I’m Laurence MacNaughton, an award-winning author of more than a dozen novels, novellas, and short stories. AMA about writing, publishing, the writer's life, anything!

Laurence MacNaughton
May 23, 2018

As a kid, I pounded out stories on an old black Remington typewriter. I sold my first magazine article at age 19.

Today, I'm a full-time writer. I’ve written numerous novels, novellas, and short stories. My work has been praised by Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, RT Book Reviews, Library Journal, and Booklist.

Ask me anything!

Author website: www.laurencemacnaughton.com

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Is there anything in specific you want readers to know about your books that they don't know about?
May 30, 11:59AM EDT0
How do you keep variations of characters in your books? Is it different to write familiar characters in a short story vs. a novel?
May 30, 10:05AM EDT0
How do you decide what goes on the cover art of your books? Does it require lot of considerations or you already know what will go up?
May 30, 9:32AM EDT0
What's one thing that you really love about urban fantasy, and what do you hope your books will bring to the genre?
May 30, 6:29AM EDT0
With "It Happened One Doomsday", what was your main goal when you began writing it? Is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across to readers when the story is finally told?
May 30, 5:28AM EDT1
Do you Google yourself to read reviews and critics? How do you deal with bad critiques?
May 29, 12:47AM EDT0

Most of the time, the big reviewers (Publishers Weekly, Booklist, RT Book Reviews, Kirkus, and Library Journal) will send reviews to my agent and my publicist beforehand. So usually, they see the reviews first and pass them along to me.

I used to be neurotically nervous about getting reviewed by these super-huge “trade pubs.” Because that's the big time. And I was terrified of getting trashed. I would joke about hiding in a bunker until it was all over.

But eventually, I learned three important things:

1. You can’t live like that. You just have to accept that every time you create something and put it out there, it will be judged. And not just by the professionals. Today, on the Internet, everyone can weigh in with an opinion, educated or otherwise. And they will. So the only thing to do is accept that fact and stop dwelling on it. All you can do is focus on creating your best work and putting it out there.

2. No matter what you write, some people will love it, and some people will hate it. There will always be positive and negative reviews of everything. It's just a fact.

3. Much to my astonished delight, the vast majority of my reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. I can't tell you how much that warms my heart.

I hope you don't mind if I share some of the latest reviews:

“A long way from being yet another gloomy, claustrophobic urban fantasy. This is urban fantasy for readers who want to have a good time—even a few laughs… The villain, while plenty evil, is evil in an almost delightful way. A well-crafted and thoroughly entertaining novel.”— Booklist

“Rising talent MacNaughton returns for the second installment of his offbeat, hilarious and terrifying urban fantasy series... MacNaughton has a real gift for developing quirky and crazy characters who enliven the zany storylines. Another terrific outing!”— RT Book Reviews

“Comedy, fantasy, and romance blend together smoothly, and the characters are cute.”— Kirkus Reviews

“MacNaughton’s delightful second apocalyptic urban fantasy picks up just after the events of It Happened One Doomsday... Adventure and humor balance the story’s horror elements. The ending provides just enough resolution to be satisfying while leaving plenty of questions unanswered to heighten anticipation for the next installment.”— Publishers Weekly

It's enough praise to make a grown man blush! I can't tell you how thankful I am. So I work as hard as I can to make every book live up to the praise.

May 29, 11:46AM EDT0
You are an avid reader. Have you read anything good lately that you would recommend?
May 28, 10:56PM EDT0

Depends on what you like to read! I tend to read it very widely. In a typical day, I will read the entire Wall Street Journal, a couple science magazines, old pulp fiction such as Robert E Howard or H.P. Lovecraft, classic car magazines, an action-packed thriller, and whatever else catches my fancy.

I quite honestly finish several books a week. I don't know if they make me any smarter, but I always have plenty of recommendations. Recently , I picked up a couple of fantasy anthologies that I really enjoyed.

The first was Down These Strange Streets, featuring an eerily moving vampire story by my fellow Colorado author Carrie Vaughn.

The other book was simply called The Sword & Sorcery Anthology. Absolutely top-notch stuff. Highly recommended.

Both books are thick with fantasy stories that will not only entertain you, they will make you think. And who knows? You might discover a new author you love!

By the way, if you want to connect with me on Goodreads, you can do so here: www.goodreads.com/author/show/6421258.Laurence_MacNaughton

May 29, 11:34AM EDT0
Would you say the writer's life is lonely?
May 28, 7:35PM EDT0

I remember that Frank Gruber (author of more than 60 novels and 300 stories) once said that he got out of his apartment every chance he could. He would go downtown to meet with editors just to get away from the typewriter.

There's no way around the fact that writing is a solitary profession. No one else can write your pages for you. (Wouldn't that be nice?) You have to work alone.

But when the work is done, you can leave the office and be a normal human being.

Well, as normal as writers get, anyway. ; )

May 28, 9:49PM EDT0
What is your favorite format to read, e-books or printed books?
May 28, 2:58PM EDT0

Personally, I’m a  book person. I love books. But if print isn't available, I’ll read an ebook.

