I owe a lot to Lara Hays, author of young adult romance, but she didn’t know it until recently.
Last year, I received a Nook for my birthday. New to the world of e-readers, I didn’t know what to download until a friend of mine posted on Facebook about her sister’s new release, Oceanswept. Because of this friend, I felt an instant connection to an author whom I had never met. I downloaded the book and started reading. Two sleepless nights later, I finished it. I brought my Nook to my husband and showed him what this author did, self-publishing her own work on an e-reader and suggested I could do the same. The journey began.
Lara Hays has recently released the sequel to Oceanswept: Undertow, the second of the Oceanswept Trilogy. She has also released two short stories in the Oceanswept Chronicles: “Stowaway” and “Intruder in the Brig”. These young adult stories feature high romance on the high seas, with swashbuckling pirates and fine English ladies. They are clean books, appropriate for young teens. You can click on the pictures to find the Amazon links to her books.
I had the opportunity to interview Lara and loved her answers:
1)Tell me about yourself.
I am a writer, a mother, a wife, a animal lover, an adoption advocate, traveler, and reader. I work full-time as a marketing copywriter. I blog (though the frequency has died down quite a bit) about nothing and everything, with an emphasis on adoption. I adore New Girl and have an long-term and rather illicit love affair with junk food.
2)Tell me about the Oceanswept Trilogy.
The Oceanswept Trilogy is a young adult historical fiction trilogy set in 18th century following 17-year-old Tessa Monroe who has moved with her father from England to the fledgling British colonies in the West Indies. Her ship is sunk by a hurricane and she manages to be rescued—by pirates. With a future of slavery in the offing, Tessa joins forces with Nicholas Holladay, a charismatic sailor ready to break free from a life of piracy. Mutiny is in the air. Tessa and Nicholas will either win their freedom or earn a spot at the gallows.
An addition to the three-novel trilogy, I have written (and plan to write more) a couple of short-stories that take place in the Oceanswept world with the same characters. These short stories are called Oceanswept Chronicles. They aren’t necessary to the story of the trilogy, but just fun extras.
3) Who is your favorite character, and why?
My favorite character is actually Captain Black. His role is smallish in Oceanswept and practically nonexistent in Undertow, but he is hugely significant in the third book and he is a fascinating character. I also love Nicholas. Who doesn’t? Daring and handsome and brave, but there is a lot to him under the surface.
4) What was the hardest scene to write, and why?
The hardest scenes for me to write are often the transition scenes between dramatic events. Keeping the pace, keeping things interesting and realistic, yet still being able to connect the dots between all the dramatic events to make a big picture.
5) Are any characters or scenes based off of real life events/people?
No, not directly. One of my character’s names is very symbolic, based off a real person and what they mean to me. I have traveled to the Caribbean twice and pull from my experiences with the ocean and the islands. There are a few small things that are based off real events. There’s a small scene in Undertow when Tessa is watching the sunrise and when the sun crests the horizon, she listens to hear the sea sizzle because her father taught her that—even though she knew the sea doesn’t sizzle. My father taught me the same thing and to this day, if I am by the ocean during a sunrise or sunset, I listen for the sound of the sea sizzling.
6) Why pirates?
I love stories about redemption because it’s something everyone can relate too. Pirates—aside from creating an adventurous backdrop—represent “evil” and we have Nicholas and even Tessa to an extent navigating that world of evil and trying to get out of it and redeem themselves. It’s a metaphor that’s popular in many novels, movies, and TV shows. Think of all the vampire stuff that’s so popular now. It’s the same story. Redemption. Plus, I’ve always been fascinated with sailing and with the ocean, so if I am going to spend countless hours researching and writing, it might as well be about something I enjoy!
7) I read Oceanswept and would definitely let my 12-year-old read it. What is your target audience? What would you say to parents who are hesitant to introduce their preteen daughters to the romance genre?
“Romance” is such a tricky word. We automatically think of those steamy bodice rippers at the grocery store. I honestly prefer to classify it as a Young Adult Historical Romance for that reason, but the romance is what everyone loves about the story so we can’t leave that out! My intended audience is females 13+. I leave the + there because I think more adults have enjoyed my books than teenagers! I would tell parents that it is a clean romance. All virtue remains intact. All thoughts are pure! And remember, most all books no matter their genre incorporate love interests and romance in some way. So this is a great way for teens to experience a love-story that is going to be clean.
8.) Is Oceanswept the first book you’ve ever written? Please describe the writing process.
Yes, it is. I don’t even know how many books I have started, but Oceanswept was the first I finished. I think in the past I was too concerned with coming up with a book that others wanted to read, or that would garner critical acclaim or something lofty. This time, I decided to write a book that I would want to read. I got the idea in a meeting and created the entire outline in that meeting. I began writing in my spare time and I was obsessed. Every waking minute that I could spare, I was writing. I finished the first draft in three weeks.
9) What lessons have you learned from publishing?
Format as you go! If plan A doesn’t work, go with plan B, plan C, plan D, whatever. Don’t give up and don’t let others dictate your dream.
10) What are your future plans for the Oceanswept Chronicles and other books?
I am working on a young adult book right now about a teenage boy whose recently divorced mother purchased a hospice and his new home is living among dying people as he struggles to shape his own life in the midst of a broken family. It is definitely a departure from swashbuckling adventure and teen romance, but I hope my readers will take the leap with me. I have an outline of the final book of the Oceanswept Trilogy and that will hopefully be available in about a year. I am also planning to continue to supply more Chronicles—I don’t know how many of those might crop up. They’re just fun and people love little “director’s cuts” of the stories. So I don’t necessarily have a limit on them. I have even taken requests on what extra details readers want.
My author website is larahays.com, though I need to be better about updating it.
You’ll get the most updates from me at Facebook.com/LaraHaysAuthor
And you can read my personal blog at pocketfullofprose.blogspot.com