An Interview with Laurisa White Reyes
1. What did you most like to do when you were a child?
The same things I enjoy doing now – reading and writing. I wrote my first poem when I was five. It just came to me in the middle of the night. I got out of bed, fished a scrap of poster board from my trash can, and scribbled it out with a crayon. Growing up I wrote poetry, short stories and plays. I used to coax my brothers and cousins into performing them for our parents. And I have always been a voracious reader.
2. When you were a child did you ever have a moment when you decided that you were going to be a writer when you grew up?
I wrote my first poem on a scrap of poster board when I was 5. As a kid, I was always writing poetry and plays. I think I was about fourteen when I knew I wanted to be an author someday. I set a goal to publish my first novel by the time I was thirty. After college I wrote freelance articles, was a magazine staff writer and newspaper editorialist, and worked as a book editor. I overshot my original goal by thirteen years, but I'm glad to be finally writing fiction.
3. What books influenced you most when you were growing up?
My favorite series for years was the TRIXIE BELDEN MYSTERIES. I still have the entire set of books in a box in my garage. Some of my other favorites included ROBINSON CRUSOE, OF MICE AND MEN, GONE WITH THE WIND, WUTHERING HEIGHTS and ROOTS. Heavy duty stuff for a kid, I know, but I loved them. Still do. As an adult I learned more about writing from Dan Brown (THE DAVINCI CODE, ANGELS & DEMONS) than anyone else. He is a master of suspense, every chapter a cliffhanger so that you just can’t put his books down. Period. And I love how he weaves multiple points of view together until they all collide at the end. I wish I could write like that.
4. When you went to college, were you already pursuing a writing career?
At first I actually wanted to be a geneticist. I lasted five minutes in my first genetics course and promptly changed my major to English. I never lost sight of the fact that I wanted to write. After college, I spent the next thirteen years writing for magazines and newspapers, but the deadlines finally burned me out. Seven years ago I quit all that to focus on writing fiction, which was what I really wanted to do all along anyway.
5. What gave you the idea for THE ROCK OF IVANORE?
I’ve always enjoyed reading to my kids at night before they go to bed. When my oldest son was about 8 years old, he asked me to make up a story instead of read one. So I told him about an enchanter’s apprentice who botched his spells. Each night my son would tell me what he wanted to hear that night, whether it was dragons, or magic, or sword fighting, and I’d weave it into the story. Eventually I started writing it down. A year later I had a completed manuscript.
6. At what point during your process did you draw the Isle of Imaness map?
I am so glad you asked that question! I sketched out a very rough map with pencil while I was still writing the first draft. I needed to have some sort of visual reference so I could get the directions right. When the draft was done, I took my truly awful sketch to my dear friend Kathy Everts, who is a talented artist. I gave her my manuscript and the drawing and asked her to make me a map because, as everyone knows, every fantasy novel must have a map. She drew this gorgeous pen and ink sketch on parchment which I still have framed in my bedroom. When the book finally was published, she had to draw one more because some of the directions and locations had changed during the revision process.
7. How did your life change when you got married and had children? Did it make it easier or harder to find time to write?
My husband and I have been married twenty years now. We have five children ranging in age from 19 down to 5 years. When my oldest child was small, I’d sit her on my lap, hold her steady between my elbows, and type on the computer at the same time. Later, as more kids came, night time was my time. Most of my writing was done between 10p and 2am. When my babies woke in the middle of the night, I get up to care for them, and then stay up an extra hour to write. But I was younger then. Now that I’m older, I’m tired. I can’t stay up past eleven or I fall asleep at the computer. So now I work in the morning before my youngest child wakes up. Once he’s up, my writing day is over. The rest of the day belongs to him. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
8. What is your working environment like?
I work in a 3 feet by 3 feet square corner of my bedroom that I like to call my office. There is a desk, a small bookcase, and my office chair. I literally put my feet up on my bed and work with my computer on my lap. It is very confined, but my “office” used to be the living room sofa, so I guess it’s an improvement.
