Pen Friends ~ Please welcome YA Author and Podcast Host Laura Juntunen talking about her new post-apocalyptic, sci-fi series, THE SHOCKWAVE; publishing journey; fabulous podcast, Read It With Whiskey; and so much more! I’m so excited to introduce you to Laura!
SP: Hi Laura! Thanks for joining us! Before we get into book stuff, we’d LOVE to know a bit about you and your writing journey?
Thank you so much for having me, I am excited to be here! My writing journey started early, though I did not take it seriously until a few years ago. As a child, I always fantasized about being an author, but my dreams were cut down when I was told I would not be able to make a living as an author – such a shame!
Once out of college, I worked in the fitness industry and began life coaching. I noticed that many of my clients were asking the same questions and I was using the same process for them all – so I decided to write a book about my coaching process. Happiless Chokelist was my first self-published work, published in 2019, which outlined that coaching process.
After writing non-fiction, I did not believe I could write fiction. But then I had a dream near the beginning of quarantine 2020, and the idea for the Shockwave series was born! One year later, book one is published and I am currently working on book 2, publishing later this summer!
SP: TRANSIENT PULSE was released March 28, 2021. And the sequel, OSCILLATION RISING, comes out later this summer. Please add on Goodreads! Here’s the blurb:
TRANSIENT PULSE: When the nation is hit by a mysterious shockwave, the resulting power outage interrupts the world as we know it. Everything that was powered on at the time of the transient pulse is destroyed, seizing cities and populations in mass explosions caused by the rippling aftershocks. The lingering darkness severs society in two: those who choose ruinous control, stealing and murdering for provisions, and those who begin to create plans for long-term survival. The latter includes Dixie, a strong, yet hesitant young woman living in the heart of southern California. Dixie is forced to build plans to navigate the country in hopes to find a northern safe zone with Paul, a level-headed survivalist. When Paul goes missing, Dixie must overcome her chronic uncertainty and make the first of many life-or-death decisions: Will Dixie choose to wait for Paul, using up their limited supplies in the delay? Or, will Dixie begin the journey on her own, possibly having to turn to the dark side of society to survive?
SP: You also host a podcast called Reading It With Whiskey that promotes self-published authors and their books. Not only is it unique but it’s fun, professional, and just really well done! Can you tell us a bit about the podcast? How did it start and what have been some of your favorite interviews?
Thank you! I am glad to hear you are enjoying it! Yes, the podcast is an interview show featuring self-published / indie authors. I highlight self-published authors to help them grow their audience, while also answering readers burning questions and / or introducing readers to new authors.
The podcast was born out of a passion project. I have always hosted book clubs, and after moving to Indiana in March 2020 (from Florida), along with being in quarantine, I wanted to build that type of book community again. The podcast originally was going to be a book club where I would talk about the books I was reading, but I knew it needed something more. Being a self-published author myself, I knew that it is difficult to grow your audience, so I decided to reach out to twenty or so authors and pitch them the idea. I had a great response and began lining up interviews.
The main thing that sets the Read It With Whiskey podcast apart from other book / book club podcasts, is that I read the authors’ book before I interview them for the show. This creates more in-depth questions and conversations within each episode, and it really motivates the author because I ask them the tough questions.
I have really enjoyed all the interviews that I have had so far on the podcast! I do an in-depth screening of the author and their book before accepting their application to be featured. This ensures that I will enjoy the book and creates excitement within the interview.
One of my all-time favorite interviews was with Emmie Hamilton, author of Chosen to Fall. This is her debut novel, with the second book coming out in 2022. I feel like Emmie and I could have talked all day about her book. Chosen to Fall is a fantasy novel with princesses, shapeshifters, and magic – super fun to chat about! I highly recommend you read it!
SP: What are the biggest struggles you’ve seen self-published authors deal with? What about some of the highlights of the self-publishing road?
The biggest struggle that I have seen in self-published authors is Imposter Syndrome! Imposter syndrome is exactly what it sounds like – when you feel like you are an imposter or you are “faking it.” Many authors feel that they are not good enough to be a writer or their work is not up to par. Every author has felt like this at some point in their career – no matter if they are a new author or have twenty-five books. AND most of the time this feeling will never go away completely. My advice for this struggle is to embrace it. After you realize that every author has this issue it helps with your mindset, and you can push forward easier.
There are so many highlights! Most of my guests say that they love the control that they have, not only with their story but also with their publishing process. To have the creative freedom to write whatever story you want is very liberating! I would say that is my favorite part of being a writer – telling the stories that are sitting inside my head. No one can tell you that you are wrong, when it is your story that you have creative.
SP: Tell us more about the heart behind the books you’ve written! What inspired you?
The Shockwave Series, as I briefly mentioned earlier, was inspired by a dream! Brian, my partner, and I were getting ready to move from Florida to Indiana in March 2020. We had been thinking about moving for quite a few years, and finally decided to move due to the unknowns surrounding the coronavirus. We made the decision to move very quickly and packed up our things within a day or two. The night before we were set to leave, I had a nightmare that Brian left me behind in Florida.
The fear behind this nightmare stuck with me for quite some time and I thought about how terrible that would be for someone, to be left behind. The dream turned into a story and overtime the idea of a pandemic turned into a pulse that wipes out all electricity in the city. In the book I reversed the role. I thought it would be terrible to get left behind, but what about the person doing the leaving? What would be going through their mind? What would motivate them to leave their loved one behind?
Dixie’s story is one of growth. She starts out very indecisive and she learns how to be independent out of necessity. I put a lot of my own fears into her and her character. I also put a lot of who I want to be into Dixie and other characters within the story. The main premise, or my hope for the reader, is that they can learn more about themselves and those who love them; who their real family is; who they are meant to be.
SP: You used to be a life coach (or do you still do that?) How has that impacted your writing and your podcast?
Yes, I was a life coach down in Florida. With the move to Indiana, I decided to dissolve the business and pursue something different. But yes, it impacted both my writing and my podcast. My first book was built through my coaching business, highlighting my coaching strategies, and my first fiction novel has a lot of emotional contemplation and impact from my coaching practices. Within Transient Pulse, we learn a lot about Dixie’s internal struggles and that was inspired by my coaching experience.
As for the podcast, I believe my coaching practice really helped develop who I am as a speaker and host for the podcast. I understand what type of questions to ask my listeners and when to change direction quickly given their visual or audio cues – though they probably do not realize they are presenting the cues at all.
SP: What part of the writing process do you most enjoy? The first draft? The development in revision? The final touches?
I think this changes for every book I’ve written! For my non-fiction book the process of putting my coaching practice onto paper was so exciting because I had never narrowed down the strategy in such a way. So, for Happiless Chokelist, that developmental process was the best! For my fiction work, I would say the creative energy is the most exciting for me. Developing characters and their world is really fun! I really enjoyed the editing process for Transient Pulse, and I am in that stage for Oscillation Rising right now. However, I find that I enjoyed the first draft for O.R., more so than this editing stage. In writing a series, you must go back and forth through so much information to make sure you do not miss anything – it’s much more in-depth this time around.
SP: Any writing or life tips you’d like to share?
My greatest writing tip: just start writing. I know so many people who are terrified of writing their story…for no reason! Fear gets in the way and the moment you start writing, that fear will fade. If you are a new author, I urge you to forget about the marketing, building your audience, and all the publishing work that must be done. Forget about it for now. If you start working on all that, you will never get your book written. Start writing and stop worrying. Once you have the book written, you will have time to go back and worry about the logistics. Pen to paper first!
A few fun questions. Is Laura…
Plotter/pantster? PANTSTER! All the way! I try to plan and plot out the entire book, then a character swoops in and says, “Nope, I’m going this way!” And then my entire plot changes. Pantster it is!
Last book you read? Calculated by Nova McBee. 😉
Current dream vacation spot? Home. I do not travel. Being with family is all I need while vacationing.
Current favorite K-Drama? As in T.V.? I don’t watch much T.V., and I do not know that I have watched any K-Drama…I would like to get into it though!
Would you rather be a professional: Marine Biologist? Spy? Opera Singer? Brain Surgeon? OR?
This is tough – I would probably say Spy because it is the furthest thing from who I am, but who I would love to be! I like the idea of doing secret missions and diving into the enemy’s lair! I enjoy reading this type of story, so it makes sense that it is what I gravitated towards!
Favorite childhood book?
There are so many, but I would have to say The Littles. I remember my mom reading these books to me as a kid, and though I have not read them since, they hold a special spot in my heart.