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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Author Interview: Liana Laverentz

The Long and the Short of It is very excited to have Liana Laverentz, winner of the 2007 Golden Leaf Award, as well as a finalist in the EPPIE Awards and in our own LASR Best Romance of 2007 award.

Liana is German-born and moved to the United States when she was five months old. As a matter of fact, she told me her mother recently downsized and moved to a smaller home, gifting Liana with several thousands of pounds of of heavy, European furniture. “It is gorgeous and enormous,” she told me. “She also sent me many paintings that have been in the family for years and years, like the one that my grandfather gave to my grandmother on their honeymoon. When you walk into my house, you see paintings of mountains and lakes and evergreens and thatched huts and half-timbered houses. Between that and the furniture, it has a distinct Heidi-ish feel to it, and I’m surprised someone hasn’t walked in and burst out yodeling.” If they do yodel, it would probably be in celebration of Liana’s accomplishments with Thin Ice.

I had the pleasure of reviewing this book (review is here) for review site back in October, so I was not surprised when it started winning awards. I asked Liana how winning the award made her feel.

“Validated,” she said. “I always knew Thin Ice was a good book. I just couldn't get anybody to publish it for the longest time. But I'd poured my heart and soul into that book and it shows. So it was with a quiet sense of self-satisfaction and a deep sense of gratitude that I went on stage to accept the award. When I was up there, I thanked God, from whom all blessings flow, Rhonda and RJ, for creating The Wild Rose Press, and my best friend Louis, for being my inspiration for Eric. Without any of them, Thin Ice would never have been published. It had been relegated to hanging out with the dust bunnies under my bed until Louis asked to read it, then pushed me into sending it out again. Right around that time, Rhonda and RJ had opened the doors to The Wild Rose Press. I sent Thin Ice to Rhonda, who read it in the hospital while she was recovering from pneumonia, and the rest is history.”

Liana has had three books published. Ashton’s Secret, a murder mystery romance, is now out-of-print. The book of her heart, Thin Ice, and Jake’s Return (our review of this book is here), another contemporary romance with an element of suspense, is available from The Wild Rose Press.

The Wild Rose Press is also re-releasing Ashton’s Secret this year and Liana’s been busy working on rewriting it. I asked her if winning had changed her writing and she told me, “If anything, the pressure is on to make the re-write of Ashton’s Secret and my other manuscripts just as good, if not better. I have a quote around here that says something to the effect of ‘the trouble with success is that you have to keep repeating it.’ That’s true and with each success you have less time to do it, because more and more of your time is drawn away to things other than writing.”

Some of these things are more emails to answer, interviews to do, and articles to write. Liana said, “My level of responsibility to myself and to my readers increases. I am more in demand as a speaker as well, and I think it's important to thank everyone who congratulates me personally. They took the time to write me, it's only right that I acknowledge them in return.”

I asked Liana if she was bothered with writer’s block and she said, “My biggest problem is finding the time to put all the stories I have in my head and heart onto paper. My daily life is so fragmented, between being a single parent and working three part-time jobs in order to be home when my son is home, that there is no predetermined schedule for me to fit my writing into. The best time for me to write is first thing in the morning, before my son wakes up and my ‘mom’ day begins. Then he goes off to school, and my ‘day job’ day begins. I live my life in layers.”

For writers who do have a problem with writer’s block, though, she offers this advice:

Writers write. It’s what we do. We write because we can’t not write. But every word doesn’t have to be written for publication. So just start writing, even if it’s just stream of consciousness, and it may take a while, but once you get started, you won’t want to stop. And even if the first thing you write doesn’t have anything to do with what you are currently working on, just opening yourself up to the flow of creativity in your brain and enjoying the moment will eventually bring you to where you want to be. Trust me on this. Something you write will undoubtedly spark an idea that you can tie back in to your original goal, or whatever has you stumped in your current WIP. It happens every time.

Liana has great titles. I particular notice titles because that’s one of my weaknesses in my own writing. I put off picking a title until the brutal end, so I asked her how she managed to come up with such great ones.

“The title usually evolves from the story somehow,” she explained. “For Thin Ice, I took the title from a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson. ‘In skating over thin ice, our safety is in our speed.’ That told me that the romance between Eric and Emily had to be approached with caution and needed to move slowly to be successful. Since Eric is a hockey player, it also had a double meaning. In courting Emily, Eric seems to always be on thin ice, and while he would have loved for things to move more quickly, he understood that Emily needed him to woo her gently.

