9 Sep 2014

Interview with author Lori M Jones

Can you tell us a little about your latest book?
It’s about a woman’s journey of finding love again after her husband leaves her for another man. But will a sizzling secret romance with a famous NFL quarterback lead her to winning the life she deserves or set her up for her biggest loss yet? As Amanda embarks on the journey of rebuilding her home, she discovers that finding forgiveness and repairing her damaged self-worth are her biggest challenges of all. While searching her soul–and even searching inside her city's history–she finds answers. But will answers come too late and can a broken heart ever be truly fixed?

What inspired you to write it? 
I wanted to use my own journey of surviving divorce (with similar circumstances) and finding forgiveness and turn it into a character’s story. So, I took my own experience, married it with a “what if” scenario and threw in my love of Pittsburgh and football (added in some fantasy) and Renaissance was born. I’d heard Stephanie Meyer (author of Twilight) say how she got started by simply writing down her fantasy on her laptop while being a stay at home mom. Shortly after, I sat down at my own laptop and typed away!

How did you come up with the idea for the cover?
I wanted a romantic feel, but since the story is also a woman’s journey, I wanted the back of them walking away. Her ponytail, their workout clothes, are all in the story. And since the city of Pittsburgh is a character in the story, it had to be on the cover too! Soul Mate’s cover artist Leah Suttle did the rest!

If it was made into a movie, who would you like to play the main characters?
Susan Rafferty from the tv show Suits would make a perfect Amanda. And Bradley would be Ryan Reynolds or Channing Tatum!

What is it about this genre that appeals to you so much?

I enjoy writing romance because I love making people fall in love and creating all those tense moments leading up to it. I also love writing women’s fiction because I enjoy delving into all those complex thoughts and emotions that make up the beauty of being a woman. I think this creates relatable characters that all women can enjoy. I also love writing about forbidden love!

What made you want to become an author?
I began writing children’s stories but always wanted to take a stab at novel writing. Once I started, I could never look back. Crafting stories brings me a joy and fulfilment that I couldn’t live without. It’s the ultimate form of expression of emotions – for me.

How do you come up with character names?
For this book, I used names of family & friends for all the support characters. Derrick, Lilly & Jake were just names I liked and fit the characters personalities. For Amanda & Bradley, twenty years ago, I decided to try to write a romance novel. I had the main characters’ names – Amanda and Bradley – but had no plot, nothing to write about. Then life happened to me and I gathered lots of plot! So, when I wrote Renaissance, I kept the names Amanda and Bradley.

Name one of your all-time favourite books?
Catcher in the Rye and Of Mice and Men are my favorite classics. But my favorite romance is the Thorn Birds – the ultimate story of forbidden love!

Who, or what, inspires you?
I gather my inspiration from my own life, observing others’ lives, from everywhere! Eventually some ideas will mush together in just the right way and a character is born!

Where is your favourite place to write?
Coffee shops and on a bar stool at my kitchen island. Also, every Wednesday I gather at a local restaurant with a group of writers and we write together for four hours in the restaurant’s meeting room. Before we start, we are led in a relaxing writing mediation exercise. It’s magical!

What is your favourite movie that was based on a book?
Was Dirty Dancing based on a book?? Just kidding. I’m going to have to go with the Twilight series!

Name two of your favourite authors.
Anita Shreve and Emily Giffin. But currently I’m loving Liane Moriarty.

If you could have a dinner party with any authors from any time in history, who would you choose and why?

Fun question! Virginia Woolf because she’s fascinating, Jane Austin because she’d be cool, Nathaniel Hawthorne because he’s genius, Dr. Seuss because he’d be funny, Emily Giffin because she’s my kind of author, and Stephen King, because he’s Stephen King!

Tell us a random fact about yourself.
I’m the president of the Children’s Heart Foundation PA chapter that funds research to end congenital heart defects.

Who would play you in the movie about your life? 
photo credit: Stacie Joy for CTTC via photopin cc
I get told all the time that I remind people of Kelly Ripa. So if Kelly goes the movie actor route, she can play me!

Tell us an interesting fact about where you live.
I use a lot of interesting facts about Pittsburgh in my novel, but two things that I didn’t put in there was the Big Mac was invented here and Mr. Roger’s neighborhood was here!

What are your (writing) plans for the future?
I’m hoping to finish my third novel this month and start the editing process. Hoping to start the fourth novel soon after! I’m still shopping for a home for my second novel. I’m just kind of seeing where this journey takes me, with no solid plan!

Tell us one thing that's on your bucket list. 
To attend a live taping of Dancing with the Stars or the filming of The Bachelor – the Final Rose! Cheesy ☺

Favourite myth / fairytale?
I love the myth about how we were all created with four arms, four legs and two faces. And then Zeus split everyone in half. It’s our mission in life to seek out our other half. It’s the myth of finding our soul mates.

Who did you want to be when you were a kid?

The 4th Charlie’s Angel or a paramedic on Emergency! And I loved Valerie Bertinelli!

