Please join me in welcoming Lauren Clark on her Virtual Book Tour for her newest release "Dancing Naked in Dixie". Lauren was kind enough to answer my questions below. Please make sure to leave a comment or question below for Lauren as she will be awarding a $25 Amazon GC to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour.
Me: According to your website, you are a former news anchor. How has that helped you in your writing career or influenced your writing?
Lauren: After working in the television biz for six years, I became quite adept at completing assignments, writing down my script in the news van (going over bumps in the road), and typing at (a little under) the speed of light. Unless I wanted to look for a new career, there was no missing any deadlines, so I learned to work fast and smart. (This is me.)
When I decided to retire from the news desk, stay home with my children, and dip my toe into the author world, my experience as a journalist certainly came in handy. I could come up with a zillion ideas, I was disciplined enough to crank out several pages of manuscript in a day, and I could create fun and interesting characters.
On the flip side, I wasn’t used to working on a single project for longer than a day or two, so sitting down at a computer keyboard and working on the same story day after day was a challenge. Also, instead of the fun, noise, and excitement of the newsroom, I had my laptop and a tiny, quiet corner in my house. I’ll admit, my first attempts at novel writing were not pretty—meaning, I didn’t take the time to plot, I just sat down and wrote. My stories meandered and went in a million different directions, and when I tried to rein everything back in, I might as well have been trying to catch raindrops in a sieve.
I had to completely re-think writing. I began to outline, I worked from note cards, and had friends read what I’d written. (It still wasn’t pretty, but it was better!) For me, planning, outlining, and getting to know my characters BEFORE I started writing was the key. I’d never had this luxury in the news business, but it was crucial to getting a good story together. It took three finished manuscripts (that will stay forever in a drawer) to improve enough to begin writing Stay Tuned.
Me: Are you a plotter or more of a panster (fly by the seat of your pants)?
Lauren: PLOTTER. This is one of my outlines, stapled on a huge display board. (You can see that my kids painted it, then "allowed" me to use it once they were done). I don't get this ridiculous for all of my novels, but this project is in the thriller genre, and I needed to keep the story straight! (Not sure what's going to happen with THAT story just yet...)
Me: Why “chick lit” instead of another genre?
Lauren: Although many readers love romance novels, I'm not drawn to books about a perfect heroine who's a size 2 (even after triplets), has a wonderful, gorgeous husband, and lives in a mansion on the ocean. I also don't care for horror (gives me nightmares!)
I like that Chick Lit is light, fun, humorous, and that an author can still have a message for readers.
What does “chick lit” allow you to do with your story and characters that another genre would not allow you to do?
Life is messy. Life is complicated. Life throws you curve balls. That's the fun of Chick Lit!
The genre allows an author to have the freedom of having a quirky character who's not perfect. I also believe that a good heroine should be a strong person--on her own. She doesn't need a man to swoop in and solve all of her problems. She's smart, makes mistakes, and learns as she goes, defining her own future.
Me: “Dancing Naked in Dixie” is your second published work, can you tell us what you’ve learned since you were first published?
Lauren: That it's soooo much easier the second time around. The first time was scary. I had NO idea what I was doing and was lucky enough to get some help from a fellow author. I also picked up a copy of Catherine Ryan Howard's Self-Printed, which is brilliant, and takes authors through every single step you need to get from manuscript to ebook or paperback. She also has a fabulous blog called "Catherine, Caffeinated."
Me: Things you’ll definitely do again and things you won’t?
Lauren: There are a lot of websites and people out there who will promise to market your book, get you reviews, or promote your title, but the results don't quite measure up. For example, I had secured a formatter for Dixie, and he received the manuscript, then told me he was going on vacation. Sigh. Not professional! Also, I avoid organizations that charge $80 or $100 to enter a contest when many authors make 35 cents per ebook. It just doesn't seem right.
I definitely think that it's necessary to get the best cover you can, which takes some research. I also believe in having someone else format my books, because I tend to wreak havoc on anything technical. My beta readers are invaluable and I really, really love the bloggers I've developed relationships with over the past year. What an amazing group of women!!
Me: On your website your bio states that your big loves are “family, paying it forward, eight hours of sleep a night, and homemade macaroni and cheese”, have you found the perfect Mac and Cheese recipe and would you like to share it?
Lauren: Oh, my gosh, y'all, this is the BEST Mac & Cheese EVER! It's my grandmother's recipe, passed down to my mother, and then to me. Here's a look at my very beat-up recipe card:
Mac & Cheese
3 cups of Elbow Macaroni
6 Tbsp Butter (not margarine)
6 Tbsp Flour
4 Cups of Milk (whole or 2%)
1 tsp Salt, dash of Pepper
6 Tbsp minced Onion
4 Cups shredded Cheddar Cheese (mild or sharp)
Cook macaroni until al dente. Drain. Melt butter in a large saucepan. Remove from heat, stir in flour. Add milk, salt, pepper, and onion. VERY IMPT: put saucepan back on the heat and stir until thick. Stir in cheese. Mix everything in a large casserole dish. Top with croutons (shredded or cubed white bread) Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.
Me: What kind of research did you do for “Dancing Naked in Dixie”?
