Lauren Grimley

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.

Links:

Personal website: http://www.laurengrimley.com

Twitter @legrimley:  http://twitter.com/legrimley

 Facebook:  www.facebook.com/AuthorLaurenGrimley

 Google+: http://plus.google.com/u/0/105156245095191358255/posts//p/pub

 YouTube – book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4jIAt-U1iQ

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Rebecca Forster

Author of numerous books, Rebecca Forster spends part of her time speaking to philanthropic and writers’ groups about the brave new world of publishing for Kindle, Nook and other e-readers, teaching at UCLA Writers Program or having a ball at middle schools teaching with The Young Writers Conference

Hi Rebecca, Please tell everyone a little about yourself.

Rebecca: I started writing on a crazy dare after meeting my client’s wife, Danielle Steele. That dare lead to my first book being published. Since then, I have published twenty-six novels and quit my corporate job as an advertising executive. I received my BA from Loyola Chicago and my MBA from Loyola Los Angeles. My husband of thirty-six years (think a “When Harry Met Sally” relationship) is a superior court judge. My two sons are in creative careers. The oldest is a producer/talent manager in Hollywood and the youngest is a playwright currently serving with the Peace Corps in Albania. I love to travel, sew, quilt and play tennis.

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

Rebecca: The writing bug didn’t as much hit as it did present itself. I’m a sucker for trying new things. So, when a colleague dared me to write a book, I gave it a whirl. Who knew writing would become a passion? I started in women’s fiction but after about ten books my editor ‘fired’ me from romance. He said I kept killing people before they fell in love and perhaps romance wasn’t my genre. He was right. I read, write, live and breathe thrillers.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

Rebecca: When I began writing my goal was simply to save face after declaring I could write a book. I figured a nice rejection letter would prove that I had at least tried. Then my first book sold, and I was hooked. After that, I just wanted to keep writing books people would read. My intent has always been to continue to improve. It is interesting for me to go back and see where I started and where I am now. I take craft very seriously. I’m not so sure I have as much a message as I have a point of view about people and plots. The main objective is to always try to create an entertaining book. If it is also thought provoking, that’s fabulous.

Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?

Rebecca: In December I released Expert Witness. This is book four in the witness series featuring Josie Bates, Hannah and Archer. A few months before that I released Before Her Eyes, a stand alone novel.

What’s the hook for the book?

Rebecca: It’s two in the morning when sixteen-year-old Hannah Sheraton, Josie Bates’ ward, slips into Archer’s Hermosa Beach apartment to see if Josie sleeps in his bed. But Josie isn’t there. In fact, Josie isn’t anywhere.

How do you develop characters? Setting?

Rebecca: For me characters and setting must be developed simultaneously. In the Josie Bates thrillers, the witness series, I was originally going to set the stories in Venice Beach but that setting didn’t bring out the qualities of someone as physical and strong and beach-loving as Josie Bates. I walked from Venice until I reached Hermosa Beach – that’s where the AVP tournaments are held (Josie was a college volleyball player). That’s where Josie found a home. The setting made her ‘blossom’. In Before Her Eyes, a beautiful model used to being pampered and the toast of New York finds herself wounded and alone, lost in a wild forest on the Oregon border. That setting created a depth character that never would have been revealed in a New York setting. In one instance the setting nurtured the character and in the other it provoked her.

Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?

Rebecca: That’s a tough question. I think the most unusual character I ever created is Hannah, Josie’s sixteen-year-old ward. She is multi-racial, beyond beautiful, extraordinarily resilient and yet exceptionally flawed. For me, Hannah represents courage in its truest form. Likeable? I like the old man, Jerry, in Character Witness (not a part of the witness series). He was based on an old man who had once been a very prominent attorney in Beverly Hills. In his 90s his practice he wasn’t on anyone’s radar but he was still plugging. What great style he had. Oh, and I loved Amanda Cross, the heroine of Beyond Malice. She is a loser who keeps getting up until she finally is a winner. I love that about her. And, of course, Josie. I guess you can tell I have trouble choosing one character. Almost every character I write is based on a real person, I suppose that’s why I can’t decide which is the most likable or interesting.

Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?

Rebecca: I always know the beginning and the end of a book before I write. If I don’t know the opening and closing scenes, the book doesn’t get written. It’s very strange but it’s more visual than a writing technique. I can actually see those scenes and hear the critical voices.

Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?

