Kev’s Author Interviews Presents:
Kev: In a generalized way Lorna, tell us a little about yourself. Where you grew up, siblings, family life, education, and how you got to where you are now.
Lorna: I grew up in the North Eastern part of the U.S., mostly in a very rural part of New York State near the Canadian border. But the only French I speak is “eh?” I’m the middle of three daughters, so I have a classic case of Middle Child Syndrome that I’ve never been able to shake.
My father killed himself when I was four years old. (I don’t think I pushed him over the edge or anything. He was already headed there before I was born.) So I grew up in an all-female household. How the heck was I supposed to stand out in that kind of a family dynamic?
I decided to be my mother’s perfectly smart and good girl (rather than go the juvenile delinquent route). I did pretty well at that—class Valedictorian, graduated Magna Cum Laude from college—except for one little flaw. I took to drinking like a bug takes to a bright light.
My drinking career began early with sips of beer and blossomed in my early teens. I quit cold turkey when I was 27, after I had consumed more vodka than a depressed Russian. After I sobered up with the help of my then-husband, I had a child, earned a Ph.D. in sociology, got various jobs in research and then college teaching.
In 2001, I crashed along with the World Trade Centre towers, just not at the same time and not because a plane crashed into me. All of a sudden I got dizzy. Being a natural blonde all my life, I became (and still am) the quintessential dizzy blonde. No one in the medical profession knew what caused my dizziness, so they decided I had Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome. I had to retire prematurely from teaching because colleges don’t need any more doozy professors. Shortly after that, my husband of nearly 30 years left me. I rebooted my dizzy life and here I am.
Kev: How long have you been writing for?
Lorna: I wrote my first poem when I was five. Want to hear it?
Kev: Do I really have to?
Lorna: Sure you do!
Kev: (Sighs) Go on then.
Lorna: “Here is a ghost for you. All he can say is Boo! Not Who. Not Moo. Just Boo!”
Kev: Scares the hell out of me. (not the poem)
Lorna: Edgar Allen Poe, eat your heart out.
Kev: Indeed! :D
Lorna: I did a great deal of academic writing and publishing. My creative writing career reignited after I became dizzy. I started writing funny stories about my pre-illness life to remind me of “Normal Silly Lorna.” So, since 2001.
Kev: Why do you write Lorna?
Lorna: Because speaking gives me panic attacks. Okay, seriously. The reason I loved teaching was that I felt that every day I made a difference in someone’s life. Writing does that for me. If my words can touch someone’s heart, make them laugh, or make them think about something in a different way, then maybe I still have value in the world.
Kev: What is your genre?
Lorna: I’m what you might call a “genre-hopper.” Is that a thing? Maybe we can make it a thing! My first book was a memoir and my new novel is historical fiction, but it is based on real events and real people.
Kev: Who would you say are your favourite/most influential authors and why?
Lorna: I wish I could spout off an impressive list of well-known classic authors, but remember, I was drunk for much of my high school and college years. If I read the classics, the brain cells that held them are drowned or pickled.
My contemporary list includes anything written by Ann Patchette. Her prose is captivating. I often re-read passages just to study how she crafts her sentences. Laura Hillenbrand is another wonderful author. Her nonfiction books read like riveting fiction. She, too, has Chronic Fatigue.
Finally, I have to include Steven King. I read only selected works of his because I shy away from really scary novels. But, golly, that man can write. While reading a horrifying passage in “Misery,” I actually jumped. Not many authors can achieve that level of suspense with just words on a page.
Kev: What is your latest (published) book called and what is it about?
Lorna: “Never Turn Back” is my new novel. This is the book’s synopsis. Meri Vaarsara had a dream and something to prove. She also had incredibly bad fortune and even worse timing.
Her dream was to become a famous fashion designer in Paris, a dream born from a need to prove herself worthy of love and a happy life, something her stern Finnish mother never fostered but her seafaring father always knew was hers for the taking. So at the tender age of sixteen, Meri left the security of her family and her home for a country where she didn’t speak the language and she didn’t know a soul.
