Indie Monday

Today’s guest: Marie LaPres

LaPres author

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?

Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Marie-LaPres/e/B075J5VTX6%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

Website: https://sites.google.com/view/marielapres/home

YouTube Page: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMovDGPKxKKcoWQP9lT3V8g

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mariejlapres/

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14923931.Marie_LaPres

Blog: https://authormarielapres.blogspot.com/

Thank you so much for this opportunity. I really appreciate it!

Indie Monday

Today’s guest: Andrew Allen Smith

Andrew Smith - Author 2

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 honored to host Andrew Allen Smith, novelist, short story writer, and poet. Originally from Anderson, Indiana, Andrew currently lives in Michigan. After several successful ventures in IT, research, and business, Andrew has become a prolific and creative author. He is the author of four novels in the Masterson Files series, combining action, adventure, and mystery: Vengeful Son (Book 1, 2016), Sinful Father (Book 2, 2018), Deadly Daughter (Book 3, 2018), and Fateful Friend (Book 4, 2019). A fifth entry in the series is in the works, as well as a number of other books, as Andrew describes below. 

Recently I posed some questions to Andrew. Here’s what he told me.

DL: Could you tell us a little about yourself?

AAS: My name is Andrew Allen Smith. My quest is to learn, write, and have fun doing everything I do. My favorite color is blue, no red, no blue. Ooops, ahhhhh.

In all seriousness I have always been a storyteller, but as a writer I face something that many writers seem to face, focus. I have a significant number of partially completed books, short stories, novellas, poems, prose pieces, and inspirational items and have to focus to keep from pushing each pebble forward a little and not completing items. I went to college for Computer Science, and do very well with machines. My early goal was to develop AI and work in robotics, but I ended up working in hard core IT, and research. I have written a lot, and I only recently began collating and completing my writings. After huge successes and several business ventures I moved to Michigan in 2015 and was assisted by two friends in finishing my first book, Vengeful Son.

Since then I work, write, and hang out with my wife, two dogs, and cat. My children are all grown up, so it is a relatively peaceful life.

DL: Tell us about your latest book and works in progress. 

AAS: My most recent book is the fourth in the Masterson Files series. Fateful Friend is about a series of unpredictable events that accidently get our antihero, Jonathon Michael Masterson, involved in an attempted assassination. The book and my characters continue to grow and though this book was painful, it was another improvement in the series. I have enjoyed having the characters grow and have a lot invested in this work. It was more difficult because the story grew sideways for a while. It does involve some ancillary characters, but I had created a side story about race that I reduced simply because it was far too complex and did not add to the story.

I am currently working on several items. Book 5 of the Masterson files is complete and edited. I need a cover and have found a few people who are willing to work on it with me. Silent Sister is a pure roller coaster ride. My villain was a huge success with my editor and a beta reader, and my hero for this book was truly a semi-side character until now. Michael is still a major part, but my hero takes on more than he should, and there are several substories about family, trust, and how people sometimes need help and need to ask for that help.

I am also working on Burial Ground, a Young Adult story about a young lady who moves to the country next to an Indian reservation, makes some awesome friends, and is slowly possessed by a deceased Indian chief. It is a labor of love and will be out before the Muskegon Art fair in July (if that ends up happening).

Stealth Ride is about a man who lost his wife to a car accident while he stayed home and took care of his car. The story is existential as it questions the meaning of life, possessions, and relationships. I started this years ago and the story has been stuck in my mind to the last line, I just need to get it completed.

As if that is not all, I am working on Adam, a book about a man who find himself in a unique situation. He is immortal and can save a woman if he just acts, but there are consequences. In this first of the series, Adam tells his story. This book is all written in first person from Adam’s point of view, making it a different approach to my normal style of writing.

DL: Why do you write? What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?

AAS: I write because I enjoy writing. Each night I dream, and usually it is a new story. As you can guess, I am a bit behind in putting them all down. I love the feeling of words flowing onto paper. The goal of each story is to entertain. It is the best feeling in the world to have someone come up and say, “Where is the next book,” or to tell me how engrossed they got in the story.

DL: Please talk about your writing process. Where do your ideas come from? What is your favorite part of the process? Least favorite?

AAS: Oops, I jumped ahead didn’t I. Usually I am inspired by dreams, but sometimes it can be items or a thought or person. I write each day at an inspirational site and those ideas come from everywhere. From people who say a few words to me to the passions of my life, and other people’s lives. To quote “The Seven Faces of Doctor Lao,” “Every time you pick up a grain of sand you hold a universe in the palm of your hand.”For me, every moment is like a grain of sand, and every moment has a story to tell about the universe.

I had a vivid dream once about death, the most vivid I have ever had, and the concepts and ideas were amazing, and my inspiration worked them out even further. Death as a person, an entity. Yes, it has been done in movies and books, but my dream was different, and the resulting “A Conversation with Death” was fairly unique.

I love getting the ideas out, and then shaping them into a cohesive story. My books grow themselves. I am not out to baffle readers with new words they never wanted to know, I am out to tell a story and, in the process, show my readers something fun, exciting, scary, amazing, horrible, passionate, and even uplifting.

I dislike editing and have had bad experiences with editors. A wonderful young lady, Jenny Bynum, reviewed my first book after it was published and loved the book but pointed out the errors. I spent a considerable amount of the books’ earnings on editors. Each has had their own challenges, and I blame myself each time. I can do perfect at work writing a quality document, but do not do as well editing my own books. I also dislike some of the dealings I have had with reviews. I have had dozens of good reviews, but the company that has my books online (Amazon) often removes those for no apparent reason, so it goes up and down a lot.

DL: Could you reflect a bit on what writing or being a writer has meant for you and your life?

AAS: In my opinion, touching someone with words is making a difference. In the early 90s, I owned a social network and spoke on television about interacting mind-to-mind. Great writers and good writers are not just throwing words on a page, they are sharing their mind through words and painting a picture that can only be seen in the back of someone’s mind. To me that is amazing. Having someone come up to me and say, “I love Alan, who did you base him on?” and me saying he was created from the back of my mind, gives me a sense of satisfaction.

If you consider it, we are all like Doctor Frankenstein and our characters truly come alive. In my second book, Sinful Father, one of the main characters dies. I cried like a baby writing about a character giving a eulogy about a character I created killed by another character I created that broke the heart of yet another. None of the people existed, but in my mind they did, and the feedback I have gotten from people is similar. No, I will not get rich from writing, well, unless someone says “Oh wow! Read this now,” and I go viral, but I will feel with people as my stories progress.

DL: What are links to your books, website, and blog so readers can learn more about you and your work?

AAS: You can see my inspirational blog daily at www.29000sunsets.com, short stories at www.shortstorysite.com, and books at  https://www.amazon.com/Andrew-Allen-Smith/e/B01KTVUFQS%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share (New site coming soon!)