Meet Author Laurie Robertson – an AiA Interview

Amelia Indie Authors (AiA) is pleased to present an interview with Alaska-based author Laurie Robertson. Visiting Amelia Island in February to see family and attend the 2019 Amelia Island Book Festival. Laurie also attended the February 14th “we love indie authors” celebration we co-sponsored with the Book Loft. There she won one of several drawing prizes: a personal interview published on our blog. The benefit is ours, however, in that we get to learn more about this lovely woman.

Author Laurie Robertson leaning on a bike trail sign in winter

 AiA: Welcome to our screen, Laurie! To start, please tell us a little about your background, and what brought you from Alaska to Amelia Island?

LR: Detroit, Michigan was my hometown, and in the mid-1970s—because of economics and the lure of adventure—I settled in Alaska during the oil pipeline era. I received my teaching degree in secondary science and master’s degree from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and Anchorage.

I’ve just retired from 35 years of teaching in Alaska. It was a great career that covered a range from teaching in the rural Athabaskan villages of Rampart and Nikolai to the urban setting of Fairbanks. I have spent most of my career in alternative education working with students at risk for dropping out of high school.

Some of my family lives in Yulee, Florida. My sister and brother-in-law own two stores on Centre Street, in downtown Amelia Island, so I’m fortunate to be able to visit. People around the island are friendly, and I love strolling along the beautiful ocean beaches — especially in the morning fog.

AiA: What was your impression of the Amelia Island Book Festival. Do you attend other similar festivals? Any recommendations here for other indies?

LR: Amelia Island was my first experience at a book festival, and I enjoyed it very much. I would recommend the events I attended

Amelia Island was my first experience at a book festival, and I enjoyed it very much. I would recommend the events I attended. Click To Tweet

LR: The Book Loft indie reception was a great way to meet several authors and publishers from the area. The writers’ workshop provided a wealth of information. It had two tracks to mix and match, so participants could individualize the program according to their needs and interests. I also would highly recommend the manuscript critique that was available there. Steve McCondichie was very helpful with his recommendations from a publisher’s perspective, and his commentary was valuable. I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. 

AiA: Did you always write, or is writing a new interest for you? How did you come to it?

LR: I’ve been a poet since I learned how to write but never thought about writing a novel until an idea came to my head. I was about 30 at that time and did not realize I would publish a book. I wrote the first draft in longhand. I spent part of three summers traveling around the west gathering information about the Oregon trail and the Native American culture. It was fascinating, and with that, along with my handwritten version, my novel was born. 

AiA: Where do you find your inspiration?

LR: Storylines appear in my head seeming from out of nowhere. I used to be an avid reader, but presently, it seems I’m always choosing between reading or writing. Writing, predominately, wins out. Sometimes, to develop characters, I refer back to parts of my favorite movies or a TV series. I study certain actors to see how their facial tics or body movements portray a specific personality type or motivation. I love concentrating on writing deep characters, so I’m a people watcher in real life situations.

AiA: How long did it take you to complete your first book? What were the speed bumps or stumbling blocks along the way?

LR: I’m embarrassed to admit this because it took almost twenty years to publish my novel, Crossing at Sweet Grass. Not only was I was raising a family and working full time as a high school teacher, but I had another journey beside traveling the Oregon Trail. That journey was learning my writing style. At first, I had no idea about the skills it took to author a good novel. I had to learn about writing several drafts, point of view, and cutting out pages and pages of flashbacks and campfire stories. My biggest speedbump was myself. Some years I put away my manuscript and didn’t work on it, but now I encourage authors to write daily.

silhouette of a woman smelling a flower on the book cover for Crossing at Sweet Grass

AiA: What is your writing process like?

LR: I have a grown family, so I have more time to write. I usually go to Jazzercise first thing in the morning, then come back home and sit at my desk or kitchen table to write. If I’m doing first draft writing, it’s pretty much a stream of keyboarding for about four hours a day. If it’s the second draft, then I spend the time to fill in plot and characters. I like to grammar check on the second draft. While I’m contemplating what the characters would do and say, I get up and move, watch the birds at the feeder or take a walk. There are ski and hiking trails right outside my door. I move to the next chapter if I get stuck. Sometimes I write scenes that have nothing to do with the particular section I’m working on. They get filed in a separate folder on my desktop, and I’ll usually cut and paste them into other chapters. Early on I realized writer’s block inhibits me only when I worry what other people will think about my writing. If I don’t dwell on that, my characters come alive on their terms, and I keep writing. 

AiA: How did you find your editor, and what did you think of the editing process?

LR: I love the editing process as it demands a spectrum of emotions; it makes you cry, it makes you quit, and it makes you begin again. My strength is in the rewrite, so I have surrendered to that process as a positive aspect of writing. A dear friend is a content editor, and she patiently reads my material and has wonderful insights. I have a few beta readers; one reads across several genres, one is a retired psychologist, and another has a great sense of humor. These avid book lovers give me needed feedback and insight. For my first two books, I used a line editor with an indie publishing firm and found it immensely beneficial. Now for my zombie action series, I’m looking online for content and line editors since I plan to direct publish.

AiA: What drew you to Alaska, and does the location influence your writing content, style or process in any way? 

LR: Even as a child, I wanted to go to Alaska. I love the wilderness adventure lifestyle. It’s hard to believe, but I don’t mind the cold weather. I love snow skiing and the arctic colors during twilight. While my stories don’t originate in an Alaskan setting, the Native American characters in Crossing at Sweet Grass were inspired by my time teaching in the rural communities and travels.  They are lovely people rich in cultural traditions and ways of knowing the natural world.

Alaska has a wealth of artists and authors. A fun writers conference to check out if you’re interested in coming to Alaska during the summer would be the Kachemak Bay Writers Conference June 14 – 18.