Paris in the late 1920s was not friendly to immigrants, even those with extraordinary talents. Forced to find work as a domestic, Meri forged ahead through turns of fate and misfortune as Paris braced for Hitler’s invasion. By choice, Meri becomes a single mother caring for her half-Jewish daughter throughout the occupation of France. Once the war was over, she used her feminine wiles to find her way to America, the land of milk and honey, with the hope of finally being able to work as a designer in a New York fashion house. But that too was not to be, until fate and a kind stranger stepped in to help.
Kev: Who or what influenced you to write it?
Lorna: Because this story is based on my maternal grandmother’s life, my family had a lot to do with encouraging me to write her story for posterity’s sake. Also, whenever I tell her story at social gatherings, people are awestruck. Their reactions suggest to me that this is a story worth telling.
Kev: What challenges did you face while writing the story?
Lorna: I only knew bits and pieces of the true story. My grandmother was a secretive woman and my mother is a private person. So I had to make up characters and scenes to tie the facts together into a cohesive, believable narrative.
Kev: Did you do any specialized research for your story?
Lorna: Oh yes. Meri did a lot of walking around the streets of Paris. I had to find street names and addresses that were real and within reasonable walking distances. Since I’m no history buff, I had to research a great deal about Hitler before and during the war as well as the occupation of France.
Kev: Is your book part of a series?
Lorna: No, not now at least. If readers beg me for a sequel to know what happened to my mother’s character, I’ll entertain the idea of writing a sequel.
Kev: Which of your works do you like best (feel most proud of) and why?
Lorna: Oh, Kev! That’s not fair! That’s like asking a mother to say which child is her favourite.
Kev: Maliciously pulls black cloak across his face so only his eyes are revealed. (Tee hee, hee!)
Lorna: I love both books for different reasons. My memoir demonstrates my wit and shows people how to face life’s challenges with grace. I feel that this book is my way of doing some good in this world. My novel proves to me that I can create characters, dialogue, and scenes that are real. I truly feel my creative voice emerge in this book.
Kev: Is there anything you would like to say to your readers at this point?
Lorna: I have a challenge for my readers—try to discern fact from the fiction as you are reading. Which characters are real and which are not? What events actually happened and what ones did I make up? I bet you’ll have a hard time!
Kev: What are you working on now?
Lorna: I’m feverishly trying to market my novel while I prepare to move from one end of the U.S. to the other. I’m trying to stay current with my blog and help promote my blogger buddies’ books as well. When I settle down, I’m kicking around an idea for a crime drama with a comic twist. Tentatively, it’s entitled “Closure.” See, I’m such a genre-hopper!
Kev: What new challenges are you facing?
Lorna: All the stress of what I just said creates a not-so-merry-go-round of physical and neurological symptoms, all of which make being a productive member of society difficult and painful. The fatigue and brain fog are the worst. Well, the stomach and joint pain aren’t that much fun, come to think of it.
Kev: Could you give us a little spoiler?
Lorna: Meri was exploited by many of her male employers before and during the war. After Paris was liberated, she decided that America was the place for her dreams to come true. But she had to find a way to get there. She had to do some exploiting of her own. And she did.
Kev: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Lorna: Read, read, read! I have learned more about writing from reading both well-written and poorly written books. You can learn so much by example—of what to do and what not to do!
Kev: Is there a question I haven’t asked that you would like me to ask? (If so, give question and respond.)
Lorna: Thanks! What’s the hardest part of writing?
Lorna: I thought that writing the first draft would be the hardest part. Wrong! After you have a manuscript you’re so very proud of, the real hard work begins—editing. I can’t overemphasize the importance of editing your work and having others edit it as well (professionals and people who will give you honest feedback).
(Lorna has a special free book offer on her blog folks. Don’t miss it!)
I would love to have you visit my zany little blog called Lorna’s Voice.
Lorna’s Book Links
Never Turn Back, US audience
Never Turn Back, UK audience
How Was I Supposed to Know? US audience
How Was I Supposed to Know? UK audience
Thank you, Kev, for the opportunity to talk with you and thanks to your readers for taking an interest in me and my work!
Lorna Earl Everyone!