Laura Caldwell

Rian: I find your novels to have fresh, different plots with engaging characters. Even with the unusual story lines, you somehow manage to make it work, and very well. For instance, Kyra in ‘Year of Living Famously” has to deal with having a famous husband; Kelly in ‘A Clean Slate” has to deal with losing a large portion of her memory and figure out how and why she got to the desperate point she had; Casey and her friends are backpacking through Europe and trying to repair their friendship. Where do you find the ideas for your books?

Laura: I usually take a few ideas I’ve been walking around with say a struggling fashion designer in New York, who I discovered in one of my dreams (honestly), along with an Irish actor I met in LA, who I felt could be famous someday, and I put them together. Those two people ended up being Kyra and Declan in “The Year of Living Famously”. In the case of my second novel, “A Clean Slate” I had worked on a case as a lawyer, where a woman lost a piece of her memory. At the same time, I was realizing how hard it was to start over in a new career, particularly a creative one, after being in the corporate world. I put those two stories, or concepts, together to come up with the plot and characters in “A Clean Slate”

Rian: In all three of your novels, the main character is usually going through something where she is trying to find herself and decide what she wants in life. Why do you think that is important to put in a chick lit novel?

Laura: I think most fiction tells a story of someone going through a particular point in their life that will ultimately make them different in some way. In “The Year of Living Famously” I was drawn to the idea of a woman who didn’t want her life to be different – she was content with herself – and yet for better or worse, she marries someone who pulls her into a diverse world, causing her to have to reevaluate herself, and her husband, in the harsh light of Hollywood.

Rian: I loved the main characters in all of your books. Tell me, are you like any of them yourself? Which one are you most like, and least like?

Laura: There are parts of me in nearly every character I write. The closest was probably Casey, in “Burning the Map”, which I wrote right out of law school. Now, though, have been out of school for over a decade, I feel very different from her. In “The Year of Living Famously” Kyra is very dissimilar from me in many respects. However, like Kyra, I have little patience for L.A. and the movie business, and I do love to have a glass of wine (or four).

Rian: I hear that you are a Lawyer. How did you get your start in writing chick lit?

Laura: I started writing mostly as a way to get some creativity in my new life as a lawyer. I took it up the way someone else might pick up knitting or tennis. I wrote “Burning the Map” before “Bridget Jones Diary” was out in the US, and before anybody was calling anything “chick lit.” I tried to sell “Burning the Map”, but no one was interested. I kept writing other things, and finally years later, I met Margaret Marbury, Executive Editor of Red Dress Ink, at a conference and told her about “Burning the Map”. She bought it about ten months later. It was a rather long road.

Rian: What do you think of the chick lit genre in general?

Laura: The term chick-lit initially bothered me. It seemed overly dismissive of women and their interests. Later, however, I decided to define it for myself as literature that has women as its target audience and aims mostly to entertain, occasionally to provoke thought. John Updike seems to believe that literature and entertainment cannot co-exist. I disagree. If women read my books and are occasionally moved to look at themselves and their lives, but mostly they’re entertained, then hurrah for chick-lit!

Rian: Which of your books did you find the easiest to write? The hardest, and why?

Laura: I’m trying to begin two different novels right now. One is another chick-lit novel, another a suspense novel, and in both cases, I’m finding it hard as hell. When I look back at the books I’ve written, I think “A Clean Slate” came easiest, only because I was laid up during a Chicago winter with a broken foot, where I had little mobility and little to do outside my home. I did nothing for months but write that book. In retrospect, it wasn’t so much easy as fast.

Rian: Do you have a favorite author that inspired you to write? If so, who and why? (If not, who are your favorite authors and books?)

Laura: One of my favorite books is “Making a Literary Life” by Carolyn See. I read it right before my first novel, “Burning the Map”, came out. I found it to be such a beautifully written, honest and motivating look at writing and the publishing world. I only wish I’d discovered it earlier.

Rian: I absolutely adored all three of your novels and can’t wait until the next one is released!! Do you have any other books planned for the near future, and if so, do you want to tell me about them?

Laura: Thanks for asking! After, “The Year of Living Famously”, it’s going to be a busy year. My first suspense novel, “Look Closely” (MIRA Books) comes out in June, 2005. It’s about a Manhattan attorney who receives an anonymous letter that says, “There’s no statute of limitations on murder. Look closely.” She thinks the letter might have to do with her mother, who died suspiciously when she was young, and she begins to investigate her mother’s death. A few short months after that, my fourth Red Dress Ink novel, “The Night I Got Lucky” will be published in September 2005. It’s about a Chicago woman who magically gets everything she wants overnight and has to deal with the consequences.

Rian: What is it like getting published at Red Dress Ink?

Laura: The group at Red Dress Ink is fantastic, particularly my editor, Margaret Marbury. She’s one of those inspiring women who seems to be able to do it all. She’s also a friend now, which makes it fun.

Rian: Do you have any particular thoughts on people that bash chick lit?

Laura: It’s tricky to bash an entire genre or group of people in general. It’s something I think should be avoided. But I believe in karma. It’ll all work out.

Rian: In closing, do you have any advice for someone who wants to write a chick lit book?

Laura: My advice for anyone who wants to write and publish – the advice I give myself all the time is to be devoted and disciplined. So often the concept of writing sounds glamorous, but when you put pen to paper the reality can be more than a little tedious. The characters don’t come as easily. It takes so much longer than you’d envisioned. The words don’t flow like they seem to in your head. But that’s okay. Push past the mental resistance. Make goals. Stick to them if possible. Enjoy it when you can. Enjoy life.

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