Ep.8 – Why You Shouldn’t Box Yourself in as a Writer with Laura Thomas
Jul 21, 2022 by Dalene Bickel
Why You Shouldn't Box Yourself in as a Writer

 

Today I am thrilled to have a guest author with us, Laura Thomas. She is a published Christian author who writes heartwarming encouragement for your soul, especially in her romantic suspense, teen fiction, marriage and children’s books. Laura is a certified Hope Writers writing coach and a chocoholic, mom, and Gigi, married to her high school sweetheart. Originally from the UK, they live in Kelowna, British Columbia as audacious empty nesters. Welcome, Laura!

 

Laura Thomas 

Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.

 

Dalene Bickel

So glad to have you. Did I pronounce your city correctly?

 

Laura Thomas  00:51

Kelowna. Perfect.

 

Dalene Bickel  00:53

Wonderful. One thing that I always ask my guests is about a book. What’s one book, in addition to the Bible, that significantly impacted you in some way, whether it was during your childhood or more recently in your adulthood?

 

Laura Thomas  01:13

Sure. I love this question. And it’s always the same for me: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

 

Dalene Bickel  01:21

One of my favorites, for sure. Who’s your favorite character in that book?

 

Laura Thomas  01:28

I love them all for different reasons. But it’s got to be Jo, right? I’m a writer. It has to be.

 

Dalene Bickel  01:33

I agree. She was my favorite as well.

 

Laura Thomas  01:36

Absolutely. I’m one of four daughters. And so it, I don’t know, there’s just a lot going on in Little Women that I really, really appreciate and enjoy. As a child, it was my favorite. And honestly, it still is today.

 

Dalene Bickel  01:51

Yes, it’s definitely a classic.

 

Laura Thomas  01:53

Definitely.

 

Dalene Bickel  01:56

So you have written in various genres. And I was wondering how you hope your books will impact your readers?

 

Laura Thomas  02:05

Gosh, yes. That’s a great question. I think for me, as a Christian writer, I’m obviously the heart of every book that I write is faith. And so for me, I think my main aim is to give readers a compelling read, something that will encourage them and include relatable characters and stories of hope. Something that they can go away from not just having enjoyed or passed the time or got into, but something that they can carry with them that hopefully, will be relatable and that they can use in their faith walk, in their faith struggle, in their everyday life.

 

Dalene Bickel  02:50

That’s needed more so now than ever, I believe.

 

Laura Thomas  02:54

I think so, for all ages.

 

Dalene Bickel  02:57

Exactly. You shared something with me earlier that I wanted to address on our episode and that is about the fact that you wanted to write a book for many years – 25 years, in fact – but you kept it a secret from everyone. Could tell us a little bit more about that?

 

Laura Thomas  03:17

Yes, of course. This is always something people want to talk about because it is kind of crazy when you say it out loud. I guess it is crazy. What happened was as a child, as I said, I loved books. You know, me and Little Women. We were right there. But yeah, I was the bookworm. And I, I just dreamt of being an author one day.

I really wanted to be a picture book author, as a small child, as soon as I could kind of understand. I just had this love for books and it was just my huge dream to be an author one day like Beatrix Potter. She was kind of the hero. But I honestly didn’t think it was a thing. I really didn’t think it was achievable on any level. Nobody ever told me that because I never told anybody about my secret dream. So it’s not like I was discouraged. I think it was just me. I think it was just I never met an author. I honestly had them on some kind of pedestal thinking it was like being an astronaut or something. Just, it wasn’t going to happen. So I shelved it. I really did; I shelved it through my whole growing up years.

I always loved reading. It really wasn’t until I had children of my own and started reading picture books to them something started clicking again. And then it was my husband, who actually took me out for coffee one night. We were talking about dreams, just life dreams. We’d been married for decades at this point. And he said, “Come on, tell me. What’s your next dream?” And so I thought, I’ve just got to tell him so I said, “Well, you know, I want to write that book one day.” He was like, “Wait a second. We’ve been dating since you were 14. And I haven’t heard anything about this.”

I buried it so deeply because I thought it was just a crazy, crazy dream.

And so yeah, it was that night that everything changed. He was so excited and so supportive, and was like, “Are you kidding me? You’ve got to do this if this is something you really want to do. Don’t wait any longer. Start the ball rolling now.” So it literally, it was 25 whole years.

 

Dalene Bickel  05:32

So you mentioned about always being attracted to the picture books at first and thinking that was what you really wanted to write. So are you an artist as well? Were you hoping to illustrate those?

 

Laura Thomas  05:43

As a child. My mom has kept all my artwork from school, bless her heart. Mom, you’re can let it go now. But no, I think it soon became obvious that that was definitely a pie-in-the-sky dream. I mean, I’m very limited in my repertoire of drawing. I used to enjoy it, but it’s definitely something I leave to the professionals. In the beginning, when I was very naive, I thought I could do it all. But, ya know.

 

Dalene Bickel  06:21

So I love that you maintained that dream, yet you kept it a secret. And I’m wondering, were there any teachers that helped fuel that dream along the way? Did anyone say anything about your writing that you should do this? I’m assuming you did well in the writing classes and that kind of thing?

 

Laura Thomas  06:40

English was definitely my favorite subject in high school. And I did have a teacher, Miss Dolman who was just, she brought English alive; she brought Shakespeare alive. And she was just magnificent. But again, I never confessed to her that I was in the least bit interested in pursuing it. And anyway, I actually left high school at the age of 16 and went into banking. I was a banker at 16. I know, it’s been a weird journey.

 

Dalene Bickel  07:11

An English person and a math person. Wow, you don’t hear that very often.

 

Laura Thomas  07:16

Well, I don’t even like math. That’s a whole other story. The banking people came around and said, “If you’re a people person, you should go into banking, because it’s a very personable job.” So I just kind of went with the flow. I also believe nothing is ever wasted. And yet, I look back and shake my head a little bit with that.

 

Dalene Bickel  07:43

I wasn’t expecting you to say that for sure. That’s great. You’ve written in various genres. Was one of your first books your teen fiction? What was the first book that you ended up writing?

 

Laura Thomas  08:00

Yeah, it actually was, back in 2012. My first book called Tears to Dancing, and that’s Christian teen fiction for girls. That was my first actual book published. And so yeah, definitely not a picture book. But again, nothing has been straightforward for me. I took in all these different windy twists and turns. And even though I started, really, with the intentions of writing for smaller children and had stories published in magazines.

That’s kind of how I started. I completed a couple of courses. I did another course, which took one of my short stories and turned it into an actual novel, which was this Tears to Dancing. And so I found myself in a different genre right off the bat with book publishing. And it’s taken its own … I took my hands off the wheel and decided, okay, I’m just going with it. Whatever is happening here.

 

Dalene Bickel  09:05

That’s great. So I’m thinking of the listeners out there who might have that same dream and are still keeping it a secret. Your husband was your biggest supporter, obviously. So what was that next step? You’ve mentioned about doing short stories, you mentioned about some classes. What was that next step that you took?

 

Laura Thomas  09:22

Sure, yeah. Well, at the time, I was actually homeschooling my three children. And I was also a worship director at our church. So I had a pretty busy schedule. In my head I thought, maybe I’ll do it when the kids leave home and when we retire. You know, I was kind of looking a long way down. I thought it’d be a fun, odd thing to do. But he said, “No, if this is burning within you now, you’ll find time to do it.” And so I was like, okay, alright, let’s do this thing.

So I actually enrolled with the Institute of Children’s Literature, which is still very much alive and well today. This was going back, I think we’re talking 2006. But it’s still very much a thing today. And so I literally just started with a course because I didn’t know where to begin. I did banking after school, I love reading, but I’d never done anything with my creative writing. So I needed something to start. I thoroughly recommend them, they actually do courses for all ages; you can hone in on what you think you might be interested in. And back then it was correspondence course with mail, actual mail. But now, of course, it’s all online.

So I literally just wrote in the cracks of time that I had. Everything took a really long time, because there was no time limit. So I could take, you know, a couple of months to do an assignment, if I needed to do it, you know, to fit in with my schedule, which was ideal. By the time I’d done a year or so of those courses and completed that, I had the confidence to start sending out magazine stories. And so that was great.

For me, it’s just such a smart way to start; I would thoroughly recommend that. Because not only do you have actually something to put on your cover letter – I’m published in diddle-a-diddle-a-do – it also is just that affirmation that you kind of need. You think, is anybody really interested in my words? Am I actually a writer? I think I think it’s just huge just to have something by starting with those smaller little steps rather than going, “I’m only doing a book.” I would thoroughly recommend that for all ages. But it was a great way to start for children, for sure.

