Friday, March 28, 2014

Entry # 206 - Interview with Maryland Romance Novelist, Lauren Monroe

About Lauren Monroe
Lauren Monroe is the pen name for Lorriann Oberlin, a Maryland writer and novelist. She is a former native of Western PA.  Her new novel, LETTING GO:  Book One of The Maryland Shores, is a contemporary women's fiction story set in the DC and Maryland area with strong connections to the Chesapeake Bay region.

Jan:   Readers always want to know something about the main characters and the plot when they pick up a new novel. What will make them want to read yours? 

Lauren:   My novel, Letting Go is set in the DC/Maryland area, and in particular, sites along the Chesapeake Bay region. It deals with nautical themes, some current events/past current events in the aftermath of 9/11 anniversary reactions, which heighten anxiety anyway.
When Maren Mitchell, the heroine, lost her husband in a violent car crash, she lost her anchor  in life and battles anxiety about all things medical, combined with living in a particularly tense time in our nation’s and the region’s history.
When her son becomes ill, she meets a compassionate, handsome surgeon, Steve Kramer, at the same hospital where she’s just been offered a job, by a friend of hers. She has to decide how/when to move forward with her mix of emotions. Steve is different from any man she’s known with a mix of the lovable and annoying as is the case in most relationships.
They interact with one another, each other’s families and use their strengths to overcome weaknesses, as they navigate their individual differences…and yes, navigate the Chesapeake, spending days…and a few nights aboard Steve’s boat. There’s some heat there – steamy some readers have called some scenes, but the budding relationship touches people emotionally for its realism I’m also told.

Jan:   And who do you see as likely readers for your novel, Letting Go: The Maryland Shore?
Lauren:   My readers are usually women starting at early to mid-thirties and on into 70+, but having said that the novel has been enjoyed by a few male readers out there.  Sometimes couples read the same novels, and honestly….it can be good for men to read a few such novels with a little romance in them.
Readers will likely enjoy the nautical theme throughout, the strength of the characters, and often some humor regarding motherhood, men and even a familiar football rivalry on the east coast. I’m a native of Pittsburgh, PA so it shows a little.  (Laughing)  As they say, you can move away but you can’t take the ‘burgh out of the person.  That said, rest assured I’ve created Ravens and Redskins fans.  I know where I live! (Laughing again)
Jan:   Previously you've written nine nonfiction books, tell us a bit about those books, and why you decided to tackle a fiction book?

Lauren:   These were all self-help, non-fiction books. I decided that given the serious nature of some topics and other work that I do,  I wanted a creative, right-brained departure from that. I had also started the idea for this novel 20 years ago, and something drew me back to these characters, so I dug it out, changed much, kept some and readers seem to enjoy the result.  I’m humbled by that.

Jan:   How has your journalist experience informed your fiction writing efforts?

Lauren:   Yes, that experience has helped as I written articles about relationships, parenting, travel, and then later obtained a master’s degree in mental health.  All of that plus living my life and understanding, both professionally and personally, about relationships and families has equipped me to tackle this.  I’m hopeful that it shows in the end result, and though my fiction is a fun read, I hope that readers take some messages about positivity and coping away from the experience.

Jan:   You've chosen to use a pen name for this novel - why and what are the pros and cons for using a pen name for you?

Lauren:   The pen name was to keep the fiction separate from non-fiction and the name symbolic.  I loved the first name, the original character had that name in the 1990s version, but when I moved the setting to Maryland, I opted to use as pen name.  Monroe short for town Monroeville, outside of Pittsburgh where I lived, wrote and worked for many years, even teaching others how to get their start in freelance writing. It’s not a big secret though that this is a pen name…I’m pretty open about that.

Jan:   What have you learned from your experiences self-publishing this novel that might be useful to other writers?

Lauren:   Actually I have learned a lot and I will probably say more about this in print some day. It’s a lot of work but the reward is there also.  All of my non-fiction was published the traditional way with well-known publishers. So many have touted the merits of independent publishing (the term I prefer) that I wanted to try it.
Jan:   What is the best advice you've ever received about writing?

Lauren:   There’s so much to say to aspiring writers.  It's important to keep at it.  Follow your passion. Carve out a time to write, park yourself in a chair and just get to it. And, my all-time favorite, and one I can say really shaped this novel – the best writing comes out of revision. Nothing’s perfect the first time you create it. You hone it, walk away from it, share it with others, consider feedback, and get back to it, often eliminating unnecessary verbiage or words.

When someone tells you – as more than one reader has with this novel – that she couldn’t put it down and didn’t want to do anything else but read it – THAT makes a writer’s day and makes it all worthwhile.

Jan:   Tell readers about your novel and travel blog. 

Lauren:   In my freelance career, I wrote about honeymoon travel and had an opportunity to contribute to national magazines. I’ve always liked exploring and learning as well. Living now on the Eastern Shore, I’m happy to share the insider track with people through this Facebook page and blog – giving people added reason to “like” it and follow it, certainly for the tips if they travel over this way, or even into the DC/Annapolis area.

Jan:   How can readers connect with your blog, and buy a copy of your novel?

Lauren:   The best way to keep tabs — both for this novel and for travel to the Chesapeake area — would be to check out the posts on the novel’s Facebook page and travel blog there so go to:

Also:   I invite readers to be in touch emailing: 
or messaging through the novel’s fan page. They can also follow the book at Good Reads (where there is a giveway through March 30 to win two paperback copies) and on the Pinterest page for Lauren Monroe, Novelist.

In Addition:   At the back of the book – Ebook or paperback – there’s a readers’ guide for book clubs so I hope that women in such will consider the title as there are points to talk about, and it’s a very spring/summer kind of read especially.

Jan At Sea April 2013
About Jan Bowman

Winner of the 2011 Roanoke Review Fiction Award, Jan's stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, Best American Short Stories, and a Pen/O’Henry award.  Glimmer Train named a recent story as Honorable Mention in the November 2012 Short Story Awards for New Writers.  A recent story was a finalist for the 2013 Broad River Review RASH Award for Fiction, another story was a 2013 finalist in the Phoebe Fiction Contest; another was a 2012 finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest Jan’s fiction has appeared in numerous publications including, Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, The Broadkill Review, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes and others.   She is working on two collections of short stories while shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection, Mermaids & Other Stories.  She has nonfiction publications in Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers.   Learn more at: or  visit blog:

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