A reputation for professionalism and reliability—two criteria that are crucial to my business. And I’ve found that reputation to be very well deserved.
You’ve worked with Angela. What did you enjoy most about working with her?
I’ve worked with Angela as my copyeditor for six books to date. The most valuable aspect of her work is that she explains what the problem is and then suggests a fix, which makes my life much easier. Even if I don’t use her fix, I then understand exactly what the problem is and can adjust the words accordingly. I have learned more about the nitty-gritty of grammar from Angela than from all my many previous copyeditors combined. Their contributions via copyediting have made my books much cleaner, grammar-wise, which translates to the works being much easier for readers to read.
I also use Red Adept for my proofreading, and over the last five books, I have moved to getting two successive proofreads, after which the manuscript is amazingly clean.
Who is your favorite author? How did his or her style influence yours?
Favorite author? Singular? Sooo many to choose from, and most are not in romance at all, let alone historical romance. Looking at the question of style objectively, I would have to say that my style of composition is closer to Kathleen Woodiwiss’s earlier works, crossed with Clare Darcy’s, with a heightened element of mystery-suspense. That said, as I am a voracious reader, I suspect I’ve been influenced even by John Grisham. My main focus regarding style is to keep everything sounding authentic, describe everything the reader needs to know, and at the same time, keep the action moving as fast as possible.
Are your books standalones, or do they need to be read in order?
Most are standalones, with a few definite exceptions. The books that are tagged as trilogies or quartets have an action plot that runs through the group of books, starting in the first book and ending in the last. Those groups of books are best read in order. The others are standalones, although a lot of readers seem to prefer to read them in order of publication. However, the order of publication doesn’t always follow the order in chronological time of the story, which is why I always state on the first page of the first chapter the date on which the action commences.
What drew you to writing romance?
Primarily because I enjoy reading romances. Initially, I read mostly regency-set romances, and my “voice,” being naturally anglicized, was best suited to that. So I stuck with it. That said, an editor commented very early on that my type of book is actually historical romantic suspense. That’s correct—all but one of my books contain a mystery, if not a murder—but there is no historical romantic suspense category, so I remain in the historical romance pigeonhole.
Have you ever found yourself researching something strange for a book?
Arsenic poisoning in the mid-1800s. The composition of gunpowder and its “milling” in the 1850s. What breed of dog a laird in the Highlands of Scotland in 1837 might have. What’s probably stranger is the number of times I’ve chosen a setting and started writing the book, then realized I need some feature, like a cliff or mine, nearby, and I check the maps and discover, lo and behold, there really is/was such a feature more or less where I need it to be. Serendipity works in mysterious but wonderful ways.
You have some great covers. Who does your cover work?
My covers rely heavily on the wonderful work of the staff at Period Images (www.periodimages.com). I go the exclusive cover shoot route, and we do casting, so I get to choose the models who most closely represent the characters, then I send in a description of the clothes and the poses I need and give suggested background images. The staff at PI do the rest. They do the shoot and send me the proofs. I choose the best photo for the look I want, then they compile it with our chosen background. Once they’ve done their thing, we have the final art for the cover; I rarely need to do any touch-ups. However, for my recent four novels with MIRA (The Adventurers Quartet), their art department recompiled the couple and background as they had to adjust the color settings fractionally to use the cover in the print process (which is technically different from digital display). Once the cover-art is finalized, I put on the name, title, and any other taglines, and we’re good to go.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
There really isn’t all that much time, not after the hours spent playing with the grandkids. But gardening is my other long-term love, and I still like to get outside and smell the roses—literally. Lots of roses in what is now shaping up to be a very restful garden. I still do all the work for my courtyard garden. I also grow vegetables. Nothing like the taste of homegrown vegetables.
What advice would you give to a new author?
First, write the book. All the way to “The End.” Do not talk endlessly about writing Just write. You must finish the first draft before doing anything else. When you do reach the end, put it aside for a few days or more, then read it like a reader. Forget that it’s your work. See how it strikes you, and whatever “errors” you pick up, correct them. If you find your inner reader is seriously dissatisfied, but you can’t identify what is wrong, that’s the time to engage a content editor. Once you have the story down so that you as a reader are satisfied, work on it to ensure it is as tightly written and effectively written as possible – that every word in it is the best word you can think of for the task – then read it aloud (or use a program to read it to you) and listen. Force yourself to listen to your story, not read with your eyes. You will pick up all sorts of errors by listening that you will never see by reading. Once you’ve done all that, then it’s time for a copyeditor. To me, a copyeditor is indispensable. No author can correct his or her own work to the extent that a copyeditor will not make it better. And you want your books to be the best you can make them, so hire a copyeditor. And after you’ve dealt with the copyeditor’s suggestions, it’s on to proofreading. The current gold standard is four different proofreaders (not successively; I use one RA-proofreader, then send the corrected manuscript back to RA for a second round as well as sending the post-first proofread manuscript to two other proofreaders. At least.). And even then, tiny errors will slip through that some reader will pick up, but at least with four proofreaders, I know I’ve done the best I can.
The only way an author can build, hold, and extend a readership is to deliver good stories well told time after time, so make every single book you put out there the very best you can.
Where can readers find you?
Amazon profile page: https://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Laurens
Email Newsletter signup: http://www.stephanielaurens.com/newsletter-signup/
Coming out in 2017:
The Lady by His Side (to be released March 9, 2017)
An Irresistible Alliance (to be released May 11, 2017)