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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7 comments:

  1. Thank you for taking time to offer insightful answers to the questions, Laurie, and making this an instructive as well as interesting interview. So many of us consider making an attempt at writing in a genre outside of our comfort zone, and some of us have dabbled. Through your successful publication, you give all of us (your sisters in crime!) hope and incentive! Mahalo.

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    1. Mahalo to you, Gail, for inviting me to talk about one of my favorite subjects - my own writing!

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  2. Interesting interview pointing out how writers need to grow and welcome change.

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    1. A favorite quote of mine is: "Set a goal so big you can't achieve it until you grow into the person who can." For me writing a YA novel (at the request of my daughter) was that type of goal.

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    2. You switched genres too, Ray, with your Bearstone Blackie, Detective novel.

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    3. Yeah, I wanted to plunge into the crime fiction funfest. I started with a novel called Hollywood Blockbuster, which I finished, but have yet to edit. I discovered a lot about my characters in that book and carried it over into my next novel, Disappearing Act, which is told in first person. Plenty of nods there to Robert B. Parker and Dash Hammett. It's ready for edting, but, me being me, I decided to keep writing. Bearstone Blackie, the world's first Black Bear detective popped up out of the woodwork. Totally freeing concept. As the old comedians used to say, "If they'll buy the premise, they'll buy the bit." No one ever considered a cannoli-eating Black Bear detective, so I was home free. Bearstone could be anything --outrageous, clever, lazy, outspoken and able to get away with cracking the dumbest jokes and getting big laughs.

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    4. No wonder Bearstone Black is a hit, who would ever have thought of a cannoli-eating Black Bear . . . except you, Ray!

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Aloha and thank you for visiting today!