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Interview with Laurie Alice Eakes

With nearly two dozen books in print, bestseller and award-winning author, Laurie Alice Eakes entertains her readers with family sagas and tales from wonderful places and times. Romantic Times writes, “Eakes has a charming way of making her novels come to life without being over the top.”

Alice, your stories take readers to interesting places and long-ago eras, can you share a little of your research tips with us? Have any facts proven difficult to verify? If so, what were they?
The Internet seems like it makes research easier, and in truth it makes it more difficult. One either finds nothing of what one wants or is so overwhelmed with material, what is true and right gets lost in the clutter. Oddly enough, I begin my research with a general source. Yes, I use Wikipedia. If something isn’t referenced, look it up further. Look at the references for further exploration. It’s a great place to get general information; it’s a terrible place to stop. Next, I look for original sources. Internet Archives and Google Books advanced search feature, and the Gutenberg Project are valuable beyond measure. Sometimes I get a little carried away. For example, for my book set in Tuxedo Park in 1900, I read the entire 500+ pages of the original Emily Post Etiquette. I was enthralled.

Much of research has to do with being able to form a good search string. I have had the privilege of taking graduate level research courses, so this is something I have learned rather thoroughly. More and specific words are good. But I teach whole courses on research. This just touches the surface. For A Stranger’s Secret, I did buy an audio recording of the sea along the Cornish coast to get the atmosphere right.

As for elusive facts, I had a surprisingly difficult time finding details about indentured servants in America after the colonial era ended. Since it wasn’t outlawed until the 1860s, I knew it existed, but I spent hours searching for information on indentures for Lady in the Mist.

With A Stranger’s Secret, I ran into the problem with verifying that “wrecking” actually occurred. I found an equal number of sources—original and third party—saying it did and saying it did not. When I ran across an essay by a vicar, I believe now, saying how some people skewed history to preserve reputations, I decided the tales of “wrecking” were true.

What is “wrecking”? I go into it in detail in A Stranger’s Secret.

Alice, some readers may not be aware that you have a visual impairment. Can you share some of the obstacles or advantages you have in bringing a novel to life in light of this challenge?

The mechanics of writing with a visual impairment are pretty easy with technology. I use a MacBook with “Voiceover” (an application on all Apple products) for composing and Windows software with a third-party software for editing. As a general rule, my brain functions normally—if any writer’s brain functions normally—so the creative aspect of writing isn’t any different than anyone else’s. The true challenge is in proofreading. I am a dismal failure at proofing my own work, in spite of many techniques I have tried, from a hugely expensive Braille display to line by line listening-reading. Proofreading my own work doesn’t come out as well as I’d like. If I finish a project ahead of deadline, I hire a proofreader.

Plotter, Pantser, or Planser?
I start out with an outline. Too often, once I get going, that ends up getting defenestrated. Isn’t that a great word for thrown out the window?

Did you learn anything from writing this book? If so, what was it?
Patience with the frailty of human nature. That’s probably enough said about it in a public forum. I learned that one just has to write no matter what is going on in one’s life. The book was due just a few months after my mom’s death, which hit me hard, and I wasn’t in an emotional state to be creative. But I just had to write and get it done because, in the end, beta readers and editors can fix what you’ve written. They cannot help you fix what isn’t there.

What one bit of advice can you give to writers who are having difficulty finishing a novel?
Oops, kind of got ahead of myself. Write. Even if it isn’t good, words can be fixed. If you are truly stuck, examine your heart. You might be paralyzed with the fear of failure. If you never finish, your baby will never be told it’s ugly. On the other hand, neither will it be told it’s beautiful.

Pet Peeves when reading a book?
Do you really want to get me started on this? Wrong word usage such as shined when the word shone is the right one. Heroes putting their arm around one shoulder, which isn’t possible. Little details like that distract me. For biggies, a lack of good conflict (operative word “good”) or conflict too easily solved.

What hobby or hobbies take up most of your time when you are not writing?
There’s a time when one isn’t writing? Huh. I read a great deal. I used to walk before I moved to Texas. I knit a little—badly. I like live theater and very old movies and live music.

What books are in your To-Be-Read list/pile right now?
I’m currently reading Murder Al Dente, a new mystery series I just discovered, Too Close to Home by Lynette Eason, Chasing the Lion by Nancy Kimball. Those are the ones I can see here on my iPhone. I think I have half a dozen more.

Are there any new (to you) authors who have grasped your interest?
All the authors above are new to me.

If you could spend the day with a famous author, whom would you choose?
I’m afraid neither of the ones I would choose are living. Either Georgette Heyer or Patricia Veryan, especially the latter. My historical romances are strongly influenced by her works—history, romance, and lots of mystery and adventure.

If you weren't a writer, what would be another dream job?
I would probably enjoy being a museum curator, and, to be honest, I have never thought about another dream job other than writing. I’m just blessed to have this one.

Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?
My intended audience is women from twelve to one hundred and twelve. My books are entertaining, heartwarming, and offer a healthy dose of hope and light in this too often dark world.

Finish this statement: The best part about writing is...
...using my brain to produce something that brings others enjoyment and encouragement.

Debbie Macomber or Karen Kingsbury? Debbie Macomber
Summer, Spring, Winter, or Autumn? Autumn
While writing: Music or Silence? Silence
Casting Crowns or Amy Grant? Casting Crowns
C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkein? C.S. Lewis

Any parting words?
Never be satisfied with the status quo. Keep striving to make yourself and the world around you better.

Thanks for sharing with us, Alice!

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