Bright Lights #7 - Laura Oliva - All That Glitters


If you don't know what a "SQUEEEEE!" is then you don't talk to many writers on the internet. SQUEEEEE is the sound you'll hear if you catch a new writer in the wild. Oftentimes the sound is accompanied by the another sound: excited hand clapping and the visual emotifest of a wide range of emoticons. This is the sound of a new writer debuting a cover, or a new book to the world. And this is mostly what I heard when I was wandering Twitter one day and bumped into Laura Oliva!


This week marks the release of Laura's debut novel - All That Glitters - and so, while she's giddy and in a blethering mood, I decided to join her SQUEEEEing and ask her a few questions along the way. And, despite her excitement, she was able to give some fantastically in depth and insightful answers. My thanks to Laura for stopping by the blog. 


Laura Oliva





Q - Hello Laura, tell me a little about your new book All That Glitters

A -
Hey Gus! Thanks again for having me over.

All That Glitters is a contemporary romance/ romantic suspense novel set in the rough-hewn gold dredging community of Nome, Alaska.

Ava Faraday has spent her life running- from love, from her past, from herself. Now she has only one place left to go: home. She arrives in Nome determined to make a fresh start. With no other options available, she joins the crew of her estranged father's dredge, and does her best to learn her new- and dangerous- job before she dies trying. The last thing she needs is to fall in love.

Gold dredger Ethan Calhoun has struggled to put the ghosts of his own troubled past to rest. After five long years as an outsider in Nome, he's finally made good. When Ava comes to town, she stirs up feelings in him he can't control, and isn't sure he wants to. The closer they become, the more Ethan wonders: will those feelings destroy everything he's worked for?

In Nome's dredging community, loyalties change, and trust is anything but guaranteed. When they are faced with a common threat, Ethan and Ava realize they must work together to survive. Can two lifelong runners trust each other? Can they convince each other- and themselves- that love is worth the risk?


Q - What was your decision process like that led you to self-publishing? 

A - This is going to sound crass, but it started as a financial decision. I started working on this book when my son was about three months old, with an eye towards making writing my career. I initially considered going the traditional publishing route, but the more I learned about what that entailed, and the more writers I met who had self-published, the more self-publishing made sense for me.

Time was a huge factor in my decision. I wasn't interested in killing myself writing the best book I could, only to have it end up in someone's slush pile. With my husband working two jobs to support this venture and a young son at home, I felt like I was working on stolen time already.

Self-publishing has come such a long way since its somewhat inglorious beginnings. Amazon and Smashwords have made it straightforward and accessible, and there are myriad resources out there to support authors every step of the way, from proofreading and editing services, to cover artists, to marketing experts. Self-publishing is now a viable option.

Of course, it's not for everybody. It's a stupid amount of work, and you have to be willing to be a businessperson as well as a writer, which is definitely not everybody's ball. But I'm finding I enjoy the business aspects of it all almost as much as I enjoy the writing. So it works for me.

I suppose I have a bit of a rebel spirit. I don't like the idea of some guy-in-the-sky handing down edicts about who is worthy or unworthy to be published. Sure, there is some really atrocious self-pubbed work out there. But the final judgment on that work should be made by the reader. Free markets, people!


Q - This is your first book, so you are entering new territory with each step you take. Self promotion is huge part of what lies ahead. Is this something you are confident about or is it part of your learning curve? 

A- Everything is part of the learning curve!

That said, I'm pretty comfortable with self-promotion. I think the biggest trick is to not come off like that's what you're doing. My self-promotion consists in reaching out to other people, supporting their work and efforts, being my own brand of funny, and sharing what I've learned about writing. There is a time and place to be a shill, but it's not every time, or every place.


Q - Will you self-publish again or attempt to take the traditional publishing path? 

A - For my next few books, I'm planning on self-publishing. I love the process, I love the control, and I have a cover artist I adore. Beyond that, though, we'll see. I'm not against traditional-publishing per se. If the opportunity arose, I would have to do some soul-searching. Would traditional publishing offer me more/better opportunities than I could obtain on my own? Would I have to surrender too much creative control? Would the money offered be worth it? These are just a few of the things I would have to consider before making that decision.


