Author interview 154 – Laura Drake


Laura M. Drake

USA

Age 29

Laura Drake is the youngest of five children and grew up in AR (that’s Arkansas, not Arizona) until she moved to Provo, Utah to attend Brigham Young University. She graduated with a degree in Elementary Education and worked as a teacher for a few years in Utah. She lived in Tokyo, Japan for two years, which is when she started the Japanese Hauntings series and her first completed trilogy, The Chronicles of Andar.

When she isn’t writing she enjoys reading, playing ultimate frisbee and board games, and spending time with her family and friends. She is passionate about time management and finances and loves helping people make budgets.

Laura is a member of The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Emmaline Lyland is a perfectly abnormal fifteen-year-old girl struggling to find her place in an ordinary world full of extraordinary magic.
When she returns to Ackley Institute for another school year, she quickly realizes it will be one unlike any other. With tensions running high across Andar, relationships between the regions and the students are quickly falling apart. A hidden danger lurks outside the safety of the school walls, and Emmie and her friends are determined to uncover the mystery.

After Ackley is attacked, Emmie realizes they are closer to the truth than they knew. As the number of casualties grows, the country teeters on the brink of civil war and they make a decision that could change their lives forever. But will it be enough to save her friends and prevent war? Or will the country be permanently changed by the unexpected magic?

Romelia:   WHAT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF YOUR ARTISTIC PROCESS?

Laura Drake:   I don’t generally struggle with the artistic part. I’m a plotter, so as soon as I get an idea, I write down all the information, then I take some time to figure it out. (I use the Save the Cat beat sheet.) Once I have a decent idea of where the story is going, I talk to one of my sisters (an English teacher) and she helps point out weaknesses or places where I need more character growth, etc. Generally, by the end of that conversation, I’m raring to start writing and have most of the story figured out. (Sometimes the characters take me places I didn’t expect, but knowing the beginning and the end helps me navigate the story confidently.)

Romelia:   DOES YOUR FAMILY SUPPORT YOUR CAREER AS A WRITER?

Laura Drake:   My family is fantastic about supporting me. I’m not married and don’t have any kids yet, so at the moment it’s just my siblings and parents, but I couldn’t ask for anything more from them. They help me celebrate each book release. They read all my work once it’s published, and they often serve as proofreaders for me before my works go live. They’re great to bounce ideas off of and don’t hesitate to tell me if there are problems in the story. Not only that but it’s been adorable watching my own writing inspire my nieces and nephews. (One of my nephews is writing his own story now—he’s 10—and he’ll call sometimes with writing questions. It’s pretty much my favorite thing ever.)

Romelia:   IF YOU HAD TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENTLY AS A CHILD OR TEENAGER TO BECOME A BETTER WRITER AS AN ADULT, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

Laura Drake:   Honestly, I’m not sure there’s much I would do differently except for writing more earlier. I was a voracious reader from the time I was young, and I believe that’s an equally important part of the process so the only place I was really lacking was in experience. I did write a bit, but I should’ve done more with it.

Romelia:   HOW LONG ON AVERAGE DOES IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE A BOOK?

Laura Drake:   It depends on the length of the book and if I’m working a second job or not. When I first came home from Japan I had to quarantine in a trailer for two weeks (dang, Covid) and I whipped out the first draft of Untrained Magic (about 65 or 70K) in two weeks. Obviously, the book changed a lot in the revision process, but when I’m excited about the story, I love cranking out that first draft.

Romelia:   DO YOU BELIEVE IN WRITER’S BLOCK?

Laura Drake:   To a degree. I’ve experienced it for certain chapters where it’s hard to get going, but I’ve found that I can generally push through. Or I work on a different part of the story and end up finding that the scene I struggled with wasn’t necessary after all. On average, it really isn’t something I struggle with.

Romelia:   AT WHAT POINT DO YOU THINK SOMEONE SHOULD CALL THEMSELVES A WRITER?

Laura Drake:   If you enjoy writing, you should call yourself a writer.

Romelia:   WHAT DIFFERENCE DO YOU SEE BETWEEN A WRITER AND AN AUTHOR?

Laura Drake:   I think of a writer as anyone who enjoys writing and an author as someone with published works (possibly trying to make a living off it.)

