Author Interview: Laura Cacace
As part of a new blog series right here on my website, each Sunday I'll be interviewing a different author about their writing journey. If you are an author and would like to be interviewed for this series, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or use the contact form on my website.
Laura Cacace graduated from Hunter College in Manhattan with a degree in English Creative Writing in 2014. Since then, she has been writing and posting books on Wattpad and Radish under the name @laura_writes, reaching a combined total of approximately half a million reads from readers all over the world.
Her first novel, Trace the Edges, won an Amazon Kindle Scout campaign, and was published by Amazon’s Kindle Press in 2018. She lives in New York with her family, and loves coffee, music, spending time with friends and family, putting her cell phone down for hours at a time, and warm, sunny days.
I caught up with Laura to interview her about her writing journey so far. Read her answers below!
Where and when did you first know that you wanted to become a writer?
I don’t think I can pinpoint any one particular time when I knew, with absolute certainty, that I wanted to be a writer, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t feeling it for a long time.
Ever since I was a little girl I loved to read, and writing was something I always loved the idea of, but was too scared to actually pursue. Being a writer isn’t exactly a financially stable career, you know? But over the years, I found myself writing short stories here and there, and loved every moment of it. I loved any excuse to be the least bit creative, really. It was the BEST THING EVER when creative writing was required for a school assignment, but those occasions were few and far between.
It wasn’t until what was meant to be my last year of college, after changing my major twice, that I made the decision to do what my gut had been telling me for quite some time. I ended up graduating with a degree in English and a focus on Creative Writing, and I haven’t looked back since.
Who is your favorite author, and can you give us their best quote in your opinion?
I can’t pick just one favorite author. That’s like asking me to pick a favorite book! There’s a list, a top three, a top five, a top ten, and the order changes almost constantly… So, here’s a very brief list. Just to spare myself the struggle of having to choose one.
The obvious favorite is J.K. Rowling. The story of Harry Potter is a straight-up masterpiece, and no one can tell me otherwise. So, she’s an all-time favorite, but at the moment, I’m loving anything and everything by Sarah J. Maas—especially her 'A Court of Thorns and Roses' series.
But rather than give you a quote from either of those insanely talented women, I’d like to share what’s probably my most favorite quote of all time, out of all the books I’ve read, and it was written by another of my favorite authors, Betty Smith, in her novel 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn':
“Dear God," she prayed, "let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry...have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well dressed. Let me be sincere - be deceitful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.”
How long did it take you to write your first novel?
A little over three years from start to finish.
I wrote the first draft over the course of a year, and edited the hell out of it over the course of the next two. About halfway through writing the first draft, I knew that I was going to drastically change certain elements of the story, including combining two side characters who would serve the plot better as one, more crucial character, as well as the timing and setting of certain scenes.
It was a task I had underestimated as I headed into edits the first time, which led me to a long while thereafter where I avoided the work completely. But as much as it felt like I was neglecting the book, those few months of staying away from it truly served the story in the end because I allowed myself the time to let everything simmer and tie up any loose ends in my head. So, when I finally did dive back into edits, I blew through them in just a few short months.
By the end of the second year, I felt comfortable enough to let people read it, which included family and close friends. Then, in the third year, I knew there was nothing more I could do or change without a more critical eye, so I reached out to the lovely Bryony, whose insight made 'Trace the Edges' what it is today.
Do you plan out your novels or just start writing?
I really wish I was the kind of writer who planned my novels, but the fact of the matter is, I’m just not. I do start with major plot points in mind, and I jot them down. And maybe I’ll do a rough character sketch or two—but, for the most part, I just start writing. I find it’s the best way to tell myself the story. A first draft isn’t supposed to be good anyway, and by not planning extensively I sort of give myself permission to let it be as terrible as it needs to be.
Better ideas always present themselves over the course of the writing, anyway. So, the most planning I do is between writing the first draft and the start of edits, when I know what I want to change and when I’m eager to turn the rough draft into the polished, exciting version I’ve always believed it could be.
Description or dialogue?
This is a tough question. I’ve never actually thought about it before, ha!
I don’t necessarily know that I prefer one over the other. They’re both so important in the telling of a good story, and they’re fun to write for different reasons. But, I think, sometimes writing description can be more of a chore than writing dialogue. Setting the scene in particular can be difficult because it means having to remember your character’s surroundings, what they’re wearing, how all of that will affect their conversation, etc., whereas dialogue (at least, when it really gets going) tends to just flow out of me. The characters tend to take just take over, and what they say, quite literally in this instance, goes.
So, in answer, I think I prefer to write dialogue, but writing dialogue also means writing descriptions interspersed throughout, which can be fun, too. So, dialogue may win, but only by a hair. ;)
Have you ever read your book reviews/comments, and if yes, what did you think of them?
I have, yes. And I know the golden rule for authors (particularly new ones) is to never look at reviews…BUT I CAN’T HELP MYSELF. I think that’s mostly because I’ve been writing and posting my work on Wattpad for the past several years, and Wattpad is all about reading comments from readers and interacting with them. And I’m so happy to say that the large majority of comments from readers have been not only positive, but encouraging.
The same has held true for the reviews left on Amazon for Trace the Edges. And because the reviews have been so positive thus far, it’s harder and harder not to keep looking, ha!
I’m so incredibly grateful to anyone and everyone who has taken the time to leave their thoughts about my work on any platform. I think it’s the biggest compliment a writer can receive, to be honest. It’s one thing for a reader to pick up your book, and another thing for them to like it. But for them to take that next step to formulate their thoughts and review it? There’s no higher compliment, if you ask me!
Do you believe in writer’s block?
I want to say no, and I don’t know why I want to say no. Maybe because I wish I could say that if you feel “blocked”, writing through it should help.
That’s always been my solution to “writer’s block”—to write through it, even if what comes out is absolutely terrible. But in the interest of honesty, I have to say that these last couple of months, I haven’t even managed to write through it. I’m in a bit of a rut, it seems. I can’t even get myself to sit down and write something particularly bad to get through it. Is that writer’s block? I’m not sure.
It’s not because I have a lack of ideas, or that I don’t know where the two stories I’d like to work on are headed. It’s only because I haven’t been able to sit down and force myself to do the work. So, I guess if that’s not writer’s block, I don’t know what is.
What has been the most difficult challenge you’ve had to face as a writer?
I’m about to get a bit deep here, haha, so consider this your warning.
I genuinely think the most difficult challenge I’ve had to face is the back and forth in my own head about how I’m going to make this work. “This” meaning being a writer in general. Making it my career.
My family and friends couldn’t be more supportive, so I’ve faced no push-back there, and virtually everyone else I’ve told about my writing has been interested, encouraging, and supportive. Not that what anyone else thinks matters to me all that much, anyway, but I know I’m lucky to have that support.
The work is difficult, of course, and these days, it’s been scarier than ever looking at that blank page. But I can handle that because I love it, and I know there’s nothing else I’d rather do. So, nothing scares me more than thinking that being an author, my biggest dream, will ultimately not work out. And I thought those fears might ease somewhat after publishing my first novel, but so far, that hasn’t happened, ha!
I’m starting to think it’s going to be a fear that sticks with me throughout my career, no matter how far I go or how long it lasts. And waking up with that fear every day—I’m pretty sure it will always be the most difficult challenge I have faced, and will face, as a writer. But I’ve gotten this far in the face of it. I plan to keep chugging along despite it. :)
What is the best purchase you’ve ever made as a writer?
It sounds silly, but any and all notebooks and pens I’ve bought over the years.
I do the bulk of my work on my laptop, yes, but I’m the kind of writer who likes to write things by hand first. I wrote the entire first draft of 'Trace the Edges' by hand, typing it up by chapter as I went, and I’ve written the first draft of my next book by hand as well. Not to mention, I’ve got notebooks full of scribbled notes, reminders, questions, answers to those questions, plot twists, character sketches, etc.
So, the obvious answer would be my laptop, but without regular old pen and paper I’m not sure I would’ve actually written my first novel. Or any of the books after it.
Which software or platform do you use to write your books?
I actually use Pages for pretty much everything. I didn’t have Microsoft Word on my laptop until this past fall (I know, what kind of writer am I?), but I will probably use that for my next book, just so that I won’t have to convert everything once I’m done with it.
I do post my work on Wattpad and Radish, but I don’t ever write directly on their websites. Every chapter of every story has been written in Pages first, then transferred into the writing space on those websites. I don’t know, maybe I’m paranoid, but I like having it saved to my computer first. I’m too afraid of losing everything if the websites crash!
What does literary success mean to you?
I used to think it meant getting to publish with a traditional publishing house. Getting an agent, all that. Now, the meaning has changed quite a bit for me.
I don’t think of literary success as reaching that one, all-encompassing point every writer is trying to reach. I think there are many different kinds of success that each and every writer can achieve over the course of their journey. For example, finishing my first novel was a huge success for me. Having family and friends read it and LIKE it was another huge success. Posting on Wattpad and Radish and having people enjoy my work enough that it’s garnered hundreds of thousands of views is a success I still can’t quite wrap my head around. And winning the Kindle Scout campaign with 'Trace the Edges' has been my biggest success yet.
