With all that’s been happening, it’s been a while since I've gotten to do an #inklinginterview, but I’m SO excited to do this one because not only is this author a lovely person--she’s also my friend. We share a special bond in that we began querying together, and ended up signing with our agents within a week of each other! Now we’re both authors with books forthcoming! I’m so excited to learn more about her process and talk with her about her debut! Please welcome, Lauren Blackwood!
Hi Lauren! First question: where are you at in your writing journey, and how did you get there?
I just finished up a revision, based on notes from my brilliant editor, Tiffany Shelton. How did I get here? I’m still asking myself that question, it feels surreal. Although I didn’t meet my incredible agent through #DVpit, that’s where I first pitched WITHIN THESE WICKED WALLS (out with Wednesday Books Fall 2021)--and met you, Ayana!<3
And that’s where Tiffany first showed interest in my story with a retweet. From then on I knew in my heart we were going to work together. Fast forward a little over a year and a lot of revising, what my heart knew came true!
Surreal is definitely a word I’ve used a lot this year. Of course I know the answer here, but for those that don’t—can you pitch WITHIN THESE WICKED WALLS?
My deal announcement pitched it pretty well: An Ethiopian-inspired Jane Eyre retelling in which Andromeda—an unlicensed debtera—is hired to rid a castle of its dangerous curses, only to fall in love with the boy whose life hangs in the balance.
No matter how many times I hear it, I get jazzed every time I hear the description!! And, as someone that’s gotten to read it more than once, it delivers big. Can you describe your writing style in a word or two?
Haha truer words were never spoken. Okay Lauren, I want to pivot and talk about your writing process--what’s your favorite and least favorite part?
I joke and say my favorite part is writing kissing scenes, haha! But really, the best part of writing has got to be when all the ideas click and connect perfectly and the story is finally making harmonic sense. The worst? Revising, haha! It’s like medicine, ultimately good for you even though it tastes nasty going down.
Ha! I like the analogy, though I admit that I secretly love revisions. Now the age-old question: where do you find inspiration for your stories?
Anything and everything. Any little detail can trigger an idea. I do often dream up ideas, too--one dream actually became the entire climax of my next book, no lie!
I really admire authors who can remember enough of their dreams to be inspired by them! I want to get a bit more personal here and ask how you manage life and other responsibilities alongside your writing?
Great question, still trying to figure that out, haha! I definitely don’t sleep nearly as much as I should.
Fair! And what about writer’s block? How do you deal with tough critiques of your writing?
I mean, crying and soda is a given.
But then I leave the scene/critiques for a while, until I can get my head on straight and approach it objectively. Sometimes that takes a few hours, sometimes a few days… *curls up and cries*
Thank you for always being honest. You talk pretty openly about loving stories full of swoony romance, but I know lots of people struggle to write it well. What’s your secret?
I always find that romance is better understood by what the characters think and feel rather than what they do. It’s in the anticipation of the moments--which is why slow-burns and almost-kisses are so effective. What the character WANTS to do about the tension is more important than what they actually do (but don’t get me wrong, the doing is great too, haha!)
Ooh that’s a really apt way to describe it, and you’re right. The moments before the first kiss are always so much more intense then the kiss itself (though don’t get me wrong, we love a first kiss). Now a fun question: would you rather have the power to be invisible, or fly?
I’m afraid of heights, so flying might not be a wise answer, haha! But I think I do a good job already of staying under the radar when I want to or need a break, so...if I could have white angel wings with golden highlights, I would be down to do some flying!
The specificity!! I love it. Okay, of course some folks reading this are still working to find an agent and/or get published, and we know that’s harder for some communities. What advice do you have for aspiring writers, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds?
Most importantly, work on your craft. Genuine compliments are important, but find a supportive critique group/Critique Partners who actually CRITIQUE rather than just praise. You also have to be aware of the market and understand what’s selling--staying engaged with the writing community or subscribing to a site like Publishers Marketplace will ensure you’re not writing in a bubble.
I think this is SO important. Writing is an art (and a beautiful one), but it’s also a business, so keeping an eye on the market and remaining engaged is key. Another fun question: what’s your “anthem,” the song that would play if your life was a music video?
That would require delving into my psyche, and I don’t think the world is ready for that.
Oooh okay. Bonus Question! You have an all-expenses paid trip where you want with one of your characters--where do you go and who do you bring and why?
It sounds cheesy, but I’d want to go somewhere I know I’d have fun, like Disney World. And I’d definitely take Andromeda--we both love food and all I do on vacation is eat, haha!
Aw! And because I know Andi just a bit, I daresay she’d be really glad to be able to eat to her heart’s content. I bey y’all would have fun!