Romelia:   HOW DO YOU PROCESS AND DEAL WITH NEGATIVE BOOK REVIEWS?

Laura Drake:   Ooh, that’s a good one haha. I’ve received plenty of negative book reviews with a series I’m cowriting with a friend under a pen name (which I won’t mention now because our pen name is still a secret) and we’ve found the best way is to not take it too seriously. One review said “highly unlikely this person will succeed as an author” so we decided to make shirts with the quote and take a picture in them each time we published the next book in our series.

It’s far too easy to let the negative reviews outweigh the good ones, but it’s more important to focus on the people who enjoy your stories. Sometimes I don’t even look at the negative reviews (which is probably a healthier way to deal with it when I have that kind of self-control.)

Romelia:   WHAT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF YOUR WRITING PROCESS?

Laura Drake:   The most difficult part of the process for me is the final revisions from betas after having gone through it so many times already. Then, once I finish that and believe it’s ready to go, I read each chapter of my book aloud (which is terrible because I’m so sick of the story at that part.) This part always feels like it takes the longest.

Romelia:   HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WRITING OR WHEN DID YOU START?

Laura Drake:   I’ve been writing consistently ever since I moved to Japan in 2018. That’s when I started my first trilogy. But even before that I was working on a book with a friend in college and a book with my old roommates (neither of which has been published yet.) I also wrote a bit in high school, but it didn’t go anywhere so I consider my writing to have started when I worked on my first novel.  

Romelia:   WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A WRITER WORKING ON THEIR FIRST BOOK?

Laura Drake:   Don’t publish it even though you’ll really want to. Write it, revise it, get beta readers, go through the whole process, then take a step back and work on another story. You’ll get better with each story you write. Once you’ve got a bit more experience under your belt, go back to that first story if you really want to publish it still and clean it up with your new skills and release it to the world.

Romelia:   WHAT, TO YOU, ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENTS OF GOOD WRITING?

Laura Drake:   To me, the most important elements are if it’s gripping and has relatable characters. There are many situations we write about in books where readers have zero ability to relate to the situation (like stories in space, or climbing into volcanoes or dealing with ghosts, or at a magical academy) but what makes a book good is when the readers really relate to and feel for the characters.

Romelia:   WHAT COMES FIRST FOR YOU – THE PLOT OR THE CHARACTERS – AND WHY?

Laura Drake:   The plot comes first for me since I’m plotting everything out before I start writing. Maybe I’ll have an idea of what characters are in the story while plotting, but the characters themselves don’t come to life until I start writing. They end up having personalities I don’t expect until I start writing.

Romelia:   HOW DO YOU DEVELOP YOUR PLOT AND CHARACTERS?

Laura Drake:   Personally, (almost) all of my books are based on dreams. Then I wake up and furiously scribble notes on the plot. Once it’s hashed out, I talk it out with a sister or a friend until I feel like I have the biggest plot holes and problems covered, and then the characters develop as I write.

Romelia:   WHEN DID YOU FIRST CALL YOURSELF A WRITER?

Laura Drake:   I didn’t call myself a writer until I started writing my first book. Even though I did a lot of writing before that, I didn’t see myself that way until I could actually see the efforts of my work (like when I published or first heard back from beta readers.) If I felt the way I did now, I would’ve called myself a writer much earlier.

Romelia:   HOW DO YOU USE SOCIAL MEDIA AS AN AUTHOR

Laura Drake:   A question that cuts right to the heart of my weakness. I struggle to use social media as an author, but I will say that I’m making a conscientious effort to do better. For now, I’m focusing my efforts on Goodreads because with over 125 million users actively looking for their next read, it seems like the best place option at the moment.

Romelia:   WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE AND LEAST FAVORITE PART OF PUBLISHING?

Laura Drake:   My favorite part of publishing is having the book go live and finally getting to see reviews from readers. I probably enjoy reading the reviews (at least the positive reviews) as much as people enjoy the stories.

Romelia:   WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO AN AUTHOR WHO WANTED TO DESIGN THEIR OWN COVER?

