Thanks to Laurie Boris, author of The Joke's on Me, Drawing Breath and the newly released Don't Tell Anyone. Laurie likes cats, REM and coffee with amaretto (mmm), can rustle up a pretty good lentil soup and once fancied being Lois Lane. Read on to find out more...
What is your day job or are you lucky enough to write for a living?
I’m lucky enough to do both. I work a few days a week, keeping a local community college’s website up to date, and the rest of the time I’m writing and editing.
What books have you written so far?
I’ve published two contemporary novels, The Joke’s on Me, about a stand-up comic who loses everything but her sense of humour in a mudslide, and Drawing Breath, about the complex relationship between an art teacher and his student. Besides that, I’ve written several more that await either editing or the wood chipper, depending.
What works in progress do you have?
I’m just about to publish another contemporary novel, Don’t Tell Anyone, about a family with too many secrets. After that, I have a few more story ideas begging for my attention.
How long did it take you to write your book/s?
Some take months, others take years. I wrote the first (very rough) draft of Don’t Tell Anyone as a NaNoWriMo project in thirty days, but I’ve been fleshing it out and editing for almost two years.
Do you write linear, or jump back and forth? Do you plan or write by the seat of your pants?
It depends on the story. One book began when I saw the last scene in my head, so I started there. Others lead off with a situation and proceeded linearly. Generally I don’t plan. I prefer to let the characters tell me how the story unfolds.
Because I’m very crabby when I don’t. It’s like a release valve. Also, I love the feeling of disappearing into a universe of characters. Makes the bad stuff go away for a while.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing for over thirty years, and writing novels for almost twenty years.
What/who inspired you to write and still inspires you?
I was initially inspired to write by a high school English teacher, who tasked us with keeping a journal as an assignment. I’d thought writing had to be all highbrow, snooty stuff, but with that I realised everything is material for fiction; even watching the sun set or reliving a silly childhood memory. Being around creative people, like my husband’s friend with cystic fibrosis, who kept pursuing his creative passions despite his illness, inspired me to try to write a novel. As I finished the first and wrote more, my mother-in-law was a huge inspiration. She kept nagging me to finish the next book because she “needed something good to read”. Sometimes I can still smell her perfume in my writing room.
What do you think is the ideal recipe for a good novel or story?
I don’t know that there’s an ideal recipe (my lentil soup recipe is pretty good, by the way), but I don’t think you can go too far wrong by starting with a strong character who wants something desperately.
Have you ever based a character on someone from real life? And did you tell them?
I’ve sometimes used non-virtual people as armatures for characters. And I’ve had people in my life SWEAR that such-and-such character was based on them. Not so.
Cats. Chocolate. Coffee with amaretto. Casablanca. Purple. REM. Michael Franti’s ‘Say Hey’ (this week, anyway). Nantucket Island. A variety of plushy sweatshirts.
When you were a kid, what did you want to do/who did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to play second base for the New York Mets. Next I wanted to be Lois Lane. And a marine biologist. Then I saw Jaws. I decided to stick with Lois Lane.
Would you say that your dreams have come true or are you still working on them?
I’m still working on them, although some are coming true. I wanted to make a living by writing and publishing novels. Well, a few of those words have come true, but not the entire sentence as yet.
You’re walking in the forest and you bump into an alien librarian from Mars. He wants five book recommendations from you…
I imagine he’s already read Men are from Mars..., so maybe he needs a good map of the solar system to find Venus.
Who is your favourite character from any book and why?
Jo from Little Women. I adore her. She’s creative, tough and bold; not girly-girly, but loves her family and her sisters. She’s everything I wanted to be.
Who is your hero/heroine?
He’d hate it, but my friend who inspired Daniel in Drawing Breath. Despite his cystic fibrosis, Bill lived for his passions, gave of himself whenever he was asked, and never – in public, anyway – talked about himself in terms of limits. Not until the week he died.
So hard to choose! Okay, I wish I’d written about a certain boy wizard, you know, for my retirement. Seriously, I’d love to have written Ian McEwan’s Amsterdam; it’s such a perfect little jewel. And Anna Karenina. Lolita. Joyce Carol Oates’ Middle Age, Blonde, Black Water or Zombie. Anne Tyler’s Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant and The Accidental Tourist.
Which three authors would you like to take to the pub?
Dorothy Parker, TC Boyle and Oscar Wilde – should make for an interesting evening. We’ll see if we can ‘out-snark’ each other.
Are you published or self-published? What is your experience?
My first book, The Joke’s on Me, was published by a small press, 4RV LLC, in 2011. I self-published Drawing Breath, my second book, and plan to self-publish the next one. What I liked about working with a small press is the personal attention and the dedicated team that helped with developmental editing, copyediting and proofreading. My publisher, Vivian Zabel, works tirelessly on behalf of her authors, taking our titles to trade shows and events. What I like about self-publishing is the complete freedom and artistic control, but with that comes the responsibility of putting out a quality product. I’m learning so much about marketing and promotion. I don’t always get it right, but I can change course quickly; something that might not be as easily done under the aegis of a publisher.
How do you find the marketing experience?
It’s tough. The formula so many ‘experts’ recommend – reaching the right people at the right time with the right product and the right price point – seems to be constantly shifting. I still find that word of mouth is the best advertising. Many people who have read my books did so because a friend recommended them. That’s how I normally pick up a book, too.
What advice would you give other writers just starting out?
If writing is in your heart, if you can’t imagine doing anything else, then give it your all and do not quit. Keep growing and learning. Read omnivorously. Seek constructive criticism. Ask a lot of questions. Know that you might suck at it for a while, and that learning your chops and finding your voice could take time.
Do you have a blog? What do you blog about?
I blog about writing, books and popular culture on my personal blog, and I’m a regular contributor to Indies Unlimited, where I write about pretty much everything related to writing, publishing and marketing for the indie author.
What other hobbies do you have?
I enjoy watching baseball, I’m a voracious reader and I love to cook. Something about chopping onions is like meditation.
What would you like to achieve in the next five years?
Write about seven or eight more books, and publish them to rave reviews and fabulous sales. Help my editing clients achieve their dreams. Find a new place to live that does not require so much time and effort.
If you won the Lotto or a major publishing contract, what would you do with that dosh?
After taking care of the creeping debt and the necessities we’ve been putting off to buy silly things like food, I would love to be able to buy more books to support my fellow authors. And go to the movies once in a while. And maybe hire someone to clean up after me.
Complete one of these stories in 100 words or less…
There was once a wee worm called Fred;
He lived with a panda named Ed.
Ed ate some bad clover
And, sadly, fell over
And squished his poor, wee friend’s head.
What question do you wish I’d asked and, of course, what is the answer?
What does your writing space look like?
Horribly messy, and full of baseball hero bobble-head dolls and stuffed Opus penguins. This is why I need to win the Lotto. Or get therapy.
The Joke’s on Me