Interview: Laurie Laliberte

Working with all the fantastic people that comprise the Kindle All-Stars project was like a dream come true for me. As a new writer, in the professional sense, it’s intimidating trying to get “out there,” and even after a full year of doing it I still don’t always know where I’m going. A lot of time as an independent author is spent waiting for the next opportunity to come along. Anthologies are a great place for an unknown writer to land and show off their work.

What I realized while getting to know some of the other authors involved with this project is that there are some amazing people out there that deserve to be more well-known than they are. Though I am proud of the work I have done, let’s be honest, I’m still a little unseasoned. It becomes painfully apparent when I read the words of people like Richard Roberts, Natasha Whearity, Tony Healy, Courtney Cantrell, and William Vitka. I talk to them and interact with them on Twitter daily. Not only are they incredibly talented writers, but they are friendly, pleasant, and always happy to discuss our craft. Imagine my surprise to find that the majority of these writers have less than 100 followers on Twitter. That’s just not right.

Sure, the Kindle All-Stars project has some big names attached to it, but you already know them. Who you don’t know is Laurie Laliberte. As hard as everyone worked to make this project become a reality, no one was more essential to its release than Laurie. She started out just like the rest of us—an aspiring writer looking for an outlet to share her story. But before it was all said and done, Laurie became the backbone of the entire project and earned a lifetime of respect from every person involved.

Why? How? I thought it would be best to let Laurie tell you in her own words. It’s my pleasure to have her as a guest on my blog today. Not only is Laurie my contemporary, but she’s also a dear friend. I am proud to know her, and it’s my honor to introduce her to you.


What was it that first attracted you to the Kindle All-Stars project?

I got involved for a purely selfish reason: my desire to publish. In my defense, I got involved with this whole project a day or two before Bernard made the decision to donate the proceeds to charity and I wholeheartedly embraced that idea. My KAS story is my first published fiction piece. I figured I’d take a chance and send Bernard my manuscript. I was in shock when I got the email back telling me he loved my story “except…” then the editing began.

You have two pieces of work featured in the book, but let’s start with your short story, “Fear of the Dark.” Why did you choose this story for your submission?

“Fear of the Dark” was one of those pieces that’s sat, literally, for years. Every so often I’d pull out the manuscript, give it a quick once-over, maybe tweak it a little and then tuck it away again. It’s similar to the way I’ve always handled my resume, whether I’m job hunting or not: I keep it up to date just in case I need it. I published “Fear of the Dark” on my blog earlier this year (under the title “Prey”) and it was the one piece in my fiction arsenal that I knew was closest to publication-ready. Additionally, it’s a story I’ve always loved and the one I’ve most wanted to see published.

I pulled “Prey” when I submitted it, but its sister piece, “Predator,” is still on my blog in pretty rough condition.

Most of the authors featured in this book that I’ve spoken to have all mentioned the edited process as their biggest challenge. What was it like for you?

Yeah, because I got on board so early in the project, I’ve had the opportunity to see Bernard Schaffer in action, both as a writer and an editor. He’s a tough editor, but he’s even tougher on himself. That said, I found Bernard’s editing process very easy. Most of the authors with whom I’ve spoken would not say that. I’m my own worst critic. I was also blessed with a few teachers in high school and in college who were terrific writers and extremely demanding editors, so I developed a very thick skin when it comes to my writing being critiqued by others. No amount of constructive criticism can bring me down. It simply motivates me to improve. I actually said to one of my college professors, “Stop telling me what’s right. Tell me what’s wrong so I can fix it.” That was the last college course I took.

My biggest editing challenge was leaving the story alone. After it went through its final edit, I closed the file and swore I wouldn’t look at it again. About a month later, I sent the file to a buddy, another KAS author. I reread it then, absolutely hated it, and ended up completely rewriting and resubmitting it. I’m really glad I did because I’m thrilled with the final product.

Would you describe yourself as a perfectionist or a tinkerer when it comes to finalizing your work?

I am most definitely a perfectionist, a control freak. Until I began working with Bernard, I wasn’t much of a tinkerer. Once I get a first draft down and have a direction set in my mind, I don’t really mess with it a whole lot. I take that piece or premise and expand it to get it “just so.” The benefit of working with an editor like Bernard, who is such a good writer in his own right, is that he helped me see what else could be done with this story and then set me loose with a different mindset than I originally brought to the project. He reminded me that, when it comes to writing, your only limitation is yourself and I was limiting myself. I think I was too close to this piece and rather than letting go and letting the story develop, I was holding it close and smothering it a little. Once I loosened my grip, I found the story had such potential and that’s when it really blossomed. It was emotionally draining at first, but now I’m so glad I did it because it’s definitely the best piece of fiction I’ve written to date.

What does “Fear of the Dark” mean to you personally?