 

Dalene Bickel  11:46

Yes, and it’s a great learning experience, too, as far as becoming aware of deadlines and word counts; you have to meet those specific guidelines that they offer to you. So if you’re looking to get traditionally published, that’s a great, great way to whet your teeth in that and get started. lLke you said, there is nothing like that little that feeling of seeing your name in the byline on a magazine.

 

Laura Thomas  12:15

Absolutely. I’ve kept them all. I’ve got a stack of them, all these old children’s magazines and stuff. And you know, it makes you feel like it’s real. This is actually going somewhere.

 

Dalene Bickel  12:28

I agree. That has happened for me as well. So throughout all of this, you’re active in your church, you’re still homeschooling, you’re writing. How did you see God working in your writing through all of this?

 

Laura Thomas  12:46

Oh, yes. Well, He still is very much and I’m very grateful for that. I think He’s taught me a lot of lessons along the way, for sure. I’m not the most patient person, I’m going to be honest with you. And so, definitely, we’ve been working on my patience because nothing happens fast in the writing world, I think we can agree. It’s all about the way you think, whether you’re waiting for an editor or you’re submitting something, or whatever it is, so patience has been a big thing.

His timing has been huge, because I have my own ideas going into this. Not gonna lie. And I don’t think anything has worked out as I had originally intended. But looking back – as we know, hindsight is a beautiful thing. And I can look back and say, “No, God had such a good [plan]. I didn’t know what else was gonna happen in my life. But he knew.” Trusting him with the timing and the timeline of everything has been huge.

And the other thing, which has been a big thing for me, is humility. Honestly, I wasn’t used to rejection, gotta be honest. And it’s been all the way through and still is continually a lesson in humility. Because you’ve got to grow thick skin. You’ve got to learn from the rejections that you receive and just keep taking them on and improving your craft. He’s definitely still teaching me a lot.

 

Dalene Bickel  14:23

Yes, as He is with me as well. It’s just relying and putting trust in Him; that He knows the next steps even when we don’t.

 

Laura Thomas  14:33

Absolutely, yeah.

 

Dalene Bickel  14:36

So once you wrote that first book, I’m wondering, since you had hidden your idea of wanting to write for so long, did you have any troubles promoting your book, marketing it and letting the world know, “Hey, I’m now an author.” Was that awkward? Was that hard?

 

Laura Thomas  14:52

It definitely helped having an actual book. I think before that, when I was doing the magazines – and that was all really, really great – I think I was a little less confident about saying I was a writer. It was more of a whisper. I think [it was] once I had an actual book, and my publisher encouraged me to get a website, this is back in 2012. So I knew nothing, absolutely nothing about websites and blogs and other things. But she said, “You need a website. And if you can start blogging, that’d be great.” So I was like, “Alright.” But they didn’t teach me this in the course so this was very much on the fly.

But I had my website called LauraThomasAuthor.com. There are several Laura Thomas authors, but that one [domain name] was free. So I think that actually really helped me. I’m like, “Hi, I’m Laura Thomas, author. That is my website.” And then to be able to have a physical book, even locally to be able to do book signings and take them into the local bookstores. And actually, because it was a teen book, I went into a lot of schools and stuff like that. I think every little thing gave me a little bit more confidence.

Actually, schools were probably the greatest because you go in there, and I put myself in their shoes, because I went in for some younger children as well. And they’re like, “Oh! You’re a real author!” and I got to sign my books for them. And I’m like, oh, I would have totally been fangirling if I was a child and an actual author came in. So that was such a privilege and I think that helped me.

Don’t get me wrong; even today, sometimes I don’t like doing the self-promotion. It’s not my favorite. But I think, for me, if I try and get myself the mindset of “I’m not selling me, I’m trying to provide something special for readers, something that I believe will help them and encourage them,” that really helps me.

Because you’re not just an author; you’re a marketer, and a businesswoman, and all the things.

 

Dalene Bickel  17:11

All the things. That is such an excellent point. I’m glad you said that. You know, it’s not about you as the author; it’s promoting that message that God has given you to share with the world.

 

Laura Thomas  17:22

Yeah, yeah.

 

Dalene Bickel  17:24

So how long did it take you to write that first book?

