An Interview with 'Laura Parker Castoro' (Part I)
WITH PROLIFIC AUTHOR
-- AND OUR OWN FELLOW
It is my pleasure to introduce the members
of the Generation-Mixed online community
to one of the world's most talented
writers -- Laura (Parker) Castoro
Hello Laura -- Welcome and I would like to say that
we are all so very happy to see that you have BOTH
decided to become a part of our online community
AND are also willing to share your thoughts and
observations about life with us in this interview.
As noted, we are all absolutely delighted to have you
here and I would like to take just a little bit of your
time to talk about who you are and the work that you
do -- as well as your viewpoints and experiences.
Again-- thank you so much for being
here and how are you doing today?
I have just launched my newest
release LOVE ON THE LINE,
HarperCollins / Avon A, Feb. '09.
CAREER, WORKS AND INSPIRATION
Can you share with us the inspiration that led you in
your path and desire to become a writer -- in other words.,
who or what has been most influential in inspiring
you and helping you along in your life and in the
pursuance of and success within your writing career
This is going to be a long-winded answer!
The inspiration to start writing is simply that
I ran out of something to read one day.
I was a mother -- on hiatus from a degree in micro-biology
-- with 3 children, 2 in diapers and one in kindergarten.
Reading kept me sane!
It took me, for a short while each day, out of my very
active but limited life as a mother of young children.
After I began writing, just for fun,
I realized I wanted to look again
at how my favorite authors did it.
Specifically, I can tell you who and
what inspired me to write romance.
Rafael Sabatini who wrote CAPTAIN
BLOOD among many other tales,
Frank Yerby who penned A WOMAN
CALLED FANCY,THE FOXES OF
HARROW, and THE SARACEN BLADE, and
Kathleen Woodiwiss whose THE FLAME AND THE
FLOWER finally moved me to put pen to paper to write
my first book, a historical romance SILKS AND
SABERS, published by Dell Books, 1980.
His swashbuckling larger-than-life heroes
were men of purpose, strong, resolute, fighting
for right, and falling in love along the way.
I like them better than their modern incarnations
such as The Terminator, Rambo and Dirty Harry.
Sabatini's heroes didn't take themselves so seriously, and
they preferred to avoid violence and win by their wits.
Also, Sabatini's heroes observe life lessons that I believe in:
That, in order to be happy in this world,
you must seek to be worthy of it.
Otherwise, you are doomed to misery
even if your heart's desire is achieved.
It took female writers like Woodiwiss, who began writing in
the late 70s, to take men off their superior pedestals and put
them in the bedroom where women knew they belonged!
Heroines became the SHeroes of romance novels and
women's fiction joined THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION.
His tales, many with historical backgrounds,
were about men and women with strong desires
and purposes who triumphed over incredible odds.
Yet Mr. Yerby's affect on my writing
came from more than his rousing stories.
As an African-American man writing in
the '40s and '50s, had the audacity to write
what come in those long-ago days called "White" stories,
his work provided many positive lessons for a writer.
1) I did not have to live what I wrote about.
2) One's heritage didn't give one the corner on
the market for writing certain kinds of stories.
Everyone must go to the same place for his
or her knowledge of history--the library.
3) As for the quality of storytelling, that depends
solely on the imagination and creativity of the writer.
In other words:
I COULD LEARN WHAT I NEEDED IN ORDER TO
WRITE ABOUT ANYTHING THAT INTERESTS ME.
Can you tell us a bit about `how' you launched your
writing career (i.e. did you initiate your career via
novels, short stories, poetry, plays, community theatres,
local writing clubs, small publishing houses, etc.)?
I ran out of something to read one day.
Married with three children, I had taken time off from a degree in
microbiology to take care of my `personal biology experiments'
at home, two wearing diapers, and one in kindergarten.
I always loved to read but I didn't realize that all the
stories running around in my head could be written down.
What started as a secret passion no one but my husband knew
I was writing -- blossomed after two years into my first novel.
I was encouraged at a writers' conference to send it to a publisher.
This is the fairytale part, I sold my first novel
to the first publisher I sent it to: Dell Books.
First my historical romance Silks
and Sabers was published in 1980.
I was published before I ever received a rejection slip!
Or had an agent.
That's almost impossible these days.
What was the name of your very first published book
and the source of inspiration for the story within in it?
It was titled SILKS AND SABERS, Dell Books, 1980.