Thank you! This interview was a lot of fun! 
It certainly was! I loved you answers, Lori :)

After her husband of fifteen years comes out of the closet, a blindsided, forty-year-old Amanda Lewis is forced to salvage what remains of her shattered heart and navigate a new life for herself and her teenage daughter. But will a sizzling secret romance with a famous young NFL quarterback lead her to winning the life she deserves or set her up for her biggest loss yet?
As she embarks on the journey of rebuilding her home, Amanda discovers that finding forgiveness and repairing her damaged self-worth are her biggest challenges of all. While searching her soul–and even searching inside her city's history–she finds answers. But will answers come too late and can a broken heart ever be truly fixed?

Chapter 1

"If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant. If we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome." -Anne Bradstreet

Six days of relentless self-pity mingled with bouts of guttural sobbing. Pain so persistent her hair hurt. The raw grief now behind her, Amanda recognized the brilliant face of hope poking through her dank mood, offering a piece of relief from the misery. Although an unshowered, disheveled mess, she intended to celebrate hope. The sunshiny face of hope. Her focus now, along with surviving a Saturday night alone, would be getting to the root of why he left, and then fixing the problem.
Three drops of red wine cascaded from the glass's rim, adding another stain to Amanda's sweatpants. Making her way to the sofa, her comforting friend, she tugged at the drooping waistband. One benefit to Derrick announcing the end to their fifteen year marriage one week ago, she mused, was the loss of a few pounds. What a cruel diet plan. She flipped through the movie channels unable to find one she hadn't already seen this week. Enough with the nauseating love stories.
The remote hit the floor as she reached for her cell phone, which alerted her to a new text. Probably another friend checking in or a family member inviting her to a sympathy dinner, she thought.
It was Derrick. His name on the phone screen shot a ball of sickness into her gut. After a quick response, she bolted up the steps to her bedroom, hitting her sister's number on her speed dial on the way.
"Deb, Derrick wants to meet me for a drink tonight. What do you think?" Amanda asked, yanking her pink sweater from the hamper, Derrick's favorite.
"I think maybe he finally got his head out of his ass and wants his perfect life back." Her sister's irritated tone evident and expected. But his life obviously hadn't been perfect here, and Amanda had to know what she did to cause his departure.
With another sigh, Amanda spoke, not really wanting advice or comfort, but just needing her sister's reassuring company. "I'm not sure what's gonna happen, but I'm nervous, really nervous."
"Text me if things aren't going well and I'll come over and key his precious Beamer in the parking lot."
Amanda laughed—a laugh only her sister could create. "That would be wonderful. Thank you!"
"You got it. Hey, because of this snowstorm coming in, Lilly's going to just sleep over. Don will bring her home in the morning if the roads are clear, okay? It's teen horror movie night at the Pucharelli household!"
"Sounds great. Lilly deserves a fun distraction. Thanks again!" Although the thought of her daughter not sleeping in the next room tonight caused a wave of sadness to wash across her heart, she knew she needed to focus on Derrick.
"Good luck tonight, Mand. Be tough."
After dressing, she peered into Lilly's room. What would life be like for Lilly if Derrick stayed away for good? How many other nights would Amanda spend alone in this house? With a hard sigh, she headed to the garage.
In typical Pittsburgh fashion, the gray January sky hung low, the snowflakes increasing in volume. Amanda's impractical choice of pumps over snowboots screamed vanity, but her attempt to look attractive for her husband reflected her desperation and her hope he would come home to her. Praying out loud in her SUV over the blaring courage-building music, she pleaded with God to end this nightmare. With a glance upward into the grayness, she petitioned for her greatest fear to be dispelled; Derrick had found another woman.
Since his departure, her imagination had played out the possibility of infidelity. Pulling into the restaurant's parking lot, her mind traveled there one final time. Perhaps their basically sexless marriage had been a warning of his unhappiness. He had been visiting the gym more often and wearing cologne at odd times. Could those be signs of a new love?
She forced the gear shift into park while sucking in one more breath. She entered the snowy night.
Her eyes, sore from crying the night before, scanned through the trendy restaurant. She moved through the irritating noise of people engaged in conversations and followed the sounds of the Saturday night crowd into the bar. A pungent waft of heavy garlic turned her stomach.
She instantly recognized the back of his dirty blonde hair, shiny with hair products. Derrick turned in his barstool. Dressed as if he had just walked from a Banana Republic ad in his dry-cleaner pressed khakis and lime green oxford, he faced her, looking as handsome as the day they had met in college. She thought it unfair his graying temples only added to his good looks. Locking eyes, she felt the same excited flutter she had when she spotted him in their Greek Mythology class nineteen years ago. Her mind knew his scent before she was close enough for her nose to detect it.
Standing with an exaggerated eagerness, he pulled out a barstool and slid it toward her. She interpreted this as his attempt to avoid hugging her.
"Hey…hi there, Amanda."
"Hi...Hey, Derrick, how are you?"
Their words stumbled over each other's like two people on a blind date attempting small talk, weighted with awkwardness. Keeping the discussion to the topic of Lilly, their only child, they finished half of their beers. Although not typically affectionate with each other in public, she touched his thigh twice during their conversation, reminding him she had been his wife for a long time.
