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Interview with Laurel Blount

All writers face rejection, whether they are just getting started or they’re a seasoned and best-selling author with millions of copies of their books in print. For Laurel Blount, rejection first came years ago when she had written a piece with the plan to submit it to a contest. She asked a friend of a friend—who happened to be a published, award-winning author—to look over a page and a blurb and offer her honest advice. That author kindly agreed.

Then, she gave Laurel some honest criticism.

Looking back, there is no doubt that author was uncomfortable telling Laurel how much was wrong with her writing, but she’s so thankful for it. She learned a great deal from those comments, and that page and blurb eventually developed into her debut novel for Love Inspired, A Family for the Farmer.

Rejections, revisions, reviews, and many other types of ego-pinching feedback are all part of the writer’s life. One of the most significant parts of Laurel’s journey through this is “having some good old-fashioned gumption along with a commitment to learning and improving—even when it meant checking my ego at the door.” Laurel tries her best to keep a positive attitude in spite of the internal bruises, and she works hard to find something useful out of each and every disappointment. The biggest achievement after a rejection, though, is she keeps on writing! With each rejection comes the opportunity for a fresh start.

In her current book, A Baby for the Minister, there are several messages like that enfolded within the pages. Forgiveness, realizing God’s best for us may not line up with our own plans, holding on to our faith during difficult days, and the importance of walking out our faith in the way we treat others are just a few of them. Fred Rogers of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” fame prayed before each show that the Holy Spirit would use his words to be just what somebody somewhere needed to hear that day. Laurel’s prayer is similar to that. “I hope God uses my story to speak some needed truth or comfort into a reader’s heart at just the right moment. I hope the reader takes away whatever message he/she personally needed to hear.”

For every one of us who writes inspirational fiction, there is no doubt some aspect of that which applies to our writing as well. Our faith and spiritual life directly affect our storytelling in a profound way. Laurel believes hers flavors her storytelling as much as “a big dollop of vanilla flavors cake batter.” Her faith creates her worldview, and her worldview permeates her writing. They are such an integral part of who she is, they influence every single word she writes.

That single word led to the first chapter which in turn led to the finished product of her first novel, and getting “the call” from Giselle Regus, her former editor at Love Inspired, is what Laurel considers the greatest moment of her writing career. She knows the exact spot in her kitchen where she was standing when the phone rang that day. As she recalls, “It was a sweet, sweet moment!”

Laurel entered the “Blurb to Book” contest sponsored by Harlequin/Love Inspired. No agent representation is necessary to sell to them, which is good as she didn’t yet have an agent. The contest enabled Laurel to bypass the dreaded “slush pile,” a place no hopeful author wants their manuscript to land. She made it through all three rounds, and that was when the phone call came. After the success of that first novel, she ended up meeting Jessica Alvarez with Bookends Literary Agency, and she now has agent representation! Laurel is both “delighted and honored to be in her (Alvarez’s) fold.”

That representation led to the next sale, and now we turn to Laurel’s current release. In it, a favorite character from the first book gets to step into the spotlight and have his own “happily ever after” told. Laurel loved Jacob Stone from the moment he walked onto the page in A Family for the Farmer. She was intrigued by this multi-tasking minister so firmly grounded his faith and so adept at dealing with the quirky personalities of his rural congregation. He was easy as a character to write, because Laurel already had a feel for his personality and “voice” from the first book. Finding the right heroine for him, though? That proved to be quite the challenge! She “tried out three different leading ladies before finding single mother-to-be Natalie Davis—the perfect fit for Jacob.”

The spunk and personality of Natalie lines right up with Laurel’s tagline, “Sweet Romance with a Side of Southern Sass.” Laurel loves to laugh, and she appreciates a dash of spirit in both the books she reads and the ones she writes. She also wants people to understand that “sweet” doesn’t have to mean “boring.” And since she was born and raised in Georgia, there is an obvious southern twang to her writing. When her friends read her first book, they all told her, “You write just like you talk!” Laurel agrees, and believes that’s part of what makes her writing uniquely hers.

“I personally love books with realistic, natural dialogue and well-rounded characters who leap to life on the page—who seem to real to me that I feel I would recognize them anywhere. And humor! If an author can make me laugh out loud? I am that writer’s fan for life. I do my very best to give my readers those things in my stories.”

Each new book is a new chance to start fresh and share a real story with readers. Beginning a new book isn’t the only place where Laurel has experienced a fresh start, though. After having a son and daughter with her husband, they added their two youngest children via international adoption, another daughter and then another son a few years later. God truly was at work throughout the entire process for both children, and trusting Him while enduring the sometimes convoluted process was both exciting and humbling for Laurel and her family. “Adoption stories always contain painful elements of loss—but they also have such incredible joys! We consider ourselves blessed beyond measure.”

Spending time with that expanded family is just one of the ways Laurel spends her spare time when she’s not writing or reading (she currently has twenty-six books in her teetering TBR pile). She has a group of women friends who meet every Monday afternoon for hot tea and honest talk, but she’s also a sucker for a good phone chat, a visit to an antique store, or an opportunity to try out a new restaurant. She’s also been known to binge-watch certain British baking shows on Netflix, much to the dismay of her long-suffering husband. How many of us can also say the same thing about our spouses or significant others?

Relationships enable us to be pruned and groomed so we can better fulfill our purpose here on earth. We must always be looking for ways to find the beauty in our resets and fresh starts. Laurel has exactly that mindset with her parting words. “I will continue to grow, learn, and create as both an author and a Christian. Hopefully, I’ll find plenty to make me laugh, and even more wonderful folks to laugh with me along the way.”

Laurel loves to connect with readers on Facebook, through email, or on her blog: www.laurelblountbooks.com. She incredibly values her membership in ACFW, and she’s looking forward to experiencing the upcoming conference in Nashville in just a few weeks. If you’re going, be sure and introduce yourself if you see her. If not, drop her a line through one of the options above.

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Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood, when she was accused of having an active imagination and a flair for the dramatic. Today, she has honed those skills to become an award-winning author and speaker who works in the health & wellness and personal development industries, helping others become their best from the inside out. She lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, in Colorado. They have a daughter and son, and a Shiba Inu-mix named Nova. She has sold over 20 books so far, three of which have won annual reader's choice awards. She is represented by Tamela Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. www.amberstockton.com.




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