Carla Laureano is the RITA® Award-winning author of contemporary inspirational romance and Celtic fantasy (as C.E. Laureano). A graduate of Pepperdine University, she worked as a sales and marketing executive for nearly a decade before leaving corporate life — to write fiction during the day and cook things at night.
Carla lives in Denver with her husband, their two sons, and a cat named Willow.
Your new novel, The Saturday Night Supper Club (Tyndale House, February 2018), deals with some of my favorite topics — faith, forgiveness, and our culture’s current fascination with “foodism.” Please tell us more about it.
The Saturday Night Supper Club is about a renowned chef who finds herself embroiled in a social media scandal and gets pushed out of the restaurant she co-owns with partners. She ends up joining forces with the writer who inadvertently set off the debacle to host a high-end supper club for Denver’s movers and shakers. But as she looks for investors for a new venture, she also has to take a hard look at herself and what she wants out of life . . . which may be a path completely different from the one she’d been on.
I love this book because it takes on a lot of different topics — how social media can be both helpful and destructive, depending on how it’s used; how feminism can be a tool to lift up or a wedge to divide; how the things in our pasts that we bury can define us just as significantly as those that we embrace. I think a lot of readers will relate to Rachel, especially Christian women who are walking the tightrope of have-it-all modern life.
Then, of course, there’s the food. I based the restaurants off my favorite real places in Denver, and the meals are lovingly described as the scenery. I don’t recommend reading hungry!
When you last visited Divine Detour, you’d just made a publishing detour from romance to fantasy. What led to your writing this new series?
Interestingly enough, the original detour was from fantasy to romance. The fantasy trilogy was the first series I wrote and sold, even though it wasn’t the first to be published. I initially delved into the new genre for fun and discovered that romance and women’s fiction allowed me to talk about the issues that were on my heart, those things that my friends and I face daily.
I don’t regret publishing the fantasy series for a minute (my seventh grader is reading Oath of the Brotherhood for a school project right now, in fact) but I really feel like I’ve found my niche with the blended romance/women’s fiction themes in the Supper Club series, particularly what it’s like to balance dreams, family, faith, and friends. Actually, that’s a pretty good tagline for my writing; I might have to use that!
Those who create usually tap into a personal toolbox of elements to define their style. For example, a painter might use color, light, and/or shadows in certain ways to sign his work. A musician might use syncopation, key changes, and/or vocal intonation to set herself apart. What two or three elements most define who you are as a storyteller?
The three things that best characterize my writing are a sharp, direct take on modern life, wry humor, and unexpected poignancy. I take a very unsentimental approach to storytelling and I like the juxtaposition of that cathartic “aha” moment when my characters finally figure out the lessons they’re meant to learn against the tone of the rest of the book. That feels very real and natural to me. Most of us are just muddling along the best we can, and we pray for those few defining moments of grace.
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A few fun questions…
Do you have any special dining or cooking tips you can share now that you’ve written a novel about a chef?
I’ve definitely developed more sympathy and understanding for the kitchen staff on a busy night, and I’m less likely to complain about slow service when I can see the restaurant is slammed. I know they’re working as fast as humanly possible back there. But here’s a tip directly from a chef friend: if you arrive early before it gets busy (say 5 or 6pm) and ask for a tour of the heart of the house (the kitchen), the chef will usually oblige. And most kitchens love when you leave your order up to them. They’ll give you what they believe is the best item on the menu that night, and sometimes something off-menu. (I don’t do this because I have food allergies and I have to be careful about what I order, but I have friends who do with much success!)
As a well-seasoned author, what advice would you give to those who are aspiring to writing careers?
Take your time. Be serious and disciplined, of course, but enjoy writing without pressure. Experiment. Try on styles and genres and points of view to see if they fit you. Don’t rush to publish so fast that you forget to discover who you are as a writer. Even though I’ve published in two different genres, I’m tackling the same themes in different ways. But that focus is different now than it was when I was twenty, and I’m glad I developed my craft and myself as an artist before I ever put a book out there.
Look at it this way: if you’re a dancer, you wouldn’t expect to perform Swan Lake without having solid classical ballet training behind you. Likewise, you want to have a solid understanding of your craft and your writing ability before you go pro. In this business, patience is your best friend!
The last time we talked you were considering adding a canine member to your family. So…?
I’d completely forgotten about that! Ultimately, we decided that a dog wasn’t right for our busy schedules . . . so we got a cat. A blue-cream dilute tortoiseshell, to be specific. I would never have considered myself a cat person, but now I can’t imagine life without Willow. It helps that she acts more like a dog than a cat — she comes when she’s called, greets us at the door when we come home, and has to sniff every new guest in our house. She’s also a great companion, snoozing in the armchair by my desk while I work. Now if I could only keep her off my keyboard . . .
Thanks, Carla! It’s nice to have you back at Divine Detour.
Thanks for having me, Kathy! It’s always fun to visit.
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