Are there any books or authors that inspired you to become a writer?
When I was a kid, my favorite book, The Diamond in the Window, was about an 11-year-old – my age at the time – with freckles – just like me. She hated her freckles – just like I did. What left the biggest impression was that this character learned to accept not only her freckles but also herself. Her journey spoke to me so powerfully that, decades later, I decided to write a middle grade story that I hoped would mean as much to readers today as that story meant to me. And that’s how I came to write Summer of L.U.C.K., my middle grade debut, published by Young Dragons Press.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
Summer of L.U.C.K., a story of friendship, perseverance, and compassion set at a summer camp, is about three kids — Darby, Justin, and Naz – finding their way to self-acceptance with the help of a ghost who haunts a magical carnival. The ghost’s name is Leroy Usher, and he’s known as Carnival King, which is the L.U.C.K. in the book title. I must admit that once I came up with “Summer of…” to begin the book’s title, the word “luck” just felt right after that. Even before I wrote it, Summer of L.U.C.K. sounded like a book I would have wanted to read. So I came up with Mr. Usher’s name based on the L. and the U. It was pure, well, luck that the story was already about a carnival (C.), and since Mr. Usher had been a master at his trade, the word king (K.) just came naturally after that.
How long did it take you to write this book?
Summer of L.U.C.K. took some 20 years(!) from when I started writing it part time to when it was published, in large measure because I was learning how to write fiction for kids. I revised and rewrote it over and over again and worked with a development editor and other writers until it was good enough to attract a publisher. In more positive news, its sequel, Ready or Not, only took 16 months to write. The Chambered Nautilus, the third and final in the L.U.C.K. trilogy, only took 12 months. You could say I’ve made progress, ha ha.
What is the best money you’ve ever spent with regard to your writing?
The development editor I mentioned above taught me so much about storytelling. What belonged in the book and what didn’t. To minimize the character points of view (I had way too many when I started). To give readers a sense of place, taste, and smell. That kind of thing, and much more. I’m glad I invested that money in my writing and in myself.
If you’re planning a sequel, can you share a tiny bit about your plans for it?
At this point in time (early 2023), Summer of L.U.C.K. is my only book published so far, but Young Dragons Press will be publishing its two sequels beginning this year, and I hope readers will want to check them out. Ready or Not (Book 2) takes place the following summer when Justin, challenged by a bully who drives a rift between him and a good friend, faces a tricky choice: stand up for what’s right in the face of bigotry or let fear hold him back. When parts of a Ferris wheel begin vanishing in The Chambered Nautilus (Book 3), Darby, Justin, and Naz must locate the ghost who’s responsible. If they can’t get him back to rest before time runs out, their beloved magical carnival will close forever.
What are your favorite blogs or websites for writers?
There are so many, but my regular favorites are The Creative Penn; Queries, Qualms, and Quirks; and Writer Beware, all of which consistently provide helpful publishing news, writing information, craft ideas of all kinds, links to resources, and more.
According to The Creative Penn’s Joanna Penn, her site (and podcast) share her writing and publishing experience, “so you can learn from my mistakes and be more successful in your creative life.” She offers a range of resources, including free business downloads.
Sarah Nicolas’s Queries, Qualms, and Quirks site/podcast features interviews with published authors who share their successful query letters and talk about their journey to publication. Whether you can relate or not (and I always do), it’s comforting to hear how other writers have faced and overcome the obstacles so common in publishing.
Writer Beware, run by Victoria Strauss, “shines a bright light into the dark corners of the shadow-world of literary scams, schemes, and pitfalls. Also providing advice for writers, industry news, and commentary.” It’s an essential resource for writers and always entertaining to see how Strauss catches scammers with their proverbial pants down.
What is the most difficult part of your writing process?
In the “pantser” vs “plotter” sweepstakes, I’m a big-time “pantser,” meaning I start with a germ of an idea, and my stories unfold as I go along. I love writing that way, but all too often it can mean that I’m unsure about what happens next. I panic at first, worried that the three books I’ve already written were flukes and that I’ve lost my ability to write, which never turns out to be true. My solution, always, is to take some time to let my ideas percolate and flow, then I go back to writing. It works every single time.
What book (or books) are you currently reading?
I read mostly crime fiction and middle grade. For the former, I’m several books into MC Beaton’s Agatha Raisin series, which I’m finding fun and hilarious. My recent middle grade favorites have included Get A Grip, Vivy Cohen by Sarah Kapit, The Miraculous by Jess Redman, All of Me by Chris Baron, and The 7th Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall. I’m about to start the Premeditated Myrtle series by Elizabeth C. Bunce.
If you could be mentored by a famous author, who would it be?
It’s tough to pick only one. I’d say Charles Dickens. Or Edith Wharton. Or PD James. Or – how many choices to I get????
What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given about writing?
The best piece of writing advice I’ve received came from a writer who Tweeted, “There is no age limit to my dreams. Write on.” In other words, keep going. That’s been my motto ever since.
Laura Segal Stegman
Author, Summer of L.U.C.K.