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Interview With Lena Nelson Dooley

Meet Lena Nelson Dooley
Interview by Sandra Moore

1) Tell us a little about yourself -- age, married/single, children, how many books authored, etc.

I am 61 years old, but I feel about 40 inside. Of course my body lets me know that's not true. I've been married to the love of my life for almost 40 years. We have two daughters, two sons-in-law, and four grandchildren aged from 8 to 18. I've written more books than have been published. I sold five books to Heartsong, and a Barbour novella collection I'm in will come out in October. Besides novels, I have a book of Christmas short stories. I've also written curriculum for Sunday school, Children's Church, public school, private school, and alternative schools. While serving as a church drama director, I've written many worship sketches. I even wrote a play that was produced in local community theater. After God told me to become a professional writer, I've had lots of different kinds of clients. Probably the most interesting was a Christian comedian for whom I wrote two routines.

2) How did you become interested in writing?

I thought writing was just a natural part of life until I married a man who didn't write. He didn't even like to read. Of course, that's changed over the years, but it was an awakening for me. I was first published in the college literary magazine. In May of 1984, God used circumstances and several different people to tell me that He wanted me to write professionally. I've had a free-lance writing and editing business since then-sometimes fulltime, sometimes part-time.

3) What was your biggest obstacle in regards to writing and/or getting published? How did you overcome it?

Probably my biggest obstacle to being published in the past was procrastination. God helped me overcome that as I matured.

4) What has been the highest moment of your writing/publishing career?

The highest moments of my writing/publishing career happen in the privacy of my own home. It's whenever I receive reader feedback mail that tells me how my writing has changed the person's life. Some have been heartrending. That's when I praise the Lord for the calling He placed on my life. There's nothing higher than that-no award, no accolade.

5) Who/What is your greatest inspiration to write? Where do your story ideas come from?

My first novel was written because of my young teenage daughters. I believe God is the author of romance, and I wanted them to have stories to illustrate this. That first book was Home to Her Heart published in 1993 by Heartsong. I look all around for ideas for stories. When we travel, I take notes and pictures. I even visit used bookstores in the areas, looking for older history books of the region. The idea for The Other Brother came from an event in my ancestors' lives, but the book is entirely fiction. The three sequels were given to me by God in one week in 2002. I'm working on a women's fiction proposal that God gave me the story line in a Night of Worship service back in July of 2003. I'm also working on a non-fiction book that God gave me the outline for several years ago.

6) Are you a seat-of-the-pants writer, or do you plot extensively before your fingers hit the keyboard?

I was always a seat-of-the-pants writer. Then in late 2002, Heartsong started requiring a brief chapter-by-chapter synopsis instead of the summary we sent before. It was hard for me to change, but I believe the change has made me a better writer. It helps with the pacing, and I no longer have to work to prevent a sagging middle. It's done in the synopsis. Now I write a chapter-by-chapter even if the publisher doesn't require one. With it being a brief one like Tracie Peterson taught us in the Kansas City Conference, it still allows for the story to take on a life of its own. It just has boundaries.

7) What's the nicest thing anyone ever said about your writing?

A reader said that she couldn't put the book down. She even carried it in the kitchen and read while she cooked dinner for her family. Others have told me specifics of how one of my books changed their lives.

8) Who is your favorite character in your books, and how did you come up with that character?

When I write each book, those characters are my favorite at that time. They become my friends. When I finished the Minnesota series and knew that I wouldn't see them again, it was almost as if close family and friends had moved away. I felt an emptiness. Of course, they aren't gone for long. They come back in rewrites and galleys.

9) How do you deal with publisher rejections?

God did a wonderful thing before I received my first rejection. He took me to a writing seminar where a speaker taught about rejections. When I went home, my first rejection was in the mail. I sat and cried because I was so touched by His love for me-to prepare me this way. Now I try to learn from the rejection. I look at what could be changed so the book/article/etc. will improve. Then I send it out again.


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