Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
I’m Lauren Layne, and I’m the New York Times bestselling author of modern romantic comedies. Which means I write romance novels, but I often dodge the to avoid losing my temper at uninformed people who immediately start snickering about Fabio (who first graced the cover of romance novels when I was a toddler, and hasn’t really been even remotely relevant in 20 or so years).
What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?
Nothing specific, but I write contemporary romance (as opposed to Regency, paranormal, etc), so almost all of my story ideas are pretty grounded in the realities of every day life. And because I live in New York City, and most of my books are set in the city, I have to attribute to the sheer energy of Manhattan with driving quite a bit of inspiration. Everything from overhearing a conversation in the elevator of my apartment building about a bad date, to hearing someone grumble about “a jerk on the subway” serves as a potential story idea!
What inspires/inspired your creativity?
I actually focus more on the hard work than I do creativity. Creativity is crucial, but it’s also fickle. You can’t go chasing it! More often, writing a book is about showing up every day and hitting a minimum word count than it is feeling breezed along by the muse. That said, I also believe that if a story really, really isn’t coming, it can be beneficial to take a step back and do something else creative. I have author friends who doodle in their spare time, others who paint. I myself am a huge fan of coloring books. I’m amazed at how engaging the creative part of my brain in an area other than writing can unlock whatever snag I’ve hit with my plot.
How do you deal with creative block?
It’s taken me a long time to learn that sometimes you have to just back away—from the project, from the genre, even just writing in general. I don’t get blocked very often, but a couple times in my career, I’ve felt utterly depleted, as though I had nothing else in me to give. The only thing that worked was to allow myself several weeks to not write, or even think about writing. If you’re a professional author, it may require some hard conversations with your publishers about contracts and release dates, but my stance is always that I’d rather deliver an excellent book late than a mediocre book on time.
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
Boring the reader. I know it sounds obvious, but I think what sets excellent writers apart from the not-so-great ones is the percentage of sentences / pages that are riveting. Part of what makes Stephen King and JK Rowling so exceptional is that we as readers are very rarely tempted to skim, because every sentence feels necessary and interesting. I think a lot of newish writers assume they can get by with a few pages of “fine” storytelling so long as they end the chapter with a great storytelling, and that’s just not the case. You have to hook readers with every sentence, not every chapter! When in doubt, don’t be afraid to cut the crap and trim the fat. I’d so much rather read a short book that I can’t put down than a longer book where I find myself skimming to get to the “good parts.”
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
I can’t lie, bad reviews been really destructive to me in the past. No matter how well a book sells, no matter how proud of the book I may be, reading a savage 1 or 2 star review still feels a bit like being kicked in the stomach and derail my creativity. For that reason, I now avoid reading reviews at all costs. I know some authors tout the idea of simply developing a “thicker skin,” but that’s just never made sense to me. I think it’s important to remember that ultimately, reviews aren’t about us, the author. They’re about the reviewer; a bad review is merely a reflection of one person’s reading preference, her personality, her priorities, her background, her principles, etc. We, as authors can’t control any of that, no matter how thick our skin!
That said, if a bad review does manage to sneak through my defenses, I immediately go to Theodore Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena.” It never fails to soothe the sting!
How has your creation process improved over time?
I’d definitely say I’ve become a little less obsessed with “writing rules,” as I’ve gotten 30+ books under my belt. I used to worry about my chapters not all having the same word count, or my books being too short for genre standards, or making my heroine too snarky, but now I sort of trust my voice and sense of a particular story’s rhythm.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
Definitely the first one; I write first and foremost for me. Not because I don’t love enchanting my readers; it’s always so lovely to hear when my book’s really resonated with someone. But, I would never write for them, mainly because in trying to please one reader, you’ll invariably upset another. Some of my readers only read my books that I write in first person POV, others send me hate mail about the same book, and demand I return to third person POV. And on almost every single Amazon product page for each of my books, you’ll see a five star review along side a 1-star review, one person declaring it the best romance they’ve ever read, and another deriding it as utter garbage. The danger with trying to serve readers is that you can’t serve all readers—not everyone loves the same thing, so how can you possibly decide which reader to serve? That said, as a romance author, I would never betray my authors by delivering anything less than happily-ever-after. I believe that’s part of a contract I would never breach.
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
Well, despite the fact that I write contemporary romance, I almost never read it! I love a Regency romance about a duke, but I mostly read nonfiction. Presidential biographies are my favorite. I’m also a late-in-life Star Trek fan. I’ve been a Star Wars diehard for most of my life, and I still love the original trilogy, but my husband introduced me to Star Trek in recent years, and I really love the ingenuity of that whole world—Star Trek Voyager is my favorite of the series!