Laurel Robertson: An Interview with Second Place Winner of the Spring Flash Fiction Contest
Laurel Robertson was born in the tiny town of Presque Isle, Maine and has spent most of her life moving south towards warmer weather! Now a native of Dacula, Ga. (let's just say Atlanta), she resides in hectic tandem with her always-on-the-go six-year-old daughter, Lucie Marie. An avid photographer, reader, and fan of storytelling, Laurel has kept writing on the back burner for many years while working her two full time jobs as a Sales & Marketing Coordinator and a single mother. Recently a spark lit and took hold as she began writing her first YA novel, which she is now in the process of editing. Although telling stories has always been in her blood, this is the first contest she has entered. Laurel is excited to entertain the idea of writing as a serious quest as well as creative outlet. She looks forward to writing more short fiction and finishing the novels stacking up in her head.
WOW: Laurel, congratulations on winning second place in the Spring 2009 Flash Fiction contest with your story, "Home By the Sea." It's the kind of story that can give you chills! What was your inspiration for this short story?
Laurel: Thanks very much! It was a complete surprise and honor to be chosen second place winner. The inspiration behind this particular story came from a song actually. When a friend and I decided to enter this contest, she asked if I had any story ideas in mind. At the time I had NO clue but was hoping for divine inspiration. Later that day, I was listening to my I-tunes and a song by Genesis came on--"Home By the Sea." For some reason, my brain pulled out a useless bit of trivia from way back --that song was about a ghost. It dawned on me that I wanted to write a ghost story. I started pondering what might happen if a ghost didn’t “know” she was a ghost. I actually wrote the ending first and worked my way to the beginning. And I named it HBTS in honor of the song that inspired the thought.
WOW: It is always so interesting to hear how stories are inspired by songs, news stories, quotes--it seems like, thankfully, inspiration is all around us. How easy or difficult was it for you to tell this entire story, including great descriptions, in such a small amount of words?
Laurel: I entered this contest to find out if I could write short. I soon realized it is unbelievably difficult to pare down my word count. I love description and trying to squeeze it in such a small number of words takes a lot of consideration. I give Kudos to anyone who can write short fiction easily. But, I will add that it has improved my writing in that I have become more aware of sentence structure and phrasing. I think writing short fiction can only improve one’s overall writing skill.
WOW: I agree, and it is important to always challenge ourselves and learn as writers! Do you often explore the theme of death or loss in your writing? What other themes do you explore?
Laurel: I hadn’t thought of it that way until you just asked, but now that you mention it, my newest short story is about death as well. Maybe it’s a subconscious endeavor? My novel, however, is not about death. Although, it might have something to do with loss!
WOW: (laughs) I think that is actually the best way to approach a theme--not trying to approach it but just seeing what comes out with the story you need to write! Your bio said that you are editing a YA novel. Is this the age group you prefer to write for? What is your novel about?
Laurel: I never sat down with the intention of writing a novel for the YA genre. I wanted to write a romance; and once I started writing, it took off in a totally different direction. I was elated because I had no idea I wanted to send any kind of message with my writing. The “romance” became more about respecting one’s self while in love rather than just writing a typical romance novel. Through the research on certain subjects for my story, I realized I actually wanted to say something to kids. They are under so much more pressure than we were at that age. My hope is that I might, in some small way, make them think about how important decisions regarding love and waiting until marriage to have sex really are. Too many adults accept teenage sex as the norm now days, and I think today’s kids want someone to tell them it’s OK to respect yourself and wait. One day, I am hopeful that my six-year-old daughter will benefit from my writing on this subject.
WOW: You have definitely set out to tackle a tough issue, but it sounds like you will have an intriguing book. I love it again that you set out to write one thing, and the characters and story kind of took over. That happens to me all the time! You also mentioned that you put your writing on the back burner for a while until recently. What made you start writing again?
Laurel: Last year, my husband and I separated after 18 years. I was a bit lost and needed an “outlet” for a lot of pent-up anxieties. My writing became a conduit for the sad, angry ,and confused bits of myself turning into something therapeutic and constructive. It was a safe haven for me when I needed to escape reality. It also gave me something to do with all the extra time I had when I would wake up, every night, at 3:00 am!
WOW: Laurel, thank you for sharing such a personal story with us. I can see that it will help other women writers who may be going through a difficult situation. It is always nice to hear when people can take a trying time and turn it into something positive. What are some time management tips you have for WOW! readers since you work a full-time job and are a single mom?
Laurel: Well, any of my friends reading this will certainly laugh-out-loud at the thought of “time management” mentioned anywhere near my name. I am more of a fly-by-the-seat -0f -my-pants kind of girl. Also known as the Princess of Procrastination…but, it works for me. I do much better “under pressure” and as long as I have a deadline, I can get amazing amounts of work done. I just make lots of lists on my calendar and try to stick to them. I could use a little more sleep, but to quote my favorite singer, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”
WOW: Thank you, Laurel, for sharing your writing knowledge, story, and passion with us today! Keep on writing, and we hope to read more of your work soon.
interview conducted by Margo L. Dill, www.margodill.com, http://margodill.com/blog/