Register Now for the Creativity Workshop of the Year!
We at MSinC couldn’t believe our luck when we learned that L.A. (Laurie) Chandlar, national best-selling author of the ART DECO MYSTERY SERIES, was going to lead us in her famous Keeping Creativity Alive workshop this Saturday in Troy. That is, the woman exudesinnovation and imagination, and leads such a fascinating life.
For starters, her spirited series (her third book releases later this year) features Mayor Fiorello La Guardia and offers a fresh take on the ingenuity and liveliness of 1930s New York City. Not only does Laurie live and write in the Big Apple, she’s been speaking for more than 20 years to a wide variety of audiences including a women’s group with the United Nations. Laurie’s also worked in PR for General Motors, writes and fund-raises for a global nonprofit, is the mother of two boys, and has toured the nation managing a rock band (see what we mean?).
Join us Saturday, May 18 in Troy, when Laurie will focus on the craft and business of writing creatively and provide lots of encouragement in this participative workshop. And she’s bringing door prizes! Tickets are only $15/members, $20/nonmembers and are available here.
There’s so much we wanted to learn about her that we decided to tease her workshop with this quick Q & A:
What spurred you to base a mystery series during the Art Deco period?
I’ve always loved historical fiction and mysteries, but when I moved to New York City shortly after 9/11, I saw the city in a different way and it inspired me. The was broken and yet there was such compassion, amazing art, humor, and an indomitable spirit. At the same time, I’d picked up a biography on the city’s 99th mayor of the 1930s and 40s, Fiorello La Guardia. When I saw his gumption, his hilarious maneuvering of politics and the press, and his artful and fearless spirit that always fought for the little guy, I began to realize that the Thirties is often overshadowed by the Depression. We think of shanty towns and soup lines. But there was so much more than that going on. It was very similar to my time when I moved to New York. The art and architecture was stunning. The humor and cocktails were flowing. The absolute vitality even in the midst of the Depression, was beautiful. It’s a recurring theme of beauty out of ashes. I wanted to write that part of the story.
The third book of your three-book deal will publish this fall; what are you working on now?
I have a stand-alone fictional novel based on the stories of Christmas and Hanukkah traditions that I had worked on several years ago for a talk I do. I love it so much. I am also working on book 4 of the Art Deco Mystery series, The Cloud Club.
“Tensions rise at The Cloud Club where businessmen of New York hold court, looming over the city seventy-seven stories above in the famed Chrysler Building. After a high-powered attorney is murdered just outside the doors, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia and his trusted aide, Lane Sanders, discover two street urchins who finger the famous mobster Louie Venetti for the murder. The NYPD finally has the ammunition to take him down. However, questionable evidence and the threatening rumor of an impending disaster about to hit New York, leads Lane and the mayor to dive into their own investigation to find the real killer. The Cloud Club holds the key and unless they solve the crime and thwart the rumored disaster, everything will end high in the sky in a fiery conclusion.”
Pantser or plotter?
Both! I do most of my writing scene by scene like a pantser. I love character development and believe you need to let them do what they want to do. When I’ve tried to plot everything out in a neat outline before I begin writing, I find it stale and contrived. There’s something about letting the characters and the scenes develop. So I begin with an idea for a book and have some characters developed. Then I start writing scene by scene. After a while, THEN I do a time line versus an outline. I like to look at it chronologically. Then I write more scenes, go back and fill in the time line and see where there are holes, then go back and forth. So I call it circular writing, because there are important values in both pantser and plotter philosophies. But I always begin as a pantser.
We’re intrigued by your motivational speaking; what sparked that line of work and how does it inform and/or enhance your writing career?
It began when I was having so much trouble just starting the writing process. Life was complicated and it was hard figuring out how to carve out time to write when I already felt like I could barely survive. But I realized that creativity gives back in ways that nothing else can. So when I started with small increments of time that I found motivating and not daunting, and was consistent with it, I was having so much fun! And all my friends noticed. So when it came out that I was finally giving writing some serious effort, every single person reacted by saying wistfully, “Oh I remember when I fill in the blank.” Whether it was reading for pleasure, crocheting, gardening, writing, dancing, making beer… everyone had put something important to them on the back burner because of life’s complicated and busy nature. I was very intrigued by this and started researching about creativity, the psychology of it, and I wanted to help people figure it out so they could live more fully. That’s how my workshops and speaking all got started.
How young were you when you realized you were good at writing and motivational speaking? Briefly describe your “aha” moments.
