Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Writerly Wednesday ~~ Laura Martone Interview

This week's interesting tidbits and nuggets before we get to the Q&A:

You've GOTTA see what C-R-A-Z-Y Kat's up to now with her pending second book's release. Join the insanity -- enter her contest and mine (scroll down) for a chance to win prizes and signed copies of SECRET GRACES! First KAT READ NEKKID....NOW WHAT?


Our Brit blogging friend and Ms. Twit UK Rebecca Woodhead has entered the world of indie publishing. Check out the trailer she's working on! And consider joining her Word Nerd Army.


From a mommy writing group I joined ten years ago comes this announcement which I haven't investigated, but sounds interesting:

If you're stuck with your novel here's a great, new seven day novel writing course. It gently leads you through the whole novel writing process offering tips and tricks designed to make the whole writing process a joy, not a drudge!
Based on the author's experiences of running a write-a-novel-in-a-day workshop for an arts festival, the course is delivered by daily email and is completely free.

Of Local interest~~

The annual Friends of the LSU Libraries Book Bazaar is right around the corner! Publicity Coordinator Madeline Mocan says:
We've got a great selection of books -- over 60,000 volumes, including 2,500 cookbooks, tons of literature and poetry, southern fiction and history, and a mountain of contemporary trade fiction. Our cookbook section is loaded with books about Louisiana and Southern cooking.
Friends of the LSU Libraries 2010 Book Bazaar
Thursday, March 4 and Friday, March 5 - 9AM to 7PM
Saturday, March 6 - 9AM to 5PM
On the LSU Campus at the 4-H Mini-Barn and Nelson Memorial Buildings (just south of the Parker Coliseum)
Free admission. Cash or check only. Ample free parking.
For more information, call the Book Barn at 578-5925 or email

Poet powerhouse Ava Haymon has a new book of poetry out! Ava will be reading and signing copies of her WHY THE HOUSE IS MADE OF GINGERBREAD (LSU Press) on Sunday, February 28 at 4:00. Come and meet her at the Baton Rouge Gallery. 


Now, it's my pleasure to introduce blogging friend Laura Martone to y'all. (You can find out all about her and her busy writing life at her blogs/websites here, here, here, here, here and here!)

1.) What has your writing journey been like so far? It's been a bumpy journey, to say the least. I grew up an only child, surrounded by books and movies, so literature and cinema fascinated me at an early age. I enjoyed both writing and filmmaking in high school - even won a few writing awards and attended a radio/TV/film program at Northwestern University between my junior and senior years. By the time I was ready for college, I knew I wanted to focus on three kinds of writing: fiction, screenwriting, and travel journalism. So, I returned to Northwestern for two undergraduate degrees - a B.A. in English and a B.S. in Radio/TV/Film. While there, I was accepted into two two-year writing programs: The Theory and Practice of Fiction and Creative Writing in the Media. That was my first foray into critique groups, and boy, those college kids were harsh.

I landed a technical writing job (ick!) at a now-defunct educational multimedia company near Chicago, and I wrote a few online articles for Sidewalk Chicago (the precursor to Citysearch). Although my technical writing job was somewhat awful, I did meet my future husband there. Soon afterward, we both quit our jobs and moved to England, where I started (but didn't finish) a novel. When we returned to Chicago, we both found lucrative marketing jobs at the kind of Internet start-ups that tempted us to work long hours in exchange for beanbag chairs, free bagels and ice cream, and pool tables. Not long afterward, we both decided we'd had enough of the corporate life, so we sold all our furniture and hit the road in an RV, our kitty in tow.

I wrote an online ecotourism column for The Ecotourism Observer and sent queries to travel magazines. My first magazine article was a piece about South Padre Island, Texas, in MotorHome magazine. After writing a few more articles (for MotorHome, RV Journal, and Route 66 Magazine), I started updating travel guides for Insight Guides. Eventually, I started working for Avalon Travel until I finally had the chance to write my own guide. Since then, I've written the first edition of Moon Baja RV Camping and the third edition of Moon Michigan, joined the Society of American Travel Writers, and started work on the first edition of Moon Florida Keys.

When I'm not doing the travel thing, keeping up with my blogs, beta-reading my friends' novels, or helping my husband with our two film festivals, I try to squeeze in time to work on my current novel - which is technically my second one (the first being the one I started in England). After working on it, I finally thought it was ready for the querying stage this past spring, but the invaluable beta-reading process taught me otherwise. So, as soon as I've finished my latest travel guide, I'll be hard at work on the revision. In the meantime, I'll keep learning what I can from the ever-informative blogosphere.

2.) How far along on the WIP trail are you, what's it about, and what comes next? My work-in-progress is actually done, but it's way too long at the moment - so I'm in the midst of the revision process. During the summer, I summoned the aid of several different beta readers to help me see what I clearly cannot…which characters, scenes, and other tidbits are simply not necessary.

The WIP is tentatively called Hollow Souls. The premise is pretty simple: A woman longs to return to her childhood home, a secret underground village in southern Kentucky, where her first love lives, but she's reluctant to abandon her husband and daughters back in New Orleans.

Once I'm finished with what I hope will be the final revision of Hollow Souls, I plan to query potential agents. And while I'm querying, I intend to work on my second novel, the coming-of-age, road-trip tale titled Red Road Crossing that I started in England.

3.) Do you find it hard to build your blog and author platform while writing and thinking about the next step -- querying? Most writers have to juggle multiple tasks these days - besides family, friends, hobbies, perhaps a day job, maybe even classes, and, of course, the works-in-progress, there's now the added pressure of building an author platform before, during, and after a book is published. Like others I know, I definitely find it challenging to squeeze so much into a single day. For several years, I locked myself away (so to speak) and focused on my fiction writing - when I wasn't working a full-time job or spending quality time with the hubby. Earlier this year, I finally decided to come out of hiding and explore the big, bad world of publishing - and goodness, I was in for a shock. Although I'd already created a temporary website for my novel, I had yet to take the blogging plunge. Now, however, in addition to my "real" work as a travel guidebook author and film festival co-director, I'm juggling four blogs - one about my novel, one about travel, one that gets the creative juices flowing, and one about all of that and more.

Here's the funny part, though: I haven't found it hard to build my blog and author platform while writing and querying. I've found it hard to write and query while I'm building my blog and author platform. In other words, I'm having so much fun blogging that I'm finding it difficult to work on my revision - which is obviously a necessary step before querying. I've found the blogosphere incredibly rewarding. I've met so many wonderfully generous writers - some of whom have even been willing to help me with my novel - and I've learned so much about the craft of writing and the state of publishing. I know that I'll soon have to minimize my blogging activity - a fact that honestly makes me a little sad.

4.) Tell us what it's like living in THREE different states! Yes, it's true. The hubby and I have trouble keeping still for long. After we left Chicago in an RV, we roamed around the country for about a year before settling down in Los Angeles, where we run the Beverly Hills Shorts Festival. But after about five years, we grew a little weary of the southern California vibe - and decided to hit the road again. So, for the past four years, we've divided our time between New Orleans (my hometown and site of our other film fest), where we spend the spring and fall; Los Angeles, where we spend the winter; and northern Michigan, where we spend the summer.

Obviously, we avoid extreme heat and extreme cold by traveling this way - and getting to know three distinct places has definitely helped with my travel writing career. Of course, we appreciate the uniqueness of each locale, but part of why we travel so often is that neither of us has found the perfect place yet. We both like the vitality of urban areas like New Orleans and the peace of isolated rural areas like northern Michigan - so our current nomadic existence fulfills us in a way that staying in one spot wouldn't. When we tire of the city, we move on to the country - and when the quiet begins to drive us mad, we return to the people (and the traffic) of the city.

It's certainly not the life for everyone, but it works for us. It would be a different situation if we had children - which we don't. And luckily, our kitty doesn't mind traveling around the country with us. Honestly, the only drawback is the frequent packing (and unpacking). That part I could do without.

5.) What's the best pieces of writing and blogging advice you've gotten? Wow. This is probably the hardest question. Since April, when I first entered the blogosphere and discovered how helpful blogs and beta readers could be, I've learned so many wonderful tips for writing, revising, and blogging. Some bloggers, in particular, have been most helpful - namely Nathan Bransford (who provides invaluable information about agents and publishing in general) and Susan Mills (who helps to navigate her fellow writers through the ins and outs of writing, revising, and preparing for the professionals).

But perhaps the best pieces of advice I've received have come from my beta readers. Regarding writing, all of them are in agreement that I need to scale back on descriptions, let the reader's imagination fill in the details, and start "showing" what I keep trying to "tell" - so that readers live, feel, and think through my characters, instead of just being told what they're experiencing. It might sound like obvious advice to most writers, but for me, it's been a hard lesson to learn. After all, one of my favorite authors is Charles Dickens, and he was definitely a "tell versus show" kind of guy.

Weronika Janczuk, one of my beta readers, has offered a treasure trove of information over the past several months - from hints about book covers to tips for getting the most out of beta-reading. In a three-part series entitled "A Blogger's Life," she offered some invaluable advice about improving the look of one's blog - by doing things like adding photos and breaking up the content - advice that definitely informs one of my own blogs.

6.) Do you write in any other genres? At the moment, literary/mainstream fiction seems to come most naturally to me, but I once sold an erotic short story and a horror screenplay that I co-wrote with my husband, and I intend to complete my horror, mystery, and fantasy WIPs in the future. I must admit, too, that I've always wanted to write Westerns - I think it's the rugged landscape that inspires me most.

7.) Fill in the blank: "I wish I'd have known __________ before I started seriously working on my novel." This might sound a little too simplistic, but I wish I would've known the acceptable word count ranges for a debut novel before I started seriously working on Hollow Souls, which is currently way too long for most agents and publishers. When you've written, revised, proofread, and repeated said process more times than is sane - and found it harder to see the story clearly each time - that's when beta readers and their varying perspectives become invaluable. Without them, I'd have found it difficult to attempt yet another revision - no matter how necessary it is.

8.) Tell me something about yourself or your writing life that I didn't know to ask. Nothing's too strange or crazy for Gumbo Writer readers. Well, when I was little, I was obsessed with knives - collected them every chance I got. I never used them, mind you - I just found them amazing. Even my high school boyfriend participated in the mania, giving me several knives over the years. Of course, this was also the boyfriend who let me play with his pet tarantula, scorpion, iguana, and pythons.
As for my writing life, well, music inspires me when I write, but for the most part, I can only listen to classical music and movie scores - nothing with lyrics, which only confuse me while I'm writing. Strangely enough, though, I can listen to Willie Nelson and Tracy Chapman - neither of whom disturbs the flow of my writing. I'm still not sure why their music resonates with me and doesn't interfere with my creative energy, but if it ain't broke, don't fix it, righ?

Thanks for interviewing me, Angie. I enjoy gabbing with a fellow Louisianian!

You can also find Laura on Twitter and Facebook:


Carrie Wilson Link said...

Great interview, Angie, thank you!

Angie Ledbetter said...

She's an interesting person with so many irons in the fire, hunh? Thanks for commenting Carrie. :)

Diane said...

Fun interview. The traveling would be great. I guess always have a suitcase ready to see where adventure takes you is a good way to live. :O)

Jessica said...

Wow, she's such an interesting person! And she has a really cool life! I love it. Thanks for the interview. I know what she means about loving blogging more than the wip. LOL
Good luck with Hollow Souls!

Deb@RGRamblings said...

Thanks for the great interview Angie and Laura. I'm always amazed and inspired by Laura's adventures and the time she still manages to devote to her many writing projects. Go Laura! Nice to see you out and about:) Best of luck hitting your deadline - there's no doubt in my mind that you'll get there on time!

Debbie said...

Loved this interview, Angie. It is always so nice to get inside someone's head just a little!

Angie Ledbetter said...

Diane - I'd love to try it for a month or two. Talk about blow the cobwebs offa my life. LOL

Jessica - Same for me! So interesting to see how other writers carve out a unique life for themselves and STILL get their writing dreams accomplished.

Thank YOU Deb. :D

Debbie - It is always fascinating to me to see how someone carves out a rich writing life for themselves.

L.T. Elliot said...

Wow! That's one busy life! Thanks for the great links and the interview!

Kathryn Magendie said...

Looking forward to reading the interview! and thanks for the other linkages! :-)

Kathryn Magendie said...

Loved the interview - and those parts on publishing business and blogging and etc - right on, yes...!

Oh, and my first draft of what became the VK novel was wayyyyy too long - like you, I didn't think of word counts, I just wrote it!

Angie Ledbetter said...

You're welcome L.T.

Hey Kat. Glad you enjoyed!

Weronika Janczuk said...

What a wonderful interview! Laura, you're so interesting! :-)

Thanks for the plug, too.

Laura Martone said...

Thanks for the newsy links, Angie - and for interviewing me. Boy, what a long-winded cat I am!

Ironically, I'm late in commenting because I'm on the road yet again - headed from the Big Easy to the City of Angels... and my wireless Internet is temperamental in Texas, to say the least.

Anyhoo, thanks again! (Hope to meet ya the next time I'm in the Red Stick City.)

Laura Martone said...

Oh, and thanks, everyone, for the nice words about my crazy life. It's not for everyone - I can assure you - but it seems to work for me, the hubby, and the sleeping kitty. I swear, between the three of us, she's hands-down the best traveler! ;-)

Kittie Howard said...

Loved the interview, Angie. Very, very informative. And I'd love to go the LSU book fair, sigh!

Marguerite said...

Great interview with one of my favorite bloggers. I have been following Laura for quite some time now and she's the best! Her writing and her lifestyle is fabulous! Thanks for the linkage, sha!

Angie Ledbetter said...

Weronica - Thanks for stopping by!

Laura - Would be GREAT to meet one day when your wheels are passing through here, or I come down to the Big Easy. :) Happy travels!

Thank you Kittie. I'm hoping to get to the Book Bazaar myself.

Glad you enjoyed, Marguerite. Small world getting smaller. I think both of y'all have wonderful and amazing lifestyles! ;)

Travis Erwin said...

Nice interview. Always love to "meet" other writers.

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.

Deb Shucka said...

Thanks for another great interview, Angie. Laura sounds like a great person to know.

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