Jake’s Return is about a man’s return to the small town from which he left in disgrace, and all the changes that brings to the lives of pretty much the whole town. If he hadn’t returned, a predator would have continued to roam the streets at night, and the love of Jake’s life, Rebecca, might have kept her own life on hold (not that she realized that was what she was doing), indefinitely.

Ashton’s Secret is about uncovering the secrets in a small town where Meghan’s sister died under mysterious circumstances. The only person who can answer her questions is Nicholas Hawkinson, and he’s not telling. Justice is a Lady is about Samantha Dallas, a woman Assistant District Attorney on a mission to bring as many gang members to justice as possible after the death of her husband at the hands of a street gang. The hero is an undercover FBI agent who has infiltrated the gang, and the two of them end up on the run together when she’s accused of a murder committed by a gang member whose initial target was Samantha.”

Her characters are very different. Liana is not one of the authors who keep writing the same story over and over. She told me that, as she’s been writing, she has discovered you have to write in an entirely different way when the characters have known each other previously, like Jake and Rebecca in Jake’s Return, than when they are strangers meeting, like Eric and Emily in Thin Ice. Each scenario explores different aspects of falling in love. Liana said, about her characters, “In Thin Ice, Emily’s trust has to be earned, and that is no small feat, considering what she’s endured. In Jake’s Return, Rebecca’s trust in Jake’s basic goodness is right there at the beginning, and never wavers. The problem is, Jake doesn’t have that same trust in himself. Whereas Eric, in Thin Ice, has no such baggage. He knows he’s a good guy and can’t understand why Emily wants nothing to do with him. In Thin Ice, Eric is paying for the sins of those who came before. In Jake’s Return, Jake is dealing with his own personal demons.”

One of the “fun questions” I ask our authors is, “have you ever eaten a crayon?” Liana surprised me with her answer.

“No,” she said, “but I have three cats, and as any pet owner knows, every now and then you have to bring ‘samples’ in for the vet to examine. ‘How am I supposed to do this with three cats that use the same litter box?’ I asked, short of following each one around until she provides a sample. Simple, the vet tech said. ‘You put shavings from three different colored crayons in their food, and remember what color you fed which cat.’ It worked like a charm.” And, there you have it at no extra charge. Advice for you cat-lovers out there from The Long and the Short of It and Liana Laverentz.

Liana told me about the only time she cries is while watching a movie or reading a good book. “My life is too blessed,” she said, “for me to have anything in it to cry about. My best friend, Louis, is serving a life sentence for a crime he did not commit. Whenever I start to get caught up in my own daily drama, I remember that, and it does wonders to help me keep things in perspective.”

Movies that especially make her cry are movies where it looks like the family pet is going to die. “Think Homeward Bound, or My Dog Skip,” she explained. “I cried and cried, well after the movie was over. To this day my son doesn’t want me to watch any movies with animals that might get hurt in them. I tear up without fail whenever it’s a romance and the one character is laying their heart on the line after they have betrayed the other character somehow, and is just standing there, waiting to be rejected. Think Tom Hanks in You’ve Got Mail, when he reveals it’s he who has been emailing Meg Ryan all this time. Or Will Farrell in Stranger Than Fiction, when he’s standing there holding a flat of different kinds of baking flour, and telling Maggie Gyllenhall, ‘I want you.’ Obviously, I’ve lost a pet or two in my time, and been on the receiving end of rejection, so I can relate.”

She went on to say, “When you cry at a movie, it’s because you can relate, somehow. And that’s a good thing.”

I asked Liana what was one thing she could with for, if she could wish for anything. She said, “I wish that my friend Louis--whose unwavering support and encouragement and downright pushing me into finishing and submitting Thin Ice and Jake’s Return has made it possible for me to see my dreams of publication come true--will get the chance to see his own dream come true. His dream of freedom.”

We at The Long and the Short of It join you in that wish, Liana, and thank you so much for your openness and for being with us. Go visit Liana as she unveils her brand new website today!. And, Liana will be with us tomorrow (Wednesday, January 16th) at our Yahoo group for a Question & Answer session. Stop in, say hello, and ask Liana your burning questions. We hope to see you there!

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