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An Interview with Laurie Alberswerth, author of Bones & Bloodlines

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Laurie Alberswerth is a writer, photographer, senior community edu-tainer, and mechanical engineer who enjoys confusing both her left- and right-brain hemispheres. A native of St. Louis and an in-law to farm life, she brings Missouri settings to her readers through the Jude and Audie West Mystery series. Where the Wests tackle clients’ genealogy roadblocks (and avoid digging their own graves), Laurie has camped with her hubby in their little blue tent. Her own family tree proves that life is lived in the dash between dates on the tombstone.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

I love to entertain people. I give travelogue programs at area senior living communities, and they quickly devolve into the Laurie Comedy Hour—why? Because if I can make a person smile or their eyes widen, I’ve brightened their day and made my own heart happy. This is true of my writing, as well. I love reading my work aloud, waiting for a laugh or a gasp right where I wanted one. As far back as grade school, I had teachers who saw something in my scribbling and encouraged its pursuit. Even though my first career was in a wildly different field (because I enjoy eating and wanted to be able to feed myself), I never stopped writing. To do so would’ve required removing an internal organ, and I wasn’t sure which one.

I’ve been influenced heavily by Agatha Christie’s mastery of mystery, and the fantastic, deep point-of-view characters written by Martha Grimes and John Dunning.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

Like every aspiring writer, I worked hard, went to college, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. Wait—that’s not the usual career path? I must’ve thought “ENG” stood for English when I declared my major. I spent over two decades analyzing the structures of military heavy equipment to ensure they could withstand the rigors required of them. It was important, meaningful, and fulfilling work, and I miss “my guys” (I was often the only woman in the room). But in Career 2.0, I’ve traded stress contour plots for mystery plots, and it was the right trade at the right time.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

I struggled to name my first book, and I think it’s going to be trickier as I move along the series. At what point does one run out of alliterative titles that evoke both mystery and genealogy? Book 1 was originally going to be “A Death in the Family,” but I was informed by my cover artist (AKA uber-talented husband) that a famous comic book story arc also used that name. (I’m apparently not as well-read as I thought I was.) Bones & Bloodlines it is!

How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?

My first “author proof” copy arrived at my house when I was home alone. I took pictures of the white-and-blue bubble envelope—no idea why. Then I opened it, pulled out 260 pages of a-long-time-coming, and cried. And laughed. And danced—it might have been a polka. Book 2, Grain & Gravestones, spawned fewer tears, but otherwise it was wash, rinse, repeat. As my series progresses, I pray that feeling never gets old.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

My perfect reader revels in a good puzzle and escaping into the lives of characters with backstories. They enjoy finding little bits here and there of pop culture or the subtle interactions that only a married couple would have. I’m thrilled that women and men have positively reviewed Bones & Bloodlines; cozy-type mysteries are frequently written for a female audience, but those twenty years in engineering mean I’m not really capable of doing that. I’ve also been told that while I keep the stories “clean” in terms of language, violence, and bedroom activities, the often-used “cuteness” of a cozy isn’t hitting the reader over the head. I describe the books as cozy-esque or cozy-adjacent: I prefer to keep the head-bashing to the murder plot, thank you very much.

What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?

Thumbtacked to my bulletin board is the phrase “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” I don’t have a Bucket List, but holding my first book and knowing the blood, sweat, and tears that went into it (looking at you, paperback formatting), was Bucket List-level venture and accomplishment. Getting my first long-form work into the hands of readers, and then learning they read it, enjoyed it, and wanted more? I could not ask for a better entrance into this new and novel (pun intended) world.

Also, as publication neared, it became increasingly important to me for my parents to see I’d done this thing I’d talked about for so long. Now I’m threatening to get them matching T-shirts reading “Ask about our daughter’s mystery books!” and they’d be most enthusiastic marketers.

What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?

During National Novel Writing Month 2023, I drafted Book 6 in the Jude and Audie West Mysteries! It’s rougher than 24-grit sandpaper right now, but NaNo is not the time for finesse. In early 2024, I’ll be hitting Book 3’s edits hard, hoping to have the finished product available to the world in the first half of the year.

Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

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Atmosphere Press is a selective hybrid publisher founded in 2015 on the principles of Honesty, Transparency, Professionalism, Kindness, and Making Your Book Awesome. Our books have won dozens of awards and sold tens of thousands of copies. If you’re interested in learning more, or seeking publication for your own work, please explore the links below.