by Sandra Budiansky
This month, we’re talking to Laura Woollett, a regular contributor at Loftings and a published author of the nonfiction book Big Top Burning. Laura also juggles a full-time job, writing, and taking care of her family.
Q: Your first book is nonfiction, and I know you’re changing gears and working on a novel now. What’s different and what’s the same?
I love doing research and learning about different moments in U.S. history and what life was like for people. I’m now writing historical fiction set in 1800s Waltham, Mass., so I’m using many of the same research techniques I used for Big Top Burning. Of course, I can’t interview people, but there are some great first-hand accounts I can draw from to get a flavor of the time. One major difference is that I get to think up the characters and their problems. I love putting my characters into terrifying situations and seeing how they will react. Did I mention my new novel is also horror?
Q: Are you a planner or a pantser? Also, do you enjoy drafting or revising more?
I’m a planner for sure. I have a complete outline for the book. It helps me to be able to dip in and out of my manuscript whenever I can clear bits of time for writing. I like different things about drafting and revising. Drafting is great because I can write complete crap and it’s OK. I will go back and fix it later. I’m an editor by profession, so revising is definitely where I’m strongest. Getting to the point where I have a draft to work with is the hardest part for me.
Q: What is some of the best writing advice you’ve gotten?
Don’t be afraid to write badly. You can always fix it later. Just get the words on the page.
Q: Do you want to tell us about what you’re working on?
I’ll give you my pitch: Inspired by Shelley’s Frankenstein, The Resurrectionist is about a scientifically impassioned mill girl in the 1830s who uses a new medical technique called galvanism to bring her best friend back from the dead. But when it all goes wrong, she must make a choice. Will she continue to “rebuild” her friend with body parts obtained by grave robbers? Or will she learn to let go of the person she loves most in this world?
Q: A favorite podcast of mine is How to Be Amazing with Michael Ian Black. I’m going to borrow from him and ask you about some things you find amazing.
- What is a book you find amazing? I love anything mysterious or macabre. (Are you surprised?) Libba Bray’s The Diviners is a masterful work of fiction. I’m also devouring everything by Gillian Flynn and Ruth Ware this summer.
- TV show or movie? I love the Netflix series Stranger Things. It appeals to my 1980s nostalgia and my love of horror. I also love The 100. I felt embarrassed when I discovered it is on the CW, a network aimed at teens. Guilty pleasure!
- Something to listen to/podcast or music? I don’t listen to music while I’m writing like some people. It’s too distracting for me. I do enjoy listening to podcasts about writing. Narrative Breakdown is good.
Sandra Budiansky is a co-editor of Loftings. She is perpetually working on a YA novel while dabbling in picture books and essays. You can usually find her sitting at the big table at the Writers’ Loft.