Death Threats, Blockages, and Crowning Yourself a Writer: "Meet The Maker" Interview with Moi & Moonrise

MOONRISE MAKER Q & WITH AUTHOR LAURA BRADBURY

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Writers hold a passion to communicate through the written word, and they use words eloquently and thoughtfully to convey emotion that grasp readers in the stories they write. This passion to communicate lies at the core of their being, and the diversity of the words and stories they tell come forward in the pages they write. The diversity of the story and their unique vision lies in their artistic expression. For some of us its hard to properly convey a message or feeling, to use words in a context that best defines our point of view. Then there is Laura Bradbury, not only is she able to use words to create sentences, paragraphs and chapters beautifully but she draws us into the story with such force that its hard to let go.

An award winning best-selling author, an astute business woman, a loving mother and wife, an attentive friend and inspiration to so many people only scratches the surface in describing Laura. She is a deeply driven, extremely kind and generous, vastly supportive, and an exceptionally humble being. A chat with Laura Bradbury is fascinating, motivating and truly inspiring. As a friend, she encourages us to live life fully and motivates us to be creative —she prompts us to be strong and take on challenges. As an author, she is able through the written word challenge us to take risks, to be adventurous, take new paths and discover new things.

We had the opportunity to host a writers workshop with Laura last year, and currently are in the process of organizing another one for this spring— her story is motivating, inspiring, authentic and full—we are so thrilled that she was willing to share her inspirations, challenges and the route that led her to self publishing.

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You truly are an inspiration to us at Moonrise Creative. Tells us a little about who or what inspires you? Where do you get your inspiration to write?

Writers who write books which allow me to escape into another reality – to me they have always been the most powerful sort of magician. Reading is an endless source of inspiration.

My three daughters – Charlotte, Camille, and Clémentine. They are all so different from one another and so unapologetically themselves. They inspire me to continue to become the most honest version of myself.

My husband Franck – if you read any of my “Grape” books you’ll know why.

My amazing friends who paint, weave, start kick-ass companies, move to the other side of the world, or just steadily beat as the living heart of their families…also, my writer tribe who keep me sane, are always there to cheer me on and give me good advice, and who love me enough not to block me on twitter even when I keep posting my daily word counts.

Your background and journey is rich and textured, tells us a little about your background and the journey that led you to writing?

I always wanted to write but was terrified of being a failure at this one thing that I cared so much about. Writing wasn’t just something I wanted to do. It was, in the deepest depths of my soul, what I wanted to be.

I am a perfect study in how to use achievement as an avoidance / procrastination tactic. I graduated from high school, did an undergrad degree in English and French Literature at McGill, a law degree at Oxford, then I renovated four houses in Burgundy, France with my husband to turn into vacation rentals.

I finally began writing when I was thirty, shortly after having my second daughter Camille who basically gave both Franck and I nervous breakdowns because she screamed non-stop for the first two years of her life. My timing for starting my writing career was less than stellar (two children under two) but more and more I am convinced that there is no such thing as the “perfect time” for anything. Thus began a decade of starting and bringing several novels to about 75% completion before abandoning them to jump ship to a shiny, new, seemingly “better” writing project.

It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with a life-threatening auto-immune liver and bile duct disease (PSC) in May 2012 that I made the decision I was going to be a finisher. I started writing My Grape Escape the morning after I received my diagnosis, finished after nine months (while still working full time), and self-published it despite the fact I had zero experience self-publishing. The day after I hit the “ publish” button I began writing the second book in my “Grape” series, My Grape Village.

You have written and published 3 books in 3 years- what an amazing accomplishment! How did you get started? What motivates you?

Frankly, the sword of my own mortality that is constantly hanging over my head because I live with a life-threatening disease is a huge motivator. From the moment I was diagnosed, all of a sudden the fear of being a failure at writing was replaced by a much more powerful fear – the fear of dying with my words still inside me.

The thing is I’ve realized is that in fact we are ALL in the same boat. We are all going to die, and none of us knows how much time we have left on this earth – one more day? One more year? Fifty more years? It’s just that for me and the many other people I know with serious health challenges we no longer entertain the illusion that we have infinite time.

The day after I was diagnosed I could hardly get out of bed. My entire life had been turned on its head and all of a sudden I was in a fight for my life. Without fully realizing what I was doing I managed to get up and stagger down the stairs. I flipped open my laptop, grabbed a pad of post-it notes, scribbled “FUCK YOU. I”M NOT DEAD YET” on one, stuck it on the side of my computer screen and began writing My Grape Escape. I didn’t stop until I hit “publish.”

My love for stories, books, and the craft of writing is another one of my creative engines. I realize now that I can immerse myself for the rest of my life in the writing world and never get bored or run out of things I thirst to do and learn. This is how I define a passion.

Lastly, my three daughters are a huge motivator. My books so far are stories that I really wanted them to know. Ironically, none of them have actually read any of my “Grape” books yet, but the books are there should they ever feel the inclination. I also want to set an example for them of diving deep into my passions. I love Cheryl Strayed’s quote “I truly believe that one of the greatest gifts I have given my children is the example of a mother who pursues her passions like a motherfucker.”

