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Interview With Lena Nelson Dooley

Hi Lena, we’re so glad to have you share a little of yourself with us. You’ve been writing romance for many years, can you share a little of your writing journey with us? How did God bring you to where you are today with your writing?
Using a number of events, God told me to become a professional writer in May of 1984. You can read all about it on the About Me page of my blog:

It took me 8 years to get the first novel published, and another 10 years passed before the publication of the second. But during all that time, I was making money as a writer and growing in the craft. Since 2002, God has really blessed my novel writing. Several books have been finalists in the ACFW Book of the Year contest, and one even took second place. My pirate novel went to #1 on a Christian bestseller list in the UK. I hear from readers around the world telling me how one of my books changed their lives. That’s what it’s all about. Really touching readers.

Tell us about your new book, Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico.
I love this book. It was fun to write, and the woman who edited it loved it, too.

When I first submitted it to Summerside Press, Rachel liked the story, and she kept it until she could find a spot for it, but she did ask me to change the location. I had to find a place with just the right elements. Golden, New Mexico, was a good fit. I’m glad I found this place, because I learned some interesting historical facts along the way. I incorporated as many of them as I could into the story.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
Probably the most significant thing was when I realized that if God wants a company to publish a book, they contract it. When I actually understood that deep in my heart, it took away most of the sting of rejections. Receiving rejections is a part of an author’s journey, but knowing that God has a plan for that journey, and that you can rest in His plan, freed me.

Another great significance to me was when the Lord told me to lift up other authors and help them along, either toward publication or to promote their books. This is a now a major part of my life, and I gain great satisfaction from this practice.

You have a very busy life. What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
It does help that my children are grown and that I work fulltime as an author. Now my husband is retired, and he’s home most of the time. He does a lot of the chores around the house to help me. And I often take time off for us to do something together. So I probably have an easier time than authors with children at home and those who also hold down another job.

And how do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
Knowing the Lord is so much a part of my life, so it is an integral part of any story I tell. That doesn’t mean that all the characters are Christians. I’ve become so used to having a faith element in books that I’ve almost stopped reading secular fiction. I miss that faith element.

I’m foremost a storyteller, so the story rules. But just as my faith is woven through the days of my life, so I weave faith through the stories without it being an intrusion.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?
That’s a hard question. The first contract is a very high point. So is holding the book in your hands for the first time. But I still have great excitement when I sign a contract or hold a new book for the first time, so that’s ongoing.

One real high point was when ACFW presented me with the Mentor of the Year award at the 2006 conference in Dallas. I treasure that memory. We hadn’t paid for a ticket for James, even though we lived close enough for him to attend. I really wished he was there to share the moment, because my publishing successes are OUR successes.

Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?
I know that I’m fulfilling God’s purpose for this season of my life. That’s an awesome feeling. Actually, I have more ideas for stories than I have time to write them. Everywhere I go, I’m always alert for things that would make a good novel or add to one I’m already writing. I even have a T-shirt that says: Careful, or you’ll end up in my novel.

You are primarily a romance writer – have you ever thought of writing another genre?
I have written mostly romances, but every book has much more than just a romance in it. I’ve written a pirate story, a cruise novel, a couple of mysteries, a romantic suspense, several westerns, among other things. And right now an editor is considering a single title that is an issue-driven women’s fiction.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
My college education was in drama, and I’ve been a drama director, actor, scene designer, etc. This background helps me write novels that are very visual. It’s easy for me to write believable dialogue. And I’m all about the characters. Hence my tagline: Characters who grip your heart.

Finish this question… My greatest desire is to…travel more. I’ve been to a few foreign countries. There are many more places I’d like to see. Australia, New Zealand, Africa, Europe, especially the Scandinavian countries of Norway and Sweden (because I’m a second generation American on my father’s side from these two countries), Ireland (on my mother’s side), Brazil, Peru, Argentina. I think I could just say I’d love to see the world.

Any parting words?
I’d like to see us get the word out to all readers that there are good, clean books with strong, gripping stories. Too many people are looking for these kinds of books and don’t know where to find them.

Thanks for sharing with us, Lena!
Thank you for having me, Cathy.

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