"Look," he said, redirecting his eyes to the dwindling foam on top of his beer.
She tensed. Pushing her long auburn hair over her shoulder, she knew conversations starting with "look" are typically not good.
"I have something difficult to tell you but I think it's something you've known all along."
"What?" Her eyes hit his, and then fell to her glass. Her heart pounded.
"Will you look at me, please?"
She did. In the moment of silence, she studied his flawless face and remembered the times she would joke he had a prettier face than she had. His tired eyes, she thought, seemed to be straining, perhaps trying to tell her his news without having to speak.
He blew a long breath through his lips, proclaiming, "I'm seeing someone."
She knew it. With three words, her fear turned reality.
"Who? What… who?"
"It's not important--"
"Not important? Who is she? How long, Derrick, has this been going on?" His secretary? A woman at the gym?
"It's a man, Amanda. I'm seeing a man. I'm gay. I'm so sorry. I've known for long time--"
"No. No. You're joking…" Her head shook as if it could knock out his words.
"Amanda, I'm sorry. I need to end the lying."
Her breathing paralyzed; her body wanted to faint, to shut down. The blood left her head and her limbs. From deep within her gut, she forced out, "You bastard." A week ago when Derrick walked out of the house with a suitcase he had packed without her knowledge, she thought there could never be a greater feeling of shock than at that moment. But, she had been wrong.
Caught in a nightmare, she needed to escape. She wanted to run, to scream, to grab a vodka bottle from behind the bar and smash it across his beautiful face. Jolted by laughter from a group of men watching the NFC Wild Card playoff game next to her, she started to breathe again.
Questions rattled in her mind like coins loose in a spinning dryer. Voice quivering, she asked, "Why? Why all these years of lying? Why now? Why cheat on me and not be honest? Do I deserve that?"
His face twisted in anguish as he attempted to explain, "It never seemed like the right time to hurt you or Lilly. I was happy, most of the time. You are… my best friend. I do love you, Amanda." His patronizing touch on her arm burned. "I pushed it away. I tried every day to push who I was away so we could have our life. Then I met Jake and I knew I couldn't live this lie any longer. I couldn't face you and Lilly anymore."
Since his words weren't diminishing the sting, she attacked, "I hate you. I hate you so much."
The polished young couple next to them halted their possibly first or second date conversation to look her way in stunned curiosity, causing Amanda to swallow her words. She cursed him internally for doing this to her in public.
Looking away from all eyes, pretending to watch the football game, something she would ordinarily enjoy, she continued in a weak whisper, "You are nothing but a coward and a liar. You stood in a church and promised to love me forever and honor me. You're a liar. Oh my God, you're definitely leaving me. You have a boyfriend! Oh my God…"
Unlike a week ago when his announcement left her frozen, staring at him unable to cry, the tears came easily now. She buried her face into a napkin and watched a mental video of their life together. Then flashed the signs. Signs that should have told her he was gay. He had loved cooking and shopping. Were those signs? Of course not, her mind yelled as she pressed her fingers into her temples. What about a voice inside her whispering that something was not quite right?
Though what he told her clearly ended their marriage, her mind searched for ways to fix the situation. Her heart naively searched for hope. Maybe this was a temporary mid-life crisis?
He touched her shoulder. Pulling her posture upright, she inhaled causing the anger to devour the sadness, creating a strength needed to continue. "Why not do this before we walked down the aisle? You robbed me of fifteen years of my life." Then she saw Lilly's face. If they had not walked down that aisle, there would be no Lilly, no beautiful Lilly.
"I wish I had been brave enough to face who I was back then. I'm so sorry. I loved you and I chose you, Mand. I know I was a coward. I suppose I let society's expectations of me decide my fate. But I'm ready now to start my life over."
Start his life over? So, he rewound the video of his life so he could record a new one, erasing her. Her thoughts froze and she ended the questioning. Outwardly, anyway.
They discussed the cold details of divorce: lawyers, living arrangements and Lilly. Gracious and giving at this point due to his guilt, Amanda doubted he could remain agreeable throughout a divorce process. The Derrick she knew loved a good argument.

Lori lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she writes women's and children's fiction. RENAISSANCE OF THE HEART is her debut novel. She's also the author of children's books, RILEY'S HEART MACHINE and CONFETTI THE CROC, both written with the hope that children will celebrate what make them unique. She's also written award-winning flash fiction pieces and her articles have been featured in various publications.
Lori serves on the Board of Directors for the Children's Heart Foundation and is the president of their Pennsylvania chapter. She visits schools to speak about writing, about the human heart and about embracing what makes you special.
Besides writing and spreading awareness about Congenital Heart Defects, her passions include her two daughters, her husband, Mark, her Pittsburgh sports teams and running in 5Ks. Lori is a member of Pennwriters and she loves her local writing groups! She is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication and journalism. She also holds a paralegal certificate from Duquesne University and is a former Washington, D.C. paralegal. Visit her website at www.lorimjones.com.

The giveaway prizes are:
1 x $25 Amazon Gift card
1 x free download of Renaissance of the Heart.

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