AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: LAURA BRIGGS
Laura Briggs is taking a few minutes to yak with the JR Bunnies…
What is your most current work out?
My latest work from Pelican Book Group is an eBook titled Ghosts of Romances Past.
Tell us a little about Ghosts of Romances Past?
It’s a quirky Inspirational Romance with a dash of the supernatural. I wanted to do it as a modern take on A Christmas Carol, a device I’ve enjoyed seeing elements of in various films. Except instead of Christmas, the story takes place at Valentine’s Day; a holiday with significant meaning for the heroine’s past and present.
The heroine, Alice Headley, is a twenty something artist who has reached a crossroads in her love life. Debating whether to accept a marriage proposal, she takes a tumble down a restaurant staircase–an accident that leads to visions of three female ancestors, figures who seem as real as the women she remembers from childhood experiences and stories. She knows they must be illusions, but her heart tells her otherwise. Especially since the advice they give seems to point back to her first love, a relationship she thought was consigned to friendship status.
When you start writing, do you already have the story plotted out or do you let the characters dictate what will happen?
I learned the hard way that I should always, always have the story plotted out. I like to start with a one-sentence summary and follow the logical sequence of events from there. If I’m having any trouble getting the pieces to fall into place, I’ll bounce “what-ifs” off friends or family and watch for the right reaction. Another exercise I find helpful is to “cast” the characters with actors or actresses I could see starring in a film version of the story—it’s really quite fun and effective!
What inspired you to write in your genre? Is this the genre you started writing in or have you morphed to this one?
I’m a big fan of classic love stories–Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Gone with the Wind. So writing in the romance genre seemed a natural choice and I was lucky enough to get published after just a couple of submissions. Although I do occasionally dip into the fantasy genre with co-authored pieces I’ve published independently.
Do you have a favorite character you have written?
I’m not sure I could pick an absolute favorite, but I do have a special soft spot for secondary characters. For instance, in Ghosts of Romances Past, it was the story and character of MaryAnne, the heroine’s great-great grandmother, who most gripped my imagination. I loved creating the rich, small details in her courtship with the handsome sailor and showing how their friendship emboldened her to embrace not just romance, but also her natural talent and artistry.
Who was the toughest character for you to “get right” that you have written so far?
Probably the heroine that appears in Only in Novels, the first novella I had published with Pelican Book Group. As a businesswoman determined to save her brick and mortar bookstore from going under, she understandably has to be practical and no-nonsense. But she also comes off as a bit of a literature snob in her conflict with the hero, an adventure novelist who ends up getting booked for a signing at her store by mistake. It’s all very light-hearted, but she may strike some readers as unsympathetic in places.
Do you draw inspiration for your characters from real life? Any fun stories you could share?
Nothing comes to mind–if there is, I probably shouldn’t admit it for the sake of anyone who might be involved!
What do you find the hardest part of writing?
Sitting down to actually write is the absolute hardest part. That’s when the idea loses the sparkle and promise it had during the outlining stage and comes down to cold, hard reality. It’s never what I pictured in my head, but that’s the way with anything creative I suppose.
Name one thing that your readers would be surprised to know about you.
Hmmmm…probably that I currently don’t own an e-Reader of any kind, but read all the eBooks I buy/download on a computer!
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Angsty TV, like the Vampire Diaries and dare I say it–The Bachelorette (but please don’t tell anyone, OK?).
What do you need before you start writing? Anything that is just a must have or the creative juices don’t flow?
I like to start out with quiet but once I settle into a groove I need some background noise–a favorite playlist or maybe a nice long miniseries.
Does music influence your writing? If so, do any of your stories have a theme song?
I often put together a “soundtrack” that I listen to when writing a certain project. For my unpublished Regency Romance, I found the Enya album “A Day Without Rain” to be very inspiring. But if I’m writing something modern, I lean towards music from artists like Norah Jones, The Fray, and John Mayer.
If your story was optioned for a movie, who would play your characters?
For the heroine and hero in Ghosts of Romances Past, I can see Rachel McAdams and maybe Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Where were you when you got your first contract? Who did you tell first?
I was actually with my mom and sister at the time, so it was very exciting for everyone. I had checked my email not expecting a response (the manuscript hadn’t been gone very long) so I was pretty much floored.
How old were you when you read your first romance book?
In my teens, when I first loved L.M. Montgomery’s books. I still think she’s a great example of romance transcending genre limitations, so maybe that’s why figures like Gilbert Blythe are almost as beloved to romance lovers as Mr. Darcy.
What author causes you to “go fan girl”/ squeal over/anticipate upcoming books?
If you still have one of those pesky non writing jobs what is it?
I really love Anne Tyler’s literature … and I love announcements for fellow Pelican Book Group authors when they launch an exciting new project. I don’t have a non-writing job, so the thrills of reading and writing have the double edge of being a full-time career.
What are you currently working on, and what else is in the wings?
Currently, I’m working on a new spring wedding-themed book … this one a slight departure from my three wedding novellas, but also a longer read for fans to enjoy. I’m also working on a new project for submission to Pelican Book Group and preparing to release my first period Regency novel for the end of spring. So right now is packed with lots of work and lots of planning for the future.
If you could co-write with another author who would it be?
Other than my current writing partner? Who would forgive me if I partnered with someone else, don’t worry (especially if that someone was a best-selling author, for instance). I think the opportunity to write with someone is made on a book-by-book basis … but offhand, I think the most interesting choice would be one of the great romantic authors like Jane Austen … of course, this scenario involves a little time travel. To really learn something about writing good literature, I think being the coauthor of someone like classic author George Elliot would be a rewarding experience.
How do you pick your characters names?
I use one of those baby names books – the kind you pick up at a garage sale or secondhand bookstore. Two of them, actually – one’s from circa 1980 and coming apart. It has the meanings, interesting spellings, all sorts of things that can pique the imagination.
Do you prefer the love at first sight approach or a steady growth throughout?
It really depends on the characters and the story…I suppose there was a little of both in Ghosts of Romances Past; and in a way, my co-authored romance Dear Miss Darcy was about love at first sight, although the main characters didn’t know it (it was the rather playground “I don’t like you” rebuff that makes Shakespeare’s love/hate relationships so classic). I think a slow build, however, is the most honest in terms of reader identification, and also, the easiest means of building a story filled with obstacles and generally “misunderstood” affections that can pull in readers’ imaginations.
What is your reaction to people who say one of the following…”Oh you write romance, I thought you were a real writer”, “Romance isn’t a real writing career” or the ever popular “Oh, one of those books”.
It’s a tough response – given my own love for both classic and modern-day literature. But I think a good author of any genre should try to bridge those two worlds. Genre fiction writers, including romance, will always have opportunities to celebrate literature in a small way by introducing genre fiction lovers to its presence (which is what I tried to do with Ghosts of Romances Past as A Christmas Carol retold, or Christmas with Miss Austen). Literature lovers may find themselves one day embracing a genre fiction book that offers them a light, enjoyable read with elements of their favorite novels.
Where can readers find you?
They can find me at the following places:
And for the silly side – What is your favorite type of chocolate?
Mmmmm…. Milk chocolate. With nuts. Or white-chocolate filled truffles. Right now, it’s a toss-up.