Monday, September 2, 2013

L.A. Starks

            L. A. Starks was born in Boston, Massachusetts, grew up in northern Oklahoma reading everything, and now lives in Texas. Awarded a full-tuition college scholarship, she earned a chemical engineering bachelor's degree, magna cum laude, from New Orleans' Tulane University, followed by a finance MBA from the University of Chicago. While at Chicago she made time to play for a celebrated women's intramural basketball team, the Efficient Mockettes.

            Working more than a decade for well-known energy companies in engineering, marketing, and finance from refineries to corporate offices prepared Starks to write global energy thrillers. She continues to research, write, and consult on energy economics and investing, often speaking to professional groups for their members' continuing education credit.

            In addition to her Dreamspell publications, including a short story in the DREAMSPELL NIGHTMARES anthology, two of Starks' short stories have been published by Amazon Shorts. Her nonfiction has appeared in Mystery Readers Journal, The Dallas Morning News, The Houston Chronicle, The San Antonio Express-News, Sleuth Sayer (MWA-SW newsletter), Natural Gas, Oil and Gas Journal, and the investor website Seeking Alpha. She is also co-inventor of a US patent.

            Starks has run seven half-marathons. She serves as treasurer of the board of the Friends of the Dallas Public Library, a fund-raising and advocacy group that supports Dallas' 28-branch civic library system.

Welcome to the blog, L.A.
Where do you live, and how has your environment affected your writing?

How many books have you written?

Give a short synop of your most recently published book.
STRIKE PRICE: When several people involved in bidding for an oil refinery are murdered, the situation becomes far more than a billion-dollar business deal.

            A self-made woman, Lynn Dayton fights to save lives after escalating attacks eventually reveal a hired assassin’s plan to draw another global power into dangerous confrontation with the United States over trillion-dollar oil stakes.

            Are the killers rogue civil servants challenging the Cherokees’ financial independence, Sansei operatives again wreaking violence, or sinister investors swapping the bidding war for a real one?

            Lynn Dayton and Cherokee tribal executive Jesse Drum must learn to trust each other so they can find and stop the killers. Can sobering up really be fatal? How have so many of the deaths been made to appear accidental? Who’s creating weapons with modern poisons and ancient Cherokee arts?

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

Do your characters take on a life of their own? If so, which is your favorite?

What challenges did you face while writing this book?
I started this book before the first one was published. Some delay resulted from the marketing effort I put into 13 DAYS. The real challenge, however, was that my younger sister, to whom STRIKE PRICE is dedicated, became ill from and ultimately succumbed to an extremely fast-spreading type of breast cancer. During her last two years, I could only focus on Linda and my family. I couldn’t summon the drive to complete and edit the book until a little over a year ago. Fortunately, it was promptly accepted by L&L Dreamspell for publication in the spring of 2012.

Do you travel to do research or for inspiration? Can you share some special places with us?
While I don’t get advances that would allow travel only for book research, trips I make for other reasons show up in my writing. Here are a few.
Florence is popular with everyone from J.K.Rowling (remember “Firenze”?) to Dan Brown’s latest, INFERNO. When we saw the city, I was struck by its rich history as a textile center, with art funded by the Medicis. It was intriguing that the Ponte Vecchio, now home to jewelers and goldsmiths, had once housed butchers. Yet my strongest intuition was of the blank, literally insurmountable Oltrarno ancient city wall. I hope I have used the feeling to good effect in STRIKE PRICE
While I had been to London and Brighton, I wasn’t familiar with the English countryside near Chichester and Amberley Castle. We saw it while accompanying a boys’ choir tour. I wanted to convey impressions like young boys’ sweet evensong voices echoing through stately cathedrals, as well as a South Downs verdancy so vast Amberley Castle’s greens serve as a helicopter pad for its well-heeled London guests.
Closer to home, I seldom have as much time as I’d like for canoeing or kayaking, so I made a special trip with my kids to capture the sights, smells, and sounds of canoeing on the Illinois River. Despite its name, the river is located in eastern Oklahoma and serves as one of the settings in STRIKE PRICE.

What do you think is the greatest lesson you’ve learned about writing so far? What advice can you give new writers?

First, I am formally trained in engineering and finance, and auto-didactically trained—because I love reading and writing so much—in writing. These seem like opposite disciplines, but I find the importance of precision is common to them both, whether it be in design, calculations, concepts, plotlines, or descriptions.

Second, in writing, as in designing a heat exchanger, there seems to be a 50:1 ratio of wrong paths (or let’s just call them less good paths), to right paths.

Third and absolutely critical for new writers: reading one’s work with the reactions of a first reader is impossible after the fourth, fifth, or seventh self-edit. And yet nothing is more important. For me, editing of my work by other readers, and then professional editors, is key to producing a good novel.

Where do you store ideas for later use: in your head, in a notebook, or on a spreadsheet?
These days: waaay too many document files.

We all know how important promoting our work has become. How do you get the word out both off and online?

Can you tell us your future writing goals/projects?
I am excited to have begun researching and writing the third Lynn Dayton book! On the non-fiction side, I continue to write free quarterly articles about energy, a monthly subscriber energy investing newsletter, and occasional articles for the investor website Seeking Alpha.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
My website, , is where events are listed, book club questions are available for 13 DAYS and will be for STRIKE PRICE, a twice-yearly newsletter can be found, book trailer videos are linked, and where I have resources for writers. I welcome friends on Facebook and have a work-focused listing on LinkedIn. Most of all, please join me at Goodreads!

Are your books available in print and ebook formats? 

Amazon author page—all:

STRIKE PRICE (Print and e-book editions)
Barnes & Noble:

Independents, like Houston’s Murder by the Book:

Barnes & Noble/Nook:

Independents, like Houston’s Murder by the Book/Kobo:

13 DAYS: THE PYTHAGORAS CONSPIRACY (print edition, different publisher and cover)
Barnes & Noble:

Independents, like Houston’s Murder by the Book: