Friday, September 14, 2012


Laurel Bradley, Author

Welcome author Laurel Bradley, who was introduced to me by her publisher, my friend Goldie Browning. If you love romantic suspense, you will love Laurel’s book, TRUST NO ONE.

Caroline: Tell us something about growing up and your life.

Laurel: I grew up in New Brighton, Minnesota, a suburb of the Twin Cities, the second of four daughters to great parents. I was definitely a bookworm, still am actually, though I don’t have as much time to read these days. I’m happily married to a wonderful guy—28 years this October. We live in a small town in Wisconsin with the youngest of our five children. The first three kids are now men. The oldest is grown and flown.  He’s a rocket scientist, no less. The second is in seminary discerning the Catholic priesthood. The third just graduated from college in three years (yes!) and got married to a wonderful young woman this summer. We are thrilled. Number four is the sole girl. She is just starting her sophomore year of college. So…there’s only the youngest son at home. He’s amazed how much mowing and shoveling there is to do and shocked that his older siblings think he has it made.

Caroline: Your kids sound great. Who are your favorite authors and favorite genres?

Laurel: I am an extremely eclectic reader. I grew up loving Mary Stewart’s King Arthur series and histories about Daniel Boone. If you were to look at my shelf, you’d see classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird, Watership Down and the complete works by Shakespeare. But I’m an equal opportunity reader. My keeper shelf contains Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce and Screwtape Letters, most of Mary Stewart’s books, J. K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter series, G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy and Heretics, Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island, several Harlan Coben titles, some Ken Follet, some Amanda Quick, Julie Garwood, and Julia Quinn, and nearly everything Jennifer Crusie has written, and the list goes on.

Caroline: You named some of my favorite authors. In fact, I like all of those you named. What’s your favorite way to relax and recharge?

Laurel: I like to kayak in the summer and cross country ski in the winter. I enjoy painting with water color and creating pysanky (Ukrainian eggs).

Ostrich egg painted by Laurel'

Caroline: How long have you been writing?

Laurel: I’ve been writing long before I ever laid pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. I was blessed with parents who read to me. If they were done reading to me for the night and I wasn’t done listening, which was almost every night, I’d lie in bed and make up stories. But it wasn’t until I was on five months of bed rest with child #5 that I started writing. He’s now sixteen.

Caroline: Five months with four other children? Where do you prefer to write?

Laurel: I sit next to a window at the kitchen table because then I won’t miss anything.  (I’m such a child.) My books are fueled by coffee. I used to douse that coffee liberally with milk, but now I drink it thick, black and…well, it starts out hot. Most frequently, my mug is either empty or hiding in the microwave. My writing used to be overseen by our cat, Tucker. Since his death, I’ve been writing solo. It’s been going all right, but I still miss him. I need quiet to write, so I do it when everyone else is out of the house.

Caroline: My late cat, Delilah Sue Kitty, used to sit beside me while I wrote. I miss her every day. Are you a plotter or a panzer?

Laurel: Panzer? Is that how you spell the word? I always thought it was pantser, as in flying by the seat of your pants. And I definitely do that.

A writer friend and I were discussing this just the other day. She plots everything. I can’t. To me, heavy plotting is like reading the end of the book first. I just can’t do it. I know the characters and what motivates them and I vaguely know where the book is going, but I’m unclear on how it’s going to get there until I write it. It keeps things interesting. That said, I think being a plotter would make writing easier.

Caroline: Every writer has his or her unique system. I say go with what works for you. Do you use real events or persons in your stories or as an inspiration for stories?

Laurel: The characters all entirely make-believe, not based on any real person, but little details sometimes have specific sources. For example, there’s a scene in TRUST NO ONE that takes place in a storm sewer. (I’ve included the scene as the excerpt below.) It’s based on real experiences I had in college. I have more than a touch of arachnophobia, and I think it shows.

Caroline: Do you set daily writing goals?

Laurel: I used to set goals and write all day long, but discovered that I’m a much happier and healthier person once I put my priorities in order—God first, family second, and writing/everything else third. Once I did that, I sold my third title and then, just the other day, the fourth.

Caroline: What do you hope your writing brings to readers?

Laurel: My goal is to write books that are so good they leave the reader asking, “So what else did she write.”

Caroline: TRUST NO ONE did that for me. What long-term plans do you have for your career?

