Laura Laakso – Q&A

Laura Laakso

Laura Laakso

Laura is a Finn who has spent most of her adult life in England. She is currently living in Hertfordshire with her two dogs. Books and storytelling have always been a big part of her life, be it in the form of writing fanfiction, running tabletop roleplaying games or, more recently, writing original fiction. When she is not writing, editing or plotting, she works as an accountant. With two degrees in archaeology, she possesses useful skills for disposing of or digging up bodies, and if her internet search history is anything to go by, she is on several international watch lists.

Her debut novel, Fallible Justice, was published in November 2018 by Louise Walters Books and the next three instalments in the Wilde Investigations series, Echo Murder, Roots of Corruption, and The Doves in the Dining Room came out in 2019, 2020, and 2021 respectively. They are paranormal crime novels set in modern day London, but with magic, murder and general mayhem.

Laura can be found at:
Website: https://lauralaaksobooks.com/
Twitter: @LLaaksoWriter
Facebook: @lauralaaksowriter
Instagram: @lauralaaksowriter
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17986279.Laura_Laakso

Tell me what inspired you to write your (debut) novel?

Fallible Justice began with a question: if a justice system was built on celestial beings looking into a person’s soul to determine guilt or innocence, how could such a justice system be fooled? As soon as I had figured that out, I knew it was a story I had to write.

What came first the characters or the world?

Beyond the basic premise of the story, the first image I had of a woman running on a beach, channelling nature. What began as a character study for my narrator later became the opening scene of the novel. Once I’d met Yannia, I built the rest of the story in a fairly mechanical fashion (victim, suspect, red herring etc.) and moulded the world to suit the needs of the story. Because I needed both magic and modern technology for the plot, the idea slotted neatly into urban fantasy.

How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?

I got extremely lucky and skipped several steps in the traditional publishing journey. Fallible Justice was chosen as a runner up in a first chapter competition back in 2017. Unbeknownst to me, Louise was reading for that competition and when I later sent in a submission for her new imprint, she recognised my name and asked to see Fallible Justice. It didn’t meet any of her submission guidelines, but Louise loved the story regardless, and thus began an incredible journey.

How long did it take to write?

I think Fallible Justice took about 15 months to write, which is a relatively long time for me (the sequel, Echo Murder, only took 5 months), but I was struggling with some health issues at the time. As a general rule, writing for me is very much a juggling act between work, my dogs, and doing just enough housework to maintain the appearance that I don’t live in a cave.

Do you have a writing playlist? If so do you want to share it?

I don’t have a writing playlist per se, though for the Fey sections of Roots of Corruption, I did listen to a lot of Celtic heavy metal. My taste in music is wildly eclectic, so I tend to have some quite random YouTube mixes on the go. I do prefer to listen to music while I write, but I’m less bothered about what the music is. However, I will say that if my main character Yannia had to choose a theme song, it would be Rachel Platten’s ‘Fight Song’.

How many publishers turned you down?

Technically none. Louise did turn down another novel I submitted to her before she asked to see Fallible Justice, but I never submitted my Wilde Investigations series to anyone but Louise. I have had a couple of agent rejections and I expect to receive many more in the near future.

What kind of reactions have you had to your book?

Overall, the reception to the series has been very positive. I’ve built something of a fan base, especially on Twitter, and I love nothing better than seeing how invested readers are in the development of the characters and the various story lines. I play several hashtag WIP games on Twitter, so my followers get glimpses of what I’m working on and occasionally it leads to howls of outrage. I have had some negative comments about writing lesbian sex scenes, but instead of being upset by them, I view them as a badge of honour.

What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?

Without a doubt it’s people contacting me to say how much enjoy the chronic illness representation in the series. Yannia shares my chronic pain condition, but like her sexuality, the colour of her eyes, or her favourite biscuit, it doesn’t define her, being only one small part of what makes her who she is. To have readers contact me to say they hadn’t realised they needed this kind of representation until they saw themselves on the pages of my book is amazing. I gave Yannia my pain as a way of explaining my world, but I’m so pleased that my words are resonating in others too.

What can you tell us about your next book?

The fourth novel in the Wilde Investigations series is called Wildest Hunger, and it will be published on 31 October. In the book Yannia is hunting one of her kind, while being drawn deeper into the political machinations of Old London.

Do you take notice of online reviews?

I do have a look at reviews in the run up to a publication date and if I’m tagged on social media, but I rarely look at them for books that have been out for a while. At the end of the day, they’re not there for me. But I do love it that many of the regular reviewers and bloggers have become good friends.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

I have and will continue writing outside of urban fantasy. My first two novels, which shall forever remain in the digital desk drawer, were a psychological drama and a sci-fi novel. My wild imagination takes me in all manner of directions, and I see no reason to confine myself to a single genre.

What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?

I’m an accountant by day and also do some dog training in the evenings and weekends.

Which author(s) inspire you?
Joanne Harris, Terry Pratchett, and Neil Gaiman for their extraordinary imagination and amazing use of language. Agatha Christie for being the queen of the detective story. Nicholas Evans for his incredible ability to evoke deep emotions.

Which genres do you read yourself?

While I have a particular liking for speculative fiction, I read widely. If a book’s premise intrigues me, it doesn’t matter if it’s literary fiction, horror, or a middle grade adventure novel.

What is your biggest motivator?

Taking one of my mad ideas and running with it. I also love sharing all aspects of the writing and publication process with my first reader.

What will always distract you?

One of my dogs being sick in the other room.

How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?

Louise and I are lucky to work with Jennie Rawlings of Serifim, who absolutely gets my books. So while we may suggest a few minor tweaks to the covers, the concepts are all Jennie’s and she’s never yet failed to amaze us. I love all of my book covers.

Were you a big reader as a child?

Very much so. My parents once threatened to ground me for the summer holidays over some long-forgotten infringement, and my only thought on the matter was that as long as they’d still let me go to the library, it could turn out to be a very nice summer indeed. I also seem to remember being absolutely disgusted when I discovered that my local library had a lending limit of 50 books.

What were your favourite childhood books?

I adored Elina Karjalainen’s Uppo Nalle series and Astrid Lindgren’s books, with Pippi Longstocking and The Brothers Lionheart being my particular favourites. But if I had to pick one book that had a profound effect on me as a child, it would have to be Jostein Gaardner’s extraordinary The Solitaire Mystery.

What books can you not resist buying?

Anything by Neil Gaiman, Joanne Harris, Nicholas Evans, and Jodi Taylor.

Do you have any rituals when writing?

Not really, though during the winter months I like to curl under a blanket with my laptop and a mug of hot chocolate. I’m also strangely prolific on public transport, so all train or plane journeys are a perfect opportunity for writing.

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

Far too many to count… Though having said that, since getting into audiobooks, I’ve been consuming books at a far faster rate than I have for some years.

What is your current or latest read?

At the moment, I’m listening to Hannah Gadsby’s autobiography Ten Steps to Nannette, which is wonderful, and I recently listened to all of Jodi Taylor’s The Chronicles of St Mary books published so far.

Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?

I’m about two chapters from finishing the fifth Wilde Investigations instalment and I think it might be the darkest story in the series to date. That cliché about writers enjoying torturing their characters is absolutely true. I have also written two MG novels that I’m getting ready for agent submissions. Hopefully they will find a home somewhere as I adore both of the stories.

And finally, what inspired you to write the genre you do?

I never sit down with the express intention of writing an urban fantasy or a steampunk novel. Rather it’s the idea that comes first and that’s what dictates the genre. One of the greatest parts about being a writer is the freedom to explore any idea or story I choose. Everything else comes later.


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Gleanings

Neal Shusterman. Walker Books. (432p) ISBN 9781529509540

Gleanings

Gleanings

I absolutely loved the Scythe series by Neal Shusterman and was sad to leave it at the end, when I heard that there was going to be a collection of short stories set in the same universe I kept an eye out for its release. Amazingly I was approved for this on NetGalley and had to wait no longer.

And what a collection this is, if you’re a lover of the Scythe universe you will love this addition, and if you’ve not read the original trilogy I would advise you to read it first as there are some spoilers in here.

The collection has a real mix of tone throughout, from the darkly humorous to more serious additions, though I would say that the humorous stories really add to the flavour of Scythe, and would probably have to admit that two of the humorous shorts were my favourites but not my top story.

Meet Cute and Die Is hilarious, the fluffiest story in the collection but also one of the best, got to love Scythe Boudica’s preferred method of Gleaning.

The Persistence of Memory is a hilarious look at two Scythes of different temperaments in Barcelona, Dali and Gaudi… It is a look at the perceived competition between the two in Dali’s eyes, how one wishes to be flamboyant and the other more peaceful, absolutely loved the ending of this, and the theatricality of Scythe Dali.

Never Work with Animals who doesn’t like a shaggy dog story with a happy ending, maybe not the ending you would expect but hilarious especially with the bits of the Sythe’s past that are brought into the story.

The Mortal Canvas this for me though was the strongest story of the collection, looking at what could be lost with the onset of immortality and lack of challenge that only having one lifetime brings.

A great collection of short stories for lovers of Scythe and for all others as you don’t need to know the universe to appreciate great storytelling.


If you want to help and support this blog and my other projects (Indie Publishers and Big Bearded Bookseller) you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

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Magic Keepers: Crystal Chaos

Linda Chapman, Hoang Giang. Little Tiger. (160p) ISBN 9781788954402

Magic Keepers: Crystal ChaosThe first in a new series from Linda Chapman, and filled with really cute illustrations from Hoang Giang.

This sets up a new magical world based in Curio House, where Ava’s Great-Aunt Enid used to live and collected all sorts of interesting curios from around the world.

In her will Enid insists that all the curios have to be kept together and this is where Ava and her mum come in as they go to live in the house after Enid’s death.

With her dog Pepper and her new friends Lily and Sarah Ava falls into a world where they discover magic is real and that crystals do hold their own potential and energy.

They all have to learn how to use these powers rather SNAPPY as they accidentally let loose a scaled terror on the local fish population.

