The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Laurean Brooks, author of Journey to Forgiveness, now out from White Rose Publishing.
Her fifth grade teacher enjoyed the oral book reports Laurean gave the class. Laurean read mysteries written for pre-teens and, when she would read the reports aloud, leaving the story with a cliffhanger, classmates would scramble to be the first to read the book.
"Miss Mary planted the seed when she announced to the class, 'One day Laurie will be an author.' Each time she repeated it, it became a little more ingrained," she told me. "Her words spurred me to be the best I could be. Through junior high and high school, I wrote essays, poetry, and even kept a four-year diary. While the rest of the class groaned over writing assignments, I was invigorated. I could hardly wait to get time alone with pen and paper."
Laurean joined the work force after high school, which didn't leave much time or energy for writing. But, in December 2001, she submitted an essay to a local magazine and when they published it, the fever struck again. That next year, she added twenty more stories to her collection and, on January 1, 2004, made a resolution to write a book. The result? Journey to Forgiveness.
Journey To Forgiveness, Laurean's first release, is mostly fiction, but it is based on Laurean's mother’s life. She told her children tales of the abuse she and her own mother had suffered at the hands of her father. "The stories have been repeated since my childhood," Laurean shared. "I subconsciously knew it would have to come out someday. I have taken the story and turned it into one of love, humor, healing, hope, and a happy ending. I want the reader to walk away with that message. The hardest parts to write were the nightmares Jenny suffered due to past abuse. A couple times I was so overwhelmed—-physically shaken-- that I had to shut down my computer and walk away. Until that time, I had not realized how emotionally involved I was."
The original title was "A Healing Love," but Laurean wanted a title that was more descriptive. "Since the story is about forgiveness, and my heroine journeys to Chicago, I think the new title exemplifies the book a lot better," she said. "I was about half way the manuscript when the new title came to me."
Laurean is a self-admitted, full blown pantser. "I get an idea about my hero or heroine’s personality, write it down along with a description of their physical characteristics," she said. "As for the plot, I know where I want to begin, I know how I want the story to end. But except for a couple scenes in the middle, I have no idea what will happen. I am struck with brainstorms in the middle of my writing. I love it when that happens. I cannot write fast enough. By the way, I write everything long hand before I go to the computer. It flows better. Typing seems to interfere with my thought process. And I love the feel of a good, smooth-flowing pen gliding across the paper."
Writing in long hand first means that Laurean can write anywhere, as long as she can find a reasonably quiet spot. "I will admit," she confessed, "that the TV gets on my nerves, especially the political arguments my husband loves to listen to. There is no door between my work area and the den, so I sometimes ask him nicely, to turn down the volume."
The most interesting place she's found to write is in the truck while her husband is inside an auction house, bidding on his next treasure. "My pen flies across the page to the rhythm of the auctioneer’s muffled voice," she said. "I wrote most of the last six chapters of Journey to Forgiveness outside an auction barn. And it was there I finished it."
One thing Laurean feels is important for a new writer to do is to read books within the genre you're interested in writing. She devoured books by Emilie Loring, Barbara Cartland, Victoria Holt, and today's Danielle Steel, who is Laurean's favorite maintream author. "She knows how to get into the minds of her characters and make the reader feel the emotion," she explained. "I like to put a lot of emotion in my writing, also. In the inspirational genre, Gail Gaymer Martin, Marta Perry, Robin Lee Hatcher, Susan Feldhake are my favorites. I can’t seem to pinpoint one above the other. These authors write interesting plots and their characters seem to breathe. Danielle Steel has probably influenced my writing more than the others, since I have read her books over the past twenty years."
Laurean and her husband have two lab-mix dogs they picked up on a country road where they had been abandoned. "There were four in the litter," she told me. "We raised them from puppies. One turned up missing two years later, the other was hit by a utility truck. I had been going through a tough time emotionally when the 'Rat-pack' (as we dubbed them), came into our lives. Caring for the puppies, nurturing them, and watching them play, were the biggest contributors to my healing process."
They are also a good way of helping her break out of the occasional writer's block she suffers.
"When you hit a wall, the best thing to do is quit beating your head against it," she advised. "I put on my sneakers, whistle for my labs, Yipper and Peewee, and we head out for a walk. Parading through the woods and over the fields clears my head. If weather doesn’t permit a walk, I bake a batch of Chocolate Chip cookies, or put on lively music, and sing along, or dance until I am stress free. Dancing is good exercise, and forces the blood to flows all the way up to the brain."
Finally, I asked, "What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?"
"This is a tough one since I am a new writer just starting out," she said. "First, I think you must start with a good grasp of grammar rules, a love of reading, and a vivid imagination. If you loved literature and composing essays in school, you have a good head start. If you were the one in your family who loved to tell stories and spin tales that would be a plus.
"Third? Avoid 'dream stealers.'Surround yourself with people who encourage and prod you to be your reach your goals. Those who make you laugh and feel good about what you are trying to do. They will get you over the rough spots. I have a few friends like that. But one in particular comes to mind. I read aloud to Kay week after week, while writing Journey to Forgiveness. She laughed at all the right places, and cried in all the right places. The revelation that my writing could move someone to tears or joy gave me confidence that I was headed in the right direction.
"Fourth? Never give up on your dream. Take writing courses and join critique groups to polish your skills. We learn from other writers, and they keep us motivated.
"Last but not least? Pray. It is very important to ask for daily guidance and the gift to write from the heart. On days when I neglect that very important step, I usually trash a large part of what I have written."
You can keep up with Laurean on her blog, http://laureanslore.blogspot.com