Lauren: I’m a native Texan who loves to walk in the morning and come home to a hot cup of tea and the newspaper. I’ve been crazy about the color red since I was pregnant with my daughter, and I re-read To Kill a Mockingbird every year. I love everything from romantic comedies to thrillers, and my favorite movie is The Usual Suspects because I went nuts over its twisty ending! Burning candles (pumpkin, cinnamon, and apple are some favorites) while I read or write is a must. My husband works in sports television, so we often go to sporting events. I enjoy traveling to new places as well as familiar favorites, and I have never met a piece of bread or dark chocolate that I don’t like!
SMP: Please share your favorite holiday memory.
Lauren: For most teenagers, getting behind the wheel and driving spells freedom. But I was already thinking about that years earlier. I’d traded in my tricycle for a little red bike with training wheels, then learned to ride without them. By the Christmas that I was 7, I was ready to graduate to a big girl bike.
And Santa came through! Of course, I already knew there was no Santa Claus, courtesy of my cousin David. He was 2 years older than I was and once he started school and found out the devastating truth, he’d shared it with me. I had a brother and a sister much younger than I was, so I pretended to keep believing . . . and I milked that for years!
Anyway, I got my bike. In blue–my favorite color. As a bonus, Santa had attached a basket and these cool silver hand grips that had silver streamers dangling from them. I went out all bundled up on Christmas morning since it was cold in Texas that year, and I literally felt as if I was flying down the street on that bike. I felt free and alive and wanted to spend every waking moment on that bike. It’s still my favorite present from a holiday.
SMP: How long have you been writing? Have you always wanted to write?
Lauren: I was writing before I could hold a pencil and spell out words on paper because I was writing in my head. I was an only child for six years and had to entertain myself, so my active imagination created all kinds of stories, which I would act out with my stuffed animals and Barbie dolls.
I wrote short stories and poetry growing up, was the editor-in-chief of my junior high and high school newspapers, and wrote my first novel while in college. I’m sure it was terrible. It’s hiding high on a shelf in my bedroom closet. Maybe I’ll bring it down some day and have a good laugh!
SMP: Do you write in a single genre, or more than one? What do you find most compelling about your genre(s)?
Lauren: Right now I’m focusing on writing historical romance. I love both medieval times and the American West after the Civil War, so these are the settings for my novels. I find history fascinating and enjoy researching events, customs, and culture from those eras so I can incorporate interesting tidbits into the tapestry of my writing. In both those time periods, women were resilient and decisive. Those are the kind of heroines I like to get to know as I write them and their stories.
SMP: Tell us a little about your writing journey.
Lauren: I became a history teacher with a plan to teach by day and write by night. That proved to be impossible. People don’t realize how much time teachers spend working on lesson planning, grading, and attending meetings once students have left for the day. Add grad school, getting married, and having a family on top of that–and writing took a back seat for years.
Then the need to write became overwhelming, and I found like-minded women. I carved out precious time every week to write and then meet with my critique group. I attended the Lone Star Conference in Houston last fall and landed an editor appointment with Debby Gilbert of Soul Mate Publishing. We just clicked, and she asked for the entire manuscript after my pitch. Two weeks later, she offered me my first publishing contract for Music For My Soul, which came out in May 2013. Since then Debby’s bought three more books! Outlaw Muse was an October 2013 release. A Game of Chance comes next month on January 8, while A Change of Plans will be out later in 2014. Debby has been my guardian angel!
SMP: Tell us about your process. Do you plot/make outlines for your WIPS, or are you a total pantser?
Lauren: I’ve learned to do character sketches, know what my book is about in 25 words (or less), and have a brief outline. The sketches help me learn about my hero and heroine in-depth. The outline gives me direction, but it’s very flexible. Many times my characters gallop off in a different direction from the outline, which is exasperating and inspiring at the same time!
SMP: What has been your most significant inspiration on the road to publication?
Lauren: Kudos to my critique group! They have inspired me, kept me on the right track, given me terrific advice, and read multiple versions of chapters. Without their critical, loving eye? I would never have been published.
SMP: What advice would you give an aspiring writer?
Lauren: Write your heart out! Keep on writing, writing, writing. Give yourself permission to write poorly–because those days will happen. But it’s better to get something down on the page and then revise it than to stare at a blank page and have nothing at all to work with.
SMP: Tell us a little about your current or upcoming release: your inspiration, main characters, setting, etc. What was the most difficult process? The easiest?
Lauren: A Game of Chance comes out January 8, and part of it was inspired by the phrase “separated at birth.” The book opens with a young mother in labor and a midwife who tells the man standing over here she’ll die in the process. She gives birth to a boy, and the man takes the infant and leaves. Another boy arrives just before she dies. Twenty-five years later, hero Jed Stone is arrested for murder because he looks exactly like the man on the wanted poster–who happens to be his twin that he knows nothing about!
I call it a western with a twist because it takes place not on the prairie, but in the cosmopolitan city of San Francisco. Jed wins the deed to the most famous whorehouse in the city in a rigged card game. His twin was supposed to walk away with that prize. Jed falls in love with Lily Frontiere, the daughter of the house madam. Lily has spent most of her life away at boarding school and knows very little about what goes on at her mother’s establishment.
While writing is always a tough process, this was an enjoyable book to write. I loved researching what San Francisco was like during the 1870s, from where the gaming houses were to local gossip to the best-known cemetery to be buried in!
SMP: Any final thoughts you’d like your readers to know about you or your books?
Lauren: I’m a former history teacher who always tried to bring history to life to my teenaged students. As an author of historical romance, I’m still trying to let readers know about what it was like to live in a certain time and place–and still bring an interesting and tender love story for them to enjoy.