So, I no longer think of “literary success” as a certain point I need to reach by a certain time in order to feel like I’ve “made it”. Because my journey so far has shown me that there’s so much to celebrate with this particular career. Each small milestone is worth recognizing and getting excited about. And I intend to celebrate each small success I manage to find, every step of way.
What’s your favourite self-editing technique?
Scrapping the whole project and starting a new one. Kidding! Obviously.
Haha, in all seriousness, I wouldn’t say I have a “technique”. Once I’ve finished a draft, I do my best to leave it alone for at least a month. Longer if I can. That way, I can dive back into it with a fresher outlook on the story. Maybe during that in-between time I’ll do some character sketches, and/or jot down ways to fix plot holes, things I want to add or take out, etc. I don’t do a lot of that stuff at the start of writing a story.
Like I said earlier, I tend to just start writing in the beginning, so I’ll take that time in between drafts to really brainstorm how I want the story to change. Then, when I finally get into the edits themselves, I just go for it. With 'Trace the Edges', a lot of it became rewriting, and I’m sure the same thing will happen with my newest project as well. And with 'Trace the Edges', I printed the whole first draft out and went at it with a red pen.
But, since so much of it did end up being rewritten, I decided with my newest project to type it up all at once and edit as I go. Which hasn’t yet happened, haha, but it will! But that’s part of the beauty of being a writer, I’ve found. There’s no right way to do any of it—even if you’re the same author writing a different book. Because each book demands something different from you, and I’m not the same person I was when I wrote 'Trace the Edges'. Maybe one day, I will have a favorite technique for the way I do certain things, but for now, I’m evolving with my work, and it’s the best feeling ever.
Are you working on a novel right now? If yes, can you tell us a little about it?
“Working” is a strong word, haha, but yes, I am. And I’d rather not say too much about it, if it’s all the same to you—just because I’m still trying to work it all out for myself! I’m in that in-between, brainstorming stage, which is lasting longer than I wanted it to, remember? ;) But I CAN say that it’s more than likely the start of a Young Adult trilogy, maybe with some elements of magical realism. I know, I know, we don’t have NEARLY enough of those! But it’s an idea I came up with back when I started college, and I’m still in love with it to this day. So, that’s pretty telling, isn’t it? I’m SO happy to be “working” on it now.
The other thing I’m working on is a new project for Radish. It’ll more than likely be a standalone New Adult novel, unless I completely fall head over heels in love with the characters by the end and want to stay with them a little longer. I wouldn’t put it past myself to write a sequel if that were the case. But I don’t want to say too much about this one either, because again, haven’t written it yet!
I’m also about 98% sure I’ve made the decision to self-publish my New Adult duology, Somewhere in the Middle and Crossing Boundaries, currently on Radish. So, I’ll be working on getting those ready for publication in the coming months as well. Lots to do, which is always exciting!
Which book are you most excited to read next?
Oh my gosh, Sarah J. Maas has a new book coming out in the 'A Court of Thorns and Roses' series this May! AND the final book of her 'Throne of Glass' series is FINALLY coming out this fall after the publishing date was pushed back TWICE. I can’t wait for either one, but I’ve been eagerly anticipating the conclusion of her fantastic 'Throne of Glass' series right along with everyone else for a couple of years now, so I think I’m even more excited for that one, just to see how she pulls it all to a close.
I’m also really excited to read Renee Ahdieh’s 'Flame in the Mist' series. I put off reading the first one when it came out last year so that I could read the two together when the second comes out this May. Delayed gratification, and all that.
What is your best piece of advice for aspiring writers?
I mean it so genuinely when I say that I still consider myself an aspiring writer in so many ways.
It’s like I said before, getting 'Trace the Edges' published was a success, without question. But I know that there’s still so much left for me to learn. And there’s still so much I want to achieve! So, I don’t have much to say by way of advice other than this: Write. And do it for yourself first. Write whatever makes your heart beat a little bit faster when you think about it. Write even when it’s not going the way you planned. Write even when you feel like pulling all your hair out, strand by strand. Because when it’s done, you’ve reached your first bit of success as a writer, even if no one’s read it. And when people have read it, you’ll find that you’ll feel even more successful. And if/when you publish it—however you choose to publish—when it reaches the hands and hearts of more readers, you’ll feel that much more successful. And then…that familiar itch will return, right alongside that familiar ache in your heart. That’s when you start your next story, and the process begins all over again.
Just write. And enjoy every bit of the journey.
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You can follow along with Laura's writing journey on the following platforms...
Author Website: https://www.lauracacace.com/
Goodreads: Laura Cacace