Today it’s my honor to introduce Lisa Lickel. I’m thrilled to have her here today for many reasons, one of which being that I truly consider her a friend (look at our lovely picture from last year’s conference!) But today it’s all about LISA! Without further ado…here she is!
My bio changes a little with each new book. This year, I’m telling people that I live with my husband in a hundred and fifty-year-old Great Lakes ship captain’s house that I’ve filled with books and dragons. We’ve pretty much got the empty-nest thing down pat, although we rattle around a bit. We also enjoy escaping to our farm in Western Wisconsin.
Why did you start writing?
It started with articles and press releases and some editing for our local historical society. Then I took the Christian Writers Guild apprentice course a few years back and went pro. Well, someday I intend to make money at it.
How did you start writing?
The Guild lessons start you out with descriptions, learning how to observe and record, then progress to articles, different types of non-fiction and then fiction. I started out by selling articles to my national church magazine, then to Writer’s Digest. I also entered the Operation: First Novel contest—that was the first full-length book I wrote. After the Guild courses were done, I had a regular column on local events in my community weekly newspaper, and also did features for the nearby larger town daily. Those jobs helped me learn to write with a word count, how to ask questions, but also helped me realize that I’m not a reporter. I’m a story teller.
How did you select your genre?
That’s still in flux. I know – we’re supposed to be professional about this, pick something, stick with it, build a name and platform, yada, yada. I know what I like to write, and I know what I’ve sold, and the two haven’t completely gelled yet.
I had fun writing the mystery, although I’ve come to learn that I’m not as good as I wanted to be at it; Romance sort of can be too cotton-candy in the Christian world for me and with my unfortunate penchant for bumping off my characters…well, let’s just say I’m leaning toward “general” or what I prefer to call “intrigue” in fiction.
It’s writing a little outside the usual boxes. I explore questions like “What would the spiritual gifts of Biblical times look like today” and “why can’t an older woman and younger man have a perfectly normal romantic relationship?” And how about challenging relationships past the fairy tale wedding? How honest can someone be who just doesn’t want to fight her cancer anymore? What really goes on behind the public faces of people in church?
What is your writing day like?
Sometimes I can start with prayer and Bible time, but mostly as soon as my teacher hubby heads out the door I hop on the Internet to check stuff out. With dial-up and an early (before seven a.m.) start, I can sometimes get done with that by nine or so, depending on what pops up. I critique, I read, I may do some research, I catch up on what my critique partners have for me, blogs and networking sites; I post on my blog or the Favorite PASTimes one I write for, too. Sometimes I participate in workshops. Right now I’m doing a major re-write and have a manuscript under consideration that needs a little adjusting, so I’m praying that will work out. I do book reviews and a few more interviews. Right now I’m in publicity mode with my latest release. Whoo-hoo!
How do you organize your writing? (outlines/note cards/post-its)
I plot on paper when I’m just starting out – notebook, pencil or pen. Then I progress to the computer and work on character outlines in one document and rough in settings, I have an outline and synopsis in progress in one document, which becomes the overall structure for the story. Depending on the market and style of work, I determine the length and then work out chapters with a goal for each one. As I do research, I collect maps, documents, studies, whatever I need, in the folder. When I’m writing, then, I have all the documents open and switch between windows so I don’t mess up. Too much, that is. Gotta leave something for my crit partners.
What’s the most surprising thing a character has “told you”?
Libby told me that she just didn’t want to deal with her recurring cancer and set out to die on her own terms.
Do you have a list of characters that you’re saving for future use? What kind of information do you keep on these characters?
This is a good question, because in my latest book, Meander Scar, I had to ditch my favorite character and basically the last third of the book. So, yes, he’s still hanging around, but at least he’s not pestering me too much. He knows his time will come. He’s still safe in the characterizations document in Meander. But I don’t have a “list” to work from. My characters are particular to each story or series.
What does your work space/office look like?
We just got new furniture, and I rearranged my living room. I write there, in the middle of everything at a great big old desk from a local oil company that I picked up at an auction for $5. I keep my handy-dandy dictionary on my left next to stack of papers and my outrageous to-do list front and center.
What is your go-to snack when writing?
A spoonful of crunchy peanut butter when I’m bad; pretzels when I’m good. Mostly just caffeine.
If you could only recommend one NOVEL, what would it be? Why?
Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine. His characterizations are so alive and timeless, vivid, and the story arc is bigger than the universe. It’s my favorite book, one that I read over and over.
If you could only recommend one CRAFT book (writing, no crocheting), what would it be? Why?
Ick. I don’t usually read these, but last year for my birthday I ordered a stack of them. While Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel is supposed to be classic and has lots of fantastic advice, I found it somewhat depressing and out of my league. I don’t really want to be the next Dan Brown, I’m content with entertaining less than a million people. So, I’d still go with James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure. He’s got good lessons and it’s not terribly intimidating.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’d love to talk about my third novel, Meander Scar, which released in February from the indy press Black Lyon. Although I started out by publishing with Barbour, and I’ve had a couple of agents, I’ve discovered that right now I’m in a good place pitching my projects to independent publishers. These are royalty-paying traditional publishers, not vanity presses. This may be a good choice for you, too, but with some cautions. When the economy tanked a year and a half ago, some of these smaller presses went under, leaving their authors behind. I’ve also learned that it’s important to ask how many layers of editing these smaller presses have, and how much the final project is going to retail for.
Meander Scar is one of those color-outside-the-lines stories, about an older woman, Ann, whose husband is missing. A younger man, Mark, from her past who became a lawyer shows up one day, offering to help her settle her husband’s estate. But he’s also been in love with her his entire adult life, which has caused him plenty of headaches. He takes a chance that he and Ann can eventually have a relationship and sets out to win her heart.
When Ann discovers the truth about her husband, they both have to decide what they’re willing to do in order to stay together. From the odd title, which has to do with a natural river phenomenon, to the subject, to letting an ABA market publish a story that stays decidedly on the CBA side, I’m excited about this book. I received a great compliment recently from a well-established ABA writer who said it was tough to pull off, but I made a thirty-plus year old male virgin seem believable.
You have to write what you’re called to do. For some, it’s going to be mission or message-oriented pieces. For me, it’s to make sure I entertain clean. And if I happen to raise a question, I’m happy to talk.
Many, many, many thanks to Lisa for her time and talents! If you have a question or comment for Lisa, please leave a comment. And don’t forget – if you’d like the chance to win the eBook version of “Meander Scar”, make sure to leave your email address in your comment! (Winner will be picked on Apr. 1)