Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Switching Genres: An Interview with Author Laurie Hanan #WriterWednesday


Author Laurie Hanan joins us today to discuss her latest project, The Rainbow Connection, a YA novel set in Hawai‘i. Laurie has a successful mystery series, also set in Hawai‘i, featuring mail carrier Louise Golden who gets tangled in mysterious situations she uncovers on her mail route. With four Louise Golden novels published, Laurie took a break to write a young adult novel. 

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From a synopsis of The Rainbow Connection
by Laurie Hanan:

With graduation looming, Emmy’s only friend in her new school goes missing. Brett’s run off before. Her mother and even the cops figure she’s done it again. But Emmy is convinced Brett can’t wait to begin college in the fall, and she would never ditch her super-hot boyfriend. Something bad must have happened to her. Emmy is determined to find out what.

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Gail: Thank you, Laurie, for sharing some of your thoughts today on your latest book, The Rainbow Connection. After writing mysteries for so many years, did that discipline allow for an easy transition into writing a young adult story?
 
Laurie Hanan: Mahalo, Gail, for inviting me to your blog!

     I don’t know if  “easy” is a word I’d use for transitioning to the Young Adult genre. It’s been a long time since I was seventeen, and of course teens today live in a totally different world from the one I grew up in. Developing an authentic voice for Emmy’s character took trial and a lot of error before I felt I was even close. My teen years were painful. Imagining my own seventeen-year-old self in the same tough situations Emmy faces, re-experiencing the raw emotions, and sorting through what my thought processes might have been at that age, gave me more than a few sleepless nights. I also paid close attention to my teenage daughter and her friends, taking notes on their mannerisms and quickly jotting down samples of their lingo. 

     But it was a natural and enjoyable transition to take a peripheral character who I love in my Louise Golden series, develop her personality even more, and give her a mystery of her own to solve.
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Her search leads to a secretive religious group. Emmy suspects there is more to the group’s simple lifestyle and ecstatic dance rituals than the peace and harmony they preach.
 
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Gail: Your comments about re-experiencing raw emotions of teen years and sleepless nights reminded me of the Ernest Hemingway quote — 'There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.'

     In The Rainbow Connection, protagonist Emmy’s maturity has developed through an array of responsibilities within the family, at school, and on the job. Can some of her more questionable decisions that draw her into precarious situations, such as the isolated meeting with Byron at a retreat for a secretive religious group, be attributed to the still-developing reasoning of a teenager?

 
Laurie Hanan: Absolutely. Science shows us that a teen’s brain is not fully developed. They tend to act on impulse, misjudge precarious situations, and misread social cues and the emotions of others.

     Emmy is impulsive, prone to exaggeration, at times irrational, and makes choices that are downright dangerous. Being a teen necessarily makes her an unreliable narrator. The reader is given insights into the missing girl only through Emmy’s skewed remembrances of her, adding another layer of questions about her disappearance.

    
Gail: You have taken the characters Emmy and her brother from your mystery series and created a new storyline for them in the YA genre. What, if any, details from their backstories play a role in or contribute to the plotline of The Rainbow Connection? How important is it for a writer to develop a character’s backstory, in a series or a stand-alone novel?
 
Laurie Hanan: I will answer your questions out of order. When writing a series of stand-alone novels, there can be a fine line between including enough backstory to help readers understand the character, and throwing in so much backstory it confuses the reader and bogs down the flow of events in the new mystery. While each of my novels stands alone, reading the series in order does offer a broader view of the characters’ development over the years.

     In my fourth Louise Golden mystery, Stairway to Heaven, seventeen-year-old   Emmy makes some misguided decisions, resulting in her being kidnapped and held for ransom on a small sailboat during a hurricane. Twelve-year-old Jackie is pulled into the rescue efforts and ends up killing a man to save his sister. While these events play no role in the plotline of  The Rainbow Connection, the experiences do bring about dramatic changes in both Emmy and Jackie, and permanently alter the dynamics between brother and sister.  I originally included some of this backstory in The Rainbow Connection, but my editor felt it “belonged in a different book.” I reluctantly agreed. So, I am currently working on a novella-length recreation of the kidnapping and rescue from the perspectives of Emmy and Jackie. I hope this will shed more light on how the traumatic events affected the two kids.

 
Gail: This coming of age story has a missing person at its center, supporting the idea that stories in all genres involve a mystery. Having written mysteries, and now YA, did you develop a specific preference in genre for future works, or will you continue with the YA series while adding to your Louise Golden series?
 
