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Debut Author Interview: Laura Stegman and Summer of L.U.C.K Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have Laura Stegman here to share about her MG contemporary/ghost story Summer of L.U.C.K. It sounds like a fantastic story about a magical adventure, friendship, and finding your own voice. I’m looking forward to reading it and think many of you will too.

 Here’s a blurb from Goodreads: 


Stuttering Darby is never perfect enough for her mother. Justin's been silent since his dad died. Naz is struggling to learn English. But after they meet at summer camp, mysterious calliope music from an abandoned warehouse grants them power to communicate without words. When they sneak inside, the dark, empty space bursts into a magical carnival. They're greeted by the ghost of Leroy Usher, who asks for their help convincing his family to restore the carnival to its former glory. In return, he promises to teach the kids how to find their voices.

As Darby, Justin, and Naz are swept off on a series of midnight adventures via Mr. Usher's carnival rides, they discover they're capable of more than they ever imagined. With each challenge, their confidence in communicating – and in themselves – grows. Meanwhile, they scheme to persuade the Usher family to revive the carnival. But when Darby’s bunkmates trick her into starring in the camp talent show, her budding confidence falters. Can she risk being less than perfect by performing in the show and speaking up to Mr. Usher's resistant son? If not, she'll put the carnival in danger and sabotage her most important quest: to believe in herself, stutter and all.

Hi Laura! Thanks so much for joining us!

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.


Hi Natalie! Thanks for featuring Summer of L.U.C.K. on Literary Rambles, which is one of my favorite sites.

When I was a kid, I planned to be an actress, but as an adult I veered into public relations, and I've owned my own arts publicity firm for many years. Business writing has always been a part of my career. That's where I developed my storytelling skills, which led to some free-lance non-fiction writing assignments for newspapers and magazines. And one day, inspired by my favorite childhood books, I began writing a middle grade fantasy, which eventually became Summer of L.U.C.K.

 2. That's great how your business writing has helped your fiction writing. Where did you get the idea for Summer of L.U.C.K?

My life's journey has involved a process of accepting myself as I am, and I've always been a fan of books, especially middle grade stories, with characters who learn to overcome self-doubt. So when I decided to try writing a novel, I knew right away it would be for middle graders, and I wanted it to be about kids learning to find their voices. I'm hoping Summer of L.U.C.K. will mean as much to readers today as my favorite middle grade books still mean to me. I believe kids should know that whatever they're struggling with, others kids struggle too, and they are not alone.

 3. What was your plotting process like for this story?

In the "pantser" vs "plotter" sweepstakes, I'm a big-time "pantser." Summer of L.U.C.K. began with an idea, but the actual story developed over more thank fifteen years (yes!). First I wrote, then I revised, and then I rewrote the whole thing many times over, so pieces of the plot changed, scenes and characters were eliminated or added, POVs were adjusted, and the ending changed substantially. Essentially, I learned to write fiction during the process, and that came when I started connecting with other writers about four years ago. I'm happy to say that my second book, Summer of L.U.C.K.'s sequel, is going much faster!

 4. It sounds like you were really dedicated to getting your story right. Darby, your main

character, stutters and never feels good enough for her mom. Share a bit about what you like best about her and how you were able to show her character growth while weaving it into the adventure she was on with her friends.

By way of background, Summer of L.U.C.K. is about three kids finding their way to self-acceptance with the help of a ghost who haunts a magical carnival. Stuttering Darby is never perfect enough for her mother. Justin's been silent since his dad died. Naz is struggling to learn English. But after they meet at summer camp, mysterious calliope music from an abandoned warehouse grants them power to communicate without words.

This music allows these three kids, despite their challenges, to communicate telepathically, which provides an unusual connection among them as they experience and learn though magical adventures that are laced throughout the story. At its heart, though, the lessons of Summer of L.U.C.K. -- friendship, courage, and perseverance – are grounded in reality.

More specifically to your question, there is a lot of me in Darby, and Darby in me, although I never had to deal with stuttering. But as a kid, I lived with what felt like constant criticism. It wasn't until I was a mature adult that I learned what Darby learns at age 11 on one of the story's adventures: that her mom is as critical of herself as she is of Darby. When I learned to see people as they are, rather than as perfect or as I would have liked them to be, it helped me a lot, as it does Darby.

