Q&A: Loree Lough (A Man of Honor)
We talk to romance writer Loree Lough about A Man of Honor (Abingdon Press): A part-time search and rescue team member (and pastor) and a volunteer teacher join the search for a missing teenage girl...
WHAT INSPIRED YOUR BOOK A MAN OF HONOR?
One of my nephews was a paramedic, and two of my siblings were soldiers. Every time the family gets together, they share stories about the work they did...stories that hold everyone spellbound and make us realize how blessed we are to have people like them in our midst. But it wasn't until I sat, glued to my TV set on 9/11, that I fully understood just how awe-inspiring their commitments truly are. Like most Americans, watching them walk so bravely into the mayhem to rescue others made me feel inadequate and ungrateful, because I'd never done anything to show my appreciation for all they were willing to sacrifice.
Then one morning a few years after the tragedy, I was driving along as part of a routine day, the blaring siren and flashing lights of an ambulance required me to pull onto the road's shoulder. As I sat on there, turn signal click-clacking, I thought of the many news stories I'd recently heard, about First responders who were still struggling with the loss of good friends—some who were blood kin—or who had lost limbs, went blind, who'd been diagnosed with cancer because of what they'd inhaled at Ground Zero.
Soon afterward, I shared that mind-opening moment with friends and family, and was shocked when a few of them looked at me as though I'd grown a second nose. These were decent, church-going citizens; if they'd forgotten what those brave first responders gave that day, how many other Americans had forgotten what our 9/11 first responders had sacrificed!
That was the night I dreamed about writing a series that would feature these brave men and women, not during or soon after that horrible day, but years later. The idea followed me around for weeks: Not only could the stories serve as a brief reminder of what these brave men and women did on 9/11, but it would make readers aware that they continue to grapple with physical, emotional, and spiritual issues, all these years later. And I could donate a portion of the series' proceeds to organizations founded to help them cope....
WHEN MAKING UP STORIES, HOW MUCH DO YOU DRAW ON YOUR OWN LIFE EXPERIENCES AND PEOPLE YOU KNOW, VERSUS DRAWING ON RESEARCH ABOUT COMPLETE STRANGERS?
Research is important, critical, even, if we hope to write memorable, soul-stirring stories. But I believe past experiences are what gives authors the insights and empathy to create believable characters who bring those stories to life. Without realistic people, living lives that readers can identify with, our novels will seem as bland an uninteresting as a lecture!
IN YOUR NEW NOVEL, WHO IS THE CHARACTER IN THIS STORY WHO SURPRISED YOU MOST?
While I liked and enjoyed them all, I have to say that my favorite is Dusty Parker. When he left behind his less-than-stellar past, he held on to his Harley, ponytail, tattoos and pierced ear as reminders of who and what he'd been before becoming a Christian. And as he coped with memories of the event that changed him forever, he became an admirable, respectable man who shows readers that there is joy in life, even in the midst of struggles and strife. All of us know people like Dusty, who are determined to turn tragedy into triumph. These are the people we strive to emulate, and why wouldn't we!
WHAT PROJECTS ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW?
I'm working on a series for Harlequin Heartwarming that features characters who suddenly find themselves in the care of a helpless child. These books will 'hit the shelves' early in 2013, along with For Love of Eli (one of the Quilts of Love stories from Abingdon), which ironically also features a parentless child.
WHAT DO YOU WANT READERS TO TAKE AWAY FROM YOUR BOOK?
In addition to interviews with nearly 200 first responders, I talked with the co-workers, friends and family members of those who died that day. After reading everything 9/11-related I could get my hands on (including Lynn Spencer's gripping as-it-happened book, Touching History), I watched hours and hours of documentaries. I also visited Ground Zero several times, most recently, just before the 10th anniversary of the tragedy. Plus it took two years to actually write all three novels. All the while, John 15:10 echoed in my head ("Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."). Remarkably, first responders live that verse every time they don their uniforms…for total strangers! It will be the answer to a prayer if readers come away understanding that. And if they're moved to help these courageous souls by joining forces with one of the organizations that assist soldiers and other first responders (see the list by clicking the Giving Back tab at http://www.loreelough.com/), well, wouldn't that be a blessing!