Thank you for agreeing to be my guest today, Laurie. Grab a seat and a French Vanilla Latte. Now I’ve given readers a premise to Journey to Forgiveness. But I’m sure folks would prefer hearing a synopsis of this book in your own words. The stage is yours, girlfriend.
Laurean: First, Sharon, could you add an extra dollop of whipped topping to this Latte? There. I like lots of whipped cream, thank you. And thank you for inviting me to be your guest on this awesome blog. (Laurie sips her latte, deep in thought. “Mmm-mm.” After she places the tall glass on the table beside her easy chair, she begins.)
Sharon, as you mentioned, Journey To Forgiveness is based on my mother’s life. I have to insert a disclaimer here or my mother will string me up by my feet. (Laurie rolls her eyes.) The abuse from her father—my grandfather—was real, as was his desertion. And my heroine, Jenny’s move to Chicago to seek employment to support her mother and siblings was also fact. Even the humorous incident where Jenny is almost caught slipping shrimp to her employer’s poodle under the table, is true. (Laurie laughs) My mother still thinks shrimp is disgusting.
After Jenny Hinson’s abusive father deserts the family and takes her older brother along, the responsibility of the 50-acre Tennessee farm falls to Jenny and her mother. Her siblings are too small to help with the heavier work such as plowing, cultivating. In the 1930s most rural farms still used mules to do the work. So fieldwork was extremely exhausting. The cotton crop was the Hinsons’ main source of income. In 1938, four years after her father’s desertion, boll weevils infest the cotton. Along with a letter from Jenny’s aunt in Chicago, comes the solution. Jenny packs her bags and heads north on the Illinois Central.
Jenny is a stranger to electricity since it hasn’t yet reached rural Chicory Valley. But not only is she introduce to it in its tapped form in Chicago, but also encounters a few jolts along the way when she challenges the handsome, but infuriating, Austin Grant over a luggage mishap. Sparks fly outside the Kankakee train station when Jenny discovers her missing vanity case under Austin’s arm. She is sure he’s a thief.
A few days later, Austin smiles at her from behind the pulpit at her aunt’s church while coaxing money from the congregation. Jenny is furious! The money is supposed to go to aid victims of a tornado-ravaged town three hours south of Chicago. But Jenny has her own ideas about Austin’s intentions. She is sure the man is a scoundrel! So when the reverend asks for volunteers to join a mission trip to that same small town, Jenny signs up determined to expose Austin and his nefarious deeds.
The volunteers live in a warehouse-turned-homeless shelter during their twelve-day mission trip. Jenny misses Austin one night at the evening meal. She gets suspicious, goes in search and finds him kneeling in front of the mission strongbox. When he removes a large roll of money and stuffs it into his pocket, she flees. That is when she realizes she can’t report the theft. The money isn’t the only thing Austin has stolen. Her heart speeds up and performs all kinds of crazy acrobats just at the sight of the gorgeous man. Still, her personal convictions would never allow a relationship where trust was blatantly missing.
She must face Austin with the tough questions that either make or break their relationship. Even then, how can she possibly trust any man unless she confronts her estranged father? Can she forgive her father’s brutality? Is Austin guilty of theft?
I am not saying another word. (Laurean wags her finger at the audience.) Sorry, folks. You will have to read Journey To Forgiveness and draw your own conclusions.
Sharon: That’s so intriguing, Laurie. Now let’s talk about book signings and presentations. As a new author with a debut book, this must present as many thrilling challenges as it does phobias. It must be so exciting to have a dream turn into a reality. How do you feel, sitting there in your local library or bookstore, signing your signature to a book you’ve written, your baby from conception to birth and beyond. What goes through your head? Do you enjoy being in the limelight—or do you have to push yourself to be a go-getter?
Laurean: Sharon, it can be thrilling. I’ve described my life in the past two months as a tilt-a-whirl that keeps spinning. Sometimes I want it to stop, but truthfully, I’m not sure I want to get off. I think I’ll hang on for the ride. As far as the public, I love people, so the book signings are right up my alley. I do get a little nervous if the person stands over me while I sign his/her book, so I pen a Bible verse (usually from the Psalms) on the inside of each book the night before. Then all I have to add is a name and one personal line.
Speaking publicly to a group is another story. In the last month I’ve done two book presentations. These were my first attempts. I was nervous both times, but beforehand I asked God to give me the words and reminded Him that I was doing this for Him, and that I was depending on His strength to get me through. He has not failed me yet. Now, I’m not saying I wasn’t nervous.
