Today, author Chrissy Drew sat down with her friend and bestselling author Loree Lough and is sharing that interview with us. Loree once sang for her supper, performing across the U.S. and Canada. Now and then, she blows the dust from her 6-string to croon a tune or two, but mostly, she writes ... more than 2,500 articles published worldwide, and novels that have earned hundreds of industry and "Readers' Choice" awards, 4- and 5-star reviews, and 7 book-to-movie options. This September, her 118th novel, ALL HE'LL EVER NEED (#1 in Kensington's "A Child Shall Lead Them" Amish series) releases in paperback, e-book, and audio book. Between now and 2021, she'll add another 6 books to her lineup! And she is giving two of them away to our lucky readers!
Take it away Chrissy!
When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Unlike most authors—who felt ‘the call’ as a kid—I didn’t have a hankerin’ to put stories onto paper until I was in my early 30s. Back then, though, the stories were all non-fiction … articles for newspapers in the U.S. and abroad, sometimes ‘ghosted’ for professionals in technical and trade magazines. I came down with a rabid case of Fiction Addiction in my 40s, and still haven’t kicked the habit.
Did you have an encourager(s) or mentor(s) along the way?
In my very early days, a former writing instructor, Carolyn Males, took me under her wing. She’d written a whole bunch of articles and a couple of novels, too, and with her guidance, I learned what I was doing wrong—and what I was doing ‘write’—and developed the confidence to submit things for publication.
Were you ever in critique groups? If so, pros and cons?
Early on, I belonged to a couple of different writers/critique groups. We shared our work, shared our opinions, too. Good, solid advice that helped us figure out what to cut, what to keep, and even where the work might sell. If I had to mention a ‘con,’ it would be that not everyone came into the groups with a knack for kindness. Example: “I’d never write fiction, but if I did, it certainly wouldn’t be romance; I have better things to do than waste my time on such nonsense!”
Did you read books of the same genre you write about?
I’ve always been a very eclectic reader: Historical, contemporary, Westerns, romance, thrillers, action-adventure … you name it, I read it. I’ve written a wide variety of stuff, too: Fiction and nonfiction for kids, historicals, Westerns, contemporaries, Amish ... Do I have a favorite? Nope!
Do you find characters from people you have met, or are they all made-up?
Every character—like every author—is a mix of the people we’ve interacted with and the people we’ve become. But no one needs to worry. I worked for a lawyer once upon a time, and learned how to disguise the guilty!
You have mentioned you sang for a bit … back in the day. Did you write any lyrics?
Actually, the writing is what led to the singing. I was a typical goofy teenage girl, only instead of pouring my heart out in the pages of a diary, I wrote poems and put them to music. (Take that Jimmy Miller!)
What was your first book published?
#1 was Pocketful of Love, published by Barbour’s “Heartsong Presents” line and released in 1994. It won the “Readers’ Choice Best Contemporary” that year.
Did you have any rejections before being published?
Funny story … That first book was accepted, right out of the chute. So was the second. And the third. And then? Then I hit the proverbial wall, and collected a bunch of rejections before the next contract was offered. I used to teach writing classes at the community college, and when students asked about rejections, I told them the truth: There are enough of them in my files to wallpaper a 5’ square room. Here’s the thing: You can’t look at rejections as stumbling blocks. Instead, you must view them as stepping stones. Every writer will learn something from every rejection. Serious writers will incorporate those lessons into their work, and trust me … it’ll show.
How many books do you have published to date?
When my next title releases, it will be #118. I have 5 more contracted for release between now and 2021.
Do you have one or two favorites?
Wow. That’s like asking a mom which of her kids is the favorite. But if you’re a mom—or a grandmom—you can admit, in your most private moments, that you do have a favorite. One of my favorite stories is The Wedding Wish. Then, I fell a little bit in love with the hero in A Man of Honor (#3 in my “First Responders” series). Finally, there’s 50 Hours, mostly because it’s my most personal novel to date.
How do you stay focused?
I love the work. Everything about it. The research. The interviews. The writing. The editing. When life gets in the way—and it will always, always get in the way—you have to shift your book up and down on your Priorities List. Sometimes, it can sit at #1. Other times, it has to slide to the bottom. If you’re working toward publication, you have to ask yourself, “How important is this to me?” Your answer will determine how hard you’re willing to work—and what you’re willing to sacrifice—to reach your goal. If you’re already published, you only need to remind yourself that you’ve cashed the advance check, deposited it, probably spent the money. So the question now is … do you want to repay the publisher? If that doesn’t help you focus, I don’t know what will!
Do you have a specific time of day you write or is it ‘whenever?’
