Welcome to Author Spotlight! Each week will feature a different author. We’ll get the scoop behind their writing life and dish a little. The authors will also be giving away a copy of their latest book. FUN.

The winner from last week’s Author Spotlight with Jennifer Beckstrand is Jennifer Ryland ! Please email my assistant Christen with your mailing address. (ckrumm@litfusegroup.com)

This week Lorena McCourtney is in the Spotlight! To win a copy of her book, Dying to Read (available now for pre-order), leave a comment on this post!

Share a little bit about yourself. Married with kids? Empty nester? Do you work full-time and write when you can squeeze it in?

I work full time – as a writer! It’s long been my job, although I don’t work at it quite as long and hard as I used to (in those good ol’ days of a younger me). I’m married – 38 years now. I have one son and one granddaughter, plus two stepdaughters and their children.

And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest…

In book lengths, I started out doing romances for such publishers as Harlequin, Silhouette, and Dell. Then I decided to switch to Christian fiction exclusively and wrote several romances for Palisades Romances (a former line published by Multnomah). My romances have all been contemporaries except for two set in the era of the Great Depression. I put a bit of mystery into Forgotten, one of the Palisades book, and found I liked doing that so much that I now concentrate on mysteries, with  a touch of romance. I like the more complicated plots, and I often don’t know who the killer is myself until I’m quite a ways into the book.

How did you get started writing? Did you have a dream of being a published author? 

I started writing way back in grade school. Some pretty bad horse stories! In college, where I majored in animal husbandry, I had some agricultural articles published. But after graduating from college, I worked for a midwestern meat packing company and very quickly discovered I didn’t want to dedicate my life to writing about raising hogs and making sausage.

So then, busy with being a wife and mother, I didn’t write for several years. By the time I got back to it, I knew I wanted to write fiction. Since I had a small child, writing children’s stories was the natural thing to do. I had some 250 children’s and teen short stories and one book published. Then I went on to women’s short fiction and eventually turned to book lengths.

But writing wasn’t really my first goal. I was interested in horses and cattle, ranching, rodeo – anything connected with horses. So (and I’m embarrassed to admit it now), my thought was, if  the ranching/horses thing doesn’t work, I can always be a writer. Which I found out, when I finally realized writing was what I wanted to do, that I’d been incredibly naïve, and it was much more difficult to do successfully than I’d ever realized.

Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well? Do you have any favorite places and routines when you write? How many hours a day do you spend writing?

When writing is your job, you can’t wait for those “brain cylinders” to get going. You can’t wait for some “muse” to strike, or for inspiration to – well, inspire you. You just sit down in front of the computer (or take up pen, if you’re still in that world) and write.  Sometimes, of course, the words don’t come. Sometimes I may take a little time off when this happens, but mostly I just sit there until some words do come. They may not be the greatest words, but that’s what rewriting is about.

What has been the biggest help to you in the journey to publication? Writers’ conferences? Writing groups? Your mom as your first draft reader?

My greatest help has been one boring word: persistence.  I haven’t been to more than a couple of small conferences. I’ve been in some writing groups, and, while I liked the people and appreciated hearing about the struggles they were going through, I didn’t find the groups particularly helpful. I’ve never used a mother – or anyone else – as a first reader. (Actually, I don’t do “drafts” anyway. I revise as I go, lots of revising, so when I finally reach the end I don’t go back and do another draft.)

But, after saying all that, I think writers’ conferences, writers’ groups, and first readers can be very helpful. So, if I were just starting out, I’d certainly give them all a try. Conferences can be especially helpful when you reach the point where you’re ready for an agent or editor.

Available for pre-order now.

I never had any particular expectations about the “writer’s life” because I’ve always seemed to be living it. I can certainly say that it isn’t what many non-writers or beginning writers think it is. There are probably writers somewhere who live glamorous lives on book tours, talk shows, etc., but I’m not one of them. I still do the vacuuming, scrub the bathrooms, cook the meals – I even cut my husband’s hair.

What are your biggest distractions?

There are major distractions that can’t be ignored. I’m sick, or someone important to me is sick.  The dishwasher is overflowing and flooding the kitchen floor. The electricity goes off, and the computer goes dead. You get the picture.

Then there are minor distractions. Husband asks if I know where his keys are.  The phone rings, and it’s a friend who wants to talk. The cat wants in. Or out. Or both. These may not be too important, but I don’t feel I can completely ignore them. I’ve learned to give them attention for a few minutes and then simply go back to work. They don’t really untrack me mentally.

One item that doesn’t really fit into either category, but is always there, is e-mail. This wasn’t a problem back when I started writing, because it didn’t exist then. Now I can’t seem to ignore it. Curiosity – maybe that’s my downfall. (Although it’s also quite helpful for a mystery writer.)

What was one of the best moments in your career and what was one of the worst?

One of the best was when a fairly important publisher signed me to a five book contract.

One of the worst was when this same publisher cancelled the contract barely days before the second book was scheduled for release.  Which meant that most of a year’s work on that book, plus almost that much time on the third book that was due at this same time, went right down the drain. This put me in a downward spiral for several years, but, as we all know,  “God works in mysterious ways.” And this down time proved to be important in my relationship with Him.

What do you least like about being a writer? Most like?

Least like: The feeling that it’s very much a roller coaster ride. Up today, down tomorrow. But then there’s also the reverse of that: down today, up tomorrow.

Most like: Having written something. (Not so much the writing of it – the having written.) And the responses from readers after this something you’ve written reaches them. Hearing from readers, that’s one of the most rewarding parts of writing.

What is the role and importance of an agent?

If you want to write for the traditional print publishers, I don’t think you can get far without one. Too many publishers won’t read anything that doesn’t come through an agent. But if you’re dealing with a smaller indie publisher, or publishing in the e-book world, you may be able to do without one.

A good agent can be invaluable. I heard a writer say not long ago, “She believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.” But, and I’m certainly not the first writer to say this, a bad agent can be far worse than no agent at all.

What advice would you give to new writers?

Read. Read a lot. Study the books you like to figure out why you like them. Study the ones you don’t like to figure out why you don’t like them. Then write something that you’d like to read yourself.

Pretend I’m a customer at a bookstore looking for a good book. Give me a one or two sentence promo to convince me to buy your book.

“Hi there! Hey, I see you’re looking at my book, Dying to Read. It’s a lighthearted, fun mystery about Cate Kinkaid, who, desperate for a job, goes to work as an assistant private investigator. Her first assignment is supposed to be easy and uncomplicated, no danger, mayhem or murder. Instead she finds herself up to her elbows in Whodunit ladies, a paint-blobbed hunk, a deaf white cat – and killers.”

What’s on the book horizon for you?

Book #1 in my Cate Kinkaid Files series, Dying to Read (mentioned in “bookstore conversation” above),  will be released in August of this year.  I’m working hard now to meet the deadline on Book #2 in the series, Playing Dead. I have a lot of readers asking for a Book #5 in my earlier Ivy Malone Mysteries series. I keep promising them, yes, I am going to write more about Ivy and Mac, and Koop the cat too. I want to live up to that promise as soon as I can. Oh, and I need to do another book in my Andi McConnell Mysteries series (the lady with a limousine) too.  Hey, I’d better get busy!

Last question, how can readers find you and your books?

Dying to Read will be released in August in both print and e-book, so you can find or order a print copy in your favorite bookstore. On the internet, print copies will also be available at christianbook.com, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. E-book copies will be available for Kindle and Nook and the various other e-book readers on their sites on the internet.

E-book copies of my earlier Julesburg Mysteries, Ivy Malone Mysteries, and Andi McConnell Mysteries are all available on Kindle and Nook.

I have a website at http://www.lorenamccourtney.com. Or you can contact me on Facebook at my Lorena McCourtney Author page.   Or you can just send an e-mail direct to me at lorena2@earthlink.net   I’m always delighted to hear from readers and try to respond as quickly as I can.

 Thank you for sharing your writing life with my bleaders! (blog + readers = bleaders)

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