Laine Cunningham is the author of literary suspense, paranormal thrillers, and historical series that cross over into fantasy and action/adventure.
Her novels have received the Hackney Literary Award, the James Jones Literary Society Fellowship, and grants and residencies from the Vermont Studio Center, the Jerome Foundation, and regional arts councils. Recently she was accepted into the Arte Studio Ginestrelle's program in Assisi, Italy, to support a historical series.
What has your experience with literary communities been like?
Many and varied. I left a snazzy corporate gig while living in California to start my fulltime writing career. Six years later, I gave away everything I owned (with the exception of my car, my computer and my two dogs) and moved to Minnesota after a thirty-day residency at an arts center in the middle of nowhere (quite literally). That was at a pivotal point, when I was finally honing in on novels as my career focus.
Minnesota offered a strong arts community but actually didn’t have a good writing network outside of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Four years, one novel and 80 degrees below zero later, I moved to North Carolina to extend my network in this very author-friendly state. Great community here, lots of serious-minded authors to connect with.
I have attended six writing residency programs since 2000, and will be attending one in Italy in November of 2015. Although all of them put me in contact with authors local to the programs’ areas, the Vermont Studio Center residency threw me together with a dozen other writers from around the world. It was a fantastic experience, very intense, and well worth repeating.
What are your goals and ambitions as a writer?
Each of my novels focuses on a specific culture. Although driven by suspenseful plotlines, the main characters are in some way involved in cultures that are outside the American mainstream. My first novel delves into the issues faced by Australia’s Stolen Generation, light-skinned and biracial Aborigines who were forcibly removed from their families under the government’s racist assimilation policy. Since the practice did not end until the early 1970s, generations of individuals who lost their families, culture and heritage are today still attempting to make sense of their lives.
My second novel follows a South Asian-American FBI agent who must access the power of the dark goddess Kali in order to bring a serial killer to justice. The third works with Native American beliefs. All of the novels are intended to cross boundaries of race, culture, age, gender, sexual preference, religion and spirituality, and to show how modern people blend traditional beliefs into their lifestyles. I believe that by entering into another person’s world through fiction, people can begin to understand one another. Then they can break down the fear and hatred that is setting the world on fire today.
No matter how the novels perform, my goal for myself is to achieve a level of success that allows me the freedom and time to focus on writing novels and helping other authors through a variety of means. One of my long-term goals is to finance annual seminars at different locations around the nation. Part retreat and part workshop, the programs will take a holistic approach to the author’s lifestyle. I would also like to eventually set up a fund for the most basic needs that often go unmet for authors: dental care and money to help pay medical bills.
The goal placed on my writing, crossing boundaries, came clear as I was writing my first novel, Message Stick. As I looked deeper into Aboriginal culture and how much had been lost, I discovered quite a bit about the strife that can divide tribes from each other. When combined with the racism they suffer from the larger, European-based society, it seemed clear that all people face the same issues. We all need to learn how to be better and reach across the gaps to find that human beings just like us are on the other side.
The personal goal of freedom and time was obvious from the beginning. The larger goal for outreach grew as my client base grew. There are so many people who have so little understanding of how the publishing industry works, let alone where to go to learn about the craft of writing. Through the seminars, I will be able to help many more people than I do now yet still be able to work in a personalized setting.
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National Award Winner
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez meets Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng in a captivating family drama with the intensity of An Untamed State by Roxane Gay.
“A beautifully written … story. The work of a master craftsman.”
“Endlessly compelling. A fascinating fusion of forms.”
SHORTLISTED FOR THE WILLIAM FAULKNER AWARD
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena meets The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn in a haunting, atmospheric Hitchcockian thriller for fans of Karin Slaughter. A fictional feminist manifesto along the lines of Rose McGowan’s Brave with the raw, honest, fearless actions of one woman battling violent misogyny. Perfect for supporters of the #MeToo movement.
WINNER OF TWO NATIONAL LITERARY AWARDS
TOP SELECTION FOR A NATIONAL BOOK AWARD
“One of the best novels in ten years.” Hackney Literary Awards Committee
Destined to become the next The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
For fans of Small Great Things, Before We Were Yours, and Orphan Train.
A gripping search for a missing friend unearths the price one boy paid for brutal adoption policies.