Author, Laura Chapman: Laura Chapman found a way to mix her love of romance and humor as a women’s fiction author and blogger. A 2008 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Laura studied journalism, English and history. She traveled across the United States as a writer/photographer before settling into a career in communications. She also maintains Change the Word, a blog devoted to promoting women’s fiction and documenting her experiences as a writer.
Born and raised in Nebraska – in a city, not on a farm – she is a devoted fan of football, British period drama, writing in bars and her cats, Jane and Bingley.
Describe your writing style in five words: Quirky. Humorous. Romantic. Hopeful. Representative. (I hope!)
When did you want to know you wanted to be a writer? I can’t pinpoint a moment. I’ve always loved stories and knew I wanted to tell them. The first book I remember writing was in first grade. It was pretty much a plagiarized version of a Halloween song we sang in music, but it was fully illustrated.
During writing your book, “Hard Hats and Doormats”, describe your writing/editing/publishing process: It was definitely a process. I spent almost two years thinking about the story and developing the characters before I started. Then, I wrote the first 50,000 words during National Novel Writing Month in 2010. I finished the first draft a few months later and went through about four more drafts over the next three years.
During editing I removed and added several scenes, tightened up the text, changed the POV, and gave the story more focus. Some of the edits came from suggestions from beta readers and editors, and others were ones I felt needed changing the longer I spent with the story.
After a couple of years of unsuccessfully querying editors and publishers, I finally found the right home for my story with Marching Ink in August. Publishing went smoothly thanks to Samantha. She guided me through the process and shouldered the heaviest parts of the load. At the same time, she gave me the opportunity to have a voice in everything from the cover design and editing to the marketing and promotion. Working with her was a dream and made this process enjoyable.
Hard/paperbacks or eBooks? I love reading paperbacks when I’m in need of reading for comfort. When I’m reading for work – or back when I did book reviews – I preferred eBooks. For some reason they help me concentrate better. I think I’ll always prefer a physical book to eBooks, but my limited bank account and shelf space disagree.
What inspires you to write? The stories constantly brewing in my head.
Who is your favorite author? I have lots of favorites, but Nora Roberts is the one I admire most. She’s able to meld creativity with efficiency to be highly productive and prolific. I wish I had her dedication and stamina. I also have mad respect for my girl, Jane Austen. The lady was the original women’s fiction writer, and she managed to write timeless pieces that still reach readers more than 200 years later.
Where do you get your ideas for story lines? Everywhere. Sometimes I’ll hear a phrase or see an image that inspires me. The idea for Hard Hats and Doormats started when I saw the jumbled pile of maps, hard hats, steel-toed boots, and flip-flops littering my rental car floor. I do a lot of my heavy thinking while I’m driving and cooking.
What is something about you that people would be surprised to know? In high school I played several musical instruments. The oboe was my main instrument, but I also regularly played saxophone, English horn, piano, and percussion. I spent about half of high school planning to be a music teacher and professional performer.
How has the social media helped your career as an author? It connects me with fellow writers who give me support and readers who can talk books with me.
Coffee or tea? Both. I drink coffee first thing in the morning, or if I need a boost later in the day. Hazelnut is my favorite flavor. I drink tea throughout the rest of the day – usually English breakfast tea. I also have an unhealthy addiction to Diet Dr. Pepper and Diet Pepsi. Basically, my body runs on caffeine, and I’ll feed that need however I must.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given? Treat others the way you’d want them to treat the people who matter most to you. Usually, you want better for your loved ones than you do for yourself, and you should always strive to give your best to others.
What are you working on at the moment? In addition to promoting my debut novel, I have a couple of projects in the pipeline. I’m finishing up a round of edits on my second novel – a modernization of Jane Austen’s Persuasion – and the first draft of my third novel. Both are chick lit with plenty of romance and dry comedy. I also have a list of future project ideas I’m anxiously looking forward to writing.
Five Dos and Don’ts During the Writing Process
Do: Keep good notes and documentation. Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, it’s a good idea to keep track of everything you do. That could be keeping a journal or jotting down comments on a Post-it note. It will help you refocus on where you need to pick up next when you have to take breaks. At the same time, it’s a good record to have to keep track of your journey.
Don’t: Feel like you have to stick to your original plan. I’m a plotter by nature, but that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to veer off the path if a better idea comes along. For example, Hard Hats and Doormats contains several scenes I never expected to pen when I carefully outlined the first draft. At the same time, I nixed a few before I even wrote them.
Do: Save and back-up your files. Your computer is one spilled latte away from turning on you. Save your novel to a flash/external/Internet drive – or all of the above. If you think losing a sock is a bummer, imagine losing half of your novel.
Don’t: Spend too much time on social media. I love Facebook and Twitter like crazy, and they serve their purposes. But they’re also one of the biggest distractions out there. Schedule time to devote to your social media platforms and focus on your other tasks the rest of the time. This is easier said than done, but it’s a nice goal to have.