Her most famous book is
THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER.
In it her hero "flamed with passion" and "male
macho swagger," while her heroine "dipped her
flower-like head" until he had burned himself out.
She still sometimes won by DEFAULT, not by a
show of EQUALITY OF SPIRIT, PRIDE OR PASSION.
DON'T GET ME WRONG. I loved many things about the book,
including its floral language and sexiness, but it left me unsatisfied.
Where was the Heroine worthy of the Hero--or vice versa?
AND THEREBY HANGS A TALE. . . .
In the first chapter of SILKS AND SABERS, my heroine
runs the swaggering hero through with his own sword!
I wanted my heroines to be the equal of the men in their lives.
Just as capable and spunky, and yet who still possessed
enough feminine wiles to win the man of her dreams.
What is the name of (as well as the source of inspiration for)
your most recent work and can you tell us a little bit
about the topic, subject matter or theme presented in it.
LOVE ON THE LINE is a companion
novel to a book I wrote called Crossing
the Line, which was published in 2002.
The genesis of both books began as an article I
wrote for Essence magazine in 1997 about being
I feel this has given me a unique vantage point in life.
Not a perfect view, but one that sometimes
allows me to see what seem to be issues of race
but are really about power, assumptions, and
other's opinions about how things should be that
have nothing to do with what's in front of them.
Labeling is a flawed but human
pre-viewing way of dealing with our world.
However, those presumptions and assumptions,
without a periodic "reality check," can
hamper us and keep us from being our best selves.
Thea, the main character, is a creation of my imagination
who experiences in her life the kinds of situations
and incidents that have been part of mine.
Some are funny, some insulting, some are
the results of mistaken expectations.
You could say I've lived her life!
But not the particular plot points of my novels.
That's where my writer's imagination came in.
Imagination allowed me to create dramatic problems which illustrate
the issues that can arise from not being what people expect.
I like to think of my story as an example of that old
cliché, "The cover doesn't tell the whole story."
Every person is a lot more than
what we see when we look at them.
Often we surprise even ourselves about what
we think we will do and say in a situation
when reality actually forces us to speak and act.
How much more surprising is it when people we
know behave in ways we wouldn't have expected.
I put obstacles both seriousmarriage, work, childrenup
against the usual family intrigues and a healthy salting of humor.
Look for the Chicken Caper subplot in Love on the Line!
What do you feel is a consistent theme that
you regularly try to reflect in all of your works?
For many years I didn't think I had a consistent
theme because I wrote in such diverse genres:
historical romance, western, romantic suspense,
saga, contemporary romance, and now mainstream
but I've come to realize that I do have a theme.
I write about characters who
are outsiders in their worlds.
Whether it's a 16th century Irish girl born with a red birthmark on her
face that brands her a `fairy child' or a 19th-century Brazilian who's part
African, part Indian and part Portuguese whose wealth cannot shield him
from trouble in the American south, or a Regency English spinster who,
because of why she was left at the altar by her fiancé, is the subject
of scandal, or a modern fifty- year-old who finds herself divorced and
pregnant, my characters tend to have unconventional circumstances.
They have to find a way to make their lives work without being
able to simply follow the `rules' of behavior of `common
conventions' what everyone else around them follows.
They must define their lives for themselves.
What advice would you give to any writers (ex. authors, poets, etc.)
who are interested in having their works professionally-published
(ex. steps to take; handling rejection, publicity, etc.)?
Write, write, write!
Read then reread, to understand how the author put book together.
Once you know the story you can concentrate on form and plot.
Don't give up, accept constructive criticism
and never stop trying to get better.
Perspiration and dedication are the ingredients of all successes.
PERSONAL MIXED-RACE EXPERIENCE
Can you share with us some of the experiences that you have had ---
as a person-of-color who is also of a very light skin-complexion AND
also the life reflections you have made from those experiences -- as
well as any advice that you might have for others `in your shoes'?
My advice, be yourself.
Never try to alter yourself in order to
please someone else's view of you.
This is most difficult for young people, who
desperately what to be like their peers.
No one gets to choose how or where
they were born, or what they look like.
So how can there be anything wrong
with who are you just for being born?
IN ORDER TO VIEW PART 2 OF THE
INTERVIEW WITH LAURA PARKER
CASTORO PLEASE RETURN TO THE
`GENERATION-MIXED' GROUP SITE.