Name – Lori Crane
Age – fifty mumble
Where are you from? I’m originally from Mississippi, now live in Nashville.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I live in Nashville with my trophy husband and a menagerie of critters. I have two grown children, two horses, a donkey, a cow, twenty-two chickens, two geese, two ducks, one cat, one dog…and a partridge in a pear tree. I work nights as a professional musician and days as an indie author. I don’t sleep.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
April 2015, I released the first in the four-book Culpepper Saga, “I, John Culpepper.” It is the story of the real man historians refer to as John Culpepper the merchant who was born in 1606 in England. As a lad, he was trained to be a lawyer, but against his father’s wishes, he decided to be a ship merchant instead. The series finds John’s ship becoming the lifeboat that keeps his family from certain execution during the English Civil War, and eventually, John’s unwanted law-school education becomes the only thing standing between his son’s life and death. Apparently, everything happens for a reason, especially for John Culpepper.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve always been a fan of genealogy, and I found people and stories that I thought other descendants should know, so I started writing them down.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
The moment I held my first book in my hands. I ran around the house, screaming like that boy in “Home Alone.”
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
While doing family research, I came across my 3rd great-grandmother, Mary Ann Rodgers. I found she lost seventeen family members in one year to typhoid and the Civil War…including her husband, her son, and both parents. I couldn’t wrap my head around that kind of loss and wondered how she found the strength to get out of bed each morning. Her story became “Okatibbee Creek.”
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Yes, I’m sure I do, but others could probably pinpoint it better than I. I write simply, not using heavy jargon or big words, and I try to write a tight story without too much description. I just want to tell the story.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
For my first book, I wanted something that would be notable and pinpoint the location of the story. Okatibbee Creek (pronounced oh-kuh-TIB-bee) is a real place in Mississippi and is a pretty memorable name, especially if you can’t pronounce it the first few times.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The real message in all of my books is that there is more to life than today’s trivial ups and downs. We are all descendants of survivors. I think in that, we have a responsibility to create a life that means something. There were many before us who fought for our rights, our freedoms, our lives. Don’t waste the opportunity you’ve been given. Do something to warrant what your ancestors have given you.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
I write historical fiction, so most of the names, locations, and facts are real, only the personalities are made up.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
My current book, “I, John Culpepper,” is based on my 10th great-grandfather who is the progenitor of the modern-day American Culpeppers.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I love all books. It’s hard to narrow it down just one or two. My favorite genre is historical fiction. I love seeing personalities put to characters we already know.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m reading “One Giant Leap” by J.T. Sterling. It is a mixture of history, conspiracy theories, and fiction…sort of genealogy meets “The Da Vinci Code.”
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I have many favorites…Christoph Fischer, Anna Belfrage, P.C. Zick.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I’m finishing books three and four in the Culpepper Saga through fall of 2015, then I’ll decide what comes next.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Strangely enough, I think it’s Amazon. Who else can send out an email to millions of readers?
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I’ve debated retiring from my music career for the last few years, but I can’t commit. Writing takes up more time than music and is definitely a full-time career.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Nope. I love John Culpepper!
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I had a vivid dream (“Savannah’s Bluebird”) that I mentioned to my trophy husband, who replied, “You should write a book.” I got the same response from my daughter that afternoon, and again later that evening from my son. On the way home from dinner that night, we passed a highway billboard that read, “Publish Your Book!” I think the universe was yelling at me, so I did it.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Sure. Here’s the opening scene.
“No! For the hundredth time, no!”
John looked down at the intricate grain of the walnut desk beneath his fingertips and shifted his weight to his other foot. He sighed, feeling his dreams disintegrate before his very eyes. The snap of the white sails, the taste of the salty spray on his lips, the smell of the tar that sealed the decks—the visions were quickly vanishing behind the thick fog of his father’s adamant disapproval. He pictured his mighty ship sinking into the black waters of condemnation, bubbling like a cauldron as it disappeared from sight. There was nothing he could do to change his father’s mind, and he wondered whatever possessed him to come to this man for assistance. He should have known better.
His father glared at John from behind the desk. He propped his elbow on the scrolled arm of the chair as his large hand methodically stroked his pointed beard. “Is there anything else?” he snapped.
