Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Interview with women fiction's author Laura McNeill

Novelist Laura McNeill is in the hot seat today to chat with me about her romantic suspense novel, Center of Gravity.

As she does a virtual book tour for her novel, Laura will be awarding a randomly drawn lucky winner a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!

Laura adores hot coffee, good manners, the color pink, and novels that keep her reading past midnight. She believes in the beauty of words, paying it forward, and that nerds rule the world. Laura is a fan of balmy summer nights, fireflies, and pristine mountain lakes.

After six years behind the anchor desk at two CBS affiliates, Laura moved to the Alabama Gulf Coast to raise her family. Her accolades in broadcasting include awards from the Associated Press, including Best News Anchor and Best Specialized Reporter.

Laura works at Spring Hill College as the school’s web content and social media manager and​ is active in her community—participating in fundraisers for the American Cancer Society, Ronald McDonald House, and Providence Hospital’s Festival of Flowers.

Laura was recently awarded a 2-book deal with Thomas Nelson Publishing, a division of HarperCollins. Her novel, Center of Gravity, set in Mobile, Ala., will be published in July of 2015. Laura is represented by Elizabeth Winick Rubenstein, president of McIntosh and Otis literary agency in New York.​ Her writing awards include those from William Faulkner-Wisdom Creative Writing Competition, Writer’s Digest, RWA, and the Eric Hoffer competition.

You can find Laura Tweeting @Lauramcneillbks and blogging at lauramcneill.com. Laura’s domestic suspense novel, Center of Gravity, can be found wherever fine books are sold.

Welcome, Laura. Please tell us about your current release.
At its core, Center of Gravity is about the dissolution of a marriage, and how all of the players react when tragedy strikes.

It’s my hope that readers connect with Ava – a woman who finds strength deep within herself when almost everyone else has given up on her. Like so many of the women I’ve met over the years, Ava is tenacious, smart, sensitive, and, as it turns out, a bit naïve, when it comes to trusting and believing in the man she’s chosen to marry. She’d like to cling to the fairytale of having a perfect marriage, but eventually sees through her husband’s charming façade.

My message is that women are stronger than they believe, love can persevere, and there is life after betrayal and tragedy.

What inspired you to write this book?
Center of Gravity is a very personal story for me. I began my career as an author writing Southern women’s fiction under the pen name “Lauren Clark.” I really enjoyed these fun, frothy tales, but halfway through the writing of my second novel, my marriage fell apart. Everything that I had built and trusted had come unglued. I wasn’t sleeping or eating; I was worried about my children, about my job, and about my future. I shelved the novel, moved into a new house in a new neighborhood, and restarted my life.

Months later, it hit me that I missed writing. But I couldn’t bring myself to write comedy and romance. This time, I tackled a serious storyline, a suspenseful story about a family in peril. I had spent the past year or more talking to other women and men about their stories of love and loss. It seemed that everyone I talked to had an aunt, a cousin, a best friend, or a sister who had been through a tragic, heart wrenching break up. Some involved children, some didn’t. Many included alienation from friends and family. Some involved violence. The majority involved a long, drawn out court battles. All of the stories left me feeling, somehow, that I was not quite alone. I began writing the novel which would become “Center of Gravity.”

Excerpt from Center of Gravity:
The road rushes under the wheels. I rearrange snippets of the frantic conversation. Gash. Some blood. Breathing fine. Emergency room. A few more miles to the hospital.

I flash back to this morning. Packed sack lunch, flop of dark hair across his bare forehead, navy backpack slung over one shoulder. A surge of pure love courses through my heart. A stab of worry steals my breath. I force myself to focus.

The traffic light ahead flashes green to yellow. Intersection’s clear. I push the accelerator to the floor, glance in the rearview mirror. Air from the open window catches Sam’s wisps of hair. He smiles, showing off his first few baby teeth, and reaches a chubby hand at the rays of sunshine streaking by, trying to catch the light.

Thump. Thump. The Jeep jerks to the left. I guide the wheel, hold it steady, and take my foot off the gas. When I pull over and brake, the abrupt stop sends up a dust cloud.

“Uh-oh,” Sam says.

I unbuckle, jump out, and survey the damage. A glance at the tire confirms it. Flat. Dead.          
Hands on my hips, I bite my lip.

Tentatively, I grab the jack from the back of the Jeep, the weight of it solid and heavy in my hands. I can fix this. After all, in my former life, as a school counselor at Mobile Prep, I was the problem-solver, crisis manager, and shoulder to cry on. I always handled situations. And I didn’t need help.

Then my eyes fall on Sam as he babbles and blows bubbles in the back seat. I hesitate, gripping the metal between my palms. As the sun beats down on us, heating my skin, my pulse begins to race. Maybe I was fearless because I didn’t know any better. I wasn’t a mom then. I didn’t have two children depending on me. Trusting me to do the right thing, be on time, and not screw up.

What exciting story are you working on next?
My second HarperCollins/Thomas Nelson book will be released in April of 2016. Sister Dear is the story of a woman, Allie Marshall, who goes to prison for a crime she doesn’t commit, leaving behind a 5-year old daughter. When Allie is paroled 10 years later, she hopes to reclaim her quiet life and move on, but her daughter, now a teenager, soon challenges her innocence. In her quest to find justice, Allie discovers that the one person she trusts most committed the ultimate betrayal a decade earlier.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Probably after my second novel under the pen name Lauren Clark came out in 2012. I wrote 4 novels and one short story under this pen name in the sweet and humorous women’s fiction genre.

It really feels “real” now that HarperCollins published my domestic suspense novel, Center of Gravity under my real name, Laura McNeill, and that Sister Dear (same genre – domestic suspense) is coming out in April 2016.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your workday like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I hold down a full-time job and am the single mom of two boys. I’m also in graduate school, so that keeps things “exciting.”

I tend to do my best writing in the morning. I stay in my yoga pants and a t-shirt and type in my tiny office, sipping coffee that I made myself. I like to write from 6 am until 8 am, when I spring up from my chair and race to grab a shower, find decent clothes, and get to work. In the evenings, it’s Mommy-mode, and I help with homework, take my boys to activities, or do my own homework.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Must have coffee!

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An Indian Princess named Tiger Lily!

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Thank you to everyone who has shown so much love and support for Center of Gravity! The response has been overwhelmingly positive and I am so very grateful!


Thanks, Laura!


Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thank you for hosting

Mai T. said...

If you were an animal in a zoo, what would you be?

Anonymous said...

Mai - Great question! I think a giraffe, as I like the idea of being able to see far and wide and get the big picture. Of course, I've thought about being a lioness for bravery and strength.

:) Laura

Anonymous said...

Lisa - Thank you for featuring Center of Gravity today! Loved the Q & A and being spotlighted on your website!
xo, Laura

Rita Wray said...

I enjoyed the interview, thank you.

MomJane said...

I really enjoyed your comments. This story sounds really exciting. Loved the excerpt.

Victoria Alexander said...

Great post, thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...

I really enjoyed your interview and the excerpt! Thank you!

Ally Swanson said...

I enjoyed reading the excerpt and the interview. This book sounds like such an interesting read! Also, I totally love the book cover! Very intriguing!

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