Today’s guest: Marie LaPres
With so many cancellations of in-person author events due to World War C, I’m devoting my blog to Indie Monday interviews for the coming months to help my fellow authors with promotion. I’ll be featuring indie and small-press authors who produce quality work outside the boundaries and strictures of the traditional mass-produced, mass-marketed commercial publishing world and traditional bookstore shelves.
Today I’m happy to host Marie LaPres, novelist and educator. From Western Michigan, Marie is the prolific author of books for pre-teens through adults: Though War Shall Rise Against Me: The Turner Daughters Book 1 (2015); Be Strong and Steadfast: The Turner Daughters Book 2 (2017); Plans for a Future of Hope: A Vicksburg Story: The Turner Daughters Book 3 (2018); Forward to What Lies Ahead: The Turner Daughters Book 4 (2019); Wherever You Go: The Turner Daughters Prequel Novella (2018); Beyond the Fort: The Key to Mackinac Book 1 (2018); Beyond the Island: The Key to Mackinac Book 2 (2020); Whom Shall I Fear: Sammy’s Struggle: A Gettysburg Story (2017); and A Teacher Guide to Whom Shall I Fear: Sammy’s Struggle (2019).
Recently I posed some questions to Marie. Here’s what she told me.
DL: Could you tell us a little about yourself?
ML: My name is Erica Marie LaPres Emelander, but I write under the middle part of my name, Marie LaPres. I am a Middle School (6-8th grade) teacher at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I teach Social Studies and Religion. I love my job, and am totally the teacher who will dress up in historic costumes. I love learning about history, so my focus in writing is Historic Fiction. I’ve attended historic reenactments and worked for the Mackinac State Historic Parks years ago.
I am extremely close to my family, both my parents, my two sisters, one brother, my three in-laws, and my three nieces and three nephews. Family is extremely important to me, and I feel that is reflected in my writing. I also enjoy watching sports and coaching. My faith is also very important to me and that also shows up in my writing. I help out at my church with the High School Youth Group. I also love listening to music and living in West Michigan, as I love the changing seasons and the Great Lakes.
DL: Tell us about your latest book and works in progress.
ML: My latest works include Plans for a Future of Hope, which concludes my Turner Daughter Series. This series follows the Turner family, and each of the four books takes place in a city that was hit especially hard during the Civil War (Gettysburg, PA; Fredericksburg, VA; Vicksburg, MS; and Petersburg, VA). In these books, one of the main characters is a part of the family, so the books are all linked, though they follow the same timeline. One of the main characters of each of these is also a historic figure, and these books are as historically accurate as possible. I plan on writing other books in what I call the “Turner Daughter World,” including one of my WIPs.
Another newly released book is Beyond the Island. This is the second book of four in my The Key to Mackinac series. It is a Young Adult time travel novel, all set in the Mackinaw Straits. The first, Beyond the Fort, focuses on 1775 at Fort Michilimackinac on the mainland, and the newly released one takes place in 1814 on Mackinac Island. The final two will take place at Historic Mill Creek and the Mackinac Point Lighthouse. These are individual adventure stories, but there is also an overarching story as well.
I actually have three-six works in progress: one being edited, one being written, and two in the planning stages. The one being edited is a loose retelling of the classic Pride and Prejudice. It takes place in 1928/1929 America. Ellie Bennett lives on the family ranch outside Spearfish, South Dakota, in the Black Hills. Wealthy new neighbors bring excitement and the possibility of relationships, but class differences, pride, and prejudices may cause problems. Ellie will also travel to Biltmore manor in the Pisgah National Forest of North Carolina, and St. Louis, Missouri, in her story. It’s pretty different from any of my other writings, but I am really excited about it.
The one I am currently writing is Young Adult Historical Fiction. It follows cousins Cassandra and Matthew during the four years of the Civil War. Cassandra is left to care for the family farm in Winchester, Virginia, which was constantly changing hands throughout the conflict. Matthew lies about his age and joins up with the Confederate Army and quickly learns that it is not all glory. This book is basically everything I teach to my students in the Civil War in awesome story form.
I am also planning my last two novels in the Key to Mackinac Series.
DL: Why do you write? What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?
ML: I love everything about literature. Reading and writing and creating stories have always been important to me. I incorporate what I am thinking and feeling in my books, and if you were to ask me “Which main character do you think is most like you?” my response is: all of them in, different ways. Writing is a way to express myself and perhaps help others get through their lives as well. I also write to teach. My books are Historical Fiction, and I am a huge history nerd! I love to share this love of history and teach using stories. Since I am a middle school teacher, I know that a lot of people learn best through stories.
DL: Please talk about your writing process. Where do your ideas come from? What is your favorite part of the process? Least favorite?
ML: I am always writing and usually writing and planning. My ideas come from my experiences. The idea for my first book came when I was on a family vacation to Gettysburg and heard the story of Ginny Wade. I never intended for it to grow from there, but then I went on vacation and we stopped in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where I got to the idea for doing the series. I also get ideas for learning and researching current writing projects. There are characters in my Turner Daughter World that beg to have their own full stories told, so I have those ideas. I write a monthly Michigan History article for the Buy Michigan Now website and constantly get new ideas. I have an ideas notebook so full of ideas it’s crazy.
Once I get a general idea, I do my research. I use a lot of primary documents, such as journals, articles, and letters from the past. This is where I can get my actual historic characters that I like to both focus on and weave in my stories. While I am doing that, I use note cards to outline the story. I like using note cards because I can move some scenes around if I feel it is needed. I also usually write out some scenes that really stick out in my head at this time. I handwrite all of my prewriting notes, note cards, and first drafts. It is how my brain works. I then work on the first draft, then convert it to a typed document. This can also count as the first round of editing.
My favorite part is developing the characters. They really do become a part of you, and there are many times that they take the story in a different direction that I did not originally intend.
After my first draft, my mother/top editor/everything else other than the first draft writer edits it and gives her input. I edit and fix things and add things as needed. Then it goes back for another round of editing. We eventually edit it to a point and get it out to some beta readers for final read-throughs. Then on to formatting.
My least favorite part is the last draft editing, mainly because by that time I am so ready to get it out to the readers and want to feel that sense of accomplishment once again. It takes a little too long sometimes, and I often get frustrated that I didn’t catch the typos/mistakes earlier.
I have many favorite parts. Researching, creating the stories, developing and exploring the characters are all great, and I also love the feeling of accomplishment when I hold the final draft in my hand and can share it with all my loyal readers. Hearing their feedback is great too!
DL: Could you reflect a bit on what writing or being a writer has meant for you and your life?
ML: I never anticipated being a writer. While I have enjoyed writing books and telling stories for as long as I can remember, I just didn’t think I would be good enough or that anyone other than myself and my Mommy would like my books. That has been the pleasantest of surprises. It has opened many doors to me, and it has made me a better person.
I still find it hard to reach out and sell my books/myself, but I am getting better. I find it easier to small talk with people and being a part of the writing community has been a blessing in my life. There are a lot of great writers/awesome people, especially in the Michigan writing community. Because of my books and selling, I have met a lot of great people in the Civil War Reenactment world as well. I am also now able to teach in many ways I never thought possible. I can teach through my actual stories, but this has also opened up opportunities for me to give speeches and presentations on my books and research practices, as well as historic topics. Writing and traveling to events has also allowed me to deepen my relationship with my mother. None of this would have happened if not for her, and I am so lucky that we get to spend so much time together.
DL: What are links to your books, website, and blog so readers can learn more about you and your work?
YouTube Page: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMovDGPKxKKcoWQP9lT3V8g
Thank you so much for this opportunity. I really appreciate it!