A published Christian author, Laura Thomas writes heartwarming encouragement for your soul—especially in her romantic suspense, teen fiction, marriage, and children’s books. Laura is a certified hope*writers writing coach, and a chocoholic mom and gigi, married to her high school sweetheart. Originally from the UK, they live in Kelowna, B.C. as audacious empty-nesters.
In a heartwarming interview with Agape Review, Laura talks about her faith, writing career, mentorship, and beyond.
Great writers are not born; they are made, step by step. So, where did your writing journey start?
My initial dream of being a writer began in childhood when I was an avid young bookworm. To cut a very long story short, I buried that secret dream and didn’t tell a soul about it for 25 years. When I finally shared that crazy dream with my husband, he encouraged me to pursue it, and I began by taking correspondence courses with the Institute of Children’s Literature. That was my first step, and there have been many faltering, floundering, and flying steps since!
Tell us about your relationship with Christ. When did it begin and what does He mean to you today? How has His grace transformed your life?
I became a Christian at the age of eleven, after witnessing the radical conversion of my father, who had been an alcoholic until Jesus transformed his life. At that time, the Gideons came to my high school in the south of England, and my curiosity and hunger to read God’s Word and see how it applied to me was satisfied when I received one of their tiny burgundy Bibles. I spent a week pawing through its precious pages and realized that I, too, needed a Savior.
Today, I can’t begin to imagine my life without Jesus—my faith is everything to me, and I’m continually amazed as God pours out His grace and goodness in the most beautiful and breathtaking ways.
“Heartwarming encouragement for your soul” is your author tagline, a really beautiful one at that. What made you choose it in the first place?
Well, thank you! I wanted to create a tagline that would encompass ALL my writing from romance fiction to children’s books to devotionals and beyond. Ultimately, I’m an encourager, and my goal as a writer is that each reader will find hope through my words. Most of my work is faith-based, so soul encouragement is an important element I had to include, and at the end of the day I long for my words to be heartwarming—like a hug on the page!
Many celebrated authors like Tolkien, Toni Morrison, and George Eliot got their start only later in their lives. Just like them, you too were a late bloomer wherein you pursued your writing dream at a later stage in life. How was the experience?
I am sometimes asked if I regret not starting as a writer sooner in life. But I believe that God had a plan, and that I needed to experience all the things; marriage, motherhood, emigrating, celebrations, frustrations, joys, painful times, and so much more, before I was ready to pick up a pen. I have a fair chunk of life under my belt and a deep well from which to draw—and I’m grateful for that. Perhaps it also gives me a greater appetite to get my words out into the world rather than dilly-dally, as I’m no whipper-snapper!
The Bible says that all good things come from above. Where do you find your inspiration from?
I often find inspiration for my novels in places. Settings. A boat, a cottage, a beach, a village or a city. Something will spark my curiosity and a story comes alive. People also inspire me—my children, strangers, speakers, fascinating characters I happen to meet. And then I find inspiration for my spiritual themes or my non-fiction devotions mainly in God’s Word, in the beauty of creation, and in simply paying attention.
When you started out, your dream was to be the next Beatrix Potter. Which were your favorite children’s books growing up? So far, you have written an interactive picture book for kids. Do you have plans to write more in the future?
My favorite book as a child and even now, is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I also enjoyed Enid Blyton books, Milly-Molly-Mandy books by Joyce Lankester Brisley, Beatrix Potter, and basically anything I could get my hands on!
Even though my writing has taken me down many other genre paths, my original dream was to have a picture book published, and I have several manuscripts written. It is still very much the plan!
From British Columbia to England to Wales, you’ve lived in different places. Which place do you love the most among them?
Each place has its own charm and holds special memories, but I have spent the latter half of my life in beautiful British Columbia, so this is the home I love. We raised our children here, get to appreciate the spectacular glory of creation surrounded by lakes and mountains daily, and truly enjoy the Canadian lifestyle!
Which church do you go to? Has your church community encouraged your writing career?
We have been members of our local Mennonite church for over twenty years… but to be honest, most encouragement in the community has come from my wonderful writing group.
As a travel enthusiast, you have visited different historical churches as well as beautiful little chapels. Which are the places you loved the most?
I love them all! From the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris to ancient village churches nestled in the English countryside, there is something holy and humbling abut stepping inside and imagining how many people over the centuries have worshipped in that place. The history and the mystery…
Tell us about your family. How have they supported you in your writing journey? Have they read your manuscripts and offered you constructive feedback?
My family has always been so supportive—and I’m incredibly grateful for that. My husband is my greatest cheerleader… he encourages me, is patient when I’m deep in deadline mode, and is always the first to purchase and read my books as soon as they are published! (He enjoys being surprised by the “full completed book” experience rather than going through the nuts-and-bolts process.) Although I’m always interested in knowing what my family thinks about my work, I do prefer a critique partner, editor, and fellow writers for manuscript feedback.