For instance. This Saturday when I drove up in front of Obion County library to give a presentation, and spied at least 70 cars in the parking lot, I almost panicked and burned rubber. LOL. Turned out that 99% of the people were in a class in the adjoining room. Whew!
Sometimes I like the limelight, but other times I like my solitude. I guess you could say I have a dual personality. I guess it’s all about balance. I need people, but also need quiet time.
Sharon: How interesting. And tell me about the teacher that planted the seed in your head to become a writer. I know Miss Mary is no longer with us, but her son came to one of your book signings. That must have been so emotional, so both of you. Can you share with us a little about that meeting?
Laurean: Sharon, I will have to admit that I was probably Miss Mary’s pet. It was fifth grade and I was very shy. No, really I was. Miss Mary was nearing retirement, even then. She placed the class cutup behind me, probably thinking Kemp would behave better near a shy person. Wrong! He just brought out the comedienne in me. One day she had assigned us sentences to make from our spelling words. I turned around to get Kemp’s input. “What sentence can I make with ‘drank’?” He replied, “The man drank whiskey for breakfast.”
I giggled a little too loud. Miss Mary yelled, “Kemp!” and stalked over gripping her plastic ruler. “Hold out your hand,” she commanded. Kemp stuck out his hand and she smacked it three times. When she finished, I held out my hand.
Miss Mary asked, “Do you think you need one, too?” I nodded. I probably could have gotten out of it, but I knew that I was at least half to blame since I had asked Kemp the question. She grabbed my hand, bent my fingers way back, and smacked three times with that ruler. Boy, it stung! But I knew I deserved to share the punishment. I felt awful about getting Kemp in trouble since he stayed in trouble half the time anyway. After another incident or two, she moved poor old Kemp somewhere else. (He probably thanked God.) But no matter where she put him, there was always a commotion. Kemp had such an outgoing personality and crazy sense of humor, that everyone liked him.
Miss Mary was the first one who encouraged me to write. I know you’ve heard the story, Sharon. But some of our audience hasn’t. We were to read one book every six weeks and give an oral book report. I loved mysteries so that was no chore. And I really dug into the Nancy Drew books. Any mystery, really. One day after I had given an oral report on a popular mystery, I ended it with a couple questions? Did they ever find Tony? Were his kidnappers ever caught? Find out when you read this book.”
When I finished, half the students started to argue over who would get the book next. Miss Mary settled the issue, then smiled at the class and announced, “One day Laurie will be an author.”
I felt something swell up inside my spirit. She had planted a seed. It sprouted and grew over the years. And it is finally producing fruit. I needed her encouragement more than anything. Coming from a family of seven kids, me being the fourth, I craved the attention that my parents never found time to give. So because she believed in me, I tried my best to impress her.
Of course there was the time my impressing got a little carried away. I received a reprimand from Miss Mary for an essay about Columbus. How was I to know it had to realistic? And what is reality to a 10-year old? Just because the natives stuffed Columbus in a cannon and shot him back across the Atlantic Ocean…I mean who says it didn’t really happen that way? (Laurie laughs while Sharon shakes her head and smiles.)
You asked about Miss Mary’s son. This past Easter weekend I held a book signing in the Historical Society building of my alumni. A man and his wife, in their 60s approached my table. The woman said, “My name is Patsy Brann and this is my husband, David. When we saw the write-up about you and your book in the Historical Society newsletter, we just had to meet the lady who wrote about his mother.”
I did a double take. David was the spittin’ image of Miss Mary…minus the fluffy, grayish-blonde hair. I told him how much his mother had influenced me, then related the Columbus essay catastrophe. He smiled and said, “That sounds like mother.”
Sharon: Life truly does come full circle, doesn’t it? Now, Laurie, I know you’re a very spiritual woman. And I also know you enjoy taking long walks with your dog to meditate and contemplate life. What goes through your head while surrounded by the birds chirping, the sounds of nature, and the awesome beauty of the hills of Tennessee?
