Interview With An Author: Laurie R. King

by | Oct 8, 2015 | Author Spotlight, Interview With An Author, The Writing Life, Writing Career | 13 comments

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laurie r. king

In our Interview With An Author series, Writer’s Relief asks professional writers to share their tried-and-true secrets for publishing success.

New York Times Bestseller Laurie R. King is the author of thirteen Mary Russell mysteries; five contemporary novels featuring Kate Martinelli; the Stuyvesant & Grey novels Touchstone and The Bones of Paris; and A Darker Place, Folly, and Keeping Watch. The trade paperback version of her Mary Russell thriller Dreaming Spies was just released on October 6, 2015.

CONTEST: Leave a comment by October 16, and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Laurie’s book Dreaming Spies! U.S. residents only. DEADLINE EXTENDED TO OCTOBER 19! This contest is now closed. The winner will be announced shortly! 

Every writer has to learn how the publishing business works. How did you do it?

I am among the last generation of writers before the e-revolution—so for me, learning was a matter of seeing how my agent and publisher did it for me. Hard to believe, but once upon a time, writers were invited (firmly) to go away and write their books, leaving the selling of books to their publishers.

Ah, those were the days.

What role does social media play in staying connected to readers and/or building an audience?

It’s been amazing to watch a community come to life around the Russell & Holmes series: these stories I tell myself create actual friendships in the real world. And although there are meet-ups at conventions or during a tour, the glue holding us together tends to be social media. I have kept a blog (“Mutterings”) since 2005; I’m active on Facebook; there’s a Laurie R King YouTube channel; I Skype with libraries and book groups; and I find Pinterest a great way to show the visual background of the various novels.

The Russell community has its own toys, too, that they occasionally let me play with: the Virtual Book Club on Goodreads; a fan fiction site (“Letters of Mary”); and Twitter, where a fervent Friend of Russell helps me keep in touch. Did you know there were Twitter parties, where a dozen—or a hundred—Twitter-ers can get together for virtual wine, tea, and conversation? Quite mad, but loads of fun.

Each of these is useful in its own way, and—a separate matter entirely—each touches a different portion of the reading community. Some people participate in both fan fiction and the book club; others follow Russell’s Tweets; some are happy merely to read my blog posts.

What was the biggest stumbling block or frustration for you so far, and how did you overcome it?

For a bestselling author to bemoan her frustrations and difficulties makes for some large crocodile tears. I bless my good fortune every day. Do I wish readers adored my standalone novels as much as they love Russell and Holmes? Do I wish the crime genre in general and women writers in particular got reviewed more prominently? Would I like to write the correct draft my first time out rather than spend months undoing matters in the rewrite? Do I wish my publishers would dedicate their entire year’s publicity budget to Laurie R. King? Yes, yes, definitely yes, and…well, maybe.

For the most part, my stumbling blocks and frustrations come from my own limitations. I wish I could write more hours every day, and that short stories were easier for me. I absolutely wish I were able to write a flawless first draft—or, failing that, a decent outline that I could follow for more than two chapters.

But for all of these, my answer has been the same: I do what I can. I write as many hours, as many short stories as possible—and try not to harass myself with the idea that I could do better. I accept the reviews and the publicity budgets I am given, and do what I can to fill in the gaps. I write as precise a first draft as I can—and allow myself to produce sheer rubbish, knowing I’ll fix it later.

A very Californian attitude, isn’t it? Well, my people have been here for several generations: Acceptance is what we do.

You’ve said that you like to set your characters’ adventures in times and places that let you “play with wider issues.” Can you say more about how that plays out in Dreaming Spies?

I am fascinated by how a series of small decisions and events can lead to huge world trends, and have found the novel an ideal way to explore those small events—from all sides. Palestine under the British Protectorate (O Jerusalem); northern India as the Independence movement was building (The Game)—one sees tinder being laid for the upcoming conflagration.

As I researched Dreaming Spies, I found that in the twenties, the young Emperor Hirohito loved The West—clothing, music, politics, the role of kingship that he saw in England. The book takes place when certain decisions were being made, both in America and Japan, which would have disastrous consequences. In a historical novel, the characters are living those events, blithe to their future—while at the same time, the writer can give her reader a gentle nudge as if to say, We know where this is going, don’t we? And like a horror movie, we really don’t want these characters we love to go into that room…but they do.