Aside from their convenience, ebooks allow indie authors to make short or niche works readily available, even those that mainstream publishing wouldn't touch. Or books that have gone out of print.

I’ve read quite a few ebooks that I found tremendously enjoyable and/or useful. I would've preferred to read them in paperback, but hey, ebooks are a close second.

By the way, the very first Dru Jasper story is available as a free e-book from my website at www.laurencemacnaughton.com

Last edited @ May 28, 9:42PM EDT.
May 28, 9:41PM EDT0
When writing your stories, do you get emotional when deciding what's going to happen to the characters?
May 28, 12:13PM EDT0

You bet! I cry like a baby. ; )

Seriously, an idea has to really grab me before I can write it. When I'm brainstorming material for a new book, I discard anything that doesn't hook my emotions immediately.

I have to keep turning ideas over and over in my mind until I come up with something that gets me on a gut level.

It's not something I can describe intellectually. It has to be an idea that tugs at my heart strings. I have to actually feel angry, or elated, or worried for a character. When I truly experience those emotions, then I know I've got something real, and I know it's the right story to write.

Great question!

Last edited @ May 28, 10:36PM EDT.
May 28, 10:36PM EDT0
If you could make one thing illegal, with regards to writing, what would it be?
May 27, 4:45AM EDT0

I'd love to make it illegal to start a book with a character waking up in the morning.

Especially getting woken up by a ringing phone.

ESPECIALLY if they immediately look in the mirror and describe themselves to the reader.

Those are all felony cliches.

Aside from that, the worst crime a writer can commit is to be boring. That's why I start every book with a bang. I like my stories fast, furious, and funny. If that's a crime, arrest me. ; )

May 27, 12:17PM EDT0
What fictional character would you like to become real and why?
May 26, 5:05PM EDT0

Hey Rhizzsy -- I got the same question from Daniloza, so I hope you don't mind if I repeat the answer here:

It's hard to choose between all of my characters, because I try as hard as I can to make all of them interesting.

Even the bad guys. In fact, one of my favorite reviews (I think it was in Publishers Weekly, but I'm not positive), they said something to the effect that one of my villains was despicably evil, but in a delightful way. And to me, that's a huge complement. If even the villains are entertaining to watch, then I've done my job as an author.

If I had to choose, in real life I think I'd want to meet Dru (because she can do amazing things with crystals), or Rane (because she can turn into metal, and that's just cool). But honestly, I'd probably choose Hellbringer, which is a demon-possessed black 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona, and I just want to get behind the wheel.

Who would you choose? You can see pictures of all my characters here: laurencemacnaughton.com/books/dru-jasper-series/characters/

Last edited @ May 27, 12:46PM EDT.
May 27, 12:22PM EDT0
What is the weirdest thing you have ever read about in order to research a book, and how did it help you?
May 26, 11:43AM EDT0

Because the unique magic system in my Dru Jasper series is based on crystals, I'm constantly researching the strange properties of real-life crystals.

For example, did you know that galena (which is a silvery lead sulfide) was ground up by the ancient Egyptians and used as eyeliner to protect against the “evil eye”? Here's the weird thing: galena actually can kill germs on contact. So it’s possible it might have cured ancient Egyptian eye infections.

I also learned about the reputed purifying powers of Herkimer diamonds from Dan Aykroyd (the guy from Ghostbusters), who actually comes from a long line of paranormal investigators. Who knew? I got a bottle of Crystal Head vodka from him, and it makes a cameo in the first book, It Happened One Doomsday.

I'm constantly amazed at the bizarre things I learn while researching my books. For example, in the third book (No Sleep Till Doomsday), a major plot point revolves around trinitite -- radioactive glass formed by a nuclear explosion, first discovered at the Trinity test site used by the Manhattan Project. Creepy.

I'm also constantly discovering random facts about things like Celtic mythology (spoiler: in real life, the people called Celts weren't actually Celts), or the odd chemical connection between vintage cameras and costume jewelry.

I love digging out weird factoids like that and sprinkling them into my stories, because they’re interesting.

May 26, 1:36PM EDT0
How would you describe your writing career?
May 26, 8:33AM EDT0

I'd say it's like a good book:

An intriguing beginning. Fast paced. And just when you think you know what's going to happen next, there's an interesting twist.

When you turn the page, you never know what you're going to find! ; )

Last edited @ May 26, 10:33AM EDT.
May 26, 10:33AM EDT0

What do you do to improve your writing? Do you attend critique groups, study the way authors you like write, etc?

May 26, 4:34AM EDT0

There are really only three ways to improve your writing:

*** 1. Write more. ***

One of the most useful experiences I ever had as a writer involved a grueling day job as a staff writer. I had to write four 500-word articles a day, every day.

That's a new article every two hours. 10,000 words a week.

I did this for several years. By the time I quit, I was a much better writer, simply because I had written more than a million words. (And, not for nothing, I'd been paid for it.)

*** 2. Read more. ***

You must make time to read every day. Read everything you can get your hands on, both good and bad.

Obviously, reading good books will inspire you to write better. But bad books can be just as educational.

Reading bad, cheap, cheesy, overblown writing might just make you feel better about your own writing skills. Plus, it’s a quick way to learn what NOT to do.

*** 3. Study more. ***

Any aspiring novelist should read these amazing books:

• The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them) by Jack Bickham

• Writing Screenplays That Sell by Michael Hauge• Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder

• Scene & Structure by Jack Bickham

• The Fiction Factory by John Milton Edwards

• Writing Novels That Sell by Jack Bickham

Great question!

Last edited @ May 28, 10:29PM EDT.
May 28, 10:28PM EDT0

Which has been the most successful channel in selling your book?

Last edited @ May 26, 4:46AM EDT.
May 26, 4:32AM EDT0

I'm a huge fan of selling my books through independent bookstores. Indie bookstores tend to attract some of the smartest and most interesting people around. It’s true.

The Tattered Cover (on Colfax in Denver) is one of my favorite places on the planet. It's built inside an old theater. They even kept a few of the old folding red theater seats, where you can sit and read, and sip coffee from their delectable coffee shop.

One time, I was doing a book signing at the Tattered Cover when somebody told me Steven Tyler from Aerosmith was there. As if I wasn't nervous enough already.

In case you're wondering, I did not, in fact, get a chance to ask Steven Tyler if “Dude Looks Like a Lady” was actually about Vince Neil from Motley Crue. (Although I have my suspicions.)

The lesson is clear: support your local independent bookstore!

May 28, 9:58PM EDT0
What exactly do you like about urban fantasy, and how do you hope your books to be taken by the readers?
May 24, 10:09AM EDT0

I'm going to sidestep from my usual funny response and give you a straight answer on this one.

In the real world, abstract concepts such as the nature of good and evil can be difficult to wrestle with.

But in the fantasy genre, you can make those concepts tangible, and construct the story around people forced to confront these concepts directly.

For example, in the real world, it's not very often that you can point at something and say, “That's 100% evil.” There are always people arguing multiple sides of a complex issue.

But in a fantasy novel, the author can create a monster that is the literal embodiment of 100% evil. Then, characters you care about can confront that evil, and in the process of overcoming it, learn something about themselves, and maybe even something about life itself.

A good fantasy story is not only entertaining, but thought-provoking, and gives you something to think about long after you've closed the book.

I'll never pretend to be the greatest fantasy writer in the world. But I do work as hard as I can to create good fantasy stories that stick with you.

May 28, 12:38PM EDT0
You have published your books both traditional and self-published? What are the benefits and drawbacks of choosing either one?
May 24, 7:54AM EDT0

It really depends on who you are, as an author.

If you’re a hands-on, DIY type of person with an entrepreneurial mindset, then you might prefer self-publishing. The upside is that you call the shots. You can hire your own editors and artists, and make all of the creative choices. You are responsible for everything. That's also the downside. It's an incredible amount of work. And as a self published author, it's not easy to get the attention of new readers.

With traditional publishing, you team up with a publisher who handles the bulk of the work: editing, cover art, marketing, etc. But they won't do it all for you. You are still ultimately responsible for creating your own success. You're also part of a bigger team, and sometimes that means that you don't have the freedom that you do with self-publishing. It also means you aren’t totally alone.

I believe in embracing the best of both worlds. Focus on leveraging the advantages (and minimizing the drawbacks) of both traditional and self-publishing. It's hard work to do both, but it's worth it.

May 24, 11:42AM EDT0
Do you have any particular favourite character among all the ones you have created so far, and why?
May 24, 6:51AM EDT0

That's a tough question. It's hard to choose between all of my characters, because I try as hard as I can to make all of them interesting.

Even the bad guys. In fact, one of my favorite reviews (I think it was in Publishers Weekly, but I'm not positive), they said something to the effect that one of my villains was despicably evil, but in a delightful way. And to me, that's a huge complement. If even the villains are entertaining to watch, then I've done my job as an author.

If I had to choose, in real life I think I'd want to meet Dru (because she can do amazing things with crystals), or Rane (because she can turn into metal, and that's just cool). But honestly, I'd probably choose Hellbringer, which is a demon-possessed black 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona, and I just want to get behind the wheel.

Who would you choose? You can see pictures of all my characters here: laurencemacnaughton.com/books/dru-jasper-series/characters/

May 27, 12:43PM EDT0

How many of your friends bought your book?

May 24, 4:02AM EDT0

You know, everyone who buys one of my books is a friend of mine! : )

But seriously, the outpouring of support I've gotten from my friends and fellow authors has been absolutely astonishing. I feel very blessed. Writing is a difficult journey for everyone, and nobody makes it alone. I'm lucky to be surrounded by so many great friends and fans.

I'm a big believer in giving something back every chance I get. That's why I decided to give away the very first Dru Jasper story, as my way of saying thanks to everyone who helps make this series a success.

(By the way, if you'd like to get the story as my gift, you can get it on my website at www.laurencemacnaughton.com)

May 25, 6:59PM EDT1
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