Laura Mansfield grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee, surrounded by cats and books and good conversation. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate from the University of Tennessee, Laura holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature and an MBA in finance. Formerly a professor of advertising and public relations at UT, Laura has a flair for storytelling which informs her work in public relations.
She also happens to be the author of three books; a memoir, a novel, and most recently an achingly poignant novella titled A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Laura about the craft of writing among other things.

Mike Parker: The writer’s life is often portrayed as being a bit lonely, with the author spending copious amounts of time alone, tapping away at the keyboard. Does that describe you? What does your writing process look like?

Laura Mansfield: I’m an introvert at heart so writing is never lonely for me. Because I work full time, my writing is like a secret romance, something I have to fit in between the seams of everyday life. Before COVID, that meant Sunday mornings at Starbucks, working till my laptop battery ran down. Since then, it’s Sunday mornings in bed, plus a wonderful getaway to Rockvale Writers’ Colony where the muse is strong.

Parker: Where do you find inspiration for your stories, and how do you craft that inspiration into characters and events that can capture the imagination of your readers?

Laura: Wisps of ideas for storylines often come to me in dreams. I have to write them down first thing or they go pouf. My primary themes of love and loss, hope and heartache, death and rebirth come from my own life experience, and I think that’s what resonates with my readers. I’m tapping into the shared unconscious so people can see themselves in my stories.

Author Laura Mansfield. (Photo courtesy Laura Mansfield. Used by permission.)

Parker: Somerset Maugham once said, “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” What is the best and worst advice you’ve got about writing?

Laura: The best advice I ever got was to not worry about what other people think. If writers wrote not to offend or upset, there would be no good stories. You have to be honest and authentic and have a point of view, understanding that not everyone will validate it. I also think you have to write what you know, at least as a jumping off place. The worst advice I got was to create an outline and write to it. My process is more stream of consciousness without an imposed structure on the front end.

Front cover design for A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing. (Image courtesy WordCrafts Press. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

Parker: Tell me about  your new novella, A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing…without giving away any of the juicy parts.

Laura: Oh my goodness, I love this story and its characters. They came to me fully formed, and the book really wrote itself. It’s about what happens next for a woman whose life is at a watershed moment. Alice, the protagonist, is on an archetypal hero’s journey in the Joseph Campbell tradition, where she sets out on an adventure, which ultimately transforms her. It’s also a fairy tale, which allowed me to introduce elements of magical realism into the narrative, which just made it so much fun to write.

Parker: What do you hope readers take away from the story?

Laura: I hope readers feel empowered by the story and that they rediscover the wonder of ordinary things, if they’ve ever lost it, for even a minute. There is magic in the mundane and beauty all around us, especially in nature. For me, the ocean is a healing, nurturing place, the primordial womb of the world. And you can be reborn, again and again, no matter what stage of life you’re in. I want readers to feel Alice’s joy and her pain and to be transformed by her experience.

Parker: What question do you wish an interviewer would ask, but no one does… and what’s the answer?

Laura: No one has ever asked me why I write. And it’s only recently that I think I can answer that question. I write to understand what I think and feel. Writing is cathartic and enlightening. There are things that are revealed in your words that you didn’t see coming and only notice in hindsight. And then there’s this need to share what you’ve written to feel connected to humanity and to know you’re not alone. That’s been the greatest and most surprising gift of my books—finding a community of folks who understand.

Laura Mansfield beach vibes. (Photo courtesy Laura Mansfield. Used by permission.)

 The Seven Questions

1. What’s your favorite sound?

Laura: The ocean waves breaking on the beach.

2. What makes you happy?

 Laura: Yoga.

3. What makes you angry?

Laura: Feeling misunderstood.

4. What is the secret of success?

Laura: Choosing happiness and letting go of anger.

5. If you could have dinner with anyone in history, living or dead, who would it be?

Laura: Dolly Parton. She’s my spirit animal.

6. What is the epitaph that is written on your tombstone?

Laura: 1 Corinthians 13:13 “The greatest of these is love.”

7. Presuming there is a God and a heaven, when you get to heaven, what is the first thing you want to hear God say to you?

Laura: Welcome home.