Thursday, December 15, 2011

Lori L. Otto: The IAN Interview

After an exhilarating, collaborative writing project, Lori L. Otto had an idea for an original novel. The characters and their rich stories would keep her awake at night, and even with barely any sleep, she felt more alert and alive than she had in years. Her days off were spent in caf├ęs, sandwich shops and bookstores, feverishly trying to get all of the details out of her head and onto paper.
In early 2009, after a few months of writing, Lori decided to tweak one chapter from the novel-in-progress and enter it as a short story in the 78th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition, where she was awarded Honorable Mention in the Mainstream/Literary Short Story category.  This recognition encouraged Lori to pursue her true dream to become a writer.
Two years later, she completed three novels in the Emi Lost & Found series.  Anxious to deliver her stories to the world, she decided to self publish all three books in spring of 2011.
IAN. Please tell us about your latest book:
LO. Originally, the three books in the Emi Lost & Found series were going to be one book.  When the stories of Nate, Emi and Jack simply couldn't be confined to the pages of one novel, I decided to break the book up into three smaller (but still quite large) novels.

Lost and Found (book one): When artist Nate Wilson falls in love, he falls hard. The problem is, he’s only been in love once, and the girl of his affections is his best friend, Emi Hennigan. In high school, the two bonded over painful breakups, and swore off a relationship to save their friendship. Thirteen years later, Nate has had more than his share of emotionally-unfulfilling, sexual relationships with beautiful women to distract himself from his true romantic feelings.

When a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity takes Nate away from his friend and his comfortable lifestyle, he is forced to reflect on the distinct void that Emi’s absence leaves in his life. To Nate’s surprise, Emi has a similar experience; but as the friends embark upon their journey toward happiness together, destiny reveals other plans for Emi.

Time Stands Still (book two): Depression threatens all the relationships in Emi Hennigan’s life after a near death experience leaves her injured and feeling alone in a world she barely recognizes. On a night that is supposed to signify a new beginning in her life, she loses everything she loves.

It’s on that very same night, though, that Emi has a chance meeting with a man from her past who has the power to bring her more happiness than she’s ever known. Jack Holland is on a mission to rescue Emi from the pain that’s been consuming her, but his patience is tested as Emi holds on to the memory of the only man she’s ever truly loved.

Never Look Back (book three): Jack Holland finally has everything a man could want. After a lengthy courtship that has required persistence and self-restraint, Emi Hennigan– the woman Jack has been fantasizing about since college– has fallen in love with him. Together, the couple sets out to create their own happily-ever-after.

It’s only when Emi delivers some unwelcome news that Jack begins to question everything about the woman he loves. It will take a considerable amount of understanding and sacrifice for Jack to accept the future Emi can offer him– a future he never imagined for himself.

IAN. How long did it take to write the books?
LO. It took about two and a half years to write all three books in the Emi Lost & Found series.

IAN. What inspired you to write the books?
LO. I read another popular series and I felt like I could do a better job at writing a love story that was realistic, relatable and romantic.

IAN. Talk about the writing process. Do you write at night or in the morning?
LO. I write whenever I can.  Over the past few years, I've had crazy work hours, with shifts starting as early as 7am and going until midnight.  I try to carve out a little time every day to write and/or brainstorm.  On my days off, I like to start my day with a muffin at a local cafe and a few hundred words.

IAN. Did you use an outline or do you just wing the first draft?
LO. For the Emi Lost & Found series, I had a detailed outline that I stuck to for the first draft.  When that was complete, I filled in plot holes and wrote some new scenes to better develop the characters.  The process has become more fluid, though.  With the series I'm working on now, I have a general idea of the beginning and end and a few high/low points along the way, but the characters have derailed me plenty of times. 

IAN. How are your books different from others in your genre?
LO. Well… they're different in that they really don't have a genre.  Are the books romantic dramas or dramatic romances?  The books were meant to be women's fiction, but some of the more adult situations make them encroach on the romance genre a bit… but I wouldn't consider them true romance novels.  They're simply romantic fiction.

IAN. Is your book published in print, e-book or both?
LO. It's published in print by CreateSpace, and in ebook format pretty much everywhere ebooks are sold.

IAN. What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your books?
LO. I want the readers to have an emotional connection to the characters.  I want readers to care about them at the end of the day.  I want them to see these people as friends.

IAN. Where can we go to buy your books?
LO., iBooks, the Nook store, the Amazon Kindle store, Smashwords, Sony eReader

IAN. Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand alone?
LO. I'm working on four other books right now.  Three of them are somewhat of a sequel to the Emi Lost & Found series.  The second series follows a character the reader meets in the first series, and sort of mirrors the same format as Emi Lost & Found.  The fourth book is my 2011 NaNoWriMo novel.  It will be more of a young adult, coming of age story.  I've been winging this one, but I really am pleased with the progress.  I will probably continue writing this novel until it's finished, and then go back to the second series.

IAN. Any other links or info you'd like to share?LO.

Lost and Found: Book One of the Emi Lost & Found series by Lori L. Otto
402 pages
Women's Fiction

Nine years is a long time to hold on to a feeling– one that I felt for only ten seconds of my life. Logically, I know it was twenty seconds at most, but the impact it left made it seem like forever.  If I allow myself to think about that night– and I never do– I can remember how the air in my lungs felt completely effervescent, how my chest tightened around my racing heart, how my skin seemed to feel everything around me.  Hands.  Lips.  A cool, fall breeze.  I even thought I could feel the stars sparkling above, prickly and scintillating in their luminescence. 
Nine years is a long time, but with a feeling like that, I doubt I’ll ever let it go completely.  It’s a shame I don’t have a good sense of what actually caused that feeling, but my imagination has filled in the blanks left by the drunken oblivion of that night.
I chose stupid ways to rebel in college.  Of course, drinking was the norm for most students at school, but my actions back then lingered more toward self-centered and inconsiderate.  Had I known I’d see Nate at any time that evening, I never would have consumed as much as I had.  To this day, I mostly drink in moderation when we’re around one another.  A better friend may give up drinking entirely, but even he has a little alcohol every now and then.  And he doesn’t have any friends better than me, nor do I have any that rank above him. 
As I wait for Nate, hurriedly getting ready for a night out with his current love interest, I wonder if he makes all women feel the way I felt for those ten glorious seconds.  That would explain the long string of girlfriends.  But maybe that feeling was fleeting.  Maybe it was only meant to happen once, to stir up those emotions and questions for those brief seconds.  Maybe other women acted on that fleeting feeling... and then maybe it just resulted in fleeting relationships.  After all, they’re just emotions.  By nature, emotions are not stable, nor are they reliable.  They come and go.  Just as his girlfriends do.  In quick succession.  They come and they go...
Does it make any sense at all to continue to search for that feeling?  I shrug my shoulders as if I’m answering my own question, having my own conversation with myself.  Whether it makes sense or not, I’m on a mission to find it again someday, with someone.  I just hope that my pursuit doesn’t keep me from seeing things in the periphery.  From seeing that what I’m looking for is actually right in front of me.
“Well?” he asks, my eyes focusing on what I would call a blouse on any day.  It almost doesn’t compute.  Men don’t wear blouses.  Nate does not wear blouses.
“You’re not wearing that.”  I can’t contain my laugh.
“What?” he asks, lingering in the doorway to his bathroom.
“That... that... is it a shirt?” I ask, cringing at the light pink button down with... are those ruffles?  I take a few steps closer to confirm the strange quarter-inch of fabric peeking out from under the center hem.
“Yes, it’s a shirt,” Nate argues, his voice not as confident as it was only seconds before.
“Who picked that out?”
“My personal shopper,” he defends his clothing choice.  “It’s Italian... or French, I don’t remember.”
“Wait, your personal shopper.  Is she a jilted lover?” I ask him.
“She wasn’t at the time,” he confesses as he takes a long, hard look at himself in the mirror.
“Well, I think it’s safe to say she didn’t want any other women hitting on her man.  You can’t wear that.  Seriously.  I don’t know what kind of man would wear that sort of thing.  Gay men have much better taste.  And straight men would run screaming.  Wait, why aren’t you running, or screaming?”
“Damn it, Emi,” he says, frustrated, practically tearing the monstrosity of a shirt off of his body.  “I don’t have time for this.”  He walks quickly back to his closet and takes a look inside, stretching his back subtly.  I hate it when he walks around without his shirt, and decide to tell him so.
“I hate it when you walk around without your shirt on.  It... bothers me.”  And yet, I can’t tear my eyes away.
“I know you do.  But did you not just tell me ten seconds ago that I couldn’t wear that shirt?  You asked for it.”  He throws the pink thing at me playfully.  “What should I wear then?”
“A regular American dress shirt, Nate.  Don’t you have anything like that?”  I push aside t-shirt after t-shirt in his closet until I find a pressed white button-down shirt, still in the plastic bag from the cleaners.  “Here.”
He takes it from me and walks back into the bathroom.  “You need a belt, too,” I remind him, catching a glimpse of the waistband of his light blue boxers underneath his loose-fitting jeans.  “And you’ll probably want to wear an undershirt with that,” I yell to him.
“What else, Mom?” he teases me, crossing the room to his dresser and pulling out a thin, white t-shirt.  “And I’m not wearing jeans, don’t worry.  I’m wearing that.”  He points to a hanger holding a pair of black pants and a matching jacket.
“Wow, slacks and a coat.  Looks suspiciously like a suit...  This must be getting serious.  Did you get her a corsage, too?”
“Shut it,” he warns me with a smile.  “Well at least my wardrobe choices are keeping your mind off of... what’s his name?”
“David,” I remind him for the twentieth time, watching him pull on the tight undershirt as he goes back into the bathroom.

1 comment:

  1. I love this series and I love Lori Otto's writing. You do feel as if these characters are part of your life. Ms Otto has a way of connecting the reader emotionally with the characters that leaves you feeling everything they feel. It can be quite an emotional rollercoaster. These are not whimsical characters, but people who you can relate to. You may not even like them some of the time. They are real, to the core. And that's the best way to describe Ms Otto's writing: real, emotional and relatable.