 

Laura Thomas 17:30

Now, you asked that question, and I had to actually look it up because it was so long ago. And I was like, “Man, that took me forever.” As I said, it started off as a short story, like 1300 words maybe, for an assignment for this course that I was doing. And then I decided to take that story to a next course and make it into an actual full-length novel, well a 30,000-word novel. And it looks like it took me almost two years, because I was doing it very, very minimally, just when I had, you know, half an hour here, an hour there. So it was a very slow process. And I was getting feedback for every single little thing.

 

Dalene Bickel

That is so helpful.

 

Laura Thomas

Oh, it was, looking back. I’m like, this was so amazing. And then I started actually sending it out. Again, I really didn’t know what I was doing. My assignment person said, “Just start Googling Christian publishers.” So that’s what I did; I literally started sending it out to random Christian publishers. And that took about another year. And so it was in November of 2011 that I suddenly had, after many rejections, I had the “yeah.” I can remember the feeling now. I screamed, I screamed so much!

 

Dalene Bickel  18:54

And I hope you celebrated.

 

Laura Thomas 18:56

Oh, yes. Oh, did I ever! Yes, it was quite magical. So it was slow and steady. That was 2012 and I’m just about to have my ninth book come out in November. So it’s been boom-boom-boom-boom and like you said, several different genres. It’s been like a whirlwind since.

 

Dalene Bickel  19:17

That’s fantastic. And I am so curious: you started out with teen fiction. And I know you’ve had a marriage book and you’ve written some children’s books, but now you’ve been writing romantic suspense novels. So I’m curious how you made that switch?

 

Laura Thomas 19:36

Yeah, I love it so much. I think it was a little bit of curiosity. In the last of my Christian teen fiction series, the Tears series, I introduced a bit of a suspenseful storyline that which was different from the others. The story just kind of took on a life of its own the way they do and it ended up being pretty suspenseful. I was loving writing it and, at the time, as a reader because as we know, as writers, we read, read, read, read, read.

 

Dalene Bickel  20:10

Yes, we do.

 

Laura Thomas 20:13

My go-to for enjoyable reading was Christian romantic suspense. Colleen Coble, Dee Henderson, Terri Blackstock – all those great, great writers who are still churning out the books.

 

Dalene Bickel  20:25

I love those as well.

 

Laura Thomas 20:26

Oh, I just love them! And so I honestly, it was just, “I wonder if I could do this for grown-ups?” You know, I had done the children, that teen kind of thing. And we actually went to Jamaica on a family vacation and I saw a glass bottom boat just kind of bobbing out there. And I’ve got a bit of a fear of drowning. It’s totally irrational. But it’s just, I got fixated on this glass bottom boat.

And my husband said, “Let’s all go out on it on the last day.” And I’m a bit scared, but thinking it might be good. And anyway, long story short, we didn’t get to go on it. There was a massive storm. And so it just left me curious. This glass bottom boat, and I know it’s a podcast, but you can see [Laura holds up a copy of her book] this is the novel that turned out from that little moment of “I wonder what would happen if something awful happened on a glass bottom boat?”

I came home and I started writing out all these crazy ideas about it. And I’m like, “I think I’m going to try to do a romantic suspense story with this just like this thread of fear and suspense that I’m already kind of working on.” And so that’s kind of how it happened. And yes, that’s now a series of three. And now I’ve got a Christmas novella coming out in November in the same series. I’ve got an agent with another series who is trying to place that as well in the same genre. So I feel like this is my genre. I’m loving it.

 

Dalene Bickel  21:54

I can tell you light up whenever you talk about it. It’s very passionate.

 

Laura Thomas  21:58

It’s so fun.

 

Dalene Bickel  22:00

That’s fantastic. So I happened – well, I didn’t happen –  I obviously went to your website and was looking at your things. And your trailer for your book. It is so suspenseful. And I was like, “I’ve got to read this book now!”

 

Laura Thomas  22:19

Well, that’s the idea. Excellent!

 

Dalene Bickel  22:21

That is the idea. And so that’s why I was wanting to ask you, had you done trailers for the other books? Or is this something new? And have you noticed any difference in sales from that?

 

Laura Thomas  22:31

Yeah, I actually did one for each of these Christian suspense ones. And to be honest, I’m not sure sales-wise how much difference it makes, just because I’ve done it for each of them. But I’m a very visual creature myself, like, I have Pinterest boards with all my books. I love to be able to visualize stuff.

