Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin writer who lives with her husband in a hundred and sixty-year-old house built by a Great Lakes ship captain. Surrounded by books and dragons, she writes inspiring fiction. Her published novels include mystery and romance, all with a twist of grace. She has penned dozens of feature newspaper stories, short stories, magazine articles and radio theater. She is the editor in chief of CreativeWisconsin magazine. Lisa also is an avid book reviewer, a freelance editor, an editor at Port Yonder Press, a writing mentor, a hostess at Clash of theTitles and enjoys blogging at The Barn Door and Reflections in Hindsight. She loves to encourage new authors. Find her here or at her blog.
Do you plan all your characters out before you start a story or do they develop as you write?
Because my stories are character-driven, they usually start out telling me about what’s going on. I often have the gist of who they are before I begin, but their quirkier sides tend to come out as the story unfolds. For instance, I could see Ardyth’s outsides, that she wore plaids a lot, and kept her figure girlish by bike riding well into her seventies. As we got to know each other, I learned about her insecurities and how she handled them, and how she “sniffs” when she disagreed with something so she doesn’t say (much) she’ll regret later. Although that tends to happen anyway.
How much research do you do for your books? Have you found any cool tidbits in your research?
I’m also a historian, so most of my stories have a tiny bit of history in them. I’ve had to research laws in different states regarding ownership of property, eminent domain, what kind of money was minted in the US in the 1850s-1860s, what banks were open where, where the Underground Railroad went. Although I knew tobacco is grown still in Wisconsin, it surprised me because we usually think tobacco is a warmer-weather crop. I loved learning about the round barns that freeman Alga Shivers built in west central Wisconsin, and about the Cheyenne Valley settlement that I use in The Map Quilt.
What are your hobbies?
I like to sew and quilt, although I don’t have as much time for that any more as I used to. I guess I use my time differently from when I was raising my family. I like to plant things, but I’m not very good at taking caring of them. I like to go camping and travel.
Do you write full time? What did you do before you became a writer? Or Still do?
I spent a lot of years preparing to tell stories before I turned to full time writing. I worked several secretarial jobs in different places, a school, a church, and as a temp went into different businesses on short-term bases to help with special projects or step in for someone on vacation or on leave. I’m a local historian, as I mentioned before, so research is just plain fun and a great help to building the background for books, as well as generating new ideas. I still do that with my local historical society.
What is your writing process? Do you outline, fly by the seat of your pants or a combination of both?
I start out my books with the basic plot, which is flexible. I try to write the dreaded synopsis by building on my loose ideas of what the story is about and how the hugest problem is resolved. From the synopsis I get my chapter goals which I use as a sort of outline in the manuscript. I usually try for word counts, with around a certain number of pages per chapter, which again is flexible, but helps me gauge my work in progress. I can write the scenes then, as they come, in the right chapters in the manuscript, which is not necessarily in order as they happen. Sort of like directing a movie by using the sets that are built, or doing all the scenes on the location they happen, then cutting and arranging them in order later.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I get a lot of house-cleaning done when I’m in write mode. I know that sounds really odd to some people who have to go away to write, but I’m distractable, have to have quiet, and need to get up and pace or think on my feet, waving my hands around and having a discussion with my people. That would just be too weird in public. I like to clean something while I think. In public, I prefer to people-watch.
Can you please give us a sneak peek at any of your upcoming books?
I’m excited about a new contract I signed for another mystery that I enjoyed writing after The Map Quilt. It involves Egyptian Mau cats, a pet food company, and biogenetic engineering which I found fascinating. Yes, I had to do a lot of research, and it was a hoot. The title is not set yet, nor a release date, but here’s a peek:
Ivy Preston keeps other people’s secrets for a living. When a small town mayor invites Ivy Preston and True Thompson to move their businesses to Apple Grove, can their love survive the sudden rise in crime?
After being left at the altar, Ivy Amanda McTeague Preston uproots herself and her cat, an Egyptian Mau named Memnet, from her boring and lonely life to start over at the urging of Mayor Conklin, a fellow pedigreed Mau owner. Truesdale Thompson is ready to move in a fresh direction with his life. A private man whose physical wounds are the only outward sign of a tragic accident in his past, True and his cat, Isis, open a branch of his trendy little bookstore and coffee shop in Apple Grove. When Ivy takes a mysterious message while the mayor is away on business, only Ivy’s criminology professor mom, and True believe there’s something rotten in Apple Grove. Can Ivy carry on her romance with True while saving the town from further Mayhem?
Do you belong to a critique group? If so, how does this help or hinder you?
After struggling with critique groups when I still had the umbilical cord attached-new writer, I can say looking back that it’s an invaluable experience, although excruciatingly painful when you’re new and in love with your words. Going through critiques teaches writers how to listen to other readers, to pick out those gems of fantastic advice from sometimes a lot of rubble, how to read for other writers and discern what they need, not what I need to say. If a couple of critiquers have the same problem, then I sit up and take notice and try to make adjustments, but if one person points out a problem or potential problem, I feel that I can be more subjective and decide what to do, if anything. Writers must always be adaptable, always learning, always be able to look at their work objectively from a business standpoint. Who’s going to buy and read this, and what am I willing to do to give them what they want?
What's your favorite genre to read?
I especially love to read what I don’t write – thrillers, spies and conspiracies, but also fantasy and science fiction. I’m afraid if I read too much of my genres I’ll start subconsciously picking up ideas.
What was your first published work and when was it published?
The Gold Standard, the first book of the Buried Treasure Mysteries, was the first book I had published, fourth manuscript I wrote. The book and I were put through a wringer washer. I signed the contract in 2007, but the book didn’t come out until 2009 due to a lot of ups and downs, including a re-write, in between. I wrote The Map Quilt in 2008, and now, three years after The Gold Standard was published, which is also three years’ time in the series, The Map Quilt was released. I think that’s pretty cool.
Contest info: On May 22 the official book launch takes place on the web, with lots of freebie gifts if you purchase a copy of the book that day, and hopefully the publisher will have The Map Quilt on sale, so if you can wait til next week to buy, great—if you have to have it immediately, I understand and thank you. Buy here.
Also coming is the print version from Two Small Fish/Five Loaves Books soon.
Death in rural Wisconsin is only the beginning to new chaos in Robertsville. What do a stolen piece of revolutionary agricultural equipment, a long-buried skeleton in the yard, and an old quilt with secrets have in common? Hart and Judy Wingate, who met in The Gold Standard, are back to solve the mystery of The Map Quilt. Hart’s new battery design could forever change the farm implement industry. But after the death of Hart’s most confrontational colleague in a fire that destroys Hart’s workshop, the battery is missing.
Throw in a guest speaker invited to Judy’s elementary classroom who insists she owns the land under Hart’s chief competitor’s corporate headquarters, and a police chief who’s making eyes at Hart’s widowed mother, it’s no wonder Hart is under a ton of pressure to make sure his adventurous pregnant wife stays safe while trying to preserve his company and his reputation.
Website link http://www.lisalickel.com