Blogs by L.T. Suzuki
YA Author Loreena M. Lee Interview
11/3/2009 8:54:11 AM
Interview with debut novelist of YA, Loreena M. Lee.
Loreena Lee Interview:
For today’s guest blog, I’d like to introduce you to accomplished artist and YA author Loreena M. Lee. I first met Loreena this summer at a local library event where we were both invited to do a reading from our latest works.
Let me start with this, Loreena: You have been working as an artist for over 35 years, but has writing stories always been a part of your life and becoming a published author of fiction a life-long dream?
LML: Writing has come very naturally to me all my life. It was something I just did. Over 30 years ago, I looked around for somewhere to hone the craft of writing, but there wasn’t much out there in my area. So I just kept writing: poetry, short stories and a tall stack of travel journals. I slogged along on my own, feeling that my work was not what I wanted it to be. It wasn’t until I (semi) retired from teaching and began to have health issues that made it difficult to fully commit to being a painter that I found what I was looking for. You know what they say, when one door closes, another one opens. Becoming published wasn’t something I thought about, because I couldn’t get any guidance for the things I wanted to do. I credit the Surrey Continuing Education Writing courses for showing me the way, but it was a long time coming for me. I believe we have one of the best opportunities for writers available, now relocated to the Surrey Writing School and I would highly recommend them.
LS: Your debut novel, ‘Satin Shoes’ is classified as a ghost story. What is the inspiration behind this story and can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist, 12-year-old Leanne?
LML: They say “write what you know”. A lot of that story comes from bits and pieces of my 12-year-old self and my friends, stories I’ve heard and people I’ve known. It was almost as if I had that story seed just waiting to burst forth. It almost wrote itself. My mom and aunts were believers in the supernatural, card reading, omens and portents, ghosts and the like and were great storytellers. Guess it’s just in the blood.
LS: Without giving away too much, can you reveal what’s in store for the reader when they crack open ‘Satin Shoes’?
LML: It’s set in the 50’s, so there’s ‘life in a simpler time’. It’s a coming-of-age tale as well. Sometimes strange and amazing events bring people together, and that’s what happens here.
LS: Being the author of two published textbooks, “Drawing, the Theory of Relativity” and “The Shapemakers Guide to Composition”, the road to publication is difficult at the best of time. With your first work of fiction, was it difficult for you to land an agent? Do you have any advice you’d like to share with the author struggling to find representation?
LML: I almost had an agent. She was interested, but then decided not to represent me. Getting an agent is a lot more difficult if you haven’t been published in the mainstream. Then, after you are, it may be easier, but do you really want one? Each circumstance is different. It takes a lot of work and research to promote oneself. I’m fortunate in that I had a lot of help and encouragement from my fellow writers, family and friends.
LS: Becoming a published author is truly a difficult road to travel, so we’re always pleased when a fellow writer is plucked from relative obscurity to land a book deal. Can you share that moment when your agent told you that he/she sold your story to Canadian Publishing Company Libros Libertad?
LML: I was my own agent, so it’s a bit different. Just when I thought I had exhausted all my options, I heard about Libros, and thought I’d give it one more go. One of my artist mentors once told me long ago when I was looking for gallery representation: “Think of yourself as a fisherman. Cast your net. Send out your lines and hooks. If you catch nothing the first time, cast again. Eventually, you’ll catch a fish.” Good advice. Worked for me. While I have never been able to land any actual fish in the few times I’ve tried it, I can now say that I know how a fisherman must feel when he ‘lands that big one’. It’s like that – only more so. My advice: Never give up!
LS: I’m curious about your writing style. Are you one of those disciplined writers who must dedicate a certain time each day to producing so many words, or are you more relaxed and tend to write when it strikes your fancy?
LML: I write the way I paint - while I’m doing something else. When I’m cooking, cleaning, walking, etc. I paint/write in my head. I can’t set aside a certain time each day because I have other commitments, other interests. So I write whenever I can, and the work I do in my head is waiting for me when I’m ready for it. However, I am a night person, and I do enjoy quiet evenings of time given to my writing. I think I do my best work then. I always come back to each chapter several times and edit, edit, edit.
LS: Still on the subject of writing styles, are you a plotter or pantser? Do you tend to plot out your story line in great detail or is your writing more organic with the characters and events unfolding as you write?
LML: I have to know the whole story before I start. Then I write a brief outline, plot my chapters and begin to work. But the characters still act the way they’re going to and sometimes a character will come on board I hadn’t allowed for. Or a certain scene I hadn’t counted on will present itself. When it changes, I let it. As long as I stay with the original story line, it goes along nicely. It’s exciting to see what’s going to happen next.
LS: With ‘Satin Shoes’ in print and another novel underway, where do you find your inspiration?
LML: I think I must be full of stories, because they pop up at the strangest times. I didn’t want to “be a writer when I grow up”, because I was busy painting for my galleries and teaching my students the fine points of storytelling with paint. Now I consider my writing as making pictures with words. I am very inspired by the strong, capable women of the last century. The hard work they did, the sacrifices they made have always awed me. That was the era I grew up in, and I think I know enough about it to do it justice.
