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Larry Laswell
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 Interview 

Who are your favorite authors?

I think that depends on the genre. Serious literature would be Ayn Rand, Hemingway, Michener, and Steinbeck, Orwell’s early work, and perhaps Orson Scott Card. I like Heller’s Catch-22 although he beats the reader over the head with his vocabulary. For action adventure, thriller, spy stories it would be Tom Clancy, Ken Follett, Stephen Coonts, David Poyer, Dale Brown, John le Carre, and Dan Weber. For science fiction, I would say there’s two: Isaac Asimov, Stanley Kubrick. Then there’s Douglas Adams who is a genre all by himself.

What inspires you to get out of bed each day?

Ninety-nine days out of a hundred, I look forward to getting out of bed because I have so much to do that I value. Being retired, I am not responsible to anyone, or for anyone except myself. That’s tremendously liberating, and means I can do what I value. What do I value? I value those activities that enrich my life, and the lives of others. That’s why I write.

When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?

My favorite activity is spending time with my wife, Marsha. We do everything as a team, and we learn from each other. When we’re together, five minutes can’t go by before we are laughing about something. We even work together on my writing projects. She has amazing insight, and is my toughest critic, and number one supporter.

I guess reading would be number two. Between my wife and me, we read ten to twenty novels a month. Number three would be woodworking and tinkering in the garage; that’s my man-cave.

How do you discover the e-books you read?

Depends. About half my reading is for pure enjoyment. For those books, I pick up what looks interesting or books recommended by my friends. The other half of the books I read are for professional analysis to develop my craft. For those books, I pick up specific authors or genres. Every so often, I re-read what I call my "classics," Hemmingway, Steinbeck, Kubrik, Mitchner, Victor Hugo, LeCarre, and Gustave Flaubert.

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?

Yes, and I wish I didn’t. On a scale from good to bad, it went right past bad and hit horrible. It was first person short story about teaching my wife to fish. I gave it to a few friends to read, and all I got back was glassy stares. I don't want to talk about it.

What is your writing process?

In one word, chaos. Authors seem to come in two flavors, outliners and seat-of-the-pants-ers. I’m neither, but a bit of both. I start with an idea about a conflict, and a few plot points. Next, I create some characters, and start writing what I call auditions. In the auditions, I put the characters through their paces within the framework of my story idea. I pick those characters that work, and start writing. Once I get through the first draft, I have a mess. I go back through it, and find my main character's greatest moments, conflicts, and defeats. Therein lies the hero’s story and the novel’s theme.

In the second draft, I focus on theme development while sanding off the rough edges. After that, revision is limited to craft, sentence structure, wording, scene settings, and adding the six senses to what I am writing.

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?

Wow, no I can't, but in the sixth grade, my teacher gave me a book report assignment on Quo Vadis. I had to get permission from my parents to check the book out of the library. Let me say, that was a heavy assignment for a sixth grader. I will never forget that experience. Quo Vadis, gave me an appreciation for nineteenth century European literature, in terms of structure and style. I will never forget Lygia,

About that time, I went through periods of reading everything written by different authors like Mark Twain, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jack London, and O'Henry. Each of those authors brought a different approach to storytelling, and I learned from each one.

How do you approach cover design?

With great trepidation. The cover has several functions. It has to communicate the book content to the prospective reader instantly. I view that communication as a promise from the author to the reader. Sometimes the promise is aspirational if the reader wants to be like main character; think James Bond. Sometimes it's a world the reader wants to visit as in fantasy, science fiction, or romance. Sometimes the reader wants to experience the life of another person. 

For example, my next novel, Vows for the Fallen, is for those who want to vicariously live the life of a naval commander who is conflicted about his military mission and his duty to keep his men alive. That is what I want to promise the reader with the cover.

I think it is all about promises to the reader, and the author has to keep that in mind. When I approach the illustrator, I remind myself design is not my forte, so I communicate those concepts to the illustrator then get out of their way.

What are your five favorite books, and why?

For pure narrative art, my favorites would be The Bridges at Toko-re, The Pearl, and The Old Man and the Sea. When I think of emotional impact, The Grapes of Wrath comes to mind. Those four books have heavily influenced my writing style.  Douglas Adams was the master of fantasy and humor in his Hitchhiker series. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and Lord of the Rings are excellent examples of masterful storytelling. For techno-thriller action, it has to be The Hunt for Red October.