Even before I sold my first story, I looked at writing as a job. A real clock-in, clock-out job. That means, butt-in-the-chair, no fewer than 4 hours a day. Period. No exceptions. Okay. There are exceptions. Illness. A relative who needs you. Weeds in the garden. Grocery shopping. Laundry. But … and here’s where you need to be brutally honest with yourself … you have to keep reminding yourself that this is your job. When you were a secretary, or a teacher, or a bank teller, or whatever you were before you started writing, did you get to walk away from the job to mow the lawn or pick up the dry cleaning? Uh-huh. I didn’t think so. Priorities. How important is this ‘writing gig’ to you? What are you willing to sacrifice to make the dream come true?
Where do you get your ideas from?
I like to say there’s this little elf who lives under my porch, and when I need a new idea, I give him a gentle kick in the butt. And when he quits hopping up and down, hurling insults at me, he’s usually good for an idea or two. But the truth is … ideas are like air. Really! They’re everywhere: The couple at the next table, bickering over whether or not to have dessert; the guy and his kid in line at the ice cream stand, debating between chocolate and vanilla; newspaper stories; TV commercials. Just about anything can spark a “Whoa. Wouldn’t that make a good story!” question. And then? And then you play “And what if…?” and “And then what would happen?” And before you know it, you’re typing The End!
You have expanded quite a bit and now are doing Amish series. What made you choose Amish?
Well, what happened there was, I heard about an opportunity, and I reached for it. Meaning, a publisher wrote to my agent and said, “Are any of your clients working on Amish stories?” I wasn’t, but I had to ask myself, why not? So I drafted a proposal and sent it to my agent, who forwarded it to the editor, and …
Do you take road trips to research? If so, do you have any incidents or funny stories when you do go?
I travel every chance I get, and if it’s for book research, it’s twice as much fun. For one thing, I get to meet some of the coolest people. And I learn the coolest stuff. And do the coolest things. Like … the time my hero was an injured Air Force fighter pilot. I wanted to open the book with the scene where his jet malfunctions, and he’s forced to eject. I wanted to know what the cockpit looked like. How it felt to sit all snug in that glass-domed capsule. So I called the nearby base. Talked with a couple people, who passed me on to different people, and eventually, I was on the base, and then in the cockpit with an adorable pilot who laughed like crazy as I howled and squealed during his rolls. And dives. And as he bulleted way, way, way up into the sky.
Do you have any advice for new writers?
Never, never, never give up. No matter what. Period. If you love what you’re doing, if you love your characters and the story they’re living out, stick with it. Persistence. That’s your go-to word.
What upcoming novels / projects will we be seeing soon?
Next up, book #2 in “The Shadows” series, then book #1 in “The Cowboys.” Next out, #1 in in the Amish series, All He’ll Ever Need, followed by the next book, Home to Stay. After that, #2 in “The Cowboys,” and #3 in all those series. And if the proposal I just submitted earns a contract, something that blends cowboys and romance and babies. Oh, and the multi-authored series … I’m tickled pink and proud as punch to be working with 15 other suspense authors. Summer of Suspense is available for pre-order now, and will release, officially, in August.
When you are not writing, what are a few of your favorite things to do?
I love to cook and bake (which explains my Lifetime Weight Watchers membership), and I’m crazy about gardening (so now you know why my fingernails are always chipped). Spending time with my kids and grandkids is always a treat. And of course, activities with Larry, my very own personal hero.
You were diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma (incurable bone/marrow cancer) in October of 2015, had 1-1/2 years of chemotherapy, and spent 5 weeks in Georgetown University Hospital following a stem cell transplant. How has this affected your writing?
Well, for a while there, it slowed me down. Big time. It wasn’t easy, but by the grace of God—and thanks to thousands of people, praying for me—I turned in a book while at Georgetown, and finished up another while spending 2 months in total isolation at home.
Have you ever written or thought of writing about having MM and being a survivor?
I sort of dealt with the cancer by writing 50 Hours. There are a lot of ‘truths’ in that one, very personal, sometimes dark ‘truths.’ But there are lots of hope-filled scenes in the story, too. And a really quirky blue jay!
What / how would you like to bring awareness to this incurable disease?
It’s my hope that my books will bring attention to the disease, and that by bringing attention to the disease, people will realize MM exists. It’s shocking how few people have heard of it, which is why, sadly, so few people think to contribute to the search for a cure.
You have been remission for a year and a half. How many times do you have to go in for a check-up?
At first, I was at the oncologist’s office every week. Then, as numbers improved, once a month. Now I’m down to every three months. This summer, I hope it’ll be six. By this time next year, maybe annually. My least favorite test? Bone marrow biopsy because … OW!
Anything else you’d like to add?
Only that if anyone has questions, they only need to ask!
Laura here, thank you Chrissy for interviewing Loree and thank you Loree for sharing with us! And now Dear Readers, Loree would like to offer two of her ebooks as a giveaway - 50 Hours and Beyond the Shadows. Fill in the form below to enter! THIS CONTEST ENDS MAY 7.
Congratulations to Debra Lindquist!