In this episode, Belinda Pollard, Alison Young and Donita Bundy interview writing coach and author Laura Thomas, who describes herself as a late bloomer in her writing career. Laura speaks about facing rejection and finding support on the path to publishing 9 books across non-fiction, romantic suspense and teen and children’s fiction.
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In conversation in this episode:
- Belinda Pollard, author of mainstream crime novels, writing coach, accredited editor with qualifications in theology, blogger at smallbluedog.com, and Gracewriters founder
- Alison Joy, romance author, former early childhood teacher and mother of 4 adult children
- Donita Bundy, writing teacher, preacher and author of the Armour of Light urban fantasy series
- Laura Thomas writing coach and author of non-fiction, teen and children’s fiction and romantic suspense
Topics covered in this episode:
- How Laura began her writing career after burying the dream for many years.
- The process of persevering through rejection – even after prior success – that built Laura’s publishing career, and her faith.
- The learning never stops… but don’t let impostor syndrome hold you back.
Connect with Laura
Laura’s website includes a full bio, book details, blog, and coaching: https://www.laurathomasauthor.com
- INSTAGRAM: @lauracthomas
- FACEBOOK PAGE: @LauraThomasAuthor
- TWITTER: @Laura_Thomas_
- PINTEREST: lauracthomas
- GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5837074.Laura_Thomas
- BOOKBUB: https://bit.ly/2Uj4gyR
- YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAIg1LlXedxtfqmEAssdgnQ
Find links to various retailers here: Laura Thomas books
Click the book cover to view on Amazon.
Please use the sharing buttons at top and bottom of this post to share on social media or directly with Christian writers you know.
Belinda Pollard: Welcome to the Gracewriters Podcast – Christian Writers Changing Popular Culture. Hit subscribe on your favourite podcast player so you never miss an episode and find show notes, useful links and a full transcript at gracewriters.com.
Welcome to today’s podcast with our special guest, Laura Thomas.
I’m Belinda Pollard. I’m an author, editor and writing coach with a theology degree and 20 years in the publishing industry. Find links to my blogs, books and online courses at belindapollard.com.
Alison Joy: Hi, I’m Alison Young. I’m a former early childhood educator. I live in south-east Queensland and I have four adult children and I write romance under the pen name, Alison Joy. You can find all my information on alisonjoywriter.com.
Donita Bundy: Hi, I’m Donita Bundy and for the past 20 years I’ve been using my theology degree to underpin my preaching and public speaking and more recently to inspire my young adult urban fantasy series, Armour of Light. You can find out all about me at donitabundy.com.
Alison Joy: Welcome to you, Laura. Just a little bit of an introduction. Laura describes her writing as heartwarming encouragement for your soul and has published books across a number of genres including romantic suspense and teen fiction. She has a middle-grade children’s short novel, a non-fiction marriage book and also writes devotions, short stories and various articles.
Laura enjoys speaking about her faith, her writing journey and encouraging others by her blog and in writing workshops. Originally from the UK, Laura is married to her childhood sweetheart and has three young adult children and as a late bloomer in terms of writing career, she joins us today from her home in British Columbia in Canada.
Donita Bundy: Welcome!
Laura Thomas: Thank you so much, it’s an absolute joy to be with you!
Donita Bundy: Laura, as a way for us to get to know you a little bit better, we’re wondering if you would be willing to undergo the rapid-fire five? Five questions from us just to get to know your writing style a little bit better.
Laura Thomas: Absolutely! Fire away!
Donita Bundy: Alright. Who is your target audience?
Laura Thomas: Okay. So, I am multi-genre. I am just going to break this very quickly into two. I would say Christian women for my non-fiction and for my fiction, Christian women and children and teens plus anybody who’s open to a clean read / story of faith.
Donita Bundy: Awesome! Thank you.
Laura Thomas: Sorry! That wasn’t very rapid fire!
Donita Bundy: No, no! It was enough! That was enough. You had a lot of ground to cover there!
So, what would you say is your main genre? We’ve been hearing that you cover a fair bit but, in your heart, what would be your main genre?
Laura Thomas: That’s kind of like asking me to pick one of my children.
Donita Bundy: Yes.
Laura Thomas: But I would probably go with my most current that I’ve had published. So, that would be Christian romantic suspense and the last three books have been in that genre.
Donita Bundy: Awesome! When is your optimum time for writing?
Laura Thomas: Somewhat weirdly, it’s the afternoon. I would love to be able to say I’m like a ‘burn the midnight oil’ or ‘get up first thing at 5am every morning’ but truly, I have to do all the things and get myself in a really good place so that I can, especially for creative writing, just write without any other distraction. So, yes, afternoons are actually my best.
Donita Bundy: Cool! And where is your favourite place to write?
Laura Thomas: It’s actually right here from where I’m speaking to you. It’s my home office. It used to be my place where I used to home-school my kids many years ago and then I was delighted to turn it into my writing room. So, this where I am. I’ve got all my books. Yes. I’ve got everything to hand. It’s quiet and so this where the work gets done.
Donita Bundy: And also, how did you get into writing in the first place?
Laura Thomas: Okay. This is not a good question for your rapid fire! A very long story short. I always had a dream of being an author from when I was a little bookworm child and I kept my dream a secret for 25 years and finally, my husband unearthed it and encouraged me to make it happen. So, it literally was a very long time brewing but I’m basically thanking my husband for it because he encouraged me. Yes, the rest is history!
Belinda Pollard: I don’t want to go away from that question just yet. Can you tell us just a little bit more about your husband’s involvement in the process because some people have a spouse who’s not helpful or even obstructive. Can we just hear a little bit more about how that worked?
Laura Thomas: Sure, yes, of course! He’s still my greatest cheerleader. I can’t say enough about it. I’m very grateful and I don’t take it for granted because I know that’s not always the case. But as I said, for me, I literally wanted to be Beatrix Potter when I was a small child and wanted to be an author.
By the time I hit my early teens I got really distracted with school and boys and all the other things and, honestly, I buried that dream. I never told a single solitary soul, not my parents, not my teacher, not friends. I didn’t think it would ever happen, quite honestly. One of those real grandiose kind of dreams. So, I buried it.
I met my husband. I started dating him when I was 14 so we’ve been together forever! And I didn’t even tell him all those years. We immigrated from England to Canada and we had kids and I homeschooled and then we literally were out on a coffee date and we were having one of those deep and meaningful conversations and he was asking me, “What’s your dream?” We’ve done all the dreams. We immigrated. We did all this and he said, “No, you’ve got to have dream still. What would it be?” And so, I said, “Well, there’s my dream of writing a book one day.” And he said, “What! What is this?! I’ve known you forever and why is this the first I’m hearing of it?” So, I said, “I buried it. I thought maybe when we retire one day, I might get round to it.”
And he dug into that. He wasn’t going to let me go with that one, at all. So, he said, “Are you serious? Because if this is something that’s really on your heart, you need to make this happen.” And so, again, very long story short, I was homeschooling my three kids, I was a worship director at our church, really busy and he said, “If you want to do something badly enough, you’ll make the time to do it.”
So, literally, over my Caramel Macchiato in Starbucks, the decision was made. I had no clue. I literally left school at 16 and went into banking. I was really starting fresh in my mid to late 30’s. So, I just started with a writing course that I’d got accepted into in the States, a correspondence course and that was the beginning and it was just like writing in the little cracks of time between school and my kids. My husband always behind me going, “You can do this. You can do this.” Starting to submit stories and being rejected and just keeping on and keeping on. He’s been great.
And honestly, we would clearly have starved to death by now if we had relied on my income! I mean, physically, it’s been great, too!
Belinda Pollard: That’s wonderful! I love that story.
Alison Joy: Yes, I really like hearing other authors talk about their writing journey. It’s so good because everybody’s so different.
One of the pieces of advice I’ve heard often is to find your lane and stick to it but you’ve dabbled in a few different areas. So, is it more about following the prompting of God than staying in one lane or how have you negotiated several different lanes?
Laura Thomas: That’s such a good question. I love to think that it was definitely God prompting me and not the fact that I couldn’t decide!
Belinda Pollard: Multi-passionate!
Laura Thomas: That’s what it is and I’m definitely multi-passionate. As I said, I literally wanted to be a picture book writer and that, still to this day, is my dream. I still have manuscripts that are doing the rounds and that is still my dream.
I guess my first things published were children’s stories in magazines because that was the route I presumed I would go. And then I had a story from a short story, I made that into a manuscript for Christian teen girls for my fiction novel. And that got published and it snowballed from teen fiction into middle grade into romance and all these different things plus all the while I’ve been writing devotions for children, women. Short stories, magazine articles and honestly, I really just think God’s just been opening up the doors and I’ve been like, “Sure! Don’t know if I can do it but, sure!” And so, it really has just been a matter of taking a bit of a deep breath. It’s huge imposter syndrome that all of us have, right? Imposter syndrome in all the genres! Who am I to think I can do this?!