Lauren: I lived near Eufaula, Alabama for several years. Dancing Naked in Dixie came about after visiting the Pilgrimage several time. It's such a lovely event, and so different from anything I'd ever experienced, because I’m a Northern girl living in the Deep South. The cultural variations are so interesting—the food, the mannerisms, the traditions—it’s a fascinating world to explore. I spent a lot of time on the Internet, at the library, and drew from my personal experience visiting the city, Shorter Mansion, and many of the landmarks (I've even been inside the hospital Julia visits after her bee attack).
I did my best to honor Eufaula in a very realistic way, but I did invent Roger's B&B, the Honeysuckle Cafe, and Shug Jordan living in the Hart House.
Me: Are any of the characters in “Dancing Naked in Dixie” based on family/friends or yourself?
Lauren: No, although, like Julia, I love coffee, don't care for sweet tea, and I'm often super-klutzy! LOL
Me: Have your family and friends been very supportive of your writing?
Lauren: Yes, I am so lucky to have a strong group of girlfriends and very supportive parents. I actually didn't tell anyone other than my husband that I was going to publish just in case something terrible happened (everyone hated it) or I decided against it at the last minute. This is my mom (isn't she cute?)
Me: Are you currently working on a new project?
Lauren: Yes, I am!
Me: Can you tell us a little bit about it or share a small sneak peek?
Lauren: I am researching for my next novel, The Pie Lab, which is a real restaurant in Greensboro, Alabama. This story will follow a girl who’s gone off to a big city (like Atlanta or New York) and vows NEVER to come home. She’s forced to return to Greensboro, though, when her romantic relationship falls apart. Since she’s burned a lot of bridges, it will be interesting to see how she makes amends. The Pie Lab, as a business, is a great concept, as it offers on-the-job training and the owners are very active in the community. Added bonus…the pies are delicious! The Pie Lab has been featured in Southern Living and The New York Times.
5 Quick Get To Know You Questions:
1. Wine or beer? Wine. Red. Lots of it to share with friends!
2. Peanut Butter or Nutella? Nutella ... YUM!
3. Kindle, Nook or IPad? I like my Kindle very much, but I'd love to try an iPad. I also like traditional books and get my favorites in hardcover.
4. Walking on the beach or hiking in the mountains? Beach.
5. Movies: Action or Romance? It depends. I love a good thriller movie with not too much blood and a little romance. Favorite Movies: The Shawshank Redemption,The Bourne Identity, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Love, Actually. (I know, it's an eclectic list!!)
Dancing Naked in Dixie
by Lauren Clark
Travel writer Julia Sullivan lives life in fast-forward. She jet sets to Europe and the Caribbean with barely a moment to blink or sleep. But too many mishaps and missed deadlines have Julia on the verge of being fired.
With a stern warning, and unemployment looming, she's offered one last chance to rescue her career. Julia embarks on an unlikely journey to the ‘Heart of Dixie’—Eufaula, Alabama—home to magnificent mansions, sweet tea, and the annual Pilgrimage.
Julia arrives, soon charmed by the lovely city and her handsome host, but her stay is marred by a shocking discovery. Can Julia's story save her career, Eufaula, and the annual Pilgrimage?
I’m a travel writer at Getaways magazine. Paid for the glorious task of gathering up fascinating snippets of culture and piecing them into quirky little stories. Jet-setting to the Riviera, exploring the Great Barrier Reef, basking on Bermuda beaches. It’s as glamorous and exhilarating as I imagined.
Okay, it is a tad lonely, from time to time.
And quite exhausting.
Which is precisely why I have to get organized.
I sink into my chair and try to concentrate. What to tackle first? Think, think.
Third reminder. Uh-oh.
Marietta rolls her eyes and jerks a thumb toward the inevitable. “Guess you better walk the plank,” she teases. “New guy’s waiting. Haven’t met him yet, but I’ve heard he’s the ‘take no prisoners’ sort. Hope you come back alive.”
I grope for something witty and casual to say, but all of a sudden, my head feels light and hollow.
I’ve been dying to find out about the new editor.
Every last gory detail.
“I’m still in another time zone,” I offer up to Marietta with a weak smile. My insides toss from side to side as I slide out of my chair.
Marietta tosses me a wry look. “Nice try. Get going already, sport.”
I tilt my head toward the hallway and pretend to pout. When I look back, Marietta’s already disappeared. Smart girl.
“Fine, fine.” I tug a piece of rebellious auburn hair into place, smooth my wool suit, and begin to march toward the inevitable.
Our new editor.
My neck prickles.
I’m not going to worry. Not much anyway.
My pulse thuds.
Not going to worry about change. Or re-organization. Or pink slips.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Lauren Clark writes contemporary novels set in the Deep South; stories sprinkled with sunshine, suspense, and secrets.
A former TV news anchor, Lauren adores flavored coffee, local book stores, and anywhere she can stick her toes in the sand. Her big loves are her family, paying it forward, and true-blue friends. Check out her website at www.laurenclarkbooks.com.
I want to thank Lauren for graciously answering my questions. Please don't forget to leave a comment or question below for Lauren as she will be awarding a $25.00 Amazon GC to one randomly drawn commenter during her tour.
You can follow her tour here.