As part of building community among the MG family, we here at Middle Grade Mafia will be interviewing authors so we can learn about their books and be inspired by their journey. Our first author is Laura Golden, author of EVERY DAY AFTER. We hope you enjoy what she had to say, I know I did!
Middle Grade Mafia: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Laura Golden: Most authors say they knew in childhood that they wanted to be a writer. This was certainly not the case for me. I was always a voracious reader, (Is there any better smell in the world than a roomful of books? Nope.) but though I enjoyed books, and often wondered about the writer behind my favorite stories, I never considered that I could actually write a book. A book is filled with tens of thousands of words. I couldn’t possibly have that much to say! And besides, I hated writing assignments in school. Shouldn’t a prerequisite to being a writer be that one actually enjoys writing? I did not.
Fast forward to my adult life, post-kids, and I found myself needing a creative outlet–something I could do to unplug and let my mind settle. Needless to say I am not blessed with many talents. Do not ask me to paint, sing, play a sport or any other number of things. It won’t be a pretty sight.
Still, one serendipitous day I happened across an ad in a magazine for a writing course through the Institute of Children’s Literature. I thought perhaps I’d try my hand at writing magazine articles for Highlights or Cricket, or maybe even attempt to write a picture book. I thought it’d be a piece of cake (I was wrong!), and oh-so-satisfying to be published (I was bordering on right…). I registered for the course and spent the next two years learning the craft of writing for children. I can’t pinpoint the specific moment that I officially wanted to “be” a writer. I happened into it. My husband will tell you that writing is the one and only thing I’ve stuck with for a significant period of time. I set out to unearth a way to unplug from the world, and along the way I fell in love with writing.
MGM: What was your path from query to published author?
LG: An unusual one to say the least. My debut novel, EVERY DAY AFTER, was acquired by Michelle Poploff following the SCBWI Midsouth Regional Conference in Nashville back in 2011. Attending that conference was also serendipitous.
I had originally registered because I wanted to query a specific agent on faculty that year, which I did. Of course, I was rejected. Nothing new. I’d been garnering rejections for the manuscript that would become EVERY DAY AFTER for quite some time. In fact, after this agent declined I almost shelved the manuscript entirely. It was my husband who kept pushing me to submit to Michelle.
I mailed the submission off to Random House in mid-November, nearly two months post-conference, and early Monday morning after Thanksgiving my cell phone rang. The phone displayed a 212 area code. I was in the car with my husband at the time and quipped that the world had a cruel sense of humor to taunt me with a sales call from New York City, home to the major publishers and Random House. A few seconds later my voicemail alert sounded and I played the message on speaker so my husband could hear. I fully expected it to be a voice peddling wares, but instead I heard Michelle’s voice requesting the rest of my manuscript. I was overjoyed! So was my husband. Especially due to the fact that, for once, he had the pleasure of telling me “told you so”.
I sent Michelle the full via email that very morning. We scheduled a phone call a few weeks later and discussed revisions. I worked on a detailed outline over the next few weeks to aid in the revision process and after Michelle approved it, she made the official offer on the manuscript via phone. I learned so much about writing and publishing through working with her. She is a phenomenal editor and a nice person to boot.
MGM: What inspired you to write EVERY DAY AFTER?
LG: My paternal grandparents and their struggles growing up through the Great Depression inspired this story. I think oftentimes we get too busy in life, running hither and yon, and we don’t take time to stop and listen to the older generations among us. They tell fascinating stories, stories all the more fascinating because they are true. There is so much to be learned from history and people’s choices and experiences as they lived through it. I think we’d make fewer mistakes if we’d listen to our elders and heed their wise words. History is always applicable to the present and the future. It is also an endless gold mine of stories waiting to be written.
MGM: While you were writing this story, was there anything that Lizzie taught you about yourself?
LG: She taught me that I can’t control everybody. Authors sometimes want characters to do or say certain things in the service of the story, but sometimes the story we dream up isn’t the story that needs to be told. Anyone who has read EVERY DAY AFTER knows that Lizzie has a mind of her own. She’s pretty stubborn. She didn’t always want to bend to my will or heed my wishes. This was her story and she was going to have it told her way. Honestly, the story is all the better for it.
Those small battles with a fictional character taught me that people are going to be who they are. I can’t always change them for my definition of “better”, and more times than not I shouldn’t even try. There’s purpose in an individual’s personality, and I must let that purpose be served.
MGM: A lot can be said by where people work, can you please tell us about your writing space?
LG: Well, my current writing space is the dining room table. Not a neat, polished dining room table. A thoroughly piled with books, papers and miscellaneous office supplies, dusty, junked up dining room table. My former office has become my youngest son’s bedroom. What does a junky, dusty table say about me as a writer? Wait. Don’t tell me. I’m opting for blissful ignorance over cold hard facts at this particular moment.
MGM: What’s next for author Laura Golden?
LG: I’m currently awaiting editorial notes on my second middle grade novel, STANDING TALL ON MULBERRY HILL. It tells the story of two young girls, one white, one black, navigating the boundaries of their friendship in 1949 Birmingham, a time of KKK uprisings and the notorious North Smithfield bombings. This story was inspired by my maternal grandmother’s close biracial friendship in the early-40s. The book was scheduled to release sometime in 2015, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it pushed back into 2016. We’ll see.
Beyond that, I hope to start on a third book very soon. I’m sifting through ideas and brainstorming. I would like to step outside my comfort zone and attempt a YA, but I haven’t fallen in love with any stories appropriate for that genre. Once again, we’ll see.
Many, many thanks for having me on Middle Grade Mafia! It’s been a pleasure, and I hope to see you all around sooner rather than later.
We want to thank Laura for talking with us. Your journey is inspiring and we can’t wait for your next book to come out. Keep writing on that dining room table, it truly is working for you! To follow Laura, find her on Twitter, Facebook or her blog. Stay tuned for more great authors in the coming months.