“Eakes has a charming way of making her novels come to life without being over the top,” writes Romantic times of bestselling, award-winning author Laurie Alice Eakes. Since she lay in bed as a child telling herself stories, she has fulfilled her dream of becoming a published author with a dozen books and novellas in print and more on the way. A graduate of Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction graduate program, she also teaches writing and gives inspirational talks to women’s groups. She lives in Texas with her husband, dogs, and cats.
Laurie, we’ve read your bio. Now tell us a little bit more about yourself.
Michigan is my home state. I was born in Flint long ago enough I’d rather not say when. At that time, I had one older sister. Since then, I have acquired two step sisters, as well as two half brothers and a half sister. We are rather scattered around the country now, with one in California, four in Michigan, one in Virginia, and me down here in Texas.
November 6 the year I turned twelve is the date I claim as when I became a born again Christian, though I had some serious bumps along the road in my twenties. After getting my bachelor’s degree in English from Asbury University in Kentucky, I went out on my own and let the world take over my life and thinking. That’s all changed now, but I did write secular fiction first. Fortunately, not much is available any more.
Twelve years ago, I met the man I eventually married, and that took us from Chicagoland, to Washington, DC, and now down to deep south Texas. Along the way, I acquired a master’s degree in writing, and my husband acquired a law degree.
Most of my time is spent writing or doing writing-related stuff like research and marketing. Our current location is temporary so, unfortunately, I’m not terribly involved in the community. Once we get into a more permanent gig, I hope to change that.
You definitely have lived an exciting life! We’re going to dig deeper now. Were you an avid reader as a child? What did you read?
I have been an avid reader since before I could read for myself. And a precocious one. I read Gone with the Wind when I was ten and still remember details about it. (And have some serious issues with it.) I read War and Peace when I was fourteen. When I was about fourteen, I discovered Georgette Heyer and Clare Darcy and fell in love with the Regency and Georgian eras. I also read a gazillion gothic novels—the local library was stuffed with them—so loved—and still do–romantic suspense.
What is your favorite genre to read now?
I prefer historical romance or romantic suspense, though like to throw in an occasional cozy mystery and Age of Fighting Sail novel along the way.
My favorite is the historical romance, too. As a child or teenager, did you ever dream of being an author?
I have dreamed of being an author since I was probably about nine or ten. I started an inspirational young adult novel when I was about twelve and before I ever heard of inspirational fiction. School, college, and the need to make a living interfered in me actually starting writing, but I finally got down to serious business.
Why do you write?
I don’t know how not to write. Over the years, it has become my ministry, so stopping doesn’t seem to be an option.
That’s how I feel about writing too. I’m always asking God to use me in grander ways! Tell us about the journey to getting published.
While on summer vacation from teaching high school, I decided to spend my time writing. I loved the experience. Not knowing any writers or writer groups, I was clueless what to do about it except that maybe I needed an agent, but I kept going, writing, and learning. Eventually, I met a few writers, went to a few conferences, and got an agent. That was such a disaster I gave up for many years, though kept up my writerly connections. One thing led to another, though, and I ended up in grad school for writing and found my niche. I got a new agent through a series of events that had to have been God orchestrated, and sold my first book two years after finishing grad school. Since then, I have sold sixteen more books and three novellas.
At first, I started out writing secular fiction, but the Lord laid writing for Him on my heart, so I switched. It was like starting over again in the learning curve, and He brought special people across my path to teach me.
How many years did it take to sell your first book?
With all my fits and starts, I’d say four if I add the years up, though two years after finishing grad school. I sold my first book within five months of writing it.
How many books do you have published?
Right now, I have twelve books, two months short of thirteen books, plus two novellas in print. I have four more books and a novella under contract.
A Flight of Fancy is the second book in the Daughters of Bainbridge series published by Revell Books in October 2012. Cassandra, my heroine, is a Bluestocking, a nerd. She likes Greek and Latin and the mechanics and chemistry of flying in balloons. She also carries a burden of guilt after she and her fiancé misbehave before their wedding, leading to Cassandra suffering a life-threatening accident. She thinks God is punishing her, breaks off the engagement, and puts her energies into flying.
The hero, Geoffrey Lord Whittaker, wants to get back together with Cassandra, but he is being blackmailed into helping the government find the ringleaders to a gang of Luddites. These were men and women who rebelled against mechanization of the weaving industry, putting them out of work. Both must learn about self-forgiveness, about trust, about acceptance.
What inspired you to write this particular book?
I never know what inspires me to write any book. The idea is there, and I write it. This emerged from a publisher request for a Regency proposal. I picked up a couple of reference books on the Regency and just read them through. The object of ballooning caught my attention and imagination, and thus this story was born.
What are you working on right now?
Right now, I am finishing up a novella for Baker/Revell, which will go into a collection with Amanda Cabot, Jane Kirkpatrick, and Ann Shorey. When that is done, I will start my first Regency for a new series to be published by Zondervan in the spring of 2014.
You are going to be a very busy young lady for quite a while! Where do you get ideas for your books?
Mostly from stuff I read in history books or diaries, but they come from human incidents too. Not a precise answer for what I have no precise answer, but it sounds better than, I have no idea.
How do you choose names for your characters?
I work hard to make the names time period appropriate. I know for myself, if I read a book set in 1815 England or America with a Madyson as the heroine, I probably wouldn’t read the book. That name just would not have been used and would throw me out of the story every time I read it. I have all kinds of resources on names people have gathered from church and prison records, birth records and literature of the time. Of course, one has to go back to the year the character was born, not the year of the story. I also try to make it class and attitude of the parents appropriate. The heroine of Choices of the Heart, my third midwife book, is the daughter of the hero and heroine of Lady in the Mist. Tabitha and Dominick would give their daughter a biblical name. And since she is stunningly beautiful, I chose Esther—appropriate to time, social class, and parental attitude, as well as something that suits her character, since her beauty is an issue in the story.
