I’d like to welcome bestselling Inspirational Romance Author, Lenora Worth, who has so graciously accepted my invitation for this interview. Lenora is the author of more than thirty novels. Lenora, I’d like to begin with some background information because you’re a tough one to get a bio on :) Through some research, I found you were born in Georgia. So let’s begin there.
CB: What was your childhood like, growing up in Georgia? Parents, siblings, pets?
CB: What was your childhood like, growing up in Georgia? Parents, siblings, pets?
LW: Oh, yes on siblings and pets. (I had parents, too, of course.) I was the baby of the family. Seven children. I was always in trouble but I also learned to sit back and just watch—a trait that has served me well in being a writer. I had cats, dogs and I fed the hogs and pigs every afternoon after school. I hated the isolation of living on a farm but now when I look back, I can see that quiet, lonely time helped to shape my imagination and my dreams of being a writer.
CB: You married your childhood sweetheart. Since you write romance, tell us how he ‘romanced you’ into marrying him?
LW: Well, we were young and a bit naïve, but on about our third date he told me “I love you, I think.” I thought that was sweet. There never was a formal moment where he proposed. We just knew we wanted to get married. But he can be very romantic—such as the time he “kidnapped” me and took me on a romantic weekend for our anniversary.
CB: You have two children. Do they also have a love for writing?
LW: I have a daughter and a son—both grown now and yes, they both have creative streaks. My daughter is trying to write to sell in romance and my son writes songs, plays guitar and piano. They both love to read.
CB: What one ingredient influenced you the most to write Inspirational Romance?
LW: I think it was a combination of my upbringing as a Southern Baptist and the notion that God is such an important part of our lives, why not put that thread in a love story. I’m a Methodist now and my faith has grown through the years, so it just feels natural to me to include a faith element in my stories.
CB: Tell us about that first book sale, because I understand you had several rejections before selling your first story.
LW: Yes, I have a big stack of rejection letters. My first sale to Avalon came in 1993, two years after one of my older sisters had died in a wreck caused by a drunk driver. The year after her death I found it hard to write, but I managed to push through. I talked to the Avalon editor at a conference in New Orleans and she told me to send her something. So I did. Then I got a bad case of the flu and I was so sick I could barely get out of bed. Well, she called during my sickness and I thought she was a telemarketer and almost hung up on her. I actually thought my fever had me hallucinating! But it wasn’t a dream—it was a dream come true!
CB: What advice do you offer other authors also facing rejection and pondering where to go next?
LW: Rejection is tough and yes, we do take it personally even though we are told not to do so. But if you don’t send anything out, you will never know. And I’d rather have ten rejections than one “Why didn’t I ever try again?” I also tell people that if you want to write and you don’t do so, you’re not using the gift God has granted you. Because that one story might be the one somebody out there needs to hear.
CB: Does your location or family play a part in your inspiration for your story ideas?
LW: Oh, yes. I love southern locations because that’s what I know best and I use elements from my family and my childhood memories to color my stories. When I look back, I find something in each book that stems from a real event or memory that happened in my life. The south lends itself to mystery and that bit of gothic appeal, and in the south we pride ourselves on having big, chaotic, colorful families, so I use the good and the bad of that mixed blessing to create my stories.
CB: Have you ever written or considered writing in any other genre?
LW: I did write five books for the secular market, but I just wasn’t comfortable with getting too graphic or steamy. I’d love to write a lush historical one day and maybe a big old mainstream with all those southern gothic elements I love.
CB: You have a new book just released this month. Tell us about Heart of the Night.
LW: Oh, this is one of my favorite books (and I don’t brag on my stories a lot). But Eli Trudeau just stole my heart when he appeared in Secret Agent Minister (which was out in 2007.) He is one of my Christian secret agents and he’s a member of CHAIM, an organization of specially trained agents who help Christians in danger the world over. Eli had a lot of angst and he needed to find God’s love, so writing this book was both a joy and a very painful experience at times. And I was able to showcase Louisiana and especially Grand Isle, a place I fell in love with when I went down there on a mission trip to help rebuild after the recent hurricanes.
CB: What other books can we look forward to this year?
LW: The next installment of the CHAIM series is due out in April and that’s Code of Honor. The hero is Irish/American and he’s almost as adorable as Eli. He shows up in Eli’s book, but his story is set in Atlanta and Ireland.
