Fellow chick lit lovers, I am pleased to bring you a Q&A with one of my most favorite women’s fiction writers, Lauren Clark! Not too long ago, she broke into the publishing world with her debut novel, Stay Tuned – and I’ve been a fan ever since. Read on to learn more about her latest novel, Stardust Summer. I have a feeling I’m going to need a box of tissues for this one!
What compelled you to write a story about a young mother reconnecting with her estranged father? And how can women readers identify with her struggles?
The story is really about Grace losing her father. It’s about her coming to grips with never having the chance to reconnect. I’ve had close friends not speak to parents for years or known a sibling that shut out another sibling over a misunderstanding. I wanted to explore the shock of a life that’s taken away suddenly. Grace’s life was steady and predictable until then. I don’t think she would have grown up and faced her fears without some sort of terrible situation to shake up her same-every-day existence.
What was the most interesting thing you had to research for Stardust Summer?
I’ve always loved Garrett Chapel, where Grace’s mother holds Henry Mason’s funeral service. It’s a rustic, gothic-style stone chapel built in the woods on Keuka Lake’s Bluff Point. The structure was built in memory of a young boy, Charles Garrett, who died from Tuberculosis in 1929. Garrett Chapel is still used today as a seasonal church and a popular setting for weddings and special events. I’ve been to the chapel several times with my family and it’s even more lovely than the photographs.
Tell me a little bit about the East Coast setting – and how it evokes your own childhood memories.
It’s the place where my family has vacationed since I was five years old. It’s gorgeous, with glacier-carved mountains, and a deep, cold lake full of fish and clean, clear water. I remember ALWAYS being the first one of the kids (there are 3 of us) to jump in the lake, no matter how cold it was outside or the temperature of the water. There was no TV, only radio, and we always ate outside, dining on whatever the Mennonite farmers put out on their stands—corn on the cob, fresh peppers, beans, and strawberries. I think, for me, the setting conjures up a time of innocence and purity of mind—a place where life was simple and love and beauty was everywhere I looked.
Who was your favorite character to develop while writing Stardust Summer?
I actually enjoyed developing Ryan’s character. I’ve worked with a lot of physicians and many of my family members and close friends are in the medical profession. I wanted to show the dedication that many doctors have for their field of work, and how that career (and many others) has the potential to destroy marriages and families. Luckily, Ryan was able to recognize that he contributed to Lori leaving and grew as a result of that loss. When Grace stepped into his life, he was finally ready.
Now, a little more about you! What made you decide to write women’s fiction? And what do you love most about this particular genre?
I love being whisked away to a place I’ve never visited. I believe that it’s a wonderful feat when an author can describe a setting in just enough detail that I can fill in the colors, sights, and sounds in my head. I do prefer stories with a bit of humor, and those that have a character with flaws who does grow and change as a result of a big catastrophe or problem that changes everything in her life. I adore a little flirtation and romance—the anticipation of that first kiss is so delicious.
Do you have a writing routine? What is your average writing day like?
I am such a morning person. I love the quiet and peacefulness, and always make a huge cup of flavored coffee. I do my best work at the local college. They have an amazing library with expansive windows that look over Mobile’s landscape and, in the distance, downtown city buildings. There’s a lot of green space around the cottage and the vibe is full of energy. It’s a happy place.
I’m always fascinated by how authors can churn out multiple books in a short time span. How do you manage your writing time between Stardust Summer and your forthcoming Pie Girls?
I have some personal challenges in my life right now, so I made the decision to put Pie Girls on hold for a few months. Laura Pepper Wu had read Stardust Summer about a year ago, and suggested that with some changes—mostly in terms of Grace’s character development— the book would be ready to publish. I actually wrote the novel about seven years ago, so it was one of my first manuscripts. (So in terms of the short time span, it’s only one dog year, right??). It was a bit of a gamble, because I didn’t know if readers would embrace the storyline like they seemed to in Dancing Naked in Dixie.
After two months of hard work, though, I was pleased with the revisions. In the end, it was cathartic to release Stardust Summer. With the rest of my life in a bit of turmoil, it was a positive task that I was able to focus on. There’s nothing better than hitting that “upload” key!!
And last, but not least, how do you spend your “free” time when you’re not writing?
I went to the movies last night with about a dozen people—so fun—and we sit in the back row of the theater for $5.00 Tuesdays! This morning, I am actually running off to yoga class in about five minutes. I am meeting a close group of friends for lunch to celebrate a birthday, and then, this afternoon, have a meeting regarding a fundraiser for one of the local hospitals. It’s a Festival of Flowers event, and our job is to make Dancing Naked in Dixie into a visual display for the “Seeds of Wisdom” part of the charity event. I like to be home by 3:30 in the afternoon to see my children. I’m big on making dinner at home, even if it’s just burgers or tacos. And of course, at night, before I fall asleep, I love to read. I’m halfway through John Green’s fabulous novel, The Fault in Our Stars. Thank you so much for having me on Chick Lit Cafe, Jessica!