Writing in one genre is hard enough, but novelist Lauren Baratz-Logsted is one of those rare writers who works in three genres: adults, teens, and children. Break it down further, and Baratz-Logsted can transition between gritty urban fiction and sophisticated Victorian-era mysteries. In an industry that asks writers to develop a market-friendly identity and stick to it like glue, Lauren bucks the trends by successfully straddling multiple markets and writing where her muse takes her.
Her breakout bestselling novel for teens CRAZY-BEAUTIFUL, was an angsty modern retelling of the Beauty and the Beast myth. Her current release, THE EDUCATION OF BET, goes in the opposite direction. A YA historical set in Victorian England, Bet is a determined 16 year-old girl who wants a proper education. Trouble is, the good schools are for boys, and Bet decides to impersonate one in order to achieve her dreams. It’s a killer premise and a cracking good read.
Lauren has also collaborated with her husband Greg Logsted and daughter Jackie to write a children’s mystery series, the Sisters Eight. Yeah, I was blown away too.
Please enjoy part one of our two-part interview with mulit-talented author Lauren Baratz-Logsted.
Q: Tell us about your journey into becoming a full-time author. Have you always wanted to write fiction?
Lauren: I pinpoint age 12 as being the first time that I began thinking of writing in a way beyond school assignments but it wasn’t until 20 years later, in November of 1994, that I walked out on my day job of 11 years to finally take a chance on my dream. Over the next seven years I wrote as many novels, piling up a mass of rejections, until in May 2002 I finally sold the sixth novel I had written, The Thin Pink Line, as part of a two-book deal. To keep paying the mortgage during the unpublished years I worked as a Publishers Weekly reviewer, a freelance editor, a sort-of librarian and a window washer.
Q: How did you keep hope alive during the unpublished years? Also, does window washing pay well? Our readers might look into it, LOL.
Lauren: Window washing pays but I don’t imagine most people become wealthy at it. That said, it’s a great job for creative types – your body belongs to someone else but your mind is your own. I kept hope alive simply by believing in myself. Did I get discouraged at times? You bet. But as long as you keep putting one writing foot in front of the other, as long as you keep writing new books and coming up with new ideas and getting better at what you do, there’s no reason a person should ever give up on the dream.
Q: You are one of those rare birds in the industry, a multi-genre author. Can you tell us a little about how this happened?
Lauren: Organically. I didn’t set out to beat the odds or buck the system or however anyone might want to describe it. It’s simply that, from a reading perspective, I’m an eclectic reader. I read almost every genre as well as books for nearly every age group so it’s not surprising, at least to me, that my imagination would percolate in more than one direction. So unless I need to write a book for a specific genre or age group, because I have a contract stating that that’s what a particular publisher wants, I just explore whatever new avenues my imagination takes me on and hope the readers will follow.
Q: How do you juggle between YA audience and the adult, and then back to children? What should writers be mindful of when toggling between two markets? Do you have different agents for different genres?
Lauren: I have one agent for everything, Pamela Harty of The Knight Agency, and I adore her. In terms of juggling, when I write the first draft, I’m writing strictly for me. But when I begin revisions, that’s when the audience comes into view and I edit what I’ve done until I think it will be pleasing for some ideal reader. The biggest difference between writing for adults and writing for young adults or even younger children – outside of the length of the book – is a sense of responsibility. I don’t believe in sugar-coating things for a younger audience but I do feel a responsibility not to send the wrong message. I don’t want any kids jumping off bridges because they think I told them to.
Q: I’m on your twitter feed and I get blown away by your productivity. What is a typical writing day like for you, and what keeps you inspired.
Lauren: Oh, dear. People actually pay attention to what I say on Twitter? I’d better be more careful! On a typical writing day I begin writing at seven a.m., just as soon as my 10-year-old daughter leaves for school, and I work pretty much straight through until she gets home at three p.m. I do take a break for General Hospital at four and during that hour I catch up on email or Twitter while watching the show. I do that Monday through Friday, which comes to 40 hours per week – a full-time job. And if the writing’s good, I’ll return to it in the evening for a few more hours and on the weekend – so, more than a full-time job. What keeps me inspired? My datebook. In addition to To-Do items, I enter my writing goals for the day – it may be a scene, or a chapter, or more – and I simply don’t go to sleep until I’ve reached the day’s goal.
Q: I’m fascinated that your children’s series THE SISTERS 8 is a family collaboration as it’s co-written with your husband Greg Logsted and your daughter Jackie. How does that work out? Who get’s the final word?
Lauren: Me. It’s the one area of my life where I have absolute veto power. All three of us originally brainstormed the concept for the series. We still do that with each book. Then I do the actual writing. I’ll write a chapter, read it to my cohorts, and they’ll say what works/doesn’t and we’ll all decide what needs to happen next. But because I’m “The Pen”, and because I’m the only one crazy enough to constantly keep what will eventually be over 1000 pages of material in her head, I do get that final veto power.