Tuesday, June 14, 2016


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All Allie Marshall wants is a fresh start.  But when dark secrets refuse to stay buried, will her chance at a new life be shattered forever?
Convicted of a crime she didn’t commit, Allie watched a decade of her life vanish – time that can never be recovered. Now, out on parole, Allie is determined to clear her name, rebuild her life, and reconnect with the daughter she barely knows.
But Allie’s return home shatters the quaint, coastal community of Brunswick, Georgia. Even her own daughter Caroline, now a teenager, bristles at Allie’s claims of innocence. Refusing defeat, a stronger, smarter Allie launches a battle for the truth, digging deeply into the past even if it threatens her parole status, personal safety, and the already-fragile bond with family.
As her commitment to finding the truth intensifies, what Allie ultimately uncovers is far worse than she imagined. Her own sister has been hiding a dark secret—one that holds the key to Allie’s freedom.


'...McNeill kept dangling me above the motivation until she finally explained it to me. I highly recommend this book to everyone.' (Fiction 411)

'Overall, it’s an original twist on the wrongly accused victim trying to exonerate herself, and will keep readers interested throughout.” (RT Book Reviews)
Some Q & A with Laura:

Tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you started writing.

I was very fortunate to have a lovely, idyllic childhood. Growing up, my parents kept the TV off all summer, every summer. While I wasn’t thrilled at eight years old, at about age 28, I discovered it was the best gift they could have given me. I trekked to the library and back by myself almost every day of the summer and it grew my love of reading exponentially. As I grew older, I still turned to books and always dreamed of writing a novel. I decided to give it a go in 2011 and indie published under the pen name “Lauren Clark” (Amazon). It was through those books that I landed the two-book deal with Harper Collins.

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

I love traveling and have friends all over the world. I am looking forward to visiting more of Europe and I would love to fly to Greece one day for an extended vacation! I also like to exercise, spend time outdoors, swim, boat, and ski.

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?

I do have a day job. I am an instructional design manager for the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where I help faculty put Face-to-Face courses online. It combines a little bit of writing, with structure, organization, creativity, insight, and some technology skills. On Friday, for example, I helped edit a 10 minute video introduction to a course on Health Care Quality Management. I created a fun slide show to go with it, and the instructor was really pleased with the result. Those sort of days are really satisfying for me.

Where do you get your ideas?

My book ideas usually start with a “What if” question. For example, Center of Gravity began by me asking myself, “What if a young woman married a man who wasn’t at all who he said he was. What if they had a child together, and what if the man had a dark and violent past?”  Sister Dear began quite the same way, with me asking “What if a woman went to prison for a crime she didn’t commit, and left a young daughter behind? What would her life look like and how would she cope reconnecting with her family in a small Southern town?”

Is there a particular author or book that influenced or inspired your writing or decision to write?

I definitely am a fan of Jodi Picoult’s and I do enjoy JoJo Moyes very much. I think the book that is most inspiring, to me, as a writer, is Stephen King’s “On Writing.” It’s definitely a toolbox for writers.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

I sent out a LOT of letters to agents when I first began writing under “Lauren Clark” … In fact, I still have about 40 of those rejection letters! I finally decided, on the advice of a friend, to give self publishing a go in 2011. It was a great decision (and a lot of hard work), as it all led to the contract with Harper Collins!

How do you market your work?

I travel to indie bookstores, visit book clubs, am active on social media, and speak at conferences, which is all so much fun!

What are you working on now?

The World Breaks Everyone. It’s the story of sixteen-year old Olivia Jacobs, on the run in New Orleans after she and her celebrity chef father are brutally attacked at his French Quarter restaurant opening.
From the Garden District to Baton Rouge, the dark secrets Olivia uncovers along her journey challenge everything she believes about her life, her future, and, most unsettling of all, the tragic death of her mother several years earlier.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

My best advice is don’t give up. New authors need to finish their first manuscripts, even if they think it is the most awful piece of garbage in the world. Typing “The End” gives a writer an amazing sense of accomplishment, and it teaches tenacity and perseverance. Writing can be discouraging, and it requires discipline to keep at a project for 80,000 words or more. My first awful manuscript is finished, stored on a flash drive, and will never see the light of day. The story isn’t pretty, but it’s done, and that’s a huge part of the growing process as a writer.

As many authors say, success in this business is a marathon and not a sprint. Center of Gravity was a labor of love and went through years of changes and revision. My first Center of Gravity manuscript looks nothing like the first, and that’s a good thing. I learned so much in the process.

What are the downfalls of your writing career? The best parts?

There’s a bit of wisdom someone once shared with me, and it makes a lot of sense: “If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.”

I’ve learned that there will always be “Hey, Mom” moments. Even if you don’t have kids to worry about, a neighbor might be outside trimming the hedges or leaf blowing when you need to edit, there may be a crisis at work, or your home’s A/C unit may decide to quit in the middle of writing the final chapter of your manuscript. All in all, it’s better to write with a bit of chaos than not at all.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?

I’m so grateful to the amazing bloggers and wonderful reviewers and all of the friends and family who’ve supported Center of Gravity and Sister Dear from the very beginning. I’ve been touched by all of the positive feedback about the novel from Beta readers and have been blown away by my fellow authors’ support on social media. If you’ve Tweeted, shared, or told a friend about my books, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

About the Author:

Laura McNeil is a writer, web geek, travel enthusiast, and coffee drinker. In her former life, she was a television news anchor for CBS News affiliates in New York and Alabama. Laura holds a master's degree in journalism from The Ohio State University and is completing a PhD program in instructional technology at the University of Alabama. When she s not writing and doing homework, she enjoys running, yoga, and spending time at the beach. She lives in Birmingham, AL with her family.
To connect with Laura ~


  1. Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog today! So thrilled to be here and really enjoyed answering all of the questions!

    xo, Laura

    1. Thanks so much, Laura, for sharing some of your writing life with us. SISTER DEAR sounds like a must read - one I'll be devouring soon!