Belinda Pollard: It’s on my business card. Belinda Pollard, publishing consultant, editor, writer, imposter.
Laura Thomas: I totally hear you! But honestly, it has to be God because I think I would have given up a very long time ago otherwise. I just have to trust that He’s got an audience for me in all these different genres. And I enjoy them all.
If I didn’t like doing it, I wouldn’t do it. Like I said at the beginning, it’s kind of like asking to pick my favourite child, when people ask me to pick my favourite genre because it’s just such a privilege and a joy to be able to write for many different audiences.
Belinda Pollard: I love the way that you have built all of this. You’ve worked on all these different types of writing. You’ve been published in all these different environments and yet you finished school at 16, you said.
Laura Thomas: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: But you have not left it here. It’s not that you magically, I’m guessing, God magically gave you the ability to write well and grammatically and all the rest of it. You worked on it; I’m guessing.
Laura Thomas: And still, still. I’ve always said, “The day I turn around and say I have learned all the things as a writer is the day I should definitely put my pen down!” It’s just constant, constant learning and I think I’m still very, very aware of the fact that I need to be taking courses. Not obsessively taking courses, but definitely have my radar so that…
Even, a couple of weeks ago, I had an all-day picture book seminar that I went to just because that’s still my genre and I want to write it and I want to learn all the things.
It’s been very much a slow and steady process and I’m definitely still learning with every book I’ve had published. I’m a little cringy at the first things that I wrote now looking back but never throw anything out! Writing friends who are listening, never throw anything out because then you’ll be able to look back and see how much you’ve grown. So, there is that, too.
Belinda Pollard: And even go back and rework it if you wish.
Laura Thomas: Yes, absolutely! Absolutely. I think there would be something wrong if we weren’t improving along the way. Definitely, I’m just a work in progress and I just keep going, keep learning.
Belinda Pollard: It’s so encouraging. I worked with an author a couple of years ago who doesn’t even have a computer. He writes on his phone and has significant difficulties from having had a head injury. And (this is not what you’re like) others can help him then get the writing technicalities sorted out but the message of what he writes is great.
Laura Thomas: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: Beautiful stories and quite deep stuff. So, I’m just so encouraged to hear what you’ve created because it’s encouraging to our other listeners out there because there are other people out there, also, who finished school young.
My mother is one of my greatest supporters and she finished school young but she is actually one of my proofreaders now and she’s really, really good at it.
Laura Thomas: That’s awesome! People ask me a lot, “Do you wish you’d gone to university and done your Creative Writing degree and got all the qualifications and stuff?” but I’ve got many, many years of experience and that is what I draw from.
I think if I’d gone into writing as a fresh-faced 22-year-old or whatever, I think it would have been awful, frankly. I don’t think I would have had anything much to say. I feel like nothing is ever wasted with God. I’m a firm believer in that. Just life experience and raising kids. Just watching a child grow, you’ve got enough fodder there for many, many novels.
So, I don’t believe anything is ever wasted. I don’t think it’s ever too late to start writing and start following that writing dream.
Alison Joy: Can I just say, I was an early childhood teacher so the picture book thing is one of my dreams as well.
Laura Thomas: Yes! That’s awesome.
Alison Joy: You’re traditionally published, Laura, so can you walk us through the process of finding a publisher for your work? Do you have an agent or how did you go about it?
Laura Thomas: I think everybody has their own weird and wonderful journey into this. Let me think. Originally, my first book, I didn’t have an agent and so that was with my Christian teen fiction that I told you about, Tears to Dancing. I literally just went to our friend Google and googled all the Christian publishers and just started sending it out to them, basically. All the ones that were open to writers that didn’t have agents and just got a lot of rejections until I got an acceptance.
Belinda Pollard: Yay!
Laura Thomas: I wrote that, I sent it off and I just moved that to one side and carried on with my next thing. So, I certainly wasn’t sitting at home twiddling my thumbs waiting for a reply but that’s how that ball starting rolling. That’s a small publisher in the States. I did my one book and I’m like, “Excellent, I’m done. Ooh, I’m an author!” but they were like, “Could you do another one, like a follow-up, and then make it a trilogy?” Then I had an idea for a middle grade and then the non-fiction marriage book because my daughter was getting married. So, that was all with that one publisher.
At that point, I hadn’t even done anything with agents or anything. And then, with my Christian teen fiction, that’s been a whole other thing. I love to be able to try and encourage writers because sometimes it’s a long, long, long time where you’re just sending things out and you don’t hear back and it can be awfully discouraging.
But for my Christian romantic suspense, The Glass Bottom Boat, it actually was six years from when I first sent it in to a Harlequin pitch kind of a thing for their Christian romance line. From that point, I went through a gambit of being rejected. They wanted to see it then they rejected it, and then lots more rejections and then I got an agent through a conference and thought, “Yay, here we go!” He had it for close on two years and didn’t have any joy with it and so then he terminated our agreement.
Is this the end? Especially as a Christian you’re like, “God, do you not want this to go out? Can you just tell me?”
I dusted myself off and within a week I did – I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Twitter pitches?
Belinda Pollard: Yes.
Laura Thomas: I think they might be worldwide, right? The FaithPitch, I did that and I got a three-book deal with another traditional small publisher in the States. Again, without an agent.
I did another Twitter pitch with my children’s books and got an agent through the Twitter pitch. Sorry, this is really confusing and rambly! All this to say, you can do it with and without an agent.
I’m at the point now, my last agent has just finished so I would love to have an agent now to just take this off my hands, my picture book and my next romantic book that I’ve written, and just say, “Here, let me have this and I’ll sort everything out for you,” because I feel like that would be lovely! But it’s not always the way.
So, all that to say, an agent is awesome and I would thoroughly recommend trying to get one through conferences, just through submitting online. Online conferences have been the thing, obviously, of late given the current climate!
Agents are amazing if you can get one but if you can’t get one, it’s definitely doable to approach those smaller publishers just by yourself. I mean, if you’ve got a manuscript and it fits with what they’re looking for, they’re going to take you!
Belinda Pollard: I’m really interested in that thought and feeling: is the rejection a sign? Is the rejection of my manuscript a sign from the Lord or is it a resistance that I need to push through?
Donita and Alison, do you have thoughts about that, as well, because I just find that’s a big question, isn’t it, and a big issue.
Alison Joy: Yes. It’s always a huge thing when you come across that because you don’t know if it’s part of the journey and you’ve got to grow as a person and grow in your relationship with God through the resistance or is it just like, “Okay. Slam the door shut.” You don’t know.
Donita Bundy: And I think, probably, one of the hardest things would be that you’ve been accepted by an agent and at that point, that’s when the celebration happens but then to have the agent say, “Ah well, yes, it’s been nice but no thanks,” is just crushing and I can see at that point you would be thinking, “What is the point of all this? Why was that door opened?”
But, as you’ve said at the beginning, no experience is wasted. So, somewhere along the line there were lessons possibly to learn. A lot of the time, I think, it’s difficult to discern. Is it a shut door one way and an open door somewhere else or is it God saying, “Actually, no, I’m not with you on this.”
But the only way we can really discern that difference is by taking time out and really sitting and listening to God and just coming before Him. I think the hard thing is coming with an open hand and just saying, “If this is not where my manuscript is going, if this is not something that you’re endorsing,” then being prepared to let go and walk away. So that would be the tricky thing but I think that’s what we need to do. Just to come with an open hand and be prepared to listen and that’s the only way, I think, we can discern the difference but definitely we’re up against it.
When you’re writing and you’ve got Gracenotes and we’re wanting to change popular culture and we want to make a difference and we want to stir the pot, we are going to come against confrontation and attacks. So discerning that difference is tricky but again, learning the process, part of the journey and deepening our faith and growing as a Christian, I think.
Belinda Pollard: Laura, you’ve been teaching writers, as well, teaching writing workshops. What types of things are you teaching and how are you targeting that? Who is it for?
Laura Thomas: I’ve done it for Christian audience and secular. Just for writers, basically. And honestly, hopefully it’s come through today as well, I just really want to encourage other writers who are just like in the trenches and who are feeling the weight of it all.
My main thing that I usually speak on is called Dare to Dream, and I talk about my own personal journey in more detail just how that all happened and everything. Getting people to nail down what their actual dream is, to work on defining the heart of their writing, focusing it through the lens of their personal tag lines and getting daily fresh ideas and inspiration. Directing everything through their ideal reader. Really nuts and bolts stuff as well as the overarching writing dream. How to make it happen and coming away with a few tangible things.
My busy thing, at the moment, is I’m actually getting my coaching certification with hope*writers. That is taking up a lot of my time right now. I’m loving it! Very different from teaching, coaching. I’m learning this. It’s very different. Again, such a joy to be able to just be on the journey with people and guide them and just try and be as much of an encouragement as I can because people have been there for me along the way. It’s so lovely to be able to give back to that a little bit.
Donita Bundy: Laura, our slogan at Gracewriters is, Christian Writer’s Changing Popular Culture. How does this challenge you?
Laura Thomas: I love that! I think, as a fiction writer if I can weave faith and hope into relevant, relatable stories that encourage not only Christians but also those who are even open to reading something that maybe has hope. If there’s anything everybody in the world can agree on, we need hope!
So, these stories of hope, even if they’re not in-your-face Christian stories, just pointing them in the right direction, I think that’s huge.
There’s always going to be a place, as well, for clean reads. I’m surprised at the number of people who will pick up my books, not necessarily because they want Christian fiction, but because they want something that’s not going to make them cringe. Or that they can give to their mother or their grandmother. So, I think there’s a place for that, as well.
I feel like sometimes, God has given me this little page in His massive, great big story book and it’s up to me whether I fill that page with some idle doodlings or whether I actually make my words count. And so, at the end of the day, I really want my words to matter.
Donita Bundy: Yes, absolutely! You’ve been on this journey for so long and you’ve been telling us how you’ve had the knockbacks and the rejections and how it was really hard to actually just come out of the closet in the first place to admit to wanting to be a writer. I was just wondering, how has your faith changed, or grown and developed throughout the years that you’ve been pursing the dream of being a writer?
Laura Thomas: I’ve got to be honest, I don’t know whether I could have actually done this without my faith. It’s hard, right? It’s hard. The rejections and the floundering.
I’ve loved the fact that I’ve always been able to pray about everything. I can pray over every article that goes out, every manuscript. Just pray that God will give me the readers whether it’s ten or 10,000. That He would provide those readers. It has grown my faith because, as you said, there have been times where it’s just like, “Am I doing the right thing? What am I doing? Am I wasting my time? I want my life to make a difference. Am I sitting here at my keyboard, is this the best use of my time?”
But He never fails to just give me that little bit of encouragement. It might just be a little email from some random person who gets my newsletter and it might just be a little couple of sentences but it’s just enough to keep me going to another month, almost. Or just a favourable reply amidst all the other rejections.
He sees us, He love us as His children and He knows what we need to keep going. Yes, my faith has been stretched, for sure, and I’ve definitely grown. I really enjoy writing devotions and being a part of that. Even if I didn’t do any of my other stuff, I know that just being able to dig into the Word, it’s given me, definitely, a new fire in my belly to be able to share His word. So, yes, on so many levels I’ve definitely grown and hopefully will continue to grow.
Donita Bundy: Well, thank you, and thank you for your time this morning.
Belinda Pollard: Wonderful, wonderful stuff, Laura. Can you please tell the listeners where they can find you online?
Laura Thomas: Absolutely, yes! I’m at laurathomasauthor.com and everything is there. So, all my social media is there, all my books are there, as well. All the links to my books. My blog, writer’s coaching, everything! So, come join me. Join my newsletter. I have a monthly newsletter. I then do a book giveaway every month with yummy, delicious baking recipes as well as some soul encouragement and book recommendations. Just come say, “Hi!”
I promise, if anybody writes to me on my contact page, I will reply. So, I would love to. Especially, write from the other side of the world, that would so special! So, yes, come say, “Hi” at laurathomasauthor.com, I would love that.
Belinda Pollard: How about I pray for you as we finish up.
Laura Thomas: Thank you.
Belinda Pollard: Heavenly Father, we thank you for Laura and we thank you for the vision and the possibilities that you have given her. We thank you for that wonderful partner that she has who is her partner in life and also her partner in her writing and publishing adventures. And we thank you that You have been there. You have been deciding. You’ve had a plan in it all, all along, even at the times when Laura didn’t know what that plan was and You have a plan going forth into the future, too.
We entrust her to You. We pray that You will strengthen her, encourage her and sustain her. And we pray for all the Gracewriters out there who are trying to figure it out, trying to find their path, that You will give them encouragement and peace and strength in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Donita Bundy: Amen.
Alison Joy: Amen.
Laura Thomas: Amen. Thank you.
Belinda Pollard: Laura Thomas, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today. Thank you, Alison Joy and Donita Bundy.
I’m Belinda Pollard and we will see you next time on the Gracewriters podcast.
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