Author Spotlight

I had an opportunity recently to chat with a very busy…and I do mean very busy author about her career and just about herself. 

Loree Lough

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Um, no…not really. I remember that even as a little kid, I loved telling stories. (That fact made me a really popular babysitter, even with my siblings!) It wasn’t until much later in life that I turned the story-telling into a career.

Do you find it difficult to writer with several different pseudonyms and does each one have their own style?  What are all the names you use when writing?
Pen names, for me, have had very specific purposes, and didn’t require a special style. The first pen name, Cara McCormack, was chosen by a writer pal (Una McManus) and me when we decided to write a 3-book series together for Heartsong Presents. Una’s Irish, you see, and I’m Italian…and ‘cara’ means ‘friend’ in both languages. Though Una’s personal life interfered, and she wasn’t able to write more than the first book in the series with me, I used the name anyway, sorta in tribute to her original input.

Aleesha Carter was chosen when, during a discussion with editor Becky Germany, I learned there were many African American readers at Heartsong, but no African American writers. I suggested that maybe, if one or two novels were released BY an African American, other readers with writing talents would begin submitting their novels for consideration. So when I wrote Soft Beats My Heart as Aleesha, readers enjoyed it enough to ask for sequels…and sure enough, African American authors began submitting stories!

You write under several different names and different genres, do you have a favorite?
I prefer using my own name, and as for genres, I guess I’d have to say that whichever genre I’m writing at the time is my favorite. Sounds like a cop-out, but really, it isn’t. I think most authors feel the same way about the stories they’re telling, right now.

Tell us a little about Loree and who she is.
Oh, wow. What a loaded question! I was born in Wisconsin, raised in Illinois, and earned my college tuition money by singing and playing my Yamaha guitar. Yep. You read that right…I sat on ‘the piano lady’s’ stool for years, strumming and crooning whatever tunes were top of the charts. My tip jars at Holiday, Ramada, Hilton, Sheraton Inns overflowed, so I guess I did a fair-to-middlin’ job, entertaining patrons.

Then, while visiting Maryland, where my Veterans’ Administration administrator dad was stationed at the time, I met my hubby. I knew in an instant that bouncing over highways and byways in Greyhound buses was over, and within two years, all of my crooning was in the middle of the night, as I rocked my first daughter to sleep. And I’ve been singing “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy” ever since.

I read that you not only write books, but, also, have written a song for a country artist.  Do you still write songs and how did that come about?
Actually, I wrote FOUR songs for one artist, and one song for another…both Grammy nominated stars. Like story-telling, my song-writing goes back to my teen years, when unrequited love had me cryin’ into my pillow.

Just like every writer, when submitting a proposal to a publisher, I took a chance when I sent my songs to this guy and gal. (Took a little time, researching and making phone calls, to find out where to send the stuff, but….) I’m probably the least tekkie person you’ll ever meet; I didn’t send a CD or a video to the country singers. Nope. Not me. Those poor kids found an old-fashioned cassette tape in the mail.

When the call came from the guy in question (contractual stuff prohibits me from even hinting who he is), I thought it was my husband, pulling a practical joke. It wasn’t until I was invited to sing harmony to my own words and lyrics that I believed this guy really was who he claimed to be. The contract arrived a mere week later…and a month or so after that…I heard from the female star, who regularly works with this guy.

And…do I still write songs? You bet!

With so many different things going on you must be very busy.  How do you find a balance between all your different endeavors and your family?
I drink a lot of coffee, for one thing. I make a ‘to do’ list, every single day. I don’t prioritize the stuff in order-of-importance. Instead, I just jot down what needs ‘doing’ that particular day. Some days, everything gets checked off, but that’s rare. Like all the rest of you, quite a few things get moved to tomorrow’s ‘to do’ list. Like, for example, “Buy coffee….”

What is your perfect writing environment?  Do you prefer writing in quiet or do you need to have some background noise?
I can and have written anywhere. In the car, on airplanes, while waiting for a doctor or dental appointment, as my hubby watches an evening game of baseball or football on TV. Noise doesn’t bother me, but when I sit at my desk, I don’t turn on the radio and I never watch television. In fact, I get so ‘into’ the work that my husband has learned to whistle and rap lightly on the walls as he approaches my office…or pay the price after he’s startled me (and I’ve peeled myself off the ceiling).

How do your family and friends feel about your writing career?  Do they read your work?
I think most people think it’s pretty cool, what I do for a living. There are a few, of course, who say stupid STUPID things, like “You don’t know how lucky you are that you don’t have a job” or “It must be SO nice, not having to work.” But they are, thankfully, the exception, not the rule.

My oldest daughter has read every word I’ve written, fiction and non, and I have quite a few friends who can make the same claim. The rest of my family and friends, while supportive, aren’t ‘into’ reading. And that’s fine, because I’m not ‘into’ their work, either!

