Author Interview: Coffee and Conversation with Laura Bowers!

Hello, fellow SCBWI members! This is Pam Smallcomb, jumping in with Larissa Graham and Susan Mannix to congratulate our dear friend Laura Bowers on her fantastic and funny new novel, JUST FLIRT (released today from Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Laura works tirelessly for our region, and it is such a pleasure to be able to give her a big old SCBWI shout-out.

Laura, for those of you who don’t know her, is an amazing writer who creates one-of-a-kind characters that grab you by the shoulders and take you for an unforgettable ride. Not to mention she is the Queen of Humor. (The crown is in the mail, Laura.)
Here’s a warning: Laura Bowers writes the kinds of books that make you forget to cook dinner. You might even forget a dental appointment.

Those of you who loved Laura’s first book, BEAUTY SHOP FOR RENT, will be happy to know that JUST FLIRT is full of warm, engaging characters, too. Publishers Weekly called it a “sweet and lively summer read.”

Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

It’s summer, sweet summer!

Self-proclaimed Superflirt Dee Barton can’t wait to spend the summer months practicing her Nine Rules of Flirting on all the cute guys who come to stay at her family’s campground. Why not? Flirting is fun and makes everyone involved feel good—which is pretty much the exact opposite of her relationship with her toxic ex-boyfriend, Blaine. Sabrina Owens’s summer plans include keeping her over-the-top karaoke DJ mother in check, maintaining her own status as the queen of the popular crowd, and being the perfect girlfriend to Blaine.

Each girl sees the other as the enemy. But when a secret blog embroils them in a frivolous lawsuit, they must team up and embark on a risky, flirt-filled plot to set things right again.

Laura Bowers’s new novel is a heartfelt and hilarious story of friendship, family…and flirting!

And from Goodreads:

“Bower’s fun read about flirting – and the fun/disastrous consequences it can bring – is enjoyable and has a positive, unexpectedly feminist message. I loved it and so will teen girls!” Lauren, Goodreads.

Now then, let’s let Laura find a comfy chair and talk to us about JUST FLIRT and writing.

First off, what’s your favorite coffeehouse beverage?

Well, usually I get decaf tea or boring coffee, but since you said favorite, I’ll take a Chai tea with skim milk and whipped cream. Oh, and a sprinkle of cinnamon, please! I live for sprinkles.

And your favorite snack?

Microwaveable popcorn, even though—I know, I know—it’s horrible for me!

When did you decide to be a writer?

I used to fantasize about being a writer all my life, but I never thought it was possible for someone like me, someone who wasn’t smart enough or had a college degree. But when I was twenty-nine, a severe migraine put me in the hospital and I realized it was God’s way of telling me I needed to change my stressful life. So on that very day, I stumbled to my computer—half-zombied on painkillers—and started to write a mystery novel.
And let me tell you. What I wrote was very, very amusing!

What advice for beginners do you wish you would’ve followed?

I’ve made so many mistakes I don’t even know where to begin! Okay, I’ll go with this: Craft first, publication second.

Sometimes writers—both new ones and seasoned pros—can get so boggled down with getting published that they forget to concentrate on what’s most important: Improving their craft and writing, writing, writing, because a beautifully written, amazing book will sell. Always.

What is your favorite writing how-to book, technique, or website that have helped you improve your craft or provide inspiration? 

My absolute favorites are The Comic Toolbox by John Vorhaus, and How To Write A Damn Good Novel, II, by James N. Frey. I can’t leave out The Fire in Fiction, by Donald Maass, though. And Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. Screenwriting books are AWESOME tools for fiction writers!

Another technique I love is The Snowflake Method, by Randy Ingermanson. I use it before writing rough drafts and again before major rounds of edits!

How were you inspired to write your current or upcoming release?

Okay, this is a long story, so refill those coffee cups, folks.

See, after Beauty Shop for Rent sold, I thought for certain my next book would be a mystery called Six Graves even though there was something wrong with the manuscript that I just couldn’t figure out.

Something. Very. Wrong.

I battled with it for a year. And then another year. Finally, after a few more months of bashing my head against the desk, I had to face reality: Six Graves needed to die. I was devastated, both by my failure and wasted time. And I was desperate for another book to fall in love with . . . or I’d end up being a one-hit wonder. So one morning in October, I prayed for God to point me in the right direction. Then I dug out my old files and every single scrap piece of paper with scribbled story ideas.

