Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Lisa Lickel and her husband live in a one hundred and fifty-year-old Great Lakes ship captain’s house filled with books and dragons. She writes contemporary stories of love and intrigue, as well as writes and performs radio theater. A history buff, she works with local historical societies on preservation and programs.

Hi, Lisa! Welcome to The Borrowed Book. When did you decide to be a writer?

“Being” a writer was probably always part of me. I grew up with a father who loved to tell stories. Both of my parents were teachers and education was always stressed. When I took an on-line course through Christian Writer’s Guild mostly for fun in 2002-2003, I started selling articles before I graduated, then I tried a novel for the annual contest.

At what point did you stop juggling suggestions and critiques and trust yourself (as a writer)?

I’ll let you know. :-)
That’s a really big question. Writing by committee is safe and comfortable for most new writers. I got my first contract within three years of starting to market my work. That was too soon. I was involved in critique groups when I didn’t yet know how to listen and implement suggestions. I had agents who encouraged me in a particular direction that really wasn’t me. Even after I sold my second book, there was a two-year hiatus before I sold another novel. A couple of multi-published authors let me critique with them for a truly confidence-building experience. During that time I realized that, although I still count on my reading and writing partners, I’m not too bad at this story weaving thing after all.

Are you a disciplined writer or do you just write when you feel like it?

Hard-hitting questions. Um, don’t hate me, but I’m kind of on the manic side. “Feel like it” doesn’t necessarily mean I’m not disciplined. I always exceed deadlines. I don’t have writer’s block. In six years I’ve written sixteen and a half novels, and that includes last year when I didn’t complete any. I’ve sold several magazine articles, including to Writer’s Digest, devotionals, and several radio theater scripts, had a regular column in my community newspaper and did features for the nearest larger-market newspaper, and edited three books on local history. Writing also involves a lot more work than simply putting words on paper. No, I don’t write every day, but I am almost always thinking about things, marketing and networking, interviewing other writers and doing book reviews, writing a monthly column for Favorite PASTimes, savoring ideas and doing research.

What kind of activities to you like to do that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?

I love to visit with friends and family, watch movies, read, sew, travel, visit museums, mom’s annual camping trip with Kay, weed and take care of my house. I like to quilt, but I don’t sew as much as I used to. I’m trying to relax the multi-tasking thing.

What is your favorite novel and what made it special?
Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. Hands-down best fiction in America in the twentieth century. Any book that can make me feel like a twelve-year-old boy realizing for the first time that there’s a huge life out there, and like it, is a wonder. Ray Bradbury doesn’t translate well to the screen because of the language he uses, and it’s not a shame—it’s just that a thousand of his words creates a marvelous picture and it doesn’t work in reverse.

I love that story! I thought I was the only one. LOL! Seriously, how do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer?

Osmosis on one level can’t be disputed. My mother is a librarian and always had a book in hand; still does. I read constantly while growing up. But once I learned the technique of current trends in writing, I was pretty much ruined for reading for pleasure. There are trends in style, rules, perspective, point of view, narrative, subject matter. Every generation is different. Since I’m an extremely eclectic reader across genre and century, one era’s classic is another’s doldrums. I can pick out things from other writers that “aren’t allowed” by markets I pitch to, and that frustrates me. But at least I can analyze how those “rules” were broken and whether it worked for that author or not, and how much it matters to the reader.

Tell us a little about your latest release:

Meander Scar is a story about a woman whose husband disappeared on a business trip. Ann’s mother-in-law fought her to keep his case open. Years of living in limbo pass, and when a new young man enters her life and offers to help, she gets up the gumption to stop living in someone else’s shadow and move on. She’s a little shocked to learn that Mark, who used to live next door, is in love with her. Can she love him back? At the point when they need to decide whether they can defy family and society, Ann finds out what happened to her husband. Meander Scar is the story of what makes “family”; why and when we stick together and how far we’re willing to go to defend each other.

Where did you get your inspiration for Meander Scar?