Wow, first the obvious: I’m terrified of the dark. I’m not as bad as I once was, but that fear is still there. I had a LOT of nightmares as a kid, but the one that scared me the most, that I carried into adulthood, is the one that’s described in the story. I still have that nightmare occasionally. I no longer live alone, but when I did, I had night lights in almost every room of my apartment.

“Fear of the Dark,” as a project, is about me embracing, owning, and then letting go of my fears. It was really therapeutic for me. Of course, you’d have to know me to get that from reading the story.

When you first began work on your story, were there any real life elements that wound up sneaking their way in?

The biggest part of the story, the walk home from the bus stop in the dark, was the inspiration. The thought that kept me from losing my grip on my way home that night was, “I’ve got to absorb every detail, because when I get home I have to write this down.” I think I wrote the first draft the next day in all of an hour.

Every major element in the story came from my real life experiences: my own fear of the dark, the nightmare, the upstairs neighbor, even the magazine article mentioned in the story. They weren’t all presented as they occurred in real life, but they all came from real places. Even Antonio answering the door in nothing but his boxers. There’s so much of me in this story that when discussing it with my friend David Hulegaard after it was done, I told you I felt “skinned and gutted” by it.

How would you describe “Fear of the Dark” to a new reader about to sink their teeth into it?

A woman steps off a bus to find herself in the middle of a blackout. The story takes you with her on her trip home… and just a bit further. It’s written in the third person, but it’s very much a stream of consciousness story line that bounces a bit in the way that your mind would wander on a walk in the dark.

Your second piece in the book is a short essay called “We are All-Stars.” What has this project meant to you?

I really haven’t stopped to let myself think about that too much because every time I do I get completely overwhelmed. I mean, how many first time authors can say their work is appearing next to two living legends, their favorite living author, and a group of writers who’ve become very close online friends? How many people have the good fortune to recognize that they’re potentially making history? It’s just too much for me to process. Ask me five years from now and I’ll be able to answer that question, but I can’t right now because I don’t even know. This Project has the potential to literally change lives. It’s already changed mine.

How did you get from Laurie Laliberte, author of “Fear of the Dark,” to Kindle All-Stars second-in-command, La Consigliera?

Divine Providence? Dumb luck? Karma? Fate? Call it what you want to call it, it all boils down to being in the right place at the right time and answering the right tweet.

The morning after I got Bernard’s email telling me my story was officially part of the project, he tweeted that he was trying to put together a team to handle publicity. I responded. He told me to contact his point person, and we’d work from there. With 20 years in retail and a few years running my own online business, I had plenty of experience selling and dealing with social media. That, and Bernard and I just clicked. I like to think we’ve become friends. I went from offering a few suggestions about handling interviews and twitter to running interference right down the line. My biggest problem is that I have a difficult time saying no to certain people, and Bernard is a person to whom everybody has a difficult time saying no, so dealing with him in that respect is like a double whammy for me. There’s only one thing he’s asked of me that I refused and it’s more a postponement than a flat out no.

Incidentally, the nickname “la Consigliera” came about because Bernard was asked in an interview to describe my role in the KAS. He said he was the Don but I was the Consigliere, the one you really had to watch out for. Smart man.

Do you have any favorite stories in the anthology that you’re hoping readers will home in on?

That’s a tough one because I really don’t want to play favorites, but I do have a few I really love. Out of fairness, I’d rather not name names.

Bernard sent me a handful of pieces to read because we were getting close to the wire and asked me to vote yes or no on them. One in particular blew me away. I emailed him with the writer’s name and a note that said, “If I have to, I’ll fight you to the death to make sure this piece gets in.” Another made me sob when I read it the first time; one infuriated me; one made me laugh hysterically. A few have gotten under my skin to the point that I absolutely had to read more of each author’s work. I think our readers will react in a similar manner. Every piece in this book has merit and deserves to be a part of this anthology. And I think every writer will find new fans when all is said and done.

Now that you’ve had a taste of this whole book publishing process, what’s next for you? Will you write more stories?

I will continue to write; I would anyway, but this whole thing has really rekindled my love of writing fiction. I’ve got about a zillion ideas rattling around in my brain right now. One of which I really want to pursue either as a novel or a series of novellas. However, I’ve found, through all of this that I really enjoy the proofreading/editing/publicity angle, so I’m planning on continuing that as well. I’ve already been doing that for a couple of years, just not with fiction writing specifically.

Looking back, what would you say was your favorite part of being involved with this project?

The learning experience would have to be my first because I’ve learned so much in such a short amount of time. But I wouldn’t change any of it. I’ve met so many people, forged friendships, working relationships, possible partnerships. I tweeted a few days ago that the toughest part for me will be not being in touch with Bernard every day. Yeah, it’s not going to be easy for me when we’re done here. I don’t even want to think about it. My mantra through all of this has been a line from Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “Fire bad. Tree pretty.”


LINKS:

Laurie’s Webpage: Big Girl Blog

Laurie’s Kindle All-Stars Webpage: KAS Presents: Laurie Laliberte

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