Welcome to Author Wednesday and my interview with Lorna Lee, the author of Never Turn Back, a work of historical fiction that is based on a true story about the life of Lorna’s grandmother. She’s also published her memoir, How Was I Supposed to Know? The Adventures of a Girl Whose Name Means Lost.
Welcome, Lorna. I love something that one of my heroes claimed about her writing. Rachel Carson (Silent Spring) said she never chose a subject because as a writer, the subject chose her. Did this happen to you with this book?
Never Turn Back is a perfect example of the subject choosing me. The character is based on my maternal grandmother and her grim life. She and I could not be more different in personality. I remember her as a controlling, stubborn, mostly miserable woman who trudged through her days with a yoke of duty burdening her. She sighed a great deal. Conversely, I try to find the positive in people and any circumstance that comes my way. Her story, however, is a compelling one—one that my family urged me to tell (even as fiction because she kept too many secrets for me to weave a complete narrative based only on the selected stories she revealed). When I told her story to friends at social gatherings, amazement and intrigue were always the response. “Lorna, you have to write a book about her!” And so I did.
It sounds as if you didn’t have much choice. Is there a message you try to convey to your readers?
While the humorous voice of my memoir is so different from the serious tone of the novel, both books are about human perseverance through seemingly impossible circumstances. My grandmother and I certainly approached life differently in terms of our attitudes and had different challenges to face, but we both had multiple tragedies in our lives, with which we coped in our own ways. My books are about the unsinkable human spirit.
You’ve written a memoir and an historical novel. What are your plans for your next books?
So far, I’ve written two books in two different genres. Either I don’t want to be pigeon-holed or I want to be known as a “genre-jumper!” I’m seriously contemplating writing pure fiction next. It would be a murder mystery with a humorous twist—quirky characters in outlandish situations.
That would be quite a leap, but I operate that way, too. I’m always trying to challenge myself as an author. Since you’ve published two books, you must have reviews, so what’s the best thing said about one of your books by a reviewer?
Since Never Turn Back was my first stab at fiction (although based on a true story), getting feedback about not knowing which events or characters were real and which were fictional was high praise. I knew I succeeded in my goal at writing believable fiction.
We all get them, so we might as well talk about them. What advice can you give to other writers about receiving a bad review?
Some bad reviews are simply because the reader didn’t care for the book’s subject matter or characters. If that’s the case, remind yourself that, no matter how much you want to, you can never please all of the people all of the time. As writers, we must stay true to our characters and our stories. If the bad review is of your work (i.e., hard to follow plot or unnatural dialogue), see if there is anything you can learn from the review to improve your writing. As humans, we crave the accolades; but as wordsmiths and storytellers, we learn quite effectively from our mistakes if we are willing to keep an open mind.
Excellent advice. So tell us the one sentence pitch for Never Look Back?
“Meri Vaarsara had a dream and something to prove; she also had incredibly bad fortune and even worse timing.”
Very intriguing. I love the contrasts. How did you choose the title?
My grandmother was a very stubborn woman. When she decided to leave her home and family in Finland as a young woman, she left and never turned back. When she left Paris to come to a very disappointing America, she never considered going back. Her pride stopped her. The title came from what must have been her life’s guiding credo. I knew the title before I started writing the first line of the book.
Is the book traditionally or self-published?
This book, like my memoir, is self-published. Before I wrote my memoir, I knew nothing about the publishing aspect of writing. I thought that once you wrote the manuscript and got an agent to represent you, your work as a writer was done. Ha! When my memoir manuscript was nearing completion, I started doing my homework about publishing. I discovered that even if I could get an agent interested in my manuscript, I would have the lion’s share of marketing responsibility even though they would get the lion’s share of any royalties. Yes, there is more prestige associated with being traditionally published. But there is more freedom as an Indie author. If I have to do the marketing anyway, I decided to try self-publishing and avoid the inevitable waiting for rejection letters. My skin is too thin for all of that anyway.
I thought the same thing after I finished my first novel. I’ve gone both routes, and I’ll take the Indie route any day. I’m so glad you stopped by today. Your first attempt at fiction sounds very interesting, and I hope you’ll stop by again when you get that murder mystery written.
About Lorna Lee: In her former life as a sociology professor, Lorna published many academic and research papers. Creative writing is her new path since her premature disability retirement in 2006 because to Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome.
Never Turn Back is her second book and first novel. Her first book is a memoir entitled How Was I Supposed to Know? That book was awarded Best Memoir, 2012 by the Adirondack Writing Center in their Annual Literary Award Contest. In 2010, she was a finalist in the memoir genre of the Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Contest with her short story, Monkey Business.
Lorna currently lives with the man of her dreams and the dog of her dreams in the home of her dreams in the Portland, Oregon area. She keeps herself busy by writing, quilting, walking, meditating, and blogging.
Blog: Lorna’s Voice
Never Turn Back page on Lorna’s Voice
How Was I Supposed to Know? page on Lorna’s Voice
Never Turn Back on Amazon
How Was I Suppose to Know? on Amazon