How do you get to know your characters?
I have to write a few chapters. I make a basic chart of goals, motivations, and conflicts for them, but until I write several chapters, I don’t feel I know enough about them. Those lengthy character interviews never worked for me.
I am the same way! Once I have written a few chapters, I feel like I’m friends with my characters. Do you put yourself into your main character, or do you find yourself borrowing from family or friends as your characters develop?
The simple answer is yes—all of the above, with made up stuff or stuff out of psych books added.
Is there any scene in your book that came from a real-life happening?
In A Flight of Fancy, I borrow from an incident that occurred to a real aeronaut of the early 1800s, when he was flying in a balloon.
In three words describe your style of writing.
Descriptive, Lyrical, Intense
Are you a plotter, a pantster, or somewhere in between, and can you elaborate on your answer?
I am a plotter. I use a lot of Excel spreadsheets for characters and scenes and breaking down scenes into their parts. Now I’ve started plotting scenes within a time-line—date, point of view character for the scene, goal, conflict, disaster/climactic hook.
What are your favorite themes to write about?
Forgiveness, trust, and dealing with abandonment. I think these issues lay behind most of human unhappiness, and I want to help readers find a way out of guilt and negativity, through reading something that also entertains.
What is your writing schedule and where do you write?
I have an office in my home. Most of the time, it looks like a book warehouse or unfinished library with shelves of books and boxes of more, stacked around. My desk has a computer, a desk organizer, and two scanners set upon it. Usually a couple of coffee cups and a water glass too. I am blessed to be able to write full-time and am usually at my desk by 8:00. I try to remember to break for lunch, but don’t always, or not for long. I like to stop around 5:30 to be domestic, get dinner ready, or take the dog for a walk. My family is the two dogs and two cats and my husband, so not a lot of juggling necessary.
Share something about your day-to-day life that might help a reader to feel as though they know you a little better.
When I get up in the morning, I take the dogs out and feed them, then make breakfast and lunch for my husband before I have my first cup of coffee for the day, since I prefer to savor it. Once my husband leaves, I take my coffee onto the balcony for my quiet time. After that, I get to work. Somewhere mid morning, I get dressed and eat breakfast.
What would you be doing if you weren’t writing?
I’d probably be in some corporate job. I had one of those and didn’t like it much, but one doesn’t have a lot of choices with a BA in English and an MA in writing.
Does your faith affect your writing? How?
My faith is integral to my writing. Two of my books are published by a secular publisher, and even those are squeaky clean. But my writing is more than clean romance; it is romance with a strong, though subtle, message of God’s love and forgiveness and our need for repentance. My characters are developed with a spiritual issue blended with plot and character development.
Do you have a favorite scripture? If so, why is it your favorite?
Romans 8:37-39. Because of some issues in my own life, being reminded that Nothing can separate us from God’s love gives me strength to get through even the worst days.
Have you won any awards with your writing?
My first book, Family Guardian won the National Readers Choice for Best Regency back in 2007. While in grad school, I also won two scholarships with my writing. And my 2009 release The Glassblower was a Carol Award finalist.
What is the bravest thing you have ever done?
I have had people tell me I’m brave. I don’t think so. Brave acts, I think, are relative. Despite my limited eye sight, I have been to Europe twice on my own, and picked up and moved to an unfamiliar town for a job, if I think I am ready to go. I don’t think these are brave acts, just life, and others think they are.
What is the coolest, wackiest, most risk-taking thing you’ve ever done?
As in above, I think I live a pretty normal life. I did go sailing on an eighteen century frigate and climb the rigging.
What is the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you?
I was corresponding with two different guys once and got the letters mixed up. The thing is, I was trying to get rid of one of the guys. I ended up getting rid of both of them.
Oh my! Now that is hilarious!! What was your greatest fear as a child and have you written something like that into your book(s)?
I am terribly Claustrophobic and always have been. Some kids at camp one year stuffed me into a closet and held the door shut. Totally freaked me out. This fear hasn’t gotten into a book yet, but will in some form, I am sure.
If you could have dinner with someone famous (dead or alive) who would it be?
James Madison. I have a lot of questions to ask him about the Constitution and what he intended.
If you could travel to anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
I have been to Europe three times, but never to Great Britain. I especially want to go to Scotland, Wales, and Cornwall. I guess it’s my own Celtic roots calling.
I haven’t been out of the U.S. so all of those places you mentioned sound pretty great to me! What is your number one spiritual gift?
Discernment. It ‘s a pretty uncomfortable gift, and I believe has literally saved my life a few times.
Discernment is my number one gift too! I don’t always like having it. Is there anything else you’d like to tell us? Maybe a writing tip or advice for aspiring authors?
Writing is a calling. Being published isn’t necessary a natural outcome of being called to write. So if you feel called to write, write until you know what and why you do it and focus on why God wants you to write rather than getting published. I know that seems easy for me to say, and I had to get to the point where I knew I would write if God told me to, whether or not I ever got a contract, before I actually did get one.
Great advice! And so true! Thank you for sharing your heart with us. Where can fans find you or your books on the internet?
My books are available anywhere you like to buy books—Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christian Book.com, etc. You can also buy them in or order them from your local bookstore.
Follow Laurie Alice on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LaurieAEakes