An Interview with @Lara Lillibridge, Author of “Mama, Mama, Only Mama” and @Lindas Book Obsession Part of Suzy Approved Book Tours
- What was your motivation in becoming an author and writer? What did you do before you were a writer?
I always wanted to be a writer “someday,” but never felt I had anything to say. I went to school, dropped out, worked as an office assistant in a variety of offices, and eventually became a stay-at-home-mother. When I got pregnant with my youngest, I was suddenly flooded with stories. I wrote every minute I could steal away from my toddler. However, I knew I didn’t have the skills necessary to write the way I wanted to. I went back to school and got my bachelor’s degree at the age of 40 and my Master’s at 42.
- What are your goals for readers to take away after reading?
I want single parents to know they can get through this and come out on the other side—that their children will be ok, that they will not just survive but thrive. That they, too, are stronger than they ever knew was possible.
I want happily married parents to read it, too! I hope they see themselves on the page as well. I wanted to be honest about the disasters, the muck-ups, and the occasional cluelessness we all feel as parents from time to time. In our society, it is so easy to look pretty on the internet, and I wanted this book to be the opposite of that.
- What is a typical day your life?
My kids are at their father’s house Sunday night through Wednesday morning, every single week. These are the days I do most of my writing. I travel a lot, but I don’t sightsee—it’s just writing in a different location. When they come home I’m able to write when they are at school, but once that bell rings it’s sports and lessons and driving all over tarnation. I’m an over-scheduler, in spite of continuously resolving to stop signing them up for so many activities. I learned early on that I can read or edit while they are home, but writing new material flows better when the house is quiet.
What can you tell us of any new writing projects that you might have?
I’ve fallen in love with Middle Grade fiction. My two memoirs are written for an adult audience, and while my kids are really excited about them, they are too young to read them, even at 11 and 13 years old. (I told them that none of us are ready for them to read about their mother having sex!)
So I sat down and wrote a book they could read, called Dragon Brothers. It’s a fantasy novel for upper middle grade readers about two royal brothers with dragon wings. I wanted to write a book where the kids basically took over the mess the grownups left and straightened everything out. I also wanted to write a book about a younger sibling trying to find his place in his brother’s shadow. Of course it had to have magic and dragons because who doesn’t like magic and dragons?
Every night I read them the latest chapter and they told me when the characters said something that was just wrong or if the plot was dragging. My youngest took a print-out to school to show his friends, and now I have a bunch of fifth graders asking when it will come out—a new and different kind of pressure! Even if it never gets published, I’ve loved the experience of writing with and for my kids.
What are your favorite genres of books that you like to read?
Right now I’m reading a ton of middle grade fiction. I’m a firm believer that if you want to write a certain genre, you need to read everything you can get your hands on. I still read a lot of memoir, too, and the occasional novel for grown-ups.
What advice can you give to someone that wants to be a writer?
Read everything you can get your hands on in the genre you want to write, and find a couple of people to exchange work with—I found my critique partners on social media. Editing someone else’s writing will show you the flaws in your own work better than almost anything else. Then read some more. Read poetry and fiction and nonfiction—any book someone recommends. And read with a pen and highlighter in your hand to note beautiful language or plot twists, or moments that drag.
How would you like the readers to connect with you?