Laurean: When I have a problem, I go to the woods, weather permitting. Of if I need to think. Sometimes just to get away from noise. I’ve even taken a notebook and pencil to write down my thoughts. Other times when I’m desperate to hear God’s voice, I take my Bible and sit down on an old log. You would be surprised how many times it will fall open to just the verse you need. The sounds of nature calm me. The dogs head off on to follow the scent of a long-gone squirrel. They are protective, though. They come back to check on me about every five minutes. It doesn’t take long for the peace to come. Not always in the form of an answer. Sometimes it’s just the peace of knowing that God has the situation in His capable hands and He will work it out for my good.
Sharon: How inspiring. What do you find to be one of life’s most frustrating challenges? And what or whom do you turn to when faced with one of these challenges?
Finding time to do everything I want to do. If I get online to post to the loops or check email, my writing time slips away. When I write, the housework piles up. I wish I had a live-in housekeeper. Anybody want the job for room and board only? LOL. Other than that, insomnia saps my energy. If I get to bed by 10:30, often I’m still awake at two. Then I awake every couple hours. I get up by 7:30 or 8 a.m. regardless, but some days I have to get in an afternoon nap to survive. I blame it on hormone fluctuations; though I take everything natural that has been capsuled or whipped into a body cream.
Regarding the time issue, I have taken our friend, Pamela Thibodeaux’s advice. When I asked her a question about time management, she said that she did not get online until she had written
or edited for at least one hour. I’ve tried this for a couple weeks, and I’m a lot less frustrated. And, hey, I’ve even added to my WIP. Slowly, but it’s getting there.
But, if I take a few minutes to meditate especially to read praise Psalms before I pray, my day goes smoother. I accomplish more. If I forget to ask God for words, my writing lacks something.
Sharon: That’s lovely. So what’s next for Laurean Brooks? Do you have a WIP you’d like to share with readers? Do share, girlfriend. Give us the scoop!
Laurean: My current WIP is a story of a cowgirl raised on a Wyoming ranch. She lost her mother to cancer when she was a child, then her father re-married. Now he has died, also. My heroine is left with a scheming, ambitious stepmother who tries to manipulate my heroine into a marriage with a local wealthy rancher’s son. My heroine wants no part of this guy. He’s ten years her senior and obnoxious, plus looks more like a frog than a handsome prince. On a scale of one to ten, Oliver is a one.
When her stepmother announces a party and insists she announce her engagement to the frog, my heroine packs her bags and flees. She has found an ad in the classifieds for a ranch hand in Colorado. She’s almost sure the ranch owner wants a man for the job, but, hey, she can do anything a man can. When she calls the ranch owner, her voice is hoarse because she’s recovering from laryngitis. He thinks she’s a man. She tries to explain, but he cuts her short, tells her she needs to get packed and get on the road, then hangs up. She starts to push redial, then rethinks her options. She packs her dad’s Levis and western shirts, then tosses in a fake mustache for good measure, whistles for her dog, hops in the truck, and tears out for Southern Colorado.
So what do you think so far? That’s all I’m telling.
Sounds like another bestseller. What is your favorite genre to read when not writing? And do you want to explore several genres—or are sweet romances it for you?
I sometimes read suspense, mystery. I’m not much into murder. Can’t sleep after I read those. I love time travel stories, too. Speaking of which, my favorite time travel movie was made in 1978 and starred Lindsey Wagner. “The Two Worlds of Jennifer Logan.” If you folks haven’t seen it, it is well worth pestering your video stores to order it. Back to reading favorites. Mostly I read inspirational, though I would like to see more suspense or mystery added to inspirational stories. Not murder, but a theft or vandalism to solve.
As for writing, I like using humor, but I would also like to add suspense. I will always keep the romance sweet. Old-fashioned romance with plenty of implied passion, but where the hero and heroine wait until they are married, and then it’s behind closed doors.
7. Sharon: Interesting. Okay, let’s talk about Laurean Brooks. What makes you tick? Inquiring minds want to know! What are your dreams? Your expectations? Your deepest fear? Your greatest joy?
Music moves me, inspires me, gets me excited. Contemporary Christian music, Southern Gospel, even some of the older hymns. And pop music from the 60s, and 70s. Country music from the mid-70s to late 80s. I just know when I like a song. Did I miss anything? Can’t get into rap or heavy metal.
My dreams….hmm. The most outlandish one is to make enough money to purchase land around Taneycomo Lake in Branson, MO. My husband and I take a 4-day trip there almost every summer, and always hate to leave. It’s not just the beauty of the mountains, hill, lakes, but the people are even friendly. When they discover that you are a tourist, they will hold up a long line of traffic just to let you pull out of a parking lot.
