Laura Pinto is a babyboomer who grew up in the Garden State, New Jersey, the setting for her first published novel, THE D.A.’s FOREVER. She loves reading, writing, and the music from rock and roll’s golden era. Laura is best known among oldies fans for her many websites, blogs, and social-network profiles reflecting this passion of hers; if you’re a fan of oldies music, chances you’ve visited at least one of her sites. They include Oldies Connection (which features, among other things, a birthday list, memorial pages, and literally thousands of links to the official sites and social network pages for artists from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s), as welll as artist-specific websites for Ron Dante of The Archies; Andy Kim; Joey Dee; Neil Sedaka; Robin McNamara (official site); The Dixie Cups (official site); and legendary Brill Building songwriter/producer Jeff Barry. Links to all these sites, as well as to Laura’s blogs and social network profiles, can be found on her homepage, laurapinto.com.
What inspires you to write?
I love to write. I love creating. Although I happily write blurbs for my various web sites, blogs, and Facebook and Twitter posts, my passion lies with the writing of fiction—inventing characters and storylines out of thin air. My main inspiration is my love for the music and culture of the 1950s through 1970s; that’s the general era incorporated into all of my writings. I write best when I’m relaxed and happy. If I’m tired, the words flow at a snail’s pace if they come at all, and if I’m not in the mood, I don’t even make the attempt because it won’t come out well. Although writing is an escape of sorts, I have to be up for it, and fortunately most of the time I am.
Tell us about your writing process.
I come up with a basic plot in my mind, usually formulating the ending (or endings, in the case of multiple storylines) first. I will then work out what I feel would be a good point in time to begin the tale—will it cover a period of weeks, months, or years? After I have it more or less fixed in my supposed brain, that’s when I will usually sit down with a notebook and sketch out the plot. I’ll start by listing the main characters, including their dates of birth and family ties; I’ve learned by trial and error (okay, mainly error) that I also need to include the names of parents and siblings, even those who don’t make actual “appearances” in the story, so that I don’t have the protagonist referring to his elder brother as “Dave” in one chapter and “Charlie” in another. I don’t “outline” in the true sense of the word; I have no idea which chapters will cover which characters/scenarios until I’m actually writing, or even how many chapters there will be. Mainly I just take the opportunity to improve my penmanship by writing down what I want to say in the story, without elaborating. Elaboration will come during the writing process. If a character is loosely based on a real person, even if just physically, I’ll include the name of that person. This gives me a visual reference, as well as a reference for fleshing out the character’s personality. After I’ve done all of this, I’ll fire up my word processing program and start the actual writing. (A bit of clarification here: My works don’t start at the “ending,” with the remainder of the story taking place in flashbacks; they start at the beginning. I just come up with the endings first.)
Another thing I think is important for me to mention is that I’m not a linear writer; I don’t write the chapters consecutively. I start numbering them as “placeholders” at some point, including a few words from my handwritten notes about what I want to say in each chapter as the novel unfolds; but it’s common for me to start working on Chapter Two and then jumping to (what will eventually become) Chapter Fifteen to write about something that takes place later in the story. This has actually helped me to more easily catch inconsistencies in the text if, for example, something I’ve written in Chapter Fifteen contradicts something I wrote in Chapter Two (see my remarks about “Dave” and “Charlie” above!). In addition, if I think of something specific to write, such as a dialogue between two characters, and I haven’t yet gotten to the point in the story where the conversation or scenario would fit, I’ll type it out while I’m hearing it in my mind and save it in an ongoing document in a separate plain-text program (in my case, Notepad for Windows) and then copy and paste it when needed. As each chapter is completed, it will “click” seamlessly with the previous one and the next one like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, and it’s a joy to observe this process. It’s as if I’ve planted a garden, and some parts of the garden sprout before other parts, so that at first there’s a large expanse of bare earth between patches of green but as time goes on the bare spots fill in.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
Oh, absolutely. All the time. Since my process involves “backing into” (as I call it) the various endings, I ask each character to tell me his or her story so that I can work out why things happened the way they did. Examples include: What is the driving force in your life? How did you get to the point in your life that I’m discussing here? What happened to make you so cynical? Was your childhood happy or unhappy? Are you emotionally close to your family? What were you thinking when you said such and such, or did thus and so? Why are you angry? And I do listen to the answers. Several times, I’ve made slight alterations to the plot as a result.
What advice would you give other writers?
First, read. Read whatever you enjoy reading. Whether you enjoy fiction, self-help books, spirituality, biographies, memoirs, specific periods in history or places on the globe, or all of the above—just read. Reading will expand your vocabulary and open the channels in your mind to create your own works. More importantly, your writing will continually improve as your subconscious absorbs the styles of various authors. Reading is the observation of your craft; writing is its execution.
