Author Spotlight with Laurel Garver


Today I'm excited to host an interview with author Laurel Garver. I read Garver's young adult novel, Never Gone last month. I really enjoyed the book, (read my review here) so I asked Laurel if she would answer a few questions. The interview is below, and her responses are definitely worth reading. I really enjoyed her comments about writing for young adults and writing from a Christian perspective.

Tell us a little about yourself and your writing. 

I grew up in north central Pennsylvania not far from The Office territory. To fend off crushing boredom, I joined every arty thing: band, choir, art club, school newspaper, and speech and drama. I often scribbled stories during class when my teachers thought I was taking copious notes. (As the youngest of five children, I have a bit of a mischievous streak.)

As an undergrad, I majored in English with a communications minor (lots of theatre classes) and studied abroad in the UK.  I went on to earn a master’s in journalism while working full time as an editor in Philadelphia. I have 20+ years experience in trade, association, and academic publishing.

During my post-college years, I gravitated toward poetry and put much of my creative energy there. (My poetry collection, Muddy-fingered Midnights, includes some early work as well as many new pieces).From 1995-2000, I was editor and publisher of a Christian literary magazine, About Such Things. Through it, I got to know the philosophy PhD student who became my husband. Our daughter was born in 2002.

I grew restless as a stay-at-home mom, and a friend urged me to pick up writing again. Something inside me lit up when I unearthed character sketches for Danielle Deane, a grieving teen I’d first imagined while on a walk in 1992. I’d heard her voice tell me about her difficult relationship with her mother since her dad had died, and her struggles to hang onto her faith when her church-going parent had been snatched away and she was stuck with the atheist. I’d lost my own father to renal failure a few years before this, and it felt like the time had arrived to work through that loss. There was enough difference between Dani’s circumstances and mine to help me have creative distance, yet emotional truth.

It took six years of writing and revision, research trips to NYC and England, and critiques from three writing groups to get Never Gone into its final form.

What does a typical work day look like for you? How much time do you spend writing fiction compared to marketing, blogging, working another job, etc? 

I work 5-6 hours each weekday as managing editor of a scholarly journal. My work load can fluctuate quite a bit seasonally, so I’m able to squeeze in research or social networking during quiet periods. For the most part, writing happens during my lunch hour, on the train, the late afternoon after work, or while my daughter is at her Irish dance or guitar lessons.

My evenings are typically filled with household chores (not cooking, thankfully--my hubby is our family chef), overseeing homework, going to the gym, critiquing for my CPs, and attending church activities.  Once my daughter is in bed, I most often creatively recharge by reading. If I’m feeling energetic, I usually try to make connections online, research marketing opportunities, write blog posts, and schedule tweets.

What draws you to write young adult fiction?

What turned me on to reading, and continues to captivate me, are stories that explore the places where heart and soul are tested and growing up truly begins.  Volunteering with my church youth ministry opened my eyes to how teens today struggle to be real in a culture that glorifies superficiality. When beauty, strength, and charisma are idolized, all the ways we are broken never see the light, never have a chance to heal. Instead, they fester under the surface, filling our lives with poison. So I write about kids in crisis who learn to let go of their pretensions and falseness and allow God to remake them as people who humbly hope, believe, and love.

As a Christian and a writer, I am intrigued by the intersection of faith with writing, especially fiction. Tell us about the decision to make Dani a Christian character. Did (or do) you feel any pushback from the Christian themes in your novel? 

I knew from the get-go that faith would be at the core of Never Gone. When a person is grieving, spiritual questions about the nature of life and of a higher power naturally come up. My approach was simply to write through the eyes of a character for whom faith is a natural part of life. It’s Dani’s framework for understanding the world, just like her artistic ability is. The imagery and stories of her faith weave through her thought world as much as the language of painting and drawing. Readers walk with Dani through sadness, longing, first love, turmoil, broken relationships, confusion and doubt. She has to come to grips with what is really real, who God is, and how she must grow and change in order to become her best self.

I’ve tried to walk the fine line of emphasizing the universality of grief while making sure readers are aware there is Christian content, so no one is blindsided by it. The response to my themes and approach has been overwhelmingly positive. Readers have appreciated my willingness to explore the dark emotions of loss while affirming that we can talk (and holler and cry) to our Creator honestly about our pain, which at root is an expression of faith that He hears, cares, comforts and makes things new.

