Sunday, November 15, 2009

Lisa Hess / Author/ Educator and Professional Counselor

From the Heart Readers, I’d like you to meet author Lisa Hess. Lisa is a wife, mother, author and educator and has been a school counselor for nearly 25 years. She has also been writing professionally for the last 16.

Lisa what are you hoping your writing to accomplish?

My non-fiction books arose from lessons and small groups I’ve done with my students, and I hope they’ll make skills like assertiveness (Acting Assertively) and organization (the non-fiction book I’m working on now) accessible.

I wrote the stories for Diverse Divorce to help kids feel less alone, and that’s part of what I want to accomplish with my fiction as well. My first tween novel was originally a story the editor and I mutually agreed was not a good fit for Diverse Divorce. The character wouldn’t let go of me, and so her story became my first novel.

I like to write about real people dealing with real situations. They’re not always pretty (the situations), and they’re usually messy and perhaps even discouraging, but not impossible to overcome. Real people are flawed and don’t fit neatly into stereotypes, and that makes them fun to write about.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Maybe it’s the counselor in me, but I like writing about the underdog, especially if the underdog is feisty. The feisty part is definitely the Jersey girl in me! I get my inspiration from real people who don’t let circumstances crush them and keep them down. I’m not very good at doing research for my fiction, though I do go online for visual inspiration – flowers or a gown for a wedding scene, people visuals for characters I can’t quite picture clearly.

For my non-fiction books, I take much of my inspiration from the needs I see in my students and I try a lot of my ideas out on them. Acting Assertively arose directly from classroom lessons, and Get it Together! (the book on organizing I am working on now) started out as small group lessons for kids who were struggling to get their act together.

Is there an area in your writing that you are working on developing more?

Is it bad to say that I hate writing synopses, or writing from synopses? I tend to be a discovery writer, particularly when I am writing fiction. I don’t have a lot of faith in my ability to plot. I tend to follow where my characters lead.

Also, I’m trying to blog more regularly. That keeps me writing tight because there’s not a lot of room for rambling in a blog unless you’re already famous.

What is your all time favorite writing ‘How To’ book? One that you would like to recommend to other authors.

Hands down, Stephen King’s On Writing. That was the book that gave me the courage to follow where my characters lead. I neither read nor write horror, but I love reading King’s writing outside that genre, which includes his column in Entertainment Weekly.

What obstacles have stood in your way in this writing journey?

I think every writer has to overcome the obstacle of time – there doesn’t ever seem to be enough of it. I’m fortunate to have a very supportive family and an awesome critique group, who keep nudging me forward when I place obstacles in my own path. Raising my daughter is the most important thing on my current ‘to do’ list. The books will be there tomorrow, but she won’t be twelve forever. Sometimes, however, I forget that when I get cranky about not finding time to write.

Finding time and keeping the faith when it gets hard, which it often does. I just keep chipping away in small bits of time. My critique group and my sister, who also reads my work with a writer/editor’s eye often give me encouragement when I need it most. And, as I said, my family is very supportive. My mother and my daughter in particular will humor me when I talk about my characters as though they are real people.

When did you begin writing seriously and with publication in mind?

Right before my husband and I got married (1993), I changed jobs and went from working full-time to an 80% schedule (4 days/week). My sister suggested that I use the extra day to write, and that’s when I started freelancing. I didn’t start working on novels until about five years ago when two of the stories I wrote for Diverse Divorce ended up not making it into the book. Since then, I’ve written two tween novels, one Christian chick lit novel and am at work on another book for the educational market and two more novels.

Tell us about your book, Casting the First Stone and what it is about. How did you come to write this title?

Casting the First Stone is about separating church from religion. Marita, the single mom whose custody of her daughter is threatened by her ex’s sudden interest was the first character I planned. From there it was “what ifs.” What if Marita felt rejected by the church when she got pregnant with Charli? What if Charli’s mostly absent father was an upstanding, churchgoing businessman? What if his new wife appeared to be a better mother than Marita? Does a woman deserve to lose custody of her child just because she doesn’t go to church? And what if things are not always what they seem?

I write contemporary Christian chick lit that is perhaps a bit edgy because that’s what I like to read and I have thus far had a hard time finding many books that fit that description. I like writing about real people who are flawed – the ones who struggle to make the right choice, yet often make the wrong one anyway, the ones who struggle to live their faith. I like finding the redeeming qualities in people who, at first blush, may not seem to possess redeeming qualities.

Any new projects are you working on?

Non-fiction: Get it Together – a book on organization with a very non-traditional approach Fiction: A novel about a professional organizer who finds that keeping her own life in order is much more difficult than creating order out of other people’s chaos; AND a sequel to Casting the First Stone with the theme of being careful what you wish for

Where can people find out more about you and your writing?
Facebook - Lisa Lawmaster Hess – my blogs show up there, too
I’m also on Jacket Flap and Linked In

What is the best writing advice you ever got? The worst?

BEST: Anne Lamott’s infamous chapter on, um, lousy first drafts, along with the specific feedback I get from my critique group and Diana’s reminder that God’s timing is always perfect, and that she likes writers with a quirky perspective.

WORST: The assumption (my own) that I have to plot out the entire novel before I write it.

Anything else you'd like to take this opportunity to say?

Thank you for having me!


What I like: chocolate, fall, summer vacation and authors who pay it forward.
What I Don't Like: people who are mean on purpose
Where is Home / or / Where I'd like to Call Home: home for the past 30 years has been Pennsylvania, but home for the first 18 was New Jersey. I’ll always be a Jersey girl, and proud of it.
What is my passion, hobbies, occupation, etc.: Writing is my passion, followed closely by sleep because as I get older, I more fully appreciate its importance. I used to do a lot of theatre, but I seem to have transferred that creative energy to my writing.
If I could run a charity, it would be for: families with children who can’t afford health/mental health care

Thanks Lisa for visiting with us today and all the best to you in your publishing goals!

Have a great day, from my heart to yours,


Jeanette Levellie said...

What an encouraging interview! How I wish I'd had you for a counselor in my teen years, wait, I could use you NOW! I'll have to read your book...

Many blessings,
Audience of ONE

Caroline said...

Lisa, great interview. I'd love to read your books! Thanks, Diana for having her on this blog!