John didn’t look up. He shook his head and mumbled, “No.” He turned and padded across the thick rug toward the door, listening to the man’s heavy breathing behind him. He reached for the brass doorknob, paused, and turned back. “You know I’ve always done everything you’ve asked of me. I went to school. I studied to be a lawyer. I did it all for you. I never wanted to practice law. I’d never be happy on the bench.”
“Happy? What makes you think life has anything to do with being happy? You are a Culpepper, and as such, you have an obligation to serve your family and your king in a manner befitting your station. This childish notion of owning a ship is nothing but rubbish.”
John released the doorknob and walked back toward his father’s desk. The intimidating man dwarfed the desk, his size exaggerated by the broad shoulders of his leather jerkin, yet he sat up taller in his chair in preparation for the quarrel to continue. It was a wasted gesture, as his opponent already knew the battle was lost.
John made sure he didn’t raise his voice. “Father, you have financed merchant ships for as long as I can remember. What difference does it make if I’m the one who owns the ship?”
“Culpeppers don’t own ships. I funded those expeditions as an investment—a losing investment, I might add.” He rose from his chair and his voice grew louder, echoing off the oak panels that lined the walls. “There has never been a Culpepper placed in a position of experiencing hunger and savages and shipwrecks, and there won’t be one now, not with my blood written on the purchase. I will not fund a ship for you, John, not now, not ever.” He pointed his finger in John’s face. “And if you somehow find a way to procure a ship, mark my words—I will disinherit and disown you. No son of mine will become a common sailor. I am finished with this conversation once and for all. Have I made myself clear?”
John exhaled, beaten. His shoulders slumped as he broke his father’s glare and dropped his eyes to the floor.
“John? Have I made myself clear?”
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Sometimes I burn out. The most challenging part of writing for me is pacing myself so I don’t sit at the computer for eighteen days straight.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I love Philippa Gregory. I love how the reader is instantly placed in the middle of the scene in the first paragraph. She has an amazing way of being descriptive without lengthy paragraphs of descriptions.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
No, I travel in my other job as a musician. I was on the road thirty-nine weeks in 2014, but that’s when I get my rough drafts written.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Rob at Elite Book Design creates all of my covers. “An Orphan’s Heart” placed in the Final Top 10 at the 2013 Authorsdb Book Cover Contest, and “Stuckey’s Bridge” and “Elly Hays” placed in the semi-finals in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Procrastination. After nine books published, and three more in the pipeline, I have developed a system for researching and writing, but I still get stressed out by deadlines because I love to procrastinate.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learn something from every book, and hope that continues forever. The most recent thing I learned is how to use a “dumb puppet” instead of prolonged paragraphs of explanation and back story. Dumb puppets are characters or bystanders who know nothing about what is going on, so someone has to explain it to them. It’s a lot more effective than stopping the action for three paragraphs just to dump information on your reader. If you find yourself thinking, “And now, back to our story,” try a dumb puppet.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Stay true to yourself. Know why you write what you write. Know why your characters do what they do, so you can proudly stand behind your work when a critic says something negative. (And they will.)
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
“Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret” by Judy Blume. I was maybe ten and thought it amazing to transport into someone else’s thoughts, especially since they so resembled my thoughts at that age.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Stupid puns and play-on-words make me laugh. What did the fish say when he hit a brick wall? Dam. – Family crisis makes me cry. Life is sometimes very hard.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
I would like to meet my 3rd great-grandmother, Mary Ann Rodgers, from “Okatibbee Creek.” I would like to hear her thoughts on the struggles she went through.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
No headstone. Just bury me in the backyard and plant a tree.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
I love all art. I created all the artwork in my house. I sew quilts. I garden and cook and can. Anything that takes creative planning is my joy.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I don’t watch TV or care much about movies.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Favorite food: Sweet tea. Favorite color: pink. Favorite music: anything except gangster rap.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
When I was young, I loved nature and photography. I thought I’d get a degree in marine biology with a minor in photography and go to work for Jacques Cousteau or National Geographic. Alas, I became the church pianist at the age of nine and have been in the music business ever since. I currently work for Norwegian Cruise Lines, performing a dueling piano show – think classic rock meets Vaudeville.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?