Author Interview: Laura M. Baird

I grew up in Florida, loving the beach and sun. I wanted to learn to scuba dive as well as fly helicopters, and become part of a search and rescue team. I also wanted to become a photographer, work for National Geographic, and travel the world. Needless to say, I did none of those. When I had no direction, I joined the Army, hoping they’d train me to fly. Of course the recruiter wasn’t going to tell me I’d never make the reach and height requirements. I did work on a flight line, made terrific friends, and met my husband (of thirty-two years).

How long have you been writing or when did you start?

I started writing poetry and short stories in the 4th grade, but it wasn’t until my mid-20s when I wanted to try a novel. I wrote, then set it aside to raise my sons and go back to college to become a dental hygienist. Then in 2015, I decided I was going to write… and publish; because I couldn’t do hygiene forever. In 2017, at the age of 50, my author career took off with three publications, and now I’m approaching my twenty-seventh.

How do you come up with character names for your stories?

There are various ways in which I choose names. Some of my characters’ names are friends and/or acquaintances. I told my co-workers they’d all have their name in print, and most thought it was said jokingly. Well, I wasn’t joking, because most have their name or a variation in my work. It’s done as a tribute. For other characters’ names, I either choose one that sounds good to me (like, yeah, that business man’s name is Theo Spears) or, the names have meaning to the story, like Renata in my novella, Vintage. Renata meaning reborn, because the story deals with reincarnation.

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?

It varies, depending on a spark or a thought. Sometimes I’ll imagine a person, their mannerisms, their upbringing, their choices in life, and develop a story around them. Other times I imagine a scenario or maybe a hot topic in society, and plot around that, trying to determine what kind of people would be involved in this situation. For a few of my novellas in which I wrote in shared worlds, I was given parameters about a character and a circumstance occurring in their lives, then wrote a story around that, introducing their love interest (since I write romance) and what journey their choices take them on.

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

I’ve heard from some readers, from time to time, whether it be a reply to a newsletter or a post on social media, and all engagement has been positive. I’d love to hear more, because I enjoy interacting with readers. I’ll question them about their lives and reading, maybe even ask for opinions on a subject. And I always look forward to reading the responses. I’m going to try more, like asking readers to help me name a character or even a plot they’d love to see in a story. Not that I have a shortage of ideas, because I’m sure I have at least twenty more stories rolling around in my head or snippets written down so I don’t forget something worth using. A few have asked about when I’ll write more in a particular series; some make wonderful comments about personal photos or stories.

How do you process and deal with negative book reviews?

When I read my first 1-star, critical review, initially it was (of course) disheartening. But then I realized that was only one person’s opinion. Early on, I’d constantly check sites to see what reviews I received and what readers had to say, but that got old quickly. I had to spend my time wisely, which meant writing. I’ve stated before that I could write a book a hundred different ways and still not please every readers. My books may not be for everyone, but there’s someone for every one of my books. I write for me, hoping others will find something of value or entertaining in them. If I “wrote to market”, meaning, writing what’s popular at the time, my work wouldn’t be authentic. I’m not out to please everyone because that’s unrealistic. I’m going to create the best version of a story I feel at the time of writing, and I hope it will find its audience.

If you were to write a spin-off about a side character, which would you pick?

This could be any number of my characters, because I love series. I love reading them and I love writing them. Even though I have several stand-alone titles, there are always those secondary characters that linger in the back of my mind. That’s how my Shifter Clans series came about. I was writing an alpha male, shifter romance for an anthology call with Evernight Publishing, and even though my story didn’t quite fit what they were looking for, for the anthology, they liked the story and wanted to publish. Well, I ended up revising and lengthening the original story, and side characters kept speaking to me, resulting in a four-book series. And I don’t think I’m quite done yet. Recently, with my novella, Vintage, a character popped into my head for the ending of the story, and I’m pretty sure this character (a witch by the name of Sapphire) is going to get her own story.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

When reading a comment from an author I enjoy, she stated how the characters had a mind of their own and the story went in a completely different direction than she had planned. I thought, how is that possible? You’re the author, you plot and plan and know your characters and where the story is going. Oh, boy, did I find out otherwise! When writing my debut romance, I thought I had my characters and plot mapped out, knowing what would happen. I was wrong. The characters had other ideas, so I let them lead me. I’ve found this to be true for much of my writing. I’m more of a pantser, writing by the seat of my pants. I start with a nugget, a seed, and see where it grows.

Do you prefer ebooks, printed books, or audiobooks most of the time?

The majority of my reads are ebooks. I have some print books by friends and favorite authors because I want to keep them forever and ever. And only within the last 3 years have I become an audio book fan, and I love it! One of my favorites was The Flight Girls, about WWII female pilots, and it was fantastic. Recently I listened to Bombshell by Sarah MacLean, and I cannot say enough how marvelous it was. Funny and touching and sexy, and I could listen to it all over again. So now that I’ve gushed about audio, I only have about a dozen audio books compared to 250+ ebooks (and that’s not counting the many I’ve deleted over time).

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

When not writing, nearly every moment is spent keeping busy – whether it’s with family (hubby, 2 sons, 3 grand kids, and my mom who lives close), still working 2 days a week in dental hygiene, promoting my work, or whittling away at my massive TBR pile. Hubby and I enjoy watching college football and NHL, plus going to car shows and drag races in the summer. We’ve always loved road trips, but this year, that’s been sadly put off due to a variety of reasons I’m sure I don’t need to bore readers with. I go through spurts of enjoying baking/cooking, but if I could have one luxury in life, it’d be to hire a personal chef!

Many thanks to BookShelf News Cafe for this author interview, and for helping the writing community flourish!

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