A break from the Greatest Summer Olympics moments today, to chat with author Liana Laverentz. Enjoy the interview!
Hi, Liana, and welcome! Can you tell us about your latest writing project or published title?
The hardest question for me to answer is “What is your book about?” I tend to freeze up every time. So let me go with the blurb, here. It tells the story so much better than I can.
The last person small town bad boy Jacob Donovan expects to find when he returns home in disgrace after serving time is Rebecca Reed, head librarian. Rebecca had always had much bigger ambitions. Jake hadn’t wanted to stand in her way, so after one night of passion with his former best friend, he’d hit the open road.
Rebecca refuses to believe Jake is guilty of murder. The boy who’d been her friend and protector when they were town outcasts together could never have killed a woman. Not to mention the tender, loving man who’d given her their daughter, Katie.
But who is Jake now? That’s what everyone wants to know, including the town council chairman, who is determined to send Jake back to prison, by any means available.
Jake’s been running from love for all of his life. Will he find the courage to defeat his demons and stay this time?
Sounds terrific! How do you go about developing your characters?
I start with an external conflict, and try to imagine what kind of person would be involved in that conflict, try to figure out what kind of past or emotional baggage would lead them to be in that situation, and build from there. All my stories deal with issues stemming from childhood, and all my characters are built in layers. They don’t come fully formed, and they continue to surprise me with little details about themselves until I send the manuscript in to production.
What a great overview! Now, what kinds of books do you like to read? Who is your favorite author?
I love to read romantic suspense, or just plain suspense. Some of my favorite authors are Lisa Gardner, Rachel Lee, Erica Spindler, and Eileen Dreyer, who also writes romances as Kathleen Korbel. I think she writes awesome books. She has an obvious love for the written word and knows how to use it. I do most of my pleasure reading at night, before bed. When I read her books, it’s like looking forward to checking in with old friends at the end of the day. She makes her characters that real for you. In her book Sinners and Saints, she even made the setting, New Orleans just before a hurricane hits, a character in the book. You can tell she does her research. But she weaves it into the story so skillfully you don’t even realize you’re learning something as you read. And that there’s more going on than just the story, here. It’s a story written on several levels, and you can read it at any level you choose and still be satisfied at the end of the book.
What do you find most difficult about writing?
Believe it or not, making myself sit in the chair and just do it. Once I get started, the rest is easy.
What do you find most rewarding?
Reading a review where I realize the reviewer “got” what I was trying to do with the story.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
I don’t suffer from writer’s block. My biggest problem is finding the time to put all the stories I have in my head and heart onto paper. Writers write. It’s what we do. We write because we can’t not write. It’s in our blood. But every word doesn’t have to be written for publication. So if you find yourself stuck, just start writing, even if it’s stream of consciousness, and it may take a while, but once you get started, you won’t want to stop. Even if the first thing you write has nothing to do with what you’re currently stuck on, just opening yourself up to the flow of creativity in your brain and enjoying the moment will eventually bring you to where you want to be. Something you write will undoubtedly spark an idea that you can tie back in to your WIP.
Either that, or pick up a book in an area that is different from the one you are trying to write. That works a lot, too. It shifts your conscious mind to something else, so that your subconscious can work out the problem. In a sense, you’re getting yourself out of your own way.
Or you can do something mindless, like the dishes, or folding laundry, or even take a walk. Slow down enough for your creativity to catch up to you again.
So what do you do when you’re not writing?
My favorite activities are reading, writing, watching movies on DVD, making soup from scratch, martial arts, road trips, and all things spiritual. I’m a huge fan of self-improvement, and am always looking for ways to keep my life balanced between writing, working, and being a Mom. I constantly listen to motivational CDs in the car, and fully believe in the power of prayer and positive thinking. At the moment I am listening to T.D. Jakes. He writes wonderful inspirational books.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned about creating your books?
I learned that you have to write a story in a totally different way when the characters have known each other before, like Jake and Rebecca in Jake’s Return, who grew up together, as opposed to two strangers meeting, like Eric and Emily in Thin Ice. I think that’s why I like them equally well. They explore totally different aspects of falling in love. In Thin Ice, Emily’s trust has to be earned, and that is no small feat, considering what she’s endured. In Jake’s Return, Rebecca’s trust in Jake’s basic goodness is right there at the beginning, and never wavers. The problem is, Jake doesn’t have that same trust in himself. Whereas Eric, in Thin Ice, has no such baggage. He knows he’s a good guy and can’t understand why Emily wants nothing to do with him. In Thin Ice, Eric is paying for the sins of those who came before. In Jake’s Return, Jake is dealing with his own personal demons. In my next story for The Wild Rose Press, a murder mystery romance called Ashton’s Secret, Nick and Meghan are strangers, but Nick has some demons to deal with, and Meghan is determined to get the out into the open for her own reasons, so it will be a whole new combination of circumstances.
When you write, do you use the computer or compose by hand, oral dictation or some other method?
I compose on the computer, print it out, get a mug of tea and some pillows and get comfortable, read and mark up the hard copy, then make the changes on the computer and carry on from there. Compose some more, print it out, get a mug of tea, and so on.
You're obviously enjoying a wonderful career as a writer. What advice would you give to new writers just starting out?
To succeed in this business you have to believe in yourself, and Never Give Up. It’s also invaluable to have a good friend (or, better yet, two!) to keep your spirits up and to hold your dreams for you on those days when they seem too heavy or unwieldy to hang on to. So the first order of business is to find a partner who will help you stay on track. Accountability is the key. This person can be a friend, relative, spouse or fellow writer. Critique partners are wonderful for this kind of support and encouragement. And with the internet, you can find CPs online now, so there’s no excuse! Find a friend, share your dreams, and get going!
Because if you don’t write the stories in your head and heart, no one is going to do it for you.
Liana, thank you so much for being here today! Readers, make sure to check out more at Liana's websites:
Thin Ice (NJRW Golden Leaf Winner and EPPIE Finalist) ISBN 1-60154-016-7
Jake's Return ISBN 1-60154-124-4
Ashton's Secret (coming in 2008)