What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.
ORDINARY WORLD is a sequel to my first novel, FAKING IT, and the story picks up five years later. Andi has the life she’s always wanted – she’s a tenured professor living in New England with her husband – but tragedy strikes and her whole world is turned upside down.
Tell us something about yourself.
I grew up on Long Island and am the youngest of seven (five brothers – one of whom is my twin – and a sister). I was kind of a jack-of-all-trades until I went back to school in Massachusetts in 1995 (got my bachelor’s and master’s degrees back-to-back, and lived there for 11 years before relocating to North Carolina), and went on to begin a career teaching rhetoric and composition at the college level.
I’ve been writing all my life, but had never considered myself a fiction writer until I had this idea for a novel that wouldn’t go away. I wrote the first draft of FAKING IT in 2004, and the dam broke after that!
What inspired you to write this book?
I knew Andi’s story wasn’t done when I finished FAKING IT. I started writing ORDINARY WORLD shortly after the fifth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, so that was on my mind, and had been thinking about a relationship that didn’t work out the way I’d hoped. So a what-if went through my mind for Andi: What if Andi had everything she ever wanted only to lose it all in a flash? How would she recover from that? It wasn’t just about loss, but letdown.
The Duran Duran song of the same name is one of my all-time favorite songs, and one that I have always turned to when I experience loss or letdown. The answer to my question came in that song, and hence, the rest of Andi’s story.
How does ORDINARY WORLD differ from FAKING IT?
FAKING IT is a romantic comedy, while ORDINARY WORLD is more of a “dramedy”. It certainly has its comedic moments, even in some painful situations, but the story and characters contain much more depth and complexity than the first novel. I think I also became much more confident and mature as a fiction writer, and was relying less on what I knew and more on what the characters where telling me. I’m proud of both and love them in different ways, much like a parent does her children.
How did you publish this book? Why did you decide to self-publish?
I independently published through Lulu.com. I had queried some sixty agents for FAKING IT and got rejections (albeit some very positive feedback with some of them). However, I was confident in my story and that there was an audience for FAKING IT. After some research, I decided to go the independent publishing route, and came in at the perfect time to ride the wave of online social networking, which has been a godsend. Since I did well with FAKING IT, I decided not to query at all for ORDINARY WORLD, but will likely do so for my next novel.
In addition to Lulu.com, I also published my novels on Amazon Kindle, and am having tremendous success there. Publishing on Kindle has given me a readership and a following.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
I don’t think I ever wanted to be a writer; I simply was a writer. It was something I knew instinctively about myself very early on. I had a rather turbulent adolescence and pretty much wrote my way through it, but didn’t show a single story to anyone (still haven’t).
I had a hard time finding a profession in my twenties—it wasn’t until I got into graduate school and began teaching that I found my passion. By then I was writing creative nonfiction and immersed in a lot of rhetorical theory (which shows in my first novel!), but knew nothing about writing fiction or getting published. I got the idea for FAKING IT in 1999, and dammit, the idea wouldn’t go away. I finally wrote the first draft in 2004, and didn’t seek publication until 2006, when I moved to North Carolina and met an author who took me under his wing and showed me the ropes (namely, how to query an agent).
What do you believe is the hardest part of writing?
Getting started! I hate that blank page. I’m afraid I’ll never be able to write anything good ever again. I often have to psych myself out by actually writing on the page “It’s ok if this first draft stinks” (ok, I use a bit stronger language, but you get the idea). It’s a trick I’ve shared with my academic writing students, and some of them have found it really freeing.
Once I get going, I’m ok until revision. I’m a big fan of revision—it’s can be a lot of fun, and I can get really into it, but it’s also the blood, sweat, and tears of writing. I hit road blocks there sometimes that can be really tough to get over. It’s always an irrational fear that I’m really not that good after all.
How do you do research for your books?