My expectations? To write several bestsellers. Not just any best seller. I want my writing to have depth—to go straight to the heart. If I can’t make my readers experience every scale of emotion through my writing, I feel that I have failed. I want them to laugh, cry, get angry at an injustice, experience jealousy, annoyance, frustration, but always end up saying, “Hey, that was a good book.”
Sharon: Now there ya go folks, a well-balanced woman. Just a few more questions, Laurie. Oh, and here comes dessert. We’ll just wrap up this interview and then dig in to those scrumptious brownies...here goes. What is the message you’d like to portray through your writing?
Laurean: My greatest fear is that I will leave this world without having made a difference. I want to leave behind a legacy through my writing and through my life as a Believer. If my life has changed at least one other life for the better, then I have not lived in vain.
I experience my greatest joys when I see or hear the excitement of others after they have just received great news. For instance, authors on the loops. It thrills me to read their excitement over a great review, or a win for best book of the week. And especially the first time an author holds her first print book in her hand. You can feel the excitement through the post.
Sharon: That is so beautiful. Thanks for sharing. Now how about hobbies. Do you do anything in your spare time to relax you? And how about an author who has made an impact on your life?
Laurean: With my hectic life, right now I don’t have much spare time. I do enjoy browsing antique malls, auctions and vacationing in the mountains. I just wish we could take more than a few days per year, or that we could take our dogs with us. I always worry about my babies when we are gone.
You asked about relaxation? Reading calms me. I usually fall asleep with a book in my hand. Spending time with my Labs, tossing a stick or just hugging them, relaxes me. And let’s not forget soothing music.
As far as an author who has made an impact, I would have to mention two. I grew up on Victoria Holt. I couldn’t get enough of the suspenseful stories she weaved in first person. My favorite book by her, “On The Night of The Seventh Moon.”
Next, I would have to mention Danielle Steel. She has a way of delving into her characters’ minds. I love that and try to copy it. Of course, I have to stop and give Michael Landon credit. When I watched “Little House on The Prairie” I thought. “That’s the way I want to write. To move my readers.” If the reader doesn’t feel anything, what I have I accomplished.
I don’t enjoy writing detailed description. I would spend time in dialogue and inside my characters minds. In the past decade I’ve read mainly inspirational romance. Marta Perry and Loree Lough are two of my favorite Steeple Hill authors. They know how draw the reader into the story.
Sharon: Those sound great. Now before I let you go, I have my three trivia questions for you. I know, hurry up. You wanna dig into that Double fudge brownie delight. I’ll make it quick. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why? If you could choose a historical era in time, which would it be and why? And last but not least, if you could be the leading lady in any literary fiction, which would it be and whom would you want playing your hero?
Laurean: Let’s see. I would love to be a Southern Belle from Mississippi or Georgia, who lived on a large cotton plantation before the Civil War. It would be lovely to dress up and go to the balls and be wooed by Southern gentlemen. LOL. Life was simpler back then, though I’m not sure I would enjoy all the needlework and quilting.
If I could play Scarlett O’Hara to Clark Gable’s Rhett Butler, that would suit me fine. He had that same scoundrel-like charm that oozes from my hero, Austin in “Journey To Forgiveness.” If I couldn’t have Clark Gable, I’d take Clint Walker, the tall, muscular man who starred in “Cheyenne.” Do you remember him? I know these guys are ancient history, but I can’t think of one modern-day celebrity who has those same old-fashioned qualities, and treats a woman like a real lady.
Sharon: Of course I remember Cheyenne Bodie! Well, that brings us to the end of this very exciting interview. It’s been so much fun, Laurie, and I sure hope you come back again. You know I love you and everything about you. I wish you mega success with all you do. And I know readers will look forward to all future books by Laurean Brooks. Thank you, my friend. Now let’s dig into dessert!
Laurean: Thank you for inviting me, Sharon. I’ve had a wonderful time. And this has been such a wonderful audience. Let’s give them a big hand. (Laurean claps, then blows kisses to the audience before she digs into her Double-fudge brownie delight. Mmm-mm! Sharon, you can invite me back any time. Just stock up on fudge brownies, hot fudge sauce, and ice cream. Oh, and whipped topping.
The curtain starts to close with Sharon and Laurean waving. Laurean waves her spoon and mumbles around the hunk of brownie bulging her left cheek. “Bye, everyone. See you soon.”