Meet Laura Lee!
I’m the author of the novel Angel and a dozen other books on topics ranging from Elvis Impersonation to the science behind annoying things. My most recent non-fiction title was “Broke is Beautiful.”
The San Francisco Chronicle said, “Lee’s dry, humorous tone makes her a charming companion… She has a penchant for wordplay that is irresistible.”
Hello! What’s your name?
What do you write and why?
Up to this point I’ve published primarily non-fiction. I’ve done about a dozen books mostly in the humorous reference category. I published one book of poetry and one children’s book. I also do speech writing and occasional articles. At the moment I am primarily focused on fiction.
Do you read the same genre that you write? Why or why not?
That is a tricky question. My novel, Angel, is literary fiction and I do read widely in that genre. At the moment I’m focused on getting caught up on a lot of the classics. They seemed like a chore in school, but now I realize that there is a reason they’re classics– because they’re great. The reason it’s a tricky question is that my book has been published by Dreamspinner Press/Itineris. They are a genre publisher. They do male/male romance novels and the Itineris line is billed as “GLBT Faith-Based Fiction.” So the book has been given this double genre label. Unfortunately, I don’t think either genre actually fits the book. I find myself having to apologize a lot of the time that my book is not a romance novel. That’s because the publisher has a following that expects romances from them. Fortunately, some of the male/male romance fans have responded well to the book. It is a little frustrating, though, to have the main audience for the book be an audience that doesn’t necessarily love the genre I was writing in. That’s where it is at the moment. The publisher’s audience has been the most responsive to the book, and thankfully they have liked it for the most part. So if the question is do I read in romance or faith-based fiction the answer is no. I didn’t know there was such a thing as male/male romance when I wrote my book. So I do feel a bit out of step in terms of knowing how it fits into that category or what the audience expects. I would rather have people pick it up for what it is than to pick it up wanting something else because of how it’s categorized on Amazon.
What is the title you are promoting right now?
It is called Angel.
What is it about?
Here’s the blurb:
Since the loss of his lively, charming wife to cancer six years ago, minister Paul Tobit has been operating on autopilot, performing his church duties by rote. Everything changes the day he enters the church loby and encounters a radiant, luminious being lit from behind, breathtakingly beautiful and glowing with life. An angel. For a moment Paul is so taken by his vision that he is tempted to fall on his knees and pray.
Even after he regains his focus and realizes that he has only seen a flesh-and-blood young man, Paul cannot shake his sense of awe and wonder. He feels an instant and overhwelming attraction to the young man, which puzzles him even as it fills his thoughts and fires his feelings. Paul has no doubt that God has spoken to him through the vision and he must figure out what God is asking him to do.
Thus begins a journey that will inspire Paul’s ministry, but will put him at odds with the church he loves as he is forced to examine his deeply held beliefs about himself, his community and the nature of love.
What makes this book different from others in your genre?
I am not sure exactly what the difference is between a romance novel and a love story. I know there is a difference, and I have had to give it some thought lately. One of the differences, I think, between genre and literary fiction is that genre fiction tends to be more focused on what happens, whereas literary fiction tends to be more about how what happens affects the protagonist. In that sense, genre fiction would be more like the old hero stories from Greek literature. That’s my theory anyway. Romance, of course, has to be about the interior to some extent because it’s about love. But I haven’t read enough romances to really be able to say anything intelligent about them.
What makes Angel different from faith-based fiction is that it is not a parable. It’s not using characters to teach a theological lesson. You won’t discover the nine insights or anything like that.
What it is is the story of how a minister deals with the internal and external conflicts he faces when he finds he has fallen in love with a man. Some of those fall into the area that romance books dramatize– how Paul and the young man, Ian, work out their relationship. Some fall into the area that faith-based fiction dramatizes– how Paul’s beliefs are challenged. But it’s really just Paul’s story. It’s what happened to him, how he was changed by it.
What’s the story behind the story?
I took a trip to Mount Rainier in Seattle. The tour guide was entertaining and he kept talking about burning out on his old job. Towards the end of the tour, and the tour lasted most of the day, someone asked him what his old job had been and he said, “A minister.” This really piqued my curiosity. It seemed like the mystery of what would take a person from the ministry to a job as a mountain tour guide could be the basis of a really interesting story. So I spent the next decade thinking about what kind of story it might be. It was only very late that the central conflict, the minister falling in love with a man, came to me. When it did, all of the pieces fell into place.
What is your goal as an author?
To have enough people respond well enough to Angel to allow me to keep doing this. I think the job of a fiction writer is to observe and to see through the narratives we tell all the time without questioning. There is a kind of TV talk show pop psychological view of life that I think needs puncturing from time to time.
Are you working on anything new? Give us a preview of what’s to come!
I am writing a follow up to Angel told from the perspective of the other main character. I’m deep into it right now. Writing it is easier in some ways that it was to write Angel. In other ways it is harder. I feel like I have a lot to live up to. I don’t know if anyone is invested enough in the characters from the first book to have an interest in a second, and there is a risk that it could just take away from what came before rather than add to it.
Who is your favorite author and what is your favorite book?
I liked The Joke by Milan Kundera a lot when I read it. I haven’t gone back to it recently. I like British authors like Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde and more modern ones like Douglas Adams and Alain de Botton. I respond well to that dry British style of humor. It is my sense of humor.
Where can readers find you and your work?
It’s available on all the online retailers and can be ordered at your local independent book store.
What’s your view on the self-publishing/traditional publishing thing? Ideally, which one would you prefer and why?
I don’t have the money to self-publish a book so that it is up to the standards I would expect it to be. It is important to me to have professional editing, layout and cover design. So I really do appreciate having a publisher to take care of those things. I am glad that self-publishing was harder when I started. It was important to me to not publish until I knew that the product was up to the level to be accepted by publishers. It’s harder now, I think. Publishers are more focused on blockbuster celebrity authors. So self-publishing is the only option for some people who have books that are worth reading. I wouldn’t want to have to do the amount of work to try to get attention for a self-published novel though. It is hard enough to get attention for a novel published with a small publisher. I do think it helps to have a clear genre to get attention for a self-published book. If you have a strong enough niche, it might even be preferable to do it yourself.
Do you have a favorite quote?
What is the most important advice you have for aspiring authors?
It takes a long time.
Is there anything else you’d like to say before we finish up?
Just that I hope that people will not be scared off by any of the labels Angel has been given. I know there are people who are scared off by the faith-based label and think it is going to be a preaching book about finding Jesus, and there are people equally reluctant to pick up a book with gay characters because they think it’s not about them. There are people who don’t read romances. I would invite them to read some of the sample chapters on Amazon. (Even if you don’t shop there) That should give a good idea of the style and what it is.
Awesome, thanks for allowing me to interview you!
Please pay Laura a visit at one of the links below!