La vie en Laura: a conversation with the budding novelist

Life can be so brutally unfair. Laura Florand actually met and fell in love with a gorgeous Frenchman. And wrote a book about it. AND got it published. “I’m a traveler,” says Laura. “That’s what I love the most to do, that and cooking and eating.” Okay. So it was inevitable. And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person. Laura is out on the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit this week with her debut novel, Blame it on Paris, which reviewers insist on calling “a frothy confection.”

Are you telling us, Laura, that froth is stranger than fiction?
Well, Blame it on Paris actually happened. It is the true story of one American and one handsome Parisian who fell for each other and the way their crazy families and even crazier cultures met, clashed, and—got along. You know that old Reese’s commercial, where the two people collide and one’s chocolate lands in another’s peanut butter? And it turns out to work much better than they suspected? It was like that, but everything that happened was so funny and yet so huge, I ended up telling the story.

I love that it’s a true story, that this type of thing really does happen to real people, and the message that carries for anyone who doubts that life can be an adventure and a love story.

So let’s dish a bit about the industry. What have we learned since becoming a real live published novelist?
I wish I had networked more during the years I was unpublished. It’s fun meeting people now, but as I realize how much those contacts matter to me and how much they help me, I realize how much I missed writing in isolation. I strongly encourage all writers to meet people, whether via the internet (like a book? write to the author! that’s a starting place right there) or going to conferences or writing groups or all of the above. The three most important pieces of advice I’d give an aspiring writer: Write for the sake of writing. Research the publishing world. Get to know other writers, published and unpublished.

How did you land your first book deal?
I worked very hard for a couple of decades (I started writing when I was nine) and studied the publishing world. Then I submitted a proposal. Yes, a proposal—despite all that research, I didn’t know memoirs were treated as novels and that I should submit the whole thing. A great agent took me on and encouraged me to finish it. When I finished it and it was much more comic and light-hearted I think than he was used to (this was a purely non-fiction agent), he referred me to a close colleague who loved it, and…she shopped it around. Et voilĂ . We went with Tor Forge.

The Author Blog. Critically important outreach venue or crazy-making waste of time?
You know, when SĂ©bastien asked me if I wanted to have a blog on my website, I said, “Well…I guess so. It will be an easy space for me to post news and contests, right?” But it turned out that I just loved the contact. It is so much fun to be able to meet my own readers and to be able to have a conversation with them. I like to go and visit their blogs, too, as much as I can. And I love the way it gets you observing your own life, the funny or beautiful things you see that you can share. I share a lot of chocolate. What can I say? I find great beauty in chocolate. And quite a bit of humor, too. But it IS very time-consuming. I have a baby and I also work full-time, plus write a book a year, so I have to be careful not to let too much of my writing time be blog-writing (or visiting) time.

Colleen and I are both familiar with the book/baby juggling act. (Good to leave the chainsaw out of that one.) How’s that working out for ya?
My writing schedule is in a constant state of flux, due to the fact that I had a baby last year, and she keeps growing and changing her habits every single day. Generally speaking, I cram writing in any and every way I can. I also teach full time, so life is a real juggling act. I used to run a dance group, too, but around six months into the baby life, I finally gave up on juggling that, too. I was about to go off the deep end, so something had to give.
My writing time is probably the time anyone else would use to clean up or watch TV or maybe breathe. That’s my theory. I do manage to write a surprising amount, still. I just finished the book I started writing right after she was born. How is a mystery to me. How I finished writing it, I mean. How she was born is something of a mystery, too—it’s an amazing experience.

When it comes to storytelling, are you all about method or madness?
My writing environment is a complete mess. My writing process is really to just sit down and write. I will write scenes that come to me for no other reason than I love the imagined scene. For some of those, a story arc develops in my head, and I go for it. I have others, though, absolutely beautiful scenes that I just love, and which keep sitting there, because the story arc for them just won’t come to me. Maybe it never will. Many of those scenes I eventually forget, but there are some I would just love to see develop into a story.

My most effective writing is when I have a mental arc of the story in my head, so that I know where it’s going and the major steps between beginning and end. Then I just write my way through it, letting the characters and dialogue decide. I know so many writers who obsess so much that they can’t ever let themselves get anywhere. Just write it. Then revise a million times.

What are you reading these days?
I’m currently reading A Castle in my Backyard, by Betsy Draine and Michael Hinden, which is a memoir of the authors’ summer life in the Dordogne. They have a real talent for describing people and places, which is something I love and always try to learn from. The other is, The Best of Enemies, by Osha Gray Davidson, which tells the story of the Civil Rights movement in Durham (where I currently live), tying the story to the story of two people, one a Ku Klux Klan leader and the other a black activist, who became best of friends (maybe lovers, I haven’t gotten that far yet so I don’t know). Duke chose it for the students’ summer reading, perhaps in reaction to the lacrosse scandal, and I am finding it fascinating.

Final thought. Are you old enough to have an arch nemesis?
Snails. If you want to know why, read Blame It on Paris. One of the trials and tribulations of falling in love with a Frenchman.


Laura Florand said…
Thanks, Joni! I love La vie en Laura. :)

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