YA author Laurie J. Edwards had a double debut. On May 22nd, Lucent Books released her first novel, Rihanna, a YA biography about the R&B singer. Laurie’s first short story, “Summer Storms,” appeared in the Summer Lovin’ anthology from The Wild Rose Press.
Laurie has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and a master’s in Art Education/Creativity Studies. A former preschool/elementary teacher and children’s librarian, she is the author of more than 850 magazine and educational articles in addition to her published books. Her work has appeared in national magazines, textbooks, testing materials and online. In addition, she’s a freelance writer and editor for several publishers, has ghostwritten books and writes under other pseudonyms.
Laurie, who loves to paint, draw with pastels and sketch, has been known to lose herself for hours when she’s drawing. At present, she’s working toward a Graphic Arts degree to add to her fine arts training. Her dream is to illustrate picture books in addition to writing YA novels.
Besides art, Laurie enjoys crafts. Cake decorating, sewing and needlework are her favorites. She also likes to fence, belly dance, horseback ride, ski, play soccer and ride in her husband’s motorcycle sidecar. And travel abroad. Her goal is to visit every continent. She has only two more to go—Australia and Antarctica.
Join me as we learn more about Laurie and her writing journey.
Laurie’s Journey Begins
•When did you decide the writer’s life was for you?
I don’t think I ever actually decided it; it sort of chose me. I’d been a reader all my life (note my picture above from age 10 months). I was never without a book in my hands. I devoured at least 30 books a week—by that I mean read, not ate—from the time I learned to read. I read everywhere, including in school and under the covers at night, both of which I got scolded for, but I persisted. When I had 5 children under the age of 8, I still read, but I started writing to maintain my sanity. Not only was it great for my mental health, but I loved tapping into my creativity. I’ve been hooked ever since.
•You’ve had many articles published, but I’m sure memories of the first one still generate good feelings. What’s the story behind your initial published piece?
I decided to do something with my scribbling, so I signed up for an Institute of Children’s Literature (ICL) course. That was the best thing I could have ever done for my writing. Who knew all those adjectives and adverbs didn’t belong there? I went from amateur to semi-pro in the first few months of the course. I didn’t just read the course material; I read everything I could get my hands on about writing.
One of the ICL assignments was a nonfiction craft article that my instructor suggested I send to Highlights for Children. At that time I had no idea that 90% or more of submissions are rejected, so I probably wasn’t as thrilled as I should have been that my first article sold so quickly. After I’d collected stacks of rejection letters, I realized acceptances weren’t the norm for writers and truly appreciated that first sale. The thought that someone believed my work was worth publishing kept me going through the rough times.
•When did you first hear the call to write YA novels and how long did it take you to answer it?
I fell in love with YA novels when I started working as a children’s librarian. I never added a book to the collection that I hadn’t read first, so I read hundreds of YAs. I came to appreciate their cleaner and more tightly plotted storylines. I’ve never been a big fan of description. Give me action and adventure any time. Most YAs don’t waste words on paragraphs of setting or character description. They jump right into the plot and keep the tension high throughout. I loved that, so when I started to write, I used them as my example.
•As the mother of five, I’m sure you’ve got a lot of stories to tell. Do real life experiences work their way into your stories, or are they entirely fictional?
🙂 I have plenty of stories, but for the most part, I save those for my nonfiction humor articles. So far, my fiction has been based more on imagination than reality.
•Is your primary goal to entertain your readers, or do you desire to help young people over hurdles most face? Perhaps both?
I think books can help readers, but if you write a book with that in mind, you end up with a didactic, moralistic tale. I usually start with an issue I feel strongly about, but that’s the underpinning of the story and not the story itself. If a story isn’t entertaining, why bother reading? Most teens get enough lectures in their lives, they don’t need them from books, so I aim to tell a compelling story and let the circumstances speak for themselves.
One of the nicest comments I had from a teen was that “Summer Storms” was so exciting she couldn’t stop reading, but by the end her heart was touched by Paige’s (the main character) struggle to grow and change, because it mirrored her own life and helped her see herself in a new light. That, to me, is the joy of being a writer–holding up a mirror so readers see themselves reflected in it and learn more about themselves, which is often a life-changing experience.