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How did you get your first literary agent?

I looked in the back of Writer’s Market, back in 1987, and found five agencies in San Francisco. (I didn’t believe in New York. Still not too sure about it…) I wrote to each of them, sending a couple of chapters of the two books I’d finished. Agency one said their client list was full up. The second said they liked the one but not the other. Number three said they liked the other, but not the one. Number four said they’d be happy to read the books if I’d send them $385 for each. And the fifth was Linda Allen, who liked the books, thought they needed work, and ended up representing me until her retirement last year.

In one sentence, what’s your best piece of advice for getting a book published?

Write your passion, not what you think the market wants: the book you simply have to write, the book you’d love to read.

Dreaming Spies cover

About Dreaming Spies

After a lengthy case that had the couple traipsing all over India, Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes, are on their way to California via cruising steamer, with a planned stop in southern Japan. Aboard the ship, intrigue stirs almost immediately. Russell meets a young Japanese woman who agrees to tutor the couple in Japanese—but whom Russell suspects is not who she claims to be. When the ship docks in Japan, Russell’s suspicions are confirmed. From Tokyo to Oxford, Russell and Holmes race to solve a mystery that could topple an empire.

CONTEST: Leave a comment by October 16, and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Laurie’s book Dreaming Spies! U.S. residents only. DEADLINE EXTENDED TO OCTOBER 19! This contest is now closed. The winner will be announced shortly! 

 

Follow Laurie on Twitter and Facebook.

 

13 Comments

  1. Mary Diane Hausman

    How wonderful to see one of my all- time favorite authors interviewed by my all-time favorite author’s submission service!! Love, love, love Laurie R. King and can’t get enough of Russell and Holmes. So glad a new book is out!!
    Great interview-thanks so much!

    Reply
  2. Adrienne Haynes

    Thank you for advice on publishing! I have always been nervous pertaining to that area both because of money and I do not want anyone changing anything I wrote. I wish I could do it but I do not know anything about publishing or how to get started.
    By the way, I love the Russell series. A friend recommended them to me as I have always loved Holmes but you add a certain level of life to him.
    Thank you again!

    Reply
  3. Jane Murray

    Thanks for a ton of great advice! Looking forward to your next book … and I have actually read most of your others as well, not just Russell and Holmes

    Reply
  4. Ruby Kleinschmidt

    Thanks for the great advice.

    Reply
  5. Sandra brewster

    I’ve read most of Larie R King’s books too, but the Russell/Holmes series are my favorites. Thanks for the advice.

    Reply
  6. Ingrid Gadpaille

    You said that you “tell these stories to yourself”; do you find that the stories carry you along? As in, you’re writing one, and because of situations created in that story line, the possibility of another story line appears?
    I really love “Folly” and the Kate Martinelli series, I recommend them and the Russell/Holmes books to anyone that asks!

    Reply
  7. Erin

    Great interview! I’d be excited to win her book. Thanks!

    Reply
  8. Victoria Marie Lees

    As always, this information is truly helpful to me as a writer. Wonderful interview here. Thanks for sharing this with your readers. I love suspense novels and will need to check out Laurie’s new novel. Congratulations, Laurie, on Dreaming Spies.

    Reply
  9. Sarah

    Thanks for a great interview with one of my fave authors. I adore her crime books and stand-alone novels (nearly) as much as I love the Mary Russell series. Looking forward to reading ‘Dreaming Spies’.

    Reply
  10. Nate Baustad

    Thanks for the opportunity. Would love to give it a read!

    Reply
  11. Elizabeth Thorpe

    When my kids were in middle school, every night I read another chapter in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series. They were familiar with Conan Doyle’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes’ clever thoughts and exploits, so whenever someone wanted to pat a family member on the back for cleverness, we told him or her that s/he belonged to the Sherlock Holmes Club. Enter Mary. Now, it is an even bigger honor to be told they belong to the Mary Russell Club. Thanks for creating a sharp female literary hero for my daughters – and my sons.

    … loved the advice to write what you want to read, rather than what you think other people want.

    Reply
  12. Lotus

    Thanks for a great interview! I have read and enjoyed ALL of Laurie King’s books–would love to see more of Kate Martinelli!

    Reply
  13. Katie Bjorklund

    Would love a chance to win this book by one of my favorite authors. Thank you for the chance to win. Great interview.

    Reply

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