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Interview With Laurie Alice Eakes

Our featured author this week is a long-time member of ACFW. From the first time I met her, I’ve been impressed with her storytelling ability as well as her incredible knowledge of history, especially in the Georgian and Regency periods. Laurie Alice was a delight to interview, and I learned more about her New Jersey historical series with Heartsong, especially the first book in the series, The Glassblower.

Laurie Alice, how did you know you wanted to write fiction and historical romance in particular?

I got a book from the library when I was about eight—a precocious reader—called The Wild Donahues by Elizabeth Hamilton Friermood, who I think wrote in the ’50s and maybe ’60s or earlier. I’m not sure of her history. It was a pre-Civil War historical romance and I fell in love with the genre then. So when I knew one day I would be a writer, that genre drew me, as it was still my favorite genre. So perhaps it started when I was eight years old.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
People. From the time I began to seek out writers and organizations to learn what to do to write and get a novel published, God has put just the right people in my path when I needed them to give me encouragement, advice, even a starter kick when I needed it most. I never would have started writing, let alone gotten published without so many people’s input. I can’t mention them all here.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
Guilt. Since I write full-time now and work at home, it’s difficult to ignore laundry and dishes and making a nice meal. I feel guilty letting these things go, so I do them and then don’t get my writing done.

I know your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling. How did this affect your decision to move your focus from the secular market to the Christian market?
The Lord knocked me over the head in a manner of speaking. I’d been struggling with several faith issues, wanting to return to the Lord and serve Him, not sure how or in what way. Every door I tried closed for various reasons. In short, I was a bit of a spiritual mess. But the Lord had listened to my rather sarcastic “If you want me to go back to church, you’ll have to put me next door to one,” and He did just that. Literally. One Sunday, while the choir sang “Here I am, Lord, Send Me” by Daniel Schutte, I knew that pursuing a career in secular writing was wrong for me, that God would use my writing.

It was September 16, 2001. I was in grad school for creative writing and committed to my thesis novel already, so had to wait a while to start the change. I had to learn all over again.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career so far?
So many great moments have happened to me I’m not sure if I can narrow it down to one, but I’ll try. Getting “the call” for the first book was wonderful, of course, and then the second, too. Then I thought I’d never sell another book. Twenty months passed with only nibbles and no bites. I’d started praying that if God was done with me being a writer, then show me what was next. He showed me a number of other things, too, and then I got the call on October 28, 2008 that changed everything. JoAnne at Barbour wanted The Glassblower, which turned out to be the first of contracts for thirteen books I would sign over the next thirteen months.

Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?
To say divine inspiration comes across as flippant, and I do mean it seriously. Other than that, I have no specific idea. An image appears in my head and expands into a scene and a character and setting and story. The Glassblower came from simple research into New Jersey history and then the history of glassmaking. That led me to Scotland, which led me to developing my Scots hero. My upcoming midwives series came from research I did while in grad school for history. It took me ten years to finally write the story, and it rather sprang fully formed from my head—along with a little brainstorming help.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
Because I’m not so focused on the visual, though use it, of course, my strength is sensory detail and the use of deep point of view. The universal comment I get about my books is that they were sucked into the time period, the setting, the characters’ lives. Much of that I believe is due to me diving into deep point of view and using all the five senses.

Finish this question. I want my books to . . .
Reach those who know they need, who even desire, a right relationship with the Lord, but have spiritual issues standing between them and God—anger, loss, fear, self-loathing . . . In other words, I am reaching out to Christians who have fallen away or don’t have a fulfilling relationship with the Lord.

What’s next for Laurie Alice?
I have lots of books coming out, which is just such a blessing I want to giggle to think I thought one day I’d never sell a book.

The Glassblower is followed by the next two books in the New Jersey historical series: The Heiress (released this month to book club members) and The Newcomer. At the end of August, When the Snow Flies is released from Avalon Books, a secular but family-friendly hardcover publisher. Then, in February of 2011, I see the release of my first trade paperback from Revell, Lady in the Mist, the first book in the Midwives series. My first Regency for Revell follows in the autumn of 2011. . . and so it goes.

Any parting words?
God’s timing is perfect; it’s just not our timing. That gets said so much it’s almost cliché, yet I have learned it’s true. While you wait to get published or get that next contract, keep working on improving your craft, networking with other authors, and studying the market of what both readers and publishers want, not to mention seeking god’s will for what He wants in your life.

Thanks for sharing with us, Laurie Alice.
Thank you for this opportunity.

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