There were some choices I’d made that I really didn’t want to write about because I still carried a lot of shame. But in order to tell my story, I had to own my truth. I had to excavate those memories, sit with them, and commit them to paper. As I brought my shame to light, it lost its grip on me.
Laura Whitfield – 12 May 2022
The Back Flap
When Laura Whitfield was fourteen, her extraordinary brother, Lawrence, was killed in a mountain climbing accident. That night she had an epiphany: Life is short. Dream big, even if it means taking risks. So, after graduating from high school, she set out on her own, prepared to do just that.
Laura spent her first summer after high school on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, a magical few months filled with friendships, boys, and beer. There she met a handsome DJ who everyone called “Steve the Dream,” and risked her heart. When September came, Steve moved to New York City to become a model —prompting Laura to start thinking about modeling, too. After just one semester of college, still seeking to fill the void left by her brother’s death, she dropped out and moved to New York to become a cover girl. But while juggling the demands of life in the big city—waiting tables, failed relationships, and the cutthroat world of modeling—she lost her way.
A stirring memoir about a young woman’s quest to find hope and stability after devastating loss, Untethered is Laura’s story of overcoming shame, embracing faith, and learning that taking risks—and failing—can lead to a bigger life than you’ve ever dared to imagine.
About the book
What is the book about?
When I was fourteen, my extraordinary brother, Lawrence, was killed in a mountain climbing accident. That night I had an epiphany: Life is short. Dream big, even if it means taking risks. After graduating from high school, I set out on my own to do just that, a journey which took me from North Carolina’s Outer Banks to disco-era New York City and home again. Untethered is my quest to find hope and stability after devastating loss. Ultimately, it’s about overcoming shame, embracing faith, and learning that taking risks—and failing—can lead to a bigger life than you’ve ever dared to imagine.
When did you start writing the book?
I started working on Untethered in January 2017.
How long did it take you to write it?
I finished the first draft in March 2019, so almost two-and-a-half years. I worked with a coach who edited my drafts as I went, so I was constantly rewriting.
Where did you get the idea from?
One of my daughters once said to me, “Mom, you‘ve had an interesting life. You should write about it.” So I did.
Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
Definitely. There were some choices I’d made that I really didn’t want to write about because I still carried a lot of shame. But in order to tell my story, I had to own my truth. I had to excavate those memories, sit with them, and commit them to paper. As I brought my shame to light, it lost its grip on me. The process of writing my story was healing.
What came easily?
The happy memories. Writing about people I loved. And, surprisingly, dialogue. I was able to recall a lot of conversations. When I was unable to remember them verbatim, I captured their essence and intent.
Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?
Everyone I write about in my memoir is real, though I did change most of the names and some identifying details.
We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?
I attended a three-day writing workshop with Madeleine L’Engle when I was just starting out. She was the catalyst for my wanting to write memoir and fiction one day. Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing helped me hone my craft. Abigail Thomas taught me that brevity can be beautiful. And powerful.
Do you have a target reader?
Anyone who has struggled with grief after losing a loved one. Young women facing difficult life choices who are looking to learn from another’s experiences. Anyone disillusioned by the choices they’ve made and are looking for affirmation and hope. Women looking for someone to share their past life experiences of divorce, remarriage, and caring for aging parents.
Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?
I usually begin writing something in my head for a few days before I actually sit down at my computer. By the time I do that, it’s almost written itself. I just have to fine tune and edit. I write surrounded by windows—light and nature feed my soul. Right now I am working on a second memoir so I try to write almost every day.
Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?
With memoir, I start with a timeline so I can determine where the story begins and ends. Then I briefly outline chapters to keep me on track. I also list the people and events I want to include in each chapter.
Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?
When I sit down to write, I just write, maybe editing a word or two as I go. When I’m wrapping up for the day, I reread what I’ve written and do a light edit of things that jump out. Then I leave it alone. The next time I sit down, I read the last pages I wrote and start there. When I reach the end of a chapter, I’ll do a pretty thorough edit before starting the next one.
Did you hire a professional editor?
I hired a writing coach who edited my work as I wrote. She basically did a developmental edit—making sure I stayed true to the narrative arc. When we were done, I hired a copy editor before I started sending it out.
Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?
I need complete silence to write.
Did you submit your work to Agents?
I submitted to agents for about six months after completing my manuscript. I am still looking for an agent since I intend to write more books.
What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?
It was a gradual process. I queried agents for about six months and finally decided that She Writes Press was not only a good option for my book, but the best option because of the relationship I’d already established with my editor (one of the founders of She Writes Press), the quality of their books, their standing in the industry, the care and attention they give their authors, and the built-in community of She Writes Sisters. Working with She Writes has been a gift.
Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?
My book cover was designed by the incredibly talented Julie Metz (She Writes Press). You can find her work at https://www.juliemetz.com.
Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?
My book marketing is being handled by She Writes Press and by my publicity team at BookSparks.
Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?
Signing with She Writes Press was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. They support their authors through online training, webinars, an author handbook, monthly Zoom calls, and office hours. We also have a built-in community of She Writes “sisters” who encourage and help each other, buy and read each other’s books, and even coordinate promotional events. I would never get this kind of support from a traditional press, especially as a debut author.
Where did you grow up?
Raleigh, North Carolina
Where do you live now?
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
What would you like readers to know about you?
I’m a little adventurous, and when I fall on my face I get back up and try to learn from it. In addition to writing, I enjoy books, travel, and spending time with my family.
What are you working on now?
A second memoir about the evolution of my faith over the past five years.
End of Interview:
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