Two Crows Sorrow is Laura Churchill Duke’s first novel. She is a journalist with Saltwire Network base, writing lifestyle articles for Atlantic Canada. She can also be heard as the Kentville community contact on CBC Radio, Information Morning.
When not writing, she is a team member with Your Last Resort as a professional organizer in the Annapolis Valley, helping people to clear the clutter, making positive changes in their lives.
She lives in Kentville with her husband, David (a history professor at Acadia University), two sons (Daniel & Thomas) and 4 rescue pets. She loves to travel and hike and is always up for an adventure!
I asked Laura:
Q: Do you try more to be original or deliver to readers what they want?
When I sat down to write Two Crows Sorrow, I wrote solely for myself. At the time, I had no idea I would head towards publication or that the book would become as popular as it did! I wrote it because I had a story in my heart I needed to get onto paper.
I decided to use the creative non-fiction style, because as a journalist, this was something I felt comfortable doing. I do not consider myself a creative writer, but someone who is creatively reporting what happened. I didn’t have to make up the story – it was already there. I just had to string it together.
Several reviewers suggested I invent a character to tell the story through – someone who is there the entire time and witnesses the event. There was no one, however, who did witness everything. I didn’t feel comfortable making someone up, as that wasn’t true to the journalism side of the story. I stuck to my guns, and wrote the story my way, within my comfort zone.
Q: How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?
When I am reading a book, I like to be reminded who characters are, because I often pick up and put down a book. So, in writing the novel, I had this in mind, and tried to remind readers who the characters were, subtly, without aggravating those who remembered!
There were also several words, I later found out, that were Valley expressions. Some of my early readers who did not grow up around here, were confused, so I had to make sure I explained the meanings, and not assume that everyone was familiar with the colloquialisms. Examples include “Vault” (a steep ravine) and “The Boston States” (Not just Boston).
Q: What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
All of my characters in the novel were actual people. I drew upon personal letters, historical accounts, and discovering their personalities through their trial testimonies. Then, I would often think of someone they reminded me of, and channel them while writing. In many ways, Theresa, my heroine, was my grandmother Churchill. I used a lot of her expressions, and even incorporated some of her stories she used to tell me about growing up in rural Nova Scotia from smelling the animals to sitting under a buffalo blanket on the sled.
Q: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I am always working on many writing projects. These days, I am primarily writing stories from people across Atlantic Canada in the lifestyles section of Saltwire (Herald).
I would love to have a few more books in this genre published one day. I always have ideas!
Q: What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?
Everyone says that you don’t write a book to make money, and this is definitely true. At the end of the day, an author does not make much on royalties for a book, and this surprises many people.
You do it for the passion, and the art of story telling.
Q: As a child, what did you want to be?
As a child, I always loved writing stories. In fact, I recently found one of my stories from Grade 6 where my teacher wrote a comment at the end saying, “keep this up, as you might make money at this some day!”
I have a degree in organizational psychology (how people behave at work) and one in public relations. Through these, I have married all the things I love doing – researching, writing, communicating, and spreading the word to others.
Q: What do you like least about writing?
I am actually a terrible editor! I tend to look at the whole picture and not see the minor details of the wrong word used, or a misplaced comma. I’m happy to have so many people in my life who do like editing and who are willing to help!
Q: What’s your favourite part of writing?
I love getting in the zone of writing. Sometimes it can be overwhelming getting started and not knowing how to even begin. This is what prevents a lot of people from writing, I think. It’s very similar to what we see in our home organization business. People get bogged down looking at the forest, rather than the trees.
I break my writing into small sections, scenes, or ideas. I often set the timer for 30 minutes and turn off all distractions, and just write.
I look out my window, and it’s like I can see the characters completing the scene in front of me. I just describe what I see. And, before I know it, my 30 minutes are up, and I want to keep going!
Q: What’s the most you’ve ever edited out of a book? Did it bother you to do so?
When I first wrote Two Crows Sorrow, I did a tremendous amount of research. I looked into the lives of every jury member, every witness, everyone ever mentioned. I incorporated this all into the first draft of the novel. An early reader convinced me to take it out. She said, it’s interesting, but not relevant to progressing the story.
Now, when I do talks, I have a lot of fodder – talking about some of the characters who appeared and who they are, although that information is no longer in the book. She was right, and it made for a much better read.
Q: Are you ever upset when you’ve finished a story, that your characters have said all they’re going to say?
I have to admit when characters died in Two Crows Sorrow (I don’t want to give away too much), I did feel very emotional – almost as if it had happened all over again. And, hoping you had them tell their story enough so others would feel the same way.
You become very attached to people in your writing!
Q: What books have you published?
Besides thousands of newspaper articles and a psychology journal article, I have one book published.
Two Crows Sorrow, published by Moose House Publications, is my first novel. It is available in most book stores in the Annapolis Valley, in Coles, Chapters, and online through Amazon, Chapters/Indigo.
Visit Laura at: