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Interview with Lisa Lickel

Lisa is a multi-published award winning author, literary magazine editor, free-lance editor, writer in several disciplines, wife, mother, and grandmother. She also makes herself available for social media and public appearances, which are plenty if you check out her website.

Lisa, how do you divide your time between your activities and still have time to write?
I’m blessed to be able to work from home, and writing is my job. It has gotten harder to pluck time out to write for myself, however. I just have to plan for it the best I can manage with the client schedule, and dedicate a certain word count or hour of the day when I start on a new project.

Journalism, fiction and script writing are unique disciplines. Are you a natural at each, or do you struggle as you switch between them?
I’ve found that each discipline complements the other. Journalism teaches you to write tight, make all the words in your short space count; radio theater and script writing forces you to focus on the audio and/or visual aspects of the story. For conveying natural conversation or layering in sensory imagery, using the experience in writing for those different audiences has been invaluable. Am I natural? Well, any discipline requires a learning curve. Once I got the technique down, I treat each project as a unique work. It’s not a struggle.

Your current release, The Last Detail, involves a missionary hero. Is being a missionary something you’ve thought of doing?
The pat answer, of course, is that we’re all missionaries. I haven’t yet been called overseas. My husband and I were active in Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, and we hosted or got to know a few missionaries our church sponsored. It’s certainly been intriguing to learn about the special lifestyle of dedicated missionaries.

I’m intrigued that you live in a 160-year-old house built by a Great Lakes ship captain. What a fascinating setting for a writer. Before you moved in, did you know the house’s history?
No, I didn’t know anything about the house when we found it. I just loved it. I have a degree in history, and local stories always fascinated me, so when we moved into the community, I set out to learn all I could about how the town started and who lived here. In some ways I’m almost more curious about the people who built my house than my own family history.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
There were plenty of moments when I first began having my novels noticed and published where I should have run screaming, never to write again. But some significant moments, such as writing for Writer’s Digest and my national church magazine before the novels came out, helped build my stubbornness to keep going. So having other professional people believe in me enough to build up my ability to persevere; never more, never less than I could handle, has been invaluable to the journey.

How do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
There’s a fine line between force-feeding your audience your particular belief system and simply weaving it into a story. Creating characters with a specific lifestyle of faith to begin with keeps it natural. Since my characters, the protagonist and antagonist, are ultimately extensions of myself, I let them play out all the doubts, fears, joys, pressures, and praise of living a life, not perfect, but dedicated to loving God. One of my favorite comments from a reader was something along the lines of “You almost make me want to go back to church.” We can work with that.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?
The next one. I’m never, ever comfortable with my body of work, and live in absolute terror of what people will think of my books when they come out. So it’s nice to be recognized by other people or organizations, such as receiving the Jade Ring award for best in fiction for children by the Wisconsin Writers Association. That was actually a whim; I really wanted the professional feedback from the judge, a publisher, on the story, so it was a shock when I won. But a nice one.

Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?
Most of my ideas come from headlines. I see something that intrigues me, like stem cell research, or missing person later found murdered, or the sex trade, and start asking what if? Crazy thoughts come together, and I sort through them, pulling strings to see what might work to carry an entire story through. Characters are often presented as entire complex individuals, though I still do a “workup” on each of them. I gather bits of characteristics, habits, quirks, goals, settings from situations that might sometimes be subconscious, sometimes from people-watching, often from research.

Are your book covers different styles because of different publishers or different genres?
The covers are all different publishers and different genres. When I was first involved with ACFW and a critique group, Heartsong came up with their cozy mystery club idea. I knew nothing about writing mysteries and set out to try my hand at it, reading as many as I could and studying the niche genre. I never really wanted to write romances, but when a publisher liked a manuscript I sent and would publish it if I made it a genre romance, I agreed. It’s always a surprise to see what they come up with for covers. An initial cover idea from the publisher for The Last Detail was a different color version of the same cover for Healing Grace, and that was funny.

Any parting words?
Thank you for allowing me to talk about my work and my latest book. ACFW has been an invaluable organization for my profession. I’ve enjoyed the opportunities and friends I’ve made. I like to read and write stories that have twists and unusual relationships, and sometimes that aspect can’t be fully explored in genre fiction, so I’m delighted to have found a publisher that doesn’t focus on a specific genre.

Thanks for sharing with us, Lisa.

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