Name: Hilary Lauren
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Link to Amazon page and or any other place it can be purchased:
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Kittery, Maine at the Naval hospital there, but my family had to travel across a state-spanning bridge from New Hampshire to get there.
When did you start writing?
I wrote two books when I was four using the backs of paper that look similar to the timecard punch that hourly workers feed into machines. One was called the Potato Chip and it told the story of a potato chip guy who meets a lovely potato chip lady and they get married, illustrations included! I cannot remember the subjects of the other, although I can tell you that the story line was exactly the same!
At the age of twelve I realized I loved words when I completed an essay on a camel caravan in the dessert for a creative exercise in English. I looked up descriptive words and tried my hardest at the task, which I loved. That led to a role in our grade’s newspaper where I served as half of a writer for an advice column for my classmates. I have written in some way, shape or form ever since.
What made you start writing?
Losing myself in a story. Killing Karl is the first novel I have completed and published, and there were times after all-night writing jags that I would actually be surprised to enter back into my world and life. My protagonist, Doris, is so real to me, as are other characters. I have written beginnings to other stories, and I always get lost when I put down the words, wandering around, trying to keep my eyes open to what is really going on in the scene. I do use an outline, but it is loose, and I like the story to reveal itself to me … to surprise me periodically. There are times when I will wonder, “Well, how in the heck did we get here?” And then I need to bridge that moment. When you experience something like that, you just keep going back. It’s not like you have a choice.
Is it something that you have always wanted to do?
Always … and especially when I found out I could move affect people with words.
What is your favourite genre to read, and do you have any favourite books or authors you would like to recommend?
I enjoy all kinds of books … when I was a little girl, I used to read stories by Laura Ingalls Wilder, she told tales about growing up as a pioneer in Minnesota, and I felt a deep connection to that as my family moved here when I was in first grade. Lately, I have been diving into the kinds of books that make people look at you strangely if you are in public, say, on a beach or a park bench … true-crime accounts of horrific murders in unassuming trim towns, husbands hiding secrets, wives plotting revenge. While I was writing Killing Karl, I would read forensics books and lap them up like dessert. Stephen King is my favourite author, and I like that he has something to teach in his novels. With a background as a college professor, to me, he elevates and maintains the art of writing, a standard so many vanity authors do not bother with. And of course, the lovely and talented Claire C Riley, the author of the compelling Limerence!
What about to write?
My focus is shifting from the macabre, largely because I have liberated the main demon that drove me to record this story. I have exorcised myself, I guess you could say! I think now about writing some paranormal story lines, or story lines centring around the weird world of writers, and I have even dabbled in children’s writing. Several years ago I created a digitally animated children’s book called Vlassic the Vampire, which starred a young vegetarian vampire named Vlassic and dealt with his struggles with his parents who insisted that he try to partake of the more traditional vampire fare … rat-tail soup, and spider’s egg omelettes, for instance. I write what I want to write about, across genres, and ages … if it moves me and causes a cascade of questions in my mind, I want to write about it.
Do you write full time? If not, what do you do?
I am currently in between contracting gigs, but when gainfully employed work on retailer’s websites, helping them to increase revenue, and examining why there are weaknesses in sales. Think visual merchandising. My last client was Bestbuy.com When I wrote Killing Karl I was in school and had the time to spend on writing and innumerable editing sessions. I don’t know how people who work full-time do it!
Do you ever base your characters on anyone that you know, or are they solely from your imagination?
My characters are comprised of patchwork; people who know me say they can recognize some bits of this person here, or that person there. I do not have entire characters based on any one person, but traits, idiosyncrasies, etc. are sometimes inspired by a real person, and sometimes I have exaggerated that characteristic, or I might have left it at mellower level. There are still others who are complete creations in my head, top to bottom.
About your book
Your latest book is Killing Karl, tell us about the story/plot.
Killing Karl tells the story of a wife, Doris Mathers, trying desperately to love her husband, Karl Mathers aka the Keeper, even after she discovers he is a serial killer. When her infant daughter goes missing, Doris believes Karl to be responsible, and it is then that she must face the truth and decide what to do about it before it is too late to save her only child. Doris learns about her own power, and in the meantime reveals a world she couldn't have fathomed, a world she may not survive.