Do: Carry a notebook, pen, or some other writing instrument with you at all times. You never know when inspiration will strike, and you’ll be annoyed or angry with yourself if you forget your beautiful idea, because you couldn’t find a pen.
Don’t: Stay at the party after you’ve outstayed your welcome. Sometimes, we writers fall in love with our characters and hate to say good-bye to them. I’ve heard a few writers mention that you should start your story as late as possible and end it as soon as possible to maximize the impact it has on readers or viewers if you’re a screenwriter or playwright. The ending to Hard Hats and Doormats comes sooner that I thought it would when I sketched out the plot. I cut out the original final scene after the second draft, and I never wrote the epilogue, because it made the story better. That being said, I’ve read and enjoyed many epilogues – there isn’t a hard, fast rule for every story.
Do: Draw inspiration from other sources, like your favorite books, movies and songs. Personally, I feel myself most motivated to write something awesome after I finish reading a beloved book or watching a favorite movie. I get to the end, and I’m like, “I want to do that. I want to write something that leaves someone saying, ‘Hell yeah.’” I also draw a lot of inspiration from music. Not only do I create playlists for each of my books – which I add onto and remove from throughout the process – but I’ll often listen to a song on repeat to help me get through a scene. If I’m writing something sad, a tearjerker will put me in the right mindset. If I need to get through a more technically challenging scene, I stick to instrumental music, because there aren’t any words to distract my thoughts. (I’m listening to “Songs for Sienna” as I’m writing this post.)
Don’t: Be too critical of yourself or others. It’s good to have guidelines and expectations, but everyone needs a break sometimes. The more you stress and worry, the harder – and less enjoyable – the process becomes.
Do: Be kind to the other writers and readers you meet along the way. Pay it forward whenever you can, whether that means beta-reading, participating in a launch party, or offering a friendly word of support. Someday, someone will do the same for you, and it will mean the world.
Don’t: Take yourself – or the process – too seriously. There will be moments for hunkering down and focusing, but make sure you don’t get too focused on the destination that you forget to enjoy the ride. Find something to laugh at – even if it means being the butt of your own joke. I always figure if you can’t laugh at yourself on occasion, you shouldn’t laugh at anything else. If you can keep your sense of humor through the tough moments, you’ll be better when you come out on the other side.
“Hard Hats and Doormats” by Laura Chapman
Blurb: Lexi Burke has always been a stickler for following rules and procedures. As a human resources manager for a leading Gulf Coast chemical company, it’s her job to make sure everyone else falls in line, too.
But after losing out on a big promotion–-because her boss sees her as too much of a yes-woman––Lexi adopts a new policy of following her heart instead of the fine print. And her heart knows what it wants: Jason Beaumont, a workplace crush who is off limits based on her previous protocol.While navigating a new romance and interoffice politics, Lexi must find the confidence to stand on her own or face a lifetime of following someone else’s orders.
Who says nice girls have to finish last?
Alexis Burke @theLexiBurke
Can a person refer to employees as Jackass 1 & 2 in an official report? Asking for a friend. #HRProblems #ThisIsMyLife
The universe keeps telling jokes and I’m the punch line. #IHaveProof
Okay, seriously. When did this become my life? Can I get a mulligan? #ObscureGolfAnalogyForLife
In kindergarten Sunday school, Lexi Burke imagined Hell as a fire-ridden, hate-filled pit below Earth’s surface. On a mighty throne of blackened steel and skulls, Satan preyed on the souls of the damned for eternity.
Twenty years later, she discovered a new version of Hell. It was a windowless conference room on an oil platform off the coast of God-only-knew-where Texas in the middle of May. The devil took form in two men, both middle-aged and madder than a hornets nest. Despite the sweat building on her neck, she shivered.
When did babysitting old guys become my job?
How mad do hornets get, and what does their nest have to do with it?
Where did I come up with that analogy?
Solving those mysteries had to wait. Casting a glance at the figures gathered around the badly chipped table, she considered the situation at hand. The two men, their union reps, and a team of local managers were going yet another round in their verbal sparring without a semblance of resolution. The representatives wanted the men to go back to work. The managers wanted to give them pink slips.
As the HR manager assigned – albeit at last-minute – to the investigation, she wanted to keep everyone from killing each other. Not an easy task, considering the two men under investigation already gave murder their best shot.
According to the initial report, the incident happened over the weekend. The men engaged in a particularly heated discussion about college football. The man to her right apparently took offense to the one on her left using derogatory names to describe his beloved team.
She grimaced at the list of profanities. Three or four of them merited HR intervention on their own. Then again, others struck her as downright creative. Note to self: Use “dag nab ass backwards pile of swamp waste” in a sentence later today.
The fight escalated when Mr. Right expressed his displeasure by raking his broken glass across Lefty’s face. A few days later, the wounds swelled red and blotchy. Her stomach churned when she examined their faces closely.
His opponent fared no better. Lefty managed a couple of solid jabs with a shard from a shattered plate. His cheek and eyebrow were held together with the help of twenty-two stitches.
