Interview with Colleen M. Story, author of Loreena's Gift

Can you share a bit about your journey to becoming a writer/published author?

I started out as a copywriter for a corporation. I did that for about 3 years, and then went out on my own. I’ve now supported myself as a full-time freelance writer for over 17 years, but I’ve always considered that my day job. Most mornings before starting on projects for my clients, I spend about an hour on fiction. My real dream has always been to publish my novels.

After years of pecking away every morning I had several novel manuscripts completed, but no publishing contract. Somewhere along the way I decided that I’d never be satisfied unless I did everything I could to publish my work. So I started investing in myself. I attended writer’s conferences, participated in workshops, and entered contests that provided critiques. Over time, I got better at the craft, but it wasn’t until I got a little ticked off at my lack of progress and went on a “submission spree” to editors that I finally reached my goal (a publishing contract).

Craft is extremely important, and something we continue to work on for the bulk of our writing careers, but I’d encourage other writers to be just as serious about getting their work out there. It’s the other side of the coin that we sometimes don’t realize needs nearly as much attention.

Where did the inspiration for the unique story line in Loreena's Gift come from? For the character of Loreena?

I read a book by Deepak Chopra—Life After Death: The Burden of Proof. Something in it triggered the idea that the afterlife might be much like the present life, in that it could be shaped by our points of view. How we look at life and our beliefs about it greatly affect the kind of lives we live. A person who typically sees the glass as half-full, for example, is going to have a different experience of life than the one who sees it as half-empty.

What if Heaven, or whatever term you prefer to call it, is not some fixed and defined place (and therefore people are either “right” or “wrong” about it), but instead, is just what we imagine it to be? If so, wouldn’t a person who sees the good in life and imagines a beautiful afterlife find just such a life waiting for her? And on the other hand, wouldn’t a person engaged in criminal dealings who believes down deep in his soul that his wrongdoing could land him in hell, find just such a place waiting for him as a result of his own vision? The “self-fulfilling prophecy” sort of idea. I found the idea so fascinating that I wanted to write about it. Loreena gave me a way to do that.

Review HERE!
As for Loreena—it’s somewhat difficult to answer where she came from, as I don’t know from where my characters originate. It’s an unconscious process that occurs as I write—the person appears as if in a movie in my mind, and then comes to life gradually as I record the images on the page.

But if I put the analytical side of my brain to it, I can imagine it had something to do with yin and yang—amazing power being present in an innocent and seemingly powerless person. I think we all have powers inside of us that we can choose to grow into if we are willing to take the required risks. In Loreena’s case, she’s simply forced to do so because of circumstances in her life—she is not allowed to hide anymore.

I am intrigued to know if your goal was writing a great story line or if there was also a universal truth you want readers to take away from this book?

My goal is always to write a great story first—that’s where the craft comes in, where during the edits you do your best to tighten and polish to provide the reader with a satisfying, interesting experience. I usually start writing a novel in the first place to explore a question, such as “what happens after we die?” I’m a curious person and writing gives me a fun way to look further into those things I often wonder about. I’ll leave it to readers to draw what they will from the book, though one of my goals is to create works that stick around in readers’ minds even after they’ve turn over the last page.

As an author - what do you enjoy most about writing process? What feels like a chore?

I enjoy so much about the writing process. The first draft is like a journey through an unknown land. I never know what’s going to happen the next day on the page, and I feel like I’m living in a virtual reality with my characters. The second and often the third drafts are focused on the structure of the story, and on figuring out what it’s really about. This is a totally different challenge and requires a unique set of skills. I find it extremely challenging and sometimes frustrating, but I still enjoy it.

Subsequent drafts are about polishing and making sure the writing shines. I find this part of the process easier, and fun because I love playing with language and the rhythm of words. Probably the only part that feels like a chore is what happens after the book is published—trying to get the word out and help the book find readers. Like many writers, I’m not a natural sales person, so I have to force myself to do what I can to raise awareness of the book. But typically I’d much rather be working on the next one.

What would you most like readers to know about you?

I know that readers have little time these days to spend on leisure activities, like reading novels. I know that when they choose to buy my novel, they’re spending some of their hard-earned cash they could be spending elsewhere. So I’d want them to know that I gave my all to the story—that I did everything I could to make the book the best it could be before it reached their hands.

Any advice for young authors wanting to write books in this genre?

After years of writing, the best advice I can give is to keep writing. I drafted five novels before I got a publishing contract. It can seem like all that work is for nothing, but by finishing one project and moving on to the next, you gradually find your voice—your niche in the writing world.

The types of stories that I wrote when I was first starting out were quite different from Loreena’s Gift. It took a lot of words to gradually find the type of book I really wanted to write. Of course writers can always switch genres and do different things, but for now I feel at home here, and my next work will fall in a similar category.

So keep writing, and most importantly, finish what you’re working on. Whether you publish it or not, it will help you learn how to complete a work. It’s much easier to start something and then abandon it than to take it through to its conclusion. That’s the practice that you need, and doing it over and over will help you discover what’s unique about you and your voice and where you fit on the bookshelves.

What do you do to relax? If you like to read to relax, what type of books do you enjoy the most?

I love to read, and I’m usually reading about 10-12 books at a time. I read several each day before starting my own work, and then I usually read several before bed. I choose writing masters like Dennis Lehane, David Mitchell, Ann Patchett, Andre Dubus III, Richard Russo, and more to read before sinking into my own writing routine. Before bed, I’m more likely to experiment with new authors I haven’t read before. In between, I’m reading non-fiction on my iPad over my lunch hour and any other time I have a few minutes.

To relax, I love taking walks with my German Shepherd, driving my old Chevy Monte Carlo with a new CD in the player, traveling, spending time with loved ones, and riding horseback. I also play the French horn and find it relaxing and energizing to perform in various community groups.

Connect with the author:  Website  ~ Twitter