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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Author Interview: Laurie Ryan


The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Laurie Ryan, author of Stolen Treasures and its sequel Pirates Promise, both released by Bookstrand.

Laurie has always loved to read, but she never thought she could write. However, a few years ago one of her daughters was going through some issues Laurie needed to understand, so over a four month period, she created a character and wrote a 90,000 word story.

"Between the research I had to do and the emotion I had to write into the story, well, it helped me, and eventually us, to heal," she told me. "That book is sitting in a box in my closet. I don’t honestly know if it will ever see the light of day. It’s kind of dark and I prefer lighter, more entertaining fare. However, after that, all those stories I’d been playing with in my mind for years started nudging me to continue writing, and here I am."

Both Stolen Treasures and Pirate’s Promise were inspired by a local Tall Ships Festival Laurie attended.

"I got the spark of an idea, created some characters, and let them help me work out the plot," she explained.

The novel she's working on now, though, has a character from each of those books. Laurie liked them so much, she tossed them together and let them pick a direction to go in. And, sometimes that's a completely different direction than Laurie had planned, because the characters have a mind of their own.

"I create them. I give them life. And sometimes, they go all ornery on me," she admitted. "It surprises me every single time that happens."

"How do you come up with the titles to your books?" I asked her.

"Titles are either very easy or a real pain. Stolen Treasures eluded my through about three quarters of the book. I also had not found a name for the schooner. One day my grandson suggested (since my book is about pirates) I call the schooner the Treasure. And voila! Just like that a name is born. I’m usually partway through the book before the theme really gels in my mind enough that I think of a title."

On the occasions when Laurie suffers from writer's block, she has a tasty way of solving it.

"A hot cup of cocoa almost always works, especially if it’s gourmet and creamy," she told me. "If my muse is still being argumentative, it’s time for a long walk. And if that doesn’t work, I move on, work on the next scene or another story and come back to what’s troubling me after it’s percolated for a while."

Long walks, either with a girlfriend or her husband, are one of the things she likes doing when she's not writing. She enjoys the outside, whether it is walking, puttering in her flowerbed or just sitting outside on her patio with her computer. She also does some scrapbooking , but admits, " I am woefully behind getting my pictures scrapped and into albums."

Laurie told me that they had always had dogs, and now that they are gone she really misses them.

"But we have a little guy, a gray tabby cat named Dude, who thankfully thinks somewhat like a dog," she said. "He likes hanging with us, loves to cuddle, and loves attention. For now, that will have to do."

"Do you have any strange handwriting habits?" I wondered.

"I make fat exclamation points. And lots of them. They end up almost looking like an upside down teardrop. Exclamation points are something I have to work hard at not over-using in my stories, too."

She admits to having some leftover bits of Valley girl in her that jump out at moments in phrases like "awesome" and "totally cool." However, she won't admit to ever making crank phone calls. "I have no idea where my children learned that trick," she claimed.

Her favorite animal used to be seagulls , during the Jonathan Livingston Seagull era. Then it was whales, then tigers, and then dolphins.

"I finally realized they are all my favorites," she said. "Well, maybe not dolphins so much. On a vacation, we got the rare opportunity to play with the dolphins in Central America. Our little friend clearly chose my husband as her companion. Hmmph."

"What is one thing scientists should invent?"

"Being a not-so-closet Trekkie, I vote for replicators. Ordering up dinner with no dishes to clean? Now that’s a cool invention."

Laurie is definitely a morning person. She gets up and goes for a mile walk, then she grabs a cup of coffee, checks email and then works on her word count for the day.

"By nightfall, I’m like that small town that rolls up the sidewalks. I’m done. It’s time to enjoy a little tv, read and then early to bed," she said. "Which is contrary to the night person my husband is. He’s just getting revved up as I’m winding down. Thank goodness we can spend time together during the day."

"Do you like thunderstorms?" I wondered.

"Thunderstorms are Mother Nature’s way of making us stop and take notice of what’s around us and I love them. I love all the seasons, although that’s probably because we don’t have any real extremes here in the Pacific Northwest."

Laurie told me that multitasking is beyond her abilities, to the extent that when she's reading or writing, her husband will clear his throat and wait for her to acknowledge him.

"Otherwise, I will have no recollection of what he told me," she admitted. "I get that deeply into what I’m doing, especially if it’s writing."

Finally I asked Laurie, "What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?"

"Three things. First, write. Every day if possible. That is the single, most important thing. You will never publish if you don’t write. Second, study craft. Take online courses, read books, or whatever works best for you. Third, find a critique partner. Now, when I was new to this whole idea of letting others actually read my work, that thought made me shiver with dread. It really does pay off to have another writer to bounce things off of, though. For one thing, my skin got a little thicker (preparing me for the rejections just about every writer gets). And I learned so much through the process."
You can keep up with Laurie on her website, http://www.laurieryanauthor.com/

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