Forgive this Dave Barry moment, but I always thought meander scar would make a good name for a book. I love the idea of comparing relationships to nature. A meander is the bend a river takes when it hits a hard place. It curves around on itself until it meets up with the main course and runs straight again. The meander then becomes a small lake, eventually drying up but leaving a scar. The inspiration for telling this story came from putting together several ponderings: Why does society accept older men and younger women in relationships much more easily than older women and younger men? What happens to all those people who disappear every year?

Which character is most like you?

Okay, don’t tell my husband, but Ann is a lot like me. You have to understand that this was my fifteenth novel and I was ready to write from my gut. What would I be like if I suddenly found myself without a husband? At my age? Building a nearly perfect fantasy man was a lot fun, but it also made me appreciate not being alone.

Who is your favorite character and why?

Well, I’m not about to pick out a favorite child…but I had fun with Ann’s parents and her aunt. Aunt Elle is the kind of person who gets away with wearing whatever she wants and keeps the family secrets. She’s highly regarded, reliable, and strong. I’d like to be more like her.

Did you know how Meander Scar would turn out? Were you surprised by any of the plot twists or characters?
While I’m not saying I had writer’s block, I did have some struggles with the ultimate resolution. It wasn’t until my friend Deidre, who was also one of my readers and confidantes during the writing, said we need to tell people that Christian men don’t leave their wives. At that point I knew for sure what Mark had to do. Meander Scar had the most convoluted journey of any of my work so far. The final result is an extreme culling of my original idea, my early drafts which I wrote with a lawyer friend, a second draft, and even my original final story. What my first agent thought was a selling point was nixed by the publisher. Things always surprise me when I’m writing; the biggest one in Meander was Mark’s reaction to some of the hard places his life hit.

What is the main thing you hope readers remember from this story?

I hope readers won’t be sorry to have spent the money and enjoyed this break from life immensely. I hope they identify with some of the issues that led to how the characters reacted to each other. I hope they think about what they would do if ever faced with a similar situation.

What kinds of things have you done to market this book? Have you found anything that works particularly well?

Marketing is not my favorite thing! I reached out with great fear and trembling for endorsements and was delighted to receive some positive and exciting comments. I’m seeking out the review and interview route, so thank you, Lisa my fellow cozy mystery writer, for this opportunity. (Lisa: You're very welcome! :-))
I’ve gotten more involved with networking, even trying Facebook. The best thing is getting some great, and surprising, reviews. That helps spur word of mouth.

Tell us what new projects you’re working on.

I’m working on the last two books of the cozy mystery series and trying to find a buyer. A new project I’ll get underway soon is about a former army medic who saves a woman trying to commit passive suicide. She’s not happy and makes sure he knows it; what she doesn’t know is that she ruined her husband’s plan to kill her.

Do you have any parting words of advice?
You can never practice too much. Listen a lot and don’t be afraid to try different things. Network all you can. Press the send button!
Lisa is giving away a special ELECTRONIC version of her book, Meander Scar. Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Friday for your chance to win!


  1. Thank for this opportunity to be on your show, Lisa. I love to chat and answer questions. Meander is up for acfw book club vote this week for the August choice. Hop on over and vote. You have to be a member of the group to vote, but that's a good thing.

  2. Absolutely! Will do, Lisa. Thanks for stopping by The Borrowed Book.

  3. Wow! You write fast. I didn't know about Meander Scar. Have to get it fast. And for those of you who haven't read Lisa, her books are wonderful!

  4. I enjoyed your discussion, especially what you imparted about your "pattern" of writing. I never thougth to ask before, but after reading the interview...Are your published books ones you wrote early in your career,or mixed throughout?

  5. What a great interview! Your willingness to share the ups and downs of writing make the journey easier for those of us who are just starting our writing careers. Thanks, Lisa. I hope MEANDER SCAR is chosen for the acfw book club so a lot more readers can enjoy it as much as I did.

  6. Thank you for your question, Dawn. Let's see, in order of publication: Gold Standard was the fourth book I wrote; Healing Grace the second; and Meander Scar the fifteenth.


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