As promised, here is the awaited interview with Lee Warren, author of The Reunion. You can find out more about the novella by clicking here!
Lee, Thanks for agreeing to be here today.
Thanks for having me. Appreciate it!
You are mostly known for your non-fiction, what made you decide to write fiction?
For as long as I’ve been a writer, I’ve been interested in writing fiction. In the late 1990s, I attended a writers’ conference and took the fiction track taught by novelist Nancy Moser and that really fanned the flames. So I came home and wrote my first novel (which has never been published). Then I wrote another one (also unpublished).
While I was seeking publishers for them, I went back to the same conference over the next couple of years and met a magazine editor and began writing for him. Eventually, he ended up at a newspaper and brought me over with him, training me as a journalist. That sort of established me as a non-fiction writer and I went on to write a dozen or so non-fiction books and many articles. But I never forgot about fiction.
Ultimately, fiction appeals to me because of the power of story.
I enjoyed reading both Mercy Inn and The Reunion. Will there be a third novella in the series? If so, can you give us a hint of what it will be about?
The third book in the series will be available next year. A hint … hmm. I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer, so I don’t know what’s going to unfold until it happens. The first draft is written, but it’ll undergo major revision.
What inspired the Mercy Inn series?
I was driving back to Omaha (my hometown) from a conference just north of Santa Fe in 2012. I ended up on Highway 17 in southern Colorado – a lonely but breathtakingly beautiful stretch of road. It wound through the mountains and the terrain seemed to change with each turn.
One of the stretches included a winding road that was set way up in the mountains. As I glanced out of my window, I could see cabins way off in the distance. That prompted all sorts of questions. Who lived in them? Why had they chosen such seclusion? How friendly would they be if I broke down?
As I descended, I came across a section of highway that traveled parallel to the Conejos River. A few antique shops popped up and I not sure why, but I knew this area was going to be the setting for a future novel/novella. Before I got home, I had the premise for the series in my mind.
The Reunion is about classmates who spend Christmas together. Your main characters are comprised of a music journalist, a boutique owner and a professor. Which character do you relate to the most and why?
Probably a mixture of Tommy (the music journalist) and Matt (the professor). Both of them made decisions I wouldn’t have made. But I can relate to the way Tommy detaches when he believes he needs to, and I can relate to the way Matt wears his heart on his sleeve.
What was the hardest scene to write?
The scenes from Ray and Alma’s point of view (both of whom are angels) were the most difficult because the Scriptures don’t go into a lot of detail about what an angel knows and doesn’t know.
Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” So we know angels can appear in human form, and apparently, they blend in with humanity so well that we can’t tell the difference. I would take that to mean that they might dress like us, talk like us, and have personalities and even tastes like us.
With that in mind, I wanted to be faithful to the Bible while exploring what Hebrews 13:2, and other verses about angels (Genesis 18-19, Exodus 23:20, Psalm 34:7, Psalm 91:11, Zechariah 12:8, etc.), might look like.
What did you edit out of the novella?
I don’t want to go into a lot of detail here because it might spoil the story, but originally, Snowball (Mercy Inn’s lodge cat) was unhappy with the antagonist and he showed his displeasure toward him. My editor suggested that Snowball ought to take up with the antagonist instead, thereby giving that person some evidence of humanity. She (my editor) was totally right, so I rewrote the scene accordingly.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite gender?
Well, as a male, we generally have no idea what women think. But the genres of movies and novels that I enjoy often have strong female leads. I’m a fan of Nicholas Sparks, Charles Martin, Travis Thrasher, and Dan Walsh and all of them write female characters that resonate with female audiences. So I hope I have learned something from them.
What kind of research do you do for your fiction, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Since I a seat-of-the-pants writer, I do very little research before I begin because I have no idea where the story is going to go. Once I have a good idea, I stop and do my research then. For the Mercy Inn series, I had my own driving experience along Highway 17 to draw from, but just to refresh my memory, I pulled up YouTube videos to make sure I got the types of trees and various other details right.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Both. It energizes me while I’m engaged in it, but when I am done, I’m usually wiped out.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
When I was in grade school, we used to get a magazine called the “Weekly Reader.” I’d bring the magazine home and ask my mom to order sports books for me. As a shy, overweight kid, I always found such inspiration in the athletes I read about who overcame the odds.
One, in particular, stands out. It was a book called “Fighting Back” by Rocky Bleier, a running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The book was released in 1975 when I nine years old. It chronicles his story about how he was drafted into the NFL and then drafted to fight in the Vietnam War. During combat, one of his legs was badly injured and he was told he’d never walk again. But he eventually worked his way back onto the practice squad and then the team.
In my mind, if Rocky could work his way to success – in spite of his obstacles, then I could, too.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
The first thing I would say is, listen to the experts with one ear. They are experts for a reason, but that doesn’t mean they necessarily know what’s right for you. Just because they view the publishing world one way doesn’t mean it is correct. I don’t know how many times traditional publishers told me that female readers aren’t likely to trust a male author who writes female protagonists. I’m glad that Sparks, Martin, Thrasher, Walsh, and so many others didn’t let that stop them the way it did me.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
“The Wind in the Wheat” by Reed Arvin will give you goosebumps. Such a great story about a pianist who struggles to figure out what it means to be successful in God’s eyes. Also, check out “The Invitation” by Nancy Moser. In fact, the entire Mustard Seed series (“The Invitation” is Book 1) by her is fantastic. In some ways, it’s one of the inspirations for the Mercy Inn series.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
I worked in data entry for many years before becoming a journalist and author. I would probably still be doing that.
What does literary success look like to you?
Connection. I love receiving email from readers who say my writing somehow helped them see something differently or deepened their perspective.
Thank you for spending time with us today.
If readers want to know more, they can visit my website: www.leewarren.info. And I’d love to connect with you via email. I sent out a free weekly email that encourages readers to slow down and live deeper. You can sign up here: http://www.leewarren.info/email-list.html. As a thank you for doing so, I’ll send you a free copy of my devotional e-book “Finishing Well: Living with the End in Mind.”
And there you have it. Please stay tuned for more book and product reviews, musings and all things jubilantly quirky!