Monday, April 18, 2016
An Interview with Laurie Cass
MM: Laurie, tell us why and how you became an author?
Why did I become an author? Hmm. Well, I suppose it’s because I always felt compelled to write. Which I know isn’t much of an answer, but it’s kind of like trying to answer the question of why I like chocolate. I just do!
The how of becoming an author is a story that starts with a personal vow to get published and, 13 years later, after 6.3 unpublished manuscripts and more failed query letters than I like to remember, ends with the 2010 publication of MURDER AT THE PTA, written under the name Laura Alden.
MM: Give us the backstory on your life?
It’s pretty boring, to tell the truth. I grew up in rural southwest Michigan, graduated from college with a degree in geology, and went to work in the surveying and civil engineering field. After a number of years in management, I felt the need to move on and took a job with fewer responsibilities. A month later, I was dead bored. I desperately needed something to wake up my brain; and as a lifelong reader, I figured what could be better than writing?
I started reading a lot of books on writing and happened across a particular sentence: “What’s it going to be, reasons or results?” That’s when I started writing seriously. I’ve since shifted my day job to the public sector, but my days always start and end with writing.
I also love skiing of all kinds, have recently taken up rowing a single scull, enjoy messing around with photography, and wish I had more time to spend at the piano.
MM: Tell us about your writing schedule?
Most mornings, I get in 20-30 minutes of writing time before heading into the day job, and I try to get in that much writing time during lunch. (I’ve found that taking my lap top and writing in the car where I can’t get a wifi signal provides wonderfully undistracted writing time.)
In evenings, I head up to the attic after dinner and write on the treadmill desk my husband built for me. It’s not exactly exercise, since typing when I’m walking any faster than a slow crawl is problematic, but I figure it has to be better than sitting down.
MM: What would your characters tell us about you?
That I don’t give them enough page space!
MM: Let's talk about your bookmobile series?
Not so very long ago, I was searching for an idea for a new mystery series. This can be a very hard thing to do because there are so many wonderful series out there. Almost everything you can think of has already been done. Other than knowing that my editor had a yen to see my intrepid cat, Eddie, prominently featured in the book, I had no ideas whatsoever. Well, that and I wanted to set the series in Michigan, where I live. Eddie. Michigan. Huh. I needed a leeetle bit more than that.
So there I was, trying to think. There was no way I’d be able to make a fictional Eddie be anything but what he is, a completely loveable dork of a cat. Okay. So write a series featuring Eddie doing…what? Eddie in a china shop? Perish the thought. Eddie in a hospital? Not going to happen. Eddie in a newspaper office? Maybe, but…nah.
Sadly, I have no clear recollection of how the idea sparked into my brain. I do know that it blossomed during an email conversation with mystery writer Krista Davis. (Krista claims not to remember this, but I’m not making this up.) At some point I jokingly said something along the lines of “I could do a series about a cat in a library that’s somehow different than other libraries…hey, how about a cat in a bookmobile!”
Almost immediately, I knew I had something. Say the word “bookmobile” and it’s hard not to smile at the images you’ve summoned. Bookmobiles are personal and cheerful and … hopeful. Books, happy faces, more books, and a little bit of Eddie. Bingo! I had my idea!
MM: If you could sit down for a meal with five authors (dead or alive), and ask them anything at all with wit and wisdom. What meal would it be? What would you ask them and who would the five authors be?
The meal would be at my house, so we would wouldn’t have to worry about hogging a restaurant table for hours and hours. My husband and I would probably make something simple like jambalaya and a salad, because I wouldn’t want to have to fuss too much. The five I’d invite? Laurie R. King, Louisa May Alcott, Charles Dickens, Dr. Seuss, Rachel Carson. I’m not sure I’d have any specific questions; I’d just like to hear their stories.
MM: What are some of your favorite books that you like to reread?
For whatever reason, young adult books are often my comfort rereads. Cynthia Voight’s JACKAROO is one of my favorites, along with Nancy Bond’s A STRING IN THE HARP and Elizabeth Pope’s PERILOUS GARD. But I also am a huge fan of Laurie R. King and happily reread all of her books. Oh, and Dick Francis. Lots of Dick Francis.
MM: What are you looking forward to in 2016?
The fifth bookmobile cat book, CAT WITH A CLUE, will be released in August, and a book I’ve co-written with Lorraine Bartlett, DEAD, BATH, AND BEYOND will be released in December. Other than that, I hope to make good use of my season skiing pass this winter and come summer, to spend a fair amount of time in the hammock, reading.
MM: Do you ever binge watch movies or television series?
When I was recovering from some icky oral surgery a few years ago, I watched every single season of “The West Wing” in about three months. Since then, I’ve tried to avoid binge watching, but Season 6 of “The Good Wife” is about to arrive in my mailbox so…
MM: What would you like to say to your readers?
To each and every one, I’d like to say thank you!
MM: When I say...people, place, thing what comes to mind?
I go all alert because I know I’m about to be quizzed!
MM: Tell us about where you live? Be our tour guide.
I live where the bookmobile cat mysteries are set, in northwest lower Michigan, a region filled with clear blue lakes and forested hills. My husband and I have the great good fortune to live on a beautiful inland lake in a house that he designed and we hope to never, ever have to move again. This place suits us like none other and I am grateful every day for what we have.
MM: Now for some fun questions. What is your favorite song, movie, place to vacation, hobby, way to distress, favorite color, favorite person/people and someone you would like to meet because you respect and admire them?
Favorite song? I have a classical music background and my favorite piece of music is probably either Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Ballet or Leonard Bernstein’s Overture to Candide. My favorite movie is The Sting, and my favorite place to vacation is the dock in front of my house. My favorite hobbies are skiing and gardening, and I de-stress by getting outside and exercising or by crawling into bed and reading. Depends on the weather. My favorite kind of people are those who are comfortable in their own skins, and if I ever had the chance to meet someone I deeply admire I’d probably end up edging away, hugely embarrassed because I made such an idiot of myself.
MM: Lastly leave us with some sage words of writing wisdom?
Rats, I was hoping you’d have some for me! All I can really recommend is to keep at it. If you want to write, write, and don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t. You can. And you will. If you want to badly enough.
Bio: Laurie Cass grew up in Michigan and graduated from Eastern Michigan University in the 80’s with a (mostly unused) Bachelor of Science degree in geology. Currently, Laurie and her husband share their house with two cats; the inestimable Eddie and the adorably cute Sinii. When Laurie isn’t writing, she’s working at her day job, reading, yanking weeds out of her garden, or doing some variety of skiing. You can find Laurie on Facebook and at her website http://www.lauriecass.net
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