What is on the horizon for you? What books are next to be released?

I’m wrapping up the final chapters of a sequel to Never Gone that takes place the summer after Dani’s junior year. I also have two nonfiction books in the works, one of which I hope to release later this year, Writing When You Can’t Write. It will be full of tips and exercises to keep your writing projects on track, even when you can’t be at the keyboard.

Finally, I'm always looking for recommendations for young adult fiction. What are a few of your favorite young adult books or series?

There are so many! The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, Where She Went by Gayle Forman, The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen, Summer to Die by Lois Lowry and pretty much everything by Sara Zarr and Deb Caletti. In terms of series, I adore J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, as well as Susan Howatch’s adult fiction Starbridge series and St. Benet’s series.

Thanks again to Laurel for her thoughtful responses!

Connect with Laurel:







Buy Laurel's Books:


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Author Spotlight with Amy Martin

After I read a great self-published book, I contact the author and ask to spotlight them on the blog. 90% of the time the author responds right away with an affirmative yes. So thanks to the indie writing community for the willingness to answer a few questions for me and the blog! This month I interviewed Amy Martin, author of the In Your Dreams series. I read and reviewed the first in the series last month. Amy tells us a little bit about her dreams, being a semifinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, and balancing work with writing.

BookCoverImageInYour Dreams

Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.

I’m originally from Missouri, but I currently live in Lexington, KY with my husband and cat, and I work in higher education. When I’m not writing, I like to watch sports and movies, and I spend way too much time on social media (usually just lurking rather than participating). The In Your Dreams novels are my first published novels, although I’ve been writing off and on for my whole life.

The In Your Dreams series, in a sentence, is about a basketball-playing girl nicknamed Zip who meets a boy named Kieran who suffers from a strange narcolepsy-like condition that brings trouble and adventure to the two of them and their families.

What draws you to write young adult fiction?

I’ve worked with young people my entire adult life, so I feel like I know more about the 17-24 age group than I do people my own age. :) And as many of my friends’ daughters are becoming young adult readers, I wanted to put stories out there that feature strong heroines—heroines who can fall in love and be vulnerable but who can still maintain their lives and interests and not sacrifice everything to their relationships.

What does a typical work day look like for you? How much time do you spend writing fiction compared to marketing, blogging, working another job, etc?

Unfortunately, I still work full-time, so my writing and marketing time ends up crammed into those corners of my life in which I’m not working or taking care of things around the house. I try to write a little every day, but sometimes after a long day at work, it’s just not feasible. I really struggle with balance, and it’s something I hope to get better at this year.

In Your Dreams was a semifinalist in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Tell us a little about the process and the benefits for you from reaching the semifinals.

I submitted an early version of In Your Dreams along with a pitch (a version of the book description that currently appears on the book’s for-sale pages). Amazon reviewers first judged the book solely on the pitch and then on the first five-thousand words. Once I progressed to the semifinal round, a Publishers’ Weekly reviewer read and reviewed the entire book. I didn’t progress any further, but comments from the reviewer and other readers gave me the confidence to revise the novel and self-publish.

Last month, I read your novel In Your Dreams. As the title suggests, the novel explores the dreams of one of the characters. I’ve always found dreams fascinating and have some pretty strange dreams. Do you have a strange dream of your own that you are willing to share?

I have trouble remembering my dreams (much like Zip—at least at first), but I do know that one of the strangest things that always happens in my dreams is that I’ll be in a place I remember from growing up, and people who aren’t supposed to be there show up. For example, I’ll be running around my high school as an adult (I haven’t been back to my high school in years) and people I went to college with will be there.

What is on the horizon for your fans this year?

I’m working on the fourth and final book of the In Your Dreams series—tentatively titled Beyond Your Dreams—which I’m hoping to have out this summer. After that, I’m hoping to put out a new adult title later on this year, and I’ve got ideas for other young adult books that I hope to start working on before the year is out.

Finally, I'm always looking for recommendations of great self-published books and indie authors. What are a few of your favorite self-published fiction books?

