Probably more than I care to. I have a quirky sense of humor, and it inevitably comes out in my work, even though I sometimes start a project thinking I’ll do a serious story. My readers like my western historical. In this formats, I can feature women who aren’t as savvy as today’s women. They’re bright, intelligent, but they’ve retained a naiveté not easily found today. I enjoy writing these stories more than I do heavier subjects. Life has enough problems :-)
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Many years ago I wrote a book for Harlequin and featured a couple of dogs P.O.V. Today so much emphasis is put on writing in the proper P.O.V., first person, third person, multiple—the ways to write a book are numerous. At the time, I had no idea you couldn’t write in an animal’s P.O.V. but my readers seemed to enjoy the change.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
Somewhere around my 40th birthday. I had never thought of writing, had written little more than a grocery list, but I loved to read. One day a friend asked why I didn’t write a book, and so, for my personal entertainment, I sat down and wrote one. It was a small Dell Candlelight, it sold within 6 weeks, and I’ve been under contract since them. Mine is a fairy tale story. Today, the market is very tight and sometimes it takes years to find a publisher, if ever. So I was blessed—and discovered a gift that I didn’t know I had.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I’ve always loved biographies and medical suspense. I devoured Robin Cook’s books when I read a lot. These days it’s hard to find time to read anything that isn’t research material. I like anything by Travis Thrasher, a new author with great potential.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
I’m approaching my hundredth published book. With great humility, I can say that I’ve published every book I’ve written. I’ve had proposals rejected, but I haven’t written a book that wasn’t already contracted for. I honestly don’t think that I could now. Writing comes hard to me. I’m not a natural writer, I’m a storyteller. I need help with the mechanics of writing, and God has always placed me with an editor or house that was willing to give that help.
I'm a storyteller, too, but I've learned a lot of the mechanics. How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Can’t. Lost sanity years ago :-) Thank goodness you don’t have to be sane to write, you just need a good imagination and much perseverance. The greatest sacrifice in writing is giving up so much of your personal life. Friends, family, church activities all take time and effort, and a writer doesn’t have those luxuries. Many of my friends assume that I sit down, strike a “Best Seller” key on my computer and voile! I’m free to go lunch, shopping, the spa or planning meetings. How I wish!
How do you choose your characters’ names?
This is an area I need to work on. I grab them out of the air, and often I repeat the same ones in new books! I have various sources on hand, baby name books, I keep all high school and college graduation programs, but since I write so much in the old west the newer names aren’t helpful. So I draw back to my Grandma and Grandpa’s days, and people they knew with quirky names. For instance, my dear aunt was Myrtle Independence Smart. She was born on the fourth of July. You don’t hear many Herschel, May, Edgar, Lulu (my grandparents neighbor was Lulu) Josephine, Pearl or Othel these days.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
In the writing world? It’s hard to pick just one. I suppose the greatest elation occurred a couple of years ago when my book Monday Morning Faith was a finalist for the Christy Award. Now you have to understand, I don’t write ‘award winning books” just fun entertainment with a Christian message. Nominated for a Christy was a goal I thought would never happen, so the blessing was great. I didn’t win, but I had my chance and that meant a lot to me.
In 2000, I was inducted into the Missouri Writers Hall of Fame. My pictures in the library next to Mark Twain! I take my grandchildren there and point me out, knowing that someday, God willing, they’ll be able to take their children there and say “that’s your great grandmother”.
In the personal realm, it would be the knowledge that my children, and all my grandchildren who are at the age of accountability, know and have accepted the Lord.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
Ummm. Is a bird an animal? I’d be a hummingbird. Quick, pretty, harmless, and I have a fierce sweet tooth. Second choice, I’d be a house cat. They’ve got it made.
What is your favorite food?
Sweet and Sour chicken, all white meat with a crab rangoon on the side. I could eat it every day.
That's some of my favorite Chinese food, too. There's a little place near where I live that has the best Sweet and Sour Chicken I've ever eaten. What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
English skills. When I wrote my first book I’d forgotten everything that I knew. I hadn’t used it in years so I’ve had to try and learn it again. English is a tough language because words can have so many different forms and usage. Most people think that the publisher does all the editing, and that’s true to a point, but you don’t send in work with a multitude of glaring errors. Some editors are lovely about helping you along, but in my earlier years of writing I have worked with those who have shamed me. Once I used the word who’s for whose. The young editor had me in tears. I went to hiring someone to go over the manuscript, but then the prices became more than I made, so I had to stop that practice. I’ve learned a lot in twenty-years, but I still depend on editorial assistance. Thank goodness I have terrific editors now.
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
Patience. Learn your craft. If possible, hire a good agent, one who truly believes in your work. And teach yourself this one thing, repeat it over and over. Not everyone who writes will be published. It’s not a given. It’s not a promise. It’s not God-given right. It isn’t always the best books that get published. Unfair but true. If you keep this in mind, and write from your heart, you have given yourself great joy whether the manuscript sells or not.
Tell us about the featured book?
Outlaw’s Bride is one of my earlier books published in the secular market. Harvest House has given me the opportunity to rewrite this book (The Bride of Johnny McAllister) and two others for the Christian market. I love the assignment. This past year I’ve had two surgeries that left me flat on my back for awhile. I had ample time to think, to consider what I loved to write because the joy had left me. I was tired. I felt as though I was on a gerbil wheel. When the opportunity came along to rewrite some of my older titles, I found new joy in my work. Outlaw’s Bride is the format that I wrote in the beginning, whacky, lighthearted stories meant to bring a smile, and a moral message. Every author has a “voice.” Be true to your voice, and don’t try to write what others are writing. Readers tastes comes in cycles, and eventually the tastes always cycle back to your passion. In the busyness of writing, I’d forgotten that rule.
Please give us the first page of the book.
Barren Flats—formerly Paradise, California
Ragan Ramsey watched the trail of dust disappear, and then let the curtain drop into place. “Thank goodness that one’s gone.”
Judge Procter McMann—known to most as “Procky” chuckled and drew deeply on his pipe, the scent of cherry tobacco filling the parlor. “I have to admit that was a test of endurance.”
With a sigh, Ragan started for the kitchen where breakfast dishes awaited her. She’d been the judge’s housekeeper for three years, and she loved Procky like her father, but why she’d ever let him talk her into writing a book on Rehabilitation for the Unlovable failed her. The past two years they’d taken in one after another criminal—both old and young, men who had shown the propensity for change in hopes of gaining the inner workings of the troubled mind. Sixteen year old Max Rutherford returned to jail this morning after a brief but angst-filled stay. Good riddance. None of their subjects has lasted more than a few months and she didn’t know why the judge insisted that they complete the book.
Judge patted his knee and the cat bound into his lap. “Things should settle down for awhile.”
“For a good long while, I’d hope.” Ragan was still complaining when she entered the kitchen. “You promised, Procky. No more 'subjects' for a while.” Her patience was stretched thin by hoodlums, miscreants, and the just plain mean. “You have to make it clear to Judge Roberts that we can’t handle one more hoodlum for the time being.”
Sounds interesting. How can readers find you on the Internet?
www.loricopeland.com, Facebook, Twitter.
Lori, thank you for spending this time with us.
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