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What are some sacrifices you have made as a writer?

Some people around me didn’t understand why I would expend so much time and effort with my writing when I was also needing to take the best care of myself as possible in light of my health issues. What they didn’t understand was how writing saved me again, and again, and again and continues to do so on a regular basis. I couldn’t make them see how writing was truly a lifeline for me and how without it I would be sitting on my couch with all sort of destructive thoughts churning around my brain. This created some misunderstandings, but at a certain point I just had to accept that not everybody was going to understand and approve.

Making a commitment to creativity can destabilize the very people you care about, especially in the initial stages. A lot of people are prone to making snap judgements based on partial or misinterpreted information. I think creating can make other people uncomfortable for many reasons – it can put them face to face with their own unfulfilled creative urges, they have other ideas about how you should be spending your time, or they are worried they’ll end up in your book, to name a few…I think we so often wait for someone else to give us the “green light” to create but ultimately that “green light” can come from only one person – ourselves.

Have you had any failures? If so, what insights have you gained?

I would definitely say my decade of not finishing any writing projects was a failure. However, like all failures that experience taught me a lot of important lessons. Perfectionism is the enemy. Teach yourself to care less about other people’s opinions and more about the intrinsic value of your own creative journey. Honour your work by finishing it – crappy but finished is far preferable to brilliant but incomplete. We all have a limited amount of time on this earth – don’t waste it. If you yearn to create, go out and create. Start today.

Any advice for someone starting out as a writer? Any advice for someone wanting to get published?

First of all, I would start calling yourself a writer and thinking of yourself as a writer. Stop waiting around for anyone else to crown you as a “writer” – you have to crown yourself (I highly recommend plastic tiaras from the dollar store or a homemade twig crown for this purpose).

Reading about writing and taking courses about writing is great, but the one thing that distinguishes writers from non-writers is that they…well…WRITE. There is no way around that. Make getting words on paper your first priority in regards to your writing – everything else comes after that.

Give yourself a realistic word goal per day – mine is 2000 words Monday to Friday– either new ones or rewritten / edited words if that is the stage of a book I am at. I usually fall short of this goal – instead of 10,000 words a week I usually clock around 8000 because sick kids, Pro-D days, my grumpy liver, and other stuff happens. Be disciplined but flexible. I don’t have a word goal on the weekends but if I have a window to get some words in I grab it.

For publishing the first thing is DO NOT worry about publishing until you have actually finished your book-fretting about publishing before you have a finished book often be the Wolf of Procrastination in Sheep’s Clothing. Find other writers who are approachable and have been published and ask them how they did it….I could go on about tips like this forever, and will in my Moonrise workshop on March 6th.

You self published-why did you chose to this route? Would you say that the business of authorship and publishing are changing?

I consider myself extremely lucky to be living in a day and age when us writers have so many options for sharing our work. I believe that some books and authors are better suited to traditional publishing, and others are better suited to self -publishing. There is also a third category that is growing rapidly- this is authors who use a mix of both traditional and self-publishing and are starting to be known as “hybrid authors” (there are also “hybrid agents” emerging these days, but that is a whole separate topic).

For me, self-publishing was the best fit because I am:

  • entrepreneurial by nature
  • independent-minded (some would say stubborn as a mule- this would not be entirely inaccurate)
  • Impatient
  • I had enough on my plate dealing with health challenges, I did not need the added stress of working to anyone else’s expectations or timelines. The idea of working for myself was extremely appealing to me.

Also, my books deal frankly with my anxiety and panic disorders. I had several agents interested in My Grape Escape but who wanted me to remove any mention of this aspect of my journey. They reasoned that “Peter Mayle”s readers didn’t want to hear about all the mental health stuff.” I thought about this and concluded that removing all mention of my panic attacks, which were a big obstacle in my life at that time, would be inauthentic, not to mention to disservice to the large chunk of the population who also struggles with mental illness. Self-publishing meant I had total editorial freedom. Many, many readers have written to thank me for being open about my anxiety and showing them through my story that it is entirely possible to have depression or anxiety and still live a rich, fulfilling, adventurous life.

What would you say is your proudest moment?

Hitting #1 on Amazon always gives me a thrill, but probably the proudest moments are holding each of my books in paperback for the first time after they have been published. Never gets old.

You have accomplished so much in the last three years. What do you see for yourself in the next two years?

I would love to have a successful liver transplant and a new, healthy liver version 2.0 so that I can write more, beachcomb more, travel more, and above all, spend more time with the people I love. As much as I am grateful for every day, I am fed up with this Russian Roulette of waiting to get sick enough to qualify for a transplant (but not so sick that I become ineligible or die). I want to campaign to have Canada adopt a better organ donation system – the current one is completely dysfunctional.

I have a goal of getting on the New York Times bestseller list (either for e-books or print, or pourquoi pas, both!) and I would also love to see my stories adapted to either movie or TV (currently at the early stages of working on this at the moment). As far as writing projects I have a few lined up; finishing My Grape Wedding (currently almost ready to hand over to my content editor), finishing my paranormal romance I began writing 13 years ago, write My Grape Paris, write a series of essays to be compiled in a book about transcending life’s challenges via creativity (I already have the title for this one – The Grit in the Oyster)…I don’t think I’ll ever run out of potential writing projects.

Do you go through periods of feeling uninspired or get creative block? Periods where you may not want to pick up a pen or pencil and write? If so, how do you overcome this?

Yes! About 75% through my first rewrite I always develop an intense aversion to my book. I can almost set my watch by this pattern. This is where, in the past, I gave up and jumped ship to a shiny new project. Going through the various rounds of edits can honestly be a slog – it is damn hard work – although it is punctuated with the occasional glimmer of joy when you find the right word or sharpen up some snappy dialogue or add a scene that makes the whole book work better.

I have a few tricks to get past these blah / uninspired periods. I find myself a gift that I’m going to reward myself with when I publish the book (in the past, a pair of Frye boots, a Laura Harris painting, and a pair of moonstone earrings…). I dangle that carrot in front of myself frequently. I visualize how it will feel when I hold the finished book in my hands. I dig deep and try to revel in the grit that is required to bring a big creative project to completion and actually try to cultivate a grim appreciation for the creative pain. Also, taking a gander at my most recent mortgage statement never fails to light a fire under my derrière.

What are some of your favourite things, a few items that describe who you are?

Besides my family and friends, I would say:

  1. My beach glass collection. I try to spend time at the beach every day and the tide tables are one of the first things I check every morning. Beach glass is a metaphor for so many things in life…actually, I need to write a series of essay about this too….
  2. My collection of Georgette Heyer novels. Whenever I am feeling particularly stressed, scared, or overwhelmed I pick up one of these books and it is like spending time with most brilliant, hilarious, comfortable friend. My sister Suzanne introduced me to “Georgette” and I will be forever grateful.
  3. My scarves-I feel naked without a scarf- the result, I think, of my many years spent in France. I have an incredible collection- so many beautiful colours and textures.
  4. My silver bracelet from France with a charm for each one of my girls with their name and birthdates inscribed. This is traditional in France and called a gourmette. It is my way of carrying them with me wherever I go.

What are 3 things you can’t live without?

Again, besides family and friends, who I truly could live without:

  • Coffee- it gives me superpowers and thankfully they are discovering it is extremely good for liver health. I don’t think I could get out of bed in the morning if it weren’t for the promise of coffee.
  • The beach and the ocean-it is a therapist, my meditation, my inspiration, and my friend
  • Writing- When I don’t write I miss it terribly. It is hard work but at the most random moments you have these moments of transcendence where you feel like you tapped into some greater force. It can be magical. I could never give that up.

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What’s your Mantra?

I have two actually: “Done is Better than Perfect” and Winston Churchill’s “Never, Never, Never give up.

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Dear Moonrise community,

I was so looking forward to joining you for the day on March 6th at the “The World Needs Your Book” workshop. I truly believe in my heart of hearts that if I can learn how to create and self-publish bestselling books, anybody can. I also know for a fact that the world truly does need the books that you have percolating in your mind, whether it be a space romance, a memoir, a cookbook, a poetry or photography collection, or a completely unique mix of things. I wanted everyone to leave on March 6th with an idea of what they were going to create and publish as well as the confidence and tools to do so. I felt honoured to collaborate again with Moonrise Creative because I knew with them the workshop would be completely confidential, beautiful, and soul-nourishing.

Unfortunately, I had a nasty surprise two weeks ago when my auto-immune liver disease (PSC) took a large leap forward and landed me in the hospital with a new host of complications. I’m still grappling with the ramifications and ongoing management of these new symptoms, and they could very likely accelerate my journey towards a (please god!) life saving liver transplant.

As much as I hate this current state of affairs, my health is so precarious at the moment that I never know from one day to the next if I will have to make an emergency trip to the hospital or not. Along with Pam and Metka we decided to cancel the workshop sooner rather than later, as we couldn’t bear the idea of having to cancel at the last minute when everything was all set up and good to go.

I’m going to be honest with you – I’m struggling mightily with how my disease is robbing me of things, such as the workshop, that I care about deeply. I feel like it has won this round, and that is a particularly difficult truth to swallow. I did have a comforting thought the other day though – maybe the universe is telling me that right now is the time for me to learn rather than teach. I hope this means that when I do regain my health I can impart the lessons I have learned with even more power and wisdom.

In the meantime I am still writing like a fiend – it keeps me sane and engaged in life. Creativity has been a lifeline for me and I encourage everyone who has the desire to create to go out and do so. Moonrise Creative workshops are a wonderful place to start! I’m hoping book #4 (My Grape Wedding) in the Grape Series will be out by early Spring, I’ve also started on a small cookbook to accompany my Grape series. Next up, a paranormal romance…I also hope to be attending some Moonrise workshops, as they always teach me new things and provide treasured moments of exploration and connection.

In the meantime, you can always email me with any questions you have about writing or self-publishing at laura@laurabradbury.com . I’m a huge believer in collaboration rather than competition and I am always delighted to help others strive for their creative dreams.

Bises,

Laura

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