Today we have an exclusive interview with author Laura Elvebak!
We’re always excited to connect with authors to learn about their experiences and lives. Thank you, Laura, for answering our questions and P.J. at Break Though Promotions for making this possible.
About Laura Elvebak
Laura sometimes feels she has led several lives, but throughout the years her passion for reading and writing never faltered. Before the twenty-something years she worked for lawyers and oil and gas executives, she held a variety of occupations, including working as waitress and even as a go-go dancer in the late sixties in Philadelphia. Born in North Dakota and raised in Los Angeles and San Francisco, she settled in Houston after living in parts of New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Florida. She is happily unmarried after six attempts with men who would make fascinating characters in books but didn’t succeed as husband material.
Laura studied writing at UCLA, USC, Rice University, and Beyond Baroque in Venice, California. After taking a directing class in Houston, she co-wrote, directed and acted in a one-act play. She optioned three screenplays to a local production company, and co-wrote a script for the 48 Hour Film Project.
She is the author of the Niki Alexander mysteries, Less Dead, Lost Witness and A Matter of Revenge. Niki Alexander is an ex-cop turned counselor for a teen shelter. Her standalone, The Flawed Dance, takes place in Philadelphia in the late sixties, about a young woman fleeing from an abusive lover and hides in the demimonde world of go-go bars and mobsters. Laura is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters-In-Crime, The International Thriller Writers, and The Final Twist Writers and has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Good Reads, and Amazon Author Central.
Please briefly describe your journey to becoming a published author.
Becoming a published author has always been my career goal and my passion. Growing up I wrote short stories, acted out scenes in the backyard, read constantly, and watched movies. I sent out my first short story when I was eleven to The Ladies Home Journal, handwritten, and got my first rejection slip. I majored in Journalism in college, studied nonfiction, novel writing and screenwriting at UCLA, USC, Beyond Baroque, and Rice University. My first published works were articles for a small magazine, Single Again, and local newspapers. The realization of my dreams came with the publication of my first mystery, Less Dead.
What aspect of writing mysteries appeals to you the most?
Plotting is the hardest part for me, and I find it both excruciating, exciting, and rewarding. Once the first draft is completed, it’s time for what I enjoy the most. All my attention is focused on squeezing out the extraneous words and sharpening each phrase, working on creating the best possible manuscript.
What are some of the challenges you have encountered while writing and/or publishing novels?
Finding enough writing time without interruptions. When I’m writing and completely immersed in the story, I don’t want to think about day jobs, meals, cleaning, or anything that takes me away from the computer. Outside of that, marketing and promotion is always a challenge, though I love going to conferences, being on panels and speaking about writing.
Is Niki inspired by someone in real life? If not, what influenced her development?
My own teenagers and their friends were the first who made me realize the necessity of such a character. Teens with troubled homes, runaways, and throwaways needed someone like Niki. She was inspired in part by my visits to Covenant House in Houston and what its dedicated workers provide to these kids.
Another influence was Steven A. Egger, who spoke at a workshop put on by Houston Writers Guild. He had interviewed Henry Lee Lucas, the serial killer who had murdered girls along I-45. He said Lucas referred to the “less dead” as runaways, prostitutes, and others no one seemed to care about. In another workshop, a prison psychologist spoke about police who had to kill someone in the line of duty and the effect it had on them. Niki had to kill a teenager while on duty as a cop and it changed her life. She quit to become a counselor for a teen shelter, resolving to do her best to keep that from happening to another child.
I noticed that a long time passed between publication of the second and third books in the series. Was there a problem with writing A Matter of Revenge?
I had started A Matter of Revenge with plans to submit to my then publisher, L&L Dreamspell, when one of the two ladies who ran the company died of cancer. The publisher shut down. I worried if I should even finish the third book. Would another publisher take a book in the middle of a series? I finally finished the book anyway and set out to query agents. I met several at conferences that seemed interested. Finally one agent I met at ThrillerFest took the manuscript, suggested a few revisions, which I made, but then advised me to send it straight to a small press, as she didn’t think it fit with the Big 5. I was thrilled when Black Opal Books accepted it with enthusiasm, and has been accepting my work ever since.
Do you have plans for another Niki Alexander novel?
So far I’ve covered abandonment, the drug world, and pedophiles. If another danger to teenagers comes to me that needs Niki to step in, I will seriously consider it. I don’t think I’ve finished with her yet. Meanwhile, I have the first of a new series that has been accepted by Black Opal Books and is in the editing stages. I am currently working on the second in that series that features an investigator for a criminal attorney.
Books by Laura Elvebak
Less Dead (Niki Alexander #1)
When a homelss teenage girl wakes up in Houston’s Tranquility Park next to a murdered city councilman and then disappears, Homicide Investigator Luis Perez turns to his ex-partner, Niki Alexander. Now a counselor with a teen shelter, she may be his only hope in locating the girl. Three years earlier, Niki quit the Houston Police Department after a fatal shooting involving a teenage boy. Haunted by the memory and the guilt, she is driven to help troubled teens who have run away or been abandoned. Soon she suspects that the missing teen is a street girl she knows as Jade. Niki fears there is more of a connection between Jade and the murdered man than was initially apparent. Niki’s search takes her among homeless teens, and into predominantly male gay bars, where dangerous secrets are revealed. She soon realizes she isn’t the only one desperate to find the girl. The closer she gets to the truth, the more her own life is at risk.
Lost Witness (Niki Alexander #2)
Homicide Investigators, Luis Perez and Nelson Spalonetti, suspect a woman found murdered in an alley was a drug mule from Mexico. Could the child who appeared at the same time be her son? The traumatized boy wouldn’t speak even when Niki brings him home with her. Luis Perez, Niki’s ex-partner, and his new partner, Nelson, engage Niki’s help in finding Barky, the street teen who found the child and brought him to the street church before running off.
Several years ago Niki quit the police force to work with troubled teens like Barky, not young children, but she couldn’t help getting involved in the case of this sad little boy. Working at the Open Palms shelter gives her connections to street-wise people like Tara Barlow. The teens trust Tara and they might provide helpful information Niki could share with the police.
Once the boy is placed with foster parents, Niki’s superior involves her in a fundraiser for the shelter. When the funds disappear and the boy is kidnapped, Niki’s cop training sends her into action. The trail leads her from a wealthy Houston socialite to two rival brothers, separated by the Mexican border, who are sparring in the drug trade. In the center of their sibling feud is the little boy and the murdered woman. Before she can find the child and discover his true identity, the murderer will strike again.
A Matter of Revenge (Niki Alexander #3)
When two young runaways break into a wealthy man’s home, with horrific consequences, ex-cop and teen shelter counselor, Niki Alexander, comes to their defense. She soon discovers their motive had been to uncover a crime more heinous than two children could handle alone, and she is determined to finish what they started…