Laurie Hanan: A big part of why I write is to make my readers happy. Louise fans are clamoring for more time with Louise, while Emmy’s new fans are pleading for the next Emmy Hanlin YA novel. My hope is to continue writing more in both series. 

     I’m currently working on another spinoff from the Louise Golden series, a humorous, classic whodunit starring Louise’s eighty-something-year-old stepmother and her geriatric neighborhood watch group.
 
 
Gail: Mahalo for sharing so much personal insight into your writing style and  character development, Laurie. The information about backstory is especially educational. I look forward to reading your YA novella and the humorous geriatric mystery. 
 
Laurie Hanan's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lauriehanan
 
 
 

Laurie's books are available at Amazon.com in trade and e-book formats: 
 
 
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Monday, February 13, 2017

Heart of the Matter and Memories

Scene #1: The autopsy report states the victim has multiple stab wounds, and photographs reveal several jagged cuts below the woman's abdomen. The location of the bloodless wounds suggests a crime of passion. A reporter asks, "Why did the killer wait until after the victim died to target certain areas?" to which the coroner replies, "He went for the heart right after he hit the jugular, does that count?"  The reporter shakes his head. "It’s not the same, the heart is symbolic of love."

The heart is also a symbol of Valentine’s Day. While my thoughts immediately go to the heart of the murder, someone who recently endured a medical exam might picture a stethoscope monitoring an anxious heart beat. Newly-weds have vastly different thoughts.

Valentine’s Day hearts conjure up memories of love. One heart with two wedding rings brings a smile to a couple wed on Valentine’s Day. A cross-stitch of red hearts reminds a daughter of a mother’s gift; a royal flush to the Ace of Hearts has a Vegas winner beaming. Others get all fuzzy over a heart-shaped box of chocolates, a grinning cupid, or a pair of cooing love birds. Hearts on Fire can only mean young love, and boys naturally love heart-shaped balloons.

A heart surrounding a globe brings a tear to the eyes of grandparents whose families live far away. The mantle holds a framed purple heart of a loved one lost in battle. Flowers and an arrow-pierced heart represent a lifetime spent with a childhood sweetheart, the memories bittersweet. The Sacred Heart means salvation for many, and bright lockets remind one of a young girl’s special day.

Happy Valentine’s Day, and wishes for a wonderful day: Especially for You and Your Loved Ones!

What special memories do you have of this holiday?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

MYSTERY AUTHORS TURNING to YA #WriterWednesday

Many writers focus on one particular genre. Mystery writers get to choose from a plethora of subgenres: Cozy Mystery, Police Procedural, Hard-Boiled Detective, Soft-boiled Mystery, and Thriller. To name a few! There are also sub-sub genres where vampires or fairies or science fiction characters meld with cops and robbers. But even with all these choices, mystery writers sometimes decide to branch out into a totally different genre, Young Adult.

Of course, YA and Mystery aren't necessarily exclusive genres, but writing for adults and for young adults can feel like writing for two completely different worlds.

Lately, I've come across several interesting blog posts that deal with writing for the YA genre and am including the links here for those interested in or toying with the idea of writing YA.

Cherie Colyer wrote an article, Writing for a young adults audience, that gets right down to basics of audience, character development, and protagonist backstory.
http://cheriecolyer.blogspot.com/2016/07/writing-for-young-adults-audience.html

This is an interview of author Stacy Juba by author/interviewer Judy Penz Sheluk:
http://www.judypenzsheluk.com/2015/07/24/interview-with-an-author-stacy-juba/
plus: 10 YA Sports Novels for Teens and Tweens:
http://stacyjuba.com/blog/2015/07/20/ya-sports-novels/

Brian Klems welcomed teenaged writer Jamie S. Margolin to his blog site, The Writer's Dig, to discuss What NOT To Do When Writing YA Books:
http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/what-not-to-do-when-writing-ya-books-advice-from-a-teen-writer

And this is a post about the " Top 5 Dos of Writing YA Lit" on the WiseInkBlog (actually 4 with a "don't" included):
http://www.wiseinkblog.com/self-publishing-2/the-top-5-dos-of-writing-ya-lit/

Last, but not least, here are some writing tips from editors concerning authenticity, subject matter, and trends when writing YA:
https://blog.reedsy.com/editors-tips-write-young-adult-novel


Now that I have all this information at my fingertips, I may decide to write a young adult mystery of my own. Of course, this will require a whole new mindset and a willingness to take myself back to the days of my youth. Maybe I'll begin by stocking up on chocolate - and reading a good YA novel by a mystery writer to get me in the mood:

THE RAINBOW CONNECTION by Laurie Hanan

Review comments:
The character development is awesome
Wonderfully interwoven twists and turns