We are sharing our November First Friday Breakfast with author Lori Herter. She grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, graduated from the University of Illinois, Chicago Campus, and worked for several years at the Chicago Association of Commerce & Industry. Lori married her husband, Jerry, a CPA, and they moved to Southern California a few decades ago. They still live there with their two cats, Freddy and Jasmine. They have traveled extensively in the U.S., Canada, Europe, New Zealand, Australia, and Tahiti. Lori’s favorite destination is Ireland. Over several trips to Ireland she has visited all parts of the island, both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Delving into Celtic legends and Celtic Spirituality has been a special interest of Lori’s in recent years.
Lori has written romance novels published by Dell Candlelight Romances, Silhouette, and Harlequin. Some of these books are currently available as ebooks. She also wrote a four-book romantic vampire series published by Berkley with the titles OBSESSION, POSSESSION, CONFESSION, and ETERNITY. Her website is http://www.loriherter.com
This morning I “foraged” for my breakfast in my almost barren backyard. I boiled a knobby potato and topped with chives, made applesauce with a tart sundowner apple (and topped with cinnamon from the spice rack and pecans from the larder), harvested a ripe brown turkey fig and topped with basil, and made hot tea with fresh mint. Lori, what are you having for your virtual breakfast?
I try to have a healthy breakfast, so I usually cook up some oatmeal, imported from Scotland or Ireland, sprinkle it with cinnamon, and add some fresh, organic blueberries or strawberries and a few walnut halves. I always make myself a big cup of herbal tea or green tea.
Lovely! Tell us about your writing process from concept to draft to revision.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to say how or where I got my initial idea for a story. With THE THIN PLACE, however, I can pinpoint it to the first time I visited Caldragh Graveyard on Boa Island, County Fermanagh, N. Ireland. I’d gotten interested in the standing stones and stone circles that dot Ireland and the U.K. At our B & B in County Fermanagh, I saw a book that had a picture of a pagan stone with a face carved on either side of it, located in Caldragh Graveyard. My husband and I managed to find the tiny, centuries-old cemetery. When I came upon the ancient stone there in the midst of many old and broken headstones, I wondered why a Christian burial ground had been established around a pagan monument. After taking photos, I walked up to the stone and was astonished to find a treasure-trove of coins gleaming in a deep hollow at the top. Later I discovered the graveyard also had a fairy tree. Ideas for a story—someone stealing the coins from the sacred stone; a young woman who believes she’s half-fey who goes there to commune with fairies—began to form. Eventually I created more characters, developed a complete storyline and wrote an outline. The outline is the point at which the story is no longer in flux in my imagination, but begins to feel like it’s set.
Problems arose when I started writing the first chapter. I wasn’t sure I’d chosen the right place to begin the story. I’d created Glenna Molloy, an American travel writer, as my protagonist. She goes to Ireland to reflect on a lost love, but her cagey co-author, Coyle Foxworth, follows her, intruding on her spiritual journey. At first I started the story with Glenna seeing the pagan stone for the first time and leaving a coin there. Then I decided I should start earlier, before she leaves the U.S., and cover events that explain why she wants to visit Ireland. I rewrote the beginning several ways, but none of them seemed quite right. Eventually I went back to my original starting point, when Glenna places a coin at the ancient stone. The character of Glenna evolved and grew as I wrote and rewrote the opening chapters.
Once I got the beginning right, the rest of the book flowed more easily as I sensed I was finally on track. As often happens to authors, my characters soon became my collaborators, and the story blossomed. I usually pretty much stick to my outline and seldom have any major revisions once the book is finished. There’s lots of proofreading and pruning along the way—I can be a little wordy.
Tell us more about The Thin Place. It’s an engaging, complex novel with characters and a location I quickly loved. Since it’s set in Ireland, how did you do the research to get the feel for the places, to get the voices just right, and the details about the folklore.
My husband and I visited all the locations mentioned in the book. In addition to Caldragh Graveyard and sights around Lower Lough Erne, we went to Glencolmcille in County Donegal, Slieve League, the Giant’s Causeway, and Knock Shrine. We’ve made several trips to Ireland and took hundreds of photos. I brought home a lot of books and brochures. For years I’d been reading about Celtic legends and fairy lore, and those tales that made an impression on me stayed in my mind. Especially when I read about a type of fairy called the Leananshee. The Leananshee is a beautiful and dangerous fairy muse who causes an artist to fall in love with her, then leaves him abruptly and he dies of a broken heart. I’d been hoping to come up with some story to include such a creature, and she fit into this book perfectly. As for getting the voices just right, I have a friend who lives in Dublin, Marie Collins, and she was kind enough to read my chapters and let me know when my Irish characters’ dialogue sounded incorrect, or too American. She also told me about some Irish superstitions which I included in the book.
I’m firing up the kettle. What did you find fun about writing this book and what was difficult?
Creating the character of Coyle Foxworth, Glenna’s narcissistic and annoying co-author was fun. He made a good antagonist, interrupting Glenna’s spiritual quest and horning in on the book she intended to write alone. For some reason, writing a character who doesn’t know he’s a pest, whose sense of ethics is a bit blurred, was a satisfying challenge, especially when he met the Leananshee and found himself learning a few lessons. I also enjoyed creating the character of Finn Maguire, Glenna’s long lost love. What’s not to like about imagining a sensitive, charming and wise Irishman? As for what was difficult, I’d say figuring out where to begin the book, as I described earlier.
You’ve had an extensive career in traditional publishing before turn to indie. How would you compare working in traditional publishing versus self-publishing.
Over the years, I’ve written about twenty books that were published in the traditional way. Most were romance novels. They are available from used book sources, and last year Harlequin republished my most recent romances as ebooks on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I may be best known for my four book vampire series for Berkley, OBSESSION, POSSESSION, CONFESSION and ETERNITY. The advantages of traditional publishing, which I now appreciate even more, are that the publishing house edits the books, creates the cover art, and does the advertising. THE THIN PLACE is my first self-published book, and I’ve had to learn to do all these steps myself. It’s been a bit daunting. Though creating the cover for my book turned out to be fun, as I was able to provide my own photographs of Caldragh Graveyard which my cover designer, Lacey Savage, used and she added the Irish style calligraphy for the title. Advertising the book has turned out to be the most difficult aspect. On the other hand, having the freedom to write the book I wanted to write without having to stay within category romance guidelines, or make changes to suit an editor’s likes and dislikes, has been great.
Let me freshen your green tea, Lori. Tell us about your next project and when it may be published.
I have another book written, titled EXIT TO WONDERLAND, that I hope will be out soon. This is another women’s fiction book, and it’s about a successful business woman who drops out of her life to follow a tenor half her age.
Wow–that will keep me up nights reading it! Thank you for sharing your breakfast and writing life, Lori. Congratulations on your publications, and I’m looking forward to reading Exit to Wonderland.
Check out her website at www.loriherter.com for her latest publications.
Before you blast off to Amazon to buy Lori’s The Thin Place, who would like to join us in a cuppa of her favorite Japanese green tea?