Spotlight Interview: Lori L. Lake

Today we introduce something new to our blog: the Spotlight Interview.

What does Spotlight Interview mean? Well, it means that from time to time we’ll have guests on our blog; authors from other publishing houses and/or self publishers that are willing and maybe even happy to answer some of our nosy questions.

headshot_3-2013And we are very happy and proud that the author we can start the Spotlight Interview off with is Lori L. Lake. She was one of the first authors of English lesbian fiction I’ve read years ago and I’m a huge fan of her Gun Series.

So, welcome, Lori, and thank you for answering our questions.

Let’s start with something easy – some warm-up questions:

Coffee or tea?
Definitely tea. I’ve never cared for coffee, I’m sorry to say.

What puts you in a bad mood?
Unkindness.

If you had a superpower, what would it be?
Time travel piques my curiosity.

Where is your favorite place you’ve ever traveled to?
I’ve not been overseas—yet. Until I do get there, I have to say that the coolest place I’ve ever traveled to was Victoria, British Columbia. I was especially impressed with the Craigdarroch Castle, which I very much want to visit again. I also loved the Butchart Gardens nearby in Vancouver. Beautiful place to visit.

Favorite chocolate?
Dark, but not too bitter.

What would you do if you won the lottery?
How much money are we talking about? <g>

If it’s millions and millions of dollars, I’d hire a person to be my secretary and publicist—and probably office organizer/manager/accountant. (Maybe I’d need two people to help me be more efficient with writing and promoting!) I’d establish funds for writers at various LGBT organizations. I’d set up a business that helps authors publish and distribute their work. I’d get my sweetheart a new car and all the kayaks she ever could want. I’d also buy some cool stuff (cars, RVs, vacations, whatever) for my two brothers, my four sisters, my brother/cousin, and my two foster sisters. I’d buy my dad anything he wanted. My foster mom, too! I’d probably buy all my friends e-readers and flights to visit me and other delightful stuff. I’d have to do some major traveling myself. I want desperately to visit the UK, Germany, Poland, Holland—gosh, everywhere in Europe! I’d find all the far-flung relatives in England, Scotland, and Ireland. (This was probably more detail than you wanted, right? <g>).

If you could get me a winning lottery ticket, I’ll give you an amazing present, too!

And now off to the writing-related stuff:

How many years have you been writing now, and how did you come to it?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a child in grade school, but I didn’t focus on it until after I graduated from college. From my mid-twenties until I was forty, I considered myself an “Apprentice to the Craft,” and it took me fifteen years before I finally had some publishing success. It was a long, hard climb up until then, but I’m glad I was patient and stuck it out. So I guess I’ve been writing seriously for over 27 years.

Tell us a bit about the Gun Series and your new bookjtg_med
JUMP THE GUN is the fourth book in the series about police officer Dez Reilly and her partner Jaylynn Savage. The first two books (GUN SHY, UNDER THE GUN) tell the day-to-day activities that the two cops face on the job along with the gradual process of them falling in love. But Dez has secrets, mostly because of the death of her work partner, which occurred before GUN SHY opens. She’s also been burned in the past when she got involved with another officer, and she doesn’t plan on ever doing that again. Jaylynn has other ideas, though, so those first two books focus a lot on their relationship and on Dez healing the wounds of her past.

The third book, HAVE GUN WE’LL TRAVEL, takes a left-hand turn into thriller land. Dez and Jaylynn go on a camping trip in the woods with two friends only to have one of the party kidnapped by two escapees from a nearby medium-security prison. Lots of action in that one. Then in this latest novel, Dez and Jay lose a beloved colleague when she’s murdered on the job, and Dez decides to find and capture the killer. That, too, has thriller elements, though I suppose you could call it a mystery/police procedural.

There was quite a long gap between #3 and #4, all because of the topsy-turvy nature of my personal life. I *meant* to get this fourth Gun book out long ago . . . but it just didn’t happen. I’m so glad to be back on track with my writing now. I’ve got ideas percolating for a mash-up of my Gun Series and Public Eye Series characters. I think it would be great to have Dez Reilly investigating a murder and collaborating with the state investigator, Leona Reese, from the Eye books. I’ll be pondering that set-up for a while.

