This week, I had the awesome opportunity to speak with the incredible, Lori L. Lake, author of both The Gun Series and The Public Eye Mystery Series.
Where do you live? City, town, island, country?
I’m in the city – currently Portland, Oregon, where I’ve been for the last four years. I lived in the Twin Cities in Minnesota for 26 years, but after the break-up of my 27-year relationship, I returned to my hometown four years ago. I’m loving it! I still go back to Minneapolis/Saint Paul at least once a year, but I am extremely happy I returned to Portland.
Writer’s rarely like to toot their own horn; seriously! What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?
Perhaps my greatest accomplishment is having the endurance to work for fifteen years, honing my craft, reading How-To manuals, taking classes, and submitting manuscripts until finally in 2001 my first books were published. There were times I gave up for a while, but I always came back to it. (If you want to read a long piece about my writing quest, go here: http://www.lorillake.com/quest.html.)
Without getting too personal, can you share a little about your home life?
My sweetheart and I live seven blocks apart in entirely differently decorated houses, and we end up coming back and forth to each other’s places. It’s an interesting arrangement! She’s an extrovert, so her house has a lot more guests coming and going. I call my house The Fortress of Solitude.
I have done most of my writing sitting upright at a desktop computer, but in the summer of 2012 I hurt my back and couldn’t sit upright very well. I was on a deadline to get JUMP THE GUN written, so for six weeks, I wrote on a laptop on a lap-desk while sprawled in my recliner. With an ice pack. While watching NFL football. I wrote 65,000 words! My new writing method is in the recliner. I still like to edit and revise at the desktop, but the laptop and comfortable chair really worked for me. Yay – football’s back on again, too. (Oh, you and writer Max Vos will get along so well!) I’m on a deadline again for the next book!
What inspires and challenges you most in writing?
I’m inspired by many other writers who have also worked extremely hard to get their words out there. Lee Lynch, who has been publishing her writing since she was in her late teens, is one such inspiration. I call her my Fairy Godmother. Her 40+ year career of dogged determination is a monument to hard work – and she did this while working a day job the entire time. I find inspiration from writers like Lee – and Ellen Hart who has been a mentor to me as well. Ellen has managed to navigate the troubled waters of mainstream publishing with her lesbian protagonist for over 20 years. Her Jane Lawless series is on book #21. Now THAT is extremely inspirational!
What challenges me most is my willingness to help others. I love to teach and edit and coach aspiring writers, but doing so puts me out of the frame of mind I need to be in to get my own writing done. It’s a challenge for me to say, “No.” I really have to work very hard at that.
You’ve probably answered this question a hundred times, but please indulge as our readers (and fellow writers) want to know: Do you fly by the seat of your pants when writing or plot out your storylines?
When writing a mystery, I try to figure out the Story Behind The Story, as James N. Frey calls it. I usually start with a character and a situation, and I work out the way the crime occurred and usually the reason(s) it happened, and then it’s a matter of trying to bring the two storylines together. The crime is under the surface; the solving of it or the hunt for the killer is the part that’s usually out in the open. Unearthing the clues and following the footprints is what my sleuths have to do. It would be a lot easier if I could plot that all out in advance and know the red herrings and the misdirections and all the little details…but I don’t. I fly by the seat of my pants every time. I will say, however, that the minute I figure out who the criminal is, the whole thing goes a lot easier!
How do you deal with the constant distractions such as blogs, FB, promo and real life (like that dreaded daytime job)?
I’ve been told repeatedly that I MUST write a blog. No way. I’m far too easily distracted, and I’d spend all my writing energy working on it. I look at Facebook a couple of times per day, but I probably do not use it very effectively for promotions. I’m mostly interested in people. They fascinate me, and I get caught up in their lives and forget to write!
Everything about promotions has changed so much that what I did the first decade of being published pretty much became obsolete with the explosion of ebooks in 2010. Still, I’m very lucky because I haven’t had a full- or part-time job outside the writing field since 2009 when I moved to Portland. By then I had a backlist of books to which I owned the e-rights, and I’ve been able to scrimp and save enough from month to month to meet my bills and not have to work the dreaded day job.
