Back with a new interview with Laura Baugh. These might slow down a touch as I’m running out of interviews handed in, so if anyone would like to be interviewed, please get in touch! I’m having a blast with these as always, and it’s great getting to know everyone. Keep them coming!
Check out my ongoing interviews for SPFBO5 down below:
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?
Hello! I’m Laura VAB (because Laura VanArendonk Baugh is a lot to say even online), and I write fantasy (epic, urban, and historical), a little mystery, and non-fiction. Basically I am bad at branding. 😊
How do you develop your plots and characters?
I’m not a planner. If I have an outline for a book, it’s probably 4-6 bullet points that fit on a sticky note. I don’t do character interviews and personality typing and all that stuff that my writer friends are into. Honestly, I do a lot of work in my sub-conscious while I feed my brain music and sugar.
For me, trying to type a character before writing is like trying to make judgments about someone before you meet them. You can’t really get to know someone until you see what they’re actually doing, and that’s true for my fictional friends as well.
Tell us about your current project.
I’m wrapping up the third book in the trilogy SHARD & SHIELD opens. So talking about it would be a lot of spoilers! I’ll just say that there’s still an interdimensional war, there’s still magical warfare, there’s still a lot of damaged people making poor decisions and other damaged people making better ones, and we’re getting to some critical choices for characters.
I’m also working on a standalone novel about a runaway farm boy who unwillingly teams up with an infamous highwaywoman to accidentally save their country. It’s got a very different feel, a lot more humor than the SHARD & SHIELD trilogy, but I think it will appeal to many of the same readers.
Is this your first entry into SPFBO? If not, how many times have you entered?
This is my second SPFBO entry. My first, The Songweaver’s Vow, made it to semi-finals in 2017, which was very exciting. Fingers crossed for this round!
Who would you say is the main character of your novels? And tell me a little bit about them!
Because it’s epic fantasy, I really have four protagonists in a wider cast, but let’s talk about Shianan.
Shianan Becknam is a royal bastard in a dynasty which fears illegitimate competition. He was sent away to be raised as a soldier, a safe and distant occupation, and he’s completely immersed himself in that life as his whole worth and value. He’d do anything for family and belonging, even if he can’t acknowledge that. It’s been a year since he was called to the capital and ennobled, but that just puts him in this awkward not-really-recognized-everybody-stares position, and his proximity and pity-title just underscore his separation. Shianan retreats even more into his duty and his gruff defense against everyone. So when we meet him, he’s in severe need of a character arc.
What advice would you give new writers on how to delve into creative fiction?
Read. A lot. The good stuff. You have to know your medium, you have to know your tools, and you won’t be able to produce good literature if you’re filling your hopper with mediocre work or with television.
Then experiment. Play around. Have fun! I see too many writers today start by focusing on career-building and sales. Selling is not writing! You’ve got to learn your craft and build your skills first.
And don’t be afraid to experiment. Be brave. Tosca Lee (bestselling and awesome author) said, “Write like no one will ever read it,” and that’s fantastic advice for getting through early drafts.
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your book?
One of the many wonderful things about being a writer is that everything is research!
Lots of our own world shows up in the worlds of Shard & Shield, from double-entry accounting innovations in medieval Venice to raptor biology. An entire character set and subplot were inspired by a single line of inscription in a Roman bath. This helps to make fiction feel deep and real and immersive, and it also gives me a lot to blog about while I’m writing. 😉
What inspires you to write?
See the previous answer—everything is research, everything is inspiration. Ideas are everywhere! The hard part is selecting and prioritizing.
What is your routine when writing, if any? If you don’t follow a routine, why not?
I don’t have a routine, I don’t think? I write at my treadmill desk or anywhere with my small laptop. I’m not a coffeeshop writer; I need a quiet place to work. I’ll often have a snack, which is why I need a treadmill desk! I may have music but just as often write in silence.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? A gardener or an architect?
Normally I’m a very minimal planner; I’ll have a premise and a sticky-note’s worth of bullet points for most stories. This one, however, was pure pantsing, and I never knew what the next scene would be. This made for a lot more revision! But it was really fun to write.
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
I don’t do character interviews or personality typing or any of the cool things my writer friends talk about. I don’t feel I can get to know someone until I see them in action—much like people in real life! So I have to just start writing and see what they do when I put them in different situations.
What makes a good villain?
I’m proud of my villains/antagonists in Shard & Shield, because they’re more realistic than a lot of fantasy villains. Don’t get me wrong—I do love a good evil lord about to cover all the land in a second darkness! But that’s not the type of opposition we see in this book. Here our protagonists have to confront people who are committing their evil acts out of shame and guilt, have to fight prejudice and inflexible tradition and economic momentum, have to face enemies driven not by malice but by famine and hunger. Wow, I’d never actually written all that out, and now it sounds rather awkwardly like an agenda story, which it’s definitely not; I just think it’s a more realistic depiction of conflict and causes. While I do believe in real evil, I also believe that conflict comes from many sources, and this story reflects that.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love traveling, which is always also a great source of ideas for more writing! Books, of course, though my schedule pushes me toward audiobooks more often now. I play tabletop RPG, and I like to hike. I’m never bored.
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
I actually have a dream job! My day job is in behavior, mostly animal and a little human, so I train and teach. (See my non-fiction titles, and it helps to inform my fiction as well.)
Finally, what is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, here on Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?
Start at my website www.LauraVAB.com and sign up for the newsletter! It’s infrequent, I won’t waste your time or share your info, there’s often some sort of giveaway or freebie, and you get free stories just for subscribing. You can find all my social media links from the site, too.
Thank you! 😊