Why do you write? What does it mean to you?
Good question! To me, writing a novel is like working on a giant mosaic jigsaw puzzle. It’s huge. It’s complex. It’s maddening. But it’s ultimately satisfying when all the parts come together and the reader can see the patterns. I LOVE to complete a novel. I consider myself a “Complete-ist,” so finishing something of that magnitude is tremendously gratifying. One of the best things about writing is that every book calls for me to learn new things—about science, psychology, various occupations, families, criminal justice, sports, nature, and much more. It means a lot to me that I constantly have to research and find out more about this crazy world we live in. I’m never bored, that’s for sure.

How long does it take you to write a novel?
I keep track of the actual hours it takes for a first draft. That’s the time that I’m actually sitting there typing away. So I can tell you that I composed/typed at the keyboard for 135 hours to write JUMP THE GUN. But that doesn’t count the pondering, note-taking, research, and general indecision. I wrote the opening scene in 2005, another 2,000 words in July 2008, and I wrote off and on in 2011 to get to 24,000 words. Then from end of August 2012 through Halloween Day 2012, I wrote 66,000 words. Often that’s the way it goes—fits and starts for quite a long time, and then suddenly the whole book comes together in a few weeks.

I’ve gotten a little faster at writing first drafts. It took me nearly 300 hours to write UNDER THE GUN, but only 163 to do A VERY PUBLIC EYE. I wrote LIKE LOVERS DO in 100 hours over a period of only 50 days. But SNOW MOON RISING took me three years and over 200 hours. I guess it all depends on how much I get sidetracked by research or smacked upside the head with writer’s block.

How much time per week do you spend writing?
It varies so much! I’m intermittent. I always tell my students to try to write on a schedule, but I’m such a hypocrite. I don’t seem to be able to get a schedule going until the book is well underway, and I’m always so relieved when I get to the point where I feel positively compelled to write. I have a lot of false starts and misadventures before I finally get the book rolling. Perhaps I should force myself to be more regular, but so far, that hasn’t really worked. So I go weeks and weeks without doing first draft work—and then suddenly I’m writing five, six, eight hours a day, rushing to pour out the story!

When and where do you write the most?
I often write late at night—but I’m also pretty good in the afternoons. Often, when a book is rolling, I’ll write for two or three hours after lunch, then take care of errands and friend/family activities and go back to write some more between 10 p.m. and perhaps 2 a.m. (I tend to handle business matters in the mornings.) Where I write varies because early in a book’s process I often work on character information and some scenes in longhand at the kitchen table. I work at the desktop in my office quite a lot, too. Ever since I re-injured my back in summer 2012, I’ve found that writing on the laptop while sitting in the recliner has been productive. Sometimes I go to the Oregon Coast and stay at my brother-in-law’s cabin. There’s no phone and no Internet there, so I’m forced to focus. Most of the time, I work at home.

How would you describe yourself?
Hmmm…I guess I’d have to say I’m a mess of contradictions. (Or should that be a mass?) I’m driven about some things, but far too lax about others. I love writing, but don’t do it often enough. I like people and enjoy their love and support, but at heart, I’m an introvert in so many ways and crave my time alone here in my house (which I call The Fortress of Solitude). I wear my heart on my sleeve, and that gets me in trouble all the time. I’m curious about people, and I’m constantly trying to understand what motivates them. I think that’s one of the reasons I write. I describe myself, as a Writer, as a “Journeyman to the Craft” now. I’m not a “Master” yet, but I’m past the “Apprentice” stage now.

 How much of yourself is in your characters?
I’d estimate 44%. <g> Just kidding. Seriously, I often say that I would BE my characters if I were in their shoes with their world views and circumstances. So my story people—even the villains—have a lot of me in them. I guess there’s a lot of “Not Me” in my characters, too. I do model some of them after people I’ve met or worked with or seen in politics or whatever. People who know me tell me all the time that I’m definitely a major part of my story heroines, so I guess there’s a fair amount of me included in every one of them.

What do you find the most challenging part of writing?
I was just asked this recently, and I wrote that my big challenge is staying focused. My periodic inability to say “no” gets in my way a lot. I want to help other authors and aspiring writers. I have family and friends who make all sorts of offers of fun. There are important organizations (like the Golden Crown Literary Society or the Oregon Writers Colony) that I want to be involved in. But I have to be more careful about my time because it’s very easy to get involved in a bunch of stuff and then suddenly find I have no time to write!

