I met Lorraine exactly two years ago today at a Writer’s Conference in Philadelphia. We met on the train to Philadelphia and have been friends since. I have rooted along the sidelines as she wrote and wrote some more. I have cheered her decision to publish her book and shared her gorgeous cover art when it was revealed.
The writing journey is mostly lonely and uphill and it is the presence of like-minded friends that makes it worthwhile. Her debut young adult fantasy A Thousand Years To Wait comes out this month and it gives me great pleasure to feature an interview with her.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Oddly enough, this question has two answers. I wanted to write books from as young as six or seven. I always loved stories. I grew up on books, never getting enough of them. As I grew older, being an author seemed like an impossible dream and I let myself be guided into other interests and other careers. (Which I’m not sorry about in the least!) As a result, I didn’t seriously start thinking about writing again until I was thirty.
How long does it take you to write a book? In particular, how long did this book take?
Generally speaking, I take about a year to write a book. I think I could do it in six months, but something always pops up (life, right?!) and so it more or less takes me about a year. A Thousand Years to Wait took a year to write, but because it was one of my earlier books, I needed to spend a lot more time in the revision and editing process than I do now. I wrote this book between 2012 and 2013, then completely overhauled it two or three times over the following years. It’s been…a process, to say the least.
What does your day look like when you’re writing?
Because I have school-aged kids and work part-time, my schedule is almost never set in stone. I’m lucky to be able to write for an hour during the day or after everyone is in bed. I used to require large chunks of time to write, but now I find I squeeze it in wherever. And it works for me. I actually seem to concentrate better when I’ve only got twenty minutes or a half-hour to write before getting the kids from school or taking them to dance or piano or doctors or dentists, etc. (Again, life, right?!)
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I love science, especially biology, so you’ll see a lot of nature references in my books, whether real or completely made-up for my fantasy world. I like to mesh reality and make-believe. The natural world fascinates me and has always been my inspiration. So, there’s bound to be some science-related themes in every book I write, whether it’s weather and geography, human physiology, or microbiology. It’s a running theme.
How did you go about publishing this book?
I spent years querying agents and publishers, looking to go the traditional publishing route. In the end, I’m glad it didn’t happen that way because every aspect of self-publishing has been in my control, from the revisions and choice of editor to the release date and the cover art. It’s been such an incredibly educational experience, to say the least, but really, the only reason I
delved into self-publishing was because of the positive feedback I received from agents on my manuscript. When agents compliment your world-building, your writing, and the story, and tell you to touch base with them for future projects? It’s eye-opening in a way that a friend’s “This is great!” isn’t. (Not that my friends aren’t positively amazing and cherished for their encouragement. They are. But when an agent compliments your writing? It’s a. Big. Deal.) That encouragement gave me the courage to take the leap.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Cliché as it sounds? From everywhere. But a lot of it comes from nature and the natural world since I’m a scientist at heart.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
My very first book was about a little girl who found magic roller skates in a secondhand store. When she skated with them, she could fly. I even did my own illustrations. I think I was eight.
I didn’t tackle my first full-length novel until I was thirty-one. That one was women’s fiction and was loosely inspired by my own first-love story. (Disclaimer: it’s a book that will never see the light of day.)
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Aside from the obvious (reading), I love to hike and am very much into photography. Landscape photography is a love of mine and it’s a close second to writing. There’s a freedom in introducing people to the way you see the world, whether it’s through words or images.
What does your family think of your writing, especially your children?
My husband is my biggest fan and he’s been so incredibly supportive. He’s never been a reader, so when he printed out my book and read it in secret, it was one of the most romantic things he’s ever done for me. (For the record, I’d been trying to get him to read it for months at that point…he wouldn’t read something I didn’t want him to!)
My kids are also in love with the idea of being an author and both of my children (ages 9 and 13) already have multiple manuscripts of their own started. My own writing may fuel their addiction and I’m not even sorry!
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I think it’s that I had more stamina than I gave myself credit for. When I attempted to write my first book, I really wasn’t sure I’d be able to finish planning and writing an entire novel. Then when I finished, I thought it was a fluke and I’d never be able to do it again. Now, I’m just about done drafting my fifth manuscript and I still feel the same way. It always feels like it’ll never happen again, and then it always does.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I’m wrapping up my fifth book this month (I hope). Favorites are hard to pick when they are all so different. I have one Women’s Fiction, one Speculative Fiction (time travel!), and three Young Adult Fantasies, but A Thousand Years to Wait is my first to be published. I think young adult fantasy is definitely my home as it tends to be where my imagination flows freely. Right now, manuscript #4 still has my heart. It’s got a girl, a boy, a senile dragon, and an enemies-to-lovers trope which was so much fun to write.
Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
I don’t think I could ever give anyone else lessons on being a better writer. (Also, I think you’re already a phenomenal writer and I love your voice!) If I had to give writing advice, though? I’d say just keep writing. No matter how long it takes. I’ve found that my writing voice has changed tremendously over the years as I’ve grown and developed. I believe anyone can write and write well given enough time, but I also think it’s far too easy to give up. Too many writers take the easy way out and give up on the dream, but the longer you stick with it, the better you’re bound to become.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
As A Thousand Years to Wait is my first published book, I haven’t heard from many people yet. The pre-order giveaway went really well last month, though, so I have hopes that perhaps I’ll hear from some readers once the book is out and they’ve had a chance to dive into the story. I did have someone I don’t know email me recently to ask if I would be doing book signings. That was more or less the highlight of my week!
Oh! And someone who had an ARC (advanced reader copy) of my book screamed about it to the world on Twitter which made me simultaneously tear up and grin from ear to ear. I definitely hope for more of those interactions!
Do you like to create books for adults?
I do, but I think I’m better with young adult, and I’m not even sure why. I think it’s because young adult speaks to me in a way adult can’t.
Teens face a lot of unique problems that really only happen at that time in our lives. The “newness” of adulthood, the first love that you go through in your teen years, and the learning how to interact with others on a deeper, more personal level than “What’s your favorite food?” or “What’s your favorite animal?” is what makes writing young adult really interesting for me. (Don’t get me wrong. It’s still important that you know I love pizza, chocolate, and horses but who doesn’t?) Teens are in a really unique place in life where they can act like kids or act like adults, where they can process information in a way adults might not, see solutions adults might miss, and embrace change in a way adults might vehemently refuse to do.
Young adults deserve to see themselves as heroes, as strong characters who are capable of changing the world because that’s just who they are. The sooner they learn and accept that, the sooner they can get on with being amazing individuals and making an impact in the world.
I find adult books more challenging to write because I feel like adults, on the whole, are more close-minded about who they are or what they can accept as a reality. I enjoy writing for adults, but it doesn’t flow as easily.
What do you think makes a good story?
There are so many components that can make a good story, but personally, I enjoy seeing a character grow. If the main character has a good arc regardless of what kind of ending the story has, I can really enjoy the story. The very best books are the ones where I forget it’s not real. Give me a character I can care about.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
What didn’t I want to do? At any one time, I wanted to be a veterinarian, a marine biologist, an author, an artist, a singer, a photographer, or an archeologist.
More or less, I’ve done a good portion of those at least. I went to school for Marine Science (and even interned on an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin project), jumped into pharmaceutical microbiology, worked marketing & administration for a local animal shelter, have written books, and have donated both paintings and photographs to local non-profits for auction. I haven’t delved into archaeology yet and we’re all probably relieved I am not a singer. As a kid, I really wanted to “do it all,” and I guess I sort of did in a way!
(Life’s not over. Maybe I’ll get to that archaeology yet…but I promise I’ll stay away from singing.)