Monday, May 26, 2014

Interview Feature: C. E. Laureano

So the other day, dear imps, I was browsing about on Amazon, and suddenly a certain cover caught my eye. It was this one:

Naturally I was bound to click on it and discover what more I could! And I discovered this description:

In a kingdom where the Old Ways hold fast and a man’s worth lies entirely in his skill with the sword, Conor Mac Nir is a scholar, a musician, and a follower of the forbidden Balian faith: problematic for any man, but disastrous for the son of the king.

When Conor is sent as a hostage to a neighboring kingdom, he never expects to fall in love with the rival king’s sister, Aine. Nor does he suspect his gift with the harp (and Aine’s ability to heal) touches on the realm of magic. Then his clan begins a campaign to eliminate all Balians from the isle of Seare, putting his newfound home in peril and entangling him in a plot for control of the island that has been unfolding since long before his birth.

Only by committing himself to an ancient warrior brotherhood can Conor discover the part he’s meant to play in Seare’s future. But is he willing to sacrifice everything—even the woman he loves—to follow the path his God has laid before him?
I found then that I could not rest until I had hunted down the authoress herself and invited her to come and be introduced to all of you! So I hope you will enjoy meeting Carla Laureano and learning more about her work. Also, she has generously offered a giveaway copy to one lucky reader, so be certain to enter the Rafflecopter down at the bottom of this post!

First, though, here is a little about Carla herself:

C.E. LAUREANO has held many jobs—including professional marketer, small-business consultant, and martial arts instructor— but writer is by far her favorite. Her first novel, Five Days in Skye, was recently chosen as a double-finalist in the RWA’s 2014 RITA Awards. Oath of the Brotherhood marks her fantasy debut.


Welcome to the Tales of Goldstone Wood blog! First of all, would you mind telling us a little about yourself? Hobbies, personality . . . tea or coffee? 

C.E.--Hmm. I wish I could say I have hobbies, but I’ve had such tight deadlines lately, I haven’t done a whole lot that qualifies. I do read and knit, and one of these days, I’ll manage to get myself back into ballet or martial arts, both of which I’ve studied seriously in the past. 

Personality? Um. Big? Loud? I love being with friends, and I love to laugh. I try not to take life too seriously, but my friends tell me I can be pretty intense. I’m definitely driven and self-motivated, which is probably a nice way of saying a little bit obsessive. 

And I love tea, but tea doesn’t love me, so I drink mostly coffee. Still, there’s nothing like a proper English cuppa. 

What led you into the writing life? Were you always a storyteller? How did you get into publishing? 

C.E. -- I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I remember. I wrote my first short story at the age of 7. In college, I studied English literature, edited the literary journal for a semester, and began submitting stories to magazines. I also began my second novel, a fantasy (the first was a really terrible historical I wrote my junior year of high school), which I can assure you will never see the light of day. It’s almost as bad as the first!

It took me years to write the story that became Oath of the Brotherhood, between working full time, lots of corporate travel, and eventually having kids. When my youngest turned two, I decided it was time to dig out the manuscript, polish it up, and send it out. I joined ACFW, found a critique group, and within a year, I had a book contract. I guess it’s true that timing really is everything! It like to call it my “twenty year overnight success story.” When I finally got serious about publishing, it happened quickly, but it took a long time to get to that point. 

Tell us a little about your work! Oath of the Brotherhood is your first fantasy but not your first novel, right? What was your debut novel? 

C.E. -- Oath of the Brotherhood is my first fantasy novel, and it was actually the first book that I sold. The first book to be released, though, was my contemporary romance, Five Days in Skye. I’m hugely blessed (and more than a little stunned!) that it was chosen as a double-finalist in RWA’s RITA Awards this year.

I’m one of those weird writers who works best when I don’t take much time off, but I can’t focus on one genre all day, every day. I like publishing in multiple genres because it gives me a chance to let my brain rest in between drafts, but I can still continue to write. 

Now do tell us about Oath of the Brotherhood. How long have you been work on it? Did it present any unusual challenges? Is it part of a series or a stand-alone? 

C. E. -- Oath of the Brotherhood went through multiple drafts over a five year period before I ever submitted it. Then of course, there’s the submission time, and an editorial process that took almost 18 months. So this book has been an eight year journey from start to finish.

This is definitely the most ambitious project I’ve taken on. It is a trilogy, and each book is pretty long for Christian fiction, almost 450 pages each. Giving each book its own storyline while sustaining an overall arc for the three books in the series is way more challenging than I anticipated. I have a whole new respect for TV writers! 

Can you pick a favorite character from this new novel? 

C.E. -- I love all of them, but my favorite has to be my main character, Conor. He starts out as an uncertain, scholarly boy with lots of insecurities, and he ends up being a pretty awesome hero. And it’s been really fun to write the duality of the character: he’s forced to make himself into the type of person he never wanted to be—a warrior—but he doesn’t want to lose his true identity in the process. 

What inspires your work? Where do you turn when you need a renewal of inspiration? 

