Author Loree Lough has nearly 4,000,000 (yes, that’s FOUR MILLION) copies of her books in circulation. She has had 88 books published, three novels optioned for movies, more books slated for release between now and 2013, 68 short stories, over 2,500 articles in print, and 9,000 letters from fans. How’s that for a resume’!
Needless to say, Loree Lough knows a little something about this writing thing. Join interviewer and FaithWriters member, Lynda Lee Schab, as she chats with Loree about her writing, the world of publishing, and what it takes to be successful in this business.
LYNDA: Loree, I have gotten to know you over the past few years as we worked together on a novella project, and then I had the honor of you writing an endorsement for my debut novel. I have to say I have been totally blown away by your professionalism, your insight, and your encouragement. And I’m thrilled at this chance to find out even more about you and pick your brain a bit.
So let me start by asking, have you always wanted to be an author or did your love for writing come on gradually?
LOREE: First, I want to thank you for this invitation! I’m looking forward to meeting new people and getting better acquainted with folks who follow your blog!
As for the whole “When I knew I wanted to be an author” thing, well, once upon a time, I dreamed of being a ballerina. Alas, I quickly discovered that I was too short. Maybe a stewardess? Nope, too nearsighted. FBI agent, then…. Too short and too nearsighted. <sigh> Aren’t we blessed to live in a world, today, where a girl can be just about anything she wants to be…if she’s willing to work for it!
So the answer to the question is that I didn’t realize I wanted to write until I accepted a temporary position as a neighborhood correspondent. All it took to change my “temporary” to “until infinity and beyond” were editorial compliments that went hand in hand with assignments to write feature stories. One article led to another, and soon, editors at other publications were calling with “Can you write about [this] by Tuesday?” inquiries. And thus began my love of writing.
By the time the Fiction Addiction bug bit me a couple of years later, I was too far gone to say no!
LYNDA: Do you remember the very first thing you had published?
LOREE: Boy, do I! And I remember where I was standing, wearing, and sipping when I got the phone call from Steve Reginald at Heartsong, telling me that Barbour wanted to contract Pocketful of Love, the title that went on to earn Readers’ Choice Best Contemporary that year.
LYNDA: Well, since then, you’ve added several awards to your resume’. You’re currently pushing 90 books published, and have over FOUR MILLION copies in print. WOW! Is there a word to describe how that feels?
LOREE: Blessed. Yep. It’s all by God’s grace that I can make those claims, because He is directly responsible for supplying the ideas, the energy and passion to write the stories, and the readers whom have written (nearly 10,000 stamp-on-the-envelope letters and a couple thousand emails, at last count) to share how their own lives parallel those of the characters in each novel. It’s humbling to hear how my books have impacted their lives, because it’s black and white proof that I’m doing what God wants me to do. And that, in a word, feels fantastic.
LYNDA: Okay, so I’m trying to wrap my head around how a 39-year-old like you (wink) can have so many books published! Call The Guinness Book of World Records, because I think you qualify as the fastest writer in the world. How long does it typically take you to write a complete novel? And really…how do you find the time?
LOREE: First, I need to get in touch with the little birdie told you I was 39, because she promised to keep my secret! LOL
All kidding aside, the answer to where I find the time is pretty simple: I love what I do, so it’s easy to find the time to ‘do’ my favorite thing. And, energized by the One who pointed me in this direction, I often spend 8-10 hours at the keyboard without getting up. (And if 39 was my actual age, I probably wouldn’t make “old man” noises when I finally stand up!)
LYNDA: Are you a plotter or a seat-of-the-pantser?
LOREE: A plotter, absolutely! No way I could have written 90 books in 15 years, while working at other jobs, raising a family, winning the Best Yard award and keeping my spice cabinet and pantry alphabetized.
LYNDA: What does your writing process look like?
LOREE: After studying just about every Outline and Plotting system I could find, I pulled all the best elements from each and created a chart system. Back then, I penciled lines on yellow legal paper…four boxes down (one for each scene) and 15-20 boxes across (one for each chapter). I printed the book’s title across the top, and left a few boxes at the far left for main/important secondary character descriptions, setting, time period, motivation, conflict, etc. I photocopied this messy-but-useful (to me, at least) tool and shared it with students in my college classes—one of whom turned it into tidy computer-generated printout that I’ve been using ever since. Here’s how it works:
First, I fill in the character boxes with height, weight, eye and hair color, etc.; where these folks were born, what their major flaws (physical and emotional) are. Box #1 (top left) contains my story’s opening scene. The final box, far right-lower corner, is where I scribble the ending. Then, one by one, I fill in the rest of the boxes.
