Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Lauren now lives with her husband and two young daughters in Homewood, just outside Birmingham. In addition to her fiction, she writes a monthly newspaper column about life, faith, and how funny (and hard) it is to be a parent. On any given day, she’d rather be at the beach with her family and a stack of books. The Hideaway is her first novel.
But there’s always much more, isn’t there?...
I have a trunk out in the garage that is full to the top with journals, most of them tattered and spiral-bound. My first journal was actually a diary, complete with little gold key. It had a puffy turquoise and pink cover, and I bought it at Bel Air Mall in Mobile. I have a vivid memory of sitting on a bench outside the pet store (malls used to have pet stores?!) and writing on that first crisp, pink page.
Somehow, the turquoise and pink journal grew to that trunk with 20+ journals stuffed inside. My journaling matured from puppies and birthday parties, to friends and boys, to college, new jobs, the joys of marriage, and the struggle of infertility. Through writing, I found a way to process thoughts and ideas, worries and problems. I don’t journal anymore about my day, but I do often write out prayers (when I have time to sit and actually have focused prayer time.) So I still process thoughts and worries through writing, it’s just directed at God instead of a diary…or it’s making up fictional worlds and allowing my characters to go through difficult situations and come out the other side smarter and stronger.
In the same way writing has already been with me, so has reading. If you talk to my dad, he’ll have you believe I was reading the newspaper when I was four years old. I have my doubts about that, but suffice it to say I’ve been a voracious reader since I was old enough to understand the mechanics of words strung together in sentences. From Scholastic Book Fairs in elementary school…to Ramona, Henry Huggins, and Runaway Ralph…to the entire Babysitters Club series, I was a reading kid. And reading kids tend to turn into reading adults.
My love affair with southern writing started with Pat Conroy, as it has for many people. Then I stumbled on Balls and Crossing Blood by Nanci Kincaid in the Haley Center bookstore at Auburn University. The books were shelved in “southern fiction,” a genre I didn’t know existed until then. I quickly realized that was my preferred shelf in that or any other bookstore.
After graduating from Auburn, I secured an internship, then a full-time job, at Southern Progress Corporation in Birmingham. Sometime in these after-college years, the idea of writing my own book began to take shape. I toyed with various storylines—all taking place in and around the South—but nothing came to fruition. And by “nothing came to fruition,” I mean I wrote anywhere from 20 to 40 pages, then gave up when a) I realized I had no idea where the story was going or b) the shiny newness wore off and it got hard.
I finally wrote my first full-length manuscript in 2011. I had a 2 1/2-year-old by then and I wrote two mornings a week while she was in preschool and during her afternoon naps. It took me about five months to write, and it really wasn’t very good, but a fire had been lit inside me and I knew I’d found my calling.
After putting that book away, I tried idea after idea, but nothing stuck. Finally, I asked myself what kind of book I wanted to read. I immediately thought of the Mobile area, specifically the eastern shore of Mobile Bay. And I thought of New Orleans, a city I’ve always loved. A bed and breakfast appeared, as did something about an eccentric grandmother. Slowly, a story began to take shape, as they do. But this time, all that practice—the fits and starts and the completed (albeit bad) book—gave me the perseverance and drive I needed to forge ahead with this one.
After ten months of writing THE HIDEAWAY, six months of revising, about ten months of querying, and one very gracious fellow author passing my query on to an editor friend of hers, I had serious interest from Thomas Nelson (a division of HarperCollins). Soon after, I signed on to work with my super-agent Karen Solem, and after a few more months of waiting, I signed a two-book deal with Thomas Nelson.
I’m currently at work on my second book, set to come out in 2018. I’m also judging my two young daughters’ gymnastics moves in the living room, sweeping the kitchen floor again, listening to Josh Ritter with my husband, and trying to escape to the beach as much as possible.