Interview with R. A. Labrenz

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes! It was an essay about my fabulous, literate, terrific Dad. I had to measure and lightly draw the right and left hand margins on the paper and then carefully print my words. It ended with "When I grow up and get married, I hope to find someone just like my Dad." I was six years old and won a "Best of School" award. Dad was so proud.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I subscribe to various blogs. Recommendations from friends. Web surfing. I'm often researching a subject so I really appreciate the fabulous indexing our technology provides.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I grew up with the Little Golden Books, Aesop's Fables, Mother Goose, William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, and the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson. The Bible was always prominently featured in our house. What a great and varied foundation. But my favorite book of all time is Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird." The intriguing story, the way the children learn about the ugliness of some people when they are living in an atmosphere of love -- Wow! She also wrote with such skill that the beauty of the English language, in her hands, is breathtaking.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
Chicago is where I was born and raised. I still love that city. It's the third largest city in the US. I grew up in a mixed European neighborhood and as a child I lived through the 1968 Democratic National Convention, the riots and the Chicago 7. My neighborhood's houses were each so different that as I walked to Elementary School I would linger over the architectural details and beautiful tiny gardens. The downtown skyline is fabulous. I love the way it towers over Lake Michigan. Lake Shore Drive and the different neighborhoods like Hyde Park and Riverside are beautiful. I grew up roaming the museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago, which is a favorite. I can't ever resist the Oriental Institute founded by James Henry Breasted, who inspired the Indiana Jones character. My friends tell me that the Chicago influence is why I love diversity.
My large Polish-American family were smart and very kind and always made themselves available to everyone. They were all heavily involved in community service work. I admired them. As the world became more emotionally toxic and abusive, and people came to know me, I was often approached by abused women, wives and mothers, who told me their stories as they wept in my living room. Since I research most everything I experience, I guess I did have some answers. Then I learned EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) or "Tapping", which helped me personally and opened the doors to talk with more abused women.
Listening to women victims helped me to see connections with my own experiences and comfort others who had gone through horrors. A couple of these women were killed by their abusers. Abuse doesn't stop. You can only rescue yourself. But these victims I was speaking to had no clue that their lives could change. I was horrified with the bad advice their local religious leaders had given them. I want to believe these men had the best motivation and intentions, but were not professionally trained. Why would they even venture to provide advice in an area that they themselves did not understand? Over and over I asked myself why they didn't send the victims to professional counselors? "First do no harm," should be the mantra of anyone who finds themselves in a position where future lives and any kind of health -- physical, mental, emotional -- are involved. Safety first!
I take a lot of notes and over time, I would see a woman, here or there, succeed. Happily, for me, they've kept in touch with me, so I've seen some happy endings. They have become absolute giants, powerful and wise. One or two had to change their identities as they left impossible situations. My notes became the basis for this story. I offer a free eBook, "The Song of the Willow" to anyone because my hope is that something within these pages will inspire them to burn the bridges to abuse and to find the path to flourish. I want people to order their own copy rather than share, because I want an accurate tally. Even if only 20 readers get the book it will have been worth writing it.
I released another book, "The Thinking Women's Travel Guide To True North" which is lighter and more fun. Because of my own experiences I often see abuse to women or a lack of tenderness in husbands and partners, so I tend to start there. Sometimes a partner's behavior is simply due to selfishness, or lack of self awareness. Other times the issues are deeper and pervasive.
How do you approach cover design?
I paint, so design is in my DNA. I look for some graphic that sucks me in. I often use Dreamstime.com for images and inspiration.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird" because of her skill in making the English language glide beautifully right off the page.
Steven Pressfield's "The War Of Art" because he nails resistance.
Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre" because of the power, morality and ethics of a very young woman.
Thomas Hardy's "Far From the Madding Crowd" because it explains that young people always have choices that propel them into the lives they will live.
Anything by Charles Dickens or William Shakespeare because they are so entertaining!
What do you read for pleasure?
I love John Grisham and Thomas Hardy. I'm currently reading the works of Josephus.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
My Mac or iPad. My iPhone. In that order.
Describe your desk
My Mac on my lap, on the patio, porch or a seat next to a window.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I want to control my own work. I couldn't live with selling out for purely commercial gain.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords is great! Do watch the YouTubes they provide. The information is gold. I also find Mark Coker's Smart Author Master Class podcast series very helpful. I've enjoyed it more than once. The segments are well organized and the information is quite valuable. He teaches indie authors how to navigate the system. Click on https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/smart-author/id1298180300?mt=2 to listen.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Freedom of expression. When I am authentic and engaged in the moment I feel like a bird soaring to magnificent heights. I zoom in to view details and soar upwards to take in a wider landscape.
What do your fans mean to you?
