Stephanie is represented by the publicity firm of Creative Edge and is a welcome addition to the ongoing series of author appearances on the Scribbler.
When I visited Stephanie’s eye-catching website - Stephanie LaVigne • Author – I was greeted by the following:
…things here are whimsical, witty and uplifting …with an occasional side of mystery & mayhem.
It is an absolute delight to have such an accomplished author as our guest this week. She has kindly agreed to a Branching Out Interview, so…
Let’s chat with Stephanie.
Allan: Thank you for taking the time to be our guest, Stephanie. Before we discuss your novels and writing, can you please share some personal details with our readers? Where you reside, family & friends or pets.
Stephanie: Thank you so much for having me, Allan!
I live back in my hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The same place I dismissed as being awful at eighteen, only to find many years later that I love its bizarre, beautiful, beachy small-city feel. Now, not only do I love it here, but it’s the setting for many of my upcoming books!
I am lucky enough to live close to my family which is amazingly nice. Especially considering I have three young children who are never short on energy or imagination. I’m also married to a wonderful guy who lives in the madhouse alongside me. We live about a mile from the beach, but don’t nearly go as often as we should. I do make a point to drive by it a lot. Simply knowing that it’s there always makes me feel better.
We currently have a butterfly garden that has taken over our backyard. I always tell our kids that their youngest sibling is the family pet, but they aren’t convinced that’s sufficient. Thankfully they like the butterflies and caterpillars lately, so it’s serving as a placeholder.
Allan: You write both Mystery and Romance. Is it a separation of the genres or do you combine both in your stories? Which do you find easiest or the most fun?
Stephanie: The most recent book I did was a crossover with both romance and mystery. The story is a mystery at the root of it, with a little sweet romance thrown in.
My romances, in general, don’t tend to have a mystery angle. They are feel-good fare with more of a focus on family, friend, and romantic dynamics alongside the personal journey of the main characters. My mysteries include those emotional aspects, but the driving force of those stories are still centralized around the whodunnit.
I don’t know which genre is easier. I want to say romance, but I’ve also been writing them longer. Romance takes less intensive plotting. With a mystery, I have to reverse-engineer the mystery or crime so that I know what I’m doing and making sure the book leads up to where it needs to be. I try to plot and outline both, but the stories inevitably change to some degree during the writing process as the characters develop into more fully formed personalities.
Allan: When was the defining moment you decided to write stories and seek to be a published author?
Stephanie: I had two defining moments. The first one was when I decided to leave the film industry and let myself go back to the drawing board to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I realized then that I definitely wanted to be a writer. I was not sure yet what that would look like, whether it would be writing for magazines, or TV, or novels. I didn’t know anyone who was a professional writer and the information available wasn’t quite what it is today. I sat down and had a blast writing a novel in a month. It was messy and unstructured, but the story was there. Mind you, I had never really thought too much about writing a full-length fiction book before. Previous to that, I had written things like screenplays and short stories. As soon as I confirmed what my life path should be, I immediately changed course and decided to become a photographer.
This leads to the second defining moment that I knew I wanted to be a writer! I was lucky enough to have a career in photography and design for several years, but I always knew deep down that I wasn’t on the right track for me. After I had my first child, the stress of having a newborn and being out on photo shoots, then coming home to do marathon hours of editing, was really breaking me. And the deep-down voice within me knew that I should get out. The photos I took were pretty cool, but still something didn’t feel right. Finally, I looked at my life and said, “it is time to start trying to be a writer, whatever that means.” At that point I knew what it was like to start from scratch in a new business, so that part had become less daunting. I knew that I just needed to be brave enough to put myself out there and be willing to be vulnerable. I was never really scared of doing that in photography, but I was secretly terrified to fail as a writer.
So I started on my writer’s journey in secret and didn’t tell anyone other than one of my closest girlfriends what I was doing. Six months in, I finally admitted it to my husband and I think it was nearly four years before I sat down and told my dad what I was doing. Now everyone knows and even on the stressful days I feel content like I am on the right path. I’m also proud of myself for finally being willing to try the thing I was most afraid of.
Allan: Headlines, Deadlines and Lies from The Sunshine State: Cozy + Crime Series is on pre-order. Please tell us about this story.
Stephanie: It’s live now! This was a Cozy Mystery-Sweet Romance crossover akin to the Hallmark Channel Mystery TV Shows. It is a genealogical mystery where the main character, Piper, has to uncover some incontinuities in her best friend’s family tree. She’s trying to learn more about her best friend’s long-lost dad, who died as a young man in the Navy, but she quickly finds that things aren’t adding up.
I wrote it when the world was feeling very intense and heavy. I wanted to see if I could write a compelling mystery without centering it around a murder or other cataclysmic event. So it makes for a very uplifting read! I tell people that so that they recognize that it is a little bit different from a traditional mystery, or cozy mystery even, because you come to expect that central crime or calamity. If you’re in the right mindset and looking for something to make you feel a little smiley- and then maybe end up scrutinizing your own family history a little more closely- you’ll have a great time with this book!
