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. 

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