KABAM! authors discuss their diverse works

KINGMAN - Three local authors taking part in this week's Kingman Area Books Are Magic festival will be easy to spot and more than happy to discuss their books with anyone who stops by at any of the KABAM! festival's venues on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Author Deborah Laurent is the featured speaker Thursday at 5th Street Books downtown and Stephanie Cress and Alexandra Livingston will also speak.

The women will also attend Friday's poetry slam in front of Beale Street Brews and each will have booths at Metcalfe Park on Saturday.

Here's a look at the novels each has written:

Alexandra Livingston

Livingston adhered to the first law of writing when she wrote "A Kingdom of Arie Story: Legends."

The 32-year-old author wrote about what she knows.

A hint of what she knows is hidden in the title.

"Kingdom of Arie sounds a lot like Kingman, Arizona," she said, flashing a smile a mile wide. "She was destined to rule the kingdom. All she had to do was survive until she turned eighteen."

The main character is Theia Lavania Ellis, who loses her parents and moves to Kingman and fights to survive until she becomes an adult and able to claim her inheritance.

Sounds like a soap opera, right?

Wrong. This is a fantasy with the topography, mining and historic sites of Mohave County in general and Kingman specifically.

Livingston and her imagination have created a parallel Kingman, which is the Kingdom of Arie. Abandoned mineshafts serve as portals between the two worlds and the Hualapai Mountains play a big role, no pun intended.

Livingston even posed as Theia for a photograph taken in the mountains that makes up the cover of the book.

She's carrying a longbow in one hand, but says Legends was not written in the mold of "The Hunger Games," the popular movie franchise based on novels for young adults.

"It's not as dark as Hunger Games," she said. "I write my main characters with problems and issues. They have the same stressors that teens have.

"I have a weakness for happy endings."

If you want to learn more about Livingston or her novels, she is participating in this week's three-day Kingman Area Books Are Magic festival.

The other books Livingston has published include "Defy the Gods," "Warriors of Sirei," and the duology "Rising Sun" and "Falling Moon."

Stephanie Cress

"The idea came to me in the shower," said Cress when asked what inspired her to write a novel.

November is National Novel Writing Month. Aspiring writers are encouraged to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

"I challenged myself," said Cress, 39. And while the underlying theme of the novel addresses imbalance in the world, Cress employs a key character, a professional assassin, who finds out "he is more than he thinks he is."

He is sent to kill a woman whose good deeds are changing the planet for the better, but instead he defends her.

Cress said this was her first long-form writing effort that didn't involve plotting, so the book's ending was unknown even to her.

"It hit me like a lightning strike," she said. So she shopped "Gilded Shadows" around and everybody told her the same thing: It wasn't long enough.

"I had to come up with a 20,000 word subplot and weave it in there," she said.

Assigning a genre to Cress's novel is no simple task. Fantasy might best describe "Gilded Shadows," a story that features mixed races - as in human and something other than human, but it also serves as a metaphor for contemporary society - and the future of humanity.

While the Sun Folk and the Water Folk can procreate with humans, their offspring cannot.

These offspring are considered second-class citizens doomed to an unhappy existence - until somebody finds out there is a way for them to mate.

Hence, the need for the elite to send an assassin.

"I don't want to give away too many spoilers," said Cress, adding with a small laugh, "I'll just say it has an upliftingly tragic ending."

Prior to writing "Gilded Shadows," Cress' fantasy writing skills were published in two short stories in the anthology, "Unicorns and Other Stories."

Deborah Laurent

Laurent's heartfelt books about life resonate with thousands of readers

Laurent's first self-published novel, "The Glass Table," has sold 40,000 copies.

The book centers on a couple's 25th wedding anniversary in the form of letters that tell stories about them written by family, friends and coworkers. The letters are given not only to honor the wife following a tragedy, but also to help her heal and to thank her for the way she lived her life.

"The Christmas Robe" examines the life of a woman struggling after her mom dies.

This one was close to Laurent's heart, as it was written based on a short story she wrote when her own mother passed away.

"Chicken Soup for the Soul" picked up the "The Christmas Robe" thanks to its focus on cherished Christmas memories and how important they are during times of sadness.

The cumulative effort is about to pay off, said Laurent, 52.

"The Hallmark Channel is actually talking to me about doing a Christmas movie," she said.

Her third book, "Desires of the Heart," is due for release in the fall. The story takes place during the American Civil War, but is not about the bloodiest conflict in U.S. history.

"I started this when I was 12 years old," she said. "My mom read it and made me promise I'd do something with it."

While Laurent has done well publishing her own novels, she is ready to search for a traditional publisher.

Her advice to aspiring writers who want to self-publish? Get it professionally edited.

Being published is one of the most rewarding feelings a writer can experience, said Laurent, who also works as a mental health therapist.

"One of the greatest moments is when my children asked me why they weren't more important to me than that book. I said, 'Books don't whine.'"

Laurent and her husband, an elementary school principal in Mohave Valley, just bought a home in Golden Valley.

"After 30 years, we can't stand the heat anymore."

The couple takes fully 50 percent of the proceeds from her books sales and buys basic items for the homeless in Mohave County.

The remaining 50 percent was substantial enough to get into their new home.