Curiosity might have killed the cat but it’s lead to Laura Lee’s success as an author.
“They (my books) are all in one way or another about satisfying some sort of curiosity about a subject,” said Lee, a Rochester resident.
That curiosity has helped Lee write 20 books over the years, ranging across genres and topics, including her most recent book, Oscar’s Ghost, which took her six years to complete. She was inspired to write it after reading Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis, his prison manuscript, and finding out there was a lot more to uncover than what was on the pages she had read.
Six years is a long time to dedicate to one project but being that attached to an idea also leads to having the momentum to finish it.
“It’s kind of like a dog with a bone. You can’t let go,” Lee said. “You just gotta do it whether it will make you any money or not.”
Lee didn’t always envision herself as a writer, though. Growing up with an author father – who said she was a born writer – she did what most kids do, rebel. Plus, she wanted to act, like her grandmother had, which is how she found herself getting a theater degree at Oakland University.
While at Oakland she realized she wasn’t a very good actor and wasn’t getting cast in anything. So her senior year she wrote a one-act play about just that. After the positive feedback she received she decided she didn’t want to be a starving artist and enrolled at Specs Howard School of Broadcasting.
She began a career in radio, where she got more feedback about how great her writing was. She kept working in radio, moving to Cadillac, and then to the east coast. She also worked as a professional mime and improv comic before finally giving in to her natural calling, writing.
“I think you sometimes spend a lot of time rebelling against your nature and wanting to do something more interesting and glamorous, like being a professional mime,” she laughed. “But then, at some point, your nature kind of knocks you on the head and says, ‘This is really what you’re supposed to be doing.’”
Now she’s writing all the time, both in her Rochester home – a city she lived in as a teenager and came back to in 2004 after her dad died – and on the road. None of her books have been set in Michigan but there have been things inspired by her home state, like the church she wrote about in her novel Angel, which is based off her childhood church.
Like most authors, Lee knows it isn’t easy paying the bills with her profession, which is how she ended up with her other job, producing ballet master class tours.
“I think that taking that break and focusing on something else is really helpful because you could get very insular just sitting at your computer writing things,” she said.
“There have been times when there wasn’t money coming in and I felt like it doesn’t make sense, it’s not rational to keep doing this, and I would think, ‘Ok, well what am I going to do?’” Lee said.
“I just get so depressed at the idea of not doing it that I decided well, obviously that’s off the table,” she continued.
Looks like Lee will be writing for years to come.
Photo: Laurie Tennent