Laurie Wetzel - Writing Down a Fascinating Dream

Laurie Wetzel - Writing Down a Fascinating Dream
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Growing up, Laurie was addicted to all things paranormal. That sparked some pretty crazy dreams, which is how the Unclaimed Series was born. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and their two sons. She's a two-time thyroid cancer survivor, trains in jiu-jitsu and judo, and loves reading. As our Author of the Day, Laurie tells us all about her book, Unclaimed.

Please give us a short introduction to what Unclaimed is about.

In Unclaimed, everyone is supposed to have a Guardian Angel watching over them. If you were in trouble, your Guardian Angel cannot interfere. In those situations, a Protector Angel is called down. MJ was sent to guard a mortal from a demon on a killing spree. On his first day in town though, he happens across a teenage girl named Maddy who not only doesn’t have a Guardian Angel and is unknown to Heaven, she also has abilities no mortal should have such as dreaming of the killer he’s here to stop.

Was there anything in particular that inspired this story?

I’ve always been an avid reader and movie lover. Before Unclaimed came to be, several of my favorite series all ended at the same time—Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Twilight. I was desperately searching for another series to fill the void, and many came close, but no other series at the time had me so wrapped up in their worlds that I reread them or continuously watched the movies. I started having very vivid dreams about a girl who unknowingly comes across an angel and a demon. The story was so good that I found myself sleeping in later and taking naps just so I could see what happens next! Eventually, I started writing it down, not with the intention of publishing it, but just so I wouldn’t lose it.

Where does your fascination with the paranormal come from?

I blame David Duchovny. Just kidding, though I did love the X-files. Honestly, there is just so much to explore here and so much unknown. Are we alone? Not just with aliens, but ghosts and the afterlife. There are so many different opinions on what comes next—Heaven and Hell, being reborn, reincarnation, or even nothingness. On a more personal level, having lost my father when I was 21, I think it’s more comforting to believe there is more to life than existing and then suddenly not. That he is at peace with other relatives and friends and that someday we will be reunited.

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You are a two-time thyroid cancer survivor.  How has this influenced your life and your writing?

In many ways, my writing and cancer story are intertwined. In 2014 I was finishing up the edits for Unclaimed with my publisher, Wise Ink, a few months away from its release, when I was first diagnosed. Unfortunately, my surgery and recovery was more complicated than anticipated and instead of going home that same day, I was hospitalized for almost a week. It was from my hospital bed that I saw and approved the final cover for Unclaimed.

I spent the next 2 years fighting to get back to who I was before my diagnosis. I could barely work, my two sons were toddlers at the time so it was impossible to keep up with them, and there was very little energy left over to write or attend events. I was very lucky that the second book, Ignited, was finished otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to publish it a year after Unclaimed released. In early I 2016 made the difficult decision to take a break from writing and focus on my health. In 2018 I was feeling pretty good. Nowhere near who I used to be, but like many Thyroid Cancer Survivors, I had accepted that this was the new norm. I had started working with my publisher again on edits for the third book, Revealed, when I heard the devastating news that my cancer was back. Due to the complications from the first surgery, this time came with new risks that included the possibility that I may never talk or breathe on my own again. Thankfully the surgery went fine, though those risks will always exist so I have to be careful when I get a cold like laryngitis, I try not to yell or cheer loudly (very difficult with kids, especially when watching them play sports!), I don’t sing too loud, and I’m very cautious of my neck while doing martial arts. My recovery was much better the second time around and I was able to resume publishing Revealed, which releases June 9th of this year, as in next week! Going through cancer not just once, but twice has made me and my whole family more appreciative of life. My husband, myself, and our children work out multiple times a week, eat fairly healthy, and overall pay more attention to what our bodies are telling us.

Interesting cover - please tell us more about how it came about.

It is beautiful! Tiffany Laschinger, who designed the covers for both Unclaimed and Ignited, was able to create such an amazing cover based off of a short conversation over the phone on what the book was about and several key scenes. It amazes me how she, and all cover designers, including Steve Meyer-Rawwos who designed Revealed’s cover, can take a simple conversation and then turn it into a magnificent work of art! I’m starting to wonder if they might be magicians.

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Readers say that this story moves very fast.  Why did you take this approach?

It wasn’t really a conscious decision. It was just how the story developed. I will say though I have had many readers reach out to me and say they finished either Unclaimed or Ignited in a day! And while the reader-side of me totally gets that because I’ve gobbled books in one sitting too, the author in me is like WHAT?!? That took me forever to write!!! I’m sure it will be the same with Revealed and when readers message me the day after the release asking for the fourth book because they’re already finished with it, have patience! It’s coming.