Still. I had nothing.

So I crawled on the sofa, and closed my eyes. After a while, I started thinking of an adult novel I started a long time ago called . . . are you ready for this? It may possibly be the worst title in the history of all titles: Clara Barton’s Fist Fight.

Yeah, I know. Horrible, right? But I loved the concept about a woman gaining independence from a bold move. In her case, it was a fist fight. For some reason, I started to think about flirting instead of fist fights. And the setting. Wouldn’t it be cool to use a campground, since my family has always loved camping? Before I knew it, the pieces started to fall into place and the start of Just Flirt was born.

And remember that question about advice I wish I would have followed? Here’s another one: Do not bash your head for years over a manuscript you know is going nowhere.

What is your favorite line(s) from this book?

“We ain’t seen nothing, puppy hater.”

(It makes sense, trust me.)

Where’s your favorite place to work?

Either at my favorite café or out on my back deck in the morning!

If you could trap one author in a room and talk to them (a nice room with a/c and comfy chairs, of course) who would that be?

Yikes. That’s a really tough question!

Hmm . . . how cool would it be to have some one-on-one time with JK Rowling or Suzanne Collins? And Richard Peck—I’m completely obsessed with him and CANNOT WAIT to see him at the conference! Oh, and what about Polly Horvath? I’ve been obsessed with her lately. And then there’s Libba Bray. That would make for some awesome conversation. But no, I’m going to go with Joan Bauer. I love, love, LOVE her books, and Hope was Here is the reason why I fell in love with young adult books to begin with.

Yep. Joan Bauer. That’s my pick! If someone could please arrange that, I’d be most appreciative.  🙂

For one day, time travel is a reality and you have the opportunity to visit any famous deceased author you want.  Who do you pick?

Laura Ingalls Wilder.

You magically find a $100 bill in your box of cereal. In what frivolous way would you spend it?

I’d take my family to Hershey Park and ride roller coasters until we vomit.

You’ve been locked in a bank vault like the man from Twilight Zone, so you finally have time to read! Your glasses remain unharmed, (whew,) so what’s the first book you crack open?

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. This has been on my to-read list for the longest time!

What is your favorite quote?

Gotta go with a classic:

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.” Tom Hanks, A League Of Their Own.

If you could sum up your best advice for new writers in only four words, what would they be?

Write. Read. Learn. Repeat.

Time for the lightning round—no more than four words per answer!

Do you . . .
Outline or wing it?    Outline without being rigid.
Talk about works-in-progress, or keep it zipped?    Kind of semi-zipped.
Sell by proposal or completed draft?    Completed draft. Always.
Prefer writing rough drafts or editing?    Editing, editing, editing, editing!
Dread marketing/blogging or love it?    Writing? YAY! Marketing? Yuck.
Read Kindle or traditional books?    Combo of both.

And finally, what’s your favorite:
Time to work?    In the morning.
Music to listen to while writing?  Classical with no lyrics, although for my current work-in-progress, I’m cranking the bluegrass.
Writing tool?    My baby name book.
Pair of shoes?    Teva flip flops! So cushy, so comfy.
Guiltiest pleasure?    Planning Disney World and Universal Orlando vacations.
Line from a movie?    Continuing with my Tom Hanks theme from above, I’m going with, “Sometimes, I guess there just aren’t enough rocks.” Forrest Gump.

Thank you, Laura! So much of what you said rang true. ‘Craft first, publication second’ should be needle-pointed on pillows for writers everywhere. Congratulations again on JUST FLIRT – hugs and high-fives all around!

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12 Responses to Author Interview: Coffee and Conversation with Laura Bowers!

  1. Fantastic interview! I can not wait to read the book! Save my place in line.

  2. Congratulations, Laura! What a fun interview, and great advice, too. I can’t wait to read Just Flirt.

  3. Sue Poduska says:

    Sounds wonderful! Thanks for the advance info. Looking forward to reading it.

  4. Love, love, love “Just Flirt.” Perfect summer read. Congratulations to Laura on her new novel and thanks to Pam for this playful and informative interview.

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  6. Great interview, Pam and Laura. I laughed a lot! And congratulations, Laura!! Yeah!! Can’t wait to read it!!

  7. Lona Queen says:

    Great interview. Congratulations, Laura. I can’t wait to read JUST FLIRT.

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