Interview with Laura Resnick
Re:Fiction: Tell us a little about your earliest days of writing. What age were you? What kind of fiction did you write? How was it received?
Laura: When I was 25, I read a book called How To Write A Romance and Get It Published by Kathryn Falk, founder of Romantic Times Magazine. Writing a short novel about two sympathetic characters who fall in love seemed like something I might be able to do, so I gave it a try—and about a year later, after a dozen rejections from literary agents, I got an offer for one of my manuscripts from Silhouette Books, a division of Harlequin Enterprises. They were encouraging (for a while), and the market was fairly encouraging (for a while). I wrote about a dozen books for them over the next five years.
Re:Fiction: When did you realize you’re serious about pursuing a writing career?
Laura: I got serious about pursuing writing as a craft while writing that first attempt at a romance novel. Although I was a voracious reader and also the daughter of a career writer (my father is science fiction author Mike Resnick), I wasn’t that interested in writing and had only dabbled a little (mostly because, as the daughter of a writer, I knew what kind of lifestyle it was and didn’t really want that for myself). But by the time I finished writing my first book-length manuscript, the process had seduced me. So I wrote another, and then another. I was working on my fourth book (never sold) by the time I sold my first one. I became serious about writing as a career only after selling several books. Prior to that, I was excited about selling some books and enjoying what I was doing, but precisely because I knew exactly what kind of a life this is, it took me a while to decide I was serious about this as a real career, rather than just “something I’m doing while I decide what to do next.”
Re:Fiction: What was the first piece you ever got published? How hard was it to get your first acceptance?
Laura: My first published work was a romance novel called One Sultry Summer, written under the pseudonym Laura Leone, published by Silhouette Books way back in 1989. It was the first book I ever wrote, and I sold it about a year after completion, so that was an easy start. I had a lot more difficulty with various later books and later stages of my career. (For example, the urban fantasy series I currently write for DAW Books took me over a decade to sell and experienced many setbacks even after I eventually sold it.)
Re:Fiction: How do you approach a new writing project? What kind of preparations do you make?
Laura: I’m a methodical, preparation-oriented person, so I’m a methodical, preparation-oriented writer. After I come up with a basic story idea, I work on it for a while through note-taking and lots of background reading. I pick out key aspects of my research and organize that material by subject (ex. locations, characters, occult practices, cultural background, timeline, maps, weapons, etc.). Eventually I sit down to work on an outline of the novel (usually a 5-10 page synopsis—but sometimes as long as 20 pages). While I’m writing the book, I’ll deviate from the outline if I think of something better or if I surprise myself while writing, which often happens; but the outline is my basic roadmap. Much like being on a months-long roadtrip, I need to have an idea of where I’m going, what my major destinations along the way will be, where I expect to end up (and why), who’ll be on the trip with me, and what to pack for the journey.
Re:Fiction: What are your writing habits? Do you have daily or weekly goals? Do you have regular hours? A regular workspace?
Laura: In this area, I am very unmethodical—and would like to be more methodical! I frequently miss my goals, falls behind schedule, and work insane hours toward the end of a project to meet extended deadlines. I truly hate this about myself and hate that process, and I keep trying to change... but have not yet succeeded.
As for other habits—I write better at night than by day. I think better at night, have more energy, feel more focused. So when working hard on a book, I keep strange hours, often not going to sleep until 5 AM. One writing habit that has helped me in recent years is that at the end of a writing session, I make half a dozen notes about what things need to happen next. That helps me get started the next time I sit down with the book.
I like quiet and privacy when I write. I usually write in my home office or my bedroom. In general, I have trouble writing anywhere else; I occasionally go elsewhere, but I mostly prefer to be at home.
Like many writers, I will sometimes embrace a specific music background for a book, a playlist; but there are books I have preferred to write in silence—sometimes even to the extent of wearing earplugs when I write, to ensure sounds don’t distract me.
I usually write a book start to finish, in a very linear way. It’s rare for me to write unchronologically and stitch scenes together later. I don’t write multiple drafts. I just keep working on the one draft slowly, methodically, as I go. I keep going back and revising what I’ve already done as I continue moving forward. So my pace is slow—but by the time I get to the final couple of chapters of a book, the rest of the book is finished and polished. I can only write the end of a book if everything else in it is set and final; otherwise, I’m not ready to write the ending.
Re:Fiction: How do you slog through the challenge of writing a full-length novel? What keeps you going? How do you keep the passion alive?
Laura: It can be hard. A novel takes a long time. Some days you feel like you’ve been living with this story forever... and yet you’ve still got about 40% of it left to write. That’s when having my written synopsis helps me, my roadmap. It reminds me of the story goals ahead, keeps me focused on where I’m going in the long run, on why I want to finish telling the story. That tension of feeling I need to get to the destination I’ve mapped out—that end of my road—helps keep me in my seat.
Re:Fiction: Do you ever run into writer’s block? If so, what do you do to overcome it? How well does it work?
Laura: I’ve been through it multiple times. For me, it’s usually burnout. I get tired of putting myself through those novel-length marathons and can’t face doing it again. Sometimes I’ve just decided, okay, that’s how I feel, and I’ve walked away to do something else for a couple of years. Another time, when it happened mid-book with an approaching deadline I couldn’t miss, and I had wasted months staring at the blank page, I consulted a writing coach (April Kihlstrom), and that helped me get back on track. There are people who write book after book and never tire of it or pause. I’m not one of them. I get burned out and go away for a while. And then I come back when I start feeling like I want to write a book again.
Re:Fiction: What do you consider as success in a writer’s life? How do you recommend getting there?
Laura: I would describe it as writing what you want to write, being read by readers who “get” what you do, and earning what you want to earn for the work. And the first step in getting there is, start by writing what you want to write. Next, keep educating yourself about the business, because that’s how you learn about getting paid and about reaching readers (in business terms, your book is a product and you want to help the right consumers find it—the readers who’ll “get” what you do).
Re:Fiction: What is the best tip you can give to new and intermediate writers in general? What is the best tip you can give to new and intermediate writers in your genre?
Laura: For me, [these questions] are the same question, because I always have the same answer, no matter what someone writes: perseverance is the one quality a writer needs more than any other, in terms of both craft and business, and yet it’s the quality that most inexperienced or disappointed writers underestimate or dismiss. I consider perseverance at least as important as talent for a writer (and possibly more so), and far more important than the most overrated quality—luck.
Laura, thanks so much for sharing your experience and wisdom with us writers!