I loved this story of a small boy and his wisdom. What inspired For Love of Eli, one of the Quilts of Love series published by Abingdon?
Loree: Before answering your questions, Anne, I'd like to thank you for featuring For Love of Eli on your blog! I'm delighted and honored to have an opportunity to interact with your followers and appreciate your generosity more than words can say!
As for what inspired the 4th book in Abingdon's "Quilts of Love" series, I'd have to say Eli is the result of my love for 'old' stuff (such as the hundreds of quilts my grandmother-in-law made in her lifetime) and my affinity for the underdog. In this case, Eli...the innocent young boy left parentless when his mom and dad die.
Anne: Not long ago you posted a picture of a boy who looks like how you pictured Eli. I had to put it here for others to see, too.
So, how do you choose names for your characters--not all of them, just the ones in this book?
Loree: Sometimes, I choose character names after meeting someone with an unusual moniker. Other times, I make the selection based on the 'music' of the letter combinations. And occasionally, the name selection is the direct result of a specific trait I want to highlight (such as strength, warmth, or joy). In the case of the characters in For Love of Eli, the names were chosen to depict personalities. Taylor, the heroine, lives up to the meaning of her name: Hardworking and cheerful. Reece is a Welsh name that means "enthusiastic." A certain enthusiasm was demanded of this hero--especially when he was a youngster--to fill mother/father/big brother roles for his younger sister, while earning enough money to care for them and graduate from college and medical school. Little Eli's name means "uplifted." I can't think of a more uplifting experience than to be protected and nurtured by two people who love you the way Taylor and Reece loved this little boy!
Anne: How do you decide the settings?
Loree: I think stories always feel more "real" when the author has lived or spent time in the cities/towns where the stories are set. Whether historical or contemporary, I place a lot of my characters in the Baltimore area because, living here, I know more about it than just about any other place. I've set stories in states I've visited, like Alaska, Montana, Colorado and more. Readers often write to let me know how excited they were about reaching a passage that featured a street or site in their home town.
Anne: In all the books I've read by you, there's an element of tragedy in the backstory. Why?
Loree: Tragedy is part of life. Everyone's life. Some tragedies are huge and life-changing. Others smaller, with less impact on a person's present...and future. And the same is true of readers. I believe when they find a book that rings with truth--even hard truths--they feel more like they're part of the story, because they closely identify with those events. Many, many readers have written to thank me for not shying away from those hard truths, and for showing how characters cope with and overcome those tragedies. Thousands of readers (literally!) have written to tell me how a character's efforts at solving problems, at healing, at turning to God for help in coping with unresolved issues helped put them on the road to recovery.
Anne: Do you base your books on real events?
Loree: I think all fiction is based, at least to some degree, on real life. In my stories, I try to take a life-altering episode from each character's life, and build on that. Triumph over tragedy is always uplifting, and when characters find ways to grow in faith, readers get a subliminal message. The more realistically I paint the events and the characters' reactions and attitudes toward them, the more believable they are for the reader. So whether the event took place (in real life) in a news story or something a friend or family member went through, the be-all, end-all is taking characters to a new and better place, because of their renewed and improved relationship with God.
Anne: What do you want people to take from Eli?
Loree: My goal in every novel is that readers will take something positive from the story...even those that don't have the stereotypical happy ending. In For Love of Eli, I hope readers will put the book down feeling satisfied that I tied things up in a way that brings glory to God and brings the characters to a better place.
Anne: And, finally, would you like to tell us a little about your next book?
Loree: This three-book series for Harlequin's new "Heartwarming" line has been such a joy to develop and write! In the "A Child to Love" series, heroes and heroines--some who are confirmed bachelors and bachelorettes--find themselves in the position of parenting a parentless child! The series will begin releasing later this year. Stay tuned for release dates!
Anne: Thanks, Loree. I'll be looking forward to the next series. I think people will agree with me that you are One Fantastic Writer.
By the way, folks--leave a comment on this blog or on the review of For Love of Eli posted yesterday (click HERE) and be entered to win a free copy of Eli. US and Canadian readers only, please, and leave an email to contact you. Comments must be made by Wednesday, April 17, 2013.