Writerly Questions with Lauren Hunter

Warm weather has finally arrived and it is time to start thinking about what to read as you lounge around the pool, while your kids play in the park, or during your hour-long commute on the transpo. To help you prepare your summer-time TBR list, every Monday for the next few months I will be talking with some really fabulous authors about their latest or upcoming books.

I have been looking forward to this interview, as I could hardly wait to talk with Lauren Hunter about her book The Coffee Shop. I haven’t read the book yet myself, but I fully intend to as it was released by Thalia in October of last year. You can find Lauren on her blog, website, Twitter, or Facebook

How would you summarize your book in one sentence?
You’re talking about a tagline, which has to be one of the hardest things we have to do as a writer. To sum up an entire novel, its characters, subplots, and all the complexity that is part of the story, in one line…

If Derrick thought experiencing alternate timelines and glimpses into the future was strange, then he had no idea it was about to get far more strange than he ever imagined.

I know what you mean about the difficulties when it comes to writing taglines. I also have to deal with those as an editor!  Speaking of the editing process, how many drafts do you go through?
The more I write the less I need to do a second draft. Now by that I am not saying it is perfect, what I mean is I am getting it closer to a draft I am happy with the first time through. Of course you now go through and tidy it up.

As I am writing I am aware I am doing things I shouldn’t, but if I stop to fix them in mid sentence it completely disrupts my creative flow. So I just write it as it comes to me, and then when it is all done I go through and fix all those little things, correcting and polishing it as best I can.

But it also depends on the story itself. How long it is? Does it deal with an extremely complex storyline that needs to fit together like puzzle pieces? You want to have all bases covered, and all questions addressed. You don’t want any loose ends. You have to go over it with a fine tooth comb and make sure you haven’t forgotten anything, and that it all makes sense in the end, or as close to that as you can get within the confines of the story.

Of course once it is accepted for publication the editing process begins and you have two thorough edits, finding and fixing any and all problems to make it reader ready.

I cannot imagine only needing to write one draft of a manuscript. I doubt I could ever manage to do that. So how long did it take you to write this book?
I wrote The Coffee Shop in nineteen days. When it comes to writing it varies a great deal. I worked on my first novel, on and off, for years. But now that I am more focused on my writing I can be much more productive, creatively speaking.

When do you write best: in the morning, afternoon, or at night?
I am a night owl so, biologically speaking, I am most alert and creative during the middle of the night. But this also serves me extremely well in other ways. In the middle of the night everyone is asleep, and it is dead silent. No noise of any kind, no one clomping around the house, no one walking in on you in the middle of writing an intricate or detailed scene and just talking to you without a thought! It’s perfect.

It seems wherever you like to work is prone to interruptions, but just where is your favorite place to write?
Seeing that I don’t have a laptop, I have to make do with wherever my computer is set up. My first book was written long hand. I don’t recommend it! What a nightmare when it comes to making additions or corrections. I also wrote my second regency by hand as well, because I like being able to sit comfortably on my bed, or wherever I please. But I won’t ever do that again. Right now I have my computer set up in a spare bedroom so I can go in there and close the door against noise and distractions. Unfortunately that doesn’t always stop people from walking in and talking to me.

I guess that pretty much answers my next question of: Typewriter, computer/laptop, or pen & paper?
Computer works best. Being able to edit on the fly is a dream come true. BUT you need to save OFTEN! And when you’ve done for the day, or take a break, ALWAYS back it up, not only on the hard drive, but a flash drive as well. Maybe even two flash drives, and keep one in a fireproof file box.

Of course if I am out somewhere, and inspiration strikes me unexpectedly, I will grab pen and paper and get it all down. I write poetry by hand.

On these breaks of yours, do you go to the kitchen to grab a snack or do you have a stash you can access while you write?
That’s kind of funny actually. When writing my sci-fi I would write from the moment I got up until I was too tired to keep going. I did this every day. Not because I was disciplined or dedicated, but because I LOVED doing it.

Now here’s the thing, when the ideas are flowing non stop you don’t interrupt that process. So, I would start to get really hungry as I did not want to stop the ideas that were flowing from me. So, it occurred to me the only way I will get a chance to eat anything is if I prepare something ahead of time, and have it sitting next to me on the desk. That could be fruit, an apple, nectarine, a bowl of grapes. Or I could make a sandwich and wrap it up in plastic wrap to keep it from drying out. I can then quickly grab a bite while I am writing. If I want a cold drink I need to set up a small cooler chest.

I’m not sure why that particular project was so intense. That was the one and only time I never worked with any kind of an outline. I would sit at the computer and just write as the thoughts came into my head. I would do that until I was too tired to keep going. Go to bed. Wake up the next day and do it all over again. I would deliberately not think about the story or where it was going, because not thinking about it was working for me.

I don’t know why I did that. I was standing in the kitchen and a scene just started unfolding in my mind. I felt an overwhelming need to get it down. And that was the start of the novel, an eighteen-year-old girl in dirty t-shirt and jeans, alone in some cheap hotel room, exhausted, afraid, and running from someone. Little did I know the story that was to unfold as I sat every day at the computer and wrote, a paranormal sci-fi with all sorts of psychic abilities, explosions, and car chases.

But I digress, sorry about that, my mood has a lot to do with what foods I gravitate towards. If I am dealing with a stressful or depressing aspect of a storyline then I may be inclined towards comfort food, and that can range from pizza, to ice-cream, to chocolate. But I try to avoid that if I can and eat delicious healthy foods.

If you don’t like interruptions, even for food, do you find music disruptive or helpful? If so, what kind do you listen to?
I know there are people that find music helps to set a mood, and it does, but in order for me to completely concentrate I need dead silence. I can’t even have someone walking down the hall. The noise distracts me. That’s why night time is perfect for writing.

 If you write a lot during the night, are you in your pajamas when you work?
Comfort is key. I usually wear lounging type clothes around the house.

 Do you have any other writing rituals?
By that do you mean superstitions? No. I try to approach things in an organized fashion and do them in a certain order, like checking off items on a list. Then I know they are done and I can relax and forget about them, like checking your email for any important communications first thing. Then I’m not wondering or worrying, and it doesn’t get in the way of the creative zone I trying to create.

You mentioned a little while back that you have only once not used an outline when writing. How do you plot: Chapter by chapter or an overall synopsis? Usually, I start with a very general idea, which then evolves into a slightly more involved outline. Then as I am writing it I do a general outline for the chapters. It isn’t until I am actually writing it that the details of exactly what is said and done are formed. And what is interesting about that is sometimes the story takes a turn you weren’t planning for.

In the moment of the scene you let the actions or dialogue take you wherever it may, and sometimes that may be somewhere totally unexpected. In one novel a secondary character suddenly became one of the main characters as the scene unfolded. Of course when all is said and done you have to decide if that really works. Does it enhance or harm the story?

How do you decide which narrative point of view to write from?
As the writer you know who has the most emotional risk or involvement within a scene. You know whose perspective it would be best to experience that scene from as you delve into internal thoughts, that otherwise wouldn’t be known to the reader.

It’s best if you can relate that through words and actions, but some things cannot be expressed any other way than through the most intimate of private thoughts. They cannot be shown through words or actions, not completely, or as specific or detailed as intimate thought. They may be the type of person that hides their thoughts and feelings quite well and therefore would not say, or do, anything to indicate those thoughts or feelings outwardly in an obvious manner.

Or you may wish to keep a character mysterious by taking the perspective of a character witnessing that other character’s demise. It creates questions in the reader’s mind along with the character that is wondering. It puts you into the story right along with what is being thought and felt.

 How do you choose your characters’ names?
Good question. They just come to me. They have to have a certain feel or sound to them or they don’t seem to fit, in my mind. I may play around with sounds a little bit to get that perfect combination, but it’s usually something that just comes to me. Now if I am dealing with a storyline with many characters, like at a ball, or servants, then I will use a name generator to speed things along. But again, the name has to sound right, if that makes sense, so I don’t just choose the first one I see. I’ll find the perfect first name, and then the perfect last name to go with it.

 So now you have plotted and planned, written and fine-tuned your work. Who is the first person to read your manuscript?
The person at the publishing house that deals with submissions would be the first. That could be an intern checking your query and sample chapters, or it may be an editor. As for the full manuscript, again that could be an intern or an editor, depending on where you send it.

If you meant family or friends, I never ask them to. My nephew asked me once if I would mind, I explained I wasn’t comfortable with that. If they tell me they love it are they doing so to spare my feelings, or do they really mean it? And if they do hate it and are honest with me, I don’t want to hear that either. I would rather leave that up to strangers. I don’t want to place them in a difficult position. And I wouldn’t want to feel the hurt and disappointment in the knowledge that someone I love does not like something I’ve written.

Yes, I can be hard to have loved ones read your manuscript. It is probably best to merely announce to them when your book is being published so they can celebrate with you instead *L0L* What is it that you did immediately after hearing you were being published for the very first time?
I was sitting at my computer checking my email when I read that one of my novels had been contracted. There was a split second of shock and disbelief that someone actually wanted to publish my manuscript, then a rush of thrill and excitement that cannot be described adequately, unless you have experienced it yourself.

