Interview with Liana LaverentzJul 28, 2008
It’s so nice of you to take the time to answer our questions today.
Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Your list of awards is impressive and the reviews prove the awards were given to the right book/author. I’m sure my readers want to find out how you managed this, so let’s get right to the questions.
First let’s find out a little about you, Liana. The quote on your website banner says “Life is a Journey.” When did you start writing seriously for publication? Where has your life’s journey taken you? You know we want to know all the stuff that makes you the person you are.
I started writing seriously for publication in 1988. My first book, and fourth manuscript, sold in 1993. My son was born in 1994 and that was one of the first big detours on my life’s journey. The second was divorce. I finally got back into writing in 2002, and Thin Ice and Jake’s Return came out in 2007.
(Link to purchase Thin Ice and Jake’s Return)
As for all the stuff in between, while I wasn’t writing, well that was just plain messy. The saying Life is a Journey applies to all of us, not just me, and is a reflection of where I want to eventually take my writing.
Thin Ice is your first book and it has garnered awards from The Golden Leaf Award, to an Eppie and more. You comment that this book was “in the process” for 17 years. That sounds like a long time. Tell us why and how you finally got it published.
Thin Ice is actually my second book. I finished it for the first time seventeen years before it was published. It made the rounds of the traditional publishing houses, with no luck. After a few years, and after my first novel was published, I re-wrote Thin Ice from beginning to end, and tried again. This time I got glowing rejection letters, but they were rejection letters all the same. Finally my agent said, “What you need to do is win some awards, get some name recognition. Then they’ll buy it.”
So I put Thin Ice away, and--after my unexpected writing hiatus--moved on to writing several other manuscripts, one of which is Letters to Laura, a narrative non-fiction manuscript about the life and times of my friend Louis, who this year will begin his 30th year in prison, and is now serving time for a crime he did not commit. What does this have to do with Thin Ice? Plenty. Thin Ice was the book of my heart. I loved it and I wanted people to read it, so I started passing it around to friends in manuscript form in a three-ring binder. After two years of Louis asking to see it, I finally sent him a copy.
He read it, and insisted I needed to send it out again. I mean insisted. “I’ve read a lot of books,” he said. “You need to send this out again.”
But it had been nearly ten years since I’d last sent it out, and it needed to be completely revised again. The world had changed. For one thing, nobody had cell phones when I first wrote Thin Ice. I had to add them in. For another my heroine, needed a very large car for a special reason, and they’d stopped making the car I had chosen for her. This was before the advent of SUVs. Also the NHL had reorganized itself several times in the interim, and so I had to research and update all that information.
But once a week Louis would call and quietly ask, “And what did you get done on the book this week?” If I’d done nothing, he would say nothing. But I knew he would ask again the following week, in that same quiet, non-judgmental voice, and as I rehearsed my excuses, they sounded lame even to me.
So I got to work—and finished the revisions about a year later. Right around that time, Rhonda Penders and RJ Morris were opening the doors of The Wild Rose Press, and it was one of those serendipitous moments in life. I sent the manuscript in to Rhonda, and within days she’d offered me a contract. It was released nine months later, and since then has won the Golden Leaf award, an EPPIE, and was nominated for Best Contemporary Romance at Long and Short Reviews.
Actually, if you want to know the truth, Louis and I were arguing at the time about the power of a positive attitude. As you might guess, he lives in a very negative environment, and at times considers me a very stubborn Pollyanna. So we were arguing, and he said, “Yeah, well, if a positive attitude is all it takes, then why aren’t you published again?” So I sent off Thin Ice with the attitude of, “I’ll show you!” …and it worked! Despite all his support and encouragement the year I was revising it, I had been feeling quite burnt by my previous two rounds of rejections, and was hesitant to enter the fray again.
So sometimes a little ‘tough love’ is what it takes to get you going. I can’t recommend highly enough having a friend who believes in you more than you believe in yourself, and who keeps you accountable and gives you the ‘talking to’ that you need when the going gets rough. Friends like that are rare indeed, but all it takes is one.