Allan: The Homecoming is the newest addition to your Fox Hill Southern Mystery Series. What can our readers expect when they pick up their copy?
Stephanie: This story was put on the back-burner for a lot longer than I intended. I had considered ending the series at book three, but it always felt incomplete. The final book brings some unsolved backstories from the other books full circle and makes Caitlyn, Kurt, Reba, and the rest of the Fox Hill gang’s story feel complete. It’s a touching yet fairly wild, hijinky ride to the end! Hopefully readers will enjoy it!
Allan: Please share a childhood memory or anecdote.
Stephanie: I am going to tell you the first one that pops into my mind. Once when I was somewhere around 12 or 13, my parents and I were on a bike ride in our Florida neighborhood. I was obviously at an age where I was a perfectly competent bike rider, and at some point, we were riding on the sidewalk spread out in a single file line when I noticed the large cement electrical line poles strewn down the block. There was one about twenty feet ahead of me. As I’m riding, I’m kind of in the zone and randomly think to myself, “imagine how awful it would be to run into one of those.” Which I thought was a ridiculous notion because the pole was not even on the actual sidewalk, simply butting up against it in the grass.
My thoughts went from wondering if people ever run into it, to fixating on not running into it by saying over and over, “don’t hit the pole.” Now mind you, I had plenty of clearance, I was a skinny 12 or 13-year-old on a 5-foot-wide sidewalk. But as I mentally repeated the mantra to not run into that giant cement pole, I slammed right into it and got thrown wildly off my bike.
Every once in a while, I think of that when I apply my adult knowledge that if you focus on the wrong thing, you will put all your energy toward that thing and lead yourself right to it. Don’t focus on the things you’re afraid of, focus on the road ahead or the positive goal you do want to achieve. Because I will tell you, slamming into the thing you wanted to avoid and being thrown to the ground is not that fun.
Allan: From reading your bio - About — Stephanie LaVigne • Author – you’ve lived an exciting life and have settled in Southern Florida to write full time. How much of your past adventures find their way into your stories? How many of Stephanie LaVigne’s personality is evidenced in your characters?
Stephanie: Many of my stories have absolutely no basis in my real life. For example, I’ve never faked my own death or had to save the family ranch alongside my four siblings. Though I’m sure every one of my books still has elements of me or my experiences woven in. Recently, I’ve been having fun with a new character because she embodies the sarcastic, confident yet playful “tough girl” side of me that doesn’t get to come out as much because I’m always home with my kids and husband. When I’m writing, she often gets to act and respond in ways that feel very organic to me. Often though, I’ll channel relationships with different people I’ve had or seen and try to get into the heads of my characters when I’m writing. Even though I’m making it up, I’m sure it’s easier when the personality type isn’t completely foreign to me.
I’ve had so many different experiences that it makes it easy to pull bits of familiarity into my stories through that, which I do like to do. I assume that even when I’m writing about something that is purely fiction, it still has some elements of me, even if simply in the fact that it’s a location or premise that piques my interest. I’ve never lived in the mountains, but I’ve always had a fascination with cowgirls for example.
So when I’m working on a contemporary Western romance, there is still that fascination with mountain life that I have, and I’ll pull from some of my memories of visiting those areas. I don’t tend to write about things that aren’t interesting to me.
Allan: Favorite authors? Books? Movie? Dessert?
Stephanie: It’s funny because I don’t have favorites, generally speaking. Especially when it comes to books. I love too many books and I cannot choose.
For movies, I lean toward comedy, action adventure or heist films. A lot of the movies I consider “my favorite” are kind of ridiculous. For example, many years ago I realized I had copies of pretty much every Burt Reynolds movie. Add in Dom DeLuise and Sally Fields, I am going to call it a classic. So from Cannonball Run to all three Smokey and the Bandits, I own them and truly love them. Back to the Beach with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, which was made in the 80’s, is also part of my coveted movie collection. I really enjoy movies where the actors work together a lot because they are truly friends. Something about that shines through to me. I also like how Burt Reynolds always randomly breaks the third wall in every movie he’s in and either winks, or cocks an eyebrow and smirks. It simply makes me smile.
As for dessert, I tend to be a decadent chocolate dessert person. If you give me a fruit-based dessert, I will gladly eat it, but I will consider it breakfast.
Allan: Anything else you’d like to share with us?
Stephanie: I will just leave whoever is reading this with the reminder that you are never alone in this big ol’ world. Sometimes all of us feel alienated or alone, full of self-doubt, overly critical, or scared to take a chance on trying to live a life that we think would make us happier. But now more than ever, there are ways to find people who will believe in you, support you, love you, and support you through the ups and downs of life. Maybe you will find that in a good book, in an online group, even in a pet, or just one good friend you can call. But sometimes that is more than enough. Know and believe that you are wonderful in your own unique way, and know that I am here championing for you to live your own incredible life.
***That's a beautiful thought Stephanie.
Thank you, Stephanie, for taking the time to share your thoughts and for being our guest this week. Wishing you continued success with your stories.
For all you fantastic visitors wanting to discover more about Stephanie and her writing and where to buy her novels, please follow these links: