It is such a pleasure to have Laura Drake with us today on Author Interview Friday. I feel like I know Laura from our interaction on WFWA (Women’s Fiction Writer’s Assoc.,) but we have never had the pleasure of a face-to-face encounter. I love her style of writing and easy-going manner, both on forum posts and in her stories.
Laura’s bio will capture your heart before you ever read a page of her books.
“Laura Drake is a city girl, who never grew out of her tomboy ways, or a serious cowboy crush. She writes both Women’s Fiction and Romance. The Sweet Spot, the first novel in her, ‘Sweet on a Cowboy’ Series, was released by Grand Central in May, Nothing Sweeter, in December. Her ‘biker-chick’ novel, Her Road Home, will be released by Harlequin’s Superromance in August, 2013.
Laura resides in Southern California, though she aspires to retirement in Texas. She gave up the corporate CFO gig to write, full time. She’s a wife, grandmother, and motorcycle chick in the remaining waking hours.”
Joanne: Tell us how it all began for you.
Laura: I began writing my first book sixteen years ago. Three novels and 413 rejections later, I landed an agent, and a few months after that, I sold. No overnight success story here! But honestly, I think my story happens more often than the author who hits with their first book. We may know what makes a good story, but getting it down on paper in a compelling way takes a lot of learning. It makes me sad to see writers give up their dream because getting published takes too long.
Joanne: Wow, I am not sure I would have the tenacity to keep going after 413 rejections. You give me strength to persevere. Many of us cross over genres and it is difficult to pinpoint one to fit our books. For the book we are promoting today, The Sweet Spot, what shelf would we find it on if it were in a ‘bricks and mortar’ bookstore?
Laura: In romance. I believe that I write right down the middle between Women’s Fiction and Romance. The editors proved it; half of them thought it was WF, half Romance. The seven books I’ve either written or have under contract all sold as romances.
Joanne: Are you published through a traditional publishing house? If yes, how did you find your agent and publisher?
Laura: Yes. I write my contemporary westerns set in the world of professional bull riding, for Grand Central. My small town novels sold to Harlequin’s Superromance line.
The third book I wrote, I knew was special. My crit group agreed. I queried 117 agents – they all turned me down. But I belong to RWA, and was the Treasurer for my local chapter. An editor was flying in to speak at our monthly meeting. I worked close to the airport, so I offered to pick her up. Little did either of us know there was a huge accident on the freeway, and what should have been a half hour trip turned into two hours!
After talking about the market and the industry for an hour, she asked me what I wrote. When I pitched her my ‘special’ book, she asked me to send her a partial. I reached into the back seat and handed it to her! Hey, I was desperate, not proud! She looked a little taken aback, but she promised to read it on the plane on the way home. Good to her word, she contacted me on Monday, and said, “The first thing we need to do is get you an agent.” Yeah, like I hadn’t tried that! She introduced me to my amazing agent, Nalini Akolekar of Spencerhill Associates. Don’t ever hesitate to volunteer, or help other writers – doing so got me an agent!
Joanne: Authors and publishers are always talking about finding your “Voice”. Exactly what does that mean to you and how did you find yours?
Laura: By not listening to the editor in my head. By being true to who I am, and by listening to the story I had to tell. I think we lean toward genres that fit our voice, even before we know what it is. For example, I’m an open, friendly, casual person (if I were a dog, I’d be a black lab.) No way would I have a literary voice. I write down-home stories with Western settings; bull riders and biker-chicks. My friends say that they can hear me speaking when they read my books.
But that doesn’t come until you are comfortable enough to write what you want – not what you think you should write.
Joanne: Who are some of the authors whose work you admire the most, and why?
Laura: Oh wow, you know how hard this is for an author (or any reader, for that matter,) to do! I love: Barbara Samuels, Joann Mapson, Jodi Piccoult, Pat Conroy, Anne River-Siddons….I could go on and on.
What draws me in the most is emotion and passion. I love to immerse myself in a character and experience the world through their eyes. I love it when I come across a sentence that so perfectly describes an emotion in a fresh way that I stop reading and think, “That’s just how it feels!”
Joanne: What was the hardest part for you in the writing process; the outline, synopsis, query or building the story itself?
Laura: Outline? What’s that? I’m a pantser with plotting envy. Therefore, the plotting is the hardest. I know the characters when I begin, but it takes me a while to figure out what to do with them! Eventually the plot develops organically, based on their flaws and what they have to learn, to end in an HEA!
Joanne: I admire a pantser. I need a guide dog to get through my stories. It is not enough to write a book and wait for the money to start rolling in. What marketing techniques do you implement to increase your sales?
Laura: Well, I’m not sure anyone knows what increases sales, but I’ve found Twitter to be a wonderful tool for me. Because I write about bull riders, I’ve found PBR fans, Rodeo fans, farmers, ranchers, dairymen, etc., on Twitter, who would hopefully find my books interesting. I began as a fan of the sport, hoping to connect with other fans – years before I sold a book. So when my book came out, all my ‘Tweethearts’ wanted to buy it!
Joanne: It can be so frustrating and discouraging (especially if you got 413 rejection letters.) What advice would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?
Laura: Enjoy the learning. It’s been said that it takes 10,000 hours to master something this complex – and it took me at least that long. Don’t start looking toward selling yet, or you’re going to give up in frustration. Stay focused on why you started writing to begin with – and I’ll bet it had nothing to do with selling a book!
Joanne: What is the premise of your novel we are promoting today?
Laura: The Sweet Spot is the first in my ‘Sweet on a Cowboy’ series.
Charla Rae Denny’s role as a traditional ranch wife and mother fits her like custom-tailored Wranglers. When her only son is killed in a tragic accident, Char retreats to a world of grief and Valium. Her reeling husband takes up with a blonde buckle bunny half his age. Their ranch, which supplies bucking bulls to the Pro Bull Riding circuit, is split up in the divorce. Jimmy gets the bulls, Charla, their valuable semen.
All her county fair ribbons won’t help Charla now. She’s alone, addicted, ill-equipped, and has no one to blame but herself. In spite of her fear of horses and smelly cows, she stands up, takes off her apron, and learns to run a ranch. She and Jimmy have lost their way. But through months of hard work, tears, and some hard knocks, they both learn to forgive – themselves and each other.
Where should readers go to find out more about your books and buy them?
We would love a sneak peek into your story. Please share a few paragraphs from your book to wet out appetite
The Sweet Spot
Charla rolled over, pulling the covers up to block the light, but it was no use. Consciousness was as relentless as the dawn that inched across the ceiling, highlighting the crack above her bed. It had been painted over many times, but the lightning-shaped fissure had been a constant of her mornings as far back as her memory reached.
She felt around the edges of her mind. She’d forgotten something. Something important. It barreled from a tunnel and slammed her to reality. The hollowness in her chest made her gasp and she hugged herself, afraid she would implode.
Benje is gone.
She pulled the covers up and curled into a ball. Another day to face, when her reason for facing it was gone. Why bother?
She heard the answer in the shush of slippered feet passing her door. Daddy. The grief counselor pointed out that they still had responsibilities. She had to go on for those. Dashing the tears from her cheeks, she threw back the covers and shouldered the sunrise.
Laura: Thank you so much for having me today!
Joanne: No, thank you. this was a delightful interview. I know I will be rushing out to buy The Sweet Spot as I imagine other readers will as well.