Rebecca: I actually prefer to write in first person. Before Her Eyes is the book of my heart, actually. It is split between first and third person – two parallel stories – two points of view. But each book has a voice, and I try to follow where it leads.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Rebecca: It’s not so much my upbringing as it has been my marriage that has influence what I write. My husband’s early career was as a federal prosecutor specializing in organized crime in terrorism. Throughout the years he has moved on to become a municipal court judge and a superior court judge. He was also presiding judge of the Los Angeles court system – the largest in the world. His work has opened my eyes to the world of the law and politics, to how small people can get caught up in big things, and big people can be brought down by small mistakes. I think it’s a writers job to be attentive to their surroundings. It is the world of law enforcement that truly captured my imagination.

Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.

Rebecca: That’s an easy one. “If Tess Gerristen and John Grisham had a literary love child, it would be Rebecca Forster.” I’m going to have that chiseled on my headstone.

What are your current projects?

Rebecca: I am working on book five and book six of the witness series. There are huge surprises in store in each. I firmly believe that a good series explores the personalities, connections, and lives of each character – not just the primary one. That means that the plots sometimes veer from the expected. I think this is how series characters become more than recognizable, they become real. I also have two scripts in development. I also have another book I’m dying to do – but first things first. Josie Bates has to live out her next two books.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

I would love to have anyone who is interested in my books or contacting me to visit my website at http://www.rebeccaforster.com

 I’m also on twitter @Rebecca_Forster and on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Thanks for joining us today, Rebecca.

Rebecca: Thank you so much for this opportunity.

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Kaylin McFarren

Kaylin is a member of RWA, Rose City Romance Writers, and Willamette Writers. She received her AA in Literature at Highline Community College, which originally sparked her passion for writing. In her free time, she also enjoys giving back to the community through participation and support of various educational organizations in the Pacific Northwest, and is currently the president of the Soulful Giving Foundation – a non-profit she and her husband formed to fund expanded research, and the care and treatment of cancer patients and their families.

Hi Kaylin, Please tell everyone a little about yourself. 

As many people know, I wasn’t born with a pen in hand like so many of my talented fellow authors. However, I have been involved with business and personal writing projects for many years. My careers have taken me in all directions, ranging from fashion modeling and interior design to office manager and art gallery director. Yet my love of reading and interest in creative writing has remained ever present. As a result of tapping into my imagination and utilizing my own life experiences, I have earned more than a dozen literary awards. My first novel, Flaherty’s Crossing was a 2008 finalist in the prestigious RWA® Golden Heart contest and my second book, Severed Threads, has already garnered two first place awards.

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

Kaylin: I was one of those kids who couldn’t put a book down, especially when it came to fantasy and sci-fi. When I hit my adolescent years, I turned into a romance junkie – buying used books at garage sales and begging for hand-me-downs from friends. In high school, I broadened my scope and got into mysteries and thrillers, and now I’m loving romantic suspense. So, I guess you could say I love all genres.

 When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp? 

Kaylin: I’m compelled to write because my brain keeps me up at night with possibilities. Once I have a story in my head, I’m completely consumed. If I don’t put it on paper or on my computer, I’m convinced I’ll be haunted by the failed opportunity to impact other people’s lives.

Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?

Kaylin: Severed Threads is an action adventure story and the first book of three in the Threads series.

What’s the hook for the book?

Kaylin: Everyone is after the Heart of the Dragon, lives are on the line, but exactly what it is remains a mystery.

Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?

Kaylin: I would have to say Ian Lowe. He’s a crusty Irish helmsman with an eye for the ladies, which often gets him into trouble.

Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?

Kaylin: I typically create a synopsis then use this to write each chapter. But in actuality, I’m one of those authors who likes to let their character direct the story line and take readers on an adventure. Sometimes they even surprise me!

Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?

Kaylin: I write third person and enjoy rotating points of view, however, when my characters are together, I try to stay in the main character’s head.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Kaylin: I was born in California and grew up in Washington and Oregon, so my stories tend to focus on the Northwest. I’ve also traveled around the world and am bringing my experiences into the Threads series.

Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.

Kaylin:

 “I found Kaylin McFarren to be a very descriptive writer. She is able to describe people and situations in a clear yet interesting manner without becoming too wordy or boring. I would liken her writing style to that of Danielle Steele and I think her works will make a wonderful addition to the romance genre.”  – Charline Ratcliff, RebeccasReads

What are your current projects?

Kaylin: Severed Threads is the first book of three in the Threads series. I’m currently working on Buried Threads which brings my characters to Asia.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Kaylin: My website – www.kaylinmcfarren.com.   

Thanks for joining us today, Kaylin.

Kaylin: Thank you!

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