AiA: Your first book is historical romance, and your second is poetry. How did you choose these genres?

LR: I love historical fiction because I’m a researcher; that’s why I like science. Crossing at Sweet Grass is a historical action western with a romantic theme.

I love historical fiction because I’m a researcher. Crossing at Sweet Grass is a historical action western with a romantic theme. Click To Tweet

My challenge as a writer is to describe my books since my writing style naturally crosses genres. The Ascension Circus Comes to Town is like a poetic novella with seven chapters. It took a long time to gently combine my poems into a circus theme that makes personal growth seem like fun and adventure.

Colorful circus scene on the blue cover of The Ascension Circus Comes to Town

AiA: What are you working on now? Do you have a new book underway? Please tell us about it.

LR: My newest writing venture is a zombie series with a main character named Savannah. It’s been very satisfying to write, but again, it’s more complicated than straight zombie genre; it’s women’s fiction that a man also would like. What makes this series so invigorating is the human psychology behind survival, connection, and healing. Zombies are a metaphor for human fears and losses. They are the backdrop amid stories of social psychology. How do we as a people go beyond the darkness and despair to live together and make a better life? I don’t have a title yet, but I do have my 26 words that describe it:

Imagine you’re young, beautiful and alone in a world of zombies. What would be your journey? Join Savannah’s self-discovery through survival challenges, heartache, and love.

Thank you so much for having me here.

AiA: Thank you for sharing your story with us, Laurie! We wish you great success with all of your writing endeavors. Please visit us again!


black and white image of neon sign says "do what you love"

How a Tribe Can Make You a Better Writer


By Darryl Bollinger

I recently celebrated a birthday and received a wonderful card from dear friends. On the cover, with pictures of Dorothy and her three traveling companions in The Wizard of Oz, was the inscription It’s not WHERE you go . . . It’s WHO you meet along the way. How appropriate. All of us have the innate desire for tribal affiliation. While an anthropologist could do a far better job of explaining that longing, my simple perspective is from a writer’s view.

All of us have the innate desire for tribal affiliation. While an anthropologist could do a far better job of explaining that longing, my simple perspective is from a writer’s view. Click To Tweet

It is also a subject foremost in my mind these days, having relocated from Florida to North Carolina in the past year.

black and white image of neon sign says "do what you love"What a joy to spend a week surrounded by my writing tribe in beautiful Fernandina Beach, Florida for the Amelia Island Book Festival, a “family” reunion. We stayed with close friends who live there, one of whom is writer Dr. J Author. We reunited with long-time “relatives” including Andrea Patten, Nancy Blanton, Samuel Staley, my editor, Heather Whitaker, and discovered new ones, such as Amelia Indie Authors. The subject of a writing family led to this post. How does a writing tribe make one a better writer?

It is both comforting and selfish. It is relaxing to be in the company of people who love and accept you without reservation. A place where you can be yourself and lower the guardrails. Where it is okay to make a mistake, where you don’t have to constantly be on guard parsing your responses and comments. While writing may be the one common link, I am amazed at the diversity within the circle. There may be other common elements we sometimes share, but there are also areas within which we can respectfully disagree.

It is both comforting and selfish. It is relaxing to be in the company of people who love and accept you without reservation. A place where you can be yourself and lower the guardrails Click To Tweet

Selfishly, it is an opportunity to gather something of great value. I always leave feeling that I am leaving with more than I came with. My mind is racing to the point of insomnia, flooding my brain with thoughts and ideas triggered by lively conversation, helpful suggestions, and insightful commentary.

It is an opportunity to share and to give back to my tribal community. To help others benefit from my mistakes. A testing ground and sounding board for thoughts and dreams. To laugh together and share unique life experiences and the benefit of acquired knowledge and wisdom. Prompts, motivation, and challenges abound.

It is an opportunity to learn. The stimulation and mind-expanding are tangible. The writers in the family bring their significant others into the tent, with even more experiences to add to the stew. I never cease to walk away from these gatherings invigorated and challenged beyond my wildest expectations.

What do you look for? In the words of my motorcycle riding friends, If I have to explain, you wouldn’t understand. As I search for my tribe in my new residence, I am asked, “What are you looking for?” and I don’t know how to answer. It’s like asking what you look for in a friend. Certainly, fundamental traits such as honesty and loyalty are important, but it goes far beyond that. I think of close friends, several of whom were there and how on our initial meeting, we instantly bonded. Why? I can’t explain. If I could, I’d write a book on that subject and probably be set for life. All I can offer is to try on different groups and you’ll know when you find it.

I hear people say that writing is a solitary endeavor. While it may be true that the actual task of sitting down at a keyboard and putting words on paper is solitary, writing is very much a collaborative effort. Family is important. Find your tribe. It is a gratifying experience for the soul. 


Find Darryl on his website, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and Goodreads!

Amelia Island Book Festival — Day 2

One of the wonderful staples of our local book festival is the writers’ workshop that takes place on Friday at the community college. Traditionally, while there are classes about craft there have also been workshops about the publishing business. This year, the social media and marketing section was conducted by our very own Dr. J — writer of romance and erotica.

The evening’s gala took place at the Ritz-Carlton and included both a  fund-raising auction and an author panel. The opportunity to name a character in a Diana Gabaldon novel was auctioned for a staggering amount of money before the assembled group got to hear the author panel answer questions posed by the honorary festival chair, Steve Berry.


Above: Authors Nancy Blanton and Andrea Patten meet Diana Gabaldon. The photobomber is Nancy’s sister Daphne. We wanted her up front!



Authors Ridley Pearson, Tess Gerritsen, Diana Gabaldon and Kristen Ashley answer questions posed by master of ceremonies Steve Berry.