I’d like to welcome Lauren Clark, the author of the absolutely terrific (check out my review here) Dancing Naked in Dixie to Reading Reality. I had the chance to cook up a few questions for Lauren, just in time for the release of Dancing Naked. (I love that title! And it fits so perfectly)
Tell us a little bit about Lauren Clark…
I am a mom of two school-aged boys, wife of a medical professional, daughter of a nurse practitioner and a college dean (also avid readers). I have a master’s degree in journalism and worked in TV news on-air for six years before deciding to write fiction. I love yoga, Pure Barre, travel, flavored coffee, the color pink, the ocean, my historic home, friends, laughter, and my family.
Yes! It is a lovely place about three hours southwest of Atlanta, Georgia. I visited Eufaula and attended the Pilgrimage many times when I lived in Dothan, Alabama. It’s a magical place–the historic homes are marvelous, the people are so friendly, and Eufaula has a real sense of ‘community.’
I wanted a title that expressed unbridled joy and happiness–like the exhilaration of new love, the heady feeling that makes a person want to “dance naked.” I actually came up with the title before I wrote the book. Not something that usually happens, at least for me!
You refer to both Dancing Naked in Dixie and your first book, Stay Tuned, as women’s fiction rather than romance. What do you see as the difference?
The major difference, I believe, is my focus on a strong female protagonist who has a major challenge in her life. The crux of the story is finding a solution to that problem, or making a change in her life. That’s how she eventually finds happiness, not through finding the man of her dreams (although that part is an extra, added bonus if it happens!).
Let’s talk about casting. If Dancing Naked were made into a movie, who would you want to see playing Shug and Julia?
Gosh, I love the thought of Emma Stone playing Julia, though one of my editors had a dream that Dancing Naked was made into a movie and Reese Witherspoon was the lead role!!! My best friend wants me to say Matthew McConaughey for Shug, and although he doesn’t have dark hair, I have to agree that he’d be a great choice.
There are so many strong women in Dancing Naked. Is there one in particular who is your favorite? And why?
I love Julia. She’s me in so many ways (klutzy, coffee-drinker, loves to travel), but I have a great relationship with my parents and I am NOT allergic to bees! I love that she has both a physical and personal journey to go on–and that the two mirror each other and allow her to grow as a career woman, daughter, and person. Julia is terribly unorganized, however, and that’s one of my strong points (or I would never get any writing done)!
Who introduced you to the love of reading?
My parents shut of the family television all summer, every summer. As a result, I spent LOTS of time at the local library and carried stacks of books back and forth every week. I must have read one hundred books a summer. My parents and my grandparents are/were also big readers and bookstore lovers, so I think I was destined to be an avid bookworm.
Who or what influenced you to become a writer?
I’d played around with writing fiction after I got out of TV news, but didn’t get serious about it until about 7 years ago. I hired a freelance editor to help me with two stories I’d written and am forever grateful for her help and encouragement. Stay Tuned was the third novel I finished.
Do you plan your stories out to the nth degree, or do your characters sometimes take over?
I do outline pretty extensively, meaning that I do a sentence or two for each chapter and plan out the entire story beforehand. Yes, sometimes the characters surprise me!! For example, I didn’t plan on Mary Katherine being quite so scheming and deliberate, but I was having so much fun with her that I expanded her role, especially near the end of the story!
What book do you recommend everyone should read, and why?
One of my favorite novels is My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. It’s a fabulous story about how a family disintegrates when one of the children is born with a life-threatening illness. An ending rarely surprises me, but this book did–and made me cry! (Do NOT see the movie version) Other highly recommended reads: The Green Mile, The Poisonwood Bible, The Secret Life of Bees, and anything by Sophie Kinsella.
Tell us a little bit about what comes next for you after Dancing Naked in Dixie?
I am working on story about The Pie Lab, which is an actual restaurant in Greensboro, Alabama. It’s a great little place, has wonderful pies (both dessert pies and quiche/taco/lunch-type pies), and provides a place where local folks can get on-the-job training. My protagonist is a young woman who’s vowed never to return to Greensboro (her hometown), but is forced to do so when her husband leaves her for another man.
Since on your website you admit to being a “non-reformed coffee drinker,” I’ll have to ask a different final question. Morning person or night owl?
Morning. Early morning, much to the chagrin of my husband, who likes to ‘sleep in’ until at least 8 a.m. on the weekends!