Laura Drake:   I’d say don’t do it unless you have experience with it. I made that mistake with my first book, and I cringe and laugh to look back on it. I definitely didn’t do myself any favors unless I count on learning from the experience.

Romelia:   HOW MANY BOOKS HAVE YOU WRITTEN AND WHICH IS YOUR FAVORITE?

Laura Drake:   I’ve written ten books so far but only seven are published under Laura M. Drake. The Japanese Hauntings quartet is a series of ghost stories and the Chronicles of Andar trilogy is sort of like Harry Potter meets Avatar: The Last Airbender.

It’s hard to choose a favorite because my quartet is novellas based on Japanese ghost stories (which I obviously love because I’m a huge fan of Japan), but I’d probably have to choose Unexpected Magic. It’s not necessarily my best writing, but you can’t read any of the other Chronicle of Andar books without starting with the first, and that series is really dear to my heart. It showed me the power of writing and the motivation I can get from receiving raving reviews from readers. It showed me how much a story can improve with beta readers, and it was my official first published novel. It’s hard to beat that.

Romelia:   WHAT PART OF THE BOOK DID YOU HAVE THE HARDEST TIME WRITING?

Laura Drake:   The hardest part of Unexpected Magic was when I thought the book was ready to publish and I was getting ready to put it up on Amazon, and my sister (the same one who now helps me brainstorm BEFORE I start writing) pointed out all these problems I suddenly had to fix. I was heartbroken by the idea of all the revisions in store for me, but I’m 100% grateful she told me about it and that I put in the effort to make the changes because the story is so much better now than it ever was.

Romelia:   WHAT PART OF THE BOOK WAS THE MOST FUN TO WRITE?

Laura Drake:   The most fun part of ANY book is the first draft for me because that’s when my fingers fly across the keyboard and the words just seem to pour onto the page. It’s like the story can’t wait to tell itself, and sometimes even I’m surprised by the things that happen. (I know it sounds silly to say that, but I have one very distinct memory of when I was working in Japan one day and sneaking some time in on my story while at school during my prep period, and all of the sudden I was like “Oh no. Is this character related to that character? How did I not see that coming?” And I was completely flabbergasted and had no one to share my shock with because at that point no one had even heard of the Chronicles of Andar haha.)

Romelia:   WHICH OF THE CHARACTERS DO YOU RELATE TO THE MOST AND WHY?

Laura Drake:   I probably relate to Selena the most at the moment because she had a great relationship with her father and unrequited love for the bulk of her teenage years.     

Romelia:   IF YOU’RE PLANNING A SEQUEL. CAN YOU SHARE A TINY BIT ABOUT YOUR PLANS FOR IT?

Laura Drake:   I’m working on a story now, but it isn’t a sequel. It’s a story that takes place in a realm between life and death called the In-Between (at least that’s the working title.) I’m actually really excited about it because it’s my first enemies-to-lovers stand-alone book (so far I’ve only done series.)

But I do have some sequels. There’s a sequel book that takes place after the Chronicles of Andar I’ll be working on for 2022, and I’m thinking of revisiting the Japanese Hauntings series next October and adding a fifth book for the spooky season. A lot of readers were disappointed that the book ended with only four, so that will be a fun one to revisit (once I’ve had a nice break from it haha. I published all four of those books in October of 2021, so I definitely needed a break after that.)

Romelia:   TELL US SOMETHING FUNNY ABOUT YOUR ADULT LIFE.

Laura Drake:   Something funny, huh? Hmm. I’m.

Romelia:   DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN A FEW SENTENCES. TELL US SOMETHING WE DO NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU AND SOMETHING YOU HATE ABOUT THE WORLD.

Laura Drake:   Something you don’t know about me is that I really want to be fluent in five languages. I’d love to speak Japanese, Korean, French, Spanish, and English (and maybe Chinese just because it’s useful.) I love learning different languages and the insight it provides into other cultures, and I love living/traveling abroad.

Something I hate about the world/America is how people care more about protecting their individual rights than about each other. After living in Japan, I really grew to appreciate their sense of community. They’re always thinking about others. And while I believe they could use a bit more sense of individuality there, I also believe that America could learn a big lesson about a sense of community from them. (There should definitely be a nice middle ground somewhere.)

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