What genre would you say you write in – I know that both of your books are romance but they have a sub genre as well – suspense, mystery and spell binding are all words I’ve seen reviewers use for you work. What does your publisher categorize it as? Why do you choose that subgenre to incorporate in your stories?
My publisher categorizes them as contemporary romance, although I would call Jake’s Return a contemporary romance with an element of suspense. My first book, Ashton’s Secret, which will be re-released by The Wild Rose Press in their romantic suspense line later this year, is a murder mystery romance. I grew up reading Nancy Drew mysteries. In college I discovered Harlequin romances. I like stories that have elements of both suspense and romance. Thin Ice deals with the issues of love, trust and forgiveness, as applied to domestic violence situations, and has elements of suspense as well. But my stories from here on out will lean more toward full-fledged romantic suspense, love on the run, who’s trying to kill them and why, and will they find out before it’s too late?
Do you have a favorite or several favorite authors? Who and why?
I continue to be blown away by the work of suspense author Eileen Dreyer, http://www.eileendreyer.com/index.shtml
whom I have met several times, but only in group settings. I tend to hang on every word she says when she speaks at a conference. I’m the one sitting in the front row nodding and getting really fired up to write inside. She just makes so much sense to me in her approach to storytelling. If I could write books as consistently compelling and satisfying to read as she does, I would be one happy camper. Reading one of her books is like checking in with old friends at the end of the day. She gets you that involved in the hopes and dreams and lives of her characters. And she does a wonderful job of incorporating setting as a character in her stories. She writes equally enchanting romances for Silhouette as Kathleen Korbel.
When you begin a work of fiction do you have a plot in mind or do you start first with characters – building them a layer at a time – and then putting them in a scenario and watch how they react? Tell us about your writing process –
I start with a theme, and create the story around that. On the surface, the theme of Thin Ice would be a woman in a healing profession, trying not to fall for a man in a violent one as it goes against her principles and experience. But it evolves into much more than that. Another big theme in my books is family. Usually one character has one, and the other character wants one, even if he (yes, it’s usually the he) doesn’t realize that’s what he wants. Eric in Thin Ice desperately wants a family to love and is honest about it with himself. Jake in Jake’s Return denies vehemently that he wants a family. He doesn’t think he deserves one. Nick in Ashton’s Secret doesn’t seem to care if he has one or not, but family is obviously important to Meghan. She’s in town to find out what happened to her sister. Alex in Justice is a Lady definitely wants to be part of a family—but is totally oblivious to the desire. All of my stories are character-driven. I choose the theme, and then create the scenes I need to reveal the characters and move the plot along.
I write the first draft without stopping, so I know how it ends, and can work toward that end while I’m editing. I also write in layers. First I write the dialogue, straight through, until the book is done. Then I go back and decide who has the most at stake in each scene, and write the scene from that character’s point of view—so at that point, yes, you could say I place them in difference scenarios and see how they react. Then I add in the stage directions (who crossed the room, slammed the door, or gripped the pen too tightly, etc.). Then I go back and make sure I have the five senses covered, and then I go back and add in clues, or foreshadowing.
Last, but not least, I go in and tighten the focus, cut out every word that doesn’t need to be there, and pretty it all up. It’s the last part that gets really intense for me. I try to do what I call “hold the whole book in my head” at one time, and while I may be at the bank or grocery store or school function in body, my mind and spirit are at home with my characters. It’s during these times that people perceive me as vacant or spacey J. The lights are on, but nobody’s home.
Have you ever had writer’s block – or seem to not know where to start when you sit down with a blank page or computer screen? How do you deal with this? If you never have writer’s block to what do you attribute that?
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, as I found out during my eight-year writing hiatus. But that wasn’t caused by writers block. That was due to external circumstances. So when you don’t know where to start when you sit down with a blank page or computer screen, just remember every word doesn’t have to be written for publication. 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 doesn’t have anything to do with what you’re currently working on, simply 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 original goal, or whatever has you stumped in your current project.