Laurel: I have this fantasy in which I have several published books and they are all of one genre. As it is, I have several published books each in a different genre. A WISH IN TIME is an award winning time-travel romance that Cheryl Jeffries of Heartstrings Reviews calls, “…a must-read for fans of twisting, turning, wish-fulfilling romances.” CRÉME BRÛLÉLEE Upset is a humorous contemporary romance called, “A deliciously messy affair,” by author Diane Wiley. TRUST NO ONE is a suspense that Author Renee Wildes calls, “a twisting-turning edge-of-your-seat thrill ride, where every secret revealed just adds to more doubt, more lies.” My upcoming release, FOR THE LOVE OF DAVID, is women’s fiction, which author Goldie Browning says, “combines incredible emotional depth and multi-layered characterization to make it an extremely wonderful book.” And then there’s the picture book THE LOONS ON THE LAKE, that I wrote, illustrated and self-published for private use by my loony family. (To read a book synopsis or excerpt, click on the title or go to  Why so many genres? I write what I read, and I read most everything but erotica and Christian romance.

Caroline: Like you, I’m an eclectic reader and an eclectic writer. Would you like to tell us what you’re working on now?

Laurel: I am editing FOR THE LOVE OF DAVID, a story about what happens when the college student who abandoned her baby finds the woman who rescued it and steals the infant back. FOR THE LOVE OF DAVID is women's fiction set in 1980 Wisconsin. The plot was inspired by a story I heard on the radio years ago where a woman found a newborn in a bag outside the bank where she worked. She, of course, turned it over to the authorities. But I couldn't help wondering: what if? FOR THE LOVE OF DAVID is slated to be released in January 2013.

I’m also doing rewrites on a suspense that takes place in the Congo in the early 1960’s. It’s about a CDC doctor who is kidnapped to work on a hemorrhagic virus that has wiped out entire villages.

Caroline: You certainly sound busy. What advice would you give to unpublished authors?

Laurel: First: make certain you have your priorities in order. This business can be extremely rewarding, but it can also eat up every moment of your day.
Second: remember writing for publication is a business.
Third: have fun. If you aren’t having fun, what are you doing it for?

Caroline: Isn’t that the truth? What is a fun fact readers wouldn’t know about you?

Laurel: Taylor’s mug in TRUST NO ONE was actually modeled on a ceramic mug I had when the kids were little. Number three son took his brand new putter and putted it while I was nursing his baby sister. He was two. Yes, he’s forgiven. Almost immediately.

Caroline: What is something about you that would surprise or shock readers?

Laurel: I don’t know if this would surprise anyone, but I am a devout Catholic who tries to attend daily Mass as much as possible. My faith and daily Mass mean a great deal to me and help me keep my priorities in order. I highly recommend both. I’ve learned: if you aren’t moving forward in your faith, you are moving backwards.

Caroline: Faith is an important part of who each of us is. Is your book a series?

Laurel: No. It’s not even the same genre as the others.

Caroline: Can you give readers a blurb about your book?

Laurel: It’s all about secrets. Taylor Wilson’s missing husband, Phil has them. His best friend and FBI partner, Sean, has them. Everyone has them except Taylor—yet she’s the one someone is trying to kill.

When bombs destroy Taylor’s home and business, FBI agent Mark Cochran is certain her missing husband, Phil, is trying to kill her. Yet Taylor thinks the cryptic clues Phil is sending her are proof he’s trying to protect her. While searching for Phil, Taylor finds out he isn’t as innocent as she hoped. Now, she must reconcile the man she thought he was with the man he turns out to be in order to decide if she still wants a future with him. The deeper Phil looks into the threats against Taylor, the more signs point to his former FBI-partner, and best friend, Sean.
Phil needs both Taylor’s and Cochran’s help to draw Sean out and find incriminating evidence against him.

Caroline: How about an excerpt?

Following the explosion of her house and business, and…other things, Taylor is taken into protective custody. This scene takes place on Thanksgiving Day just after the safe house is compromised. FBI agent Cochran and Taylor are on the run from unidentified enemies. As their pursuers near, Cochran orders Taylor into the open grate of a storm sewer. She enters reluctantly because… well it’s a sewer, and she’s claustrophobic.

The storm sewer was cold and damp and horrible with a stale metallic scent. The thin metal flashlight Cochran had given her illuminated the tunnel ahead but provided little comfort. Taylor hurried all too aware of her vulnerability this close to the mouth of the storm sewer. Walking on the curved metal was a balancing act. She held her breath and walked with a wide stance, her gloved left hand skimming the wall for stability. Sometimes dirt, leaves and other debris matted the floor for a foot or two.

