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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Keep Your Eye on Your Own Pages: An Interview with Laura Spinella

What drew you to writing stories with a ghostly paranormal edge?
Writing a story about a woman with a profound psychic gift intrigued me as a writer. Could I make Aubrey Ellis believable? Would her gift read as hackneyed? Could I write a “ghost story” that appealed to an audience beyond those drawn to the genre?

Your bio says you live in a 130-year-old house. Have you met any ghosts there?
The story of my 130-year-old house is longer than any Ghost Gifts novel. In short: I had two psychics randomly contact me during the writing of Ghost Gifts, noting house history of which I was unaware. I kind of listened and said, “Huh. That’s interesting…”

After Ghost Gifts was published, a Boston museum contacted me wanting to know if a circa 1900 photo album, in their possession, featured my house. To my surprise, it did, revealing the original owner—a woman named Anna Rathbun, who was an artist and writer herself. One of the psychics directly mentioned an “Anna,” along with other information that turned into fact. So yes, I have a resident ghostly muse.

I give Anna a cameo in Echo Moon, but nearly all the ghosts and ghostly occurrences in the trilogy are pure imagination.     

What is the hardest part of writing for you? Starting? Creating scenes? Dialog? Tension?
Without a doubt, starting a novel is the hardest part. The margin for error here is fantastic. How much research should one do before beginning? How much outlining? How well can any author know characters that barely exist in their mind, then commit to putting them on paper? All of this will invite a writer to procrastinate—hope lovely Q&As, like this, turn up in their inbox, delaying the prospect of beginning. ;-)

What does your editor remind you to do most often?
You’re only as good as your next book. Well, that might be a blanket publishing industry statement.

There’s not really a lot of upfront conversation with any editor I’ve ever had. They don’t read a work in progress. There might be a concept discussion—at least there was for the follow-on Ghost Gifts books. My publisher wanted some idea of where I would take the stories.

I actually get more input from my agent, who by chance happens to be an incredible editor. She will read the first 75-pages or so of something and offer larger feedback. By that I mean comments like, “Be careful with Olivia—we don’t’ want to make her unlikable.” (The main character in Unstrung does walk a fine line.) Or, “I think this is good. Keep going.”  

What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?
Positive feedback from readers, hands down. There’s nothing more satisfying than to hear from readers that they enjoyed a book of mine. And that’s less about ego than you might think. On the whole, writers don’t get a lot of validation, someone saying, “Yes! The time you put into this was worth it!” so hearing from readers matters a great deal.

We have all experienced rejection. Give me an example of how you learned to write past it.
So many to choose from… Unless you are going to keep your work in a drawer, rejection is inherent to book writing. When I first started out, I knew so little about the business. My naiveté was helpful when my first novel, Beautiful Disaster was rejected again…, again…, and again… I didn’t know enough to give up. I wrote past many rejections and eventually rewrote the book until it sold. So, while rejection always stings, there is something to be gained, to learn.

What has surprised you the most in writing/publishing?
Since my debut novel in 2011, the evolution of publishing has surprised and frustrated me the most. In modern-day publishing, we’ve never seen such sweeping changes at such an alarming rate. At the beginning of my career, publishing was ruled by the traditions of the “Big Seven.” It was, by far, not a perfect system—difficult to break into, nearly impossible to hold your place with the majority of their promotional efforts lavished on big names, who ironically barely need a mention to sell a book. Of course, if you gained admittance to “the club,” you felt you achieved something phenomenal.

Enter the generation of A-Pub. The space in this Q&A limits a true telling of all Amazon has done to the publishing industry—good and bad. They control the industry in a way that gives them close to autonomous power over what people read. They continue to strengthen their hold on the market because in addition to owning the product, they also own the store. The future implications of this should be quite disturbing to anyone who can read.

What do you know now about writing that you wished you had known sooner?
Only the book “street smarts” that can be gained by actually writing and publishing eight novels. I’ve learned so much about craft from people around me, critique groups to editors. It’s an education that takes time. As I begin a new novel, much of what I have learned will apply. Since every novel is different, a lot of that learning curve starts again. So, while there are things I would have liked to have known sooner, it’s a moot point because education takes time.

What is some of the best writing advice that you’ve received or could give?
The given advice is to not lose sight of why you write. Don’t write to keep up with your author peers or market trends—that’s a lose/lose result. Keep your eye on your own pages; it’s the only thing you can control.

Best advice received? See above: Never lose sight of why you write. If it’s not to tell a story, create something that never existed until you sat down and wrote it, then you’ve veered off onto the wrong path.

You just released a new book. This one is a period piece. What drew you to writing about that time period? What intrigued you the most in doing your research?
Thank you for asking! What a fun question. I’ve never written historical fiction. I’ve always been far too intimidated by the bar of authenticity. When you don’t write historical fiction, it takes a tremendous amount of research to get it right. Initially, the historical elements of Echo Moon were accidental. It’s simply where 12-year-old Pete’s story went in Foretold. I always knew the final book would be his story as an adult—and that meant going back in time.

It turned out that I enjoyed the historical research aspects immensely. My favorite part of Echo Moon’s research was learning about Coney Island, Luna Park in particular, also vaudeville. Interestingly, I had two resources at great extremes. Through a friend of a friend, I had terrific access to the Coney Island Museum and its curator, who offered incredible insight and was willing to answer one question after another question, entertaining the tiniest details—invaluable.

For my vaudeville research, which was more about basic facts, I came across an old library book on eBay. I paid a $1.75 for it. The photos and information provided a wealth of knowledge about the vaudeville era and good jumping off point for my fictional accounts.

Would you give my readers a short synopsis of Echo Moon?
A past life, a past war, and a past love. Peter St John can’t foresee a future until he confronts his past sins. 

When photojournalist Peter St John returns home after a two-year absence, the life he’s been running from catches up. For years, his mother’s presence, coupled with Pete’s own psychic gift, has triggered visits to 1917. There, he relives battles of the Great War, captures the heyday of Coney Island on canvas, and falls in love with an enchanting and enigmatic songstress named Esme. Present-day Pete still pines for Esme, and his love endures… but so does his vivid memory of killing her.

Determined to finally confront his former life, Pete is dismayed to discover family heirlooms, which serve as proof of his crimes. He also meets a young woman with a curious connection to his family, who is more than what she seems. As century-old secrets unravel, can Pete reconcile a murder from his past before it destroys his future?

Sounds intriguing! If you’d like to buy this book or learn about her other books, here are some links to get you started.

Website: http://lauraspinella.net/
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Laura-Spinella/e/B003VKWXII/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/LauraSpinellaStreetTeam/