•Do you model your characters after your children, former students or library patrons you served, or do you dream them up on your own? What is it about a character that grabs you and says, “Write my story”?
I never deliberately model a character after someone I know, but I think having been exposed to so many different personalities in my family and at work, I have a good sense of what certain characters will and won’t do in situations.
As for my characters, they usually come to me and beg me to write their stories. Sometimes I wonder if they’re from past lives because I can see their worlds so vividly.
For example, the historical romance novel I’m revising now is set in Ming China. I was standing in the Forbidden City a few years ago, and I distinctly heard a young girl’s voice say, “You must tell my story. We deserve to be heard.” After I got home, I asked her to tell me her story, and she turned out to be a concubine of the emperor. It’s been a thrilling ride telling her love story with a eunuch. But what gives me chills (and this happened with my first novel set in Eastern Europe in 1050, which is still being revised) is that often when I go to check historical facts, I find what I’ve written actually happened or has a special meaning in the culture.
•You’ve seen your byline in magazines and newspapers more times than most of us can fathom. How did you feel the day your name appeared on the cover of not one, but two books?
That was pretty amazing. Having a book come out is like seeing your baby for the first time, so that was like having twins. Definitely fraternal twins, though. One was non-fiction, the other, fiction–a romance, which is about as light and frothy as you can get.
•What have been the highest highs now that your biography and anthology are out? Holding the books in your hands for the first time? Seeing them in stores? Reading the reviews as they’ve poured in?
One of my highs was when a reviewer said she liked my story in the anthology best, and couldn’t wait to read more of what I’d written. That, and when I came home to discover my husband (who hates to read) engrossed in Rihanna. He looked up and said, “Hey, this is really good.” That’s better than what he said when my first box of author copies arrived: “I knew you were writing a book, but I didn’t know you meant a REAL one.” That may be because my day job is writing for educational books where I don’t get a byline. Other than that, he’s been very supportive of my writing. He’d better be; it pays the bills for both of us.
•With over 850 articles published, I don’t want to even think about all the queries you’ve written or the number of rejections you’ve received. How do you deal with passes? Is your skin so thick these days it rivals a rhino’s?
I wish. I’d love to have a rhino hide when it comes to rejections, but the truth is I bleed every time I get one. About 5 years ago, I was submitting and getting so many rejections, I totally gave up and vowed not to submit ever again. And I didn’t for about 2 years. Then a friend emailed to ask if I could help out her editor with a project. I did and started getting regular work from that publisher. Pretty soon I had other editors contacting me, asking me to write things. Now, with my nonfiction stuff, they usually come to me, rather than the other way around.
But with my fiction, it’s a totally different story. I think I’m purposely not finding time to do my historical research & finish the final drafts of my two YA novels because I’m afraid to send them out. I also have two “almost-completed” inspirational romances that I’ve written queries, cover letters, and synopses for, but never find the time to send them out. I know it’s fear of rejection.
•Based on your experience, what advice can you offer those who are submitting and collected those dreaded rejection letters?
Believe in yourself and your creativity. Write what’s in your heart. I know everyone says persistence is the key, but I think the key is nurturing that little seed inside yourself and treating it with honor and respect. If writing is your dream, then do it. Do it whether or not you get published, do it whether or not anyone likes what you write. Do it for YOU.
Laurie’s Journey Continues
•What story are you working on now? Another YA love story?
I never work on just one book at a time. I always have several going at once. In addition to the YA historicals I mentioned above, I’m working on 2 adult inspirationals. Her Weight in Gold is about a heroine, Darlee, who falls in love with a married man and is totally turned off by the man she’s sure is God’s will for her, so she’s torn between her faith and her desires.