You were born and raised in the south of England up in the UK, which is a largely secularized country. Was it challenging for you to hold on to your faith amid the prevailing apathy toward religion, Christianity in particular?
Living in Wales, I was blessed to be part of a wonderful church and close-knit youth group in my teens, which made it easier to live out my faith with like-minded friends. I know the UK has changed dramatically since we emigrated in our mid-twenties, but my experience there was a positive one.
You are into marriage ministry and have even written a non-fiction marriage book. What led you into that particular ministry? In today’s age where the institution of marriage has become increasingly fragile, how important do you think is a faith-centered marriage?
My husband and I have been married for over thirty-four years (how time flies!) and we are both passionate about marriage ministry. Having a faith-centered marriage has been essential for us as we navigate different stages and phases, trials, and triumphs, parenthood, empty nest life, and everything else along the way. We love being able to pour into the marriages of others in pre-marriage mentoring and hosting The Marriage Course by Alpha through our local church. It’s beautiful to see couples wanting a healthy, whole relationship that will last, and seeking God in the process.
Juliet Farr, the protagonist of your book The Orphan Beach, experiences a crisis of faith. A reviewer on Amazon had remarked that your book connects “with the deep pain of our hearts when going through losses and how we sometimes do question God.” Have you experienced such a crisis in your life? How have you overcome it?
What a lovely review—thanks for sharing that! I try to create characters who are relatable to readers, and sometimes that means digging into my personal experiences and other times, I need to observe the struggles and strengths of others. I definitely have suffered loss and questioned God in times of pain. Most of us have. Personally, I think coming back to the knowledge of who God is and trusting that He has a plan for my life has helped me through such experiences. But sometimes this takes time, and it isn’t always pretty!
Fear and trauma are recurring themes across your books. Most of your protagonists are emotionally-complex characters who have to face their proverbial demons.
JK had mentioned that the Dementors in her Harry Potter series symbolized depression. Most of your books feature an external dark force that confront the main character, be it the stalker in The Glass Bottom Boat or the cyberstalker in Tears, Fears, and Fame or the crazed killer in The Orphan Beach. What did you envision those characters to embody?
What a great question! In all my suspense novels, there needs to be some sort of “external dark force” that the protagonist has to grapple with—it’s the nature of this genre. It’s what keeps the readers turning the page and reading “just one more chapter”! On a broad scale, our main characters are often called to face their fears, and that can take a variety of forms. Fear of failure, fear of physical attack, fear of an invasion of privacy, fear of secrets being split wide open, fear of drowning or losing or being alone. The list is endless. Therefore, at the heart of the antagonist, we see whatever weakness or fear our main character most dreads—and as an author, I get to hone in on that and take it up a notch.
Besides writing, you are also coaching other writers in their journeys. Why did you go down this path? Do you wish to be the coach you never had in the initial stages of your writing journeys?
I decided to become a hope*writers certified writing coach for several reasons. I realized how much I love helping others in their writing journey, and how my years of writing experience are actually valuable and useful to fellow writers in many ways. I also looked at the course material and knew the tools and knowledge gained would be beneficial in areas of my non-writing life. And yes, I think a coach would have been a huge asset in my early years as a writer when I was unsure and lacked confidence and clarity. I consider it a privilege to be a one-on-one writerly guide!
You often share inspirational Bible verse on your socials. Which is your go-to Bible verse for comfort and hope?
I would have to say Proverbs 3:5-6 always bring me comfort and hope, and have been my go-to “life verses” since the age of eleven. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
You are part of the Hope Writers community and regularly attend their conferences. How has the community helped enrich your life?
I have been a hope*writers member for over six years, and having a community of like-minded writers has been invaluable! Truly, only a fellow writer can appreciate the struggles, frustrations, and joys experienced almost daily—and even with support and encouragement being online and across the miles, I feel seen and heard. This year, I have the joy of presenting “Create Compelling Characters in Fiction” at our conference in North Carolina, where we all get to connect in real life, which is an absolute treat!
Being a beach lover, you enjoy reading books on the beach. The setting is sure to make you tranquil and let you appreciate God’s wonderful creations. Speaking of which, have you got any story ideas during your days at the beach? Have you ever written a book on a beach?
Yes! The storyline for my romantic suspense, The Glass Bottom Boat, was inspired when I was on a family vacation in Jamaica. I have an irrational fear of drowning and became somewhat intrigued by a glass bottom boat docked at our resort beach. When a storm prevented us from going out on the boat on our last day there, my imagination kicked into gear and ideas for a story took root.
