Author Interview Series: Laura Engelhardt / Adult Fantasy Author
It's my distinct pleasure to bring you yet another amazing author in our A.I. series. This month we welcome Laura Engelhardt to help kick off August! Welcome, everyone, and allow me to introduce you to a great fantasy writer!
Q: Where do your titles come from? Do you play around with words or do they just come from the story?
A: I’m addicted to alliteration. My latest book, Mississippi Missing actually started with the title and the concept. I loved the idea that Mary (the newly-transformed nymph) would have to rescue a river. But your question made me curious about my first book, which I started in 2017, and knew had gone through a title evolution before I published it. That one started off as “Siren Discovery” and evolved around draft four into Sirens Unbound. It focused a lot on siren culture, so when I started outlining Book Two, and realized it highlighted the mages in my series, the title, Mages Unbound just seemed like a natural fit to round off the Origin Duology.
Q: How did you decide which genre to write?
A: I decided to start writing because I couldn’t find the book I wanted to read on Amazon. So I figured I should try to write an urban fantasy with an epic twist. Now, I’m not snobby — I love all the well-written urban fantasies about magic schools, and the paranormal/urban books with sassy underdog heroines who solve mysteries alongside overpowered, macho men. I just wanted to read something a bit less sassy and more epic that was set in the modern world.
Q: What is your favorite part of the writing process?
A: My favorite aspect of writing is revising the manuscript after getting great feedback. I have a fabulous set of alpha readers and editors, whose comments and questions help me shape the story. I love hearing from them about what’s working and what isn’t. This not only makes the writing process feel more collaborative, it really helps me develop my stories so that other people want to read them. If I only wanted to write to please myself, I wouldn’t go to the trouble of self-publishing — I want to write for my readers’ enjoyment, too.
Q: I know your books are fantasy novels but is anything in your book based on real life experiences or is it all purely imagination?
A: There’s so much I pull from my own experiences. I’ve had people ask which character in my books is most like me, and I always stumble. All my characters are a bit like me in one way or another. I don’t think you can realistically portray a character if you can’t empathize with them at least a little bit. I know some people model their characters on people they know, but I think of my characters in terms of their relationships and interactions with other characters. A lot of what I’ve written comes from my experiences with different people from work, from school — from all aspects of my life.
Q: Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you would love to work with?
A: I know I need to finish the Fifth Mage War series before I start anything new, but if I decide to keep playing in this world, I think I want to tell the story of Gerel and Chía. I finished writing a short story about Kyoko and Gerel earlier this year (I’ll be sharing it with members of my reader list as an October surprise), and am really digging the idea of telling the story of how blurred the lines between “victors” and “victims” were in the Fourth Mage War.
Q: A lot of indie authors complain about the difficulties of book marketing. Is there any aspect of the “business” of writing that you enjoy?
A: I think most indie authors like talking with their fans — there’s nothing better than getting a question or an email from a the reader enjoys your stories. Indie authors don’t generally have a massive following, and every single reader is precious to us. So I don’t think I’m unique in enjoying my exchanges with existing readers. But making sure your books are discovered by prospective readers is like cold calling people or selling Ginsu knives door-to-door (I’m dating myself, right?)
In truth, I’d rather write new stories than market the ones I’ve already written. But fantasy is a saturated marketplace — you HAVE to market or no one will know your books exist. I’m not a pushy person by nature — I’m kind of like Mary (my latest heroine) in that regard. Mass-marketing stresses me out.
That said, I enjoyed putting together the “extras” for my latest book, including the map of the Midwest that highlights my protagonist’s journey https://lauraengelhardt.com/maps and the musical playlists on Spotify and Apple Music that showcase the “music is magick” aspect of Mississippi Missing. I’m not sure any readers will really discover my books through those extras, but they were fun to create!
An avid sf/fantasy reader, Laura Engelhardt writes the kind of book she likes to read: fantasy with intricate worlds and complex characters. She started writing plays in college, then moved to Germany, where she continued to write while teaching ESL to executives. After moving back to the U.S., she supported her playwriting by teaching ballroom dance and working retail. Deciding that living in her parents’ attic wasn’t for her, Laura went to law school and then spent the next seventeen years as a lawyer and compliance officer in New York City. In 2017, she quit Wall Street and began helping people resolve disputes as a mediator and arbitrator. She now lives in New Jersey with her family.