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Q & A With Author Laura Whitcomb

What are your ambitions for your writing career? What would your career look like in an ideal world?

I’d love to write a series or two and perhaps branch out into adult fiction. I’d also love to have sales in large enough numbers to put my kid through college (he’s five so I have a bit of time.) I’d love to have critical success, but pleasing the fans is even more satisfying. I love making a living by writing what I want to write, so I am already very lucky.

Which writers inspire you?

At the time I was writing A Certain Slant of Light I was particularly impressed with Janet Fitch and Barbara Kingsolver.  I studied their work (White Oleander and Poisonwood Bible) to help refine the draft of ACSOL that got me an agent and then a book deal.

Give us an insight into how you create your main characters. 

I don’t know how to explain that. I just day dream ideas and scenes come to me. I get to know my characters as I imagine how they would react to this plot point or that. And once in a while I base a character on someone in real life. Mr. Brown from ACSOL was inspired by a college friend and Helen’s first host, The Saint, was partly patterned after my grandmother who was a poet, though not a famous one.

How do you pick names for your characters?

Some just come into my head (James, for instance, in ACSOL), while others I searched Baby Names books to find (Calder from The Fetch) and others had to be chosen with care. I needed to have Helen, from ACSOL, have a name that was old fashioned and unusual these days, yet simple enough for Mitch to hear once and remember.

What are you working on right now?

I am working on another YA supernatural romance, this time with fairy content.

What draws you to writing ghost stories?

I’ve always had a fascination with ghosts. As a child when I heard ghost stories that were supposedly true, I would want to cry. So many ghost stories are full of longing.

Are those also your favorite genres to read?

I love ghost stories and paranormal tales, but I read all kinds of stories.

Which actors/actresses would you like to see playing the lead characters from “A Certain Slant of Light"?

I am terrible at this game! I say useless things like, “How about Claire Danes? If she was still 17.” I think I’d better pass before I embarrass myself.

How much research do you do before writing a book?

It varies. For ACSOL I did very little (a bit on WWI) because I knew the material first hand. For The Fetch I had to do a truck load about the Romanov family, Rasputin, WWI, the Russian Revolution, even odd things like silent movies.

Why do you write?

I write because I am a writer. I have to write. When I was a kid I would hear tales in classic novels of prisoners being kept in stone cells for years. I would think, “That would be horrible! Nothing to write on!”

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

I’m very inconsistent when it comes to output. One day a single paragraph, another day ten pages. Sometimes I have no time to write at all. When I have more than one of those days in a row it starts to make me very anxious. Gotta keep writing. And rewriting.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

Usually I use an outline, but with ACSOL I wrote the first two thirds with no outline and then needed one when the plot got more complicated.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I hope I get a little better at writing novels every time I write another one, but it’s always a new experience. One of the things that effects writers as time passes is that each year we’ve written more than we had the year before and we’ve read more books. If you read novels you admire, it can’t help but rub off on you.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

There are several things that are hard about the writing life: stressing out when the writing is going slowly, waiting and worrying about whether your agent and/or editor will love your new manuscript, hoping the reviews and sales go well, etc. But one of the things I hadn’t anticipated was the uneven cash flow. You get paid with each new project (including foreigns and movie options) but otherwise you usually get royalties checks only twice a year. Which would be fine if you got Stephen King size checks, but I don’t. (Yet.)

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

This varies a lot. It took ten months for ACSOL. And I used to participate in a 3-Day Novel Writing contest (from about 1986 to 2000) during which I would crank out a manuscript of over 100 pages in 72 hours. But it has taken me a bit longer since my son was born in 2010.

What book/s are you reading at present?

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

Where can we find out more about you and your books? I also have a blog (find the link on my website) and I promise to tweet more from now on.

Check out my review of Laura’s book A Certain Slant of Light

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