Interview with Lori L. Otto, Part I of II

Emi Lost & Found Series.  Noted in Nashville.Interview with Lori L. Otto, Author of Emi Lost & Found

Part I of II

The first thing I found compelling as I read Lori L. Otto’s Emi Lost & Found series was the obvious affection the author feels for her characters.  They are not flat, half-baked characters – rolled and punched out with a cookie-cutting kit for book writers: “Heroine,” “Love Interest,” “Roommate,” “Antagonist.”  Lori has breathed life into these characters.  Or is it the other way around?  When a writer devotes himself or herself to a story, it’s hard to tell the difference.

This allowed me to trust the journey I was about to take with Emi.  I felt a familiarity with her, with Nate, and with the other people in their lives.  They let me into their world, hid nothing from me, and offered me a chance to feel what they feel.  This is all I ever really ask of a piece of fiction – move me, remind me, or teach me to feel and experience something new.  Lori succeeded in this as well as any writer ever has.

I asked my friend Lori to share about her experiences as a writer, her upcoming projects, and about Emi.  Being the cool Texas chick that she is, she not only agreed but offered to do an e-book giveaway of the Emi Lost & Found series, the prequel Not Today, But Someday, and Contessa.

*** My curiosity got the best of me when I was coming up with questions for Lori.  So, I have broken this interview into a two-part post.  Come back Monday for Part II when I will ask you a question about today’s Q & A.  The first person to answer it right will win the e-book package. ***

I deeply admire an author who commits to writing a series.  Did you always know Lost & Found would be a trilogy, or did it evolve during the writing process?

A trilogy?  No.  I had expected Emi Lost & Found to be one book.  It was always going to be broken up into three sections, narrated by different characters, but when I started, I was very naïve about the amount of time it takes to really develop a story.  When Nate’s section soared to 75,000+ words, I knew I was going to have a hard time getting anyone to publish the books.  (For my genre, they typically look at 75,000 to 100,000 words for an entire book.)  When I was finished with my first draft, I was pitching a 225,000-word novel, which is laughable in the publishing world.  It occurred to me that there was a natural break in the books, so I thought of titles for each one, and went on my merry way. 

There must have been other characters and story ideas that never fully develop into a book.  Why Emi?  How did you know her story was the one to pursue?

The original idea was centered around Emi and Nate–their friendship, their hidden feelings, and eventually the thing that keeps them apart.  I can’t go into much detail here, but I could relate to the guilt and grief she would experience.  I’ve never experienced anything like that myself, but I was in her head, and I could feel the intensity.  Conversations started to happen in my imagination, and I realized I was on to something that touched me deeply.  I was hopeful that I’d be able to touch others, too.

There is S-E-X aplenty in this story.  You, my friend, have a gift of writing a vivid and descriptive love scene without being gratuitous.  Is writing about what goes on in a character’s bedroom any more or less challenging than writing the rest of their story?

I am not a fan of vulgar, gratuitous sex scenes.  BUT, I did want to include some sex, because there seemed to be a demand for it in the Internet circles I was once a part of.  I wanted to write scenes that were tasteful, and situations that were true to the character and moved the plot forward.

Anyway, back to your question–which is a good one.  It’s hard to be original in the bedroom scenes, and I wish the American language had more words for kiss.  Once I get started writing one, though, mainly stemming from the mood of the characters beforehand and the location, it typically plays out pretty quickly.  It’s all about feeling what they feel in the moment.  Writing Nate’s sex scenes were easier than later characters’ scenes, because he was a very sexual person.  Another character I write is very reserved, a perfect gentleman, and I found it hard to keep it clean enough for him sometimes.

You made me cry . . . more than once.  (I know you get that a lot.)  What kind of toll does it take on you when you’re writing a character through a dark place?

 I’d say as much as the reader, but extended over weeks or months.  Whereas the reader might take 1-3 days to get through a particularly sad part of a book, it takes me much longer to write it.  Not only that, but knowing where the story is headed (as I did in the instance of Lost and Found), a lot of the moments building up to that were quite bittersweet and tearful.  For that portion of the series, I probably cried sobbed every day for at least a month while meticulously writing, and then anytime I had to go back and work on something, the tears would come again.  I still cry when I read it, and if I allow myself to dwell on it.  This typically happens on a few songs of the playlist…

I’d love to know what your playlists were for each book.

