An Interview with Laura Drake

Please welcome Laura Drake, author of the new bull-riding romance THE SWEET SPOT (Grand Central, May 2013).

13F Laura Drake

Laura Drake is a city girl, who never grew out of her tomboy ways, or a serious cowboy crush. She writes both Women’s Fiction and Romance. Laura resides in Southern California, though she aspires to retirement in Texas. She gave up the corporate CFO gig to write, full time. She’s a wife, grandmother, and motorcycle chick in the remaining waking hours.

13F The Sweet Spot Cover

The grief counselor told the group to be grateful for what they had left. After lots of considering, Charla Rae decided she was thankful for the bull semen.
Charla Rae Denny’s role as a traditional ranch wife and mother fits her like custom-tailored Wranglers. When her only son is killed in a tragic accident, Char retreats to a world of grief and Valium. Her reeling husband takes up with a blonde buckle bunny half his age. Their ranch, which supplies bucking bulls to the Pro Bull Riding circuit, is split up in the divorce. Jimmy gets the bulls, Charla, their valuable semen.

All her county fair ribbons won’t help Charla now. She’s alone, addicted, ill-equipped, and has no one to blame but herself. In spite of her fear of horses and smelly cows, she stands up, takes off her apron, and learns to run a ranch. She and Jimmy have lost their way. But through months of hard work, tears, and some hard knocks, they both learn to forgive — themselves and each other.Together, they find their way back, to life, to love, to the Sweet Spot.

I met Laura through Writers in the Storm, and also through Facebook and Twitter. She’s a fun person and a talented writer, and I’m delighted that she agreed to join me for an interview today!

Where did you grow up? Will you share a favorite story from your childhood?

I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit. One of our favorite places to go in the summer was Cedar Point, in Sandusky, Ohio (a Six Flags-type amusement park). I was probably ten the first time we went. They had a ‘Jungle Cruise’ ride, where you sat in a boat and wild animals roared at you from the jungle, natives got restless, etc. At one point, the captain of our boat took out a pistol to return fire on pirates. I was sitting in the front row, and he shot me instead (don’t want to go hunting with that guy!) Thank God, he was firing blanks – I got a trip to the hospital to have gunpowder dug out of my arm, and we got a free day at the park. I thought it was a good trade!

What inspired you to start writing?

I rode a hundred thousand miles on the back of my husband’s motorcycle, propping a book on his back and reading on the boring stretches. But you can’t read all day and after awhile, my brain would empty of the day-to-day thoughts and cast about for something new to think about.

Then one day, riding into the small town of Kernville, California, a dog ran in front of the bike. After a gut clenching scare, it trotted back the way it came and we rode on. A kernel of a plot was formed, and wouldn’t go away until I finally wrote it down!

If you could go back in time and share one writing lesson with “new writer you” before starting your first manuscript … what would that be?

Enjoy the process. Don’t be in such a hurry to get to the next step that you don’t fully appreciate this time. It’ll never be quite like this again.

Your upcoming novel, THE SWEET SPOT, involves an unusual romance between an independent rancher and her ex-husband, a champion bull rider. What inspired you to set a romance against the backdrop of professional bull riding, and also, to use a divorced couple as the medium to tell the tale?

I am a bull riding fanatic. No, really, I’m a member of the fan club, for cripes sake, and the last fan club I was in had Mickey Mouse at the helm! It’s embarrassing. But there’s just something about the drama of the sport that pulls me in. How can a guy have the courage to strap himself to a one ton animal that wants to stomp him? The ride is almost like ballet – moves and counter-moves, strategy by both the rider and the bull. Honestly, it’s captivating!

I wish I could tell you where the divorced couple came from – I’m a total pantser – and half the time I feel like I’m just typing stuff that’s piped in from somewhere!  Unfortunately, the other half, I’m trying to figure out how to make that happen . . .

Do you have a favorite author or book? If so, who (or what) is it, and why?

Oh, no fair! You know an author can’t keep it to ONE! I like so many different genres – but what my favorites all have in common are their amazing voices; Stephen King, Jodi Picoult, Pat Conroy . . . I could go on and on.

What did you find most challenging about writing THE SWEET SPOT? How did you push yourself to get past difficult moments in writing and editing?

I try to learn something new with each book I write. The Sweet Spot was my lesson in getting the emotion on the page. Only readers can tell me if I succeeded!

Editing was tough for this book, because I wrote it as Women’s Fiction, and it sold as a Romance. There are more differences between the two genres than I realized. I’d have jumped out my window if it weren’t for my brilliant agent, and my wonderful crit group!

What is the last book you read, and why did you choose it?

I just finished The Good Daughter, by Jane Porter. I’ve known her online for years, but met her for the first time at a local writer’s conference recently. I bought the book, and she autographed it (hey, authors are fans too, right, Susan?) It turned out to be my favorite kind of book; a mix between WF and romance. It was wonderful.

Do you have a favorite scene in THE SWEET SPOT? If so, what makes it stand out for you?

Oh yes. Charla is a ranch wife, but considered her domain inside the house and everything outside, her husband’s. She knows almost nothing about ranching, and is afraid of cows. But when she throws him off the property, she has to run the ranch by herself.

She ends up in the mud, in a driving rainstorm, up to her armpit in the back end of a cow, trying to deliver a breech calf. It’s a major turning point for Char. It’s funny, sad, and dramatic all at the same time. I love it.

Do you have any upcoming signings or readings? 

I’m going to be signing my book at the PBR World Finals (bull riding) in Las Vegas in October. A dream come true for me! And yes, I know how odd that sounds…

And now, the speed round:

Plotter or pantser?

Pantser, with serious plot-envy.

Coffee, tea, or bourbon?

Coffee. I drink 10-15 cups a day. In a pinch, I’ve been known to chew the grounds.

Socks or no socks?

Socks! The inside of shoes just feels nasty — how did we get on this subject?

Cats, dogs, or reptiles?

I can’t live without a cat. Although I was married to a reptile once (I don’t recommend it.)

For dinner: Italian, Mexican, Burgers or Thai?

Mexican! Growing up in Detroit, I’d never tasted it until I moved to California. One taste of refried beans, and I was hooked.

Thanks so much for having me, Susan, this was fun!

Thank you, Laura, for joining us today! I’m looking forward to reading THE SWEET SPOT, and I think a signing at the PBR World Finals sounds really cool (I’m actually a bull riding fan myself).

THE SWEET SPOT is available now in paperback and e-book formats – and don’t miss Laura’s upcoming August release, HER ROAD HOME (Harlequin Superromance, August 2013).

Laura will be back in August to talk about HER ROAD HOME, but for those who just can’t wait: You can’t outrun nightmares on a motorcycle. Samantha Crozier knows, because she’s tried. Following the death of her father, Sam, an itinerant building contractor,  sold everything and hit the road on her motorcycle, ‘flipping’ houses on her way across the country. One rainy day on the coast of California, she runs out of road – and luck. When an accident leaves her afoot in Widow’s Grove, the nightmares catch up. But can a derelict Victorian house, a stray dog, and a small town mechanic convince her to stay long enough to face them?

For more information about Laura and her books, you can visit her at her website or find her on Twitter (@PBRWriter). Laura also blogs at Writers in the Storm, a fantastic group blog about writing, publishing, and the writing life!

8 thoughts on “An Interview with Laura Drake

  • June 3, 2013 at 6:49 am

    Great interview, ladies!
    10-15 cups a day? I may have finally met my match. 🙂

  • June 3, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    I can’t even imagine being shot in the arm! Even with a blank!
    And totally fantastic about the autographing at RBR Nationals. Talk about using the subject of the book?!

  • June 3, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    As one of Laura’s crit partners, i can verify her love of the PBR. She loves those bulls! 🙂 And her book, well, let’s just say, I’m proud to say, she’s a good frined and hope some of her fantastic writing abilities rub off on me.

  • June 3, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    Excellent interview and interesting questions.
    Laura is a great writer and a great friend. I can verify the coffee drinking and her love of bulls. Went with her and her husband ONE time to a Bull Riding contest. My last her, her umteenth I think. Scared me to death.

  • June 3, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    Great interview, questions I never would have thought to ask and am glad I know the answers. I have to say that my favorite scene in the book is when Char uses the garbage disposal!! Love strong women and the struggles it takes to get the strength. Thanks for the book Laura I love it.

    • June 3, 2013 at 3:28 pm

      OK, now I HAVE To go read this immediately to find out what happens with the garbage disposal. Nothing good ever comes of its use in my house…and I strongly suspect Char’s experience doesn’t go smoothly…

  • June 3, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Sniff…thanks, everyone – I’m bowled over by the support of wonderful friends. Love you guys.

    • June 3, 2013 at 3:30 pm

      Thank YOU for doing the interview Laura! It was really fun to interview you – and delightful to find another person who drinks coffee in the same proportions I do. (I’m a pot-to-two-pot-a-day junkie too!)

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