A Ghost Writer with a lot of Secrets … Lorna Collins
Lorna Collins was raised in Alhambra, California and attended California State University at Los Angeles where she majored in English.
Between 1998 and 2001, she worked in Osaka, Japan on the Universal Studios theme park with her husband, Larry. Their memoir of that experience, 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park, was published in 2005 and was a finalist for the 2006 nonfiction EPPIE award and named as one of Rebeccas Reads best nonfiction books of 2005.
They have written two mysteries together: Murder… They Wrote, published in 2009, and Murder in Paradise, published in 2010. The latter was a finalist for the 2011 EPIC eBook Award in 2011. They are currently working on at least two more in this series.
Along with authors Sherry Derr-Wille, Luanna Rugh, and Christie Shary, Lorna wrote several romance anthologies: Snowflake Secrets, finalist for the Dream Realm and Eric Hoffer Awards, published in 2008, Seasons of Love in 2009, and Directions of Love in 2010. Directions of Love received the EPIC eBook Award for best romance anthology of 2011. The group added debut author, Cheryl Gardarian for An Aspen Grove Christmas, published in December of 2010. The group is currently working on three more anthologies.
Ghost Writer is Lorna’s first solo effort, and her favorite book so far.
Today she and Larry are retired and reside in Dana Point, California.
Could you please start by telling us a little about yourself?
I am one of those rare birds: a native Californian. I was born in Hollywood at a hospital overlooking the Hollywood Freeway. I grew up in Alhambra, California in the same neighborhood with my husband, Larry. I received a California State Scholarship and Cal. State LA majoring in English.
During my career in Document Control, I wrote many policies and procedures, leading me to other positions, including Sr. Technical Writer.
In 1998, Larry and I moved to Osaka, Japan to build the Universal Studios theme park. This adventure resulted in our memoir, 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park, which was a 2006 EPPIE finalist, Editor's choice Award winner, and one of Rebeccas Reads best nonfiction books of 2005.
We then moved on to mysteries, the first of which was Murder…They Wrote. Our second, Murder in Paradise, was a finalist for the 2012 EPIC Award.
In addition, I write anthologies with Sherry Derr-Wille, Christie Shary, and Luanna Rugh. Snowflake Secrets, our first, was a finalist in the Dream Realm and Eric Hoffer awards. Another, Directions of Love, won the 2011 EPIC Award for romance anthology. There are two others: Seasons of Love, and An Aspen Grove Christmas.
Ghost Writer, my first solo work from Oak Tree Press, is my first fantasy/mystery romance. I had so much fun writing this one that I am already at work on another in the same genre called Sofia’s Garden.
Meanwhile, Larry and I are happily retired and writing in Dana Point, CA.
Please tell us your latest news!
I’m so excited about the release of Ghost Writer! It features my first ghost, Max, who is a crusty self-centered old curmudgeon. I adored bringing him to life since he’s so different from any other character I’ve ever written. In fact, I dragged my feet about finishing the book. I finally figured out that the reason was that I didn’t want to let go of Max!
Ghost Writer is a great beach read since it’s set in and around Laguna Beach, California.
Please describe your writing environment.
I believe in suffering for my art. But seriously, Larry and I share an office where we look out on our ‘Zen Garden’ complete with Japanese rock garden and waterfall. As we write, we can hear the trickle of water tripping down the stones. The waterfall is about thirty-five feet tall and goes from the top of the slope to the bottom, so the sound is heavenly. There is a link to photos on our website www.lornalarry.com. All 9,000 plus of my favorite tunes are loaded onto my computer, so I can also surround myself with wonderful music. It’s the best place in the world to support creativity.
Do you plan all your characters out before you start a story or do they develop as you write?
I know who my major characters will be, but sometimes new ones appear as the story develops. In Ghost Writer, the character of Helen, Max’s former secretary, came along as a bit of a surprise. But I welcomed her when she showed up since she brought with her another whole story thread.
How much research do you do for your books? Have you found any cool tidbits in your research?
Research is the key to any book, and it’s absolutely necessary. Larry and I are currently working on a historical novel set in San Juan Capistrano. We’ve read as much as we can find on the period between 1800 and 1890, but there aren’t too many sources. Fortunately the ‘official’ historian of San Juan agreed to review our chapters as we complete them. She’s a fabulous resource.
