If you like to read mysteries, you'll love meeting Lorena McCourtney.
There’s a smidgen of me in most of my heroines (and villainesses!), or I may give a person some characteristic, perhaps a physical trait or a belief, that is the entire opposite of my own. But Ivy Malone, in my current mystery series, probably has more of me in her than any other character ever has. The things Ivy knows are what I know. Her shortcomings are mine. We are both the Death Angel to innocent growing things. We have no talent for arts and craftsy things. And we both have this problem with invisibility, as begun in the first book in the series, Invisible.
I know what you mean about growing things. My husband says I have a black thumb. What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
I’m not sure it was the quirkiest thing, but it was surely the most foolish, or dumbest, and it has nothing to do with writing. But (in a world long ago and far away) my (former) husband and I, plus our two-year-old toddler, hitchhiked from Florida to Colorado. Although we met only very nice and helpful people along the way, I look back and wonder, What were we thinking? Never, never would I do such a thing again! (What’s that warning on TV? Do not try this at home.)
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
My first memory is of trying to write a story in about the 6th grade. A horse story, of course, since I was one of those crazy-over-horses girls. But as for first discovering that I was a writer, I just can’t say. There have been a good many times along the way, when I was discouraged with rejections, that I was pretty sure I wasn’t a writer. But I just kept plugging along, so now, after 38 published books, I’m thinking maybe I really am a writer.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I think I’ve read and enjoyed something in almost every genre. Any book can capture me if the big question in my mind at any given point as I’m reading is, What is going to happen next? Along with, How is this going to end? I’ll read through almost anything if those questions have somehow been aroused by the book.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
I wrote 24 books in the secular romance area, under my own and 3 other names. But then, with a powerful nudge from the Lord, I turned to Christian fiction. I wrote six books in the old Palisades Romance line. One of them was as much mystery as romance, and I have now turned to books that are definitely mystery with just a smidgen of romance. I did three books in my Julesburg Mysteries series and have now done four in the Ivy Malone Mysteries series. And I also did one book in a Guideposts mystery series.
As for unpublished, I still have hidden away several manuscripts that just didn’t make it. One that got up to over 200,00 words and then just kind of imploded, like one of those buildings you see that just comes down in one big crash, another that got up to about 150,000 and just fizzled. Others that never really got off the ground. (I don’t want to talk about these any more. My head is starting to ache.)
I know what you mean. I have a couple of those, too. How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Well, I suppose the not-too-original answer to that question is, Who says I’m keeping it? But I live in a rural area, where the pace isn’t as fast as in some areas, which helps. My son is grown, so I’m no longer in the run-run-run era of child raising. And I have a solid grounding in the Lord to help me keep what’s really important in perspective.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
Sometimes characters just arrive with a name. In my Ivy Malone series, there’s a young woman named Abilene. I’d intended to call her Hannah, but when she showed up at Ivy’s motor home, and Ivy asked her name, she said it was Abilene. Which certainly surprised me.
Other times I have a terrible time with a name. Nothing seems to fit. Ivy’s name gave me a lot of difficulty, but when it came I couldn’t imagine calling her anything else.
I do try to pay some attention to generational differences in names.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
With writing, I think I’d have to say it isn’t any one accomplishment, it’s just the persistence that has kept me going through 38 published books. As for actual accomplishment, I’d have to say my 33 year marriage ranks up there, along with having a son and granddaughter. (Although I have to say those are really more gifts from God than any accomplishment of mine.)
Yes, James and I are awaiting the arrival of our first great grandson. If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
An animal. What an interesting question. There’s a certain appeal to being a pampered cat or dog, but that makes you dependent on an owner’s whim or situation, and you might find yourself out in the cold. Also being a domestic creature grazing peacefully in green pasture has its attractions . . . until the owner decides you’d make a good entrée for dinner. No, I don’t want to be an animal with an owner.
So that leaves the wild. The freedom there is appealing. But every creature in the wild finds itself somewhere in the food chain, which is not somewhere I want to be.
So I think I’ll just thank the good Lord for choosing to make me a member of the human race.
Good answer. What is your favorite food?
Oh, I don’t think I can choose a favorite. That might imply I want to eat it all the time, and there’s nothing I want to eat exclusively. But I have a definite weakness for chocolate, in any form.
Chocolate is by far the most mentioned food by writers. What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
One of my biggest roadblocks was making the jump from short-story lengths to book lengths. I wrote a lot of short stories for children, for the little publications that churches used to give out at Sunday School. (Do they even do that these days?) From there I went on to women’s short stories, and I simply didn’t seem to have a book-length idea in me. I overcame this mostly out of necessity, when the main genre of markets I’d been writing for simply collapsed. A friend told me her agent was looking for a romance writer, so I became a romance writer. I did this mostly by reading all the romances I could get my hands on, studying what was in them that made book rather than short-story material. Studying twists of plot, development of character, themes, satisfactory endings. Learning how to write on a larger scale, basically.
Now I look back and wonder how I ever managed to tell any kind of story in 1500-6000 words.
Stranded, Book #4 in my Ivy Malone Mysteries series, is the featured book. The basic premise of this series is that Ivy is dismayed to realize that she seems to have aged into invisibility, and this idea of “invisibility” carries throughout the series. This came from my own growing feeling of invisibility, the feeling that I could walk through any given crowd and be no more visible than some bird picking up crumbs on the sidewalk. (A feeling shared by a good many readers, not all of them older. “Invisibility” touches a hot button with many of us!)
While my general reaction personally is to laugh about this and ignore it, Ivy realizes invisibility can be a handy asset as a sleuth. She doesn’t seek out mysteries to solve, but they seem to find her quickly enough. In Stranded, it’s a case of being stuck in the small town of Hello, Colorado, because of problems with her motor home. Where, sure enough, she finds herself living in a house where a murder recently took place, with an abundance of suspects. There’s the situation with the mysterious carousel horses in the victim’s bedroom, Nutty Norman and his chickens, the local Ladies Hysterical Society and a Roaring ‘20s chorus line. Ivy may have to contend with invisibility, but she never lacks for excitement!
Thank you, Lorena. Stranded sounds like a fun mystery to read.
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