I really enjoyed the Deck of Lies series by Jade Varden—I read that in one day. Honestly, my “to read” list is so long at this point with both self-published and traditionally-published books, I’m not sure I’ll ever dig my way out. I think I may need some recommendations to help me sort out my list. :)

Thanks again to Amy! You can check out her books on Amazon by clicking the images or find her on social media via the below links.

Connect with Amy on her website.

Follow Amy on Twitter.

Like Amy on Facebook.

BookCoverImageInYour DreamsBookCoverImage-As You WakeBeforeYouSleep-Amz

Indie Author Spotlight - Cole Crook

coleToday's post features author, singer, and songwriter Cole Crook. Cole and I share many similar writing influences and I'm excited to feature him this month! His responses are thoughtful and insightful so read on!

Tell us a little about yourself. Who are you? What creative endeavors are you working on? What are your plans for publishing your work?

Whew! I’ll do my best to give a little insight into each of these openers. It’s been a while since someone has simply asked me, “Who are you?” but I’m happier than I’d like to admit that you did ask that; because it’s one of my favorite questions. I ask it of myself all the time. Even more, I would gladly pay a stranger to wake me up each morning by leaning over my bed and asking, “Who are you? And what are you doing here?” I think we could all ask ourselves those questions more often.

Raised Roman Catholic in the beautiful city of Louisville, KY I’d moved on to the more advanced religion of synthetic euphoria by sixteen after my parent’s divorce. For nearly a decade I lived the life of a managing addict, in and out of trouble, rehab, and jail. To make a long story inadequately short, I was reconciled with my biological father in Alabama, and God used it as a catalyst into an ever-surprising, adventurous, at times seemingly dull, and yet colorful life of following Jesus; the Great Adventurer. “The Way,” as early believers referred to it, is merely Following the Adventurer into a sacrificial life of being a life-giving lover of people.

I have a beautiful wife of 3 years, a miniature schnauzer named Olive, and we built our first home back in July. That was my last full month as the pastor of Mill Creek Church, which was unbelievably challenging, yet so fun! Proceeding that position I worked as a youth pastor, college pastor, and worship pastor; those experiences helped reveal the purer passion of my heart – or God’s next assignment – to reach a wider audience through writing, speaking, recording albums, an adoption advocacy project well under way, and leading worship for churches every now and again.

Throughout the past year I’ve experienced the most radical shift of worldview, (and thus, personality and opinions) than ever before in my life. I confess that it is a click away from fundamentalism and heavily reformed theological thinking (though not an abandonment of all their beliefs or bitterness towards them.) And a click towards a life that’s honest. I responded to a Literature professor of mine after she said that I “am talented,” that my sole talent is being uncomfortably honest. And maybe it’s a calling more than a talent – and there are heavy traces of that in all my work. The willingness to paint a detailed picture of my thoughts and experiences – the beautiful and the ugly and the sacred – because I have to. And I think it’s going to resonate deeply with a large amount of people who aren’t sure how to merge their secular life with their sacred life – because despite all our cultural ingrained peculiarities – all of my life is one person.

Currently, I have an EP out (which you can download at Cole Crook on Bandcamp) entitled {Dear Redemption,} – as its title track is somewhat of a letter to God of desperation and hope. I chose the four songs out of the many I’ve written because they are the most meaningful to me as a person. And more music will be coming soon.

I’m also writing a semi-autobiographical non-fiction novel (my main outpouring of creative energy at the moment) which is a fancy way of saying it is a book composed of a series of personal essays with a common theme. Each story is a progression of the failed methods I’ve employed to avoid uncomfortable realities, suffering, and ultimately; reality itself. It’s a pretty honest book.

Publishing is rarely on my mind. Not because I don’t want to be published. Precisely the opposite; I want it too badly until it takes authenticity out of my efforts. Despite my best effort to follow Anne Lamott’s advice to never write because you want to be published, I found it difficult not to let the eyes of my heart dart in ‘that’ direction, especially early on in the writing process. I am working with an editor from Canada, named Rachel. (Rachel’s really awesome.) I have some optimism that this will develop into a good partnership, and that working with an editor earlier in the process will have saved time and money when it hits the shelves. My peers and others who have an understanding of the book seem to be surprised at what is on the page so far, so with a little luck and a lot of work, maybe I can find a publisher by this time next year or sooner.