What do you read for pleasure?

Recently it has been books like Enders Game, and books in the Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum. I guess I’m going through a phase again, aren’t I?

What is your e-reading device of choice?

I purchased a Kindle about five years ago, and my wife stuck her nose up at it. Then I showed her how easy it was to find a book and download it. After that, I couldn’t get it back from her, so I bought an I Pad and put a Kindle reader on it.

What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?

Up until now, it has been word of mouth, but I’m headed into social media in a big way. Either I am going to lose my shirt, or I'm going to sell lots of books, or both.

Describe your desk

Organized chaos. I have a hutch-like desk about five feet wide. To my right, I have twelve writer’s reference books and three binders with story ideas and notes. Between those books and my computer monitor, is a stack of papers relating to my current writing project. That stack changes daily, but usually includes my manuscript bible, and a smattering of loose notes. The rest of my desktop is an eclectic collection of notepads, loose papers, and pens that surround my large screen monitor.

I would like to say, that I am better organized since I discovered the power of Scrivener. It’s an editor and organizer for the manuscript and research. The authors designed it for writers, and I love it.

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?

I grew up in North College Hill just outside Cincinnati, Ohio. My neighborhood was lower middle class, and almost every household was led by a World War II veteran with at least two children. It was a non- nonsense culture in which children learned to address adults by mister and misses, and answer questions, "Yes, sir." and "No sir." It was a pay-it-forward community. Everyone always helped each other out, and never expected anything in return. In a way, it was militaristic, and a man had to stand for something. I think my readers will see a little of that in my work.

When did you first start writing?

I started to take my writing seriously about 1989. I started a journal, and worked at learning the craft. Writing seemed to be something I had to do, but my career kept getting in the way. In the early nineties I had a business book published, and wrote the first few scraps that turned into my first novel.  

What's the story behind your latest book?

My experiences in the Navy were life changing, and I would never have the time to explain what that means. I learned about courage, duty, honor, country, and tradition. I also witnessed tremendous acts of leadership and courage from the guy you would least expect. Then when things settled down, he would fade into the shadows and anonymity, and think nothing of what he had done.

I remember once on the USS Intrepid, there was a fire in the main engine room. Fire on board a ship is scary, but in the engine room, it’s worse. Your back is against the wall, and there’s no way out; it’s the fire or you. I was in the engine room at the time, and a fire team started working its way down the ladder. Leading the team was a kid, no more than nineteen years old. Through his oxygen mask, I could see the stark terror and fear in his eyes. To this day, I can’t forget his face. Despite his terror and fear, he stepped forward to lead the fire team; now that’s courage. 

Those are the stories I like to tell, and I put situations like that into Marathon Watch, and my next novel Vows for the Fallen.

What motivated you to become an indie author?

I have studied the craft of writing for years, and there’s a great deal of common wisdom about how to write a novel. This common wisdom translates into a set of rules an author must follow before a publisher will look at an author. Publishers design those rules to minimize their risk, not to publish great writing. In fact, most of the great novels break those rules, and that’s why they’re great novels. In Marathon Watch, I broke several of those rules knowingly, and for good reason. That means no publisher would ever publish my work. However, if you read the Marathon Watch reviews, my readers are happy I broke the rules.

What is the greatest joy of writing for you?

Without a doubt, reader reaction. If they like it, that is all the reward I need. Some are critical, and that's okay because I learn something from every critical comment. I appreciate they took the time to read the book, and comment on it.

What are you working on next?

My next project is a novel about Captain O’Toole from Marathon Watch. Chronologically, it begins right after Marathon Watch, but it’s a Marathon prequel. It is a story within a story like Saving Private Ryan. The inner story is about a naive young Lieutenant O'Toole thrust into bloody battle during World War II. Events traumatize him, and leave him wondering who he is, and wondering how, as an officer, he can live with ordering men to their deaths. In the end, he becomes a hardened warrior without compromising his principles, or losing his connection to his men. In the end, he emerges as Captain "Terror" O'Toole. The Japanese navy calls him The Samurai.

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Bargersville, IndianaLarry Laswell

Phone: (317) 250-6045
Email: Larry@LarryLaswell.com

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