Lake Elmo author Stephanie Landsem talks writing and pursuing your passions.
In 2007, Lake Elmo resident Stephanie Landsem found herself at a crossroads. The stay-at-home mom was considering returning to the workforce when a conversation with her daughter changed everything.
“My daughter was probably 13 at the time, and she asked me what I would do if I could do anything in the whole world,” she says. Landsem blurted out she would write historical fiction, surprising herself at the response.
Sixteen years and five novels later, Landsem attributes much of her success and journey as an author to her daughter, who helped her realize that her dream of writing historical fiction could be a reality.
We connected with Landsem, upon the release of her novel Code Name Edelweiss, to discuss her journey as a writer and what’s next.
How did you first get published?
It’s a long process. I had no idea what I wanted to write or what time period I wanted. Strangely, or miraculously perhaps, I started writing biblical fiction. I connected with an agent, who just loved the story, and she and I are still together. She sold [The Well: A Novel] to Simon & Schuster for a three-book deal.
What is your favorite part of writing?
I love research and exploring different time periods.
You write historical fiction. What’s real and what do you create?
That’s my No. 1 question. I’m lucky because the fun part is research, and I take the real people and/or the real event and cherry pick the most interesting part. Then, I throw in characters.
What is the most challenging part of writing?
A deadline is a nightmare for me. I learned that very quickly because [the publisher] wanted my second book in 15 months and the third book I only had eight months to do … but I did manage to get it in.
Do you have a writing process?
I’m a very slow writer compared to other authors, so the process for me is really contemplating what I want to write about, what period to write about, what event and really thinking it over and doing research. I need to know what I’m getting into because I’m going to be living in that time period while writing the book and marketing it, too.
What creative tips do you have for up-and-coming writers?
I get asked this question a lot, and I have a list I’ve developed over the years:
- It’s not going to make you rich.
- Sit down and start writing.
- Find some people to bounce ideas off of.
- Attend writing conferences.
- Read. Read as much as you possibly can of other authors. You’ll learn a lot about why you love a book and why you love the characters.
What’s next for you?
I hope to be working on a particular book about three women who lived through the biggest earthquake to ever hit Montana. That was the 1959 Yellowstone Earthquake. The three women are my mom and two sisters. I’m probably going to fictionalize a lot of it.