9. What other hobbies do you enjoy?
I do have a few other hobbies, though I do them sporadically. I enjoy digital scrapbooking (I don’t have the talent or patience for traditional scrapbooking). I do a lot of family history and have traced my genealogy back to seventeenth century New England. I also have a passion for ancient history, something I inherited from my father who knows pretty much everything about it. I also inherited my love of writing from him. He has written several amazing novels himself, and now that he is retired is finally making time to pursue publication.
10. Do you have any advice for young writers?
I always tell young writers to finish what you start. It isn’t easy, of course. Writers tend to want to make every word perfect. But then you get bogged down and end up with a bunch of incomplete manuscripts. Don’t worry so much about perfection. Get through it. Get to the end of the story. You can revise it later.
Residence: Laurisa lives in Southern California
Education: M.A. & B.A. in English/Creative Writing from California State University at Northridge.
2018 LDSPMA Awards Honorable Mention for Petals
2018 SCBWI-LA #KT250 Honorable Mention for Memorable
2017 SCBWI Spark Honor for Petals
2017 Library Journal Indie Ebook Awards Honorable Mention for Petals (YA category)
2017 Best Book Award Finalist (USA Book News) for The Storytellers (Children's Book category)
2017 Moonbeam Award Gold Medalist for The Storytellers (Pre-teen Fiction, mature issues category)
2016 Maggie Award (Western Publishing Association) - Best Digital Magazine for Middle Shelf Magazine
2015 SCBWI Spark Award for The Storytellers - Best non-tradionally published children's book of the year
2015 Houston Writers House Competition—1st place in the sci-fi/fantasy category for Sand & Shadow
2015 Serendipity Young Adult Discovery Contest – Top 20 finalist for Memorable
2015 SCBWI Los Angles Writers Day Contest - 1st Runner-up for The Kids' Guide to Writing Fiction (Non-fiction category)
2014 Young Adult Romance Writers of America Contest – 2nd place in Contemporary category for Memorable
The Rock of Ivanore selected for the 2013 California Readers’ Middle School California Collection
2012 SCBWI Letter of Merit for a General Work-In-Progress for Contact
1st place in the SCBWI Orange Country Editor’s Day Writing Contest (Young Adult Category) for The Crystal Keeper
2007 Finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association Writing Contest (Science Fiction/Fantasy Category) for The Rock of Ivanore
Experience: Laurisa is the former Editor-in-Chief of Middle Shelf Magazine and former editor for Maple Tree Press and Xchyler Publishing. She is currently the Senior Editor of Skyrocket Press. She teaches English composition at College of the Canyons in So. California.
Prior to becoming an editor and novelist, she wrote for The Signal Newspaper, Antelope Valley Press, The Link Homeschool Newspaper, and Santa Clarita Valley Magazine.
Laurisa has been a presenter at the California Homeschool Network's Family Expo numerous times, as well as at dozens of schools and private organizations throughout California and Utah.
Favorite Color: Purple
Favorite Foods: Chocolate (See's Blueberry Truffle & anything Godiva) and Sushi
Favorite Books: Lilies of the Field by William E. Barrett, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.
Favorite Children's Book Authors/Books: Margaret Petersen Haddix, Lois Lowry, Jerry Spinelli, Mary E. Pearson, Dave Pilkney, Neal Shusterman, Megan Miranda, and so many, many more! My favorite picture books are The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, I'll Love You Forever by Robert Munsch, Jamberry by Bruce Degan, The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and The Big Hungry Bear and by Don and Audrey Wood.
Favorite Movies: All the Harry Potter films! But I also love Gone With The Wind, Wuthering Heights, My Best Friend's Wedding, The Color Purple, While You Were Sleeping...too many to mention them all.
Favorite Vacation: Disneyland, CA and the beach.
Hobbies (other than writing): Family History, Ancient History, Digital Scrapbooking