|Welcome to New Faces,where we are happy to introduce soem fo the newest mystery authors on your bookshelves. This week we welcome Laurie Breton, whose debut romantic suspense Black Widow is a new release from Neighborhood Press. Let's meet her.
Laurie, tell us about yourself.
Well, let's see…I've lived all my life (45 years) in various small towns in the state of Maine, but I'm really a misplaced city person. If not for my husband, I'd be living right smack in the heart of Boston. Alas, my husband likes it here, and I like him, so here we stay. But I visit Boston as often as possible. I've been with the same wonderful guy for eighteen years, and I have two great kids: a grown son who's in the restaurant business, and a fifteen-year-old daughter who these days is my favorite traveling companion. I consider myself a bit of a free spirit, and I love to color outside the lines. It shows in my writing! When I have free time, you'll find me either reading a good book or painting with acrylics. I'm almost as addicted to color as I am to words. I'm a much better writer, though, than I am a painter!
Are you coming to writing from another job?
Oh, boy, am I ever! I work full-time as an administrative assistant at our local branch of the state university. I've been there for fourteen years, and I've met some wonderful people there, but the stress level can be high at times. Because of the ebb and flow of the academic calendar, it's very much like being on a roller coaster. But it makes great fodder for stories! In previous incarnations, I've done a number of things: carhopped, worked as a clerk in a dry cleaner's and in a fast-food joint, worked for five days in the spinning room of a cotton mill (I was allergic to the dust and had to quit), was an aide in a nursing home for a short time. I was even a Tupperware lady for several years. My dream, like that of many writers, is to be able to quit the day job and write full-time.
What led you to write romanctic suspense?
I was born with a book in my hand. I've always been a voracious reader. By the time I was twelve, I had already gone through everything that interested me in the children's room of the local library. Because I wasn't yet old enough to get an adult card, for several years I took books from the adult section of the library with my mother's card. I read EVERYTHING: my mother's copy of Gone With the Wind when I was twelve; my father's historical novels by people like Yerby and Slaughter. Reader's Digest condensed versions of classics like To Kill a Mockingbird. Popular books like Eric Siegel's Love Story. I even went through a Shakespeare kick after seeing the Franco Zeffirelli movie version of Romeo and Juliet. My favorite books, always, had a common thread: a good love story woven into the plot.
As a child, I was an insomniac. While I lay awake at night, waiting to fall asleep, I made up stories in my head to entertain myself. I began writing them down when I was eight, and I'm still at it! I always had this burning ambition to write The Great American Novel. But every time I put pen to paper, what emerged more closely resembled romance. Nowadays, my writing seems to be turning in the direction of romantic suspense. I like to combine gritty realism with a good love story. And so far, readers seem to enjoy what I'm doing, so I plan to keep on doing it!
Tell us about your road to publication.
For the first twenty years of adulthood, I was a closet writer. I subscribed to Writer's Digest and The Writer, read them religiously, and scribbled my stories in secret, in dribs and drabs and in fits and starts. I never finished anything. I spent literally twenty years writing, and rewriting, and rewriting yet again, the same book. But I never could seem to finish it. I started the Writer's Digest fiction writing course, but never finished it. Can you see a pattern emerging here? I'm not sure what I was afraid of. Failure? Success? Having to give up my dream of writing great works of literature and admitting that I wrote....gulp....romance?
At the age of forty, I realized that I was not getting any younger, and if I ever intended to be published, I had to make it happen myself. It wasn't going to just come to me. DUH. Believe it or not, this was a real epiphany. I tried out several online critique groups until I found the world's greatest critique partner, and I actually FINISHED that book I'd spent the better part of twenty years not writing. After I spent twenty years writing that first book, my second book took six weeks. When it was finished, I set aside my gargantuan first book and began trying to get an agent for book #2. After enough rejections to fuel my wood stove and keep us warm all winter, I said to heck with this, sat down and wrote book #3, and decided to market it myself. I went through the usual rejections. There was one editor at a big house who told me she LOVED my writing, but couldn't buy the book because she thought the ending sounded far-fetched. She based her rejection on the synopsis, and it really hurt. I kept thinking that if she liked my writing so much, how could she reject the book without reading it all the way through? But I licked my wounds and persevered, and after being turned down by several big publishing houses, I was offered a contract for Black Widow by Neighborhood Press. All told, it took about eighteen months to make that first sale. It doesn't sound like a very long time, but you have to remember that I'd been writing for over twenty years before I tried to sell. And my story has a second happy ending: after I sold Black Widow, I pulled out that first manuscript, made a few revisions, and sold that one to Neighborhood Press, too! Coming Home is scheduled for release in late 2000.
What kind of research was involved for your first book?
Black Widow is set in North Carolina, a place I've visited briefly a couple of times but didn't know that much about. I did research on the web and via guide books to learn more about the geography, the flora and the fauna of the state. I learned about Southern small-town life (church suppers, debutantes, and iced tea!) from my critique partner, who grew up in a small North Carolina town. I also did research on rattlesnakes, on snake-handling churches, and on coon hunting. I love learning new things, and I had a wonderful time learning all that stuff!
Who are your influences as a writer?
My influences are diverse. I love Nora Roberts and Tami Hoag. Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Barbara Delinsky. LaVyrle Spencer. Her characters are so real, and she can almost always make me cry. One of my all-time favorite authors from way back was Celeste DeBlasis, another author whose stories could make me cry. I still cry every time I re-read The Proud Breed. What a powerful storyteller! I recently discovered Jenny Crusie and Janet Evanovich. I love their lighthearted approach and their wonderful humor. In recent years, I've branched out into mystery. I love the works of Julie Smith, Sarah Shankman (what a great sense of humor!), Gillian Roberts. All of them bright, witty, and articulate. But my all-time favorite writer, without a doubt, is Robert B. Parker. Over the past few years, I've read everything he's written, and he has greatly influenced my writing style. Since I've been reading and absorbing Parker, my writing tends to be less flowery, more lean and spare. In March of 1999, I got the chance to meet him at a book signing, and it was a thrill. He was as wonderful in real life as he is on the printed page.
What does your family think of having a romance author in their midst?
Everybody has been very positive. My son was stunned (and thrilled!) when I told him I'd just sold two books. My daughter brags about me to her friends, and helped me put up my web page. My husband, who until recently remained guardedly optimistic, is now my biggest supporter. And my sister, who read Black Widow before it was sold, tells everyone she runs into about her sister, the author.
Tell us about plans for future books.
My second book, Coming Home, will be released in late 2000 by Neighborhood Press. Although it's a love story, it's more mainstream than traditional romance. This was truly the "Book of my Heart" that every writer hopes to see published. I fell in love with the characters, and I hope my readers will, too. I have a couple of romantic suspense novels in the works, and I'm hoping, of course, that they'll sell! Stay tuned. My web site will keep readers up-to-date on what's happening.
How can readers get in touch with you?
You can e-mail me at LaurieBreton@cs.com. And please visit my web page: http://www.angelfire.com/az2/breton
Thanks for joining us. Laurie, and best of luck with your second release! Readers, we have a review of Black Widow on our Contemporary page.
September 15, 2000