Lauren Grimley lives in central Massachusetts where she grew up. After graduating from Boston University, she became a middle school English teacher. Lauren has her seventh graders to thank for starting her on the path to becoming a writer. A few years back, they convinced a skeptical new teacher vampire stories were worth reading. She now spends her time writing them when she should be correcting papers.
Hi Lauren, Please tell everyone a bit about yourself.
Lauren: I’m getting a little bored giving everyone the “back of book” bio, so here’s the real scoop. I’m an eighties baby born just three months into the decade, so naturally my first foray into fantasy came from playing Star Wars in the woods with the neighborhood kids. Being short and chubby back then (not much has changed), I was nearly always assigned the role of Ewok. It was no wonder I shied away from the genre for years after that. It wasn’t until I was studying to be an English teacher at Boston University that I returned. I grudgingly admitted that if I were going to teach middle school, I’d have to read what the kids were reading. So I picked up the first of those “boy wizard” books with the enthusiasm usually reserved for touching items infected by contagious diseases. It certainly was contagious. Two years later my students lovingly referred to me as the crazy Harry Potter teacher. My love of fantasy had begun. It soon blossomed into an obsession with YA and adult books, movies, and television shows, and eventually began creeping into my ideas for writing. Two years ago I officially set aside the realistic fiction novel I’d been struggling to finish since college and set out to write my first fantasy. The rough hand-written draft of Unforeseen was completed less than three months later.
When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?
Lauren: I actually wonder how many fiction writers set out to share a message or accomplish a specific goal beyond telling an entertaining tale in a unique way. My story developed around my main characters, particularly Alex. Yes, I did want to write a story about a strong female who could grow as a woman, kick some butt, and fall in love, but when I was writing I didn’t have a message in mind, just a story I wanted to tell. Rereading it now and listening to what those who’ve read it have pulled from it, I can see the themes I created: interdependence over independence, self-awareness and self-acceptance, loyalty and love. But those are by-products of the story, not what drove it–at least not consciously.
Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?
Lauren: Unforeseen is about Alex Crocker, a young teacher who awakens after being attacked to discover she’s being hunted by vampires for possessing a power that she’s spent years trying to repress. Knowing she needs help to escape and to survive, she’s forced to accept help from some unlikely allies: a second coven of vampires as strong and deadly as the first.
The novel is an adult urban fantasy, although it also fits in the paranormal romance genre due to its strong romantic subplot. It’s the first in a planned series of books, the second of which, Unveiled is written and mostly revised. The series will appeal to readers who like a strong female protagonist balanced with strong male supporting characters, a mixture of action and character growth, and a healthy dose of humor.
What’s the hook for the book?
Lauren: Here’s the hook I’ve use both in my query letter and for the teaser:
Alex was quite sure gifted was a bullshit term delusional parents applied to their strictly average children, vampires were gorgeous dead guys in her eighth-grade girls’ novels, and Seers was a middle schooler’s misspelling of a department store known for power tools. Teachers, however, don’t know everything–it’s Alex’s turn to be educated.
However, it’s hard to hook readers, especially adult readers once they hear the word vampire, because they all want to know if it’s like Twilight. So for those readers I have a second hook:
Sure, Unforeseen is like Twilight for readers who grew up, gained some confidence, and realized the whole series would have been better if Bella just learned to kick some butt in book one.
How do you develop characters? Setting?
Lauren: I promised my book club when I first told them my book was being published that I’d never be one of those writers who claimed her characters acted upon their own or said something one day that surprised the author. I know my characters do and say what I want them to. There are days, however, when characters, actions, and settings spring into my head without me really trying. I’d love to say I have a method for developing characters or setting. A method would mean I have something to fall back on when I’m otherwise void of ideas. The truth is, though, I don’t. I suppose my characters came to me as compilations of people and other characters I’d come across. From there, their personalities and back-stories just sort of fell into place. Sure, I may have sat down and deliberately thought about what important events made them who they were at the start of my story, but in most cases, I knew the answer as soon as I asked it. That’s saying something considering some of my characters have over three centuries of back-story. Maybe I was extremely lucky this time around or maybe that’s just the magic of writing.
Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?
Lauren: I think my readers and I would answer this one differently. From the feedback I’ve gotten, aside from my protagonist Alex, most readers tend to like Rocky. Rocky is young, for a vampire anyway, a little mouthy, strong but compassionate, and honest in an innocent way. His situation is unfair, which evokes sympathy, but he’s not bitter about it, which earns him respect. He’s funny, loyal, and yes, lovable. But he’s not my favorite.
My favorite is Sage Matthews, the Rectinatti Knower, a mind-reader and memory manipulator. If he’s handsome, it’s not because he tries to be. If he’s funny, it’s always at another’s expense. His dialogue fluctuates between biting sarcasm and brutal honesty, the kind no one really wants to hear. He’s impatient, insubordinate, and occasionally manipulative. So why do I love him? Because he’s also intelligent, honorable, and extremely loyal. You wouldn’t want him as an enemy, you might not even like him as a friend, but you certainly want him as your ally. Besides, like any good “bad boy” from literature, he has a softer side and a backstory that reveals he was broken, by his own family, before he could grow a beard.
Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?
Lauren: I love reading first person narrations with strong flawed characters. For my story, however, it didn’t seem possible to tell the entire story from Alex’s POV. Instead I experimented with alternating third person limited POV. This narration offered me the flexibility I needed to tell the necessary parts of my story that Alex wasn’t privy to, while still allowing me to get into my characters’ heads and write in their voice. A pleasant surprise to this was that I fell in love with writing a few characters that I hadn’t expected to. A challenge was keeping my male characters sounding the way guys think and talk, even in the exposition.
How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?
Lauren: I’ve definitely drawn from my own experiences in order to develop my characters. It’s no coincidence that Alex is a short female teacher with a black belt in karate, as these are characteristics we share. These similarities allow me to make her character real through adding details only someone who shares them would truly know. However, the fun part is then adding traits that make her distinctly different from me as well. For instance, Alex is less cautious and more outspoken, traits I admire in friends and colleagues. I only think the things Alex is willing to say aloud.
As I mentioned above, writing my male characters was a bit of a challenge at times. Luckily I have an older brother and uncles galore and am, and always have been, extremely nosy. Years of observing and listening in on conversations between the guys around me paid off when it came to accurately capturing guy humor and speech. My family is full of wiseasses who like to hide any real emotion behind sarcasm and inappropriate jokes, and that definitely influenced the guys in my book–and hopefully added some fun to my more serious themes.
What are your current projects?
Lauren: In addition to revising Unveiled, which is the next book in the series, I have begun two other novels. The first is the third book in the series, which I’m about a third of the way through. But I also got an idea for a young adult fantasy book, involving witches not vampires, and have been researching and writing a bit of that as well. As a teacher I use the summer months as marathon writing time, so I hope to make good progress with all these projects over the course of the next few moths.
Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
Lauren: My home base is definitely my own website: http://www.laurengrimley.com. The site includes my book trailer, teaser, and excerpts for Unforeseen, a taste of book two entitled Unveiled, as well as some facts about me, book reviews of books I’ve read and enjoyed, and my blog. From there readers can also link to my Facebook page and my Twitter account. I’m also active on Goodreads and Shelfari, and have an Author Central page on Amazon.
Personal website: http://www.laurengrimley.com
Twitter @legrimley: http://twitter.com/legrimley
YouTube – book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4jIAt-U1iQ