I recently spoke with Lori about her newest projects. She has recently begun publishing her own work, and is very busy not only with that, but with several other projects as well. Here's the latest from Lori.
AJ: Hello Lori, welcome back. Wow! Have you ever had a busy few months. Tell us about your next project. What are you currently working on and when will you publish your next book.
Lori: Eight Dates is scheduled for a July 1 release. It’s a romance, and as I said, the main character, Skylar, tells her story in first person throughout. She's had her heart broken and since then, she finds that meeting women is difficult. She’s not even sure that she wants to BE in a relationship ever again. But when her best pal and business partner Mitchell signs her up at a dating website and characterizes her as a happy-go-lucky, amorous, risk-taking single, suddenly women are contacting her. I didn’t intend it to be comical, but my beta readers have said that it has quite a bit of humor. I’ve enjoyed writing it and look forward to reader response.
AJ: I'm pleased for you, although I'll have to admit to mixed feelings. I'm eagerly awaiting your new release as a fan and avid reader of your work. However, as an author, I dread it, as I know you'll knock my book, One Day Longer Than Forever, out of first place! (Forgive the shameless plug! LOL.) Please forgive my mixed feelings about your scheduled release of 8 Dates.
Lori: AJ, you crazy grrrrl! We have no idea how my book will fare. So many good new books come out every week that it could easily be someone else - many someone elses! - who knock both of our books down the charts.
AJ: Now there's a depressing thought! I'd hate to see BOTH of us at the bottom, LOL.
Lori: I solve the problem of worrying about that by not looking. LOL!
AJ: Thank you, I appreciate that. And do you have another book in the works?
Lori: I’ve got two things that may come out around the same time. First, The writing book, SPARKING CREATIVITY, which has the sub-title, Words of Wisdom to Inspire Your Writing Craft. If all goes well, that’ll come out October 1. The second project is an anthology I’m co-editing with Jessie Chandler called LESBIANS ON THE LOOSE: Crime Writers On The Lam. We’ve got a marvelous group of writers contributing including Ellen Hart, Sandra Scoppettone, Katherine V. Forrest, Elizabeth Sims, JM Redmann and about a dozen more. It’s very exciting! That has a December 1, publication date – just in time for Christmas.
AJ: Thank goodness...my next one is due in October, so no worries there, phew! I heard you’re leading a women’s writing retreat in the fall?
Lori: Yes, at Colonyhouse in Rockaway Beach, Oregon, from Oct 5-12. I have a great cook coming to provide three meals daily and snacks (allergies and food limitations will be addressed). Plenty of quiet time for writing, reading, revising, and thinking. Monday through Friday in the early afternoons we’ll get together and I’ll to present information and advice about writing technique (all materials provided). I will also read 25 pages of a work-in-progress in advance and sit down with each writer for an hour to talk about it privately. I did this two years ago and it went so well that I’ve expanded it. Colonyhouse overlooks the beach. You can see some cool pix here: http://www.lorillake.com/colonyhouse.html.
I wish Lori well on all her new projects. And, for those of you who haven't read it, please continue on and read my interview with Lori we did a few months ago earliy in 2014.
Lori L. Lake Interview
My first interaction with Lori L. Lake was when I wrote to her as I struggled writing Sunset Island. We both belong to the GCLS, and she had listed herself on their site as willing to help new authors. Figuring I had nothing to lose by asking, I wrote her a letter explaining my frustration with my book and asked for help. When she answered, once I got over the fact that one of my favorite authors had actually responded to me, I read the note. She was very apologetic that she didn't have time to help, but offered to send me a collection of writing tips she'd collected instead. Sure enough, a couple of weeks later I got a disk packed full of articles about writing. That was months ago and I'm still picking my way through the treasure trove of information. We have coresponded since then on a casual basis. She is always very supportive of my efforts and couldn't be more helpful.
In keeping with my philosophy that you'll never obtain what you want if you don't make known what your wishes are…during an E-mail exchange we had over the holidays, I asked Lori if she'd be willing to do an interview for a new feature I had on my website. I never expected she'd respond in the affirmative. It was a good thing I was sitting down when I quickly received an e-mail response saying she'd be happy to participate in an interview. It is now one day later, and I have successfully extracted myself from the ceiling where I've been floating for the past twenty-four hours! Okay, enough from me—let's ask Lori some questions.