Q - As a self-publisher, how do you go about handling editorial and cover duties? Do you have reliable Beta Readers to help you weed out errors or do you work on all of it yourself? 

A - I am a HUGE proponent of beta readers. There really is no possible way for an author to see everything that is wrong with their own work. I was fortunate to have a couple great beta readers who pointed out holes in the plot and things that just didn't make sense or flow properly in my first draft. I'm pretty decent at editing, but the reality is I was just too close to it to see everything. I will say, though, the more time I spent editing, the better I got at it.

As for my cover, I am hugely blessed to have a good friend who works in graphic design. We met once and went over my expectations for the cover, and he came back with a product that was better than anything I could have hoped for. Thank you, Zen Mateyka!


The cover to Laura's debut novel...



Q - Your blog is called "Writing in the Night". Is this when you actually get your writing done? How often do you like to write? 

A - Haha, sometimes it feels like nighttime is the only time I won't get interrupted! Seriously, though, I write whenever I can. As a new mom, I know there is never going to be a perfect time to write. I've taken the time whenever it presented itself. I wrote the majority of my first draft with my baby asleep on my lap, and edited it with him playing on the floor around my feet. At my house, writing is a communal activity.


Q - Do you have a favorite place to write? 

A - Wherever I happen to be when my son falls asleep! When I'm at home, I write at the kitchen table (I live in a fairly small apartment). When I need to get some work done without being disturbed, I strap my son into his car-seat, drive until he falls asleep, then pull in anyplace with a decent view and write with a notebook and pen balanced on the steering wheel. The truth ain't always glamorous, folks.


Q - You describe yourself as a hopeless romantic. Is this what brought you to writing? Do you write the type of stories you want to read? 

A - I don't know that being a hopeless romantic is what drew me to writing- it's always been more of a compulsive disorder. But hopeless romanticism definitely drew me to romances. It seemed like everything I ever wrote turned into a love story on its own, so I figured that was a sign.

I absolutely write what I want to read! Many times, romances veer off into the realm of fantasy. That's one of the reasons so many people love them. Me, not so much. I love romances about tough people, people I can relate to, who have problems and complications and shit to deal with. These kinds of romances seem to be few and far between, so I wrote one. And I'll be writing more. I consider it a form of public service.


Q - Where do your ideas stories and characters come from generally? 

A - Voodoo. No, but really, I think writers' brains work differently than most people's. When we look at the world, we see it from two perspectives: the way it is, and the way it could be. Ideas come from everywhere, from that new show on TV, to the person sitting at the bus stop, to that mouthy kid in philosophy class. Oftentimes, my stories stem from something I observed or heard someone say.

But it's mostly voodoo.


Q - The common mantra given to writers is "write what you know". Does this apply to your writing in any way? 

A - So funny you should ask this, because it's the subject of one of my recent blog posts! In a word, yes. And no. I write from my emotional experiences. I don't have direct experience with many of the things that happen in my stories- although I believe it's part of my job as a writer to accrue as much life experience as possible. However, the core of my stories always revolve around an emotional truth I have personal knowledge of.


Q - What do you think are your particular strengths as a writer? Dialog, action, description...what are you most comfortable with? 

A - I love dialogue. I've always been comfortable writing how people talk, possibly because I'm an incorrigible eavesdropper. I love the ebb and flow of conversation, the different rhythms, how you can manipulate those rhythms to reflect emotion, awkwardness, education, social class. I am a dialogue nerd.

I also enjoy descriptions. There are so few places in writing where the writer can flex their literary muscles without coming across like an ass. Description is one of those places. They're a challenge. There are so many cliches out there, it's the test of the writer to paint a picture that is original and evocative without sounding kitchsy or contrived. It's a test I enjoy.


Q - What is the reaction to those around you, family and close friends, about your writing? 

A - They've all been very supportive, at least to my face. I wasn't really going anywhere with school, which had them all concerned for a long time. To be honest, I think they're all just secretly relieved I didn't end up dealing drugs.

My husband has been my staunchest supporter. As I mentioned earlier, he is currently working two jobs to enable me to stay home with our son and see where this writing thing goes. Through it all, he still manages to be an amazing father, and the kind of man I'm looking forward to getting old with. I couldn't have done any of this without him.


