Laura Davis is the author of seven nonfiction books, including The Courage to Heal and I Thought We’d Never Speak Again. She creates supportive, intimate writing communities online, in person, and internationally. You can learn about her writing workshops at auradavis.net and read the opening chapters of her mother-daughter memoir at lauradavis.net/chapters.
In this post, Laura discusses the process of starting, stopping, and starting again with her new memoir, The Burning Light of Two Stars, the way the story begged to be told, and more!
Name: Laura Davis
Literary agent: Charlotte Raymond
Book title: The Burning Light of Two Stars: A Mother-Daughter Story
Publisher: Girl Friday Books
Expected release date: October 19, 2021
Previous titles: The Courage to Heal; The Courage to Heal Workbook; Allies in Healing; Beginning to Heal; I Thought We’d Never Speak Again: The Road from Estrangement to Reconciliation; Becoming the Parent You Want to Be
Elevator pitch for the book: The Burning Light of Two Stars tells the story of Laura Davis’ embattled relationship with her mother Temme, their determination to love one another, and the dramatic and surprising collision course they ended up on at the end of Temme’s life. For the millions who benefited from Laura’s first book, The Courage to Heal, the new book serves as both prequel and sequel, revealing in page-turning, intimate detail how she reconciled with the mother who betrayed her, and came to care for her at the end of her life.
What prompted you to write this book?
I wrote The Burning Light of Two Stars because it was churning inside me and had to come out. I tried to walk away from the story multiple times, yet it insisted on being told. We all have certain archetypal stories that live inside us, and this mother-daughter epic just happens to be mine.
Although it’s the story of one mother and daughter, one relationship that went from an impossible state of estrangement to a surprising state of reconciliation, it’s a story that will resonate with anyone who struggles with a broken relationship they wish they could heal.
Millions of people with aging parents wrestle with the same questions I faced: Can I caretake a parent who has betrayed me in the past? Should I? Is it possible for me to open my heart when I’ve learned that it’s safer and easier to keep it closed?
Writing The Burning Light of Two Stars helped me explore these questions for myself and I hope that dramatizing my journey will speak to those facing similar challenges.
How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?
It took me 12 years to move from idea to publication. In its first iteration, I wrote this story as a play because my mother was an actor and I thought a play would be a great tribute to her, but I literally knew nothing about writing a play. My friend, a theater director, read my “play” and announced that it had no dramatic action, and advised me to toss it and start over.
I was despondent, but a few months later, I picked up the story again. This time, I wrote it as epistolary memoir using historical correspondence between me and my mother, as well as letters that I composed to her after her death. My beta readers for that round told me they felt like voyeurs to a private conversation. They reported feeling bored and felt left out. That draft, too, was composted, providing mulch for the final version.
Finally, I surrendered and wrote our story as a traditional memoir, but it still took years for me to digest the material deeply enough to craft a compelling yet compassionate story with no villains and no heroes, just two deeply flawed human characters struggling to love one another.
Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?
I went from having my first six books published by big mainstream publishing houses to choosing a hybrid publisher for this title. I’ve been shocked by how overwhelming the workload has been, yet it’s deeply satisfying to have control over every step of the production process: layout, cover, paperback vs. hardback, the size of the print run, paper stock, recording my own audiobook—all of it.
Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?
I’ve been teaching writing for 25 years and this is my seventh book. I was shocked, deeply challenged, and ultimately delighted by how much I had to level up my craft to pull off this book. To succeed in what was a brand new genre for me, I had to study scene-building, how to create a dramatic arc, and the secrets of creating momentum that keeps readers turning pages. My prior books weren’t dramatic stories; they were how-to nonfiction.
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
I hope readers will be entertained, that they’ll laugh and cry on the same page, and that they’ll feel compelled to devour the story. I want them to be deeply satisfied at the end, to proclaim, “That was a great read!”
Beyond that, I want The Burning Light of Two Stars to inspire people to think deeply about their own mothers and daughters, as well as anyone else they may be estranged from. I hope that our imperfect, unlikely love story cracks open some rusty hearts.
If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?
One of the best things about writing is that you can keep growing as a writer way past the point when you’ve been “successful.” Don’t coast. Take risks and try something new. It’s thrilling to keep growing and learning in your art form. Nothing is more exciting!