C.E. --  I love stories of all sorts, so when I feel myself running low, I retreat with a stack of books and a bunch of movies. Oddly enough, the breakthrough of my plot for the second book in this series came while I was in the theater watching Star Trek: Into Darkness. JJ Abrams is a great storyteller, and he understands the Hero’s Journey better than almost anyone.

I can usually tell when I’m in need of spiritual renewal because I find the faith thread nearly impossible to write. It’s a signal I need to take some time away from work, read my Bible and a devotional or listen to a Bible study podcast. As a writer, it’s very easy to take more out of the tank than you’re putting back in.
What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the writing process? 

C.E. -- I’ll admit it. I hate first drafts. I write them as quickly as possible, just to get everything down on the page. But I truly love the editing process. There’s something satisfying about taking the raw material and transforming it into something that someone might actually want to read! And I do lots of drafts. Lots of them. My editors think I’m a little insane. 

If you were forced to pick a single favorite author, who would it be? 

C.E. -- Oh, that is just mean! It’s like picking a favorite child. But the author who has had the biggest influence on my writing would have to be Guy Gavriel Kay. I can trace my decision to write historically-based fantasy directly to his books. He’s an amazing writer. 

What are you actively writing right now? 

C.E. --  I’ve got two projects going simultaneously, including another contemporary romance. But the current focus is drafting the third book in the fantasy series. This is definitely the most challenging of the three, but I’m happy with the way it’s shaping up. (This is the third “first draft” I’ve written so far, by the way. Told ya. Insane.) 

Would you share a short snippet from Oath of the Brotherhood? 

C.E. -- Sure! This is from the first chapter, where Conor returns from fosterage to realize his homecoming might not be as welcoming or as safe as he initially thought. His father, the king, is being advised by what he thinks is a Red Druid, and he has odd gaps in his memory about the castle itself.
Excerpt from

It was bad enough he was about to face his father and explain why he had not yet laid hands on a sword. Now he might have to contend with a Red Druid, whose kind were notorious and ruthless inquisitors, a man who looked at him as if he already knew Conor’s most dangerous secret.
He forced down his unease and stripped off his travel-stained garments. His skin prickled, but a quick glance over his shoulder assured him the door remained closed. He slid quickly into the bath’s meager concealment. Breathe. They couldn’t know. Labhrás had been careful. No books of Scripture or religious symbols had come with them, and Dolan’s discretion was unquestionable.
If the king found out, it would take only a whisper to destroy Labhrás’s status in the kingdom. Galbraith may have relaxed the restrictions on Balianism during his reign, but not so long ago, adherence to the forbidden faith would have landed their severed heads beside the keep’s gate. Even now, Balian converts did not retain possession of their lands and titles for long.
Lord Balus, protect us, Conor prayed silently, not daring to give voice to the words. May You be the shield between us and our enemies. May You be the Light that guides our path. May everything we do further the work of Your kingdom.

He let out a long, shuddering sigh and sank further into the warm water, concentrating on moving his breath in and out of his lungs. Inch by inch, he forced his mind away from his worries. He could not afford to seem afraid here. To show any discomfort would only make them wonder what he was hiding.

He sat bolt upright in the bath, sloshing water over the sides. He whipped his head around, looking for the source of the whispered voice.
I know what you conceal, Conor. Soon, they all will. I can protect you.

Gooseflesh prickled his skin, and the warm water turned cold. “Who’s there? Show yourself!”

Join me, Conor. You’ll be safe . . .


Thank you so much for sharing with us today, Carla! Best of luck with your launch.

So tell me, dear imps: Aren't you excited to try her story now?

Don't miss out on this giveaway opportunity and the chance to tell others about this exciting new fantasy. And be sure to thank C. E. Laureano for visiting!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Joy said...

Wow, this sure sounds like a wonderful fantasy trilogy, and I am glad it is also a Christian fantasy! I am very curious to read the book thanks to the intriguing synopsis and the snippet scene as well - a story of the son of the king who is a musician but called to be a warrior really piques my interest. Also the cover is gorgeous!!

How true it is, that we should keep our hearts enriched in God's Word - we cannot write the truth of Christ's love, when we are not dwelling and abiding in it ourselves daily.

It is encouraging to hear that sometimes a book can take a long time to write and be ready for publication, such as yours, Ms. Laureano. Also, that you've been pursing writing for so long, since childhood, high-school and university encourages me that the process takes its time, I do not need to rush things. I also have a hard time with first drafts! :) I do have a question, though - how do you know, as you work on the first draft, that the route you're taking for the story is the right one? If you are hesitant, and have new ideas for the story, do you continue through with it and rework things later, or restart the draft? I keep re-starting my drafts which sometimes is very frustrating.

Unknown said...

Haha, I love what you say about drafts! It's so hard getting everything on the page before you can get artistic with it...

You mention that you write historically based fantasy. On what country/time period did you base Oath of the Brotherhood, and what sort of research did you do before and while writing it?


Sarah Pennington said...

Yeeps! The excerpt . . . I must know more! This was already on my TBR list, but now I want to read it even more!

Question for Ms. Laureano: If you could trade places with one of your characters, who would you pick?

Psalms w guitar said...

Sounds really good! My six-year-old really likes to read about guys with music and swords. What age group are you targeting?

Carla Laureano said...

JOY - Thanks so much for your nice words. (I like the cover, too. Kirk DouPounce is an amazing designer, and he captured the book perfectly.)

You asked the million-dollar question about drafts: How do I know it's the right one? Hmm. For me, I think a lot comes down to intuition. I don't always know until I'm finished if something works or not. That's why it's important to read excellent authors in your genre. I really do believe you start to develop an innate sense of story and genre conventions after a while. I mentioned that I'm on the third "first draft," because the first two didn't feel right. Well, I ended up combining my favorite bits from the first two and rewriting the ending from scratch to bring the two together. I'm calling it Franken-novel, but I like the way it's coming together finally. I think my subconscious knew what bits I wanted in there, and it took a while for me to catch on. Or maybe God just heeded those desperate cries for help. Probably both!

ALLISON - The Song of Seare series is based on dark ages Ireland, between the third and the seventh century. (The beauty of writing fantasy is that I was able to pick and choose from about four hundred years.) I did extensive research on Ireland, buying out-of-print books on ebay and cleaning out the university libraries of books on the subject. I took the cultural conventions, societal structure, and law of Ireland, mixed it with a bit of Irish myth and heroic stories and made up a completely different history for my imaginary world. Which is exactly why I no longer write historical. I love tinkering too much!

SARAH - So glad you're looking forward to it. Honestly, I'd prefer to change places with a contemporary character because they have much easier lives. But if we're talking strictly fantasy, I'd pick Aine. Among other things, she has a magical ability to touch someone and know what ails them--so she then knows how to heal them. I think that would come in pretty handy!

Psalms w guitar - My boys love guys with music and swords, too (and light sabers - they're Jedi crazy.) These books are targeted to older teens and adults, 15+. I think the first book would be okay for a mature younger reader, but like Harry Potter, the later books in the series get darker and heavier. I'll probably let my own kids read these in junior high, depending on their maturity.

Mary Weber said...

Fabulous interview, ladies!! And Carla, I cannot wait to get this one in my clutches, girl. Love, love, love the excerpt you shared!!!! ;0)

Hannah said...

Sounds like quite the intriguing story! I must look more into this!

What inspired the concept of this series?

Jenelle Leanne said...

Your books sound fantastic! I will have to put them on my wishlist... my ever-growing wishlist... :)

Okay... as a fellow mother/author, I have to know, when do you find time and motivation to write and edit?

Sarah Cnossen said...

Wow. I am speechless! This book sounds fantastic!!! I want to read it now! :D

Marvelous interview! Thanks for sharing.

Anna said...

This looks like a fantastic book! The cover is beautiful.

Why did you decide to base your world off of Ireland?

Ryebrynn said...

That cover is amazing! The book also sounds really, really interesting.

What part of writing is hardest for you to write, and what methods do you use to get through it?


Carla Laureano said...

Oh no, I got so far behind! Forgive me everyone...

MARY - Thank so much for the nice words. I can't wait for yours too! Looks awesome.

HANNAH – I was reading a lot of both adventure-based epic fantasy and Celtic fantasy, but they were all slanted either towards a secular humanist or pagan outlook. I wanted to meld my favorite elements of the two genres from a Christian perspective. Plus, the history of Ireland is so interesting on its own!

JENELLE – When my children were very young, I wrote to have a creative and intellectual outlet. Once I started to seriously pursue publication, I treated it as a job, with word count goals and writing hours. It turns out to have been a good habit, because as my kids get older and busier, it’s even more important that I protect that time to make sure I meet my deadlines. As far as motivation… mostly the love for my stories keeps me going, but in the low points (and there are low points!) it’s the discipline and habit that carries me forward!

SARAH – Thanks for the nice words. I hope you enjoy it!

ANNA – I mentioned this a little in my response to Hannah above, but I’ve always loved Ireland, helped along in part by some wonderful (now out of print) Irish historicals by Jeanne Williams. When I visited while studying abroad in college, I felt this inexplicable connection to the place. My part-Irish blood maybe? I knew I would eventually write a book set in Ireland, but at the time, I never expected to use it as the basis for a fantasy novel!

RYEBRYNN – Once more, major props to my amazing cover designer, Kirk DouPounce! I love it too. The hardest part of writing? The whole first draft. Tools of choice? Lots of coffee and a strict daily word count plan. I used to have a Twizzler and chocolate addiction, but I realized that writing several books a year fueled completely by candy wasn’t a great choice, so I cut back to caffeine only.:)

Thanks for making me feel so welcome, guys! And thanks again for hosting me, Anne Elisabeth!

CrazyRead said...

Must. Get. Book!

This sounds amazing!
Qs for C.E. Laureano:
What was your inspiration for the series? (specific Bible verse or a hodgepodge?)
Why is the first draft hardest for you?
Do you have a special mug you drink from? (perhaps from cafepress(dot)com? :) )
Thanks! Looking forward to a good read!


Miss Megan said...

Wow! What a fabulous authoress you are. Congratulations Carla on making it this far in your authoring journey! All the best in the future.

Anonymous said...

This book sounds amazing