COOL!  Here you go:

LOST AND FOUND (the blue ones are the ones I sob through)

  • F*cking Boyfriend                            The Bird and the Bee
  • Closer                                              Kings of Leon
  • Razor                                               Foo Fighters
  • Walking After You                             Foo Fighters
  • Emaline                                            Ben Folds
  • Next to Me                                        Civil Twilight
  • #41                                                   Dave Matthews Band
  • Say Goodbye                                    Dave Matthews Band
  • Here’s to Love                                  Renee Zellweger & Ewan McGregor (yeah, weird, but it’s fun)
  • Breakable                                          Ingrid Michaelson
  • Wonder (Live)                                   Colin Meloy
  • She Belongs to Me                            Harry Connick, Jr.

 TIME STANDS STILL

  • I Burn For You                                    Sting
  • Dreaming (Live)                                 Zero 7
  • Hallelujah                                            Jeff Buckley
  • Winter Song                                       Sara Bareilles & Ingrid Michaelson
  • Left Behind (Live)                                Zero 7
  • That Home                                          The Cinematic Orchestra
  • Bubbly                                                 Colbie Caillat
  • Goodnight and Go                               Imogen Heap
  • Better                                                  Regina Spektor
  • July, July! (Live)                                  The Decemberists
  • Swing                                                  Zero 7
  • Incredible Love                                    Ingrid Michaelson
  • Sweetness Follows                             R.E.M.

NEVER LOOK BACK

  • Pretty Little Thing                           Fink
  • Desperately Wanting                     Better That Ezra
  • Spark                                             The Bird and the Bee
  • Pageant of the Bizarre                   Zero 7
  • Jill                                                   Harry Connick, Jr.
  • Are We There Yet                           Ingrid Michaelson
  • You Are the Everything                   R.E.M.
  • Terrified                                           Katharine Mcphee and Jason Reeves
  • An Interlude                                    The Decemberists
  • Somesault                                      Zero 7
  • Folding Chair                                  Regina Spektor
  • When Mac Was Swimming          The Innocence Mission

Tell us about your decision to self-publish.

I was adamantly opposed to self-publishing in February of 2011.  After receiving probably 75 rejection letters from potential agents, I went to a writer’s conference, and focused all my attention on sessions that would help me get an agent.  I also pitched an agent there, and I thought I’d done very well because she asked me to submit pages.  It wasn’t until I started talking to other authors who were there that I realized she asked everyone for pages.  That was a little bit of a heartbreak, but it wasn’t enough to deter me.  I started following the agent on Twitter, and one day she posted a tweet that said something like, “If you pitch me a story with more than 100,000 words, my eyes roll back in my head.”  That did it for me.  I was upset, because there seems to be such a bias on how many words a story has, and no one even bothers to read a manuscript to find out if a story warrants all the words!  I reacted impulsively, and thought I’d give it a shot by myself.  I published Lost and Found, with the intention of selling millions and then showing that to agents so I could get a deal on the next two books.  My bleeding heart got in the way, though, because I didn’t want to leave people hanging with the end of Lost and Found.  I thought mobs might try to murder me (and they likely would have), so I decided to publish the other two the following month.

I’m happy with the decision, but it would be great to have someone helping with marketing.  I won’t lie.  It’s the hardest thing to do, and the thing I like to do the least.

What did you learn from Emi – as a writer and as a woman?

As a woman, I think she taught me how to let go of things that I’d held on to for far too many years.  She taught me that the best thing for me could be right around the corner.  She gives me hope.

As a writer, she taught me how to dig deep into the dark places inside me.  She not only gave me an outlet for my emotions, she allowed me to express them to others in a way that makes them really feel.

– Anita, Noted in Nashville

Learn more about Lori – including ways to purchase her books – by clicking the links below:

SensitiVitality, Lori’s Blog:  http://authorlorilotto.wordpress.com/

Ways to purchase Lori’s books in paperback and digital formats:  http://authorlorilotto.wordpress.com/where-to-buy/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/LoriLOtto

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6 thoughts on “Interview with Lori L. Otto, Part I of II

  1. Great interview. I, too, admire authors who write a series. I’m always ready to move onto something new. Not sure if I could hammer out more than one book with a given set of characters. And I’ll also leave the sex-scene writing to others as well. 😉

  2. Pingback: Interview with Lori L. Otto, Part II of II | noted in nashville

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