Laurisa White Reyes is a mother of five, an author MG and YA novels, and editor of Middle Shelf Magazine. Her career path is not surprising, considering she always enjoyed reading and writing. She wrote her first poem when she was five, and didn’t stop! She has written freelance articles, was a magazine staff writer and newspaper editorialist, and has worked as a book editor. Laurisa joins us today to discuss her novels, editing magazines, and belting out Broadway hits!
1. Your YA thriller, CONTACT, came out in July! What is your main character, Mira, like?
Mira is the 16-year-old daughter of a politician and former CEO of the company that cured mental illness and depression. So she is always in the spotlight, and that’s a tough place to be for a girl whose greatest desire is to be as far away from everyone as possible. For reasons unknown to her, she uploads other people’s psyches with a single touch, an overwhelming and painful experience that drives her to attempt suicide. But deep down she longs for personal connections.
2. I can’t imagine writing something meant to make the reader’s heart race. How do you build suspense when writing thrillers?
When I was writing my first novel, The Rock of Ivanore, several years ago, I happened to be reading The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. Brown is the master of suspense. I could not put that book down! I spent a good amount of time studying his writing techniques and trying to apply them to my own work. A few things really jumped out at me. First, begin and end chapters at climactic moments. The opening lines need to grab the reader, and the end should compel the reader to turn the page to see what happens next. Second, take risks. In other words, killing off key characters or letting the story take an unexpected direction enhance the thrill of a good story. I love reading books that demand to be read, so I want to write them, too. One thing I do to achieve that is to go through my first draft and chop chapters at the most pivotal moments.
3. Prior to writing CONTACT, you wrote two MG fantasies THE ROCK OF IVANORE and THE LAST ENCHANTER. Can you tell us about making the shift from MG to YA?
I wrote the fantasy series when my oldest son was about eight years old. (I’m working on Book 3 now.) I wanted to write a story he would enjoy. He’s seventeen now. Actually, four of my five children are teenagers or young adults. Since I’ve always read what my kids read, I started reading a lot of YA books a few years back—and I loved them! So I decided to try my hand at it. CONTACT actually began as an experiment to see if I could write a novel without an outline. I’d say the experiment was a success.
4. We’d love to hear about some of the advantages and disadvantages of publishing with small presses! Would you share some of what you’ve learned?
The biggest disadvantage of publishing with small presses is simply lack of money. After working countless hours on a book for two or three years, I’d really like to earn a little back for my effort. But small presses just don’t have the kind of budgets that the big publishers do. Fortunately, there are a lot advantages to publishing with a small press, including being part of a team or a family. Both my publishers included me in just about every step of the publishing process, including the cover designs. Also, they are my books’ biggest cheerleaders, and my friends.
5. Despite releasing a YA novel, middle grade is still something you love. As the Editor of Middle Shelf Magazine, you have to keep your finger on the pulse of what is going on in the world of MG fiction. What kind of things do you look for in putting together Middle Shelf Magazine?
I have several objectives for every issue of Middle Shelf. The most important is to shine the spotlight on books that might not otherwise get the attention they deserve. There are many wonderful stories out there that are self-published or produced by small presses. Kids are often exposed only to books with huge marketing campaigns or that are written by famous authors. While MS certainly includes some of those as well, we pay particular attention to the books you won’t find on the best-seller lists, but that ought to be there.
Yes! This is what I mean by thrilling authors! 😉 Now Laurisa, can you finish these sentences for us?
My favorite writing tool is my padded wooden lap desk, the best Xmas present my husband ever gave me.
My favorite female character is Scarlett O’Hara from Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. She is feisty and self-centered, but is also ferociously loyal and will fight to defend the people and places she loves.
Something I do that seems nerdy, but is actually really fun is to sing Broadway songs out in public. I’ll sing in the store, at restaurants, or just walking down the sidewalk. I do it because it embarrasses my children. Sometimes they’ll even clamp their hands over my mouth to get me to stop.
Thank you for sharing your experience with us today Laurisa! I have my Broadway musical song request ready for when our paths cross. 🙂 To find out more about Laurisa, visit her website www.laurisawhitereyes.com and her blog http://laurisareyes.blogspot.com or find her on FACEBOOK. You can find her on Twitter HERE.
For great middle grade reads, check out Middle Shelf Magazine too! http://www.shelfmediagroup.com/pages/introducing-middle-shelf.html
Dan Brown does have a way of building suspense! This is a great interview!
Brown is definitely one of my favorite authors.
Laurisa and Kami, Terrific interview! Congrats and much success with Contact. Will add it to my list. And do you have any favorite Broadway tunes?
Lots. In Contact, Mira is a fan of Broadway musicals. We happen to share a favorite – Les Miserables. But of course, I love many others – Phantom of the Opera, Gypsy, Wicked… so many! I really like some of the songs from If/Then, which is a new musical starring Idina Menzel. But as far as favorite tunes go, right now my #1 fav is Defying Gravity from Wicked.
Love the ‘take risks’ advice…
Oh the joy of a good thriller, keeping me awake into the wee hours of the morning. Thanks for the tips!
It’s so nice to get to know Laurisa better!
Great stuff, Laurisa. Thank you 🙂
I love the cover for Contact.
Laurisa – Thank you for sharing these tips about suspense. DA VA\INCI/Brown is the nail-biter. I’m new to your titles & you so I’m thrilled to add an author to check out. For the MS magazine, can anyone recommend titles to you? I have a few to share…. (not my own, but some day, especially wit the help of the Nerdy Chicks Rule team folkies.)
Enjoyed reading you thoughts about writing a thrilling book, and I subscribed to Middle Shelf Magazine to expand my horizons, thanks.