As for something cool we discovered doing research, we were in Hawaii (doing research) at the time of the final edits for our second mystery, Murder in Paradise. We’d written about a restaurant we knew well. But when we arrived, we discovered it had moved! We made a couple of changes to the manuscript, and it was published with the correct information. But that’s why it’s necessary to be thorough in researching even for contemporary writing.
What main genre do you write in?
This is really a funny question since we only intended to write the memoir. But while attending the Maui Writers Conference in 2005, Larry came up with an idea for a mystery, and we met the inspiration for our protagonist, Agapé Jones.
Then I had a wild idea for a romance anthology with a through story. I floated it to Sherry Derr-Wille, and she liked the idea. Then I added two more author friends, and the anthologies came about.
The ghost found me. We were carpooling from work one day, and he came to me. He was so fusty and annoying, I had to write him! So now, I’ve added fantasy to the mix.
And I have an old romance novel languishing in my files waiting for me to get back to it.
How does your family feel about having a writer in the family? Do they read your books?
Since we’re both writers, the rest of the family has been very accepting and encouraging. We were blessed with amazing families who would have encouraged us in whatever we chose to do. Some of them read our books, and quite a few have passed them on and recommended them to friends. Of course, we write I a variety of styles, so most readers can find something they like. (The truth is, I’m easily bored, so doing different kinds of books keeps it interesting.)
Current Release Details:
Ghost Writer, my fantasy/romance/mystery set in and around Laguna Beach, CA, was just released by Oak Tree Press. It is available directly from the publisher’s website, www.oaktreebooks.com, or from most other online sources in paperback and ebook format.
Who is your perfect hero? And why?
Larry, of course. He’s the gentle but self-confident and internally strong guy I always write. I know him best since we’ve been married nearly forty-seven years, and I grew up with him. I’ve never met a more decent and kind person. And that’s what I want for the women in my books. They, like me, are usually pretty self-sufficient and strong. So, I know that the personalities of the main characters will work well together.
How can readers find out more about you and your books?
The best place to find out about us is on our website www.lornalarry.com. Our precious Japanese son-in-law, Toshihiro Komiyama, insisted on updating it. He’s kept it up ever since. On the site are links to my blog and lots and lots of information on us and our books.
We’re both on Facebook and Goodreads. I also post to LinkedIn and Twitter. In fact, if folks are anywhere in social media, it would be hard to miss me!
Do you belong to a critique group? If so, how does this help or hinder you?
Our critique group is probably the single most important reason we got our first book published. I had started the book, then asked Larry for input. He came back some time later with a completely different book. And that’s where I gave up until a friend suggested coming to the group to see if they could help. They did. And we learned to write together.
We continue to attend the group meetings every Monday night. And they continue to make suggestions that improve our work. I highly recommend finding a group that’s the right fit, but I always recommend working with a group.
What's your favorite genre to read?
I have always loved anthologies. I enjoy the shorter format since I usually read at bedtime. I can complete a novella in a few evenings. I also like reading tight, clean prose. I have read some books that go on and on without moving the story along. I find that kind of writing annoying. Not that I don’t’ enjoy many full-length novels as long as the writing is compelling and the story moves along.
Do deadlines help or hinder your muse?
Now that I’m retired, deadlines are a major force in focusing my attention where it needs to be. Since I now have more discretionary time, it’s easy to get distracted. Deadlines are a good way to stay focused on the next thing. Of course, I always have several manuscripts working at a time, so the one with the first deadline gets the most attention. Unless the characters are yelling at me, that is. Then the one who shouts the loudest often requires getting onto the page, if only to shut them up!
When unemployed computer programmer Nan Burton inherits a California beach cottage from her great-great-aunt, she’s delighted. But she’s in for a huge surprise: The house is haunted by the ghost of famous romance writer Max Murdoch (pen name Maxine DuBois) who insists Nan complete his last novel, threatening to keep her from sleeping until she agrees. The ensuing clash pits youth against the long-dead but still egotistical author with humorous and moving results.