Friday, November 23, 2012

Feature Friday: Laura Ellen

Don't forget to participate in the Dreaming of Summer Giveaway/Hop (here).

Laura Ellen is a full-time writer and mother of three who began her career as a teacher in both Language Arts and special education. Diagnosed with juvenile macular degeneration as a teen, she drew upon her own experiences with vision loss to write her debut YA thriller Blind Spot, an emotional and suspenseful page-turner. Born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska, she recently moved across country from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Scottsdale, Arizona.

Interview:
A.L.:
What piece of advice would you give to a budding author?

Laura:
Keep writing. If you want to be a writer, you have to write all the time and you have to revise what you've written. It's the only way to get better at it.

A.L.:
What's your favorite book and why?

Laura:
Eek, that's hard. I love so many! My absolute fave though might be A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly. I love the way she merged genres -- historical, mystery, and literary -- so flawlessly in the novel.

A.L.:
Where did you get the idea for Blind Spot?

Laura:
I knew I wanted to write a character that was going through the first stages of dealing with a disability like I did myself as a teen -- but I also wanted to write a mystery/thriller. So I thought why not make the character's struggle to accept herself and the mistakes she makes while doing it, the catalyst for the trouble she gets into?

A.L.:
Did you hit any snags while writing Blind Spot? What were they and how did you fix them?

Laura:
Definitely! Using my experiences as a visually impaired teen was actually tying my hands when it came to the development of the plot and main character. I kept thinking of Roz as me and that stinted what situations I put her into. So I had to take 'me' out of it. I did this by rewriting the novel in third person,. That way I could distance myself from her and see her as her own person with her own issues, family, friends, etc. Once I'd taken myself out, I rewrote it again in first person.

A.L.:
Which one of the characters in Blind Spot is your favorite and why?

Laura:
I like them all because they are all very flawed -- which makes them all very real.

A.L.:
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey as an author?

Laura:
I've always been a writer -- writing keeps me sane! But I didn't start pursuing becoming an author until about 2002. I knew I needed to learn the business if I wanted to break in, so I attended writing conferences, joined a critique group, went to graduate school, and yes, wrote  . . A LOT.

A.L.:
What are you working on now? Sequel? Something new?

Laura:
It's another stand-alone, also a thriller, about a girl who goes to Alaska to meet the father she'd never known and discovers he's accused of murder.

A.L.:
Roz, your main character, is – like you - legally blind because she has macular degeneration. Can you tell us a little bit about writing a character that, I assume in some ways, is meant to frame what life must be like for you?

Laura:
When I set out to write Roz's story, I thought it would be easy because I'd lived her life -- the difficulties navigating everyday life, the awkwardness in relationships, the stereotypes, and the downright unforgivable treatment by teachers who for whatever reason won't accommodate in a classroom.

But it wasn't easy. It was hard because I kept seeing Roz as me. As I mentioned earlier, I had to pull 'me' out of it. I wasn't writing an auto-biography. This was fiction. I learned that 'write what you know' doesn't mean EXACTLY what you lived, it means use the emotions, the knowledge, the lessons and apply them to the fictional situation you've created for your character.

A.L.:
You’re originally from Alaska. Can you tell us what your absolute favorite thing to do or go to was while you were living there?

Laura:
 I love so many things about Alaska -- like the Northern Lights in the winter (just hate the winter!); they are spectacular in shades of green or blue or red. I think my absolute favorite though  is camping in the summer when it is all day sun and you are out deep in the woods by a river, no one around. I love that.

A.L.:
So, music is a big inspiration for you. Can you tell us what your favorite artist, favorite song, and favorite instrument are and why?

Laura:
Ugh! Like books, music shifts for me according to mood! But okay, I'll play.

Favorite artist: Probably Rob Thomas, both solo and with Matchbox Twenty. He is a phenomenal song writer and I love how he mixes different types of music, especially in his solo stuff.
Favorite song (right now!) would be the acoustic version of 'Outside' by Staind with Fred Durst; I like how you can hear the pain in that song; it's so raw, gets me every time.
Favorite instrument, hands down would be acoustic guitar. When a musician unplugs or picks up the classic guitar, he strips the music down to just him and those notes, and there's something so intimate about that; it opens him up, makes him vulnerable. 

The Giveaway:
Blind Spot:  There’s none so blind as they that won’t see.

Seventeen-year-old Tricia Farni’s body floated to the surface of Alaska’s Birch River six months after the night she disappeared. The night Roz Hart had a fight with her. The night Roz can’t remember. Roz, who struggles with macular degeneration, is used to assembling fragments to make sense of the world around her. But this time it’s her memory that needs piecing together—to clear her name . . . to find a murderer.

This unflinchingly emotional novel is written in the powerful first-person voice of a legally blind teen who just wants to be like everyone else.


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