What does the future hold for you –I mean do you have other books in the works? Tell us about what you are writing now or hope to write.
Right now, I’m working on the re-release of my first novel, Ashton’s Secret. It will be released by The Wild Rose Press later this year. City girl photographer Megan Edwards goes to small town western New York to investigate her sister’s death. The only man who can help her is the man who was accused of killing her sister, but was never brought to trial, and he wants to leave that door firmly shut. But Meghan knows it wasn’t suicide, and so does Nick, and whether Nick likes it or not, Meghan isn’t leaving Ashton until she unravels the town’s secret--or dies trying.
I’m also working on a romantic suspense, Justice is a Lady, about Samantha Dallas, an ambitious assistant DA determined to prosecute every gang-related case she can in response to her cop husband’s murder. She ends up on the run with undercover FBI agent Alexander Caldwell when she gets framed for killing a park ranger while on a camping trip she’s practically forced into going on to escape job burnout. Alex is investigating a car theft ring and chop shop. Samantha doesn’t know that her uncle, Alex’s boss, has asked Alex to keep a discreet eye on her. All Samantha knows is someone is out to get her, and this entirely too compelling criminal seems to be the only person who will help her. Her attraction to him makes her wonder if she’s finally lost it.
Is there a genre that you haven’t tried that you would like to try in the future?
Romantic suspense is my first love, but I’m also branching out into narrative non-fiction and spiritual/self-help articles and books. I’m currently shopping Letters to Laura around, which I call a kinder, gentler Scared Straight, about what life in prison is like and why you don’t want to be there. You would think that would be self-evident, but the incarceration rate in our country is the highest it has ever been, and there are kids out there who could truly benefit from reading what Louis has to say. If it works out, and we can stop even one person from making the kind of choices it takes to land them in prison, it will have been worth the effort. The opening to Letters to Laura can be found on my website, www.lianalaverentz.com, under the Friends page.
What advice would you give to a new writer who is looking to get published or perhaps someone who has not written anything yet but is aspiring to write a novel?
If you don’t write your stories, nobody’s going to do it for you. Don’t wake up one day and wish you’d had the courage to follow your dreams. Do it now. Make the time, and be persistent in your efforts. Polite, but persistent. Never give up. Ever. If it’s important to you, then find way to do it today. Don’t put it off until you have the time, because you will never have enough time in your life to get everything you want to do, done. It just won’t happen.
To help people figure out how to do this, I host a discussion the first Thursday of every month at the Long and Short Reviews Yahoo Loop on Finding Your Balance. To read my articles on Finding Your Balance go to http://longandshortarchives.blogspot.com/2008/01/article-finding-your-balance-pt-1.html then mark your calendar to join us at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LongAndShortRomanceReviews/?yguid=306787988
You mentioned that you had three complete rewrites of Thin Ice in the years it took to get it published. That must mean you suffered the pangs of rejection — how did you deal with that?
Not well, but that was a reflection of my mindset at the time. Now I know that every “No” only brings you closer to a “Yes.” Good fortune and bad come in cycles and the trick is to prepare yourself for each. You ride the wave of the good, and you find the jewels in the bad. You don’t let either of them define you.
Finally, tell our readers where they can find out more about you, where they can read about your books and where they can buy them.
Everything you could want to know (and probably more!) can be found on my website, www.lianalaverentz.com. To buy my books, go to http://www.thewildrosepress.com/index.php?main_page=index&manufacturers_id=48&zenid=8b6afd63fa80d97c4afd12e7d473c90d, or for an autographed print copy, contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. It costs less than ordering it online and comes straight to your house J.
Thank you so much for spending some time with us today. I look forward to reading more of your work. I’m sure you will garner more awards as you create more books. Many Sales to You!
Thank you for everything. I really enjoyed talking with you.
Interviewed by Billie A Williams
View Liana Laverentz's Author Page
More Author Interviews