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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Be the Best You: Author Interview with Carla Laureano

My interview today is with Carla Laureano, who is the RITA® Award-winning author of contemporary inspirational romance and Celtic fantasy (writing as C.E. Laureano). She is a graduate of Pepperdine University and worked as a sales and marketing executive for nearly a decade before leaving corporate life behind to write fiction full-time. I think the career change was a good decision. Read on to learn about her writing journey. 

Your first book was published in 2013 with the story’s location as the Isle of Skye in Scotland. Why did you choose that location for your first novel?
Five Days in Skye deals with an overworked, stressed-out sales professional who has an epiphany about her life choices while trying to close a deal in Scotland. I had been in a similar burnout season years before, and it was on a trip to Skye with my husband that I made the decision to slow down and rethink what I wanted out of life. So it was natural to weave my own experiences into the story and set it in that magical place.

How many rewrites did you do on it? 
I did more rewrites than I can count (I was a pantser back then and rarely had a blueprint to work from), but I think I landed somewhere about eight or nine. 

Did you originally envision it as a trilogy?
From the beginning, I knew I wanted to publish this as the first book in a trilogy, so I introduced the characters that would be the protagonists of books two and three, even if I didn’t quite know what their stories would be yet.

How did you go about finding an agent/publisher?

I’ve had two agents so far in my career, and I met both of them at conferences. I know a lot of authors who have found their agents from cold queries, but since I’m an extrovert, I always find it’s easier to make connections in person.

From the point you were offered a contract on that first book, how long did it take to make to print?
Five Days in Skye was my first book to be published, and because it was originally acquired as part of David C. Cook’s digital-only imprint, it took about six months from the time I signed the contract to the time it came out. (That was a whirlwind, let me tell you!) 

However, I actually sold my fantasy series The Song of Seare first, and that took about 16 months from contract to publication of the first volume.

You’ve since written three other short series. Will you be doing any stand-alone books not attached to a series?
Yes! In fact, my next several books are slated to be stand-alone books. As much as I love writing series, my most recent ideas have been more suited to single titles.

A few of the reviews for London Tides said it lacked faith themes, had sexual innuendos, and suggestions of nudity. That book was published by David C. Cook which I’d always thought of being more fundamental since they’ve produced Sunday School curriculum. Are they loosening their more traditional Christian values in publishing?

London Tides is a book with an interesting history. When I wrote it for David C. Cook, it had much more of a faith theme but it was also much edgier, and so right before publication, with concerns about how it would be received by the more conservative bookstores, they requested that I rewrite it. 

Unfortunately, I think rewriting the last quarter or so of the book made some of the edgier bits at the beginning seem gratuitous, when in reality they were essential to set up an ending that no longer existed.

When that series was acquired by Tyndale in 2016 for its re-release, we went back to the original version of the manuscript and edited it in the way that I originally intended the story to be told. The result is a gritty but realistic depiction of grace. This isn’t my most popular book in terms of sales, but it is the one that I get the most mail about, because it speaks to people who never see themselves or their struggles depicted in fiction, especially Christian fiction. Consequently, it’s probably the book I’m most proud to have written.

I don’t think either Cook or Tyndale compromised their convictions by publishing this book in either form, and while there is some mild sexual innuendo, I’m really not sure where the complaints of nudity came from. I am pretty unflinching in how I portray my characters and their worlds—above all, I feel like it’s important to be realistic about the struggles and consequences of sin. Honesty and authenticity are values that I hold important even if it means that some of my books aren’t considered “safe.”

What is the hardest part of writing for you?

The hardest part is whatever part I’m working on at the time! When I’m first drafting, I can’t wait to get to editing. When I’m editing, I long for those easy first draft days. The mechanics of storytelling are pretty natural at this point, but I feel like the more I learn and the more books I publish, the higher my standards are for myself… and that means there’s really no easy part of the process, other than maybe typing “The End!”

What does your editor remind you to do most often?
It’s different with every book, but there’s always a word or phrase (or several) I’ve overused that she has to ruthlessly weed out!

What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?
Those letters from readers who tell me how one of my books has helped them get through a rough time or learn more about themselves or make a difficult decision. As an author, it’s easy to feel like you’re just shouting into the void, so those messages are what keep me going. The longer I write, the more I see it as a ministry, and it's a blessing to hear how my books have impacted readers.

We have all experienced rejection. How have you learned to write past it?
I got rejected for fifteen years before I acquired an agent and published my first book so I feel like I’m pretty inured to that part of it by now. Mostly, I just focus on the task at hand, hit my daily word count goals, and get the work done! Though, unless I’ve been tagged in a post, I don’t look at reader reviews until about six months after a book is published. By then, I’ve emotionally detached enough from the book to consider them objectively, whether they’re good or bad.

What has surprised or frustrated you the most in writing/publishing?

How slow everything moves! (That’s the answer to both questions, by the way.) It can feel like it takes forever to get into the business, and then it takes quite a while to get the book into print, and then it takes years to build a following. I always laugh when people say they’re going to write a book for quick money. The very definition of this business is patience, and I am not by nature a patient person…which is probably exactly why God led me to this career!

What do you know now about publishing you wished you had known sooner?
That your unaddressed problems or insecurities or wounds are not going to be solved, but rather magnified, when you sign that first contract. It’s so easy to think “when I accomplish this goal, everything will be better” but the reality is, the pressures of deadlines and public scrutiny are going to force you to confront all that baggage. Publishing has brought about a season of huge personal and spiritual growth for me, but it hasn’t been easy or even always pleasant. If you’re not prepared for it, it can be a very rude awakening!

What is the best writing advice you’ve received or could give?
When I was in college and was considering writing as a career, my faculty advisor told me not to enroll in a writing program. He said I already had a recognizable voice, and I should spend time honing that voice rather than learning to write like someone else. It was the best thing he could ever have told me. I think young, aspiring writers can waste time wishing that they could write like someone else. It’s helpful to read good books and dissect them so you understand what makes them work, but publishers are looking for the best form of you, not an imitation of someone else.

What is the next book coming out? Can you give me a short synopsis?

Under Scottish Stars, the final book in the MacDonald Family series—which has taken five long years to bring into the world—is at last releasing in July 2020. I’m so thrilled to finally get this book into the hands of eager readers! Here’s the back cover copy.

Recently widowed Serena MacDonald Stewart focuses on her children to the exclusion of her career, her art, and her sanity. When her brothers ask her to oversee the family guest house on the Isle of Skye, it’s a chance to dust off her long-ignored business skills and make a new start. But her hopes for a smooth transition are dashed when the hotel manager, Malcolm Blake, turns out to be irritating, condescending . . . and incredibly attractive.

Malcolm Blake gave up everything—his home, his girlfriend, and his career—to return to Skye and raise his late sister’s teenage daughter. With few job opportunities available on the island, he signs on as the manager of the MacDonald family hotel, which he’s soon running successfully without interference from the owners. That is, until Serena shows up, challenging his authority and his conviction that there’s nothing missing from his new life on Skye.

Before long, Serena and Malcolm have to admit the spark between them is more than mere irritation. But as single parents, there’s more on the line than their own hearts. Will their commitment to family be the thing that draws them together or the only thing that could keep them apart?

That’s all for today’s interview. If you like to learn more about Carla’s books and where to buy them, you’ll find that info on her website:

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