How did these men still have jobs? Surely trying to kill your co-worker violated the Employee Code of Conduct. But because they had no previous violence on their records, the company’s agreement with the union guaranteed them the right to an investigation – this investigation.
“I told ‘em to back off and leave my Tigers alone,” Idiot Number One shouted. “But he started waving around his God-damned glass. I had to grab hold of something to protect myself. A man’s got a right to defend himself and his pride.”
“What the hell are you talking about, son?” Moron Number Two chimed in. “You were the one bent outta shape in the first place. He’s pissed because my Hogs’ll beat the hell out of this pussy lover’s team next year.”
Hogs? Tigers? Did these men seriously put their jobs and lives on the line over the Arkansas and LSU football teams? Did Lexi have to take team allegiances into consideration when she hired new employees to avoid catastrophe? Were SEC fans this torn up about football year-round?
Will we have full-on riots come September?
She struggled to recall the last two football seasons, but nothing came to mind. In her early days at Gulf America, she’d spent most of her life adjusting to the heavy travel schedule of a field HR representative. Current events, sports, and anything unrelated to HR dealings never entered her mind. She instead concentrated on getting through each day, never mind remembering what happened in the rest of the world.
What kind of fights should she expect when the Big 12 schools in Texas started beating up on each other in the fall?
God help us all.
Pulling her shoulder-length brown hair off her neck, she longed for a breeze. Not the kind from men yelling at each other, but a real, honest-to-God breeze.
She sighed and stared back at her notes. Even if the investigation proved the men deserved firing, she wouldn’t make the decision. Her worthless boss would be using whatever recommendations she gave him.
Dale seldom left his office during the work day. Unless he heard an ice cream truck. Then he raced out the door with a dollar in hand. Why bother leaving for something important–– like his job–– when he had minions like her to do his dirty work in the field? He reserved his energy to sweep in at the end when he took credit and – by all appearances – saved the day.
This time, he didn’t even have the courtesy to make his decision before dawn. In her eagerness to please – the department had a promotion up for grabs – she overlooked the faux pas that sent her straight to hell. Sure the Assistant Regional Director job would be more work, but it came with a healthy salary increase and less travel. And at twenty-four, she’d be the youngest director at headquarters.
The shouts escalated.
Is a promotion worth this?
Another realization hit Lexi like a ton of bricks. Damn, another random metaphor. This dispute would have long-term implications impacting more than her chances of promoting within the company. The safety department would surely ban glass cups and plates from company premises before the end of the week. The idiots had proven breakables were a liability Gulf America would no longer risk.
Out of the corner of her eye, she caught sight of one man knocking his coffee mug to the floor. Damn. Another dish casualty. The shattered mug brought Lexi’s attention back to the present. One of the local managers sent her a silent plea. Clearing her throat, she filled her lungs with the heavy air weighing on her chest.
“Excuse me, gentlemen,” she began, in her sweetest drawl. A Midwesterner by nature and nurture, she spent the past two years cultivating her fake accent. It was useful in tense situations like this one. “I appreciate you sharing your perspectives. I’m sure both of your teams value loyal fans like you. But I need you both to take a few deep breaths and listen to what I say.”
She politely glared at the men. Their chests rose up and down in suppressed fury, but their mouths stayed shut.
“Violence is never the answer. It has no place in the sports arena or at work. Remember, you come from the same conference. Y’all should treat each other with the mutual respect your fine teams deserve.”
She paused for dramatic effect. She used a variation of the speech at least a dozen times in the past month alone. In her experience, a few well-timed beats of silence struck fear into the hearts of men better than a million words.
After giving her words room to settle uncomfortably, she continued. “Y’all need to treat each other respectfully. Not only because you’re co-workers and conference mates, but because you’re both good men with families who depend on you. Consider how you’d want someone to treat the people you love most. That’s how y’all should treat each other.”
The men had the good grace to bow their heads in shame. She mentally patted herself on the back for not flinching when she said “y’all.” Three times. When she moved to Texas after college, she swore she would never pick up the strange jargon.
It only took a month for the Southern slang to find its way into her vocabulary.
Sensing the men had finished their moaning, Lexi nodded at one of the managers to begin his end of the investigation. Leaning back in her chair, she scribbled on a copy of the report. She bored easily when her mind wasn’t constantly engaged. Doodling helped her maintain some focus on a situation without actively paying attention. As an added bonus, writing on paper gave everyone else the illusion she was busy.
On this day, she found paying attention to the investigation exceptionally difficult. Her afternoon meeting back at Corporate Headquarters would determine her future with Gulf America.
She made a note to dust off the training video about respectful language. More than likely, the oil rig’s crew would moan about having to sit through thirty minutes of bad acting. They’d also likely ignore the message, but she had to try.
For the men, she added a few suggestions for her boss to consider. They at least needed anger management counseling. Offering them a buyout in exchange for early retirement would satisfy the union and the company.
With her work done, she turned over her notes to doodle a picture. She drew two donkeys. One held a glass, the other a plate. Leaning back in her chair she admired her work, both the drawing, and the much more relaxed atmosphere in the conference room.
Damn she was good.
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