We are thrilled to introduce newly published author, Laurie Batzel!
Tell us a little about yourself. I’m a former dancer, teacher and physical therapist assistant. I should have known writing was my calling because I was the only one at the skilled nursing facility who didn’t mind writing patient care notes! A southern transplant (Virginia) to the north (Pennsylvania in the Pocono Mountains), I love getting a white Christmas, but often find myself longing for the climate of my hometown. I have four beautiful children, the world’s most supportive husband, and an awesome corgi puppy named Stuart.
How did you hear about Anaiah Press? I had seen a posting on a website called MSWL that agents and editors use to describe the kind of projects they were looking for. I remember thinking that one editor from Anaiah seemed like she would be a good fit for the book I was writing. When I pitched it on a twitter contest called #faithpitch and that same editor requested the manuscript, it felt like it was meant to be!
What was your first encounter with the writing world? Fanfiction, believe it or not. When Downton Abbey (one of my favorite television shows) ended, there was a plotline that I thought they would explore, but never did. It bugged me so much that I wrote a fanfiction about it, intending it to only get the bug out of my head. Instead, it turned into a full-length romance novel that received a lot of positive feedback from readers when I posted it on a website for fanfiction. That was the first time I thought that this was maybe more than some crazy fantasy…
How did you get the idea for your book? In church, the pastor had spoken about the hymn, “It is Well With My Soul,” and the story of the man, Horatio Spafford, who wrote it. While we were singing, I had this image of a woman with a baby crossing the sea alone on an ocean liner. When my best friend, who was fighting breast cancer at the time, mentioned that her church had also sung this hymn that weekend and it had been especially meaningful to her, I knew I needed to get whatever this image was out onto the paper.
Tell us why we’ll love your book. It has a little something for everyone. It has the nostalgia and epic drama of WWII historical fiction, the humorous and quirky side characters required for every southern small town, and of course, lots of romance.
What does your writing process look like? Since I started writing when my children were little, the only time I had available was when they napped in the afternoons. I get about two-three hours every day, and try to shoot for at least 5,000 words per week when I’m drafting. If I’m editing or on a deadline, I might stay up late at night to get things done, but as a creature of habit, it’s harder when I’m writing at a different time than usual.
Do you have any strange writing habits? I have to have my giant water bottle filled and next to me, and often I have either hot tea or coffee as well. Writing is thirsty business!
What book do you wish you could have written? The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It’s a book about how reading builds bridges between people and can even save lives. Plus, there’s gorgeous scenery. It’s my go-to recommendation when people ask me what books they should read.
What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors? Read widely and regularly, establish a writing routine that works for you. Your journey isn’t going to be the same as anyone else’s so you shouldn’t try to emulate anyone else’s writing style or process.
Are you a plotter or a pantster? Plotter for sure. I spent a lot of time creating detailed outlines so that when I go to write the first draft, I can do it quickly and efficiently. With four kids, I have learned to make the best use of my time because if I don’t write fast, it won’t happen!
What do you do when you’re not writing? Being a mom to four kids is my full-time job, so most of my day is spent with the feeding and caring of tiny humans. For fun, I love to read, cook, and go for walks in the woods around our house.
What do you do when you experience writer’s block? I actually go back to what started me writing in the first place-fan fiction! Since you’re working off of story elements that are already in place and it’s something that you can’t publish anyway, it takes the pressure off and helps get the creative juices flowing.
Is anything in your book based on real life experiences? Yes. Willa Jane’s courage as a single mother caring for her child and working as an advocate in an orphanage is inspired by my lionhearted grandmother’s experience in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Also, although the circumstances were quite different, Joy’s battle with breast cancer was inspired by the last two years of my best friend CJ’s life.
How did you come up with the title of your book? As the book was largely inspired by the hymn, “It is Well With My Soul,” the song is very much a theme and an integral part of the story. Originally I wanted to call it “Peace Like a River” but there is already an excellent, albeit very different book out there with that title.
Provide us with a two-sentence description of your book. When Willa Jane Wilson is abandoned by her husband in post-war Germany, she is forced to return as a single mother to her large family and small North Carolina town with her tail between her legs. Although she struggles with navigating the often choppy waters of friendship, loss and love, she learns that true peace is found, not by retreating inwards, but by reaching out to the people around you.
Where can readers find you online? I am on Facebook at facebook.com/laurielouwrites and on twitter with the handle @lbatc2_lou
Betrayed by her husband, Willa Jane Wilson and her daughter are left penniless and alone in post-war Germany. She returns to her hometown in rural North Carolina and prays that a new beginning will soothe the anger still raging inside her heart. But no matter how many miles Willa Jane puts between her and her shame, the peace she seeks is drowned out by ignorance and abandonment.
Her saving grace comes in the form of a new opportunity that she can’t pass up. Tasked with caring for children at a local orphanage, she dedicates herself to transforming the financially-strapped institution into a real home filled with love and faith. But when her fundraising mission lands her in the middle of Raleigh’s glittering social scene, she encounters PJ Townshend, a handsome young lawyer with a dedication to service that matches her own. There’s only one problem: PJ is on track to change the country from its political epicenter—Washington D.C.—and the closer they grow to one another, the farther apart their worlds seem to be taking them.
When a natural disaster of Biblical proportions threatens to part them for good, it also puts the orphanage and everything Willa Jane has worked for in peril. An offer for help arrives from the most unexpected source. Accepting it will require forgiveness of the past…but it might also reunite her with the person her heart desires most.