Author Lori Copeland ~ Interviewed

LORI COPELAND and her husband, Lance, work closely with their oldest son and daughter-in-law in Hidden Bluff Ministry (inner city children) School for the Nations and the Kagora people of Mali, West Africa. Situated on twenty acres in Ozark, Mo, the donation funded ministries continue to grow and serve God.

Lori has published in both secular and Christian markets with popular series like The Western Sky series, Brides of the West, Men of the Saddle and Belles of Timber Creek. She’s been the recipient of the various industry awards including Romantic Times Career Achievement, Holt Medallion, Reader’s Choice Award, and she was a Christy finalist in 2006. Ms Copeland was inducted into the Missouri Writers Hall of Fame in 2000.

Tell us a bit about your current project.

I’m presently refreshing some earlier ABA titles for Harvest House Publishers. Outlaw’s Bride is on the shelves, A Kiss of Cade will published Jan 1, 2010 and Walker’s Wedding will be out June 2010. The third book in my Belles of Timber Creek series with Avon Inspire, One True Love, will publish March 1 this book is Copper’s story. I am blessed to have three books out in 2010!

We are all about journeys…unique ones at that. How convoluted was your path to your first published book? Share some highlights or lowlights from your path to publication.

It was a Cinderella story. I had never aspired to write; never thought about it but I always liked to read. A friend suggested that I write a book, and after I got through laughing I thought, why not? So I did, and it sold to Dell Publishing House within six weeks, and I’ve been writing since. I know people who have written all their lives and can’t publish. I wish I had the true secret, but it all boils down to the market, and having the right product at the right time. For instance; today’s romance market is Amish. The reader can’t get enough Amish stories. Next year or two years down the road, it could very well be suspense stories. You never know, so write the story of your heart whatever the subject.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work, or struggle in a particular area such as writers block or angst driven head-banging against walls? Please share some helpful overcoming hints that you’ve discovered.

Yes to all the above. I am convinced that only God is driving my writing career because my work stinks. Harsh but true. Some books come easier than others, but rarely do I have a book that I don’t struggle to finish. How I wish I could offer advice on how to overcome these ‘facts’ of the trade, but writing is hard, lonely laborious work. Never let anyone tell you differently. If you choose to write, be aware that every day is a blinking cursor with endless empty pages that’s expected to be filled with something fresh, entertaining, fast moving, best seller, never-disappoint-a-reader material. Then leave your computer and walk to the mirror and repeat after me: Rarely is this done. Give every book your best, but realize there will be readers who will write and tell you how much you failed them. Pray you’ll do better the next one.

What mistakes have you made while seeking publication? Or to narrow it down further what’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

I have always suffered from “the grass is greener on the other side” syndrome. It isn’t—often it’s even worse than the field you’ve come from. If I had my career to live over, I would stay with one publishing house until they carried me out the front door.

What is your favorite source for finding story ideas?

Daydreaming is my tool of choice. Life is pretty harsh, so dealing with sad stories doesn’t interest me. I write stories that I would read, escapism stories, and lighthearted stories with a strong moral message.

Have you ever had one of those awkward writer moments you’d like to share with us, the ones wherein you get “the look” from the normals? Example, you stand at a knife display at the sporting goods store and ask the clerk which would be the best to use to disembowel a six foot man…please do tell.

This may not be exacting what you’re looking for, but on a trip across country on time I forgot to bring my ID. I didn’t have a driver’s license, so I stopped in a gift shop and bought one of my books, flipped to the picture on the back, and told the airport authorities that this was the best I could do on identity. It worked!

With the clarity of experience what advice would you offer up to the wet-behind-the-ears you if beginning this writing journey today?

Be sure writing is what you want to do for the rest of your life. Writing isn’t easy; most days the words don’t flow like sweet wine. Your back aches, your brain hurts and you’re never really ever “away from the office”. I have a most difficult time finding an office assistant. When they actually experience what goes into delivering a book they run for the door.

The best things about being a writer: you don’t ever have to leave you home if you don’t want, you feel this incredible pride when you see your book on the shelf and marvel that of all the people in the world, you get to write and publish books. You meet your favorite authors who may or may not impress you. Don’t expect to buy big cars, diamonds, live in extravagant homes or take exotic trips or build orphanages. Some writers are successful enough to live that life-style but not the majority of writers.

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why? (Doesn’t have to be one of your books or even published.)

My personal favorite book is a Zondervan title: Monday Morning Faith. It’s a story that I feel God personally gave me to tell, and I loved writing the whole story.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

Do you really want to go there?:) Favoritism. It bothers me in life and irks me in publishing.

Share a dream or something you’d love to accomplish through your writing career.

To encourage my readers to a stronger faith.

Writing rituals. Do you have to sit somewhere specific, complete a certain number of words, leave something undone to trigger creativity for the next session? Some other quirk you’d like to share?

Lately I have to be at my desk. Used to I went to coffee shops or the library, but I’ve made my nest now and I write better in the office than elsewhere.

Plot, seat of pants or combination?

Combination. I start with a road map, veer off occasionally, hit ruts, totally wreck sometimes, but always manage to swerve back in time to end the book on the original thought.

What is the most difficult part of pulling together a book? Ex. Do you have saggy middles, soggy characters, soupy plots during your first drafts…if so, how do you shape it up?

Slow starts, my critics say, but I can’t seem to get into full gear until I’ve sat up certain plot points.

Have you received a particularly memorable reader response or peer honor? Please share.

I was honored to be voted into the Missouri Writers Hall of Fame is 2000.

What two or three things would you do differently if you were starting your publishing career today?

Focus on one genre. In the beginning a novelist had so many ideas they want to explore, but I would choose one and hone my craft until when a reader thought of romance, mystery or whatever, they’d think of my name.

What one issue makes you struggle the most as an author? How do you handle it?

Coming up with sustainable conflict in a story. Every story must have some conflict and it’s always hard for me to find believable differences that couldn’t be straightened out with a few questions.

Write because you love the craft. Of course everyone wants to be published, have a best seller, etc., but I can’t tell you how many beautifully written stories, excellent books that I’ve read thathave never been published. You must have the right story at the right time. That’s the secret in publishing, or the brightest, shiniest story utilizing an old plot. You may write a hundred stories before you publish one, or you may write two hundred stories that will lie in your files, so if you love to write and feel that you have stories to tell, by all means, follow your heart, but do so out of the love of the craft instead of do-or-die publishing goals.

What is the best writing (or life) advice you have ever heard or wished you had followed? Why?

Hone your craft. Focus on your strengths. Write like you, not like the best seller of the day. And believe me, you will never figure out why one author is a best seller and the other one isn’t.

What one issue ignites your passion? Does your passion fuel your writing? What would you do with your life if you didn’t write?

What ignites my passion. Gosh, I have no idea. Truthfully. I’m passionate about several things; my church. My children and grandchildren’s future which right now includes politics in a large way.

If I didn’t write and could choose to do anything I wanted? Probably own a travel agency.