 5. What was a challenge you faced in writing Summer of L.U.C.K and how did you overcome it?

 Learning to write fiction – as opposed to the business and non-fiction writing I knew – was my first substantial challenge, which took many years to work through (and I'm still learning!). But facing rejection was the biggest challenge of all. Querying produces so many highs and lows. Even when agents started asking for full manuscripts, and my hopes would rise, there always came an eventual "pass." I never fully got over taking those rejections personally, but I did learn to keep going. I never gave up believing in Summer of L.U.C.K. They say that all it takes is one "yes," and when I finally got that, it made all my hard work and effort worth it. Having this book published is truly a dream come true. 

6. Your publisher is INtense Publications. It looks like your book deal was announced in January 2020 and then your book was released on September 15, 2020. Share about your road to publication and how you got such a quick publication date.

I signed my contract with INtense Publications, my wonderful publisher, last fall, and it was officially announced in January. INtense, as a small press, issues its books much more quickly than larger presses. My journey to publication with INtense took me down many long and winding roads. When my manuscript was finally the best I could have made it, which took years, as I said, I set a goal of querying 100 agents in 2019. I got a high number of requests and much encouraging feedback, but no takers. Midway through the year, after I'd reached 100, I decided to start querying small publishers, which turned out very well for me. INtense not only loved Summer of L.U.C.K. but they signed me for two sequels as well.

 7. This is a three-book series. How much of the story was written or plotted out before you signed your book contract? How has the process of writing book 2 been going? Anything you wish you’d done differently?

 I always envisioned Summer of L.U.C.K. as a series, and I had one or two general ideas for Book 2. But it wasn't until I started writing Book 2 – even before I signed with INtense Publications – that I came up with a story arc. I wish I'd learned to work with other writers as critique partners and Beta readers much earlier on Summer of L.U.C.K.'s journey. The payoff now is that I am a better writer today. And writing Book 2 has been a joy, as the details of the story have unfolded before my very eyes. That's my favorite part of fiction writing!

 8. You also have an impressive career as a publicity consultant in Los Angeles. How has your experience in publicity helped you develop a plan to market your book? How are you planning to market it?


Thank you! Being a publicist has been a great help in getting the word out about Summer of L.U.C.K. My publicity clients are in the classical music and theater realms, so I'd never publicized a book, but I knew which tools I needed. First was an overall plan, which stared with a "to do" list. Then I developed a timeline covering what had to be done when. Next, I put together a press kit, which included my bio in varying lengths; head shots in varying resolutions (one for web use, another for print use); a high-resolution photo of the book cover; an "About" page with short, medium and long descriptions of Summer of L.U.C.K.'s story, endorsements/blurbs, etc.; a press release and a Sell Sheet. Then, I wrote a pitch letter to convince editors why I would make an interesting guest or interview subject. Finally, I began reaching out to media outlets and blogs that I'd targeted for stories and interviews. This doesn't even begin to cover everything, but it's a bit of insight. And publishers have publicists, of course. But with my publisher whose publicists focus mostly on social media, my publicity skills allowed me to get substantial press coverage I ordinarily might not have gotten. I will also add that there are many author resources for creating a promotion plan (and just about anything an author should know). One of the best for children's books, in my opinion, is Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators' The Book: Essential Guide to Publishing for Children.

 9. That's all great marketing advice. Thanks! What advice do you have for debut authors for building their social network platform and their book promotion plan? How soon after they get a book deal should they start it?

I've learned social media by doing it, so I'm no expert, but whether you have a book deal or not, it's never too early to build networks on social platforms. There are huge book and writer communities on Twitter and Instagram, the two I'm most active on, and I've learned a great deal about resources and opportunities that way. When I was querying, I followed Twitter's #querytip hashtag, for example. Once I had a book deal, I joined a 2020 debut author group on Facebook. Proceed with caution, though. On Twitter especially, it's easy to fall into the social media morass, so be sure to follow @victoriastrauss and her Writer Beware web site: https://accrispin.blogspot.com/

 10. What are you working on now?

I expect to finish Book 2 in the Summer of L.U.C.K. series in the next few months, and I'm really happy with how it's turning out. It takes place the following summer when Justin struggles with a bully. He's convinced he'll find solutions with the help of a magical carnival, like last year. Turns out real life is much more complicated. I'm starting to get some ideas for Book 3, but nothing concrete. Yet. Check back with me in early 2021!

 Thanks for sharing all your advice, Laura. You can find Laura at INSERT YOUR LINKS

Web site: LauraStegman.com https://www.laurastegman.com/
Twitter: @LauraStegman https://twitter.com/LauraStegman
Instagram: @laura_stegman https://www.instagram.com/laura_stegman/
Facebook: LauraSegalStegmanAuthor https://www.facebook.com/LauraSegalStegmanAuthor/
Summer of L.U.C.K. on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54211718-summer-of-l-u-c-k

Giveaway Details

Laura has generously offered a paperback of Summer of L.U.C.K. with a bookmark and signed bookplate for a giveaway. o enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by October 3rd. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is U.S. only.

 Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Monday, September 28th I have an agent spotlight interview with Lauren Bieker and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday, October 7th I have an interview with Jennifer Nielsen and a giveaway of The Captive Kingdom and my IWSG post

Monday, October 12th I have an interview with Sherry Ellis as part of her MG adventure Squirt's Mayan Adventure blog tour

Monday, October 19th I have a guest post by debut author G.Z. Schmidt and her agent Adria Goetz and a query critique giveaway by Adria and a giveaway of No Ordinary Thing by Adria

Wednesday, October 21st I have an agent spotlight interview with Melanie Castillo and a query critique giveaway

Monday, October 26th I have an interview with debut author Lily LaMotte and a giveaway of her MG graphic novel Measuring Up

Hope to see you on Monday!


nashvillecats2 said...

I do enjoy reading your interviews Natalie and this one is no exception. Have a good week still trying to get the hang of the new format for blogging.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Another interesting interview, Natalie! Laura's book sounds like an inspirational one for middle-graders looking for help in overcoming challenges.

Randomly Reading said...

Thanks for sharing this on MMGM. It sounds like a book I would really want to read. I know all about stuttering, have spent most of elementary school in speech therapy, and I am always interested in books like this. Thanks for sharing it with us today.

Computer Tutor said...

If only this was true! I can think of lots of kids who would love it.

Patricia T. said...

There are so few books that feature main characters that stutter and I'm delighted to see this story -- especially since there are so many people who do. Summer of L.U.C.K sounds like an engaging read and I like how the MC gains the courage to use her voice for something bigger than herself. Also enjoyed reading the fascinating interview with Laura Stegman! Good choice today!

Greg Pattridge said...

The characters and unique story line have me hooked. Great interview and such an interesting path to getting this book published.

Liz A. said...

Very interesting, especially in knowing how to publicize a book. So many of us struggle with that.

Sue Heavenrich said...

thanks for sharing this interview - I always enjoy getting an inside look at things!

Pat Hatt said...

Querying sure can produce so many highs and lows, but goes to show to keep at it.

Rosi said...

There is a LOT of good information in this interview. The publicity piece is particularly good. The book sounds like a fun one. Thanks for the post.

Max @ Completely Full Bookshelf said...

Ms. Stegman's book sounds fantastic! I love how all three main characters struggle with their voices but learn to communicate—that's an awesome plot line! I'll pass on the giveaway, but thanks for the great interview!

Jenni said...

This book sounds really unique! I liked what she said about Darby's character arc and learning to accept others for who they are, not who we want them to be.
I really enjoyed reading about Laura's journey--and great tips on publicity!

Jemi Fraser said...

Great concept for the book!! There are so many barriers to communication - and confidence is often the key to unlocking them. Good luck with the book!

Danielle H. said...

Congratulations on all your hard work to see this book to publication. This sounds fun to read. I shared on tumblr: https://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/629975316471988224/debut-author-interview-laura-stegman-and-summer

Tyrean Martinson said...

Congratulations on your book, Laura! I love the theme and the concept. And, thank you for all of your sharing your checklist for marketing.

tetewa said...

I'm always looking for new authors and series, sounds good!

Sandra Cox said...

This sounds like a marvelous book.
Thanks for hosting, Natalie.

Debra Branigan said...

I enjoyed the interview as well as the information about the book. This sounds like a fantastic MG read. I look forward to it. Best wishes to the author. I also shared on twitter: (https://twitter.com/BraniganDebra/status/1309919865126490112?s=20)

Donna K. Weaver said...

Congrats on the release!

Melanie B said...

Sounds like an awesome book, thanks for the chance! Following your blog and twitter

Shared on twitter: https://twitter.com/craftychicky58/status/1312420055708307456

melanie_brac (at) yahoo (dot) com

Gwen Gardner said...

Jennifer, congrats on your latest book. You can't ask for a better recommendation that Natalie gave you. Well done!

Natalie, what's in a title anyway, whether you call it working writer or hobbyist. As long as you enjoy it, right!