I want to have a humble heart that produces words for the love of those who read those words.

What is your favorite part about writing?

Having written! That’s a truer joke than I wish it were. I like the discoveries. Epiphanies through the ancient art of penciling what is most important to us. Anyone who writes on a subject they’re not deeply passionate towards at the time, is writing with an incorrect motive in my opinion. Naturally, I love writing because it’s a job that follows my heart’s direction, rather than my heart’s direction being maneuvered by my career or finances or uncertainties concerning getting published etc…

Who are a few of your favorite authors? What draws you to their work?

There are three authors that immediately come to mind so I must mention them first, although, it seems less than helpful because most readers (and especially writers) are already familiar with them. But Donald Miller, Anne Lamott, and C.S. Lewis are my biggest influences. I’ve read nearly all of their books and only wish that there were enough material so I wouldn’t run out.

As a more unique list of writers I really enjoy, there is Rob Bell, Tim Keller, Madeleine L'Engle, Lois Lowry, G.K. Chesterton, Suzanne Collins for her work with the Hunger Games trilogy, and I read the Message Bible daily right now for my annual NT exegetical devotional time.

I’m drawn to writers who run towards the tension – the paradoxes – and do their best to express how some level of transcendence exists around us that we’re naturally blind too, but have begun to notice more little by little of God’s craftsmanship in the story of humanity. Some glory – or God – in everything. Because he made everything.

We are the observers of the universe. We are the seers of God. The stewards of all that is Earth. In Lewis’ memoir ‘Surprised by Joy’ he says Joy, is a byproduct of focusing on an object of delight. And the only object capable of producing genuine Joy – an inextinguishable peace with reality – is the triune Creator God who sings the universe’s existence into being and breathed spiritual life into our lungs found in Genesis 1:1. That’s an earth-shifting realization: You can’t have Joy while focusing on Joy, because Joy is produced through our focus on the object, which produces it. Joy doesn’t produce joy. If you focus on your joy, it will vanish in the same moment.

Rob Bell is the Lewis of our generation (IMO). Although he is more controversial than Lewis was, much of this can be attributed to our generation’s greater complexities, integrations, and information tsunami. So naturally, writers of spiritual books (including myself) are more prone to controversy than ever. This valuable wisdom from the Apostle James is now, more than ever: Be slow to speak and quick to listen.

Lastly, Adair Lara from San Francisco wrote a book called ‘Naked, Drunk, and Writing’ that has been more helpful than any other book on writing I’ve read. It even beats out Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ and Lamott’s ‘Bird by Bird’ in terms of what it did for the quality of my writing immediately.

Besides writing you are also a singer-songwriter. What are your musical influences and how would you describe your music?

Yes, that’s correct. The first writing I did for pleasure was song lyrics. Not sentences. And I still find song writing to be incredibly therapeutic. Perhaps, in retrospect, that’s the sole reason I wrote songs from the beginning: I needed therapy but didn’t know it. Coincidentally, I decided to begin playing guitar, and it just kind of… happened. But most importantly, writing songs opened my eyes to a whole new aspect of reality. By finding methods to be deeply known and expressive through media, that is interesting AND helpful, I felt as if I’d landed in myself for the first time in my life.

I was most heavily influenced by the bands I was listening to while playing venues in my early twenties. Some of those bands are still around like Band of Horses and Jimmy Eat World.  Others such as Copeland, Mae, and Brand New are finished, but I still listen to them almost daily. Manchester Orchestra is by far my favorite band. Andy Hull is musically unmatched in their genre right now. In 2002 I bought The Format’s debut album ‘Intervention and Lullabies’ who’s lead vocalists is now the front man for F.U.N. FUN’s debut album blew me away – before it got radio burn (which is like carpet burn but when radio stations over play a song until you want to strangle yourself with the telephone cord at work) – moving on… and The Format was a nice peak into what would become the main focus of my music interest (indie-epic-pop-alternative-rock songs with big hooks). Those make me happy on the inside.

Thanks to Cole for his great responses. Check him out at