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:
Twitter: @LLaaksoWriter
Facebook: @lauralaaksowriter
Instagram: @lauralaaksowriter

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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