Concentrating on staying upright, she wasn’t aware she’d been climbing a gentle grade until she looked back to see how far she’d gone. She expected to see the slightly lighter circle of the opening behind her, but there was nothing but the dull gray ceiling that sloped to meet the floor.

Trapped. Oh, God. There was less air than there’d been a moment ago. She swallowed heavily and tried to slow her racing heart. Stop it. It’s an optical illusion, she told herself. The tunnel wasn’t collapsing behind her. The ceiling didn’t meet the floor. The tunnel merely sloped downhill to the river. She closed her eyes and concentrated on breathing.

“Tayyyylor!” The word came out of the darkness ahead of her, muffled and distorted by the passageway.

Her eyes sprang open and the flashlight leapt in her hands. She fumbled with it and managed to hold on. Her heart thudded and her breath caught in her throat. Shaking, she flicked off the beam and stood listening in the dark.

“Tayyyylor.” Like hearing a name shouted across a ball field the words were understandable but the voice unrecognizable. “Ohhhh, Tayyyylor.”

She stood staring into the dark. Someone was at other end of the tunnel. Someone who knew she was inside the sewer. Who? Cochran? Was the coast clear? She wanted to yell back but stopped herself.
“Readdeee or nnnnnot, heeeeere I commme.”

She stumbled as the meaning of the words dawned on her. Like a childhood game gone horribly wrong, someone was coming for her. And it wasn’t Phil or Cochran.

Heart pounding, she scrambled to turn herself around and head in the other direction. She didn’t want to go deeper into the tunnel. The walls were too close. There wasn’t enough air. But what other choice did she have? Gasping, she forced herself further into the storm sewer. She pushed herself, counting in a ridiculous attempt to keep her mind off where she was and who was behind her.

As if reality wasn’t bad enough, every horror movie or reality show she’d ever seen involving sewers flashed through her head as she rushed deeper underground. She didn’t see rats or derelicts with knives or sewage or gangs with guns, but like at a Halloween “fun” house she expected to see them at any moment. Oh, please, get me out of here.

Her side ached from running bent at the waist. She stopped and looked back. There seemed to be an easing of the darkness, almost like a glow.

She stared down the metal pipe. Someone was coming.

Clutching her side, she turned and nearly fell in her haste to be away. She ran with the flashlight in her right hand, her left hand still skimming the wall for stability. She ran as quickly and as quietly as she could, desperately praying. If she was quiet enough, if she was fast enough, if God was listening, whoever was following her would give up and go back. The guy couldn’t know for certain she was in there.

This had to be a nightmare. Any moment now, she’d wake up tangled in her sheets with Lacey snoring across the room. She ran on.

Up ahead the sewer split into two smaller concrete pipes maybe four or five feet in diameter. Smaller pipes. She hesitated. A part of her screamed, ‘What does it matter which way you go? Choose one!’ She crouched down, took a desperate breath, and forced herself into the one on the left.

The going was tougher. Using her left hand as a foot, she scrambled on like a three-legged dog or Tolkien’s Gollum.

When she’d traveled long enough to be well outside the view from the opening, she stopped, flicked off the flashlight and listened. The silence was as thick as the darkness, heavy to the point of smothering. Her heartbeat, her breath, and the rush of blood through her veins were the only sounds.

Then she heard it. A soft, exotic, foreign-accented voice. “Taylor, my pet. You surprise me. Crawling through these narrow, airless tunnels with the weight of tons of earth pressing down. They are getting smaller, these tunnels. Every inch they get smaller.”

Taylor sat in silence. How did he know about her claustrophobia?

“It’s quiet down here. Like a tomb. Listen.”

She inched away, moving noiselessly in the unremitting darkness. She wanted to flick on the light, needed to, but fear kept her finger off the switch. She couldn't let the glow give her away.

“There are spiders too, have you noticed? Along the ceiling, spinning, waiting patiently? Skittering, sneaky, crawly little things. But patient. You can respect their patience.”

She crept slowly, silently, blindly, keeping her hand extended. A spider web hit her face. It stuck to her. Clung. She froze for a heartbeat and then clawed at the web with gloved hands only to find them sticky with webs. A scream rose in her throat, but she choked it down, biting her lips to keep silent. Her rational mind knew the man behind her was more dangerous than the spiders, but phobias weren’t rational. She wanted to curl into a little ball and whimper until Phil came for her. He knew how she was with spiders and cramped spaces.