AJ: Hello Lori. Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to give me an opportunity to ask you some questions.
You're a very successful author today. How difficult was it for you to get your first book published? Did your first submissions get rejected, or was your work accepted straight away?
Lori: My road to publication is full of twists and turns. I spent seven years from my mid-20s to early 30s writing short stories and trying to get them published. Back then, the Internet wasn’t a force yet, and there were still in-print literary journals and magazines. I am the proud possessor of over 100 rejection notes, some of them quite kind, many just form letters.
I was going nowhere fast, but I was participating in a weekly writer’s group and taking classes at The Loft Literary Center, and while workshopping a particular “story,” I got some life-changing feedback: “Lori, this story seems to me like the opening of a novel.” I realized the other writers were on to something! So I spent a lot of time working on the book that became Ricochet in Time, and in 1995, I submitted it to a whole slew of presses. Unfortunately, I collected another set of rejection letters to add to the pile. I was discouraged and didn’t write another novel until 1998-99, and by then I’d sort of given up on being print published. But MaryD at the premiere Xena website posted my Über novel in eleven parts.
AJ: Can you explain more about what you mean by Über?
Lori: Über designates contemporary stories where many of the aspects and qualities of Xena and Gabrielle (from the TV Show “Xena: Warrior Princess”) are used for characters in present-day stories. I had asked myself this question: If the fictional characters of Xena and Gab were alive in the (then) 20thCentury, who would they be? Cops – that’s what I thought. And really good police officers, too. So I used the archetypes that Xena and Gab represent to create a modern-day Dez Reilly and Jaylynn Savage along with an entire fictional world in Saint Paul, Minnesota, for them to exist in. Before the novel, Gun Shy, was even entirely posted online, I got a publishing offer which I quickly accepted, and then I received some other offers as well.
AJ: As a follow up to that question, do you have any advice for writers who want to get their work published?
Lori: Yes, I do. Be VERY careful about accepting a publishing offer before researching the company. The first outfit that made me an offer was run by someone less than honorable, and I got taken to the cleaners. I was fortunate that I was able to find another press to take on Gun Shy after the first debacle. Luckily, my current publisher of the last 13 years has always been on the up and up. So, regarding this aspect, definitely talk to authors who publish with any press that you’re interested in. Show the contract to someone who knows the legalese. Make sure you look at the books and ebooks that the press puts out to confirm that they are of good quality. Don’t rush to sign up with anyone. If the publishing company is run by people with integrity, they’ll be more than willing to wait for you to check out all the details.
In answer to the first part of your question, though, it took me 15 years – time that I refer to as my “Apprenticeship to the Craft” – before I was published.
AJ: So for you to become an ‘overnight success’ took fifteen years. That fact should encourage others who have received rejection letters to not give up. So, were you able to write full time then?
Lori: No. Even after I was published, I didn’t earn enough income to quit my day job. It wasn’t until ebooks hit the market that I was able to cobble together royalties, teaching, editing, and a few other publishing tasks that allow me to earn enough to focus solely on writing-related work. The budget is very tight, but I’m getting by.
So the other piece of advice to aspiring and debut writers is that I hope you love (or at least like) the process – and I mean all of it: the writing, editing, revising, publishing, selling, promotions, and keeping up with relevant information about the industry. Writing in the lesbian genres, as I do, is very fulfilling, but it’s a much smaller audience than, say, JK Rowling’s readers.
AJ: That’s a good point, Lori. I know I was surprised that since my books were accepted for publication I’ve had very little time for writing new things. I’m curious about how you balance your time. What approximate percentage would you assign to the writing, editing, revising, publishing, selling, promotions, and keeping up with the relevant information about the industry?