I read that you love wolves and often donate proceeds from your books to the Wolf Sanctuary of Pennsylvania.  Tell us a about your love of wolves and how it your interest wolves began.
My love of wolves began when I was researching Montana Sky back in the mid-90s. I had the good fortune to meet a fella who’d rescued a wolf pair, brought to him by some college kids who’d found them as cubs while hiking in the Rockies. Having been mistreated, and fed a poor diet meant the poor creatures couldn’t be released into the wild. They weren’t pets, exactly, but they didn’t have the physical stamina to survive on their own, either. Meeting and interacting with these two magnificent animals made me want to know more about wolves, and as my ‘information supply’ grew, so did my love and respect.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
I’ve mentored (literally) hundreds of aspiring writers, one on one, since the late 90s. I told them what I’ve told every one of the thousands who’ve attended my lectures, seminars, workshops, college and online classes: Tell a good story, then clean up your grammar and punctuation, and learn to take rejection for what it is: NOT a stumbling block, but a stepping stone!

Do you enjoy hearing from readers and what is the best way to contact you?
I love hearing from readers, so much that I’ve had to dedicate a second filing cabinet drawer to store their letters. (Some have become tried-and-true friends, and many are now pen pals!) Readers can reach me by email. (Just be sure to put “I’m a Loree reader” in the subject line so I don’t delete your message!)

I read that you teach seminars, can you tell us a bit about what you teach at your seminars?
When my dream of becoming a published author began, I signed up for numerous classes to improve my skills. More often than not, I left the last session frustrated and confused, because the instructors didn’t impart any truly useful information…stuff that could help me get into print. That meant my early days were fraught with hundreds of ‘learned the hard way’ lessons.

This trial and error method eventually helped me figure out a few things about writing, about storytelling, about submissions, about marketing and public relations. And those are the things I teach in my classes.

One thing I’ve learned as a teacher, above all else, is that there are a lot of phony balonies out there, pretending to have credentials and information to share, when in reality, they’ve merely read the same how-to books we all have access to! I tell students they owe it to themselves to research their teachers thoroughly. Do they claim to have a long list of books in print? Check it out! (I happen to know a handful of instructors whose ‘claims to fame’ are all the product of self-publishing.) Do they list colleges and universities as ‘places where they’ve taught’? Call the institutions and check them out! (I know another handful of instructors whose ‘claims of affiliation’ are the product of OFFERING classes that, because no students signed up, were never taught.) Do they list writing awards and glowing reviews of their work? Look it up! (Yes, I know yet another handful of instructors who INVENTED—not only the awards—but the organizations who awarded them!)

As I’ve said in my blog: You wouldn’t let some dude on a street corner, who claimed to be a pediatrician, administer inoculations to your baby. You wouldn’t hire Any Joe who showed up at your door, professing to be a roofing contractor, put new shingles on your house. You wouldn’t pay a fella with “Joe the Plumber” painted on the side of his truck to fix your leaky toilet. You’d do your homework first, right? You’d check these guys out, right?

Doesn’t your writing career deserve the same protection?

Can you tell us some of your favorites…foods, movies, authors, books, and anything else that comes to mind?
Hmmm…. That’s a tough one. I have lots of favorite foods (which explains why I’m a lifetime Weight Watcher). In fact, the only things I don’t like are lima and kidney beans.

Love anything written by Jack London, Dean Koontz, John Grisham, and Nora Roberts, Steinbeck….

Sobbed like crazy watching Shadowlands and Sommersby. Know all the words to all the songs in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and The Sound of Music. Weird as it seems, I laughed like mad at Austin Powers. And I’d rather tune the TV to the Home and Garden channel than just about any other station on cable. Perry Como was my mother’s favorite singer, and I’m hard-pressed to find a voice today to compete with his. (Though “my” country stars come pretty close!)

Do you ever get writer’s block and how do you deal with it?
I don’t believe in writer’s block. Writing, like teaching or nursing or lawyering, is a career. As such, I go to work every day and, well, I work. This isn’t the result of having contracts and deadlines. I felt the same way long before I had more than a hope of becoming a published author.

Even then, I set aside a place in my house that would be “my” writing space. I didn’t pay bills there. Didn’t copy recipes. The kids weren’t allowed to color or paste or play there. It was where I went to WORK.

I also get dressed every day. Nothing fancy. But I can’t get into ‘work’ mode in my PJs. So even on days when I don a baseball cap (rather than fiddle with my hair) and go makeup-less to my desk, I put on a clean outfit.

I turn off the phone, turn off the TV, turn off the radio, and tidy my desk. I read and edit yesterday’s work, to get me in the right frame of mind (and to remind me where I am in my story). I set a timer (so I remember to eat, have a drink of water, take a potty break, etc.). Then, once I’ve ‘cleaned up’ yesterday’s writing, I dive into today’s stuff. And repeat the whole process tomorrow.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I’d have to say OUTLINE. I’m sure there are talented, successful, famous authors out there who write, as they say, by the seat of their pants. But they’re rare. Amazing. Admirable. (Did I say rare?)

Most of us wouldn’t leave home for places unknown without a map. An itinerary. A plan of some kind. For me, it’s the all-important Timeline. (I’m happy to share the one I use. Just email me and I’ll send it to you!)

Without it, I’d meander. Rewrite. Sigh. Pace. Have a LOT of V-8 to the forehead moments. (Moments? Ha! DAYS!)

And I’ll close by sharing two of my all-time favorite quotes (and leave you to figure out why they’re my favorites):

Do or do not. There is no ‘try’.

The turtle only makes progress when it sticks its neck out.

Hope to hear from you soon!

 

 

 

 

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