Laura Golden is the author of EVERY DAY AFTER, a middle grade novel about a young girl learning to let go and find her own way amidst the trials of the Great Depression and the forthcoming STANDING TALL ON MULBERRY HILL, another middle grade about Klan uprisings and true friendship beyond color lines in 1949 Birmingham, AL. Find out more about Laura and her books by visiting her website or chatting with her on Twitter.
INTERVIEW WITH LAURA GOLDEN:
How did you get started writing?
I started writing because I stink at everything else. Not kidding. When I was in my early-20s, and a new mother, I began to search for a creative outlet—something that would allow me to feel useful outside of motherhood. Painting, learning a foreign language, going back to college—all these and more I started and then abruptly stopped. I either wasn’t good at them (painting) or they weren’t satisfying me in ways I had hoped (college).
One day I came across an ad for the Institute of Children’s Literature and I signed up for the course. During the two years it took to complete the course, I discovered Verla Kay’s Blueboards and the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). I read, I listened, I learned. I never looked back. Through rejections and writer’s block, I kept pushing forward. My husband will tell you that writing is the one thing I’ve stuck with. He would be telling you truth. Writing allows me the means and the freedom to share my deepest thoughts and convictions publicly using my author’s voice, thoughts I wouldn’t be brave enough to share using my physical voice. That is more satisfying than I ever could have imagined.
Who influenced you?
I have always been a reader, even as kid. But during my late teen years, and up until I decided to give writing a chance, my reading life all but dried up. Many of the authors who have influenced me as an author come from my adulthood, not my childhood. I had heard time and again that writers must read, and read a lot. Once I determined I wanted to write a middle grade novel, I headed straight to the library and checked out a stack of Newbery winners. The first book I read was BUD, NOT BUDDY by Christopher Paul Curtis. I couldn’t put it down. And when I read the last line, I knew I wanted to write books like his. The next book I read was Susan Patron’s THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY. I was equally taken with it, especially with Lucky and the book’s expertly drawn setting. Other authors I admire and study are Kate DiCamillo, Katherine Paterson (whose JACOB HAVE I LOVED is my all-time favorite book), and Richard Peck.
Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?
Well, I’ve shared my favorite book, so I’ll share another of my favorites, which not surprisingly has to do with my favorite book: my favorite character, Sara Louise Bradshaw. Yes, she can be whiny and irritating, but that’s what makes her real to me. Real people can be really irritating, can’t they? The point is that we all have within us the power to change, and Louise does that. She makes the journey from feeling victimized by her circumstances to finding forgiveness and making peace, not only with others, but also with herself. To me, that’s the point of story—to illustrate that flaws create growth.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?
Read. And not just for pleasure. I refer to other authors’ published works as my textbooks. I study them for plot, dialogue, characterization and setting. I think hard about what does and does not work for me within a story and why. Richard Peck once said that we write by the light of every book we ever read (or something along those lines), and I agree. He also said that nobody but a reader ever became a writer (or something along those lines), and again, I agree. Reading will teach you craft better than the best of conferences and workshops. And it’s a fraction of the cost.
Where is your favorite place to write?
I don’t have a dedicated office space at the moment. My old office has been given to my youngest son so he could have a separate bedroom from his older brother. My books and papers are currently piled onto my dining room table or neatly shelved on bookcases in our basement. I tend to be a “mover” when I write anyway. I often unplug my laptop and go write at the table on the back porch or on the couch. I need a change of scenery or I get bored, as counter-productive as that may sound.
What else would you like to tell us?
I am not the wisest of authors. I’ve arrived at certain conclusions by trial and error, and your experiences (and conclusions) will vary. I guarantee it. I think the most important thing to do when starting down the road to publication, or merely continuing along it post-publication, is to trust you. You know you and your writing best. Yes, there are times that you will need to heed advice from others—but not always. Not every time. Understand where you want to go and what you want to write. Make compromises, but never compromise on the important things. You’ll get there. Trust yourself.