Unclaimed was a finalist in the Midwest Book Awards - what surprised you most about readers' reactions to the book?

With this being my first book/series, and one I didn’t originally intend to publish, I’m over the moon that people are reading it and enjoying it. There are millions of books in the world for them to choose from, and so when someone picks mine, it’s an amazing honor. There is so much more to being an author than simply having a great idea for a book. It takes time. Dedication. Perseverance. The literary world is constantly evolving so there is always something new to learn and different ways to improve your writing. It is definitely not for the faint of heart. When you combine it with my health struggles, those little messages from readers who loved Unclaimed and can’t wait to hear more not only warm my heart, but they also remind me that this is the path I am meant to be on and what I’m meant to do with my life.

In which way is Unclaimed different than other books in the Angels & Demons genre?

One thing I really wanted to avoid was having Maddy be adored by everyone and perfect at everything. She’s flawed. She makes mistakes. She keeps secrets that end up having really bad consequences for her and her friends. While she does have abilities, which she wasn’t aware of them at the start of the series, she struggles to accept/control them. When it comes to MJ, the angel, and Justin, the demon, they’re so much more than good/bad. MJ has spent centuries trying and failing to atone for a mistake he made in his mortal life. Justin, on the other hand, has yet to come to terms with how his life ended and chooses to ignore it by spending his afterlife in a never-ending party.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

In my youth I did, but I was bullied for it. I remember sitting in class one day, hearing people laugh and make fun of me, and thinking to myself, if this is how horrible it feels to have twenty people laugh at my work, imagine if I published something and the world laughed? Junior high and high school can be awful, can’t it? I buried my passion for writing, and even for a time, buried my love of reading in my desperate attempt to fit in. It took me many years to realize that those kids didn’t give a damn about me. They never had my best interest at heart. They didn’t care if I succeeded, they just wanted to laugh at my failures. I had let their opinions of me become my facts. My biggest ah-ha moment though was after my second son was born. They were both under two and I was watching them play toys in the living room, thinking about all the great things I wished for their future. When suddenly I felt like a fraud. Who was I to push them and encourage them to achieve their dreams when I was too afraid to go after my own? It was shortly after that I began writing Unclaimed. My husband is who encouraged me to publish it and fulfill my dreams of being an author.

Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?

I have been training in Jiu-jitsu and judo for almost two years now. Out of all the different exercises I’ve tried over the years, they are definitely my favorite. They challenge me not just physically, but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. As a cancer survivor, I need that. When you’re on the mats the stress of upcoming appointments, test results, and good days/bad days pretty much vanishes. The gym I train at, Kato Jiu-Jitsu which is part of the GFTeam, is very family-oriented. Whether it’s finally nailing a position you’ve been working on for weeks, or advancing within the belt system, they celebrate it because they have been there every step of the way to cheer you on and challenge you to be the best version of yourself.

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Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?

I love to listen to music while writing. Some authors need instrumental music, but I prefer lyrics. Often times I will search out a song that fits a particular tone or scene and play it on repeat until that section is complete. All of my stories have playlists on Youtube to help me get into that world.

Before Covid-19, my average day was pretty crazy. I work full-time in surgery so I wake up before the sun (which should be illegal), spend the next 8 and 1/2 hours running around like crazy, then I come home to my boys who are now 9 & 10. Sometimes I can sneak in a little writing or editing. Then my husband comes home from his work and it’s getting the boys to jiu-jitsu and a few nights a week my husband and I also have jiu-jitsu, then it’s a quick dinner and then I try to write a little more before bed. Majority of my writing happens during the weekends or days off from work. I will say that with quarantine, I have had a lot more opportunities to write lately which I have looked at as a silver lining to all the craziness.

What are you working on right now?

With Revealed releasing next week, I’m finalizing all the last minute things that pop up during this time. I’m writing the fourth book in the series and gearing up to start editing a standalone Young Adult Thriller!

Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?

My website, http://lauriewetzel.com is a fantastic place to learn about my books. I am very active on my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/LaurieRWetzel, and love talking books and sharing things that bring a smile to my face.

Richard Turner - Fast-Paced Action-Adventure
FEATURED AUTHOR - Richard Turner proudly served his country for more than thirty years, all across the globe. He wanted to try something new and now spends his time writing.  As our Author of the Day, he tells us all about his book, Goliath.