It's Monday, so it must be time to talk to another author!
We're continuing with our look at Kindle Vella authors - the people who put out episode after episode of stories that capture your imagination and cost pennies to read. Today I have Laurie Brandon with me. Links are at the end of the interview.
Laurie? Let's dive in.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve enjoyed writing from the time I’ve been able to put words together to form sentences. Throughout my school years, it was the subject I dove into and tried to excel at and it didn’t matter the type of writing. In fifth grade, I made my mother give up the better part of a Saturday to haul me to our public library so I could conduct research for a class assignment, except there wasn’t a class assignment—I just wanted to write about the topic. During high school, my favorite teacher Ms. Gregory-Bensen encouraged me to write short stories during a creative writing unit. The seed was planted to become a writer but it took decades until I had the time to devote to it, and Kindle Vella gave me the avenue to publish what I’d been working on.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
My Kindle Vella series, “An Operator’s Daughter”, came about after I made the excruciating decision to leave a teaching position in December 2019—just weeks before the first COVID case in our region of the country.
After my absolute best year in the classroom, working with amazingly motivated and compassionate students, our school’s curriculum underwent alignment to match the rest of the district’s high schools. Instead of teaching a combined Pre-AP/Honors course in American Studies—U.S. History and American Literature, I was now teaching primarily 10th grade English. The incoming group of students was by and large unmotivated to learn anything—not what I’d experienced in my past 15 years in this community.
My last three months in the classroom were filled with incidents of harassment, even sexual harassment, vandalism of the learning environment, hostility, and violence—there were Lord of the Flies moments and our administrative team did nothing to stop it. In fact, they took the word of students—the students harassing me and the few students who wished to learn, over my word and documented evidence.
Having never experienced crushing anxiety, only nerves—the type that always motivated me to do my absolute best whether it was swimming competitively as a youth or while directing broadcast television shows, I knew the physical manifestation of stress was a direct result of the ongoing harassment on the job. I took the exit ramp and resigned from the teaching position I’d worked so hard to attain.
Once home, between putting out resumes to find another job, I began writing for therapy—a memoir of what I’d just gone through. As the words spilled out on my laptop screen, I found dealing with it to be too personal and needed a way to tell what happened to me from a more detached point of view. My character “Ashton Grace Maguire” came to me from a dream with a complete backstory. Through her experiences, I have found a way to heal, and as she overcomes the challenges I put into her path, I’ve become stronger.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
While not good for my family’s bottom line, the time to devote to writing while I was unemployed was a gift for writing serial fiction as I had a stock-pile of episodes once Kindle Vella went live to publish for what is now an ongoing series with Parts I, II, and III complete and Part IV ready to go once my fabulous niece completes the cover art.
Now that I have begun a new career as an Educational Counselor on a military base, I write during my evenings and weekends, pounding out episodes, and doing my editing—something that when I can afford it, I would love to hire out.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Inspiration can come from anywhere for my storylines: my own experiences, one of my favorite television series Seal Team—while my series is not fan fiction, I was intrigued by the family dynamic of those in the Special Operations community, and now the active duty Service Members and their dependents I work with on the job. While my series is fiction, and many of the situations quite outlandish, I’ve tried to build enough plausibility into the situations to make the drama realistic—something that could happen in the life of my main character.
One of those situations was finding a plan online for Navy Special Warfare training in the Puget Sound area using Washington State parks. My main character is a photographer and she is invited to photograph exercises—in which her love interest is taking part. (Again, outlandish, but plausible.)
What does your family think of your writing?
My family; my husband, my mother, and my niece have been my greatest supporters. My niece, now a surgical resident AND a busy wife and mother of six- and two-year-old children, is my cover artist. My mother has adopted “Ashton” as the granddaughter I couldn’t give her prior to this and looks forward to purchasing tokens to read episodes as I release them. My husband, who functions as my after-the-fact editor, encourages me to keep at it. While coming-of-age/action-adventure/romance with tons of drama is not his fiction of choice, he tells me he cannot get enough of my characters and their situations either.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
While I started a blog, and now the mailing list for my newsletter is in its infancy, the posted reviews from a fan in Florida who called my series “addictive” motivates me to stick with the series and branch out into other genres of literature. The new poll feature for Kindle Vella episodes is a fun way to engage readers, and I’m hopeful that as readers find my blog, they’ll participate in a dialog about the series and other topics.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
If there is a common trap for an aspiring writer, it is that writing is the easy part—at least it is for me. I’m prolific when it comes to creating scenes, becoming a better editor with available tools (a shoutout to ProWritingAid and Grammarly), and having the self-discipline to put in the time and effort after working a full day and a commute.
A large part of a writer’s job is promotion. Marketing is not my forte, it just isn’t. As a new writer, and with the need to stick to a strict budget, taking out ads has not been a possibility. While I have a background in graphics production for television, I need to invest in the software tools to create ads to post on social media and to find ways to get my work out there for readers to discover. (Thank you, again, for allowing me to participate in this interview.)
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I never considered writing under a pseudonym. I waited a long time to get to a point where writing was an imperative, and I wanted to be recognized for my effort and hopefully, talent.
As my series is coming-of-age fiction, my main character doing just that, coming of age, and her experiences are now that of a young adult. It means that the storyline gets steamy at times. While it may make me blush at times writing those scenes, I believe contemporary fiction in this genre should be realistic and empower readers to live their best lives possible.
What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters, if anything?
Some of my characters are based on real people I’ve worked with as students and colleagues. Some of those portrayals are unflattering, and others, if they were to read my series, will know the deep respect I have for them.
Do I owe them anything? That is a good question. From my perspective, I would thank them for inspiring me whether they were my villains or my angels.
What does literary success look like to you?
Literary success for me would be to support my husband and me during our retirement years with my writing—still several years away.
While I love my current day job providing education counseling to active duty Service Members and their dependents, I long for the days I can focus on writing and yes, even promoting, my work to a larger stage.
What do you have coming next?
“An Operator’s Daughter – part IV” is nearing publication as well as a mystery set in the Snake River Valley of Idaho in the shadow of the Tetons. Both serials will be exclusively on Kindle Vella.
My Amazon Author page link is here:
Here are the links to my current serials on Kindle Vella: