Complementing my interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the two hundred and sixty-seventh, is of contemporary fiction writer Laurie Boris. If you would like to take part in an author spotlight, take a look here.
Laurie Boris has been writing fiction for almost thirty years, inspired by the work of Joyce Carol Oates, TC Boyle, John Irving, Vladimir Nabokov, Gail Parent, Nora Ephron, and many other brilliant, prolific, and funny writers.
With a degree in advertising and psychology from Syracuse University’s SI Newhouse School of Public Communications, she started writing articles for her local newspaper and promotional copy for freelance clients. Between projects, she tried a few short stories, some which were published in small literary magazines and later, on the Web. Two won honorable mention in a Writer’s Digest annual competition. One took first place in a contest sponsored by a women’s website, judged by author Katherine Center.
In her early thirties, Boris began writing a novel, mainly on a dare from her husband. Enlisting the support of her critique group and the International Women’s Writing Guild (IWWG), of which she’s been a member for almost two decades, she completed the novel and wrote eight more. Over the years she’s attended countless workshops on writing and been mentored by some generous and spectacular authors.
Writing novels while working at a succession of demanding full-time jobs in graphic design, advertising, and marketing was a challenge, in energy and time management, but it taught Boris an important lesson in priorities. She missed a lot of movies and can’t tell you what happened on the last episode of Lost, but she pounded out a lot of words.
While she has attempted several genres, Boris feels most comfortable with contemporary fiction, literary fiction, and humorous women’s fiction. She is the author of three novels, The Joke’s on Me, Drawing Breath, Don’t Tell Anyone, and the upcoming Sliding Past Vertical (due out in August 2013). The Joke’s on Me was a finalist in General Fiction in the 2012 Beach Book Festival.
The critically acclaimed Drawing Breath, chosen as a “Grub Street Great” by Grub Street Reads (now Compulsion Reads), was inspired by the improvised life of a friend who survived into his thirties with cystic fibrosis, at a time when doctors didn’t expect CF patients to live beyond their teens. Drawing Breath also placed as a finalist in the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.
In between and during all these novels, Boris has been a columnist for PNN.com, posting daily blogs on health and well being, a judge for a local school district’s yearly literary contest, and an occasional contributor of impassioned pleas for a variety of political, social, and environmental causes that impact New York’s Hudson Valley, where she now lives. She is also a five-time participant in National Novel Writing Month’s (NaNoWriMo) November challenge.
Currently, she is a contributing author and associate editor for Indies Unlimited. Also, she offers writing services (laurieboris.com), including ghostwriting, copyediting, and proofreading. She’s written over a hundred web articles, copyedited technical manuscripts, and “ghost edited” a well-reviewed children’s chess book, but she especially loves to help her fellow indies get their novels ready for publication.
And now from the author herself:
When I write the first draft of a novel, I normally don’t think much about marketing. I tell the story that falls into my head, the one that has the most energy and won’t leave me alone until I finish writing. And then I think about how to sell it.
Even while I was writing Don’t Tell Anyone, I knew I’d face some serious challenges once I published it. But I still felt compelled to complete the novel and release it, hoping it would find an audience, secretly terrified that even if it came out well-written, thought-provoking, insightful or whatever good adjective you want to plunk on it, people would hear the word “cancer” and run.
I wrote it and published it because of my mother-in-law, Madeleine. She died from breast cancer, the progress of which might have been slowed or even arrested if she’d done something about it earlier. In fact, if she’d done anything about it earlier. Panicked out of her mind because (as our theory went) the cancer treatment she was familiar with—her mother’s, a horrific experience—was so traumatic, she kept her own lumps a secret for years. I found out later that she’d sought therapy in order to gather the courage to tell her family. Which became a moot point when a health emergency outed her to my husband, his sister, and me.
That it was a shock to all of us would be a gross understatement. I’d liken it more to having our guts wrenched out. We pushed our feelings of shock, grief, pain, resentment, and anger to the side, however, as we helped get her through the now-aggressive treatment her oncologist recommended: a radical double mastectomy, chemo, and radiation. The usual things happened, some they show on TV, some they don’t. She lost her hair. She lost her sense of taste and smell. She made a few dark jokes. She fell into a deep depression. The long-awaited remission brought her little joy; much as we tried to bolster her spirits, nearly all she could think about was when it would come back. Five years later, it did, and killed her.
Now we were left to face our emotions alone. My husband’s and his sister’s are private things and I’ll leave them to talk about them publicly or not. But my mother-in-law and I had a special relationship. Sure, we had our bumpy parts. My husband and I lived in her house for a few years out of economic necessity; I was not as tidy as she would have liked me to be, and we became much better friends after my husband and I moved out. But she called me her “favorite daughter-in-law” (yeah, big joke, only daughter-in-law, yet she said it with such joy) and she was one of my biggest fans. She nagged me to finish my novels because she said she needed something good to read.
I, however, needed to reconcile my own feelings. Especially the big question: why? Why stick your head in the sand? Why do that to your children? She had no quarrel with doctors. She had decent health insurance. She lived a scant few miles from a compound of medical services. Why not get that lump checked out, particularly because of her genetic predisposition?
The questions dogged me, long after her diagnosis, long after her death. So I wrote about it. That’s my way of exploration. I gave the situation to Estelle Trager, the matriarch of the novel. Then I let it play out with her fictional family, who already had a boatload of problems of their own. I wanted to know why she’d made the choice (and not making a choice is still a choice) to ignore her condition. I wanted to explore the effect that choice had on family dynamics between and among her children, which lead to some difficult, sometimes painful, sometimes sweet, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes funny moments.
So let me leave you with one funny story from my mother-in-law’s treatment, which I would have put in the book if the situation arose, but it didn’t.
After my mother-in-law’s double mastectomy, she was kept in the hospital a few days. But given the bottom-dollar-focus of HMOs, we were warned that once released, her aftercare would include our tending to a series of drains that filled with fluid and needed to measured, monitored against signs of infection, and emptied regularly. When we arrived at the hospital to pick her up, she was already dressed and sitting up in a chair. Four plastic drains, about the size of hand grenades, were pinned to the outside of her blouse. She gave us a devilish grin and said, “How do you like my new jugs?”
You can find more about Laurie and her writing via…
Social Media Links
- Amazon author’s page
- Don’t Tell Anyone (US)
- Don’t Tell Anyone (UK)
- Drawing Breath (US)
- Drawing Breath (UK)
- The Joke’s on Me (US)
- The Joke’s on Me (UK)
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As I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do. If there’s anything you’d like to take part in, take a look at Opportunities on this blog.
I welcome items for critique for the online writing groups listed below:
Morgen’s Online Non-Fiction Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Novel Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Poetry Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Script Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group
We look forward to reading your comments.