Author Interview: Laura Wharton
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Stephanie: Hello Laura! Thank you for chatting with me today about your book and congrats on winning the BRAG Medallion. I noticed your story (Leaving Lukens) is set in 1942 and it’s a mystery. Please tell me a little about it and who designed your book cover.
Laura: Leaving Lukens is the story of 17-year-old Ella who faces leaving the only home she’s ever known: Lukens, a small fishing village on an isolated peninsula across the river from Oriental, North Carolina. Impacted by the economy, the threat of war, and the loss of a school teacher who was rowed across the river daily to teach the few remaining children in Lukens, the townspeople are dismantling their homes and floating them across the river on barges to larger communities of Oriental and Beaufort – moving away to find work in New Bern with its growing shipyard which is hiring to build minesweepers in support of the war or to the nearby military base of Cherry Point. Ella’s convinced she can stay on by herself, but spying a Nazi patrol raft surprises her one evening. She quickly learns that the war is very real and very near. A visiting sailor who has come to Lukens under the guise of helping his aunt and uncle dismantle their home and relocate to New Bern befriends Ella and shows her that sometimes looking isn’t exactly seeing what’s truly in front of her. As you might guess, he may not be all he appears to be.
The book has been hailed as a work of suspenseful mystery, and has landed me on the North Carolina Literary Trail, for which I am honored. The lovely cover was done by designer Dawn Mitchell at g4ginteractive.
Stephanie: Is this your first published novel or are there others? If so, what are the titles and genre they are written in?
Laura: Leaving Lukens is my second novel. The first was The Pirate’s Bastard, which was nominated for the Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction. It too is a historical adventure – a bit of a pirate story – set in colonial North Carolina. Like Leaving Lukens, it can be read by teens (YA) and adults.
I’ve also written two children’s mysteries. One is Mystery at the Phoenix Festival. The other, which is the first in the Mystery at the Lake House, is titled, Monsters Below. I wrote both books with the input from children, and we had so much fun with the projects. The second book in the Mystery at the Lake House series is titled, The Mermaid’s Tale and is in outline stage at this point. Both are suitable for readers age’s six to 12.
Stephanie: What inspired you to write Leaving Lukens and was there any research involved?
Laura: I read a small calendar listing of an event held yearly for descendants’ of Lukens (yes, it was once a real village. The only thing that remains of it is a cemetery, which does figure into the storyline of Leaving Lukens). I researched all I could about Lukens, the time period including the music and foods, the way New Bern was at the time, USOs, military history, and especially German U-boat activities during the Battle of the Atlantic. Fortunately, I’m a research nut, and I love history – so this was as much fun as writing the story.
Stephanie: How long did it take to write your story and were there any challenges?
Laura: It took me six months to research and write the book. It was far easier to research than my first novel because back then, the internet wasn’t what it is today. (That one took me six years to write, and another six years to find a publisher for its release.) I truly enjoy going to New Bern and Oriental, and I was inspired at a conference I attended in New Bern hosted by the North Carolina Maritime History Council. By walking the streets of New Bern, the story truly came together in my head.
The challenge, as always, is making time to write. I love the researching and writing process, and once I start a project, I easily get lost in my characters. It’s hard to extract myself from “their world” to go make dinner, tend to my family, do chores, or do my other work as a remote marketing specialist for a community college, but that’s what many writers do: we juggle.
Stephanie: What is your current writing project?
Laura: I’m currently developing characters and researching for an adult story tentatively titled, In Julia’s Garden. It is a mixture of suspenseful contemporary and historical fiction, and it’s a lot of fun. Like Leaving Lukens and The Pirate’s Bastard, it will be a work of “faction” – a mix of fact and fiction. The historical setting is based on a real antebellum mansion and garden located in Columbia, South Carolina, and the contemporary part is set in downtown Winston-Salem. My plan is to develop into a series, but we’ll see what the characters have to say about that idea.
Stephanie: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Laura: Keep at it. If you believe in your story, then write it, refine it, and keep pushing it out of the nest that is your brain. Only you can give it wings!
Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?
Laura: Another author whom I greatly admire showcased her BRAG medallion on Facebook. I looked into it then, and submitted Leaving Lukens for consideration. I’m delighted my book was chosen as an honoree.