Great question! The aha moment for writing was when I set aside two hours a week when I’d pay a babysitter and go sit my butt down in the nearest Starbucks and write. For me, that two hours wouldn’t kill our bank account, it wouldn’t kill our family from my absence, and it wasn’t a daunting time or too much time where I’d be tempted to also go do errands and get other stuff done. It was ONLY my writing time. And it was so fulfilling I knew I was made for it. For speaking, I’ve always enjoyed teaching and I’m not afraid to talk in front of people. As long as I can be funny. If it’s too serious, it’s just not for me. But my favorite talk of all-time is the Christmas one I mentioned above. I still do it every year in November and December for all kinds of audiences. I look at some of the lost histories of Christmas and Hanukkah traditions. It’s just delicious and moving, and inspiring, and I get choked up every single time when I show a video on the World War I Christmas Truce of 1914. That was my BIG aha moment for my enjoyment of speaking.
How did your career in automotive PR morph into fiction writing?
Well I hated it so much that I had to find another way – LOL. I actually love PR and marketing. I like figuring out how to connect the dots with something and make it alluring to people. However, at that job in automotive PR, I was just biding my time. I felt like I was living for vacations and just absolutely dreading the rest. It took years after that to figure out fiction writing, though. First came a stint of working with my husband’s band and I managed / tour directed it for 5 years across 46 of the states. It was a LOT of hard work and we wanted to invest in culture and not just play in bars and concert halls. So we did charity concerts with the military and prisons. Those were the best! After that, we moved to New York for a job working with an arts organization. It was at that point that I started to work on writing. I’d always been a huge reader, and then I got that idea for historical mystery series with Fiorello La Guardia.
What is your writing routine?
I write best in the morning, after my kids go to school. Early, early morning is a no-no. I just sit there and get grumpy. I can also write well late at night. I’m oddly a night owl. But mostly, I write from about 8:30-1:30pm and later in the afternoons do marketing and work on my speaking.
What is your favorite part of the writing process? Least favorite? Area of the process where you grew the most?
I really love the part when the first draft is done. Then you get to move on to working it from the beginning, but building it up and crafting all the emotion and color of it. I love that part! I think at that point I’m no longer worried that I’ll able to complete it. And then I can just love on it and enjoy it. I also like finding where I need to build it up more and why. It’s always interesting. Where I grew the most is first of all, just believing in myself that I can do it. And second of all, editing and figuring out what scenes work best and why. I love to analyze if there are points in my book that I’m suddenly taken out of the story and then fixing it. Is it because I rambled on too much about a historical point of interest? Too much rehashing of the clues? Not enough rehashing? Did a character get developed enough? Are they three dimensional or just two? I love all that.
Who is your favorite author and why? Favorite book? Favorite word?
I’ll always love Elizabeth Peters and my books have a lot of her flair with her characters, humor and mystery with a unique approach. And Rosamund Pilcher’s Coming Home is so dear. I also fell in love with Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I’d love to write something magical like that one day. Favorite word? Hmmm… Favorite funny swear word is asshat. I don’t know why, but it makes me crack up—I’m cracking up right this second☺. Favorite fancy word currently is obstreperous.
Who were your mentors on the road to publication?
My first mentor who helped with advice on how to find an agent and just all around advice and encouragement was Daniel Nayeri. He’s an author and also works in the publishing industry. (In fact he just got an amazing deal on a middle grade book that he’s been working on for twelve years and sounds simply incredible. Keep his name in mind! He’s going places). Also, my husband is not a writer, but he’s worked in the music and the fine art world for a long time. He was incredible for advice and input on not giving up, on taking rejection properly and not letting it kill your heart, and for the creative process. How it feels, road blocks, and how to overcome those.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known before your first novel was published?
SUCH a good question! That I didn’t have to do it all alone. I did NOT know about Sisters in Crime or MWA or book conferences while I was first writing. I thought you did all that once you were done writing at least a first draft. Getting involved in conferences and SinC would have probably made my journey not only more enjoyable, but a more efficient one. These are the ways to become a better writer, to make inroads in the writing community, to find agents, to find publishers… SO wish I’d known more about it all.
How has your life changed now that you’ve written three novels? What has not changed that you thought might?
The biggest thing that’s different is being able to connect with readers on a broader base and also other authors. I have so many author friends who have invested in me and I love love encouraging and building up other authors. It’s a tough industry and all of us struggle with the imposter complex. It takes courage and belief in yourself and your stories to keep going. Authors are the gutsiest bunch of people I’ve ever known. And the mystery community is oddly and wonderfully supportive. Most entertainment industries where they’re creative and competitive, the artists are not rooting for each other. I really feel like the mystery community roots for each other. What hasn’t changed is the writing process. I mean, you are always learning and becoming better. But I still can get overwhelmed and obstacles rear their heads at times. I think I thought that if my books did well, and I feel like they have, that continuing publishing would be less of a nail biter. But it still is. (Grrrr.) It’s still a subjective industry and you’re never guaranteed another contract. You have to keep working hard and believing in yourself in new ways.