According to author Laura Laakso, “books and storytelling have always been a big part of her life, be it in the form of writing fanfiction, running tabletop role playing games or, more recently, writing original fiction.” By day, she serves as an accountant, but when not crunching numbers or spending time with her dogs, she can be found working on her Wilde Investigations series. The first book in the series, Fallible Justice, just launched last week (a huge congrats to her!) and the second book, Echo Murder, will be available in June, 2019. Laura also keeps her readers and fans up to date via her blog, which currently features the first chapter of Fallible Justice. Like most writers, Laura is juggling a full plate, so I’m grateful she took the time to answer my questions.
Christina: How did you become interested in writing paranormal detective stories, and what keeps you going back to them?
Laura: I want to say paranormal crime as a genre picked me! Fallible Justice began as an idea about how an infallible justice system could be fooled. Everything else grew around that and the story itself dictated that the setting had to have magic as well as modern technology. Before my Wilde Investigations series, I’d written a psychological drama and a sci-fi novel, but with paranormal crime, it feels as though I’ve finally found my voice. It’s so much fun imagining crimes set in our world and then complicating matters with magic! I hope I get to stay in Yannia’s and Karrion’s world for many years to come as there’s so much to explore and so many stories to tell. I know I’m doing something right when writing these books never feels like work.
Christina: You have two degrees in archaeology. How does the training you received with that education help you in writing your stories?
Laura: I was lucky enough to study a subject that I loved, even though I was never sure I was going to be an archaeologist. Learning about ancient cultures, especially when coupled with studying Latin and Ancient Greek, showed me how much fun research could be. That’s something that holds true to this day. I did a lot of research for the third book in the Wilde Investigations series and I had the best time while doing so. Who wouldn’t, when learning about druidic plant lore or interviewing a real witch? The archaeology degrees have a more practical application too: a group of us used to sit around the bones lab discussing how best to dispose of bodies. I may or may not be utilizing those discussions now I’m writing crime . . .
Christina: Without giving anything away, the private investigator and apprentice who appear in your debut novel are quite eccentric. Where did the inspiration for such characters come from?
Laura: With Yannia, I knew I wanted a female PI as a protagonist with magical blood, but who wasn’t a Mage. I had an image of a woman running on a beach, channeling all of nature so that something of her shape changed with each step, and that was it; Yannia picked me. That original scene later became the opening chapter of the novel and it helped pique my publisher’s interest in the book. Making Yannia one of the Wild Folk added a new level to the story, given that she turned out to be an outsider in the city and struggling to adapt to a hostile environment. But I also wanted to give her a complication that no amount of magic could resolve, which is why she ended up having a chronic condition called Hypermobile EDS.
As soon as I’d figured out the basics of Yannia, I also knew that she needed someone to help her with the investigative work. My reasoning was partly to do with story mechanics; I chose a first person point of view for the narrator and without someone to talk over the details of the case with, the book would be laden with telling rather than showing. Then a goth Bird Shaman wandered into my mind, complaining about pigeons and claiming he was called Carrion Crow. The name changed to Karrion, but the piercings, black leather coat, and the pigeons stayed. It was only when I’d finished writing the second book in the series that I realized Karrion shares many qualities with one of my dearest university friends. No wonder I’m so fond of him.
Christina: Again, not that I want to reveal anything, but I can’t help but think that the character names were chosen specifically for each of the roles. So which came first: the characters or the names? And are you always intentional when it comes to naming a character?
Laura: I’d say it’s about 50: 50 which comes first, the name or the character. It took me a while to settle on Yannia’s first name, though the surname was given from the very beginning. Nothing else fitted Wild Folk PI. Wishearth, Yannia’s enigmatic Hearth Spirit ally, began as the name and I built the rest of the character around it. Lady Bergamon, another one of Yannia’s allies, began with the character. There’s a house near where I live with a chaotic array of plant pots in the front garden. I wondered how someone specializing in plant magic might take gardening to a whole new level and in that moment, Lady Bergamon was born. As a general rule, I wanted the people of Old London to have names that are recognizable as “normal” human names, but always with a twist. Thus Jonathan became Jonathain and William became Wellaim. It’s not a completely hard and fast rule, and for instance, Karrion’s family are all named after birds without varying the names.
Christina: Your dog Sinta plays a role in your book. What lessons have you learned from Sinta, or any of your dogs, that you could apply to the writing life?
Laura: Sinta is my special girl. She is given to Yannia to make sure Yannia has someone keeping an eye on her, but Sinta soon makes an indelible impression on the lives of everyone around her, just like the real Sinta has done with me. I can’t wait to write more of the puppy version of her in the series! Sinta has taught me never to take myself too seriously (she never does) and if someone gives you disappointing cuddles, it’s okay to just growl at them. My young Australian Shepherd, Halla, is in many ways Sinta’s polar opposite. She’s filled with love and brimming with joy at even the most mundane of things. But as much as she loves working and playing, her favorite part of the day is when we cuddle on the sofa. While Sinta keeps me grounded, Halla reminds me of the importance of taking breaks. Between the two, they make the hard days easier to get through and share my joy as if my successes were theirs. Though if you ask Sinta, I am what I am purely because of her influence!
Christina: If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
Thanks to Laura for agreeing to this interview! If you know of an author who’d like to be featured in an interview (or you are an author who would like to be featured), feel free to leave a comment or email me via my contact page.