And it’s our author of the month on Goodreads! Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Laurel Heidtman!
Where do you live and write from?
I live on private land inside Daniel Boone National Forest in northeastern Kentucky with my husband, four dogs, and two cats (all rescues or strays that have found us). We’re ten miles from a county road and no other houses close so it’s a great environment for writing. No distractions other than animals who think I’m their servant! My husband, fortunately, doesn’t see me that way.
Why do you write?
I enjoy it. I wouldn’t say I have to write—it’s not a compulsion like chowing down on chocolate—but I like making up stories, worlds, and people. Like any child I went through a myriad things I wanted to be when I grew up, but “writer” was the only one that never changed. While I wrote off and on during my life, I never devoted myself to it until the last couple of years. I retired from the nine-to-five grind in 2008, and in 2013 I decided I needed to give it a shot. I published my first novel in spring of 2014.
When did you start writing?
As I said, I wrote off and on ever since I learned to write, but my mother told me that I used to make up stories based on the pictures in books before I could read. So I was creating stories even then.
What does your writing routine consist of?
I often write in the morning. My husband usually takes a dog and goes to a local diner for coffee with other retired guys, so it’s quiet. But that’s not a hard and fast rule for me. Sometimes I do other things in the morning and write later. The only goal I have is to write every—or almost every—day.
What do you feel are your strengths as a writer? How have you developed these qualities?
I think that by living as long as I have and working in a lot of different professions, I’ve developed the ability to make different characters/environments believable.
Where do you find your inspiration? Do you put yourself in your stories?
If by inspiration, you mean where do I get my ideas, I don’t always know. Something fights its way up from the muck of my subconscious, and when I’m lucky, it grows into something I can use. Sometimes the germ of it comes from something I’ve seen in the news and it grows from there, but other times, I honestly couldn’t say where it comes from.
I’m not sure I know what you mean by asking if I put myself in my stories. If you mean, do I base characters on myself, no. That wouldn’t be nearly as much fun as inventing them. But if you mean, do I get caught up in the world of the story and kind of walk through it while writing it, definitely! When I stop writing for the day, I can picture the characters going about their business in their world, just waiting to pick things up the next day.
Outliner or improviser? Fast or slow writer?
Funny you should ask that about outlining. I’m not an outliner—never have been, not even in school. When a teacher required an outline for a paper, I would quickly write the paper, then create the outline. But as I write, I do a synopsis of each chapter/scene a few ahead. Sometimes I run into tough spots in the center of a book and have to spend time working through them, so I’ve thought about trying to outline. This week I enrolled in James Patterson’s MasterClass, and he’s a devotee of outlines. I pictured those bulleted things they tried to make me do in school and was pleasantly surprised to find he does what I do—a chapter by chapter synopsis, but he does them all before he starts writing the book. The complete story is all worked out in his head and on paper before he
writes the first sentence. Since I do a truncated version of that now, I might be able to manage that, and I plan to try with my next book.
Fast or slow? I’d have to say slow, but that’s often because I get bogged down. I have a friend who can whip out a first draft in a month or so, but it takes me two or three months. But I don’t write the entire day either, so maybe that’s not so bad.
Tell us about your latest book
My latest is Bad Girls, the second in my Eden mystery series. The books of the Eden series can be read as standalone novels. All are set in the college town of Eden, Kentucky, and feature most of the same characters, but in each book a different character takes center stage. Bad Girls “stars” Cal Becker, the former Chicago cop turned insurance investigator readers met in Catch A Falling Star,
the first book in the series. He’s moved to Eden with his niece, Marnie, a troubled young woman with an alcoholic mother and drinking problems of her own. Cal has offered to pay her way through Raven University and move to Eden with her, but on the day of their arrival, Marnie disappears.
Indie publishing or traditional publishing – and why?
Indie publishing. I went that route mainly because I’m old and figure I don’t have the time—and I certainly don’t have the temperament—to go through the years of rejections that most successful authors have to endure. I’ve also found I enjoy all aspects of self-publishing, even the marketing.
Any other projects in the pipeline?
I’m currently working on the first book in a series under the Lolli Powell name. The title is Runaway Angel and will start in 1962 when the main character is 16-years old and forced to leave home. I plan on following her through her life, adventures, and romances in subsequent books.
I also have plans for a thriller titled Whiteout (under the Laurel Heidtman name). In fact, now that I’ve been inspired by James Patterson, I’m going to try his technique of doing a complete outline of Whiteout.
What is your goal as a writer and what are you doing to achieve it?
My goal is to entertain people with my stories. I read fiction to be entertained. I want to be thrilled and moved and kept awake by a novel, and that’s what I want mine to do. To achieve that, I keep writing, reading, and—I hope—learning.
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?
It’s advice I’ve often read—make writing a habit. Carve out as much time in your day as you can and write, because while practice may not make you perfect, it certainly will make you better. And don’t worry about making the first draft perfect. Just get the story down and pretty it up later.