Second, and I cannot stress this enough, make sure you use proper spelling and punctuation. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s amazing to me the number of books (not to mention online articles, interviews and writeups of all sorts) that are being published with multiple misspellings and improper usage of commas and apostrophes. In the era of the Internet and ebooks, self publishing is easy and usually free or very low cost; I myself became a published author by way of Amazon Kindle, and sites such as Smashwords.com simplify the process for submitting one’s book to multiple platforms. The downside is that the availability of these resources translates to fewer “eyes” for one’s book prior to its publication. Whether or not you are acting as your own editor, as the book’s author you are the one responsible for the quality of its content. A love for writing, which is practically a requirement for those choosing to make writing a career, is not the sole criteria for being a good author; enthusiasm alone is not what translates one’s thoughts and mind pictures into legible phrases and sentences. You may be an excellent storyteller (or researcher), but if your writing is full of errors, you are—to be blunt—turning out an inferior product, which will most likely lead to mediocre or poor reviews and fewer sales. Further, if your book description (which is usually the first thing people see) is poorly written, many folks will decide against further exploration. And don’t make the mistake of relying solely on your spell checker; it will not flag improper syntax or words that are spelled correctly but used incorrectly, such as “your” for “you’re,” “to” for “too,” and so on down the list.
I apologize for having stepped onto my soapbox, but I’m really passionate about what I see as the disintegration of written English. It’s up to professional writers to set a good example for the English-speaking (and -writing) world by turning out quality work. The only way people will know the difference is if they see the difference.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I completed my first novel in the mid-1980s and went the route of sending unsolicited manuscripts to editors and receiving rejection letters. Although I didn’t take the rejections personally or even make all that many attempts, the process was disheartening and I eventually boxed up the novel and forgot all about being an author for the next twenty years or so. Then, around 2006 or thereabouts, I came up with what I thought would be another good plot for a full-length novel, with a strong storyline and even stronger characters, and I began “outlining” it in a notebook as described above. But I was working full time and it took me another few years to begin working on the book in earnest. Additionally, as I also allude to above, I don’t write well at all when I’m overtired, and working full time in an office every day is exhausting, at least for me. I kept cranking away, however, even if I could only manage a paragraph or two some days, and had just about planned that I’d sell the novel as a PDF download via my personal website once it was completed, rather than depending on a publishing house to pick it up. Although I’m an Amazon customer and affiliate, publishing on Kindle had not yet occurred to me, mainly because I thought that in order to read Kindle books, one needs, well, a Kindle; and not everybody has one. Then I learned that a Kindle device is not needed to read Kindle books; Amazon has free Kindle reading apps for PC, Mac, and smartphone, and people can read the books in their browsers if they don’t want to download an app for any reason. Once I began purchasing and downloading Kindle books to my PC and saw how easy it was to do so, I decided to check into self-publishing via Kindle.
The sequel to this involves a dream I had one night during the summer of 2013 which made it very clear to me that I should temporarily suspend work on my latest brainchild and instead publish the novel I wrote more than two decades ago. I was dubious at first, because I wasn’t sure whether my first novel, which after all had been written when I was much younger and had less experience with both writing and life, was ready for prime time. But when I took the old manuscript out of mothballs and re-read it, I discovered that it wouldn’t need much tweaking at all to be a work I’d feel comfortable publishing. I also realized that if I was going to make any mistakes during the publishing process, it was better to make them now as a new author with a 200-page manuscript than later with one of over 500 pages! Anyway, short answer to the question is that, as an Amazon customer and affiliate, publishing on Kindle made the most sense to me.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
As self-publishing has become easier and more accessible, I believe many more folks are deciding to become authors than ever before (hence my mini-tirade about usage of proper grammar and spelling!)—just like sites such as YouTube have made it much easier for aspiring singers and songwriters to present demo reels. This will translate to more and more books being published as time goes on. Of course, self-publishing isn’t limited to ebooks; Amazon, for instance, also has CreateSpace, which among other things allows authors to publish print copies of their works. I think a certain segment of the population will always prefer having actual printed, bound books that they can hold in their hands, the same way many people like having their music on CD or even vinyl. Just as downloads of MP3s have continued to increase in number, however, so will ebook purchases. Print books and ebooks aren’t mutually exclusive any more than CDs and MP3s are; technology has just given the world more methods of delivery of those media, more options, and more ways of enjoying the same things. I currently read Kindle ebooks on my desktop computer and hard-copy books elsewhere. When I obtain an e-reader and/or a tablet, I’ll have more flexibility for the reading of digital books—in addition to print books, as opposed to instead of them. Newer generations of readers may prefer ebooks, just as they prefer MP3s, but I think print books will be around for a long time to come, as will publishing houses. Probably the percentage of books that are self published will increase, although it’s difficult to say where the ratio will stabilize, or what it will be at its peak. Nevertheless, I’m optimistic about the future of book publishing.
What genres do you write?
Fiction, Adult Romance, Nostalgia
What formats are your books in?