened and didn't pursue publication for many years because of it. But the impulse to write didn't leave me, so I started ignoring it then.
WG: What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about being a writer? What aspect do you struggle with the most?
LAE: I love writing, being paid to tell stories. It's really fun. Struggles? Self-doubt, the certainty at times, that no one will like my stuff, that I'll be a miserable failure� The usual writer angst. Some days, I am sure I'm writing pure muck, , then say, but it's muck I like, so who cares?
WG: When you're not writing, what do you do for fun? What is your favorite self-indulgence?
LAE: My husband and I love trying new restaurants. That is, restaurants with foods we've never had before. That was easy in DC, where we lived before here. I like the beach, weather permitting, and long walks and just sitting down and reading or watching a great movie.
WG: What would your readers be most surprised to learn about you?
LAE: I'm terribly shy in person. If you talk to me, I'll talk, but going up to people is nearly impossible for me.
WG: What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?
LAE: I am so uncool, I haven't a clue about current TV. As for movies? Put one of the Hepburns or Humphrey Bogart into it, and I'll love it. Yes, more uncool-I love the old, old movies-Sabrina, A Lion in Winter, Casa Blanca... I like newer movies, too, have loved many, but they don't really stick in my head as much.
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.
LAE: Twenty years from now You will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than the things that you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. ~~Mark Twain~~
A friend of mine found this and said it was perfect for me and my blog. This is the idea behind Seize the Chance. My life and my books are all about taking the opportunity that life presents. Life really zips right by us, and if we don't take chances, we stagnate and miss wonderful opportunities. Sure, we make fewer mistakes, too, but mistakes are easier to overcome than going nowhere in life.
WG: Please tell us about your current project.
LAE: Right now, I am beginning to write the first that Baker/Revell will be publishing by me. It's a Regency set in 1812 London. My agent asked for a Regency series proposal from me, so I sat down and began to read some resources from the time. First of all, I read a book called Social Life Under the Regency, which was published over a hundred years ago. Tidbits in it started giving me inspiration. I just kept reading and asking those all important why questions, and, within ten days, I had my proposal, which I sold six weeks later.
WG: What inspired you to write this particular story?
LAE: Frankly, I wanted to write a tribute story to a writer I never met, but who influenced me greatly-Patricia Veryan. (She just died in November of 2009.) So I knew I would write something with a dashing hero, a strong heroine, and lots of intrigue. I just had to find the right setting and events to make them all come together.
WG: What sort of research, if any, did you have to do? Did you stumble across any unexpected interesting/fun tidbits along the way?
LAE: Regency England is a bit of a specialty of mine. I know a lot about it. Still, I read books I'd read before to refresh my brain. One thing I learned is how absolutely many interesting things happened in 1812, from the assassination of the prime minister of England, to the start of the War of 1812 with America, to the Luddite Rebellion against mechanization of factories. Even more happened that year. What a crazy year!
WG: Tell us about your upcoming plans.
LAE: I have thirteen books coming out in the next three years. The Glassblower was just released by Barbour Publishing, as the first book in a three-book series. The Heiress and The newcomer follow in April and August. Also in August, is my Avalon release When the Snow Flies, which is about a female doctor and with a blind hero, who was a doctor. This story stemmed from a tiny tidbit of data I found in an old, old book for midwives. In 2011 through 2013, I have six books coming out with Baker/Revell, three in the Regency series and three in the Midwife series. The Avalon books are also a series, all about young career women in the 1890s-doctor, lawyer, merchant, chef.
WG: And before we close, tell us how your readers can get in touch with you.
LAE: I have a blog, which I update pretty regularly, mainly on Mondays and Thursdays, which keeps up with my news and life. That's www.seizethechance.blogspot.com and I have a web site, which will be updated real soon. That's at www.lauriealiceeakes.com
WG: Thanks so much for spending time with me and my readers this month. I enjoyed getting to know you better.