Today please welcome my friend and women's fiction author Lorrie Thomson, whose wonderful novel, What's Left Behind, releases tomorrow:
1-In your new book, What’s Left Behind, your main character, Abby Stone, is reeling from the death of her only child, her 18-year-old son, Luke. How did you put yourself into the mindset of every parent’s nightmare in order to tell Abby’s story?
Knock on wood, I don’t have the first-hand experience of having lost a child. I do, however, have three children whom I love fiercely, one of whom struggles with a serious mental illness. At thirteen, my oldest son began showing symptoms that were, shortly after his sixteenth birthday, diagnosed as schizophrenia. When your child is diagnosed with a life-changing illness, two things occur. 1. You take all that fierce love you have for them and you funnel it into hoping and praying for the best possible outcome. 2. You mourn for the life they’ve lost.
2-I loved getting to know Luke, even though he never actually “appears” in the story. How was the experience of writing a character who’s present, but not alive in the book?
I’m so pleased you enjoyed getting to know Luke! I found the experience similar to getting to know characters that are alive. We can never know what Luke was thinking, but we get to see pieces of him filtered through his mother Abby’s memories and through Luke’s girlfriend, Tessa. Dialogue and actions show the reader how Luke appeared to his father, Charlie, his grandmother, Lily Beth, and pretty-much everyone. It’s rather like an extended memorial service, don’t you think?
And yet, whether loved ones are present and alive, or they’ve passed, there’s a limit to how well we can all know each other.
3-You explore the experiences of several generations of women who find themselves single moms at a young age. How were you able to delineate their lives so convincingly?
Thank you for the compliment, Rosie! When Abby got pregnant at eighteen, she’d already been in love for years with her childhood sweetheart, Charlie, with all the expectations that type of relationship entails. Tessa loved Luke, but at the time of conception, she was still trying to get to know him. And Lily Beth…we don’t know much about Lily Beth’s teenage pregnancy till near the end of the novel. But, same as Abby and Tessa, Lily Beth came to me with a history. That history informed and delineated her experience as a young single mother.
4-Would you talk a little about your process as a writer? Planner or pantser? Pen or keyboard? (And perhaps most critical to your work—coffee or tea?)
Some of each, for each of your questions!
I start out each day with a cup of coffee. Cream, no sugar. Usually, sitting up in bed, blinking through the haze. Then, because I like coffee way more than coffee likes me, I switch to decaf and herbal teas for the duration.
Each novel I write starts out with a synopsis, a ten-ish page story roadmap. Then the real fun begins. For every scene, I handwrite notes, copy those notes down in a Word doc, so I can actually read them, and let the imagination flow. One of my favorite parts of the writing process is discovering scenes not imagined in the synopsis. Another favorite? Unveiling the characters’ inner workings.
5-Your book covers are among the most gorgeous I’ve ever seen—seriously, I want to live in them. Could you talk about how the cover of WLB helps tell Abby’s story in a visual way? Also, did you have any input in the design of your covers?
I’m what you’d call blessed by the cover goddess, aka Kristin Noble, cover artist for Kensington Books. My editor, Peter Senftleben, also provided input. For Equilibrium, I’m ridiculously grateful Kensington didn’t use any of my ideas! In What’s Left Behind, a labyrinth plays a significant role in the story, both literally and symbolically. I knew Kensington was planning to use a door again, and I asked them to include a pathway to represent the labyrinth, and—same as Equilibrium—light to represent hope.
What's Left Behind
When the person you’ve built your whole life around is gone, what do you do? It’s not the first time Abby Stone has faced the question. At eighteen, she envisioned a future with her childhood sweetheart, Charlie, only to have him go off to school and leave a pregnant Abby behind. But that pales beside a second loss, when her eighteen-year-old son, Luke, falls to his death from his third-floor dorm. Abby throws herself into running her thriving B&B on the coast of Maine. With the help of Rob, a local landscape architect, she plans a backyard labyrinth as a memorial to Luke—a place to find peace and solace. Even as Charlie begins hanging around again, looking for a chance to do right by her, Abby resolves to look forward, not back. And then Luke’s girlfriend arrives on Abby’s doorstep—pregnant, as alone as Abby once was—bringing with her the unexpected gift of a new beginning, one that celebrates the past.
Lorrie Thomson lives in New Hampshire with her husband and the youngest of their three children. When she’s not reading, writing, or hunting for collectibles, her family lets her tag along for camping adventures, daylong paddles, and hikes up 4,000 footers.
Learn more about Lorrie and her novels on Lorrie’s website. Connect with Lorrie on Facebook and Twitter. And please link Lorrie’s website to www.lorrie-thomson.com, Facebook to www.facebook.com/lorriethomsonauthor, and Twitter to www.twitter.com/lorriethomson.
What’s Left Behind is available at many brick and mortar stores, and on-line sites, including these: