Tuesday, August 25, 2015

August Author Interview: Laura McNeill

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When fellow WFWA member Densie Webb mentioned Laura McNeill’s newest book, Center of Gravity, I had to get it. Check out the Amazon descriptioin, and you’ll understand why it was a must read for me. Also, check out Laura’s website www.lauramcneill.com


 Her whole life, Ava Carson has been sure of one thing: she doesn’t measure up to her mother’s expectations. So when Mitchell Carson sweeps into her life with his adorable son, the ready-made family seems like a dream come true. In the blink of an eye, she’s married, has a new baby, and life is wonderful.

Or is it?

When her picture-perfect marriage begins unraveling at the seams, Ava convinces herself she can fix it. It’s temporary. It’s the stress. It’s Mitchell’s tragic history of loss.

If only Ava could believe her own excuses.

Mitchell is no longer the charming, thoughtful man she married. He grows more controlling by the day, revealing a violent jealous streak. His behavior is recklessly erratic, and the unanswered questions about his past now hint at something far more sinister than Ava can stomach. Before she can fit the pieces together, Mitchell files for divorce and demands full custody of their boys.

Fueled by fierce love for her children and aided by Graham Thomas, a new attorney in town, Ava takes matters into her own hands, digging deep into the past. But will finding the truth be enough to beat Mitchell at his own game?

Center of Gravity weaves a chilling tale, revealing the unfailing and dangerous truth that things—and people—are not always what they seem.


ZM: The structure of Center of Gravity is intriguing! How did the rotating POV develop?

Laura: Thank you so much! When I first began writing the novel, I decided it would be compelling to have the story told from several different perspectives – I love the way Jodi Picoult does this in many of her books – and decided to give it a whirl with Center of Gravity. I think that, Jack, the 8-year-old protagonist, adds an element of truth and authenticity to the storyline. He is a pure and innocent observer, and tells things exactly as he sees them. As for Ava, the female protagonist, and Graham, her attorney, they both have different ways of telling the story, and each perspective – I hope – adds richness and depth to the novel.

ZM: Your books are classed as Women’s Fiction or Women’s Fiction with elements of Romance. What’s your opinion of Women’s Fiction as a genre?

Laura: I think that booksellers and bookstores have to put a genre label on books, but for me, if a story is well written, it doesn’t matter if what genre it’s been placed in. Women’s fiction is such a broad term—and there are so many sub-genres under that classification. Center of Gravity definitely falls under women’s fiction, and there are elements of romance and suspense.

It’s my hope that the Center of Gravity cover, the story summary, and recommendations from Amazon and Goodreads reviewers will intrigue readers enough to give the book a try—no matter what genre!

ZM: What comes first for you—character, theme, setting, or plot? How do your stories come together?

Laura: When planning out a novel, I generally have a story spark—an idea or question that intrigues me. It may be an idea from reading news headlines; it could be from personal experience, or something that a friend shares with me. If that idea stays with me, and I start thinking about possible characters, storylines, twists, etc., then I know that it’s something that I should pursue.

With Center of Gravity, the question that came to mind was “What if everything that you think is real and true in your life is a lie?” I spent a great deal of time plotting out the storyline, revising, and trying to get the character voices just right. I talked to friends about their break-ups; I interviewed marriage counselors and therapists, and did lots of research on personality disorders—so fascinating (and a little scary!).

Before Center of Gravity was published, I wrote four previous women’s fiction novels—all set in the South—under the pen name Lauren Clark, so setting Center of Gravity in Mobile, Alabama seemed a natural fit.

ZM: Many craft books stress that writers must read and read a lot. Who is your favorite author, or what is your favorite genre? What draws you to a book you read for enjoyment?

Laura: Reading a lot is a must for authors! I think reading—and reading in all different genres—recharges your creativity, triggers new ideas, and allows you to explore new settings, characters, and storylines.

I am such an eclectic reader, but among my favorite authors are Jennifer Weiner, Jodi Picoult, Anita Hughes, Sue Monk Kidd, and Joshilyn Jackson. As for a favorite genre, women’s fiction is my go-to, but I also love YA (Divergent, Hunger Games) suspense/thriller (Stieg Larsson, James Patterson) and romantic comedy (Sophie Kinsella).

Generally, recommendations from friends, book club picks, talking to employees at our local indie bookstore, and a compelling or interesting cover/summary draw me to books for enjoyment. I love checking out what’s new on Goodreads, Amazon, and Audible. I travel quite a bit, so I stock up on all sorts of audiobooks for my time on the road.

ZM: I can’t wait for your next book! Tell us a bit about Sister Dear.

Laura: My second HarperCollins/Thomas Nelson book will be released in April of 2016. Sister Dear is the story of a woman, Allie Marshall, who goes to prison for a crime she doesn’t commit, leaving behind a 5-year old daughter.

When Allie is paroled 10 years later, she hopes to reclaim her quiet life and move on, but her daughter, now a teenager, soon challenges her innocence. In her quest to find justice, Allie discovers that the one person she trusts most committed the ultimate betrayal a decade earlier. Think White Oleander meets Orange is the New Black.


 Laura adores hot coffee, good manners, the color pink, and novels that keep her reading past midnight. She believes in the beauty of words, paying it forward, and that nerds rule the world. Laura is a fan of balmy summer nights, fireflies, and pristine mountain lakes. She lives in Alabama with her two sons.
You can find Laura Tweeting @Lauramcneillbks and blogging at lauramcneill.com. Laura’s suspense novel, Center of Gravity is available wherever books are sold. 

Next Week: IWSG: Who's Supporting You? 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

August: 4 Mini Book Reviews: L. N. Diamond, T. A. Forkner, J. Keim, L. McNeill

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I just know some of you are still at the beach and need a few books to read. ;-)

SHELTER US Laura Nicole Diamond: Women's Ficiton

This story is an emotional roller coaster that follows a mother's journey into the black heart of grief for her baby girl. You keep turning the pages into the night, but the dawn is more than worth the ride.

 WAKING UP JOY Tina Ann Forkner: Women's Fiction

Full of magic and mystery, pain and fear--and best of all--redemption.


When life served up a nasty divorce and joblessness, Anne Rutherford discovered a new life in Florida, a new business, and love.

CENTER OF GRAVITY Laura McNeill: Women's Fiction

Excellent! Must Read! This page-turner grips you from page one with stellar writing and a powerful First Person POV. It tells the story of Ava, Jack, and Mitchell. Ava must grow into the super hero her sons need.

Next Week: The August Author Interview is Laura McNeill! Come on back to The Shade for a treat.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Polishing Stone, Sanding Wood

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One of the endless tasks of writing is editing. I actually think that when we start writing, we have no clue just how many times we'll read the same sentences. We get tired of the process long before we finish. One of my very sweet, attentive beta readers was talking to me about the process she's seen my story go through. She's read the entire manuscript twice in the last couple of months. As she made her way through it the second time, she noticed the smoothing and shaping I had done since the first time.


She mentioned to me that it was almost like I was polishing a surface. Since she's my sister, Thea, she has observed and participated in the same process I have while our family of talented carpenters has shaped and sanded many a linear feet of wood. You start with coarse grit sandpaper and proceed to finer and finer grit as the wood smooths out. A finely sanded piece of wood feels like satin. 


The same process applies to polishing stones--and stories. We start with a rough pass that looks at story and character arcs. Later, we spend our editing on connecting the pieces smoothly. Then, we proceed to the finest of word choice, sentence patterns, and the final polish on our stories. It takes patience, persistence, and an open heart to change for the better. 

Zan Marie Steadham

My main WIP is nearing its final polishing. It's ready for a class on revision that I'm starting this Friday, August 14, with Barbara Rogan, a wonderful writer, former agent, and editor. Be sure to check out her Next Level Workshops if you feel you need a bit of expert, outside help. 

Zan Marie Steadham
So how do you polish your writing? Do you have any suggestions to share? 

Next Week: Mini Book Reviews! 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

IWSG: Attitude-Getting Your Head in the Game

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Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time. Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG

My awesome co-hosts for the August 5 posting of the IWSG will be Nancy Gideon, Bob R Milne, Doreen McGettigan, Chrys Fey, Bish Denham, and Pat Garcia!


 I have to admit that I'd rather be "zleeping" too. But, my manuscript needs attention. After a few doses of caffeine each morning, I gear up, strap on my pads, and do battle with words. It's not always easy. That's why, as I near completion of my main WIP, I had to find a mantra for the journey.
  • Keep my feet on the ground,
  • Keep my head in the game,
  • Keep my heart open to instruction,
  • Respond with a learning spirit,
  • For all of us can improve.
Attitude is all it takes to chance a hard day into a day when the writing gets better.

Do you have any suggestions? How do you "get your head into the game"? 

Next Week: Polishing, Sanding, and Editing. ;-)