SJ:Every writer has some sort of process. Give us a glimpse into yours. Do you meticulously outline? Do you write depending on what calls are out there?
JL: All four books have actually been quite different, but I get an idea, do some research, decide what my main characters are going to be like, think of a good conflict, decide how it’s going to end, and start writing. I do lots of research as I go along. I keep an accurate timeline, a list of character descriptions to look back at, and a scene-by-scene description so I can find things when I inevitably make changes. I edit and revise as I go along, and talk to people when I get temporarily stuck, but the process has never been the same for any two books.
SJ: Bonus question – Do you put on a cape and do a chant before hunkering down to work? Sacrifice anything? Along with your process, what’s your quirkiest writing habit?
JL: Well, I grab some chips and salsa and a large glass of ice-water and I make my desk really, really messy.
SJ: Are you a meticulous planner or do you believe in the muse? Where do your ideas come from? Do they filter in through your dreams? Do they show up at inopportune times and whap you upside the head? Do they result in a shady deal with a dark power?
JL: I honestly had to look up “muse” to see what it is, and I don’t have it. Nope. If you watched me write, you’d know what I’m saying is true. I get an idea and start typing. I stop, re-read, re-punctuate, re-evaluate, change the words, type some more, re-read, stop, research and review, take notes, re-read, change things again…re-read former scenes, revise, write some more, make changes on former scenes, revise some more, read it a dozen more times, write a scene summary or other notes in case I need to return, and then I move on. I’ve never written a single thing from a dream, and I’ve never had writer’s block. When I’m not writing, I’m thinking of ways to improve what I’ve already written or I’m deliberating about the best way to do the next scene. There’s nothing mystical or spiritual or inspired at all, but it’s all FUN for me to do. I like how I write.
SJ: bonus question – If your muse had a physical manifestation, what would he or she look like and how would she or he act? Is it a sexy superhero version of Callisto? A sharp-tongued rogue? A reptilian alien? Do they have a catch phrase?
JL: My muse would look like Google…or a thesaurus…or a source on the phone. I don’t think I’m not creative. I really think I am…I just work my ideas through a process.
SJ: What’s the book/story that’s closest to your heart? Is there a piece that you clearly feel is a piece of you? Do you play favorites?
JL: Loving the Rain is my favorite. There was something about that first book that seemed to flow together so perfectly. Skeleton Key was my first mystery, and I’m proud of how I managed the clues and developed some interesting characters and suspects, and Bulletproof is my best-written book of the three—the best story too, but I learned a lot about myself by completing Loving the Rain, so it’s my favorite
SJ: If you could only write one genre ever again upon pain of being sacrificed to Cthulhu, what would it be and why?
JL I just finished a time-traveler book (a combo science fiction, action/adventure), and I enjoyed writing it, but I really love the mysteries. I love leaving clues and including misdirection. I love solving a crime—I’m no longer a school teacher. Instead, I’m a detective. I love that
SJ: What’s your biggest frustration as a writer? What do you consider the downside, or is there one? Is there any cliché that makes you want to wring people’s necks?
JL: Okay, I HATE it when I publish a book and find an error in it. I work so hard at editing that I want it to be perfect. This is my craft; it’s not just a hobby that I dabble in that can be imperfect and I just shrug my shoulders. The books published by the major publishers rarely have errors. I’m competing with that, so I want my readers to have the same reading experience. b) There’s no downside to editing well—unless I was impatient. Then it would be unpleasant. c) Clichés don’t bother me much unless they don’t make sense.
SJ: Do you think it’s possible to develop a sure-fire recipe/formula for success as a writer? Would you want to, or does that compromise the art or the fun of it?
JL: I’ve never read a book about how to write a book. I think that would take the art and fun out of the writing experience if I was trying to follow a formula. Plus, I learn by making mistakes. I’m terrible with driving directions. I get lost all the time, but when I “unlose” myself, I learn and remember the directions the next time. To me, writing is about trial and error and learning from both the successes and hard times.
SJ: Everyone has words of wisdom for young writers, so I’m not going to ask you about that. With a few unknown writers becoming success stories, a lot of people seem to think it’s an easy career choice. What would your words of wisdom be to these people?
JL: I don’t think a writing career is “easy.” If people write because it sounds like an “easy” career, then they’ll probably be lazy writers. For me, I think it’s enjoyable, and I do it because I love it. If people become writers to get rich or because it sounds easy, it’s like a teacher choosing a career so he or she can have summers off. Isn’t that the wrong reason? I want people to buy my books and enjoy them, and maybe someday, one will be a big hit, but if not, I write because I love to do it. I get annoyed when a book makes the “best-seller’s” list because James Patterson’s or Clive Cussler’s names are on the cover, and then someone else with far less talent actually writes the book. I feel cheated.
SJ: It seems like everyone likes to gang up on certain genres as being inferior, less meaningful, or cheap entertainment (especially if it’s speculative in nature). Make a case for the genre you write.
JL: Mysteries make readers think, and readers who think are getting the most from a reading experience. The science-fiction/action/adventure books are great for suspense and visualizing. My time-travel book should be fun to read.
- What do you want people to instantly think of when they hear your name or your work mentioned?
JL: People should know my books are well-written, well-researched, and are fun to read. They should expect to be surprised at the end, and they should expect to laugh and feel a range of other emotions. They should know that reading one of my books will be worth their time.
SJ:Please tell us about your latest/favorite work or a little bit about what you’re working on right now. It’s plug time, so go for it!
JL: I recently finished a book that I expect to call The Jumper. It has a hero, Cole Flint, who is a time-traveling/teleporter. His role in the book is to protect a girl, Hannah Carpenter, who has possession of the Staff of Moses. Political leaders, especially in the Middle East, want to take it from her. Three angels are manipulating circumstances while Hannah and Cole fight for survival and prepare for a big show-down in the end. This will be a stand-alone book in a series of time-travelers’ adventures with the angels being the common characters. It has lots of action, humor, and time-traveling mystery, and it should be a lot of fun to read.