Loree Lough - New Beginnings in an Amish Community
At last count, USA Today best-selling author Loree Lough had 120 award-winning books (more than 10 million copies in circulation), hundreds of industry awards, 7 book-to-movie options), 68 published short stories, and 2,500+ nonfiction articles in print. And in August of 2019, Loree celebrated 25 years as a published author! Loree and her husband split their time between a home in the Baltimore suburbs and a cabin in the Allegheny Mountains, where she continues to hone her "identify the critter tracks" skills. Her favorite pastime? Spending long, leisurely hours with her grandchildren...all seven of them! As our Author of the Day, Loree tells us all about her book, Home to Stay.
Please give us a short introduction to what Home to Stay is about.
Before I answer, I’d like to thank you for inviting me here! It’s truly an honor!
HOME TO STAY is a “new beginnings” story. Max uses hard work to keep his thoughts from straying to the loss of loved ones. Poor choices have put Willa’s back to the wall: Move to the New Order Amish mountain village of Pleasant Valley or lose custody of her precious baby girl. When the story opens, she’s working hard, too … to save money and leave Oakland, Maryland. It doesn’t take long, though, before it becomes clear to both of them that love is the balm that heals old wounds.
What inspired you to write an inspirational series set in a community of Amish?
There are so many misconceptions about the Amish—the New Order Amish, in particular—that I decided to write stories that reveal the truth about the rules, regulations, and lifestyle of the ever-devout Plain people.
Why did you pick Pleasant Valley as the backdrop for your story?
For one thing, I’m familiar with Oakland, Maryland, the location of Pleasant Valley. For another, there were already hundreds of Amish novels set in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana, and I wanted to highlight a new locale.
Tell us more about Willa Reynolds. What makes her tick?
She’s a feisty, hard-headed young woman, and these traits have led her into some dark and dangerous situations. After losing her beloved mother at the tender age of 16, Willa was pretty much on her own. Miraculously, she finished high school and college—her mom’s deathbed wish—but loneliness put her into the arms of a man who promised love, protection, and companionship. She believed the lies, and made terrible, life-altering mistakes. The instant she realized a baby was on the way, Willa left him, determined to live an upright life. Juggling jobs while trying to provide for little Frannie nearly cost her everything … until a caring social worker connected her with the people and the place that would give her a second chance.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
Well, once upon a time, I (literally) sang for my supper, touring the U.S. and Canada with my 6-string, singing. I like to garden, and build stuff (the only power tool I can’t use is the chain saw … ‘cause it scares me!). I’m a fair-to-middlin’ artist. And my penchant for cooking and baking is responsible for my Lifetime Weight Watchers membership. Haha.
Why did you decide to bring a baby into the story?
Who doesn’t love a baby! In this story, the baby—little Frannie—is the motivation for Willa’s life-change. Frannie quickly becomes one of Max’s favorite people. And she’s the glue that holds him and Willa together … until they recognize other admirable traits in one another.
What do you hope readers would take away from this book?
I hope they’ll see that, properly motivated, people can and do change. And I hope they’ll realize that sometimes, opposites don’t just attract … they also bond, permanently.
When working on a novel, how do you immerse yourself in the main characters' lives? Do you observe people in a certain culture, or do you try to walk in their shoes?
In every one of my 120 novels, I’ve devoted months to research: The setting. Characters’ jobs. Family dynamics. In HOME TO STAY, I had to dig deep into the drug world. Thankfully, helpful police detectives, social workers, and reformed addicts helped me get the ‘lough down’ (sorry, couldn’t help myself!) without getting TOO involved.
Do any of your characters ever take off on their own tangent, refusing to do what you had planned for them?
So far, that hasn’t happened. I’m what we in the writing world call a Plotter. Meaning, I outline a story before I start writing.
You write about some heavy themes—things that many of your readers have probably never experienced—yet it's very easy to identify with your characters. How do you make them so relatable?
I rely heavily on the action-reaction theme. That is, no matter what happens to a character … no matter what s/he does … I put the reader into the characters’ heads by showing her (or him!) the result of every word and action.
Do you have a favorite line from the book, and can you explain what that line means to you?
Hmm… That’s a tough one! I guess it’s a tossup between two scenes. The first takes place when Max meets Willa, when she says she hopes they’ll run into one another again, and he says, “Oh, we will run into one another again. You can count on it.” The second happens at the end of the book, when he’s wondering if she can live Plain, for the rest of her life. Her response? “I’m home, Max. Home to stay.”
What is an average writing day like for you? Favorite writing spot, best time of day to write, sources of inspiration?
I write in a lot of places (family room, sun porch, car), but I love sitting in my recliner at our little cabin in the mountains, surrounded by God’s beauty as I peck my laptop’s keyboard.
When a deadline looms (which is most of the time), I’ve been known to work 24/7.
Inspiration is everywhere! At the mall. The post office. In a restaurant. TV news. (Don’t tell anyone, but I tend to eavesdrop. A lot. )
What are you working on right now?
I’m wrapping up book #3 in the “A Little Child Shall Lead Them” Amish series, LOVING MRS. BONTRAGER. It’s sorta-kinda a mail order bride story: Harried widower and father of three rambunctious kids is desperate for help. The solution, suggested by his brother-in-law, is the never-married, cousin that lives in the Old Order Amish community in Nappanee, Indiana.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
All the usual places: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram … and they can find me by typing Loree Lough into each site’s search bar. They can also visit my web site, http://www.loreelough.com for links to social networking sites, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and my publishers’ web sites.