Lori: That’s an excellent question, AJ – and a tough one. Writing a book takes as long as it takes, and often you can’t predict it. Lynn Ames, for instance, has said she makes a deadline to write a book, designates a word count to write daily, and does a nice job coming in on time with the draft. I went on a tear and wrote one book in less than two months. Other books have taken me a year or more. And a novel like Snow Moon Rising took me well over three years because I didn’t know that I didn’t know so much that I’d need to know to write it! Sometimes I get stuck in the writing as well and I can’t move forward so I might have to wait patiently or I might have to work on a completely different project. When it comes to writing, I guess you have to be ready for anything.
AJ: Can you give us a thought about how to allocate your time?
Lori: I knew you would ask that! I’d say that you ought to devote the lion’s share of your time to writing. Write, even before you promote. Author Victor Banis has always said that the best form of promotion is getting another new book out on the heels of the last. But I think that each writer ends up having to figure out how he or she needs to approach the cycle of writing/editing/marketing. In a perfect world for me, I’d write a book, send it off for edits, and start a new book #2. Then I’d get the edits back for #1, work on them, send them back and work some more on book #2. Then #1 would be published, and while I’m finishing book #2, I spend some time promoting #1. Then I’d finish #2, send it off to editing, and start #3… And the cycle just continues and would include time to cram in all the other pieces that you can.
But the heart of the whole process has to be generating work.
AJ: Based on all the information you had collected and generously shared with me, I assume that you read a lot about writing.
Lori: I definitely have! I’ve got a lot of writing books. This is a photo of my main shelf.
I know I’ve read over 250 books on writing, but I still have more in my To Be Read pile (or, actually, shelf). I have always figured that if you read about the craft, the knowledge and information can’t help but creep into your writing and help make it better. A well-written writing book is a joy to behold. In fact, I’ll put in a rave here for Elizabeth Sim’s marvelous guide, You’ve Got a Book in You. It’s an excellent How-To which was published through Writer’s Digest Books. Well worth reading.
AJ: Thank you for the suggestion. Do you feel you’re still growing as an author and, if you do, what aspects of your writing do you feel you want to improve?
Lori: I think every book I’ve written has been a little better than the last. My experience is that you don’t know what you don’t know . . . so most writers can’t even predict what aspects of writing they need to improve. Me, included. I keep learning that there are new things I could do better. One thing I can tell you, though: I’ve never written an entire novel in first person – until now. My next book, Eight Dates, is entirely first person, so that’s been an interesting experience.
AJ: What made it an interesting experience? Did you find writing in the first person more challenging, or just unfamiliar?
Lori: In third person, you can tell the story from so many points of view, and you also have the luxury of being able to describe and explain things from a more objective viewpoint or from inside a character’s head. In first person, EVERYTHING goes through the character, and that’s a different writing experience for me. I have written short stories in first person, so I’m not entirely unfamiliar with it, but there are challenges for a longer work. You can’t fall back on adding someone else’s perspective. You’re also in the head of someone who is, supposedly, Not You. The character in Eight Dates, Skylar, has ended up having a few things in common with me, but has far more different characteristics overall. So it’s all been a really good learning experience. We’ll see if I can pull it off!
AJ: I find that even after my books are published, if I reread them, there are words and phrases I could change that, in my opinion, would improve my story. Do you feel the same way, or are you completely satisfied with your books once you type 'The End?"
Lori: I wish! I’m just like you. I reread stuff later and realize I could have done better. I won’t say that I’m not satisfied when I first type The End, but it’s a different kind of satisfaction. Just completing a first draft is huge cause for celebration. Sending it off to print, with all its frailties, is a whole different story.
AJ: When I have the opportunity to speak to my readers I love to ask them this. It'll be fun to learn your response to this question about your own work. Who is your favorite character from any of your books, and if you were casting her, who would you choose to portray her in a film?
Lori: I really love Mischka Gallo from Snow Moon Rising. I’d love to have Anamaria Marinca play her. She’s a Romanian actress who’s won Best Actress trophies from the British Academy Television Awards and the Stockholm Film Festival. She looks like my vision of Mischka. I think she’s just beautiful.
AJ: Of the books you've written, which book is your favorite and why?
Lori: That’s like asking a mother to say which child is her favorite! I don’t know if I can choose because every book is dear to me in some way. But I will say that I love the recurring characters in The Gun Series. Hmmm…I also fell in love with Leona and her sidekick, Tom, from The Public Eye Series as well. In fact, I enjoy all those characters so much that my next novel, Gunpoint, will be a mash-up with all those characters from both series in it.