Fans and readers are immensely important. They want to be entertained, sure. But I believe that reading a novel should be time well spent. People are more important than anything I possess. I truly wish them the very best. I want them to succeed. i want to keep them safe and provide hope and send them to beautiful futures.
What are you working on next?
I finally have an ending to "The Wolf, The Fox and the Maiden", which is the first full-length trilogy I wrote. It's a historical novel about a boy who immigrants from an angry Ireland and wanders around the US a bit. But since all who wander are not lost, he finds his talents, meets his love, and earns enough money to start a life. Again, many of the stories and adventures are true, told to me as Renee, the small girl sat on the laps of both of my grandmothers. I have enjoyed coming up with it and I'll keep working on it.
I've also begun"The Accidental Advocate." This is a novel about a geeky Math guy who loves a very serious business consultant. They accidentally become involved with Karen refugees from the hill tribes of Thailand, Burma and Laos. There are over 5,000 people from this culture in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I worked with them and drew heavily on experiences with these kind, sweet, pleasant people. I like the characters and the contrast between the cultures. There is danger in advocacy. Then, since I multi-task, I've got an idea for a medieval novel about two serious educated men, who are impelled to write the ancient stories and wisdom, including prophecies, while revising their archaic attitudes about women. I've written a bit of it and I like it. In all cases, I try to write about things that matter.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Life itself is such a wonderful gift. The sunrise, my rescue dog, Doc, that first sip of coffee, my prayer and meditation practice. I love my life. If something happens that I don't love, I get a chance to make it better.
What is your writing process?
It's amazing how everything comes together. I think: "I wonder what would happen if..." and "Who would be affected"? Then I write the dialog, flesh out the characters and finally add details.
Who are your favorite authors?
Harper Lee, John Grisham, Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, all of the Bronte's, Jane Austin and Thomas Hardy.
Why did you decide to write "The Thinking Woman's Travel Guide To True North" which is lighter and funnier than your first novel "Song Of The Willow"?
"True North" was my therapy when my husband of 34 years decided to divorce me. I never expected that behavior for him! My girlfriends, with their love and wisdom, helped me navigate the new waters of single life and the rejection of being divorced. "Song Of The Willow" is about recovering life after abuse, especially emotional and psychological abuse. I like happy endings, so both novels end happily.
You mentioned the Bible. Isn't that an odd book, considering our modern culture?
I don't think so. I spent about ten years deciding for myself how I felt about the Bible. I looked at archaeological evidence, historic answers to prophecies, and then I listened to criticisms from others. But shouldn't we test what we hear and not simply accept what other people's ideas are? For example, when I heard that the earth couldn't possibly be created in 7 days, research showed me that the translation behind the word "days" is really a time period that could be thousands or millions of years rather than a literal 24-hour day. When I heard that the God of the Old Testament was vengeful and cruel, I was very turned off, of course. Then I looked into that and realized that these accounts were recorded for a purpose and there are valuable lessons to learn from them. I came to understand that God is very, very friendly and reasonable, he as our Creator he has a right to set limits on our behavior, and he wants us to succeed. He does not react hastily. His responses are always measured and entirely fitting. He loves women and offers women the same inheritance as men. That's way cool.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I paint and draw. (Laughs) including the houses I've owned. It seems like I'm always painting a wall or a porch floor or stenciling a door or something. Gardening and traveling are important to me (sometimes I travel to gardens!) I have a great network of fun, talented and interesting friends. Even if we don't agree, I enjoy hearing their point of view because they are amazing people and I listen to broaden myself. I still work with my neurotic rescue dog, Doc. I was originally told that he is a mixture of Boxer and yellow Labrador. (A Box-a-dor!) But my friend, Max, who has experience with rare dog breeds, said there is no Boxer in him, but Hungarian Vizsla! Doc's very happy, affectionate and expressive, the Velcro dog (because he sticks to me) and such a great watch dog! My community service volunteer work is very important to me and it's a rare week that goes by without volunteering or giving back to my community. I love life and I'm grateful for every breath I take.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Informal chats. Slow but very meaningful.
Published 2018-10-15.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Song Of The Willow
Price: Free! Words: 87,000. Language: English. Published: November 15, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Women's fiction » General
When you find yourself stuck in a life you hate, how do you get yourself unstuck? Do you burn down your current life? When Vieve Chapman finally answers that question, she is forced to admit that she’s been numb and shut down for the past 25 years. She teams up with a street savvy young mother and together they not only escape, but change their limiting beliefs and build solid lives.
The Thinking Woman's Travel Guide To True North
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 137,320. Language: American English. Published: November 22, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Clean & wholesome, Fiction » Inspirational
Life long friends, Tally and Barbie have struggled with life. They long for a satisfying relationship like their friend, Lissie, has with husband Cesar. Promising not to give in to their own inadequacies, they learn to become effective in differentiating between rhetoric and reasoning. The men life brings have one thing in common: It takes a grand gesture to win these very capable women.