LS: Some authors meditate, others need to fuel up on coffee or listen to music. Do you have any rituals, ones that can be shared with the readers, which you must do before you hunker down for a writing session?
LML: First thing after breakfast, I give my latest writing a good read while I’m having my tea. Do a little editing, perhaps. Then I like to get my ‘guilt duties’ out of the way. Make my husband a pot of soup, feed the cats, water the plants, answer my email, etc. – then my time is my own. On the other hand, if something is clambering to be put into print, that stuff just has to wait. Except for the cats, of course – my husband gets along very well on his own when I’m on a roll. He has his own creative efforts to attend to, and he understands my need to have the time to work. I believe that support of one’s family and friends goes a long way to success.
LS: At one time or another, most writers hit the wall and their work stalls because of the dreaded writer’s block. What do you do to get around or over this mental wall to resume writing?
LML: I’ve got that one solved, I think. I simply do something else: work on my illustrations, work on another book, or the best one, balance my cheque-book. That one gets me back on track pretty fast. I learned how to cope with that when I hit a wall in my art. I always seem to multi-task, (being a Gemini), and I always have something to do. If I treat the block like a cat – just leave it alone – it’ll come to me eventually. In the meantime, I get a lot of other stuff done. If it doesn’t return, it wasn’t meant to, but there’s always something else to take its place.
LS: Who is your favourite author and how has he/she inspired you to write or influenced your writing style or choice of genre?
LML: I don’t have any single inspiration. My authors mostly come from the field of sci-fi and sci-fan: Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Marion Zimmer-Bradley, Zenna Henderson, Charles deLint et al. People you may not have heard of. They taught me to make sure the reader’s interest is kept, the tale is interesting, and most important, tell a good story. I read a good deal about wizards and magic because I love the way the writers invent possibilities, make logical explanations to illogical situations and still make the characters people to care about. As Arthur C. Clark said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” I’ve written short stories in that genre, but not a novel as yet. If there’s one out there for me, it’ll come to me and I’ll write it.
LS: What is the most profound discovery you’ve made in terms of your writing and how it has touched the lives of others?
LML: I didn’t know how much I would love being a writer. The process, the people I meet, the satisfaction of selling a book of my own creation is simply amazing. I feel like I’m in the right place at the right time, and loving every moment. It’s feels as natural as breathing. I try to use my knowledge to help others in the field, as I’ve always done with painting. For me, only by sharing my knowledge any way I can completes the reasons why I do what I do.
LS: What is the most important lesson you’ve learned on the road to publication?
LML: It’s a numbers game. Research your sources well and cast your net, even to a few that may seem unlikely. The publisher that opens your manuscript that day may just be off his oats - maybe had a tough night – or had a fight with his wife. Or just doesn’t like that genre – there’s lots of reasons. The right time, the right place, and the right publisher all have to be in alignment with the stars. But it’s not so much luck as perseverance. Believe in yourself. Never give up!
LS: What are you reading now, and how did this particular book make it onto your to-read list?
LML: I’m currently reading the Raven series by Patricia Briggs. She takes the same old standard magic quest and turns it into a riveting adventure. I can completely immerse myself in that world and it’s almost like taking a vacation. I come back to reality refreshed and ready to take on the tasks of daily life. To my amazement, I’ve just finished a series of novels by Nora Roberts. My friend and I trade books, and every once in a while, she throws in something I wouldn’t think of buying. Good, even great writers are found in the weirdest places – at least for me. I rarely, if ever, read romance; I prefer my protagonist on a space ship or fighting dragons. In Ms. Roberts I discovered a writer who, although she leans heavily on the boy-meets-girl-and-they-hate-each-other theme, she does her research well, and tells a darn good story. She’s consistent, (she’s written a couple of hundred novels) and manages to come up with a compelling storyline that has depth and interest, her dialogue is compelling (I learned a lot from her there,) and she has few, if any, “dry spots” anywhere in the story.
LS: What do you foresee in your future over the next five years and do you hope to branch out from YA into other genres? Can your fans expect a sequel to Satin Shoes in the near future?
LML: I have a sequel for Satin Shoes on the back burner, but in the meantime, I’ve got another novel waiting for the publisher’s decision, which I have a sequel planned for as well. As we speak the book I illustrated called “Dragons I know”, for children, is on its way from the printers, and will likely be available the first part of November. I’d like to do more illustrations at some point, but time will tell. It’s something I’ve always thought I should do. I’m also working with my book designer on the format for my cookbook, and I’m writing my memoirs. I want to write a series of short stories and I have someone to collaborate with for an analog - we haven’t decided on a theme yet. I’d like to try Sci-Fan, either short stories or a novel. Beyond that, I don’t know what’ll come up next, but I’m sure it’ll be something interesting and fun.
For more information about Loreena M. Lee and her literary and art work, check out:
Where to buy the book: Amazon, Chapters, Coles books, selected Save-On book sections, the publisher (Libros Libertad) and the author.
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