Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Interview- Out of the Ashes author Lori Dillon

I am very exited to have Lori Dillon here with us today.  Here's just a little snippet about Lori:

In a previous life, Lori was a graphic designer for fourteen years. In her current existence, she's a stay at home mom with a desperate need for a creative outlet besides Crayola crayons, Play-Doh and finger-painting. Besides writing, she also does freelance web site design and portraits on commission. She's been told her artistic creativity often shows through in her stories. That, and the quirky side of her personality she tries to keep reined in when she's around grown-ups. In between mommy duties and freelancing, she's hard at work on a new time travel with a Jane Eyre twist.

Lori lives in Virginia with her engineering geek/hero husband, a precocious daughter who likes dragons more than dolls, and a dare devil son who wants to drive monster trucks when he grows up.

She loves to hear from her readers. Please stop by and visit her at http://www.loridillon.com.

Click below for the interview and giveaway entry.

First off, thank you for joining us today at Nose In A Book.
Thanks for having me. It’s great to connect with people who love romance as much as I do.

Could you start out by telling us a little bit about yourself and when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
I wasn’t one of those people born with a pen in my hand. Well, not a writing pen, but maybe a drawing pencil. I’ve always been an art geek. I have a BFA in Graphic Design and Illustration. Before doing the stay at home mom thing, I worked for 14 years as a graphic designer for the power company, occasionally venturing into nuclear power plants for my job (yes, nuclear plants need graphic designers, too).
To be honest, I came late to the romance novel fan club. As a teen, I read mostly horror. Stephen King, John Saul, and that staple of adolescent girls at the time, the Flowers in the Attic series. I didn’t discover romance novels until I was 28, when I was newly engaged and entranced with all things romantic. So when I found one of my roommate’s romance novels lying around, I picked it up and read it cover to cover in one day. Needless to say, I was officially hooked!
Of course, we all know there are good books, keeper books, and wall-banger books out there. After one too many paperbacks hit the drywall, my husband dared me to write a book myself. So I did, and I amazed myself that I actually finished it. (Completing projects is not my strong suit.) I entered the novel in several writing contests and it finaled a few times. Hey, what do ya know? I didn’t totally suck as a writer. (Although now that I know better, that book will forever remain under the bed keeping the lonely dust bunnies company). So I wrote another book, which ended up being OUT OF THE ASHES. That novel landed me an agent and came really, really close to selling to NAL.

What was your inspiration for Out of the Ashes?
David and Sera’s story started out with the idea that if a cat could have 9 lives, why not people? My initial thought was to write short vignettes of their first eight lives, starting from when they meet each time until their untimely deaths, then end the book with their 9th life where they finally get it right. Unfortunately, a book like that would’ve ended up being a War and Peace behemoth. So I decided to focus on their first and last lives, and just hint at the tragedy of their other lives that came in between.
While I was doing research for possible time periods and settings, I came across a National Geographic photograph of a plaster cast of a couple from Pompeii. The man and woman died in each other’s arms as they tried to flee the city, forever frozen in time, his hand shielding her face in a vain attempt to protect her. The cast is beautiful, touching, and heartbreaking. In fact, I use a photo of that exact cast from the Pompeii Exhibit taken by photographer Ken Thomas on the back cover of the print book.  I began to wonder what their story might have been, and the tragic couple eventually evolved into a young Pompeian girl and the slave gladiator she loved. Then I wondered what might have happened if they were given a second chance.

The photo that inspired Out of the Ashes by Lori Dillon

How did you come to choose Pompeii’s destruction and World War II as your time periods?
Once the photo of the plaster cast screamed at me to tell their story, I started researching Pompeii. I knew I wanted the black moment to be as explosive and terrifying as the A.D. 79 eruption of Vesuvius that buried Pompeii. However, the last time Vesuvius erupted was in 1944, and while the lava flow destroyed three small villages in its path, it didn’t come anywhere near the ruins. Darn it. Then I stumbled on a news article that described how in WWII, Allied planes dropped 163 bombs on the German encampment set up outside the walls of Pompeii, believing that they were hiding artillery within the ruins. The bombing severely damaged some parts of the ruins, including the Great Palaestra, the Antiquarium, and the gladiator barracks. I imagine if you were trapped in the ruins and living through that, it would feel very much like the day Vesuvius erupted. Voila! I had my black moment. Unfortunately, NY thinks the WWII time period has the cooties. It’s not historical enough to be historical and it’s not contemporary enough to be contemporary. It’s in a no man’s land where sales and marketing fear to tread. The NAL editor asked me to reset ASHES as a contemporary. It was one of the hardest decisions I ever made, saying no to that. But I just couldn’t do it. It would’ve changed everything about David and Sera and who they were. I sat on the book for a while, hoping NY would come around. They never did and then indie publishing came knocking on my door. I figured it was the perfect book to start with, and hopefully readers will agree.

I loved Marsha and Hershel!  Can you tell me more about them?
Aren’t they great? They are such scene stealers, those two. I knew I wanted David and Sera’s bumbling guardian angels to be older, maybe a bit scatter-brained, but lovable in a favorite grandparent kind of way. If they were still alive today, Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy would play them in the movie. I’m so glad you liked them. Interestingly enough, one of the freelance editors who worked on ASHES for me urged me to take Marsha and Hershel out. She thought the book would be better if it were more of a serious historical than humorous paranormal. The beauty of indie publishing is I get to make those kinds of editorial calls. Marsha and Hershel were too dear to me. I couldn’t have the story without them.  (Karen's side note- I could not imagine ASHES without Marsha & Hershel!)

What are some of your favorite novels?
I started out reading the old bodice rippers, with swashbuckling pirates and wild Indians riding off with their white captives. Then a nice bookseller turned me onto the early books of Jill Barnett and Pamela Morsi. Humor and romance? OMG! After reading Barnett’s Bewitching I quite literally screamed, “I want to write like this!” and I’ve been trying to emulate them ever since. Lately, I’ve been on a Jill Myles, Kresley Cole, Gena Showalter binge. I love me some dark, sexy paranormals. I don’t write the same type of books like these talented ladies do, but I sure love to read them. *G*

Lori- Thank you so much for joining us at Nose In A Book! It was a pleasure to have you and I'm looking forward to your next novel.  ~Karen

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  1. Lori,

    OUT OF THE ASHES sounds fantastic! I love that you stuck to your guns and kept the setting in WWII and kept Marsha and Hershel, they sound hilarious!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Kirsten. My quirky sense of humor does have a tendency to come out in my writing. I can't seem to help myself.

  2. Hi Kirsten! I have to agree with you! Marsha & Hershel were such fun parts to the story. It was a very good book that I truly enjoyed reading. Please try it for yourself. :)

    Thanks for posting and stop back again!