Name: Lorraine Devon Wilke
Age: Young enough that life remains an adventure; old enough to leave it at that! 😀
Where are you from: I was born in Chicago, Illinois, and have lived the bulk of my adult life in and around Los Angeles, CA.
A little about your self, i.e., your education, family life, etc.:
OK, life in a nutshell:
a.) One of my more notable statistics is that I’m one of 11 children, third oldest, and all 10 sibs are wonderful, creative people whom I love dearly.
b.) Though I was born in Chicago and lived my first three years there, I spent most of my childhood in the small farm town of Richmond in northern Illinois, which rendered me a lover of barns, cows, cornfields, and wide, open spaces…. which makes our family’s getaway house in the rustic, rural area of northern California (Ferndale) very appropriate!
c.) I was a theatre major at the University of Illinois in Champaign, Ill., which was creatively educational and probably more fun than college should be!
d.) Ever adventurous, I hit the road mid-term my junior year to be the lead singer of a rock & roll band, landed in LA at the end of that run, and never looked back!
e.) Acting kept me busy for the first few years in LA, but then the 80s happened and I jumped back to music full-time: big hair, studs and glitter, and the best musical decade of my life.
f.) Met my husband, attorney Pete Wilke, on a film I co-wrote that was being produced in Seattle (he negotiated my contract!)… we eloped eight months later. We have a 22-year-old son who’s a web designer and recent college grad in Environmental Resources Engineering and I also have a lovely stepdaughter from my husband’s previous marriage, who’s an educational administrator and mother of two. Family life is very good!
g.) Just a few years ago, after getting back into music post-motherhood/family life/film foray, I recorded – with my partner at the time – a CD of original tunes called Somewhere On the Way. Roots/rock music, a true labor of love, and definitely a bucket list item I’d like to duplicate soon! Interesting note: one of the songs is featured in my debut novel. If interested, readers can check my website for links.
h.) I’ve spent the last 4 years as a journalist/essayist, writing for a variety of sites – the highest profile being The Huffington Post – on everything from politics, art, current events, cultural observations, etc. I maintain my columns at a number of those sites and newspapers, particularly Huff Post and my blogs (all links at website).
Fiona: Tell us your latest news:
2014 has been all about the completion and publication of my debut novel, After The Sucker Punch. After a few years of pursuing traditional publishing, a somewhat exhausting exercise in deflection, I was encouraged and mentored by wonderful, experienced independent authors to take the indie route. So after a few months of fine-tuning the book, it was published Amazon in both Kindle and paperback in May of this year. It has been, and remains, an amazing journey! Since then I’ve also put up a short story, “She Tumbled Down.”
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I was an avid, voracious reader throughout my childhood, much of which was spent without a TV in the house, and I discovered that words, with their ability to convey ideas, spark emotions; take us on journeys, were not only very powerful, but incredibly exhilarating to play with…at least for me! In high school I wrote for the school paper and was the editor of our senior class literary magazine, so I guess that could be considered as good a starting point as any!
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Beyond the initial foray mentioned in the previous question, as well as some collaborative writing in college, I wouldn’t have considered myself a professional writer until I wrote my first screenplay in the early 80s, a rock & roll romantic comedy called Making Change, written with a friend and writer named Nancy Locke Capers. Subsequent screenplays followed.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I’d always wanted to write a novel; admired – almost revered – any writer who could manage that herculean task, but never felt I had a story with the gravitas, the depth, for that particular medium. Then, several years ago and many years after my father died, a journal of his was brought to my attention. He’d kept journals his entire life… we kids all knew about them, he encouraged us to read them, but most of us had read very few. So this one, which was particularly focused on me, was rather startling to discover, as it was filled with passages directed at me in a very complimentary way (yes, he did use the phrase “she’s failed”!).
I had my understandable reaction, but since I’d had a fairly distant relationship with my father throughout my adult life, his retrospective critique, while hurtful, was not particularly life shattering. But as I read through the passages and shared them with my teenage son, he looked at me incredulously and said, “You have to write a book about this. It’s so crazy that a father would leave something like this for his kid to find!” I agreed. And it was later, when I brought it up in a women’s group I was in at the time, that I realized just how provocatively the incident translated to others:
The women in the group were collectively horrified, most exclaiming that such an indictment from their father, particularly posthumously, would have left them devastated. My curiosity piqued, I then took the prompt – “how would you feel if you found your father’s journal and he said you were a failure?” – to a number of others, both men and women, and accrued a panoply of replies on all sides of the spectrum, most of which found their way into the lives of the various characters in the book.
And that’s how it all started!
