Welcome, Laura. How much of yourself do you write into your characters?
So much! There are hints and slivers of me in all of my characters, although none of them are me. They all have their distinct identities. I danced ballet for years like Claire, was on high school dance team like Lindsey and Melissa, lived in
Atlanta for ten years
like Raven, have a silver cross necklace like Palmer, etc. Not to mention the
foods they eat and the music they listen to and the trips they take, plus all
the little things that might occur to the girls in my books that seem random to
a reader, but mimic real experiences of mine.
One afternoon when I was in fifth grade I felt so much pride practically baking a cake by myself, even working the electric beaters until … a strand of my waist length hair tumbled into the bowl. In less than ten seconds, the beaters wound themselves around that strand of hair and were up to my skull! Luckily, Mom was in the kitchen. She yanked the cord from the outlet and saved me from who knows what kind of damage those spinning pieces of metal may have caused. The tangle was so severe, Mom had to cut the beaters out of my hair leaving a fist-sized chunk of stubble on the top of my head. It took years to grow out! Needless to say I almost always mix by hand now, and should the need for beaters occur (say making meringues) I pull my hair back in a ponytail prior to mixing.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
In second grade, we had to write a story and draw a picture that went with it, you know on that kind of paper that had lines on the bottom for you to form your letters correctly and space at the top to illustrate your work? I wrote a three-sentence story about Sally the Skunk. It was the most exciting thing I’d ever done. I was so proud of that piece of paper, or my creation. It planted a seed inside me. From that time forward, I’ve always wanted to write more and more stories and create more and more characters.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading?
I absolutely love to read. I am typically reading two books at once. This always consists of one nonfiction Christian book guiding me on ways to increase my faith. In this genre, I just completed reading Called by Ryan Pemberton and am about to crack open The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis. The other book I’m usually reading is typically well-written, emotional fiction with compelling characters. I tend to read a lot of young adult, because the emotions are so raw and genuine, and because I write in this genre. But I’ll also read historical fiction and try to dip into the NY Times Bestseller list. I just completed I’ll Give You the Sun (YA) and am so excited to dive into All the Light We Cannot See (NY Times Bestseller and historical fiction).
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run, world?
I have a deep faith and find peace and comfort in the fact that I don’t have to be in control of everything. In fact, I’m not. Knowing God is in control and handing things over to Him gives me breathing room in a hectic world. I also run to clear my head and breathe in and breathe out.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
The same way my kids pick names for their stuffed animals J. Really. I think about who the character is, what she or he represents in a story, what they would be like to hang out with, and try to think of a name that fits their personality. Sometimes a name will just pop into my head, other times I’ll have to let it simmer a bit, keeping my eyes peeled to names I see in my day-to-day life, anything from an email I get from a customer service rep, to a name of someone posting on a Facebook thread, to a list of names on a newsletter. When I see the right name, I know it, and voila, my character has a name.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
None of my accomplishments are mine. They are all gift. But the thing that brings me most joy and fulfillment, besides my faith, is my family—my marriage to a wonderful man and our four amazing children.
What is your favorite food?
Chocolate chip cookies hands down. Actually the dough, before they’re even baked, and then the actual cookies come in second.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock and how did you overcome it?
Getting published. The publishing industry is highly competitive. Editors are inundated with submissions. It is a challenge to get noticed amidst everything they’re being sent.
A writing friend suggested I get out a piece of lined notebook paper. Every time I submitted my manuscript somewhere, she told me to write out the name of the publisher and the date on a line of the paper. She told me not to give up until I had filled every line on that paper! I know we rarely use pen and paper any more, but there was something tangible about writing out each submission. It made the submission itself feel like an accomplishment, which it is. It’s a lot of work to put together a proposal, research a publisher, research an editor, write the perfect query, and be brave enough to send it. This exercise also reminded me not to give up after four or five submissions. That can feel like a lot, when you’re putting yourself out there, but at that point in the process, there were still quite a few blank lines on my page of notebook paper. Before I reached the halfway point, my first novel, was accepted by NavPress.
Tells us about the featured book.
I had a close friend in high school who was hospitalized for anorexia. I had another dear friend in college who also had to go into treatment for her eating disorder. As an adult woman, one of my friends was in a dangerous battle revolving around her body image. Skinny began as my way to speak to them. To let these friends know I understood what it’s like to be a female in our society with so much pressure to be thin, to look a certain way. But even more importantly, I wanted to let them know they are beautiful, just the way they are, just the way God made them. Skinny started out as that, almost as a letter, a tribute, an essay or a short story, but it evolved into a novel about a high school freshman bombarded by the changes and pressures of high school, seeking to find a way to regain control of her life. Skinny is young adult fiction, because the character is fourteen, but my hope is it will touch a place in all women’s hearts, reminding them that they were made in the image of God, and therefore they are beautiful.
Please give us the first page of the book.
Melissa posed as perfectly as a marble statue. Her head bent at a forty-five degree angle, her fingers spread equidistantly, rigid, and exactly in line with her thighs. The music pulsed in her veins. She inhaled and silently counted along with Todd.
“Five, six, seven, eight.”
Even though he was only five foot five, Todd had a booming voice that commanded the attention of every girl in the room. The rhythm of the music vibrated from the speakers on the church’s glossy gymnasium floor.
Like a marionette brought to life by invisible strings, Melissa jerked her hands up, forming a V with her arms, snapped her head upright, and flashed a radiant smile.
“And turn, six, seven, eight. Lift and lift and slide and slide,” Todd continued like a metronome. The pulsating beat pulled Melissa’s body back and forth.
Abruptly, Todd’s solid muscular body relaxed. The coach turned his back to the group of girls and padded across the wooden floor to turn off the music.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
Thank you, Laura, for sharing this new book with us. It's an important topic to deal with. So much in our modern world tears down the self-image of so many girls and women.
Readers, here are links to the book. By using one when you order, you help support this blog.Skinny: She was starving to fit in... (False Reflections Book 1) - paperback
Skinny: She was starving to fit in... (False Reflections Book 1) - Kindle
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