*Author Bio: Laura Grody lives in Los Angeles with her True Love. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Radio/TV/Film and a master’s degree in linguistics, both from California State University, Northridge. She speaks a little Italian, Spanish, and French (sometimes all in the same sentence!) and has designs on Portuguese and Greek next.
She spent several years in the film industry as an assistant editor on movies such as Love Potion #9, Kalifornia, and When a Man Loves a Woman, and as an editor on the independent film Just Write. She also worked on the business side of film with a production company in Beverly Hills, CA. Most recently, she has been working in the world of traditional healthcare, which has inspired her to get certified as a holistic nutrition practitioner/coach so she can help people live healthier lives.
Laura never intended to write a book, but when she found herself wanting to put her many interests in language, linguistics, movies, and the power of the mind all in one place, a story soon emerged. The end result is her first novel, Grace and Dignity.
EXTRA CREDIT INTERVIEW WITH LAURA GRODY:
Joining LitPick today for an Extra Credit interview is Laura Grody, author of Grace and Dignity: The Ark of the Sacred Scrolls (Book 1). July 1-5, the eBook will be available FREE for Kindle on amazon.com!
Do you have a solid outline before writing, or do you usually get ideas as you go along?
Both! I DO do an outline, but since I come from the film industry (I was an editor), I tend to approach it in a screenplay way as opposed to a book way. To me, writing a story is like building a house. You have to build a solid foundation before you can start hanging pictures and lighting candles. Structure first, then creativity. First I break the story down into Acts-1, 2, & 3 and do a chart of my "fencepost" scenes, as recommended by screenwriter Hal Ackerman. These are the main plot points I need to hit by a certain time in the story, including the pivotal, turning-point scene, which comes at the end of Act 2. Once I'm happy with my fenceposts, I build a little more by creating a beat outline. This is basically a one-line description of every scene in each Act.
When I'm happy with my structure, I put on my creative hat and start fleshing out the story in my own voice, starting from the beginning and adding a little on each day. Of course, as soon as I'm on a roll, that's about the time new ideas show up and try to mess with my carefully built structure! It's like they've been patiently waiting for the paint to dry before they swoop in with plans for a gazebo. But that's also when some of the best ideas have come to me, and I have on many occasions gone back and completely reworked something just to accommodate them. So I say thank you, honor the process, and start designing that gazebo!
Has someone you knew ever appeared as a character in a book (consciously or subconsciously)?
I'm going to be a bit vague on this answer, but... yes. In Grace and Dignity: The Ark of the Sacred Scrolls, two of the characters are based on former co-workers, and two others are mixtures of US presidents. Prince Dignity is a mixture of three men who were prominent at different times in my life and someone I hadn't yet met. Prince Dignity's late father, the King of Puns, is an homage to my also-late father, who held the same title as far as my siblings and I were concerned!
What do you do when you get writer's block?
When I'm trying to make something work or I'm trying to come up with the right solution to a story problem and I Just. Can't. Get it...I try not to torture myself. Rather, I try to recognize when I'm "stuck on stupid" and I get up and go do something completely different for awhile. Sometimes the answer comes when I'm doing something else, like the dishes, showering, sleeping. If it doesn't, I'll either brainstorm ideas with my boyfriend, or look in a book, or watch something related to the subject, in hopes that the answer will jump out at me like, Ta-daaaaa! Often, that Ta-da comes at 3:00am...
If you could live in a book's world, which would you choose?
Easy: either Harry Potter or The Princess Bride, just to see what it's like there.
What is your favorite book-to-movie adaptation?
I have two favorite book-to-move adaptations. The main one is The Princess Bride, which is really my favorite movie of all time. Saw the movie first, then read the book. Liked the movie better - clearly! My second favorite is an old, unexpected one, but it's a favorite for a reason. It's The Firm - the movie starred Tom Cruise as a lawyer. On this one, I read the book first, and what I liked about the adaptation is this: in the movie version they changed the ending, but to me it was equally as good as the book's ending. It just had a different feel to it.
If you could have lunch with one other author (dead or alive!), who would it be?
I need three, please. First, William Goldman, who wrote both the book and screenplay for The Princess Bride. Would love to pick his brain! JK Rowling would be amazing, of course. And Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love and currently Big Magic. Amazing brains, all of them!
Wild Card Question: In addition to being an author, you are also a nutrition coach. Can you please tell us about what a nutrition coach does and why someone might consult with you?
As a holistic nutrition coach, I provide you personal one-on-one education and coaching to help you change your diet, get healthy, lose weight, and learn how to eat the foods that are best for your particular body. We have so much chronic disease in the US - heart disease, cancer, diabetes, & obesity. All of these can be managed and in some cases even healed by simple changes in the diet, changes that involve getting away from processed foods with pesticides and chemicals, and moving toward organic fruits and vegetables and animal products that are free-range, wild-caught, and grass-fed, among other things. I also teach you how to combine your foods for the most efficient digestion, and to eat for both your metabolic type (protein, carb, or mixed) and blood type (A, B, AB, and O). All of these things make a difference. If you're eating foods that are ideal for your type(s), you function and thrive in a healthy body, but if you're not, you can be susceptible to nutritional deficiencies that can ultimately lead to disease. My company is called Totally Grody Health & Wellness, and I provide personal nutrition training as an independent affiliate of Nutrition Coach Network.
Laura, thank you very much for spending time with LitPick! We enjoyed getting to know more about you.
INTERVIEW WITH LAURA GRODY:
How did you get started writing?
Well, I have to tell you I never intended to write a book – or even to be a writer for that matter! I did enjoy writing as a teenager, and even won an award in eighth grade for a story I wrote, but I didn’t pursue it much after that. My professional background is in film editing, so I’ve always thought in terms of movies rather than books, and I’ve always said I didn’t feel like I have the type of creativity where I can just invent something out of thin air. Rather, I need a blueprint. For example, as a film editor you take someone else’s idea and you follow the blueprint, or script, using your creativity to get from point A, the raw footage, to point B, the finished film. And I was good at it. But I always found myself coming up with these ideas for scenes, movies, TV shows, and pieces of stories. I wrote them down on notepads here and there, and even started writing a couple of the stories out. But I never finished, and I think it was in large part because I kept resisting the idea of being a writer. I thought, I want to come up with the big picture idea and then someone else can do the writing for me. I realize now that it was simply a lack of confidence in myself and in my abilities to create something that people would like. Then one day the seeds of Grace and Dignity were planted and the characters wouldn’t let me sleep until I had written everything into a full-on story! It started one day when my cousin and I were venting about people in our lives who always seemed to “live” in metaphorical places like Bitterland, Dramaland and Denial. That got me thinking, what if there were actually places like this? Now, I’m a big fan of word play and puns, so once this idea was set in motion, new places and names were coming to me faster than I could write them down. Before I knew it, I had created an entire country called the Kingdom of Love, with places like Commitment City, the Sea of Abandonment, and Ego Central Station. I still didn’t know what to do with all that, but after reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I got inspired in a new way. I knew right then and there I was going to write a story. I came up with the characters Princess Grace, Prince Dignity, and Prince Denial, and as soon as I found something for them to do in this crazy Kingdom of Love, I was off and running! Thirteen years later, Grace and Dignity was born.
Who influenced you?