CB: How important is it for an author, or aspiring author, to join a writing guild? What value of joining can one expect and do you contribute your success to the knowledge gained by doing so?
LW: Well, joining any type of group where you find like-minded people is always helpful. You know you’re amongst those who understand you. And then there’s the instant education you receive by attending meetings and workshops. You learn about the business side of writing, which can bring down even the strongest amongst us, and you learn how to handle everything from rejections to dealing with contracts. Plus, it gives you inspiration to keep on trying, no matter what. The experience of joining a guild or group is priceless to me. I have friends now from all over the world and I cherish the blessing of that.
CB: Do you plot out your stories in advance or just sit down and begin typing once an idea pops into your head?
LW: I usually get an idea of a scene in my head and it just won’t go away. Then I jot down that scene as I saw it. After that, I just let the story develop until I can do a short synopsis. After that, I usually present that to my editor and if it’s a go, I begin the process of fleshing out the story. I’m an odd bird in that I’m part seat of the pants and part methodical plotter. I edit heavily with each chapter so I don’t have to spend a lot of time on the back side getting things done.
CB: Do you work on more than one piece at the same time? And if so, is that ever confusing or does it make it easier to move back and forth between them?
LW: Yes, lately I’ve been doing that a lot because I’ve been blessed with new projects. It does get confusing sometimes, but I try to work on one story maybe in the morning and then shift to the other one that night. Or take it day by day. Sometimes I’m working on one and the characters from the other one seem to interrupt with “Hey, we have this situation” or “When do we get a turn?” It’s very confusing having all these people in my head.
CB: Has Inspirational Romance always been your favorite genre to read as well?
LW: I read everything, but inspirationals have always played a strong part in my choices. I read Christy in high school. And Anne of Green Gables, but I also read Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. Love the classics and love to read lots of different things to keep myself updated, and to try and keep a finger on the pulse of the industry. I like historicals and suspense, so I read a lot in those areas.
CB: What one experience out of many, can you attribute your success to and why?
LW: Determination! If I had time here to tell you how the odds were so against me, you’d understand why I still pinch myself each time I sell a book! I knew I wanted to write when I was a child, but I just thought it was a dream. Then as I got older, I thought it could maybe be more than a dream. I fought my way into this business, word by word, with so many naysayers talking in my head that it’s a wonder I ever sent anything out. But I think we have to have a bit of strong ego in this business, and by that I don’t mean we’re stuck on ourselves and self-centered. I mean we have to stay focused, keep our eyes on the prize and never give up. I wanted this badly enough to do it—I worked hard, I tried and tried, I cried, I prayed and I learned the craft of writing. It’s not easy, but I never gave up.
CB: Where can we learn more about you and your books should we wish to follow your career as it progresses?
LW: You can go to my website at www.lenoraworth.com. You can visit me at the craftieladiesofromance.blogspot.com. We also have a Craftie Ladies of Romance blog spot, too. Or visit eharlequin to find out about all the Steeple Hill writers.
CB: Where can your readers connect with you on a personal level and do you encourage your followers to write to you with questions?
LW: I don’t mind questions at all. I love hearing from readers and aspiring writers. I don’t have a lot of time to read manuscripts, but I’m always willing to answer questions and guide people to find the right answers. People can email me through my website.
CB: Finishing this up, can you briefly tell us the steps you’ve taken to become published and up to this point in your career, and what advice can you offer other writers still waiting for their ‘big break’?
LW: Steps—I had a dream, but I knew I needed goals. So my first goal was to learn how to write a publishable romance novel. I learned that by reading books, going to conferences and asking questions. I also read a lot in the genres I wanted to write in. Then I learned how to write a whole book. (Very important step—I see a lot of first chapters and proposal, but somehow that writer never finishes the book. SO FINISH THE BOOK. Then I learned how to query and send out proposals, how to find an agent and how to conduct business in this industry. I realized I had to be professional, firm, focused and current—and that means knowing the market, studying the market and changing with the market. I also found my voice and my writing style. The worst mistake I see with aspiring writers is impatience. They want it all now! It takes time to develop and cultivate a writing style and a business style. There are always exceptions to the rules, but you have to learn the rules before you can break them. Best advice—read, read, read, write, write, write and learn and listen from others. And most important, let God guide you and wait for His time.