A B.R.A.G. Medallion winner for her book, In the Comfort of Shadows, Ms. Laurel Bragstad shared some of her goals, history, and writing secrets. A writer of contemporary and historical romance.
What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
One of my intentions was to write a book that would interest women readers who are between 50-75 years old and present ideas related to dealing with haunting memories. My main goals were to deal with real-life issues of loss and regret, to honor my parents’ memories, and to honor my dad’s long-forgotten cousin by including some of his WW2 diaries. I feel like I achieved these very well.
What do you think most characterizes your writing?
I try to create realistic dialog and logical situations between characters. People have also told me that my book was a “quick read” – not because the writing was simple, but because they became involved with the characters.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
I used excerpts from the WW2 diaries of my dad’s cousin. I met my dad’s cousin and acquired the diaries after he died. However, the diary entries were in small pocket notebooks; entries were not in chronological order, and some of the writing had faded over the years. So, first I had to use a magnifying glass to read the diaries as I typed them all out and put them in order. Next, I checked the dates and facts that were recorded in the diary pages just to be sure things like dates of certain battles and names of places were accurate for the entries I used verbatim. Since the author of the diaries is also one of the main characters (Emmett) and a family member, I also wanted to be sure I stayed true to his voice and memory.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I liked overlapping the stories of two main characters, Ann and Emmett, together. The characters are in the same family but a generation apart, yet connected by different threads of the same sad memories. I enjoyed developing their relationship, tying ends together, and bridging the generational gap.
How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your book?
My main character, Ann, is adopted. I am not adopted but my mother died when I was four and a half. I always felt a sense of loss—even though my dad remarried a wonderful, loving woman. My dad refused my questions about my biological mother and that saddened me over the years. Years later, as my father struggled against the cancer that would eventually take his life, I fantasized about someone who could and would answer all my questions. And when I met my dad’s elderly cousin, the “black sheep of the family,” he seemed to be the perfect choice for a character who knew the family secrets that Ann wanted to exploit.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
This was my first book. Since I spend way too much time writing or revising curriculum (instructions, exams, nonfiction text-type stuff) for my college courses – writing fiction is a wonderful and welcome change of pace.
Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?
Two things: First, whenever I had a question about anything as a child, my dad always said, “Look it up and you won’t forget” instead of answering my question. Second, I like a good mystery – that’s probably related to the first item here regarding asking questions and finding answers. Like storytelling, I see life in general as an ongoing journey for answers, something like problem solving mixed together with wishin’ and hopin’.
How long have you been writing?
I suppose I started in my twenties even though I was only writing bits and pieces just for me. My book took ten years to finish because of life interruptions of one sort or another. That’s an example of how I don’t write constantly.
What inspires you?
I always find inspiration in my garden, where I constantly marvel at how each plant has its own personality. Some only bloom in shade, but does that mean they have dark personalities? Some only thrive in full sun or with lots of attention, but does that mean they are needy? Some flowers are stunning, too beautiful for words. Other plants actually stink, have sharp thorns, or cause allergic reactions if touched. Some provide sustenance for birds, bees, and other critters that scatter their seeds or pollen and insure the plant’s next generation. Some flowers last a long time after being cut and put in a vase while others seem to wilt at the sight of scissors. I can go on about these garden characters. But you probably get the idea.
What do you like to read in your free time?
Historical fiction, science-based nonfiction, stories with believable characters in logical but complicated situations.
What projects are you working on at the present?
I started a second novel, but I think I’ve written myself in to a corner with it. I need to work one character into and out of a situation… somehow.
What do your plans for future projects include?
Make more time for my own writing!
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Not sure I can put a date on that. Seems to me the thought of writing was always there.
How do you find or make time to write?
This is always a problem for me. I teach a college course, I also have an online college course, I have two grandsons I love to spend time with, a garden in summer, and usually some kind of craft project going during the winter. But I try to snatch writing time here and there.
What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has?
Did you make the characters in your book older because you didn’t want to write about sex?
I suppose younger readers don’t want to think about how sex works between “older people,” and older people want to keep those secrets to themselves. So in that regard, I’m glad no one has asked.
What book would you like to write but haven’t or can’t yet?
To Kill a Mockingbird. J A forever relevant story with timeless social impact.
Click here to purchase her book, In the Comfort of Shadows.