Behind the Book with Stephanie Lavigne
This week I bring the bright and bubbly US author, Stephanie Lavigne!
Liz - Tell us a little bit about your part of the world?
Stephanie - Hello from sunny, beachy, Fort Lauderdale! I am currently sitting in my home office with my window open, listening to a combination of chirping parrots and muted traffic. It’s our hot and
rainy season (as opposed to our hot and less rainy season), so I’m actually letting all the muggy
air into the house, but sometimes you have to embrace the coziness of rainy days. Luckily we
haven’t had any hurricanes yet this year and we are somehow not experiencing the heat wave that much of North America seems to be enduring right now. So all in all, things are good here. I was born and grew up down here, then moved away for many years. One day while living in New York City, I realized that no place is perfect and the combination of the laid-back beach vibe, generalized weirdness, culture, and small city ease made it a great place for me. Now, I love living in South Florida!
Liz - What is it that you enjoy about writing in the mystery and romance genres?
Stephanie - I’ve always enjoyed reading whodunits and detective books, so that was an inevitable fit for me writing-wise. I love puzzle solving and unravelling why people do the things they do, so mysteries are a fun way for me to reverse-engineer a story and create the clues, red herrings, and misdirects that help to slowly reveal the surprise. I tend to be a very tangential thinker, so mysteries are a good way for my brain to do what it does best, by planting seeds of information all over the place in different ways, which then makes sense at the very end. I think of a satisfying conclusion to a mystery as the happily-ever-after moment that you get in a romance novel. Putting all the little clues together after the big reveal is a total dopamine hit for mystery people and I love it.
Romance also has that compelling element of navigating through the messy and sweet way that humans have of dealing with their own personality quirks while trying to forge a relationship with someone else. I love the feeling of hope that we get to create in a good romance. In general, I think we all need to be reminded that good things can happen for us, even if it’s hard to see in the moment. I think romances are a great way to remind ourselves that amazing, unexpected things can come when we are willing to take leaps of faith.
Liz - What was your experience like, train-hopping across the U.S?
Stephanie - It was a really special experience, especially when I was able to see parts of the country that are
basically untouched. It may not be as true today, but there are a few areas of the United States left where trains run through that are pure wilderness. It’s incredible to look out and see a beautiful landscape untouched by humans (well, aside from the obvious intrusion of a freight train careening through it.) Similarly, there are some small communities that are built along railroad tracks that I got a fleetingly intimate look at, which I wouldn’t have otherwise known about. There is a lot of planning that goes into doing something like that, and I don’t think you’d
really be able to do it today in the same way. I got the chance to refine some innate human skills that we often lose, like navigating and telling time from the placement of the sun, and just figuring out how to do things in a rather old school way, without much reliance on modern technology. All that being said, don’t do it! It is super dangerous.
Liz - What was it like crewing a sail-boat? Do you still sail now?
Stephanie - I wish I did! I was lucky enough to have family (my aunt, uncle, and two cousins) who lived on a 50’ catamaran for decades. I got the opportunity to cross the Atlantic Ocean from the
Caribbean to Mediterranean with them. I was fairly young and inexperienced, but I took watches during the night, survived the Bermuda Triangle, experienced twenty-foot ocean swells, and bouts of seasickness… but I grew a lot and it definitely shaped me. My grandparents also had a sailboat that we use to take out all the time, but sadly I am not the sailor I wish I was. I try to get on boats whenever I can and even had a short stint working on mega yachts, so…I could keep us afloat if we were stranded on a rogue raft, but I know enough to know that I don’t have real skills at this point. It is on my to-do list to re-learn how to sail with confidence one of these days though.
Liz - You’ve had some exciting adventures, what would be your favourite?
Stephanie - One thing about me is that I never have actual favorites. Life experiences are so unique and they each leave such an individual mark on you that it’s hard to compare. I love travelling to new places, even if it’s just a road trip to another town. Within the last few years, I had a mini adventure with my two lifelong best friends where we
spent a week doing everything from a treetop ropes course to driving mini speed boats to taking pole dancing class and hitting up comedy shows. Plus, there was a whole adventure guide book that I had made to go along with it (I love planning trips, so that gets extra points.) On the surface, that trip seems somewhat subdued compared to some of my other adventures, but it was actually one for the books. I remember sitting there thinking how that trip encapsulated so many things I love to do all in one little adventure. It had all the most important elements: tons of laughter, great conversations, loving friends, interesting experiences, and lots of good food and drinks.
Liz - How have these experiences inspired your writing?
Stephanie - I think our life experiences give us a lot to pull from in writing. I think this goes for everyone, in that we all have life experiences that can help make stories come to life. Sometimes I like to
write about the type of activities I’ve done, or I can pull character traits from people I’ve known and the way they reacted to situations in the world.
I think it’s fun for me to revisit some of these places am I riding without actually having to live through it again. For example, I know that I am not meant to work on a yacht at this point in my life, but I love sitting down to write and still getting to have adventures in that world.
Liz - You have over 50 published works – which was your first?
Stephanie - My first published book was called For Love…and Donuts. It’s since become a trilogy following the same couple through their story. It was loosely inspired by watching a lot of HGTV at the time and wanting to write something that my mother-in-law would enjoy reading. I love home renovation and old houses, and one of my closest cousins owns her own amazing donut shop so I kind of wanted to give a loving nod to all of those things.
Liz - How has your processed changed between writing your first novel and your most recent?
Stephanie - In my first book I feel like I was walking on eggshells in a way. I was really nervous about “getting it wrong”, but thankfully I forged ahead anyway. I was still learning reader expectations of the genre, which honestly is an ongoing process for me still, so I wanted to make sure I was not going to offend anyone by not doing it right,
whatever that means. By this point I am somewhat comfortable with the fact that I probably get it wrong a lot, but my readers still love me and my stories. I can now remind myself that the fierce inner-critic has to be shut up at some point, which is only possible because my business side knows enough to make her stop talking and move forward with the book. Even now I get super nervous when a book has been sent out to ARC readers and no reviews have come in yet. I decide the book is terrible and completely embarrassing and it should have never been let out into the world. As a writer, I will feel like that until enough good reviews come in to deflate the fear. Luckily, I’m familiar enough with the process now that I send the book out regardless of my self-doubt,
because I’ve been lucky enough to see my books do well over and over again. The other thing that it’s hard to remember is that no one cares about your early books because they don’t know who you are. You have to keep putting books out, and the more you write, the better you will get.
Liz - Tell us about your recent release and what inspired it.
Stephanie - Headlines, Deadlines & Lies is a genealogical mystery set in a quaint beach town along Florida’s Gulf Coast. It’s a story about friendship, family, and finding your passion. I wrote it as a crossover book for both my Mystery readers and also for my Sweet Romance readers. So it’s a
beachy, small-town mystery that’s a little quirky, cozy, and very upbeat. It’s a feel-good mystery!
When I initially sat down to brainstorm the book, life was feeling heavy and overwhelmingly intense across the globe. So the story itself was inspired by trying to write a mystery that didn’t start with a murder or epic crime. Instead, I started playing with the mysteries that are hidden in plain sight but we don’t question because family ties are tricky. My mom has been into genealogy for quite awhile, so I was finally able to delve into some of those intriguing stories and weave a tangled little mystery of my own! It was a fun challenge and felt very
heartwarming to write.
Liz - What do you like to do when you have a rare moment of free time?
Stephanie - My free moments are admittedly few and far between these days. My current life-hack for my lack of downtime is that I I’ve been streaming TV shows while I do the dishes at night. It’s not a great habit because I end up binge watching long after the dishes are done, but it’s a small dose of simple comfort, which I’m trying to work into my life more. I also love to plan trips and research cool places to stay and sort of make loose itineraries for adventures I want to go on. So while that isn’t as satisfying as actually going on an adventure, I like doing that and then eventually getting to follow through. Most of my actual down time I tend to take on a lot of special projects around the house. I like to do DIY home renovation quite a bit, and so I am often doing something around our house or in our yard. Last weekend I sanded and varnished some wooden benches out of trees that were downed in our yard after the last hurricane. And then I just started a butterfly garden rather unexpectedly. We’ve made one of those before, but this time we have gone from wild front area front yard garden to full-blown backyard sanctuary.
Liz - How do you juggle your family and your writing career?