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
That’s a good question, because it’s one many people have asked, given that I use fictionalized versions of certain events and characteristics of my own life to color the story! But despite that, and the fact that the “inciting incident” is a spark from within my family, this is not a memoir on any level. I wanted the freedom of fiction to create an imagined family and a protagonist with a journey and a personality I could completely create to serve the characters I’d come up with and the story I wanted to tell. Given the confusion of some over what is “true” in the book and what isn’t, I actually wrote a blog post about it. In the event your readers are interested: The Fact of Fiction: AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH Keeps Readers Guessing
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I think posthumously discovering a journal of your father’s and reading words that define you as a failure, particularly long after you might have had any opportunity to debate or question that characterization, is sort of a classic, existential sucker punch. Given that notion, and since the book opens with Tessa, the book’s protagonist, finding the journals and reading those dreadful words on the night of her father’s funeral, the entire rest of the book – her reaction, the family’s reaction, how it impacts her sense of self, her childhood memories, her grasp of who she is and what’s right or wrong about her – becomes the rather wild journey she takes from that point forward. So After the Sucker Punch seemed a perfect title!
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I tend to be one of those writers who feels there’s merit in having a point, a purpose, a sort of idea to convey in whatever I write. I’m not interested in sappy, on-the-nose, Hollywood/Disney endings, or overly articulated messages, but when I read something, anything, I want to take something away with me – emotion, an idea, a theory, an upliftment… something! So this particular story is focused on, specifically, the concept of self-acceptance, of grasping your truth and not letting anyone dissuade you from it, not even a father. It takes an irreverent look at that often very fraught relationship – father and daughters – exploring the politics of family, faith, cults, creativity, love, and the struggle to define oneself against the inexplicable perceptions of a deceased parent.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No. I tend to take a lot of time getting my work to the point that I declare it “done,” but once it’s done, it’s done. I might, however, have started my marketing and promotion a tad earlier. I wasn’t as savvy as need be about “advanced marketing” that’s typically done and I’m learning that’s something you’re wise to think about before you actually publish. Next time!
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Probably designing the framework of it, sorting out what points I wanted to hit, what essentials were necessary and what weren’t. That first draft was very loooooong! But I’m not one to get tied to a rigid outline; I tend to know my beginning and end, then spend a lot of time creating the characters to the point that I can hear what they’d say and simply transcribe, in a way. I follow their natural actions and reactions based on what I created. I let the characters, and the story, take me where it wants to go… I don’t direct it too much.
If anything, the hardest part has been since I wrote it: the promotion and marketing. Particularly with literary fiction, the category in which this book falls; it’s a category considered harder to sell (generally no series, no high-concepts, less commercial, etc.), so you have to be diligent and creative about how to get your book pulled out of the pack to get in front of an audience that might not initially be drawn to it, but would ultimately like it. I’m currently getting a book trailer produced and am looking at all the many ways in which I can introduce new readers to the book. I think it’s one a very wide range of reader – male and female – would find both enjoyable and moving.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned how much I love the medium. After years of writing screenplays, with their 120-page, very fixed formula and format, the depth and freedom of a novel was exhilarating. It was also daunting, figuring out how “internal” to go, how much “thought” to get into it; how to use the timeline in creative ways. With screenplays it’s all about the action, writing what will be seen onscreen; there’s no room for introspection or pondering. Novels? Completely different… and I was like a kid walking into a toy store, looking up at the shelves and feeling slightly terrified by all the potential choices! I did, ultimately, make those choices, but there were moments!
And of course I learned a tremendous amount about publishing afterwards, for which I’m very grateful, as I intend to do this often!
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
My style is naturalistic, very conversational and contemporary. I learned a lot about writing dialogue in my screenplay experience, so that element of a book is very important to me… to make it flow in a real, human, character-specific way.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
No, I don’t… it was probably something about Dick and Jane! 😀 I do remember loving all the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House on the Prairie books
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
Books that tell amazing, powerful, meaningful stories in ways that infuse you with emotion, give you a visceral sense of time, place, people and events. Favorites would be: To Kill a Mockingbird, Prince of Tides, Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, Crime and Punishment, Grapes of Wrath, Sophie’s Choice; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, A Wrinkle In Time, Middlesex…
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I can’t say I have any particular writer-mentors, but I remember reading Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy, putting it down after I was done and saying to myself: “Why would I ever write when this writer exists and he is so damn good??” Of course, I got past that particular and somewhat counter-productive reaction and let my admiration of his sense and style, and the emotive, rich way in which he tells stories, inspire me to reach for the same.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’ve got The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich on my bed table, chapters in; just finished reading Gone Girl (late to the game and somewhat mixed on it), and am next going to read a short story called “Alex, the Mutt,” written by a lovely indie writer named Brenda Perlin. How’s that for a spectrum?