Q - What are your thoughts on the uses of Social Media (Facebook, Twitter etc) for writers? Has it helped in your development as an author? 

A - How do I love thee, Twitter, let me count the ways... Since that's where we met, Gus, you can attest to my appreciation for and love of social media. Twitter, especially, and Facebook to a lesser extent, have been crucial to my author platform. I have reached so many people, and made so many friends, who I never would have had access to otherwise. In the world we live in now, abstaining from social media does authors no favors.

However, I think a lot of authors approach social media the wrong way. Everyone always says this, but Twitter is for connecting with people, not hawking your wares. Nobody likes spam, yet there are so many authors out there who seem blithely content to tweet nothing but links upon links upon links to their work.

Twitter has the potential to be a valuable and powerful tool. But don't misuse it. You'll wind up in an online black hole of your own making.


Q - What's your favorite word? Why? 

A - Histrionic. Because in spite of my best efforts, I often am.


Q - Do you have any current favorite authors/books? 

A - I just read the first eight books of the Stephanie Plum Novels, by Janet Evanovitch. In two days. They are hilarious and brilliantly written.


Q - How important is it for a writer to also be a reader? 

A - Very! I guard my reading time carefully. If I feel myself starting to dry out creatively, nothing helps recharge those batteries like a well-written, amusing book. Or a hot bath. Possibly both simultaneously.


Q - Library or Bookstore? 

A - Bookstore. I'm a collector, not a renter.


Q - Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what do you listen to? 

A - Yes! Dear god, yes. Every time I start a new piece of work, I create a personalized playlist for it. I choose songs that reflect the characters, the tone of the writing, and events in the story. I then listen to that playlist ad infinitum until that piece of work is finished. I listen to it while I'm writing. I listen to it while I'm cooking dinner. I listen to it while I'm driving. It's my own little form of DIY brainwashing. It seems to help...


Q - How do you choose your next story? 

A - I don't know if I choose my next story as much as my next story chooses me. I have a long list of ideas in my notebook. I look over it and wait for something to jump out at me. I hope that doesn't sound like a cop-out answer. That really is how it works!


Q - Do you have any advice for newbie writers? Those who are yet to start on their journey? 

A - A few things:

1. Nobody is going to give you time to write. You have to find a way to give it to yourself.

2. Not everybody is going to like what you write. My mother is never going to be one of my fans. Don't worry about it. Some people just aren't your audience.

3. Always be working to get better. This is what separates writers from authors.

4. Be your own champion. There will be people who support you in your efforts, and that's great. But you have to support yourself first, last, and always.

5. Don't let anyone dictate what or how you write. Traditional ideas, genres, and styles are becoming more and more subjective. Write what's inside you...

6. ...But remember that good writing will always be good writing, and bad writing will always be bad writing. There is a lot of room to play within the bounds of good writing. By all means, play. But don't mistake bad writing for being anything but what it is.


And finally - You're going to be stranded on a desert island (for a wee while) but I'm going to allow you to take 1 book, 1 piece of music, 1 movie, a bowl of your favorite dessert and 1 person you'd like to share the island with for a while (alive, dead, fictional or real...it matters not) What are your choices...and if you want to elaborate...tell me WHY? 

Nice. Okay, here goes:

The Book: "We The Living", by Ayn Rand (does that make me weird?)

The Music: "Hot-Blooded", by Foreigner

The Movie: To Have And Have Not, with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall

The Dessert: My homemade flourless chocolate cake. Affectionately known as The Black Beast.

The Person: At the risk of inducing gagging, my husband. Because we've been together for nearly six years, and he still thinks I'm funny.

Laura can be found chilling out on Twitter here: @writermama

And, for information and updates on her book release, please check out her links at: 





Comments

  1. Fantastic interview!! Great to learn more about you, Laura! Love the cover!! :D And Voodoo...teehee

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for reading, Karen! Isn't Gus a great host?

    ReplyDelete
  3. My pleasure, Laura! Excited for you to visit my site soon! Yes he is!!! :D

    ReplyDelete

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