JK Rowling influenced me for sure! As I mentioned above, it wasn’t until I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone that I knew I was going to write a story. I love the way Ms. Rowling writes. She hooks you from the get-go, and her characters are well-developed and sympathetic. One thing I really love about them is how they all work together as a team to defeat the evil forces, each bringing something to the table. I’m also a big fan of Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code). I like his writing because there’s always a puzzle that needs to be solved or decoded, and he weaves real places, organizations and events in history into his stories in an entertaining way. Another influential author was Sidney Sheldon. When I read If Tomorrow Comes, I was dealing with a situation in college that I really wanted to get out of, and that was the first time I’d ever read a story with a strong female character who overcomes adversity. So, I really connected to that. James Redfield was also influential. In The Celestine Prophecy, the characters make spiritual discoveries and learn moral lessons when they find ancient manuscripts. I love the way Mr. Redfield wraps these wonderful lessons in a dramatic story that makes them interesting to learn. Additionally, I am a big fan and student of metaphysical studies and the Law of Attraction, so I was influenced by authors such as Neale Donald Walsch’s (Conversations with God series), Jerry and Esther Hicks (Ask and It Is Given), and Rhonda Byrne (The Secret – both the book and movie). As you might expect, I was also influenced by some movies, including my all-time favorite film The Princess Bride. The charm and humor in that film has just stayed with me for years. Also influential was the movie Chocolat. It has a certain mystique about it, and I love the particular way the narrator tells the story. It makes you feel like you’re listening to a very special tale, one that you can listen to over and over again. Something that has influenced me the most is the TV show “Alias”. I’m a HUGE fan of the show and of Jennifer Garner’s character Sydney Bristow. I love her confidence, integrity, strength, intuition, grace, and empathy; also, her ability to improvise and do what it takes to get the job done, her conviction to always do what’s right, her unwavering nature to help someone in need, and of course, her ability to kick a little butt when necessary. She does not take crap from anyone, and that is very inspiring! Her character has influenced me in many ways, as both an author and a person, and I always ask myself, ‘What would Sydney do in this situation?’ Since I have a master’s degree in linguistics, I also greatly appreciate Sydney’s foreign language skills. I wish I spoke as many languages as she does! Lastly, I was influenced greatly by my father’s sense of humor. I always refer to him as the King of Puns, and I am my father’s daughter, so you’re going to see a bit of that in the story! In a nutshell, Grace and Dignity was a really fun way for me to incorporate all my favorite things into one place!
Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?
I mentioned all my favorite books above, but I’ll list them here again: the Harry Potter series, The Da Vinci Code, If Tomorrow Comes, The Celestine Prophecy, the Conversations With God series, The Secret, and Ask and It Is Given. My favorite character is Sydney Bristow from the TV show “Alias”. And even though she’s not from a book, she has fascinated me so much that I’ve watched the entire five seasons of the show many times over trying to deconstruct who she is and how she does what she does. This may be a little surprising, but I don’t tend to read much in the way of fiction! In my other life, I’m a certified holistic nutrition practitioner, so I tend to read a lot of nutrition books. I also read metaphysical and self-help books, to be quite honest, and strangely enough, I do so not only to help and inform myself, but to find ways that I can use some of the things I learn in my stories. I tend to like to teach others what I’ve learned, and I find that if I can wrap the lessons in a story where a character experiences certain things and then transforms, it can be an inspiration to others.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?
Oh gosh… I would say just write what you love – what interests you. Don’t worry so much about who you’re writing for, it will find its audience. I didn’t write Grace and Dignity with any particular “target audience” in mind, I just wrote what interested me. People who love you and your personality will naturally gravitate to whatever you write. And the other piece of advice I’d offer is this: be prepared to market your book! Research in advance the kinds of things you will need to do once your book is written and published and psyche yourself up to do them! I was so in the dark on this subject – and am still finding my way through in many ways – that I had no idea what it takes to get your book out into the world. But I can tell you this, no one cares about your book as much as you do, so you have to be prepared to make the efforts, and just be ready to walk through the doors that open for you. They might not be the right doors, but you have to at least open up and take a peak. The right avenues will find their way to you and the right people will show up when you need them.
Where is your favorite place to write?
Mainly, my favorite place to be when I write is cross-legged on the floor at my living room coffee table. I don’t know what it is, but I gotta be cross-legged! Usually, a cup of coffee or tea is nearby, and I like to surround myself with things that inspire me for whatever I’m writing at the moment, whether it’s a picture or a piece of jewelry or maybe some music.
What else would you like to tell us?
A few months ago my 93-year-old grandma said, “I think you should send your book to Princess Kate!” I laughed, and she said, “I’m serious! Do you think you can find her address?” I said I was pretty sure I could Google it. ;) So, I sent off a signed copy to Her Royal Highness, Duchess of Cambridge, and within a few weeks, I actually got a thank you card, which I nearly threw out by mistake thinking it was junk mail!
I would also like to say thank you to LitPick for giving me this opportunity to share a little bit about myself as a first-time author and about Grace and Dignity’s journey in becoming a published novel. I truly hope that everyone who reads the story enjoys it as much as I enjoyed creating it.