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A Chat with Laura Hayden, Multi-Genre Author and Bookseller


An Interview by Deborah L. Brewer

A multi-genre author of fifteen novels and many short stories, Laura Hayden wears many hats in the publishing industry. Besides being an author, she is also the owner of the online and mobile bookshop Author, Author! providing bookstore services for writing and author events, both in person and remotely. She’s also co-owner of Parker Hayden Media, a small publisher who assists indie authors. With many years being on the board of PPW or volunteering with several national and regional writers’ associations, she remains connected to the publishing world on many different levels.

Writing can be a lonely, mystifying avocation. That’s why it’s so important for writers to connect with and mentor other writers, and help others do the same. Laura has done just that. As one of the founders of Pikes Peak Writers, she served as its first president, has served on its board of directors, and has always volunteered as Pikes Peak Writers Conference staff, including as director and assistant director numerous times.

Meet Laura

An early reader, Laura exhausted the children’s section of her local library by age ten. At that point, she switched to adult mysteries and science fiction and never looked back. Trained as an engineer, she wrote “for fun” until one day, she decided to write “for real.”

She has now published fourteen full-length genre novels under three names, thirteen short stories and novellas, and an authorized companion book about Nora Roberts. Having traveled across the US as a military spouse, Laura now resides (permanently) in Colorado with her husband and dogs.

Q & A

Debby: Welcome, Laura. Thanks for all you do for fellow writers at PPW, and for sharing your insight and experience with Writing from the Peak.

What inspired you to write the first of your novels? Do you have favorites among them?

Laura: My first book was a three-year project, one year in writing and almost two years as it moved slowly through the editorial process. It was based on a factoid that fascinated me when I worked one summer at a pharmaceutical supply warehouse. Yes, I actually published the first book I ever wrote. But my favorite book is one that sprang to life between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. I swear it came to me in near complete form. I’ve never since had a book that wrote itself like that. A MARGIN IN TIME has its origins in my love for time travel movies/TV shows and the reviews even mentioned Back to the Future, Star Trek, and Quantum Leap as my obvious inspirations. But they never caught on to the fact that I picked up a lot of my inspiration from a short-lived TV show, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. I even had an opportunity to give Bruce Campbell, who starred in the show, a copy of the book. But…he never left a review.

One of the weird and wonderful aspects of MARGIN is that I was sitting in a writing workshop all about Joseph Campbell and his mythic structure. Despite my excellent high school education (college prep), I was an engineering major in college. We don’t take English classes and I’d never heard of Campbell. But as the workshop leader started outlining the twelve steps, I realized that I had subconsciously followed each step, in order. Even the one called “The Innermost Cave” appears in my book as my hero stuck in a real cave, facing his worst fears. In reality, that scene mirrored my own experience when I had a summer job working as an engineering trainee in an Alabama coal mine. So, the book has always been special to me.

Debby: You write in several genres. Is your process different for mystery versus science fiction? Have you any advice for cross-genre writers?

Laura: Do as I say, not as I do. I probably shortchanged my career a bit by scattershooting across genres—romantic suspense, time travel, light-hearted paranormal, romantic comedy, urban fantasy, mystery. If I were to start all over again, I’d find a slightly narrower range and get myself established stronger in that, and then branch out. As to the method, everything I write has some sort of problem to be solved. In a mystery, it’s more central to the plot. But I still work on the plot in the same way. What is the end result? How do I reach that end result without making it painfully obvious or unbelievably convoluted? (I have a tendency to over-complicate things.) Who are the most reasonable people to be involved in this? I do tend to think plot first, then characters, but they still have to fit well together. But my broader interest in genres served me well as a go-to-author for a major packager who involved me in several ghost/collaborative writing projects across a broad selection of genres.

Debby: As a bookseller, as well as an author, what publishing insight can you offer writers from that dual perspective?

Laura: Indie books are a new normal, now. You’re not only the writer, but the entire marketing department and head of distribution, too. That’s three hats you must wear, so learn the ins and outs of ALL of them.

First lesson: We DO judge a book by its cover. A bad/poor/cheap cover will kill any potential momentum a book might have. If you’re not an artist, buy a good cover. Don’t fall back on your fledgling Canva skills. It. Will. Not. Go. Well. For. You.

Second lesson: A bad blurb will stop a reader cold if the cover passes their initial review. A bad blurb also includes phrases where the author praises themselves. As a bookseller, there are review sources I recognize. I may even respect them, but at least I know it’s someone else’s opinion. If I see a praise quote from “An Amazon reader…” I’ll ignore it with prejudice because it could be you, your mother, your spouse…someone who dearly wants to support you. If your blurb praises you without any attributions (a.k.a., you’re bragging about yourself), I take everything with a grain of salt and will probably pass on your book. Also, authors use the phrase “award-winning” far too often, enough so that it means nothing. If it’s a major award, by all means, use it. (And my biggest pet peeve? I had an author once proudly mention that her book was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Literature. I knew it meant she spent $75 and nominated herself. It’s that easy. It’s becoming a finalist for the Pulitzer that’s hard, but she assumed readers and booksellers wouldn’t know. Trust me. I knew.)

Third lesson: The insides should be as clean as possible. One or two typos is reasonable. A formatting error or two? Happens to the best of us. But chapter after chapter of problems… means the author is not approaching this as a professional career and trust me, we have enough amateurs out there.

Fourth lesson: Be a professional in every aspect of your career. We keep seeing evidence of Authors Behaving Badly on social media. Plagiarized materials. Sabotage reviews. Scum rises to the top. It taints the rest of the bucket which is full of great writers writing great books. Indie, trad, hybrid—they’re all legitimate career choices and should be respected because professional authors are working hard to create ways to please their readers.

Fifth lesson: Learn about distribution. eBooks are great, but we have a younger generation that prefers print. (YAY, says the bookseller!!) If you use Amazon for print, expanded distribution merely means your book will show up on Ingram (the largest US book distributor and pretty much only game in town) with a 25% discount and non-returnable. As a bookseller, I need 40% or more and returnable. I’m not here to invest non-recoverable capital into YOUR book. (That is/ was the role of a publishing company.) If you use D2D Print, it’ll show on Amazon with a 20% discount and non-returnable. (But plans are in the works to change this and when that happens, you’re going to love what D2D can do for your print books. That can’t come soon enough for me!) If you use IngramSpark, and don’t give them 53% discount or better, it won’t show up for a bookseller at 40%. Ingram has to take their cut and authors often overlook that.

Sixth lesson: I frequently do “What you need to know about bookselling” workshops at various writer events. That’s a great time to come and pick my brain and this wild and woolly business called writing and selling books.

Debby: You’ve been volunteering with the Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference since its beginnings. What keeps you coming back year after year? How can attendees get the most possible from their conference experience?

Laura: I’d been to exactly two other writers conferences when the possibility of the first PPWC was brought to my attention in 1992. I’d worked in a small bookstore before and volunteered to run the little onsite bookstore (three whole tables) for the conference. It gave me an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a unique experience, see the inner workings, and eventually, to help give input to the programming and policies. Two big secrets—one: I moved away five weeks after the first PPWC and flew back each year cross country for the next seven years. Two: I made a connection at the very first PPWC with an editor who eventually bought three of my first five books and remained integral to my writing career for many years afterward until she retired from the business.

I keep coming back because I believe you “Dance with them who brung ya.” I owe my career to PPWC. They gave me my first taste of success, they connected me to the right people in the field, they gave me opportunities to meet and hang with some damn fine authors, and they shoved a microphone in my hand and accidentally released my inner extrovert which gave me a whole new set of skills. I want not only to pay the organization back for what it has given me, but to make sure it stays healthy and has the opportunity to do the same for other writers.

What can attendees get? The same thing I’ve gotten—opportunities, education, advice, connections, networking opportunities, new skills. It’s all there waiting for you. And as I often tell people, now that you’ve met me, even if only through an interview like this, you now have a friend at the conference—and a friend who owns a bookstore. Both are pretty valuable.

Find Laura’s bookshop here:

Find Laura’s books here:

Deborah L. Brewer joined Pikes Peak Writers a decade ago, seeking help with a cozy mystery. When the novel was completed, she stayed for the camaraderie. Now she’s writing short stories. An editor for the PPW 2022 anthology,  Dream, Deborah contributes to Writing from the Peak to help fellow PPW members write better with more enjoyment, and ultimately, achieve their writing dreams.

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