What gave you the idea for Killing Karl?
There was a prominent person from my childhood that I had a lot of contact with and who is now mentally ill. I witnessed the gradual decline of this person and cranked the knob as far as it would go in Killing Karl.
Who is your favourite character?
I love Peggy, Doris’ best friend! She is a spark and free and wild and wonderful, and she provides a delightful and needed infusion of energy and humour into a story that is very dark at times.
And worst? (I think I know this)
Karl. Yes. Why is he fascinating? Why are killers fascinating? Because they are people that we can never figure out (if we are not off our rockers); they commit some of the most atrocious crimes, stunning us with their violence and black hearts. And it is like a puzzle you can never solve because you can never understand why. So you read more and try and gain insight, and it never comes … and so goes the evil cycle again. Karl, at times, as I was writing, I almost felt sorry for. Serial killers, it has been proven, have specific events occur in their lives, and to remain true to the psychology and composure of a multiple murderer, I had to craft a childhood containing certain elements. Those memories that he has, how bereft he has felt and abandoned, at times it was enough to break my heart … at least for that little boy who had yet to perpetrate any crime. Karl, as any antagonist needs, had layers. He had to be a man that the reader would be able to see as married … completely dysfunctional and unremorseful … but still cast in believable roles in the story. He even has to operate as a father. Can you picture him turning a screwdriver as he puts together a crib? The reader should be able to envision those things and more importantly, find them believable. Still, there comes a point when the reader disengages with Karl, when they stop trying to see him as the product of his unfortunate society, when he allows his monster out; it is at that point that I hope my readers can imagine the worst villains that their imaginations that unleash.
You recently self-published. What made you decide to go down this route instead of the traditional way?
I had worked with a literary agent whom I met at a writer’s conference in Hawaii in 2008. I travelled about 1,600 miles to pitch my book, to buy opportunities to pick agents’ and publishers’ minds, and I came home with a wallet full of business cards. One particular agent and I conversed back and forth via email for a year, she sent me to a reputable editor with the understanding she would represent me at the end of the project, and who I employed twice to comb through my MS. In the end, my agent stopped representing my genre. I did put all of my eggs into one basket with that one and so I guess I had it coming, but it was very disappointing. I then worked with an e-publisher who went out of business. I have tried to pry that traditional publisher’s door open for many years, and the experience has left me disenfranchised. I began to wonder why I was trying so hard to be published in an industry that is changing and whose biggest competitor is the digital word. The people I met who were published in the brick and mortar industry were not willing to read for a fee, to recommend anyone else who could help, but wanted so much support from me on their books. It seems as though those in traditional publishing must sign a do-not-disclose waiver, or do-not-promote-others’-work waiver. Traditional publishers offer large advances for well-known and marketable authors. First timers receive an estimated $5-40k (according to my reputable editor and former literary agent) and very little promotional budget. First time books usually do not sell as well as authors’ subsequent works because the first book is about building readership and not enticing returning readers. I stacked this information and experience against self-publishing and think I made a good decision. The company that published my book, Booktango, is a division of Penguin Books, and I feel good about that because Penguin is established and knows the publishing industry. I paid for formatting, but largely edited the MS myself. I have access to multiple sites where my readers can purchase and I get to keep 100% of the royalties if I sell my books through Booktango’s website. There is no limit on how many I can sell, or if I can go elsewhere to hard-copy publish. I own the copyrights, I picked the cover. The limitation is marketing. But this is something an author must become proficient in anyway, whether funded through an advance from a traditional publisher or through their own self-publishing wherewithal. Authors nowadays must absolutely wear multiple hats: writing, editing, marketing. They must become an expert in each.
What are your hopes for Killing Karl?
I’d like to think that Killing Karl could be the little novel that could, with good writing and intrigue to substantiate sales and additional products. I would be lying if I said I would not want this novel to be a success, to be a game-changer for my life. But I am realistic. There is a lot of legwork and energy that is going to have to happen.
What’s the next project that you’re working on?
Deadly Fate (a working title) picks up twenty years after Killing Karl leaves off. I completed about two-thirds of it several years ago and need to get back at it. And I have been toying a lot with a novel about a woman who falls in love with a ghost. It is fun to get out and explore different territory.
