Meow! My guest this week is author Laurien Berenson!
Laurien Berenson is the author of thirty novels that have sold more than two million copies worldwide. Her cozy mystery series revolves around the world of dog shows, a milieu she knows well as her family has been involved in the sport of dogs for three generations. There are currently nineteen Melanie Travis canine mysteries including the newest book, LIVE AND LET GROWL.
Berenson is a four time winner of the Maxwell Award for Fiction from the Dog Writers Assoc. of America and a winner of the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award. She is also an Agatha and Macavity nominee. Her work has appeared in The New York Times as well as numerous magazines. She is a graduate of Vassar College, and she and her husband live on a farm in Kentucky, surrounded by horses and dogs.
- Hello, and welcome Laurien! Tell us a little about your background
Thanks ROCCO! I grew up in a family that always had animals: everything from dogs and cats to guinea pigs, parakeets, and ponies. My love for animals has continued to this day and I was thrilled when I sold my first Melanie Travis mystery, A PEDIGREE TO DIE FOR, as it combines two of my favorite things, dogs and humorous cozy mystery.
- Tell us a bit about your latest book, LIVE AND LET GROWL
LIVE AND LET GROWL is the 19th book in the Melanie Travis series. Melanie is a mother, a teacher, and a breeder and exhibitor of Standard Poodles. In this book she and her Aunt Peg (a dog show judge) travel to Kentucky for a cluster of dog shows. While there, they become involved in suspicious activities that center around the Thoroughbred horseracing industry.
- You are, obviously, a dog person…your lead character is the owner of a Standard Poodle. Is this your favorite breed of dog? Do you own any poodles (something in common with the HUMAN – she owned a miniature poodle growing up)
(Lucky HUMAN!) I had Poodles, both Standards and Minis, for more than 30 years. For most of that time I was a breeder and dog show exhibitor. I adore Poodles but I also think that there are many great breeds of dogs. Right now, I am taking a break from grooming and I have 2 smooth Collies.
- You also write about dog shows – have you ever participated in one? Any stories about that you can share?
I have participated in hundreds of dog shows as a dedicated owner-handler (something I have in common with my characters Melanie Travis and Aunt Peg.) Dog shows make a wonderful backdrop for a mystery series as there is always something interesting going on.
- Do you have a favorite among the books you’ve written? If so, which one and why?
I have several favorites in the series and I always hope that the next book I write will be my new favorite. Among the books that are already available I like UNLEASHED, WATCHDOG, GONE WITH THE WOOF and LIVE AND LET GROWL.
- How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
I don’t usually try too hard to get to know my characters ahead of time as I find that they are apt to tell me the things about themselves that they want me to know. One of the joys of introducing new characters to the series is having them take me to new and unexpected places.
- How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
In the beginning, I used to outline my books religiously. But now I’ve become a much more free form writer. I have a basic plot in my head when I start but then I just sort of wing it and see where the story takes me.
- Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
For me, as both a reader and a writer, character has always been more important. Even the best plot can’t make me enjoy a book with characters I don’t like.
- What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
With 19 books in the series so far, my biggest challenge is keeping things fresh and interesting. As for motivation, I have always been very disciplined. Plus, deadlines scare me. It’s much easier for me to write each day than to have to worry about the fact that I am not writing.
- Do you have an “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
Thirty years ago, I went to the first RWA convention in New York City. I sat down in the front row of the first presentation and introduced myself to the person seated beside me. She, like me, was an aspiring writer. The woman next to her was an aspiring agent. The agent took both of us on as clients and within the next year we had both made our first sales. Thirty years later, I am still represented by the same agency.
- What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I am currently working on Melanie Travis Mystery #20 (MURDER AT THE PUPPY FEST) which will come out in 2017. Reader support for this series has been wonderful and I hope to be able to continue to write about Melanie and her adventures for years to come.
- What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
That depends on what stage of the book I’m working on (first draft, editing, etc.) but generally I start working first thing in the morning and I work about 4-5 hours a day, six days a week.
- 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?
Yikes, they would have to be long ones! Truthfully I don’t think I could last a year with only three books.
- What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Write the story that you want to tell. Even if everyone else tries to fit you into a different mold, stay strong in your own voice. Also, rejection is a fact of life for aspiring authors, even really good ones. So keep writing and be determined! Your turn will come.
- What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Left college to go on a three month camping trip to Alaska with a boy I had known for four weeks. (We’ve now been married 40 years.)
- What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
That I breed and race Thoroughbred horses.
- What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
I have no idea! I am always asked great questions.
- Where can we learn more about you and your books?
On my website at www.laurienberenson.com or they can friend me on Facebook (I love talking to readers there). Or they can “like” my FB Author Page.
Just for Fun:
Night or Day? day
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully) dog (sorry!...no, not really. ;)
Beach or Pool? pool
Steak or salad? steak
Favorite Drink? tea
Favorite Book? too many to name
Favorite TV Series? The Big Bang Theory
Favorite Movie? Dangerous Liaisons
Favorite Actor: Chris Hemsworth
Favorite Actress: Meryl Streep
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Pina Colada
Hawaii or Alaska? Alaska
Finish this sentence:
If I had just one wish, it would be for world peace
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be: Nobody! I am happy being myself
Laurien will give away a signed copy of Live and Let Growl to one lucky reader!
To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:
* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
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* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link: https://www.facebook.com/ToniLotempio)#!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)
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Winner will be chosen at random using random.org. Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck! Contest closes midnight, July 19th!