Today, we are joined by Laura Lond, all the way from Illinois. Having lived in Illinois myself for a few years, I will desperately try to refrain from steering the conversation toward food. Hmm. Chicago style pizza. Oh, boy. I’m getting hungry already. Okay, without any further pepperoni, I mean, ado, here’s Laura.
Hi, Laura. Thanks for stopping by. Can you tell us a bit about yourself before we dive into writing and books and all that?
I was the only child in a family of engineers who loved to read. Books had become my best friends early on. My mom, who never actually liked her profession, had found her true calling later in life when she went back to school and got a second degree, in history. After that, she worked at a literary museum. I knew that anything remotely related to numbers and math wasn’t for me, so I followed in her footsteps: I got a degree in history, and my first job was at the same museum where mom worked. I had changed several jobs after that; I can say that I have been very fortunate with them all, working at good places with good people, learning a lot, getting the precious life experience every writer needs.
Following in the parents’ footsteps is a time-honored tradition in my family as well. My dad’s a farmer, so that meant I went and studied film production. After that, of course, I got a job in a farming company. Speaking of getting into things, what got you into writing in the first place?
I guess I was born with it. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I couldn’t find satisfaction in anything else, no matter what I did. I had good jobs at large international corporations like Xerox Ltd., but I always viewed it as something temporary, something I do “for now” because I have to.
I know what you mean. That’s pretty much my outlook when I’m washing dishes. Soon, though, my kids will be old enough to take over (Aha! That’s the perfect segue!) Kids and washing dishes have a lot to do with your books, don’t they? Well, at least the kids part, true?
I write mostly fantasy, middle grade and YA. When I had first started writing, Inaively thought that my books were “for everyone,” refusing to pick a specific age group. Of course, I had quickly learned that it doesn’t work that way. Both publishers and readers want to know exactly what audience you have in mind – teens, adults, men, women, etc. So I took a closer look at the trilogy I was working on and decided that a story featuring a 12 year old boy, without strong language / sex / graphic violence would probably fit the middle grade niche the best. I get comments from readers telling me that they bought my books for their children but enjoyed them themselves as well. I love that; in a way, it proves my original perception of the books.
As to the stories themselves, The Adventures of Jecosan Tarres trilogy is about a young blacksmith’s apprentice who is visited by a supernatural messenger and sent on a dangerous mission to prevent a war between two powerful kingdoms.
Another fantasy series I’ve just started, The Lakeland Knight, features Lord Arkus, a villain, as the main character. In Book 1, My Sparkling Misfortune, he wants to capture an evil spirit who would make him nearly invincible, but he messes up and catches a Sparkling instead – a good spirit who helps heroes. That makes his life rather interesting.
My Sparkling Misfortune is a wonderful title. I love the inherent contrast in those words. Are you working on any follow-ups?
I am working on a sequel to My Sparkling Misfortune. The second book will be called My Royal Pain Quest. As you can see from the title, Lord Arkus’s adventures continue, and he is not that pleased with them.
I forget who said it first, but the idea of creating a character and then dumping them in bad situations really is the way good plots work. Lord Arkus, wherever you are, best of luck to you, and I hope you make it. Sorry, back to you, Laura. All writers read, of course (at least, I sure hope they do). Are there any books that had an inordinate influence on you as a person or as a writer?
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens would be the first one. I had read it in my early teens, and the story had stuck with me for years. There’s just something special about this boy, Oliver, who goes through so much hardship yet keeps a good heart. In some ways, Oliver was my inspiration for the Jecosan Tarres books.
I would name The Chronicles of Narnia as the second most influential book in my life. I had discovered the series as a newly converted Christian, and the allegory-filled stories had a profound effect on me. I had no idea that one could write like that, telling a fascinating story and sharing their faith at the same time, reaching both Christians and non-Christians.
I find it difficult to name a third book, nothing else stands out so much as the two I’ve already mentioned.
Well, you just named two of my favorite authors. I happily re-read their books every once in a while. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces and That Hideous Strength are two of the best books I’ve ever read. Regardless of one’s views on Christianity, I think Lewis has a lot to offer writers in terms of story telling and creativity. As for yourself, do you have any tips for writers?
While the most important thing is perfecting your craft and striving to write the best books you possibly can, that alone unfortunately will not guarantee great results sales-wise. Promotion is important, as much as most writers detest it. I would advise setting some time aside for it each day, just as you do for writing, and try not to view this time as wasted. After all, we want our stories to be read, so getting them into the readers’ hands is just as important as writing.
Another advice is, never jump on a contract. I did that, and it was not smart. Being offered your first contract after years of struggling to get through to publishers might seem so wonderful that you are tempted to grab it, no matter what the terms are. Don’t. Read it carefully, have a lawyer explain it to you, if necessary. It is well worth it.
Send in the lawyers! You’re right. Despite their crazy fees, lawyers do occasionally have their place. I’d much rather pay a lawyer than become entangled with an agent. Though, it’s startling how lawyers inspire so many jokes. One wouldn’t think that soberly cut suits and briefcases would be that funny. Speaking of inspiration, where do you find yours?
I am often inspired by a good story – book or movie that appeals to me. A theme, a situation, of just a thought from it would get stuck deep inside of me and eventually take a life of its own, turning into something new.
Turning into something new…hmm. Are you ever tempted to rewrite someone else’s story?
The only time I am tempted to change someone else’s story is when I stumble across a bad ending. I can’t stand those. I can deal with hardships in the book, but it must end well. So yeah, give me anything with the main character dying, their loved ones killed, and I’ll reverse it all (no matter how impossible or improbable that would be).
What do you hope to achieve with your own stories?
I hope to have authored books that will matter, that will touch people’s hearts and become their friends. On a more personal and practical level, I would like to reach a point where I can write full-time and support my family through it.
I know what you mean. I like stories that have the ability to stay with people. Stories that add to your life. Kind of like an excellently braised sirloin, stuffed with artichokes and…woops. Where did that come from? Ah, it’s almost time for lunch. Before I run off in search of food, do you have a favorite meal?
That would be either fried chicken, dark meat (Culver’s makes it nearly perfect) or crab legs. The best crab legs I’ve had are served in Glenn’s Diner in Chicago. They are HUGE. I had ordered an all-you-can-eat and I only managed 3.
Yum. Well, crab legs are pretty much an impossible act to follow. Laura, thanks for visiting with us. We wish you the best of luck with your writing!
Laura’s books, My Sparkling Misfortune and The Journey, The Adventures of Jecosan Tarres (Volume 1), can both be bought on Amazon.