How do you sustain serialized, continuing characters?
I think about them a lot. They seem real to me in so many ways, as though I could drop by the Saint Paul Police Department and meet up with Dez Reilly or track down Leona Reese doing her investigations job out in the field. I did start a character “bible” to help me keep track of details for The Gun Series after the first three books came out (2001, 2002, 2005) because there was such a gap in time between those earlier books and this fourth one.
I think one of the secrets to keeping the characters interesting is to give them subplots outside of the mystery/thriller realm – things that they’re grappling with in their personal lives. Those issues can carry on from book to book while the main plot – the mystery solution and/or capture of the perpetrator – must be resolved. People in trouble, terrible, terrible trouble, is what makes a book interesting for me, and apparently that’s the case with most readers.
What are your guilty pleasures?
I’m far too fond of series TV: Dexter, Downtown Abbey, Major Crimes, Rizzoli & Isles, Burn Notice, Nurse Jackie, Breaking Bad, and too many more. I get hooked into a compelling storyline, and I’m all over it. I can’t stop watching. This happened with The Wire and The Shield and many other series that revolved around crimes, ethical dilemmas, and people in very, very bad trouble. I also like to read military sci-fi and apocalyptic epics. I love space opera science fiction and would love to write a big, long series like that one day. I’m working on an apocalyptic series right now, off and on. That thing’s been taunting me since 2008. I hope that in the next year or two I can get it done.
After your book(s) come out, have you ever had to deal with homophobia, and if so, what form has it taken?
The thing that comes immediately to mind occurred when I worked for county government in Minnesota. There were about 3,500 employees there, and the HR Department had a Diversity Program and a variety of activity groups to support and encourage GLBT people and people of color. The queer group got wind of my books being out and arranged to do a lunch-time reading and signing to show their support. An email invitation went out to the county staff. Someone I knew fairly well, from my own department (!), replied to the email so that it went out to those 3,500 staff and administrators. The person wrote a rant about gays getting special treatment. This was followed by another rant from a religiously intolerant person who threatened a lawsuit and all kinds of bad PR for the county. This was followed by a string of supportive emails that poked fun or attacked the initial posters about their intolerance. The anti-gay contingent fired back more emails which the pro-gay employees responded to with vigor (and venom). It was about three hours before The Powers That Be decided to turn off the email system. (Jon-I can’t image such an attack; how horrible!) By then, I felt pretty damn crushed by the attacks and negative commentary, especially from a few colleagues in my department. I will say that I had an endless stream of visitors to my office, though. People came by for the rest of the week, and every single person was supportive. After that, no one but a few special individuals were allowed to post to All Staff, so that changed the culture somewhat. (Jon-so incredible you received such support after such nasty hatred.)
On behalf of the Facebook Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Group, thank you for giving us a little of your time today, answering questions fans of the genre really want to know.
Thank you for having me here, Jon! (Jon-I’m honored, and really enjoyed getting to know you better!)
Last question; will you share with us a little about your current release and/or WIP?
JUMP THE GUN is the fourth book in my Gun Series, and it came out in July. It’s about Dez Reilly and her partner Jaylynn Savage and what they go through when a police colleague is murdered on the job. I mentioned earlier about my break-up which occurred in 2008, and that caused a real slowdown in my writing this novel. It’s been over seven years since #3 (HAVE GUN WE’LL TRAVEL) came out, and I lost some momentum with the series. I think it may take readers a while to trust that a fifth book will come out. And one will. I’m already pondering on it. In fact, I want to do a mash-up of my Gun characters and include Leona Reese and her sidekick Tom from The Public Eye Mystery Series. I think Dez and Leo could do a bang-up job investigating together, and it’d be quite a challenge to write. Dez has made cameo appearances in both of the Eye books (BUYER’S REMORSE  and A VERY PUBLIC EYE ).
But first, I’m working on a romance that I hope to see published in June 2014. Stay tuned for that. I’ve got four NFL games taped and the recliner is ready and waiting. Wish me luck with my laptop!
A new Gay Mystery, Thriller/Suspense author interview posts each Saturday at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/518503111562540/