I use pencil so that I can make changes. And I always make changes!
Why this antiquated system instead of any one of a dozen tech-savvy programs available? Because I can take this thing anywhere. And because I can place it beside my computer as I’m working and refer to it in an eyeblink. Which isn’t the case (at least not in my OCD brain) with programs that require me to save and close what I’m working on, or, at the very least, shrink the page so I can view the computer program beside the novel. When I’m on a roll, stopping for any reason is distracting; if something threatens to take me off-track, even for a minute or two…. <shrug> You get the drift! <G> And if you want to get the Timeline, email me and I’ll share it!
LYNDA: I really wish I was a plotter. Your system sounds fabulous!
How would you say publishing has changed since you first entered the world of authordom? How is it better and how is it more challenging?
LOREE: The wild and wacky world of publishing has always presented challenges, and I’m sure it always will. Mergers, takeovers, acquisitions, and bankruptcies have reduced the number of houses where authors can submit proposals. Meaning that as the number of authors submitting increases, the number of places willing to write contracts decreases…meaning there’s far more competition today than there was when I got my start in ’94.
As if that isn’t enough to contend with, our favorite and beloved editors get married, have kids, move up the editorial ladder, move from one house to another and leave us. Waaaa! Print run numbers go down. So do royalty percentages. As contracts get more complicated, agents get more picky about who they’ll represent. And the author—whose work makes every other job in the industry possible—is stuck in the middle.
None of this should frighten or depress us, though, because every one of those things tests our mettle. Competition is a good thing, because to hold our place in the ever-lengthening line of those seeking publication, we have to give it our best, every single time we curl our fingers over the keyboard. That’s good for us, but more important than that, it’s good for readers.
LYNDA: So true. What advice would you give an aspiring author?
LOREE: Of course it’s a good idea to take classes and study how-to books…if the lessons are being shared by someone with the background and qualifications to teach you something. (Why would you fork over hard-earned money to buy a book written by someone with just one or two books in print, or pay for a workshop, seminar, or class taught by someone without a track record that proves s/he knows what it takes to succeed in this business!) Attend conferences where you can attend workshops led by those who have bona fide credentials, where you network with your peers, where you can meet face to face with agents and editors.
Most important of all, though, is that you must adopt an “I refuse to quit!” attitude, and hold on to it, no matter what.
LYNDA: Great advice! One thing I think is so cool is that you are such a giver. In fact, a portion of your writing income goes toward wonderful charities and organizations like Ovarian Cancer Research, Autism Society, Wounded Warriors, and others (learn more on Loree’s website: http://www.loreelough.com/rescue.html). You also give of your time, by mentoring many novice writers. Are there one or two mistakes you see new writers make again and again?
LOREE: The list is long and unwieldy, but I’ll try to limit it to just one or two:
1. When you ask for manuscript assistance from a published pro, you need to have realistic expectations. Remember that the mentor’s objective is to help you achieve publishing success. To accomplish that, true mentors must dispense honest, straightforward feedback; anything less is a waste of your time and theirs. If you don’t like or disagree with our suggestions, don’t incorporate them into your story! Don’t ‘cop an attitude’ when those suggestions sting a little, and huff off without so much as a thank you, because in most cases, the mentor’s only intent in pointing out writing strengths and flaws is to help you leap from Novice to Pro status!
2. When we’re just starting out, we all tend to put way too much detail into our synopses and first chapters, and no author is more guilty of this than the seat-of-the-pants writer. Even if you’re averse to outlines, give yourself a break: Write up some sort of plan for your story and spare yourself the ordeal of countless rewrites (and rejections)!
LYNDA: Out of all the books you’ve written, do you have a personal favorite?
A Man of Honor, #3 in the First Responders series (Abingdon), which will be released early this fall.
LYNDA: Oooh…that series is on my “to-be-read pile!” Can’t wait! Can you share what you are working on now?
LOREE: Getting a couple of proposals cleaned up for my agent to submit while writing additional novels in the Lone Star Legends series (Whitaker).
LYNDA: Awesome! I still can’t believe how you manage to do so much and pump out book after book. Amazing!
Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me, Loree, and for passing along some great advice for our members. Looking forward to celebrating with you as your publishing number reaches the 100 mark!
Visit Loree’s website at www.loreelough.com.