It is also a wonderful story of friendship and how everyone is different and have their own strengths and weaknesses but together they are better.

Fun and with a nice easy read I got through this in an evening and looking forward to seeing how the story develops.

I received this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


If you want to help and support this blog and my other projects (Indie Publishers and Big Bearded Bookseller) you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

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Fiona Barker – Q&A

Fiona Barker

Fiona Barker

Fiona is positively potty about picturebooks; reading them, writing them and talking about them. When writing, she longs for alliterative loveliness. When reading, she looks for the marriage of words and artwork and she loves anything that is fun to read aloud.

Fiona is especially enthusiastic about encouraging reading habits. In her 40s she studied for a PhD where she was lucky enough to study the theory behind the onset and maintenance of behaviour. This is so applicable to reading and it is lovely now to be able to combine her academic and professional enthusiasms.

She loves the outdoors and support several organisations that seek to encourage children to engage with the natural world including The Wildlife Trusts and the Marine Conservation Society. She spend a lot of time in Devon and loves the sea.

Fiona can be contacted at:
Website: https://fionabarker.co.uk/
Twitter: @Fi_BGB
Instagram: @fionawritesbooks

Tell me what inspired you to write these two seasonal books?

The BIG Christmas Bake was inspired by wanting to big up twelfth night. When I was growing up my mum wanted us to save all our presents until then because the Christmas story says that’s when the three kings arrived with their gifts. But we never wanted to wait! Our concession was to save one present to open after all the decorations were put away on 6th January. I still do this now I have my own family and it’s actually the present I look forward to the most even though it’s usually something quite small. I think we are bombarded by Christmas and advent from the first of December (if not before!) and it’s easy to forget about the original twelve days of Christmas. Twelve days seemed to fit perfectly with a twelve spread picture book and the idea was born. Pippa Curnick has added so much more joy and humour through the illustrations too.

I Definitely Don’t Like Winter was inspired by a newspaper article about an academic paper showing that people who dread winter have a worse experience than people who look forward to it. My Dad hates winter and I love it but I don’t want him to be sad. He is Hank to my Hoog in the story which is why the book is dedicated to him. I just love how Christine Pym has brought these two little characters to life.

How hard was it to get your first book published?

My first book was self-published after many many rejections. So many rejections! Then I was lucky enough to get picked up by a small publisher who published my next two books (with more to follow!). By that time I had an agent and she was able to get my work seen by bigger publishers like Scholastic and Quarto. As I absolutely love Christmas and Christmas books, I feel incredibly lucky to have two out at once!

How long did it take to write?

With picture books there is usually a lot of thinking time before I put pen to paper and then even more time afterwards editing. I have a fantastic critique group who are wonderful at giving feedback and helping me refine ideas. Although the first draft can be done pretty quickly, we picture book writers tend to spend ages afterwards obsessing over single words. When you have less than 500 to play with, every word counts!

How many publishers turned you down?

I have definitely been turned down, multiple times, by every major publisher and lots of smaller ones. You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.

What kind of reactions have you had to your book?

I know everyone says you shouldn’t read them but I’ve had some wonderful early reviews on Goodreads. I really want everyone to love these books.

What can you tell us about your next book?

My next book is a follow up to my previous one, Setsuko and the Song of the Sea (Tiny Tree CHildren’s Books, illustrated by Howard Gray). I think I’m allowed to say it’s called A Swift Return.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

I have written a teen romance and while I loved writing it, apparently nobody loved reading it so I’m sticking to picture books!

What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?

Alongside writing, I work part time as a healthcare scientist. I work with people who are dizzy.

Which author(s) inspire you?

I’m inspired by so many of the fantastic picture book writers and illustrators working today. There is so much variety in this genre. I love lyrical texts but also funny, silly books, rhyming and prose. And the variety of illustration styles is breathtaking.

What will always distract you?

I am hideously distracted by social media, especially twitter. You can see what I’m being distracted by if you follow me @Fi_BGB.

What were your favourite childhood books?

I remember with great fondness the Church Mice books by Graham Oakley, both for the humour in the text and the glorious detail in the illustrations. I still have them all. My other favourites were Whistle For Willy by Jack Ezra Keats and a rather more obscure but lyrical story called Starsound by Yevgenia Margolis. Very 1970s.

Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?

So many! Particular favourites are Fourbears Books (Caversham), The Alligators Mouth (Richmond) and I really wish I lived closer to Bookbugs and Dragon Tales (Norwich) which is a phenomenal bookshop really embedded in its community.

What books can you not resist buying?

I buy A LOT of picture books.

What is your current or latest read?

I’m currently enjoying Wolves In Helicopters by Sarah Tagholm and Paddy Donnelly and The Blue Footed Booby by Rob Biddulph.

What inspired you to write the genre you do?

I’m incredibly privileged to be writing picture books and sharing them with parents and children. Picture books really are for life, not just for childhood. They plant a seed that lasts a lifetime. They’re an affordable way to own spectacular innovative artwork and they’re also unique in that they are books that are meant to be shared. That’s very special.


If you want to help and support this blog and my other projects (Indie Publishers and Big Bearded Bookseller) you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.