Laura’s eclectic career includes television, news, theater, fiction, and film. Her horror film, Most Likely to Die, opened auspiciously on a Friday the 13th and her short stories have appeared in several anthologies, including “Last Exit to Murder” and “Hell Comes to Hollywood.” But it’s not all blood and guts: her webseries Faux Baby explores the lighter side of motherhood. And if the faux baby loses a limb here or there, well… No, actually, she has no justification for that at all. Find out more at DestinationMystery.com.
- Tell us a little about your background
Whoo, boy, where to start? Right out of college, I joined a theater company and spent three years traveling around Pennsylvania writing, producing, acting and directing. We wouldn’t just put on plays for local residents, we would convince the residents to be in the plays with us. The idea was to build community through theater and it was fun and exhausting and a wonderful challenge. From there, I went to PBS, where I wrote and produced on a news and current affairs show, and from there, I moved to Los Angeles and started working in episodic television and film. I’ve written a web series, lyrics to songs, essays and short stories, and I just finished writing my first novel -- a mystery, of course. You name it, I’ve probably tackled it.
- Tell us a bit about your “Destination Mystery” site. How did that come about?
I’m a member of Sisters in Crime, and I’m always meeting wonderful authors and having great chats about their work. Then I thought, wow, how much fun would it be to share this with the rest of the world? And I’d never tried podcasting before, so a new challenge was exciting. I built it to have all the things I enjoy when I listen to a podcast: I include a transcript so that people can read rather than listen, and show notes -- that’s my favorite part. I love having a way to follow up on cool stuff that comes up in the conversation. So far it’s included everything from organizations that help prevent human trafficking to info on the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London.
- Is there an author or a celebrity you wish you had a chance to interview and why?
Ngaio Marsh. She’s a Golden Age mystery writer and underappreciated in my book. She was a theater director as well as a mystery writer, and several books have murders taking place on stage -- that’s right up my alley. Also, her characters have great depth and humanity; even when you don’t like them, she allows you to understand them. Plus her novel, “Artists in Crime,” is one of my favorite play-fair mysteries. All the clues are there, but it still kept me guessing until the end.
- You’ve written plays and screenplays. Tell us about your first play (and that porn house???)
Ha! Okay, so here’s what happened: we were a brand-new theater company, and we were invited to come to a tiny town in Pennsylvania to help “rehabilitate” their downtown. They had just closed the porn theater, but they couldn’t convince families to check it out. I think they tried showing “The Care Bears” for free, but no dice. So they thought having us perform plays and teach workshops out of the movie theater would help change the image -- and it did have a decent stage. They paid us very little upfront, but we got to keep the box office for our performances and they agreed to put us up. They very kindly un-condemned the former brothel next to the porn house so that we could live there and then quietly re-condemned it after we left. It was all a bit surreal, but it was our first residency and we were grateful for a chance to show what we could do. Grateful, but broke. So I wrote an interactive murder mystery, a local restaurant agreed to cater, and we held “Murder at the Playhouse Café” for a whopping nine nights and made enough money to feed the company for a few months. Murder is a big draw! I did play fair, but the only group to pick up on all the clues and solve the mystery were the local high school mystery book club. They were our dress rehearsal, and those kids were crackerjack.
- You’ve worked in many genres – news, tv, fiction – do you have a favorite and why?
In episodic television, the bit I love with all my heart is breaking story. Do you remember the Dick Van Dyke show, when Rob, Sally and Buddy all spitball ideas for the Alan Brady show? That’s essentially what happens when you’re breaking story. I got to meet Rose Marie and tell her how much Sally influenced me; I wanted that kind of camaraderie, and I found it in television.
However, for the sheer joy of writing, nothing beats fiction.
- Your horror movie, Most Likely to Die was recently released. Tell us a bit about that. How did you feel when you learned it was going to be produced?