I have had moments of achievement, or accomplishment, in other areas where you experience a moment of shock and excitement, but this was different. The difference for me was subtle, but to know my novel was accepted and would be published had a feel to it that as a writer cannot be matched, especially if you have been receiving rejections.

You reach a point where you brace yourself for it, preparing yourself mentally for the let down. That first acceptance for a novel will never be matched again. Yes, each time is still a thrill, but not quite the same as that first time. A couple of days later I mentioned it to my mom. She was the one that continued to encourage me to keep writing, when I felt discouraged by rejection. It saddens me deeply to know she never had a chance to actually see it happen. She did get to know two of my manuscripts had been accepted though. I think of her often, and wish she could be sharing all of this with me every step of the way.

Your mother’s encouragement will always be there, so in a way she is sharing the experience with you. Tell me about the first time you shared a book together, what is the first book you remember reading?
See Jane run. Run, Jane, run. I don’t remember the name of the book, I just remember reading that. I recall the first word I ever learned. It was look. Why I remember that I have no idea.

I am going to assume that your reading material has changed and matured since then. What book is on your nightstand right now?
If I have time to read a book I would rather spend that time writing one.  By the time I am finished writing at the end of the day I am drained, because I am physically tired, and when that happens my concentration is gone. I know we are to read a lot in the genre we wish to write in, but as I am writing I am also very concerned that if I am reading someone else’s work I may subconsciously take aspects of their writing style and incorporate it into the story I am writing.

To avoid that I don’t read at all during writing, unless it’s to check something, a fact, or research. I love to read but now that I am more immersed into my writing I get extremely anxious if I spend time reading, because that is time taken away from my writing. But when I do read, or have read, my choices are very eclectic with books in a wide variety of genres.

How do you organize your library/book collection?
I used to have two bookcases full to the brim, then got rid of half of them. But I like to organize them by genre, like all ghost, all horror, all classic and so on.

I have a hard time giving away any of my collection, I tend to read books over and over again. Do you have a guilty pleasure read?
Sorry to be so boring, but no I don’t. That is to say, I greatly enjoy many books but I don’t consider any of them a guilty pleasure.

Your writing seems to take over a large portion of your life. Did you always want to be an author?
It never occurred to me I could do that as a living. I’ve always enjoyed it, and the teacher was always reading my stories out to the class, so I thought she must like them. I have been writing poetry and have had numerous poems published. I wrote some short stories, and then decided to take a stab at a novel, and just kept going. It then became a task of finding a publisher for these works. That’s when the submission process started, with fingers crossed, hoping that someone, somewhere, would actually like something I wrote.  If I did find someone that would get me started, my foot would be in the door and it could lead to more novels getting published.

How about the book you didn’t write, if there was one you wish you had written what would it be?
Oh…that’s impossible to say. There are just too many to pin it down to one. If I named just one then I would feel I am leaving out another. But with all the ideas I keep having for new and different stories, those are the ones I truly can’t wait to write.

If you could talk to any writer living or dead who would it be, and what would you ask/talk about?
You know, I never think about that kind of thing. Again, to have to name just one would be impossible. And to name them all would be equally impossible, as I am sure I would be leaving someone out.

How about a character from any book, which would you want to be?
I always thought it would be fun to have magical or paranormal abilities. Of course in the land of imagination all things are possible, in the real world that would come with all kinds of headaches and complications that no one needs, were it possible.

You’ve mentioned that you like silence when writing, and that your mom supported your writing, but what do you think is the best gift someone could give a writer?
Encouragement to keep going regardless of adversity.

And what about the best advice someone could give a writer?
Never give up.

One last thing: What is one random thing most people don’t know about you?
I was an extra in a really awful movie that has in more recent years started to acquire a cult-like following.

I wonder what that could be… 

 Previous Interviews: Peter Lukes InterviewKarenKSamoranos InterviewJune Kramin InterviewJanis Flores InterviewMarySPalmer Interview


Author: JaimeKristal

JaimeKristal is a freelance editor and writer. She started her book review blog "Tales of a Booklover" for the enjoyment of sharing her love of reading.

One thought on “Writerly Questions with Lauren Hunter”

  1. Hey, Lauren – two things: When do you sleep? And, I’m so happy you never gave up! Great interview, girls! I’m still stuck on the 19 day thing! Really? Atta, girl, Lauren. Will share and tweet! Cheers!


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