AJ: In my first draft of Sunset Island, I 'killed off' Ren's partner Brooke. I cried the whole time I wrote the scene. My partner called me a murderer for over a week, which made me feel even worse! What scene in your writing has made you laugh the hardest or cry the most?
Lori: You said in the first draft you killed her? Did you leave it that way for the final draft?
AJ: I should probably say everyone needs to read the story to find out, but I won’t hold out. Yes, I held firm, despite protests, and did her in. It was a necessary evil to make the story move forward. If not for her death…well, I guess everyone will have to read the story to find out. (VBG)
Lori: Good job standing firm to your vision. It sounds like Brooke’s death is the inciting incident that moved the plot forward, and sometimes that’s just what happens. Remember when the lovely Sela Ward plays Harrison Ford’s wife in “The Fugitive”? If she doesn’t die in the beginning, then Dr. Richard Kimble has no reason to go on the run when he’s convicted of her murder. Sometimes good people have bad things happen to them in books and movies, and that’s what drives the plot, though it also can drive the writer – and reader – to tears.
There are many scenes in Snow Moon Rising that had me in tears. Few Roma (Gypsies) survived WWII, and that just nearly did me in. It was a very grief-soaked experience to write about those times. In contrast, I have to say that I haven’t laughed so hard writing a book as I have been while working on the current one – the romance called Eight Dates.
AJ: What do you think makes good writing?
Lori: Good characters in “terrible trouble,” an interesting story to tell, wise decision-making, and lots of attention to detail. As Ellen Hart has often said, writing a novel is the process of making about a million decisions. It takes a lot of time, energy, and focus.
AJ: From your response, I take it you are an outliner rather than someone who lets their characters lead them along.
Lori: I guess I fooled you, AJ. I am so NOT an outliner. I always joke that even back in high school when we had to write an outline and then create an essay, I was forced to write the whole essay first, THEN do the outline. (At least my work was always done early!) My characters do, indeed, lead me along, and I’ve never (yet) been able to use an outline.
AJ: I'm a new author. What general advice would you give me that might help me improve my writing and make me a better author?
Lori: Come to the Golden Crown Literary Conference in Portland this summer! There will be many classes and opportunities to learn writing craft and to connect with other writers for support and entertainment. Otherwise, I say write, write, write. Ray Bradbury used to say that it takes at least a million words on the page to get a writer to a nice level of competency. I think you just have to keep working on projects, editing, revising, and never giving up.
AJ: Tell us about your next project. What are you currently working on and when will you publish your next book?
Lori: Eight Dates is scheduled for a June 2014 release. It’s a romance, and as I said, the main character, Skylar, speaks in first person throughout. She's had her heart broken and since then, she finds that meeting women is difficult. She’s not even sure that she wants to BE in a relationship ever again. But when her best pal and business partner Mitchell signs her up at a dating website and characterizes her as a happy-go-lucky, amorous, risk-taking single, suddenly women are contacting her. I didn’t necessarily start it out to be comical, but my beta readers have said that it has quite a bit of humor. I’ve enjoyed writing it and look forward to reader response. I'm sorry I don't have a cover to show you yet.
AJ: That's okay. When you're closer to release, you can send me one and we'll update the interview. I'm looking forward to your book. Are there any questions I've not asked that you wish I would have?
Lori: I can’t think of any, AJ. I’m just very appreciative that you took the time to talk with me. I’m wishing you luck on your writing journey, and I hope that you sell scads of books and have great reviews!
AJ: That wish is returned to you, Lori. Best wishes on your soon to come book, EIGHT DATES. Thank you for your time and all your helpful advice and information. I am very appreciative of you taking time to talk about writing with me.
Visit Lori’s website and Facebook and Author's page on Amazon to learn more about her work.
Website = http://www.lorillake.com/
Email = Lori (at) LoriLLake (dot) com
Facebook page = https://www.facebook.com/#!/lorillake?fref=ts
Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/author/lorillake
To read excerpts and find out more information on where to purchase Lori's books click HERE.