I fell in love with Lauren Morrill’s swoony/sweet/hilarious first book Meant to Be (you can read my review of it on HelloGiggles!), so I was super excited when she agreed to answer my nosy Creative Ladies questions. She talked to me about writing, roller derby, and (of course) the siren song of Law and Order. You can find Lauren on her website, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
What’s your main creative gig (this can be your day job, your freelance work, or both)? Describe what you do on a normal working day.
I have a master’s degree in higher education administration, so while writing my first two books, I was working full-time in admissions at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. But last year, my husband got a new job and we moved from Boston to Macon, GA, where I was able to become a full-time author.
Now that I write full-time, I definitely try to spend time “being an author” every single day, whether that’s actually writing or revising, or working on marketing and social media. I’m trying to train myself to actually write every single day, but do you know how many tv shows there are on Netflix? It’s really hard to develop those really good professional habits when there are 20 seasons of Law and Order to watch.
What are your creative, just-for-fun (not money or career advancement) hobbies?
For the past 6 years I’ve been pretty consumed by roller derby. I started playing for the Bleeding Heartland Rollergirls in Bloomington, IN, then moved to Boston and spent 4 years skating for the Wicked Pissahs and managing the Boston Massacre. I even served on the executive board as a league owner in Boston, which mean I spent about 20 hours a week either on skates hitting people or doing off-skates derby work. This past year I’ve been coaching the Middle Georgia Derby Demons, a new league down here in Macon. I’m about to retire from skating so that I can really put my focus on writing, but I’ll still be coaching. Roller derby is hard to say goodbye to!
What inspires you? Feel free to be as literal or as figurative as you want.
I’m a voracious reader, particularly YA. I get inspired by reading some of the very best writers in my field, particularly Sarah Dessen, Rainbow Rowell, AS King, John Green, David Levithan, and Megan McCafferty. Don’t ask me to pick a favorite, I just can’t do it.
Whenever I’m feeling really stuck on a project, watching a few episodes of Gilmore Girls usually helps get me unstuck. To me, that show is absolutely perfect. I always want to achieve even a fraction of that witty banter and smart humor in my own work. Also? TEAM JESS!
In three words, describe your creative aesthetic/viewpoint.
Snarky, with heart
How would you describe your creative “process”? Does it involve a lot of staring into space, doodling, or candy eating?
Most of my brainstorming happens as I’m falling asleep. I close my eyes and start to picture the scene I’m working on like it’s a movie. I pay attention to the sights, sounds, the conversations that might spring up. But believe it or not, I don’t write anything down until the following morning. Something about a good night’s sleep acts as a filter, and when I wake up the pops of images that I remember end up being my new scene. I know there are writers all over the place who read this and cringe. All the advice says you should write down your ideas as soon as you get them! I don’t know why, but for me, the good night’s sleep is the key for my writing!
I write 90% of my words longhand in a spiral notebook, which I tote around with me everywhere so I can always work when I have a spare moment. Then, when I go to type up my pages into Word, I can take my first pass at a revision and punch up the descriptions and the jokes. I’m currently working on my third novel (and my fourth … I can’t stay focused on just one project at a time!), and all of it has been written longhand first.
What creative accomplishment are you most proud of?
Publishing my first novel! It’s been about 9 months since Meant to Be released, and I still have to pinch myself to believe it really happened. I’ve been lucky enough to have really enthusiastic readers, and I got to meet a lot of them while touring in support of the book. It blows me away that people are reading and enjoying my work, and I can’t wait for Being Sloane Jacobs to hit shelves so I can do it all again! January 14, 2014!
What’s a big creative challenge/failure/embarrassment you’ve learned from?
The biggest creative challenge I have is not comparing myself to other authors and their careers. Everybody’s journey through this business is different, and success can be measured in all sorts of ways. The only thing you can control is the writing, so that’s where you better put most of your energy. It’s a lesson I have to remind myself of all the time, particularly when I’m procrastinating by reading the deal news in Publisher’s Weekly!
Who’s your Creative Lady role model (this can be a person you know, a celebrity, a fictional character, etc.)?
I’m in awe of Sarah Dessen. She’s published 11 YA novels, all great (yes, I’ve read them all). She’s been doing this for more than a decade, and yet she couldn’t be more gracious and welcoming to her fans. I got to meet her at a signing two summers ago. Meant to Be had recently sold to Random House, and so when I finally got up to the signing table I blurted out something about my book deal and about how reading her books made me want to write YA. I’m sure it was terrible incoherent and possibly a little creepy, but she just congratulated me and welcomed me to the YA community. I hope that I’m able to have even half her career in ten years, and I hope that when I get there, I’m just as generous and kind as she is.
What time of day are you most creative? Are you a morning person or a night owl?
I used to be a serious night owl, but my husband got a new job hosting All Things Considered for our local NPR station, which means he needs to get in bed around 8:30 to get up for work at 4:30. I like to get in bed with him, so that’s really changed my process. Now I use nighttime for reading, and I do my best writing around the mid-morning hours, often out on my porch before it gets too blazin’ hot to be outdoors.
Being an awesome Creative Lady can be overwhelming. What do you do to relax?
I love to lounge in a nice hot bath with a good book. It’s like therapy to me. I spent one year living in an apartment that didn’t have a bathtub, only a shower, and I nearly lost my damn mind. Last year my husband and I bought a bungalow built in 1913, and it has an original clawfoot tub. I want to be buried in it, that’s how much I love it.
What books would you recommend to other Creative Ladies?
When it comes to the craft of writing, I recommend Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (which helped me learn to be ok with wtiting the shitty first draft) and On Writing by Stephen King (which got me started writing longhand). I also love Ready, Set, Novel! It’s a really fun plot workbook that can help you really get to know your characters and your story. It’s great for pre-writing.
For books I think all YA authors should read? Megan McCafferty’s Jessica Darling series, starting with Sloppy Firsts, is essential to me. I’ve never read a more vivid, realistic teenage voice anywhere, ever. I’ve plowed through the series at least three times, and it blows me away every time.
What advice would you give to other Creative Ladies who want to do what you do?
When you’re not writing, read. When you’re not reading, write.
What’s your Creative Lady motto?
Just do the work! It’s really easy to spend a lot of time thinking about it, and not enough time actually doing it. I swear, if I sat down to write 500 words every time a scene or bit of dialogue crossed my mind, I’d be knee-deep in finished manuscripts. It’s a will-power thing, and I’m still working to master it.
A million thanks to Lauren for answering all my questions! If you guys haven’t read Meant to Be, go read it now! And if you know any cool, creative women who you think would be perfect for Creative Ladies, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.