What’s the best piece of advice that you have been given in regards to your writing?
Your book is a product. If you cannot take criticism and accept that there is an entourage of experts out there who need to help you do the jobs you can’t (because they are experts), be it your photographer, your layout person, etc. then you will have a tough time selling “your baby.” There is a ton of pride and ownership associated with writing a book, especially a first book, and all of that needs to be taken off the table when you sell it. For those sentences and phrases that I loved, but that my editor hated and felt were not germane to the story, I created a document where I would paste those succulent, forlorn and irrelevant pearls, and where I could visit them. I do pop-in and read what I cut out now and then, but not as much as I originally thought I would. I tried to make myself as objective as possible in hearing feedback about my work, and if the comments and recommendations made sense to the story and improved it, I would make the change, and if not, I would argue for why whatever it was needed to stay in. But I made a rule … if I want to keep it there must be a solid motivation why … otherwise, out it goes! As a result, I feel like I am a stronger, more decisive writer.
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Tell me a little bit about yourself and LionheART Galleries:
I started LionheART Galleries with my partner, Peter Mutanda, soon after we met. It had been his dream for a long time to own a gallery and sell African art, craft, jewellery and literature, and I'm disabled and was looking for something to do from home which I could build into a viable business, yet manage my health. An internet-based business is perfect; we are both creative and enjoy designing and making jewellery, and we are both writers so it was very natural to expand into publishing as well. We publish our own books – novels, poetry, children's books and non-fiction – and also offer reasonably-priced publishing services (editing and formatting) to help other authors to self-publish, especially if they are not comfortable with computers or live in countries where the internet is not widespread.
Where did you grow up?
In a small North Yorkshire village near Harrogate.
When did you start writing?
Whilst I've been a total bookworm since I first learned to read, I didn't start writing seriously until I injured myself sailing in the European Championships. I was sailing an extreme dinghy called a Contender, and at the time was the only woman sailing this class of boat in the UK. I was used to sailing on an inland reservoir in Yorkshire, so a storm on the Baltic Sea was a bit of a shock – especially for my body. I hurt my back badly (although did come home with the Ladies title!) but struggled to get a diagnosis. By the time I worked out (after consulting 42 doctors and therapists) what was wrong, my body had learned a different way of working, and I now suffer from fibromyalgia – an extremely painful and debilitating condition which flares up regularly. I was unable to sail, but sailing was my passion so I took on the sailing club newsletter and filled it with my scribblings until I was unable to even travel to the sailing club.
What made you start writing novels?
As part of my quest to find out what was wrong with me and why my body wasn't working properly I did a number of courses. One of those was counselling and psychology, which I found fascinating. Also, being forced to talk about myself and write a journal 'unlocked' me somehow. One day I picked up a pen and notebook and just started writing. Soon I needed a new notebook, then another and another, despite only being able to hold a pen for ten minutes at a time, and I realised I was writing a book. A couple of rewrites and an awful lot of editing later, I have published it as Dead Reckoning – Caribbean pirates and those wonderful old ships. At least I can still go sailing in my imagination, and I don't even get wet!
Is it something that you have always wanted to do?
To be honest, the thought of writing a book was so daunting it didn't occur to me that I could do it, but looking back, it's the obvious career for me. I have always loved books, and most of my earliest memories are about books. I can't think why I ever tried to do anything else.
What is your favourite genre to read?
I think historical fiction, although I also enjoy horror and thrillers and like to read in lots of different genres. I love being transported to another time and/or place and love any book that can take me there.
What about to write?
Historical fiction so far, although I am currently working on some ideas for contemporary novels as well.
Do you write full time?
I would if I could, but I find it physically and mentally impossible. I write longhand and have trained myself to use my left hand as well as my right, but am still very limited. Also constant pain does not help the creative process. I'm happy if I can manage a chapter a day, even if they are short, and I do think that being restricted this way does actually help me – I'm forced into more thinking time.
Who are your favourite authors and or books?
I can't give you favourite books, there are just too many! My favourite authors are Stephen King, Philippa Gregory and Barbara Erskine. Oh, and CJ Sansom, Ken Follett, Tony Parsons, Zoe Sharpe, Mo Hayder . . .
