Thursday, June 20, 2013

Author Spotlight: Valerie Laws

Hi all! Today I'm thrilled to welcome acclaimed author Valerie Laws who writes everything from thrillers to mysteries to comedies and plays! I'm so excited for you to meet her. She is such an interesting person - you're going to love reading about what she it up to - So lets get right to it!

Hello Valerie and Welcome!! I'm so happy to have you here. Can you tell us a little about your latest release?

LYDIA BENNET’S BLOG - THE REAL STORY OF PRIDE & PREJUDICE is my 11th published book, and my first totally indie e-book. It’s a steampunky timeslip comedy, a re-imagining of Jane Austen’s famous novel in the voice of Lydia, the outrageous, outspoken youngest Bennet sister. She’s just like a modern teenager, so I’ve written her ‘blog’ in modern teen language, but I’ve invented 19th Century explanations for her slang. Unknown to Lizzy, Darcy and even Jane Austen, Lydia (my Lydia!) was manipulating the action behind the scenes to get her way and get her man, the ultimate bad boy Wickham! I’ve just re-launched the book on Kindle with a new cover, of which more below. It has lots of wordplay and in-jokes in it! This book has some very distinguished fans, successful writers like Linda Gillard, who find it hilarious but also clever. To me it feels as if Lydia Bennet herself wrote her Blog - as when I’m writing plays, her voice was in my head as I wrote.

What a great concept! Maybe Lydia should meet Millie my twelve year old blog writing main character! So what inspired you to write this book?
The words ‘Lydia Bennet’s Blog’ just popped into my head one day and I knew I had to write this book. I love Austen’s novels and often re-read them. I had always felt Lydia Bennet had a raw deal and deserves to tell her own story. She’s the most realistic and clear-headed character in some ways. I also get a bit bored with Darcy being the perfect romantic hero, I thought it was time to right the balance by teasing him and the Darcy fans a bit. My own daughter went through the teen phase and the modern voice seems to suit Austen’s character so well. Shopping, clothes, boys, gossip, teenage girls don’t change! But she’s also powerless, in her own time, so has to scheme to get anything done, for serious reasons (they’ll be homeless when their father dies, no wonder Mrs Bennet’s obsessed with finding them husbands), with hilarious results.

It sounds fabulous. Do you have other projects in the works? 
My award-winning first crime novel THE ROTTING SPOT was endorsed by Ann Cleeves and Val McDermid. It was already doing well as a paperback in the UK when it went Kindle. Lots of people have asked when the sequel is coming out. I’ve finished writing the next in the series, THE OPERATOR, with the same handsome blue-eyed Detective Inspector, Will, and my homeopath fitness-freak skull-collecting detective Erica Bruce! I shall be putting it on Kindle and also getting it published in paperback. Not sure when but soon! So look out for it if you like thrillers, it has a surgical theme this time instead of skulls. Anatomy is one of my interests.

I'm sure many of your fans are excited by this news!Do you have any advice to aspiring writers?
Read! And read some more. Write, then cut, and cut some more. The telling detail is very important, but equally important is to be selective about details and not put them all in! Learn about various forms of publishing and what new technology can offer you. Lee Child said if you can see a bandwagon, you’ve already missed it, so write what you really want to write rather than trying to follow a trend.

That is great advice. Do people judge a book by its cover? Who makes yours?
I think they do, even with ebooks, you see the cover on Amazon or online. Readers might ignore a poor cover if they were personally recommended a book, but otherwise they really are important. Not just the quality, but what they tell you about the book. Get the wrong cover, give the wrong impression, you lose readers. I’ve just had a new cover designed for my book LYDIA BENNET’S BLOG -THE REAL STORY OF PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. The previous one I liked and still do, a photograph of ‘Lydia’ in blue. But fans of the book who were successful authors, said it looked a bit amateurish. So I had a new cover designed by Alison Richards, at designstudio@aahprintersolutions.co.uk, using my basic ideas - we worked on it together. It’s a fashionable young Regency girl holding a laptop, a bit of a surprise for the cover which gets across the timeslip nature of the book. She’ll be working on the cover for THE OPERATOR. My latest poetry book, ALL THAT LIVES, has a picture on the cover of a scan of a brain with severe dementia - some of the book is about the science of the dying brain, after my mother died of Alzheimer’s - the scan of a brain slice looks like a demonic face grinning. Very striking. (Cover design by Andrew Edwards for Red Squirrel Press, my publisher.) My first crime novel THE ROTTING SPOT cover is a tweaking of an artwork by Susan Aldworth, with whom I worked on some projects about bio-medical science and pathology. It’s a skull, skulls are a theme of the book, a character is ‘the skull hunter’ and the detective collects them too. I had to be careful, as a skull picture could have looked like a horror novel, which would have put off crime readers, and annoyed horror fans, so I had to keep it arty and ‘medical’ enough to avoid it looking too gothic.

What is your greatest challenge as an author?
That I write so many different kinds of books - crime, comedy, poetry, not to mention plays (I’ve written 12 commissioned plays for stage and BBC radio), and I also create science based poetry installations for exhibitions or for display in buildings like hospitals etc, these are animated poems which move and change to reflect their subjects. All this variety makes it very challenging to market my work effectively as I have different audiences, it’s like keeping plates spinning! But it’s just how I roll and how the ideas come to me. I also perform my work worldwide, which is great fun.


I can imagine that does make marketing different - but so interesting as well! As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an astronaut. I was mad on space and stars and science. I have an essay I wrote aged about 9, at school, saying this was my ambition, together with being a test pilot. I was told I wasn’t good enough at maths for that: maths was the only school subject I wasn’t very good at and didn’t understand. Years later, after doing my English degree at University, marrying, teaching, having my children, becoming disabled in a car crash, I did another degree, in Maths/Theoretical Physics, just to prove to myself I could. I got a First. Part of the Physics was planetary science, cosmology, and astronomy. Still waiting for NASA to call me!

They still might!! What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
A lot of people know this about me already as it’s been going round in the media and online for years, but I infamously spray-painted poetry on live sheep in my Arts Council-funded QUANTUM SHEEP project which combined a random haiku with the principles of quantum theory. The sheep moved around randomly and re-wrote the poem, which remains a poem in any combination. There are over 80 billion possible combos/poems! I invented the idea of the quantum haiku. I did another one for BBC TV on inflatable beach balls in a swimming pool.

WOW - that may be one of the coolest things I've ever heard! Do you have any hobbies?
I’m a fanatical swimmer. I swim a mile, five times a week, and when I travel I snorkel in the ocean to watch wildlife. Swimming is a priority with me. It keeps me fit (as I can’t walk much since the car crash 27 years ago) and it’s like meditation, ideas for writing go through my head as I rack up the lengths. I love to travel, and I love wildlife. I go to lots of arts events, films, poetry readings, plays etc.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I am often asked to be Writer in Residence, and have had many Residencies which teach me about a major strand in my work - a Pathology Museum with access to human specimens, an Anatomy Department in a university medical school with access to dissection classes, an Egyptian 5* hotel on the Red Sea, a Northumbrian Physic Garden growing healing plants and studying the science of them, a university brain institute studying dementia/neuroscience - and I also give workshops as well as energetic performances of my work. I’m always open to invitations to perform, or give workshops, or take on new Residencies or sci-art installation commissions so let me know if you have any of those coming up!


Where can people find you and your books online?
My website with details of all my published books and other writing projects, is at http://www.valerielaws.co.uk
My available Kindle books are:
Lydia Bennet’s Blog (steampunk timeslip comedy, suitable for New Adults upwards) in US, or in UK
TheRotting Spot (crime) in US, or in UK
AllThat Lives (poetry of pathology and neuroscience, suitable for adults) or in UK
Follow me on Twitter: @ValerieLaws
Find me on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/valaws

I am one of Authors Electric and blog for them monthly (1st of the month).

About Valerie Laws

Valerie Laws is a crime and comedy novelist, poet, playwright and sci-art installation specialist. Two of her eleven published books available as ebooks are THE ROTTING SPOT(crime) and her first indie, LYDIA BENNET’S BLOG (comedy). She devises new poetic forms and science-themed poetry installations and commissions including the infamous Arts Council–funded Quantum Sheep, spray-painting haiku onto live sheep. Her recent work including poetry collection ALL THAT LIVES (now also on Kindle) arises from working with pathologists, neuroscientists, human specimens and dissections, which also feeds into her crime fiction. Has had many funded Writer’s Residencies in UK and Egypt. She featured in BBC2’s documentary Why Poetry Matters, also live at Royal Festival Hall, London. She performs worldwide live at festivals and events and in the media. Many prizes and awards including Wellcome Trust Arts Award, two Northern Writers’ Awards. 12 stage and radio plays commissioned and performed. She has degrees in Maths/Theoretical Physics and in English, also an MA (Creative Writing). She is a fanatical swimmer.



ABOUT LYDIA BENNET’S BLOG:

If you enjoyed ‘Lost in Austen’ or ‘Clueless’, you’ll love Lydia, the streetwise youngest Bennet, a modern teen living in Regency times. She’s funny, flirty, rebellious, obsessed with fashion and fit boys, and a force to be reckoned with. Find out what really happened behind the scenes in Pride and Prejudice as Lydia schemes to save herself and her clueless family from a cash-free future, and to get her man, the supremely sexy bad boy Wickham. By an odd quirk of history, Lydia’s generation use our teen-speak, though with Regency derivations. Whether you love or loathe Jane Austen or just like a good laugh, you’ll enjoy Lydia’s conniving, eavesdropping, Mr Collins-outing, Pa-baiting, shamelessly flirtatious and outrageous adventures.

'I've been reading LYDIA while having my chemo this afternoon. I laughed out loud. Several times - while HAVING CHEMO!!! It's brilliant. Such a clever idea and so engagingly written. This could be a really big book.' Linda Gillard, author of kindle best-seller 'House of Silence'

‘I was alternately laughing out loud and gasping at the sheer, bold brilliance of it. I loved it for its irreverence, its humour, its intelligence and its energy. Prepare to be amused, entertained, and dazzled. A very good read indeed.' Catherine Czerkawska, award-winning novelist and playwright for stage and BBC Radio 4.

'It’s actually really, really funny. … It’s got a clever literary game going on, and it’s more than just updating it to teenspeak… there’s something almost steampunky going on here… See for yourself!’ Paul Magrs, novelist (including Dr Who novels).

Thank you Valerie!


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