Stephanie - I probably do not do this particularly well, but I think most working parents probably feel the same way. If my kids are in school during the day, those are my hours to work. Fortunately or unfortunately, those are also my hours to do every other thing to help keep life running smoothly. I’m very lucky that I don’t have to go it alone and I have a really great partner in my husband. I also have an awesome support system with my parents, my aunt, and my grandmother all living nearby. I’m really grateful that we are close, love each other, and help
one another. They have certainly helped keep me somewhat sane and my kids well-loved and properly fed over the years.
If I have a tight deadline, I’ll end up working late at night, or asking my husband to take over kid duty when he is finished his workday. He’s never really finished with work, given his job, but he does the best he can to make it so I get my stuff done, especially when it’s important. The struggle to do it all is impossible to win, so I just do my best and try to figure out what needs to be prioritized at any given time to make it all work.
Liz - What does a typical writing session look like for you? Do you have any special rituals or writer quirks?
Stephanie - Because I have kids, and then we had a pandemic, my writing routine has continued to change. In my perfect scenario, I sit down, light a candle, and dive into a nice, long uninterrupted
writing session. In reality, that barely ever happens. One of my only consistent quirks is that I almost always have to make a “special beverage” of some sort before I sit down to write.
Usually it’s coffee or hot chocolate or some sort of concoction in a cup large enough that I will not feel compelled to get up and search for something else when I get fidgety. I usually try to grab a water, too. Unfortunately, I am not as good at drinking that.
I have also learned to auto dictate a lot more over the last couple years, which has been an
interesting change to my writing. I don’t always do it, but I can write much faster if I’m talking the story out then if I’m typing. I had to learn to auto dictate pre-pandemic because I was in the car having to pick up my kids and things like that a lot. At one point, I realized that the only way for me to get work done and also take care of business was to utilize my time in the car better. At first I found it super clunky, but now I actually prefer it sometimes. Some days I will just go out into my backyard and walk around auto dictating a scene or a chapter. It’s especially useful if I am feeling stuck and don’t know where to start on a story or chapter. I just press go and force myself to start talking.
Liz - What is your favourite book?
Stephanie - Oh geez, this is terrible, but I don’t have a favorite book! I love so many types of books, both
fiction and non-fiction. Different authors and books have inspired, entertained, or taught me so much in their pages that it feels impossible for me to choose!
Liz - If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring authors, what would it be?
Stephanie - If you feel drawn to being a writer, you need to just start. Start looking at being a writer as both
a creative art and also a profession. There are endless opportunities available to get your work out there, to learn the business of writing, and to do what you want to do. Long gone are the days where you had to write a book and then sit patiently by waiting to be rejected by publishers. You can take your career into your own hands and create a life for yourself. If you need to work on certain skills, learn while doing. We are all constantly learning and growing as writers. But in order to see where your strengths and weaknesses are, you need to write a book, and then write the next book, and then write the next book. I know it’s easier said than done, but the only way you will learn and get better is to keep writing. The only way you will become a “real, professional writer” whatever that
means to you, is to have actual books that people can buy. Learn to treat it as a business. There are endless resources out there to help you. So start writing, find a little tribe so you can support one another, and trust that you are more talented and capable than you give yourself credit for.
A lot of people love to say how unfair it is that mediocre writers make a living at it when they can’t. But that person that they perceive as less talented is putting themselves out there, over and over, treating their writing like a business, and making a career for themselves. Be willing to put yourself out there, even when you are scared. There are a whole lot of people who will be there to support you, love you, and cheer you on along the way. Trust that your dreams are worth working toward. Because that is all it takes: work. Not magic. Just work. And that’s
something you can do. I believe in you. You can absolutely do it.
Liz - What are you working on now?
Stephanie - I am working on a mystery serial right now that’s inspired by all the crazy FloridaMan news
stories that are always making headlines. I’m having a lot of fun with it. Serials are basically written the way episodic tv shows are done, and I hope it actually gets picked up and optioned as a tv show. All of my mystery stories, both the upcoming novels and the serials, take place in this larger “series world” titled The Sunshine State. So even when the characters in the stories aren’t directly connected, they tend to frequent the same places and live in the same area. I’m really looking forward to seeing the stories finally come to life once they are written and published. Now I just need to schedule way more writing time into my days!
Liz - Where can our readers follow you?
Stephanie - You can find and follow me on any of your favorite online platforms like: Bookbub, Facebook,
Goodreads, Instagram, and Amazon. Plus, you can always sign up for my Newsletter at
www.StephanieLaVigne.com and say hi to me there!