The other, Angel Unawares, is told mainly from the hero’s point of view. In his quest to convert his man-hating neighbor, Mark finds himself falling for her, but she has many reasons to keep him at arm’s length. Writing this story also gave me one of those thrills and chills moments when Mark selected a ring (hoping to convince her to change her mind). I had my heart set on a diamond, but Mark defied me and bought an emerald. Later, when I read the meaning behind the emerald, I was stunned. Not only is it symbolic of Christian faith and hope, and victory over trial and sin, which was the theme of the book, but it also had another meaning (which I can’t reveal because it’ll give away the ending of the book) that fit perfectly with the book’s climax.
So never underestimate your characters. They often know where to go better than you do. And in this case, I strongly believe God led me to the perfect ending for that story.
Laurie’s Debut Stories
•Please tell us about your two releases.
Summer Lovin’ is a collection of love stories by six Climbing Rose authors about life on a ranch, summer jobs, sandcastle competitions, the tragedy of a flood, and falling in love with a rock star. My story is in the anthology is “Summer Storms”: Sixteen-year-old Paige nearly drowns trying to rescue a Pomeranian trapped in floodwaters that sweep through her town. Chase, the hottie who saves her, wants to help her and her mother, but Paige won’t accept charity. And can she risk him unmasking the family secret she’s kept hidden?
Rihanna (People in the News) is about the R&B singer Rihanna, who loved to sing as a child, but had a rough home life with a cocaine-addicted father. Discovered at age 15, Rihanna auditioned for Jay-Z and rose to stardom. My book offers a behind-the-scenes peek into Rihanna’s childhood, her rise to fame, her Grammy win, and some of the celebs she’s connected with, including Shia LaBeouf, Timbaland, Maroon 5, and Chris Brown.
Five Facts About Laurie the Writer
~ loves to write late at night (1-3 a.m. is perfect)
~ prefers writing to talking
~ wrote for 20 years before getting her first books published
~ never has enough time to complete everything she’d like to do
~ is taking her love of writing one step further and opening a publishing company in January (www.leapbks.com)
Five Fun Facts About Laurie the Person
~ believes all things work together for good
~ was an MK in Africa when she was young
~ got fired from a library job, which jumpstarted her writing career
~ is an optimist and romantic at heart
~ dreams of world peace
Laurie’s Question for You
•I’ve enjoyed having you as my guest, Laurie. Thanks for your great answers to my questions. And now it’s your turn to ask your visitors a question. Have fun!
Thanks for having me, Keli. Here’s my question for your readers: I shared my fear of rejections. Now I’d like to hear how you handle them. What’s the most painful rejection you’ve ever received and how did you handle it? And tips on making rejections less painful are also welcome.
Learn More About Laurie
I’d love to have you friend me on any or all of these, and I’ll return the favor.
Visit her website – http://lje1.wordpress.com
Visit her blogs – http://thesusquehannawriters.blogspot.com
Friend her on Facebook – Laurie J. Edwards
Or MySpace – lauriejedwards
Follow her on Twitter – LaurieJEdwards
Leave a Comment for Three Chances to Win
Laurie has generously offered to give away one e-copy of her anthology, which just got five hearts from Romance Studio and was up for Book of the Week at LASR.
To enter the drawing, leave a comment for Laurie by midnight Pacific Time on September 1st and enter your email address when prompted. (I don’t share your information or add it to any mailing lists.) On September 2nd, I’ll post the winner’s name here.
Congratulations to Niki, winner of Summer Lovin’, the anthology from The Wild Rose Press in which Laurie’s first short story, “Summer Storms,” appeared.
Keli’s Regular Drawing
My next drawing will take place September 10th.
The winner will receive a visit from Gerard Butler.
OK. Not exactly, but she will get to see him in one of his famous roles.
I’m offering a DVD of The Phantom of the Opera in which he stars along with Emmy Rossum and Patrick Wilson.
To enter the drawing, just leave a comment on any blog post by September 10th and enter your email address when prompted. (I don’t share your information or add it to any mailing lists.) On September 11th, I’ll post the winner’s name in the Welcome post at the top of the blog.
You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook!
If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by me, your blog hostess Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and September 30th. Be sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) Click red link above to see samples of covers and pages.
On October 1st, I will choose one person who will have her/his choice of several covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your debut novel in your hands.
(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)