About your books.
Well, Karen, you actually have a couple of titles under your belt, so feel free to tell us about them all.
Title/plot, and who it’s signed with.
I currently have two books in the Valkyrie Series published, An Ill Wind and Dead Reckoning. This is my pirate series and follows the fortunes of Gabriella Berryngton and Leo Santiago. I'm currently working on the third, Ready About! and am planning at least another half dozen, which will all stand on their own so readers have a choice and are not pushed to read the whole series or read them in order – in fact I wrote the second book, Dead Reckoning, before I wrote the first: An Ill Wind!
I have also written two children's books with my partner, Peter Mutanda, based on African Folktales: Rabbit and Elephant's Tug of War and Meerkats Come to Dinner and we plan many more.
My newest book is Thores-Cross which is a dual time-line book, set in the present and the 1700s. It's a haunting tale about isolation, superstition and persecution and centres around Jennet who is orphaned in 1783 aged 15, falls prey to an older man and is then shunned by her, already isolated, community in the North Yorkshire Moors. Things do not end well, and she continues to affect the lives of the descendants of the villagers in 2012/13.
All my books (and Peter's) have been self-published through our publishing company LionheART Publishing House and are available as paperback and for all e-readers.
An Ill Wind
Gabriella Berryngton is an unhappy and oppressed fourteen year old girl from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1683. She dreams of escaping her bitter, ambitious stepfather and sailing off into the unknown.
Her dreams come true when her stepfather sells her into marriage.
Aboard the Freyja, she is hopeful that her new life in the Dutch West Indies will be an improvement – a hope that dies when she is given a slave (Klara) and a whip. She discovers that her soon-to-be father-in-law is a ruthless slave trader in league with pirates, and her fiancé is cold, unfriendly and disinterested in Gabriella. She is little more than a vessel to provide the next generation.
Largely ignored and desperately unhappy, she and Klara develop a friendship which makes life bearable – at first. Once married, Gabriella's life takes a turn for the worse and she descends into a world of horror and abuse, until tensions explode. Life will never be the same and she has no choice but to take fate into her own hands.
Title of the second one.
A haunting novel set in the North Yorkshire Moors about isolation, superstition and persecution, Thores-Cross follows the story of Jennet, a fifteen year old girl orphaned in the Eighteenth Century.
She lives in the isolated community of Thores-Cross, where life revolves about the sheep they rear. When she tragically loses both parents, the local wool merchant (Richard Ramsgill) takes an interest in her. She becomes pregnant and is shunned not only by the father, but by the entire village, leading to tragic consequences which continue to have effect through the centuries.
Emma Moorcroft is a present-day writer who moves to her dream house at Thruscross Reservoir with her husband, David. Emma had played in the fields around the reservoir as a child and still has an old inkpot she had found in one of the dry stone walls. Jennet's inkpot – and Jennet wants revenge.
Emma is compelled to write her story, and to embark on an affair with her neighbour, Mark – a direct descendant of Richard Ramsgill. As Jennet and Emma become further entwined, how will Emma escape her clutches? Can she break the curse that Jennet inflicted on the Ramsgill family and which has been killing Ramsgills for over two hundred years?
What made you decide to upload them onto authonomy?
Authonomy was recommended to me by a friend in a writer's circle I go to. When I first joined, I wanted to promote An Ill Wind and hopefully bring it to the attention of Harper Collins. In actuality I have found the feedback and support of the other authors on the site invaluable. I've also found some wonderful books and friends there and have learnt a great deal.
When I uploaded Thores-Cross to the site my objectives were very different and were basically to invite feedback to help me through the editing process and make the book better. As a writer, it is extremely difficult to take that step back and look at your own work objectively – the authonomy authors help me to do that, whilst giving honest and valuable advice and support.
What are your hopes for them?
My hopes for all my books are simple, to engage readers and transport them to my characters' worlds. To receive a review or message from a complete stranger saying how much they enjoyed the book and asking when the next one will be ready has to be one of the best feelings in the world.
How long did they take you to write?
That's a difficult question. Because of my physical limitations they can take a long time – Dead Reckoning took about eight years from first picking up the pen to publishing it, but then An Ill Wind only took about three months, partly because it's a novella rather than a full-length novel, partly because I had already written Dead Reckoning so knew the characters extremely well. Also because I managed to write it in-between flare ups, and was able to get on with it.
