Welcome to Author Wednesday. Today I welcome author Lori Ericson who recently released her debut novel, A Lovely County, a suspenseful mystery, published by Oghma Creative Media. The book description provides a haunting and provocative one liner about her book.
Welcome to a lovely county, where innocence finds no justice, and monsters run free.
Welcome, Lori, and congratulations on the publication of your first novel. I’m always interested in when other writers discover their voice. Do you remember when it happened for you?
I dabbled at writing short stories when I was very young, but doubted my ability to make a living at it. Consequently, I pursued a journalism degree in college. I was a newspaper reporter for twenty years. During that time I came across various events and issues that I thought made good fodder for a novel and dreamed of being a writer. Yet, it wasn’t until I really started working through the first draft of my first novel that I found my true voice and began to own it.
That’s interesting that you didn’t consider yourself a writer as a journalist. I also started as a reporter and called myself a writer then, but it wasn’t until a few years ago, after the publication of my fourth novel, when I could refer to myself as an author. Did you make that distinction for yourself?
Funny you should ask that, because I refused to even call my first novel a book for years, instead calling it “my project.” I worked on plot, characters, and scenes for years before I joined a writer’s group and got serious about putting it together. The writer’s group gave me the courage to call it a book and the knowledge to know that it had become something I could publish.
You certainly have the right to call yourself an author and to call A Lovely County a book. It’s about time and well deserved. Tell me a bit about your writing rituals.
I work full-time and that makes it hard to crank out a significant word count on a daily basis, so I’m a somewhat sporadic with my writing. The toughest part is getting my butt in the chair! I usually will read over the previously written scene and then plunge in. I try to write at least one full scene in one setting, leave it, and then come back with a fresh mind for edits. It flows better that way for me.
I like that idea. It’s a sound practice. I tend to write that way as well. Even without working outside of the home as in my case, it’s still hard to get that rear end to sit in the chair to actually write. Beyond your writing practices, do you have any other knowledge to share with other writers?
Don’t worry too much about grammar as you’re getting your story down. That will come with edits. Just push forward while the story is sharp in your head. You can go back repeatedly to study each sentence for grammar, read aloud to hear repeated words and flow, and add a strong sense of place with sounds, smells, casts of light, etc.
Excellent advice. I always remind myself that the delete button exists for a reason, and no one else has to see what I write in those first drafts, unless I want them to see it. The concept behind A Lovely County is a little spooky, so tell me why you’ve chosen to write about this particular theme?
My first novel A Lovely County is about a reporter struggling in her career. Danni Edens is investigating corruption in a state prison program, while also writing about a serial murderer that has targeted young boys. The idea came from a series of newspaper stories I did about the Arkansas 309 inmate program and some trouble in the way it was administered in a local jail. There’s some truth among all the fiction. My second novel A Lovely Murder, which I’m writing now, is about the same reporter and how she continues to find trouble while pursuing her career.
I find my fodder in current events, also. Does setting play a role in your novels?
Although reporter Danni Edens is much different than I am, (she’s tougher, single and probably more driven) she comes from the same area of northwest Arkansas where I grew up. Also, like me, she grew up in her family-owned cemetery. The cemetery will play an even larger role in future novels in the Lovely series.
Interesting. Growing up in a family that runs a cemetery is certainly a unique perspective and perfect for writing a suspenseful mystery. Are you planning to continue writing in the same genre?
I want to continue writing about Danni Edens and have plans for at least two more books in the series, but I have a thriller about a hit man that I’ve started and will finish eventually. I’ve also written some short stories that are thrillers as well. I love mysteries and thrillers. I doubt I’d ever write a romance or western.
Good for you! I’m sure you’ll never run out of fresh ideas. What’s your one sentence pitch for A Lovely County?
The sadistic murder of a young boy and corruption at the county jail have small town reporter Danni Edens scrambling to beat the competition to the story and redeem her tattered career, but if she’s not careful her efforts may cause her to lose everything important including her life.
Who is the antagonist in your book? How did it feel to create this character?
A Lovely County includes a number of very short chapters told from the viewpoint of the killer. I’ve had a lot of comments about the creepy nature of these chapters. The serial killer in this book is also a depraved pedophile and is based on a child molester I interviewed as a reporter. Although he wasn’t a killer, the man I talked to about his crimes presented an attitude that he simply wanted to love his victims and didn’t mean to hurt anyone. I used the knowledge I gained from that interview and a twelve-page letter he wrote to a victim to create this character. I used my disgust with this sick and depraved man to create my villain.
That is a little creepy, but it’s a valid way to bring motivations and tension into the novel. I look forward to reading it very soon. Lori, it’s been a pleasure to have you visit today, and I hope you’ll come back when the second book in this series is published.
About Lori Erickson: Lori was raised in her family-owned cemetery in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She spent nearly twenty years as a newspaper reporter winning a number of journalism awards from the Arkansas Press Association and the Associated Press, and a national award from the Press Women of America, all under the byline Lori Harrison-Stone. She now writes fiction and works as a city planner. She and her husband Lloyd live in Bella Vista, Arkansas.