What are you reading right now?
THE SECOND COMING OF CURLY RED by Jody Seay. It’s a 1999 novel (from Firebrand Press) by a woman with an amazing writing style and voice. She also wrote a memoir called DEAD IN A DITCH that’s a real hoot. She’s dead serious, but also has a sense of humor and turns of phrase that often make me laugh out loud. I’m really enjoying the story which is about this older fellow named Jimmy who loses his wife to the bullets of a bigot. He ends up in small-town Reliance, Oregon, where he meets a lesbian couple dealing with their own issues. I’m not too far into it yet, but the writing is good and I’m enjoying it.

What do you think makes a good mystery/thriller?
I like different things in mysteries than in thrillers. A good mystery has an engaging sleuth, a realistic process of investigation and discovery, and enough unexpected clues, twists, and turns to keep me wondering. I really like to know about the sleuth’s personal life and her Achilles heel(s). I like a main plot and multiple subplots, and it’s okay with me if the subplots carry on from book to book in a series.

A thriller has a lot of those same details but with an increased focus on pacing. You can get away with some waffling in a mystery, but not so in a thriller. The rollercoaster of pacing has to be present to make me happy with a thriller.

What advice would you give new authors?
You better love being published and all the details involved in that journey, or don’t do it. Writing for the love of it, whether you’re published or not, is one thing; writing for publication is a lot more stressful. Editing, revising, working from a schedule someone else sets up—these are all difficult things to manage. Wasn’t it Truman Capote who said that publishing a book is like taking your child out to the back yard and shooting him? Maybe that’s a little too dramatic, but still, publishing is a hard road. I would advise new authors to learn as much about the publishing business—and about business in general—as possible. Read publishing blogs. Talk to other authors. Read books about contracts—and about craft and technique. Find out everything you can about the publishing world, including indie publishing. Do a thorough job vetting any prospective agent and every single publisher to whom you submit your work.

Publishing isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s stressful, time-consuming, and doesn’t pay well. Find out all the facts before you go down that road. And once you do go down the road, DO NOT rest on the laurels of your first book! Immediately get to work on a second book. And a third. And a fourth… Keep writing!

What are you working on right now?
Two romances—my own personal one <g> and a written one that has nothing to do with Luca and me. The romance I’m writing is tentatively called EIGHT DATES, and I’ve only just *finally* figured out my main characters’ names. I have to have character names before I can begin a book, even if I know a lot of the storyline. For this book, I’ve struggled with one of the names for far too long. At long last, it came to me last week, and now I’m rockin’ and rollin’ with the story.

What future writing projects can we look forward to?
It’s scary to think how many books I have in some semblance of disorder on my computer. Here is what I have on my “To Do List—Soon” (not to be confused with my “To Do List—Later/Postponed!”):

  • Book 3 in the Public Eye Series
  • Book 5 in the Gun Series
  • A post-apocalyptic survival novel (likely in 3 books)
  • A thriller series about an ex-military soldier that’s a spin-off from the Gun and Eye mash-up
  • A collection of my own mystery short stories
  • Another anthology of lesbian short stories

Actually, there’s more, but those are the ones seriously underway right now.

Thank you for having me here and asking all these intriguing questions!

Thank you for your interesting answers. It was great having you here.
I think I have to reread Gun Shy now 🙂

Astrid Ohletz
Publisher

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6 Responses to Spotlight Interview: Lori L. Lake

  1. Nikki Busch says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this interview. Thank you for sharing it!

  2. onamarae says:

    Love reading your novels, so it’s great to see behind the scenes a bit! Thanks!

  3. Gaby says:

    Great idea with this interview, hope to read many more 🙂

  4. great interview – but as a long time fan, I have to say I think Lori’s assessment of herself as a writer is a bit modest.

  5. Lori Janos says:

    Love the thought of post-apocalyptic survival novel from Lori. What a great interview giving us some insight into the writer. Love Lori’s books and this just gives me a better idea of the face behind the scenes. Thank you.

  6. Lori, if you win the lottery you’ll need a castle and a court jester. I’m available.

Comments are closed.