I also wrote part of the manuscript for The Lighthouse Baby on the actual beach where the story takes place, in Florence, Oregon.
As a published author, you are bound to have your fair share of hits and misses. Did you pray before sending each query letter? How did you deal with rejections?
Oh, so many rejections over the years! It really is part of the process, as painful as it can be. I do pray before submitting my work, trusting that God’s timing is always best. However, I am ever a work in progress and it still stings like the dickens when a “no” comes back! I have learned not to sweat over a submission while waiting for the verdict, and to dive right into the next project in order to focus on the next right thing. And when I do receive a rejection, I see it as one of those painful teachable moments and look for ways I can improve the work before submitting it elsewhere.
During the start of every year, you share one word for the year ahead in your blog. 2020 was LISTEN, 2021 was LIGHT, and 2022 was SURRENDER. What made you pick the word Surrender for this year? Also, have you thought of a word for 2023 or are you waiting for inspiration to strike?
Honestly, I find that the “word for the year” picks me! I’m usually on high alert for inspiration as a year draws to a close, and try to pay attention to where my Bible reading, conversations, and everyday experiences tend to focus. SURRENDER was a tougher one—yet I have now seen how important it has been in my work, home, and family life to pry open my hands and trust God more. I’m rather hoping the word for 2023 will be a little less intense—but we shall have to wait and see!
Which is the one piece of advice you badly wish someone had given you when you started writing?
Find a writing community. Locally and in-person if possible, or an online group where you can ask questions and find resources. Meet a writing friend for coffee once a month or commit to attending writing conferences. It can be a lonely business and we all need people who understand our deepest fears and frustrations. It makes all the difference!
You are a self-confessed bookworm. Who are your favorite authors?
Oh, so many! Here are a few: Francine Rivers, Colleen Coble, Charles Martin, Kate Morton, Kristin Hannah, Shauna Niequist, Lynette Eason, Ann Voskamp, Patti Callahan, Natalie Jenner, Irene Hannon, and Louisa May Alcott.
It’s commendable that you have written books for varied age groups — from adults to teens to little children. How challenging was it to write in a distinct voice for each age group?
It can be challenging and I know I could have made my writing life a lot less complex by sticking with one age group or genre—but the truth is, I love writing for them all! As I mentioned, I started my writing journey with a dream to write picture books and it has been a long and winding road taking me to places I didn’t even know I could visit. It can be challenging, but I think of it as having my family around me and wanting to talk with every member from baby to senior. I focus on each one as needed, and adjust accordingly in order to communicate in the most loving and effective way possible!
Playing favorites is really difficult. But if you are asked to pick your most favorite from all the books you have published so far, which would it be?
Oh goodness, this really is like being asked to pick my favorite child! I will always have a soft spot for my very first book, Tears to Dancing, because it was literally the realization of a lifelong dream. But I also fall in love with each and every book as it is “birthed”. The Glass Bottom Boat was particularly special as it launched me into a Christian romantic suspense series, and writing this genre has stretched me immeasurably!
What is the most heartwarming feedback that you have received from a reader of yours so far?
Any positive feedback is a treasure to me and book reviews are pure gold! I think the best compliment is when a reader enjoys a book so much that she is excited to read the next one in the series. As far as heartwarming goes, one of the most tender emails I received was from a reader overseas who gave one of my teen fiction books, Tears of a Princess, to her granddaughter. She hadn’t realized at the time, but this sweet girl was struggling with the very issue addressed in that book, and she found great comfort in its words.
Your forthcoming release is The Christmas Cabin. Most Christmas-themed stories these days overtly romanticize the holy season and remove Christ from the equation. Does your novella aim to break the mold? Also, tell us about your other upcoming releases.
The Christmas Cabin is a spin-off from my “Flight to Freedom” Christian romantic suspense series, and although the setting is festive, there are underlying secrets from the past preventing the main character, Carla, from celebrating Christmas fully.
This novella breaks the mold in that Carla’s faith is tried and tested as she works through forgiveness, faces her fears, and reclaims Christmas. It’s a page-turner! laurathomasauthor.com/project/the-christmas-cabin/
I also have a completed manuscript in a brand-new series of Christian romantic suspense set in the English countryside, and my literary agent is currently working on that. Readers can stay up to date by subscribing to my monthly newsletter (with book giveaways, recipes, and soul encouragement), the details are on my website: www.laurathomasauthor.com
What would your advice be to aspiring authors who are taking the first step, especially those who are into Christian suspense?
If you are dipping your toes in for the first time, don’t be afraid! The water is wonderfully warm, and the ocean is big enough for you, too. Read the genre, hone your craft, and keep writing to the end!
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