I am delighted to have Laurel Hightower as Dark Reads October 2019 Featured Author along with a fantastic Guest Post!
Laurel’s Debut Novel Whispers In The Dark was published in December 2018 by JournalStone. I will be reviewing as part of The R&R Blog Tour which will be running from the 21st to the 25th October 2019, my stop on the Tour will be on 22nd October so keep your eyes peeled for that!
Anyway, that is enough form me, I will hand you over to the awesome Laurel Hightower with her Guest Post!
Stretching Our Writing Muscles:
What we can learn from reading each other
By Laurel Hightower
Stephen King gave me some of the most freeing advice I’ve ever received: read everything. Okay, he didn’t give it to me specifically, but it was part of his excellent book, On Writing. At the time I’d been slogging through the umpteenth round of revisions for Whispers in the Dark, was working full time and trying to study accounting. I forbid myself from indulging in any more reading for pleasure – I needed to strap in and finish my damn book.
Then at some point, when this reading embargo wasn’t helping me write any faster, I picked up On Writing where it had been collecting dust on a bookshelf. I figured it wasn’t cheating if I was reading about writing. There’s a lot of excellent advice in there, but the most relevant to me was, (and I’m paraphrasing here) read everything. Read fiction, non-fiction, read everyone, read good stuff and bad. Everything you read makes you a better writer, so have at.
It feels a little silly now, realizing that I needed permission to go back to my lifelong love of reading without guilt, but that was what it took, so I’m grateful. Even more so now that I’m immersed in the Horror Community, being exposed to incredible indie and self-published authors I would never have come across otherwise. There’s a wonderful impetus being placed on reading far and wide, at least in my corner of the Twitterverse. Read women, read authors of color, read LGBTQ authors. Read folks from entirely different walks of life, and soak in their voices, their experiences, their ideas and anguish and turmoil and triumphs and stories. In the same way that a lifetime of experiences can coalesce to create a deep writing well to draw from, exposing your mind to myriad voices expands your understanding and your own voice. I have a friend from high school, a poet named Bianca Spriggs (go buy her books, seriously), who writes with such aching beauty. She finds the words I never could to express the things we all feel, or to convey her unique experiences, or in at least one case, gives voice to those long dead, who were never able to speak themselves. Her poem The Thirteen brings me to tears every time. I don’t think I’ll ever be a poet, but reading her words makes me a better writer, by showing me how it’s done.
I don’t mean that we read other folks, see something we like, and then plagiarize it. We read something that speaks to us, or in my genre, scares the hell out of us or touches us deeply, and we examine what it was that caused that coveted reaction. When we read something that doesn’t work for us, we look at why, and ask ourselves if we’re making similar mistakes. And inundating ourselves with all these varied voices helps us write characters of genders and cultures and lifestyles different from our own with more accuracy, and more compassion.
Writing is unique in the arts, in my opinion, in how low-stakes the competition between proponents of the art is. Oh sure, we all have moments where we compare our success to that of other writers, but the thing about writers is, we’re also readers. Which means we’re in a unique position to support each other’s work just by doing what we’ve always done. Readers generally read more than one book in a year – heck, most of us read more than one book at a time, so there’s plenty of room at the table. Maybe today my book is getting a lot of love with glowing reviews and supportive retweets, and then tomorrow it’s yours, and I’m right in there with everyone else, buying and reading and reviewing and raving and tweeting. Your success costs me nothing, and as a community, we’re all richer for each other’s contributions.
I realize this is a very Pollyanna view of the writing world, and having grown up as a writer’s daughter, I know it’s not always sunshine and roses. Maybe if my book is ever in front of an awards committee, I’ll feel differently about my competition, but chances are, even if I do, I’m going to go out and buy the book that won. Because I want to see what they did well, and because I’m a reader, and I want to read damn good books. I want to read your damn good book, so finish writing it, friend, and get it out there.
About The Author
Laurel Hightower grew up in Kentucky, attending college in California and Tennessee before returning home to horse country, where she lives with her husband, son, and two rescue animals. She works as a paralegal in a mid-sized firm, wrangling litigators by day and writing at night. A bourbon and beer girl, she’s a fan of horror movies and true life ghost stories.
Whispers in the Dark is her first novel.
About The Book
Rose McFarland is a trained killer—a Memphis S.W.A.T. sniper with a secret. Her team knows about the burn scars that lurk under her clothes, a legacy of the house fire that killed her father and brother sixteen years before. Her supervisors know that she spent two years in a rehabilitative facility, healing and learning to cope with the emotional trauma of the fire. But no one knows about the visions that drove her there, angry spirits that consumed her childhood, alienated her from her family and made her doubt her own sanity—the Whispers.
When Charlie Akers, a half-brother she never knew, ends up on the wrong side of Rose’s rifle, she unwittingly sets off a chain of events that puts her family in the middle of increasingly dangerous paranormal visitations. Charlie won’t stay dead, and soon ghosts from Rose’s past are creeping back into her life. People she’s killed in the line of duty, family she thought long buried, every one of them under the influence of Rose’s greatest fear, the Whispers themselves.
As the walls between our world and the world of the dead grow thin, Rose will have to face her old nightmares to stop the Whispers from breaking free. If she can’t, it won’t just be Memphis that falls to the dead—there will be no safe place left on earth for the living.
- Paperback: 318 pages
- Publisher: JournalStone (7 Dec. 2018)
- ISBN-10: 1947654616
- ISBN-13: 978-1947654617