All Things Writing
My life began, from a writing perspective, when I went to college. That’s not to say I didn’t write stories before then. I did. I’ve always written and, in my elementary years, illustrated stories. My tales always featured horses and princesses I could render with flowing manes of hair. Anyway, when I say my writing life didn’t begin until college, that’s because my home life was so overwhelmingly normal and angst-free: no family divorces, no abuse, no felons, no deaths, no drugs or alcohol, no shop-lifting or sex parties to win peer approval. (Have you heard what 12-year-olds are up to today? I shudder.) My father was an Air Force pilot and we moved a lot, living in Georgia, Texas, Washington, the Philippines, and Oklahoma before I was out of high-school, but I liked the peripatetic lifestyle.
I wrote my first novel for a creative writing class at Trinity University. Professor Bob Flynn inspired me and heroically refrained from gagging when reading the contemporary romance I titled “Jeweled Torment.” That manuscript is buried in a box in the garage, along with the Regency romance I wrote shortly after joining the Air Force. I concentrated on becoming a good intelligence officer for many years before doing any more significant writing. I served with an F-16 wing in Korea, helped resolve reports of live-sightings of Vietnam prisoners of war while working out of the embassy in Bangkok, pushed paper at the Defense Intelligence Agency, earned my Master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania, taught English for three years at the Air Force Academy, learned cool things about satellites (none of which I can ever write about) at the National Reconnaissance Office, attended various professional schools, did my time in the Pentagon, commanded a squadron in England, and ended up in Colorado. Along the way, I married my wonderful husband and produced two beautiful children who re-defined what is important in life. A moment of Holy Spirit-guided epiphany in Elliot’s Bay bookstore in Seattle convinced me it was time to embark on writing and mothering full time. I retired from the Air Force in late 2004.
My motto? Never, never, never, give up. I’m also fond of the saying that sits on my desk beneath a photo of a sailboat on the sea: “You cannot discover new worlds unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
One of those new worlds included the privilege of serving as secretary and then president on the national board of Sisters in Crime.
Another is Career Authors, a resource site for writers where I now blog.
I discover more new worlds all the time in my writing and I give thanks every day for being able to pursue my passion.
Where do you get your ideas?
As corny as this sounds, ideas are everywhere. I get them from the newspaper, talking to people, surfing the web, billboards, hikes in the mountains, my dog, my children, my husband, sermons at church, unsuspecting friends. Getting ideas is not hard. Deciding which idea will make a good story or novel and matching it up with a compelling character is tough. Putting it together so someone wants to read it is the real challenge.
How did you get started in writing?
I have always written. I wrote my first book in college and deep-sixed it after one rejection. I wrote a Regency romance (inspired by my love of Georgette Heyer) and a police procedural mystery (greatly hampered by my complete lack of knowledge of police procedures) during my early years in the Air Force. For many years after that, my urge to write was subsumed into academic or professional writings. I edited a safety magazine for the military and wrote articles for that. While at Air War College, I conducted research and Air University Press published my non-fiction book, Winning the Retention Wars (2003). Other than a few poems, I didn’t write creatively between getting married (1993) and retiring from the Air Force (2004). I always knew I’d go back to it, though, when the time was right.
When I retired, I sat down and wrote a novel featuring an Air Force intelligence officer as the amateur sleuth. The first version was 120,000 words! Needless to say, my initial queries met with rejection. I revised and sent more queries. I repeated that cycle eight or ten times. After enough revision that you wouldn’t know the first draft was related to the final one (truly!), I found an agent. I’ve saved the 50 or 60 rejections I received (some, I’m convinced, from agents I didn’t even query who just wanted to get on the “reject Laura” bandwagon) so I can always remember the value of perseverance. To paraphrase Winston Churchill: Never, ever, ever, ever, never ever quit. Never.
I am grateful every day for the opportunity to re-invent myself in my early forties and pursue my passion. How many people get to do that?
What is your writing day like?
I’m usually up around 6 a.m., do my devotions, and walk the dog. I might check my email and read the paper if I have time. Then, I wake the girls, get them ready, and walk them to school. I get my tea and plunk my butt down in my office chair by 7:30. I write 2,000 words a day when I’m drafting, or until 12:30, whichever comes last. Then, I eat lunch and go to the YMCA to work out. I do writing-related business (update my website, answer emails, talk to my agent, etc.) until I pick the girls up from school. I try to turn off my computer when they get home and devote myself to helping with homework and piano practice, talking about their day and just being a mommy.
How do you juggle writing multiple series at one time?
I work my butt off. Seriously. I treat writing like a job. I work eight hours a day and give myself only the occasional day off or vacation with my family, like an employer would. Also, I’m lucky I’m healthy.
What’s the hardest thing about being a writer?
Sometimes it’s the solitude. Mostly it’s trying to promote one book while working on another. Promotion and marketing is a huge time sink that sucks up more time than you would imagine.