But he wasn’t here. She’d have to save herself. She would have to move.

Behind her, the voice continued—friendly, confidential.

“You’ll find me a patient man, Taylor. A reliable man. I will wait here for you. I will wait here where the tunnel is wide—where there is air enough to breathe. I will not leave you to die alone crushed by the weight of the earth, rotting in this place, food for spiders and rats.”

It was like the man could read her mind.

Move, damn it.

Taylor forced herself to inch forward, tentative foot by tentative foot. Images of collapsed tunnels and giant spiders filled the darkness around her. Her lips bled. Mucus was thick in her throat. She rotated her wrist around and around trying to collect the webs on the end of the flashlight so they wouldn’t touch her. Just a little farther and she could turn the light on. Just a little farther and she would see there was plenty of room, plenty of air. Just a few more feet and the light would show the webs were empty. Just a few more feet.

 Taylor moved on steadily. Her shoes shuffled quietly against the concrete.

The sewer continued its slow winding ascent. The whisper of his voice followed her but grew steadily less distinct. She flicked on the light. The concrete tunnel was gray and surprisingly empty. The webs appeared pale and uninhabited in the blessed light.

She was able to breathe a little easier. It quickened her step and allowed her to concentrate on putting as much distance as she could between herself and the mad man.

The tunnel ended in another intersection. The new tunnels were even narrower than the one she’d left, maybe two feet in diameter. They were all wide enough to belly-crawl through and crisscrossed with spider webs. Ick. At least she didn’t see any spiders. She picked the tunnel on the right this time.

Concentrating on the possibility of escape instead of her dread of close spaces, or her fear of spiders, or her terror of the man who followed, Taylor headed in.

“Be glad it’s November,” she whispered to herself. “Too cold for spiders.”

She spun the flashlight before her, cleaning the path of cobwebs as she dragged herself forward on bent forearms.

Visibility was limited in the slowly ascending tube. The tunnel ended abruptly in what looked like about a three-foot square room. A hand’s breadth below the tunnel’s mouth sat a square dirty puddle half filled with dirt and gravel. Above, moonlight angled through a side grate above another dirty little catch basin. Taylor recognized it instantly. Outside, this storm sewer would be tucked into the curb. If someone looked into it, they’d see the catch basin with its discarded gum, stray coins, and scraps of wet paper.

There was no getting out here.

Combat crawling in reverse was painfully slow. Toes that had pushed were now required to pull. The light illuminated where she’d been instead of where she was going. Thinking it might be faster to roll over and use her buttocks and shoulder blades, Taylor turned herself until she was facing up. It was then she saw where the spiders were. Unpredictable surges of water had encouraged the spiders to make their homes out of harm’s way at the top of the concrete cylinders.

Taylor could see them, long legs and plump pale bodies beside their round, white egg sacks, inches from her face. Dozens of them. Hundreds of them.

The scream she’d held since she’d entered this concrete hell ripped out of her. It echoed through the tunnels and escaped into the night.

Caroline: That’s a powerful scene. Where can readers find your books?

Laurel: On Amazon

Caroline: How can readers learn more about you?

Book Website:

Caroline: Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you?

Laurel: I love to hear from readers and help aspiring authors, so feel free to drop me an email.

Thanks for sharing with us today, Laurel. Continued success in your career.

On Monday, Mimi Barbour will be here to share her new release with us.

Thanks for stopping by!


Elaine Stock said...

Caroline, what a nice interview on Laurel.

Laurel, I can feel your pang when it comes to missing your beloved cat. In recent years I've lost 2 of my writing companions. Presently, my 17-year-old Wild Cat remains faithfully by my side, but she is growing more frail. I'm just trying to enjoy as much as her as I can.

And, as for plotting, I totally agree with you. I'm a huge SOP writer, for better or worse

Goldie Browning said...

Laurel, great interview. Caroline hosts a very nice blog! Like Laurel says, her books are very different. TRUST NO ONE is a fantastic book that will leave you gasping for breath while FOR THE LOVE OF DAVID will pull at your heartstrings, but not in a sappy way. It's one of thos OMG can't put it down because you just have to know what happens next kind of book. Make sure the tissues are handy.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Laurel, thanks for sharing with us today. Wishing you continued success with your career.