I learnt a great deal from writing Dead Reckoning, and so thought about the characters and plotted Thores-Cross over about three years before I started to write it seriously. The actual writing took about four months, then I edited for a month. I'm letting it settle now, while authonomy and writing friends are reading it and giving me feedback. After about two months I'll edit it again and am expecting to publish it in June 2013.
Whichever book I'm currently writing, I'm researching and thinking through ideas, characters and plots for at least three others. I need to manage my physical activity, even writing, and find ways of being able to do the things I want to with the least amount of pain, and I've found that the longer I think a book through before I write it, the less rewriting I will have to do in the end. Speech to text software helps as well!
What gave you the idea?
I have absolutely no idea! Although saying that, when I looked back at the first draft of Dead Reckoning I did spot some patterns, eg: the main character, Gabriella, was married to her abusive husband for the same length of time I had been suffering from fibromyalgia (which I once described as like living with an abusive partner you can't escape). Also my main 'baddies' are Blake and Hornigold – which I always wrote as B&H in my notes. At the time I was stopping smoking, and my brand was B&H, and had many battles with them! (Ha ha ha, brilliant!)
I think my books are the result of me either working issues out in my own life or trying to understand why people do the awful things they do to each other, and the only way I can do this and stay sane is through metaphor.
Who is your favourite character out of all the books that you have written?
I write in the first person, and my favourite is always the one I'm writing at the moment. To write from their point of view I kind of put them on and wear them like a favourite coat. For that time I am them and they are me – until I move to the next one. Being asked to pick a favourite is like my nieces asking me which one I love the most. They're all in my heart.
Do you ever base your characters on anyone that you know?
I don't base characters on people I know, but I do watch and listen and somebody's actions or behaviour will give me an idea for a character, which I'll then expand and explore – quite often to an extreme.
What’s the best piece of advice that you have been given in regards to your writing?
It is a privilege for someone to buy one of my books and invest time in reading it, and that privilege should not be taken lightly. I think one of the best pieces of advice I've been given is to write the first draft for myself, but to write the second and edit for my readers.
So here's a quick update on Limerence and then some general ramblings…
So all the reviewers have had their copies of Limerence sent to them now, Eeeeek. I’ve been looking at marketing with bookmarks and magnets and lots of other bits and bobs. I’ve added Limerence to the Goodreads site, and it has already been reviewed a couple of times and marked ‘to read.’ If you don’t know what Goodreads is, it’s a fantastic site for book lovers. You add the books that you have read and/or want to read to your virtual bookshelf and through following other peoples reviews on books, you find new books that you might enjoy. It’s actually a pretty huge deal, so if you don’t have Limerencec on your shelf- go do it! If you’re a writer, which I know some of my lovely friends are, you need to go set up your author page and do the same, also adding yours to the site.
Well, Limerence is pretty much formatted for kindle now, I just need to push the ‘publish’ button. Yay!
I’m still working on the Createspace edition though, and it’s proving to be more complicated. Boooooooo.
For those that don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, Amazon Kindle is the eBook edition, and Createspace is the ‘Print on Demand’ paperback- or POD for short.
I’ve actually been inundated with requests for the paperback, so clearly it’s a must, but the formatting is a lot trickier.
I did a poll on my Facebook page a while back on what people prefer, paperback to eBooks, and whilst I much prefer an actual book to an eBook I thought that the kindle version would be way more popular.
How wrong was I?
The popularity of paperbacks clearly isn’t diminishing in 2013, I hope that it is set to continue this way, but with eBooks being as cheap as they are and being able to be downloaded in a few seconds I can understand their allure.
I have this terrible habit of buying an eBook on my iPhone and then if I really like it, I’ll buy the paperback too! =P
The way I see it, is my paperbacks are my trophies. They’re my awards for doing well, and finding time in my busy day to pick up a book and read it. So when I see my bookshelf’s – and yes, I mean bookshelf’s plural- brimming with books, I can’t help but smile. That and I just love the smell and feel of a real book!
So, I ask again.
I Know What My Choice Is ;0)
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