Which time? Seriously, that film was almost produced half a dozen times. It was three months out from being shot -- Adrian Paul from Highlander was going to direct -- and the bottom fell out of the economy. It got postponed and then cancelled and then resurrected… But I was very happy when cameras finally rolled. It’s a high school reunion, and a bunch of old friends are being killed off according to their yearbook superlatives. I like to tell people I didn’t write a horror movie, I wrote a love story… just one under very difficult circumstances.
- What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
The hardest thing as a film or television writer is getting kicked off a project you love. It happens all the time -- writers are seen as the most replaceable of all the cogs in the Hollywood machine. Perhaps that’s why I prefer writing fiction: no one can kick me off my novel. And to be clear, I’m not talking about getting notes or needing to edit. Being able to make a note work always makes the piece stronger. But having a new writer, someone you may never meet, come in and muck around with your work, that’s always hard. You just have to let go and move on to something new.
- What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
Right this minute, I’m breaking the story for a film for a producer I love to work with. Once she okays it, I’ll start writing the script. This is a project she owns, so I’m a writer for hire on it, but I love the story and it’s been great fun to work on. I’m also toying with ideas for my next novel, and I’m in conversation with yet another producer about working together on one of my television ideas. And, of course, setting up more interviews for Destination Mystery!
- What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
Typically, I work from 7am to about 3pm, then I do the mommy stuff, and then after dinner, while homework happens, I usually work another hour or two and catch up on e-mails and whatnot. My creative sweet spot is from about 8am to noon. That’s when I try to do as much writing as I can. I do corporate writing as well as work for hire, like this latest film, and of course my own projects. I have a short story that I’ve mostly worked out in my head -- I need to get that down on paper before I lose it!
- If you could take only three books with your for a year-long writing retreat in a gorgeous setting with no library, which three would you take?
Jane Eyre, the complete short stories of Dorothy Sayers, and any of P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster novels. The language is delicious!
- What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Write! Write everything, all kinds of things. Finish something and write something else. You’re a writer when you write. It’s a big clubhouse, come join the fun.
- What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Running off to join the circus… Um, I mean, the theater. That still holds as the craziest thing. But that’s also how I met my husband -- I auditioned him for the role of my lover! -- so crazy wins big in my book.
- What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I think this is something that surprises most people about writers: we are all our characters. The hero, the villain, everyone in between. There’s something of us on every page. It surprised me to realize that when I started writing, even when I was writing on someone else’s television show or doing work for hire. We always bring something of ourselves to every single project.
- What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
Q: What’s the one thing that’s made the biggest difference -- for the good -- in your life?
A: Being part of a community. We have this notion of the lone hero, and an even more corrosive notion of the solitary writer. Sure, writing involves a lot of sitting at your desk getting words on a page, but it’s important to have a community, multiple communities, even as a writer. I mentioned that I’m a member of Sisters in Crime, I’m also a member of the Horror Writers Association, I run a writers group, and I’m part of an informal “mastermind” group to help me stay on track. That’s in addition to getting out there and meeting producers and directors and other writers; some become contacts, others become friends. You need layers of support to help you grow as a writer and to keep it fun. You gotta have someone to celebrate with when things go well!
- Where can we learn more about you?
You can find out more about me and the authors I interview at DestinationMystery.com
Just for Fun:
Night or Day? Night.
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully) My wonderful host would make all other animals, cat or dog, pale in comparison.
Beach or Pool? Beach.
Steak or salad? Salad.
Favorite Drink? Hot chocolate.
Favorite Book? Jane Eyre.
Favorite TV Series? Currently? Castle. Of all time? The Dick Van Dyke Show.
Favorite Movie? My Sister Eileen.
Favorite Actor: Cary Grant.
Favorite Actress: Octavia Spencer. Before she won her Oscar, she did a cameo in my web series, and she was the most delightful woman to work with. Plus she’s a writer! That woman rocks.
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Pina Colada.
Hawaii or Alaska? Hawaii.
Finish this sentence: If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Terry Pratchett.
If I had just one wish, it would be World Peace.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be Charlize Theron. She makes really interesting acting choices, and OMG, those clothes! But I’d only trade for Oscar week, then I’d want to be me again, back in my sweats typing away.