Welcome, today we are talking with Debbie LaFleiche! I would like to thank you for taking time out of your busy writing schedule to answer a few questions. First, let’s delve into who you are. Some of the questions may be untraditional but you’d be surprised at what readers connect to, and sometimes the simplest ‘I can relate to that’ grabs their interest where nothing else can.

Can you share a little something about Debbie LaFleiche that’s not mentioned in your bio on your website?

A few years ago, I became a vegan. I enjoy exploring whole-food, plant-based cooking and have tried so many foods I never would’ve otherwise. Just a few nights ago, I made tacos using jackfruit. It was the first time I ever tasted jackfruit.

How long have you been writing?

I found the power of writing with my first assignment in a freshman English class in college. My teacher chose my work to read aloud to the class and I discovered writing can be a way to make people feel something. It was a profound moment for me and I have been writing ever since. To answer the question…a long time. More than 30 years.

What have you found most challenging about it?

The most challenging aspect of writing is having the discipline to do it day in and day out when you have no idea whether anyone but you will ever read it.

What does writing do for you? Is it fun, cathartic, do you get emotional?

Honestly, I write to be read. If you told me that no one would ever read my work, I don’t think I’d write. Writing definitely is not fun for me. It is work and it is hard. Generally, I don’t get emotional when I write but it’s because I am a planner so I have worked out everything that will happen. I think through the plot elements and scenes out on my daily walk. If I’m going to be emotional it will be when I’m thinking and planning the story rather than when I’m writing it.

Describe what your writing routine looks like. Are you disciplined with a strict schedule or do you have to be in the mood?

If I waited until I was in the mood, I wouldn’t write a word! In the 30+ years I’ve been writing, I’ve had years go by without writing anything. But once I get into a disciplined routine, I will be quite consistent. To be perfectly honest, I’m not currently in a disciplined routine so very little writing outside journalling is getting done.

When I wrote my first (unpublished) book I did it by getting up at 5 a.m. each morning and writing before work. I wrote the first draft of Alaska Shelter during NaNoWriMo 2019. National Novel Writing Month takes place every November and the goal is to write 50,000 words during the month. It was a ton of work. I’m a slow writer so wrote an average of 6 hours per day. But at the end, I had a first draft of what would become my first published book.

Did you go into writing thinking that it would be a hobby or a job?

Initially, I was young and inexperienced so I thought, “How hard can it be?” I figured I’d have a best seller before I was 30. So, when I first discovered writing, I assumed it would be how I’d make a living. Once reality set in and I actually had to make a living, it moved to being a hobby with the hope that one day it would be my job. I’m still waiting for that “one day” to arrive.

What inspires you?

For writing, I am incredibly inspired by other writers’ stories. Both the stories they write but also the stories of how they overcame obstacles, persevered and finally reached their dream of being a published author.

What inspires me in general? There is a saying about how we should all be so lucky as to go skidding into our grave after having lived a full and fulfilling life. I’m inspired by the idea of skidding into my own grave. It might not always be pretty but getting there will be the ride of a lifetime.

Let’s move on and give readers some insight into your personal life.

 What are your pet peeves?

Mean people and yelling.

 Who is your hero?

No one person comes to mind. When you ask that question, I think about the ordinary person who gives up their seat on a bus for another. I think about how a stranger in a parking lot will take the time to jump your car battery because you left your lights on. I think of small kind acts people do for strangers (and people they love) every day.

Give us one thing on your bucket list.

I’ve lived a charmed life in many ways and, especially in the last five years as a full-time traveler. I have checked many things off my bucket list. But that doesn’t mean many more remain. The very top of that list is to walk the French Route of the Camino de Santiago, 500 miles across all of northern Spain. I’ve actively been planning and preparing for it for a few years and expect to make it a reality in 2023.

What would readers find surprising about you?

I think readers would be surprised to learn how slow I write. I’m also a slow reader. I think there is the perception that if you have published a book, or even if you have written thousands upon thousands of words (I reached a half million words on my blog this year, and that’s just one form of writing I do) that it somehow comes natural to you. And that simply is not the case for me.

If you could go to heaven, who would you visit?

There is the obvious answer like grandparents and other family who I have said goodbye to (and even some I never met but heard stories about). But, really, if I went to heaven I’d hope to be greeted by my dog, Solstice. If you read my book, you’ll recognize the name. On my website, the blog post I wrote for her obituary (May 2019) received more comments, emails, phone calls and texts than any other in the more than five years I’ve been blogging. It was because people had met her, could relate but, even strangers were moved by the stories I told about her and the connection we had. It was one of those moments that harkens back to my first writing assignment in college where I learned a piece of writing can truly make another human being feel something.

Now that our readers know who Debbie LaFleiche let’s get down to the business of your book, Alaska Shelter, which is part of your Cooper Brothers of Alaska series.  Please tell us a little bit about, Alaska Shelter.

I lived in Alaska for 25 years following graduate school. Generally, people are fascinated by Alaska and it is a bucket list item for many. So, I always knew I wanted to set a series in Alaska. Alaska Shelter takes place in an animal rescue organization in the dead of winter. It is a combination romance and mystery. I love the weaving together of both genres in a single story.

What was your hardest challenge writing this book?

The muddy middle. For sure. The beginning of a book, you are introducing characters, setting the scene, etc. At the end of the book, you are bringing the characters together, solving the mystery, tying up loose ends, etc. But the middle is a challenge to sustain the tension and keep the story moving forward.

What kind of research did you have to do?

For this series, I envisioned each book would include a trip to a remote part of Alaska that most readers will never experience. In Alaska Shelter, I sent the characters to a town that was created during WWII as a place to evacuate the entire population of Anchorage should it be attacked by Japan. Most people don’t realize that Alaska is closer to Japan than Hawaii so after Pearl Harbor it was a very real fear. Whittier, Alaska, is a town where every resident lives in one building and the town is only accessible by a one-way tunnel that doesn’t operate 24/7. It is a bit of tourist town in the summer months but, because my book takes place in the winter, I visited then. I’d heard stories that there were tunnels between some of the buildings so when I did my research visit, I did so with determination to find and explore those. If you read the book, you can be sure the experience the two characters have in finding the tunnel and going through it are accurate. As a fun side note, in the second book in the series, I took the main characters to Utqiagvik, Alaska (formerly Barrow), the most northern town in all of the US.

What in your opinion makes good chemistry between your leading characters?

That’s a great question. To me, there is a balance of physical and emotional attraction. There is a balance of getting along and tension between them, usually it is about their common goal as well their individual goal in the situation. They truly see each other and each other’s flaws and wounds but understand that is part of what makes a fully realized complex human being.

How many books are in your Cooper Brothers of Alaska series?

There are four brothers so there will be four books.

Do you plan anymore?

I really like the idea of a series where you can build in minor character in one book and then move them into a leading character in the next. At this time, however, I don’t have any plans beyond the Cooper Brothers series.

Any other works in progress?

I do have a stand-alone romance (yes, with a mystery element) that is about half written. The title is September in Sumpter. It has the most momentum right now of any of my writing projects so it is the one I’m concentrating on. I’d like to get the first draft finished by spring.

Any advice for aspiring authors?

Do the work. It’s so easy to talk about the act of writing, to say you want to be a writer, to share ideas on plots and characters. But at the end of the day writing is what makes you a writer.

Final words?

I want to say thank you for Coffee Time Romance for the opportunity to share my book and my experience as a writer with your followers. And, Happy New Year!

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