And I think we just live in a world now where it’s just everyone’s on video, right? So I think it just made sense for me to try and put a trailer together. And so it’s very, very doable for any author who wants to do it themselves. I think I use Lumenvideo. It’s at the end of the video. But there’s lots of different ways of doing it. But it’s not too hard. And you can really put your own personal spin on it. And clearly mine worked.

 

Dalene Bickel  23:28

Yes! So you made it yourself?

 

Laura Thomas  23:30

Yeah, yeah.

 

Dalene Bickel  23:32

Fantastic.

 

Laura Thomas  23:33

Very doable. And so I think it’s just, it’s yet another tool, right of marketing, and it will get people’s attention, hopefully, and give them just that little taster of what’s to come in the book.

 

Dalene Bickel  23:46

Yes, it does. Well, I know that we are coming to a close with our time. So I was wondering if you had one last tip or anything that you’d like to share with our listeners?

 

Laura Thomas  24:01

Oh, gosh. Well, I could be on for another half an hour with all my tips. Definitely one of the big ones that I encourage writers is not to put yourself in a box, because clearly, if I had gone in thinking picture book only, I’d still only have a dream.

That dream is still very much alive. I still have manuscripts out there. But if I’d stuck with that, if I’d been really tunnel vision and just been like “No, it’s only this,” look what I would have missed out on. Just like I didn’t expect my journey to look like this.

So I think being open to taking chances and doing something different, going outside your comfort zone, trying different genres so you’re not boxing yourself into what you think is going to be your writing life. I think it’s exciting as well. You never, never know what’s around the corner.

 

Dalene Bickel  25:00

That’s wonderful advice for sure. I know that many of our listeners are going to want to know exactly where to find you. And so if you want to repeat your website address and then let us know where you’re on social, where we can find you.

 

Laura Thomas  25:13

Oh, sure, yes, that would be great. My website, again is LauraThomasauthor.com where I’ve got my writing, coaching, my books, my blog, all the things. And also I have a monthly newsletter, and you can sign up there for it. Every month, I do a book giveaway and I have a yummy recipe and book recommendations and other things, and also keep you up-to-date with all my books, my latest books on what’s going on there. So sign up for my newsletter. I’d love that.

And then I’m everywhere. All my social links are on my website, but Instagram is probably my favorite, @LauraCThomas. So yeah, come find me there.

And I’d love if anybody comes onto my website, I have a contact page, and just come say “Hi.” I always reply to any questions, comments. I’m more than welcome to chat with anybody.

 

Dalene Bickel  26:08

Wonderful. There you have it, listeners, be sure to visit Laura, whether on social or at her website. And thank you so much, Laura, for joining us today. It has been such a pleasure getting to speak with you and learn more about your writing journey.

 

Laura Thomas  26:22

Oh, thanks so much for having me, Dalene. It’s been great.

 

Industry News

First, the bad news.

If you’re publishing e-books through Amazon’s KDP program, you may end up losing money rather than earning it, according to a recent NPR article

It’s all due to Amazon’s current 7-day return policy. 

Why does this matter to authors? A reader can buy an ebook – thus generating sales to the author – and then request a full refund from Amazon within 7 days – thus deducting the royalty commission they earned from future payouts. 

Amazon is the only online bookstore to offer a carte blanche return policy like this and ebooks are the only digital product they allow customers to return.

Compounding this problem are online videos teaching readers how to read for free by abusing this return policy.

To learn more about this controversial policy and the petition that’s opposing it, visit Amazon’s e-book return policy comes under criticism from authors : NPR.

Now, the good news!

There’s a new Christian literary agency in town – Mary DeMuth, author of 40+ books and an experienced literary agent, has launched her own agency.

She anticipates contracting 30 titles her first year and is looking for nonfiction books that are “Christian living titles that grow people and the global church coming from a biblical worldview. She is also pursuing gift, design, and art-based books, in addition to books by theologically astute leaders.”

You can learn more at marydemuthliterary.com.

 

Listener Opportunities

Join me at The Inkwell each Wednesday for an hour-long FREE writing session. 

Are you an aspiring author? Be sure to download my free 10-Step Author Blueprint

Have a suggestion for the podcast? Want to book a coaching call? Send me an email! info@inkandimpact.com

Listen to past episodes here.

Tune in Next Week….

When I speak with Alicia Greer about finding time to write, the pros and cons of hybrid publishers, and using YouTube to build your author platform.

To make sure you don’t miss it, SUBSCRIBE below to be notified when it airs!

Subscribe to the Ink and Impact Podcast