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I loved indie writer, Martin Crosbie’s book, A Temporary Life; I recently read a book by an indie writer from UK, Kathy Shuker, whose mystery novel, Deep Water Thin Ice, was very good. Authors who are not “new” but new to me that I’m particularly enjoying are Jojo Moyes, whose Me Before You was very moving; Liane Moriarity’s What Alice Forgot I loved, and Juliann Garey’s Too Bright To Hear Too Loud To See, was incredibly gripping.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
The various Facebook/Twitter connections –– writers’ groups, individual writers; resource sites – were very helpful in gathering necessary and important information and sharing it with me. I’m big on research and due diligence and got myself well educated about the process as I went along, but having all those many people and sites was invaluable. The one person who helped me the most was the aforementioned writer, Martin Crosbie. Along with his fiction writing, he published a book called, How I Sold 30,000 eBooks on Amazon’s Kindle-An Easy-To-Follow Self-Publishing Guidebook, that literally became my bible during each step of the process. I’ve gotten to know Martin a bit via Facebook and he is not only a wonderful writer but a generous one, someone who authentically wants to see writers do well and gives them a roadmap with which to do so. I was very grateful for his help.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, certainly. Even before I published this novel, given my years of screenwriting, blogging, journalism, songwriting, etc., it was clear writing was an actual, bona fide, career path. And though I passionately love other artistic mediums as well, writing will always be something that’s a part of my life… I’ve learned there’s something about organizing thoughts and words into cogent form that is essential to my sanity!
Fiona: What are your current projects? I’m currently working on a collection of some of my published non-fiction pieces (essays and commentary), as well as getting started my second novel.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Not so much in my writing, but I do find the marketing/promotional demands a tad exhausting at times. But the writing part has always been as natural as breathing to me… for which I am grateful.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Not as of yet, though I always love having a reason to travel! Perhaps something that takes place in China will have to be next! 😀
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The cover of After the Sucker Punch was designed by a brilliant graphic artist in Chicago named Grace Amandes (who also happens to be my sister!). She used two original photographs of mine for the design and I absolutely love the cover!
“She Tumbled Down” has a cover I designed myself, also using one of my original photographs.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I love deep, chewy, brilliantly written and acted dramas… which mostly occur on cable and are plentiful at the moment. I just finished watching the series, Happy Valley, a BBC import that was astonishing on so many levels. I love many of the usual suspects: Orange is the New Black, Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Broadchurch. Top of the Lake, Game of Thrones, Homeland… so many. There’s more good work on TV today than at the movies, which seem to mostly be comic book films and “big tent” popcorn movies… not my taste. But when a good film does show up, I’m there!
Fiona: Favorite foods /Colors/ Music:
This question makes me feel like a teen idol! 😀
Food: Love most foods (too many, really!), but given my Greek heritage, Mediterranean cuisine holds a special place on my palate. Good old American/California cuisine at its best is another fave. And Italian… everyone loves Italian!
Colors: Everyone who knows me is aware that my fashion palate is black, black, and more black! If I simply must include a color I’ll go with hunter green or dark shades of red. As far as I’m concerned, pastels are the devil. 😀
Music: Grew up on folk music/singer-songwriter artists and Motown… still love all. Got into rock of all kinds (good 80’s rock still gets me!), but particularly love rootsy, soulful, kick-ass rock.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
I’m fortunate enough to live by the beach and power walking along the shoreline is my standard workout and a great brain cleaner. I love to read, and if there’s a way to dance to good funk, I’m all over it. Photography is more than a hobby for me; it’s another one of my creative businesses (my photography website)
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
My biggest, longest, most passionate dream from childhood forward was to be an international recording artist and performer. I have a long history in music, starting from my early teenage years, and spent a good portion of my adult life fully immersed. Interestingly, after a bit of a dry spell regarding music, I just got a song put into rotation at an Internet radio station and took the occasion to write about it. If anyone’s interested: Then Suddenly There’s Music Again… Women Of Substance Radio
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Be very clear what your voice is, what you want to say, and how you want to say it. Learn, practice, listen and be humble, but also hold true to who you are and WHAT YOUR VOICE IS. So important. As writers, particularly indie writers, we get LOTS of input from so many people and places and while much of it is essential, valuable, and worthy of our rapt attention, some of it is noise. The more you learn your craft, your style, and your particular sensibilities as a writer, the more you’re able to authentically make the distinction. Secondly, for indie writers: when putting work out into the world, hold yourself to the highest bar possible. Create work that could sit next to any bestselling author in the world. Define professional editing, copy editing, formatting, and cover art as “costs of business” and non-negotiable. Hold out for the highest quality in every arena. And lastly, when you can’t write for one reason or another, step away, put on some headphones with your favorite dance music, and go walk/dance to your favorite walking place as fast as you can. Works every time!
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
First of all, I could not be more grateful for my readers. Any artist of any ilk, in any medium, creates art not only because they must (and they must), but also because they want to communicate something to an audience. That audience is a most essential, precious part of the flow. There’s nothing better to me than getting an email from someone telling me how much my work touched them, stirred their emotions, or made them feel like their lives were being reflected in some way. That is the point for me: to create that effect. So “thank you” to those who already are my readers, and “welcome… please come in” to the rest!
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Given that your audience, Fiona, largely consists of readers of note, I first want to share the Amazon page where my books are listed: Amazon Author Page/LDW
My official site, http://www.lorrainedevonwilke.com, is the place to go for everything else – my music, my photography, my articles, my social media, my blogs, etc. I hope everyone will stop by and spend some time… there are lots of details, links and great pictures!
Thank you so much, Fiona, for your interest in my work, my process, and my perspective. Have a great day!
Lorraine Devon Wilke