I write a lot of what I already know and/or like. I especially relied on this for the first book because I didn’t think it was going to be any good (or that anyone was ever going to read it). At the beginning, Andi was so much like me: Long Islander relocated to New England; rhetoric-composition scholar; Gen-Xer; Yankee fan; Italian heritage; overprotective musician brothers, etc. She even looked a little like me. Those details helped me get underneath the surface and to the truth of the story that needed to be told. Many people think the novel is autobiographical, but it’s not. It’s her story, and her experience. By the final draft Andi came into her own, especially when I wrote ORDINARY WORLD.
There were some things that needed additional research, however. I had been an art major in high school, but had forgotten a lot. So in addition to taking out some books, I asked one of my former students (who was an art history major) to help me with Devin’s knowledge of art. For the travel scenes in ORDINARY WORLD, I asked some friends who had visited Italy and Peru for details and descriptions (I confess that I also consulted Wikipedia). One of the best compliments I got was from a friend who had lived in Lima for about three years and said he got “homesick” after reading my chapter.
Did you learn anything from writing this book? What?
My twin brother had read the first couple of chapters in their very early stages and wrote a comment that was so profound I put it into the mouth of one of my characters: A major loss conjures up all other losses in life. I grieved right along with Andi at certain times during the writing of this book. There are scenes that still make me choke up, as well others that make me laugh out loud.
Earlier this year, I met a man who was a recent widower, had read and enjoyed FAKING IT, and wanted to read ORDINARY WORLD. I warned him about its content, worried it would be too much for him. He was quite moved by the story and told me that I was “spot on” with Andi’s grief. It was the best feedback I could have received. I’m always deeply touched when readers share their personal stories with me, and how my books have touched them in some way.
I also learned that I was officially a novelist, and wanted to tip the scales to the point where I could sustain a living from it. I’m still working on that goal. I still love teaching; I just want to eventually do it on a part-time basis.
What are you reading now?
The Other Side of Tuscany, by my friend Nancy Stolfo-Corti. It’s a very powerful memoir. During my 12-hr road trip to Long Island for Christmas break, I listened to Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani, which I really enjoyed. And before that, I read Steve Hely’s How I Became a Famous Novelist. Absolutely hilarious, laugh-out-loud novel.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
I tend to be a creature of habit when it comes to books and authors. Once I find an author I like, I read everything they’ve ever written, repeatedly. I go more for popular fiction than literary fiction, and I love authors (and characters) with a witty sense of humor. I’m also drawn to good stories and prose that plays with language but is not too literary in style. My favorites are Richard Russo, Marian Keyes, David Sedaris, and Bill Bryson, to name a few. I also like Jennifer Weiner and Nora Ephron a lot. My favorite writer of all is Aaron Sorkin, best known for A Few Good Men and The West Wing. One of my strengths is writing dialogue, and I have Sorkin to thank for that.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
I’m co-writing my third novel with, believe it or not, the former student I mentioned earlier. I happened to mention this idea for a novel, and she begged me to co-write it with her. We had collaborated on a draft for a screenplay version of FAKING IT, so I knew we could work together, and we know each other’s writing styles really well (in fact, I sometimes found myself stealing from her, and vice-versa). It’s been a lot of work, but it’s also been a blast, and I don’t think I could collaborate with anyone else. We’re hoping to finish it later this year.
It’s called Why I Love Singlehood, and it’s about a coffeeshop owner who writes a blog extolling the virtues of being single while she secretly yearns for a relationship. It’s very much a romantic comedy. I can picture it as a TV series as well.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Read. Write well. Hone your craft. Write the book you would want to read. Get feedback when you can from readers who will be both critical and respectful. Do your research when it comes to deciding which publishing road to take – traditional vs. independent. Both have pros and cons. If you’re seeking an agent, you need to treat it as if you were finding a job. Do your homework on the querying process as well as the bookselling market. Most of all, never give up, and don’t ever let the word “can’t” get in your way.
What are you doing to promote your latest book?
Promotion happens on a daily basis. A lot has happened by word of mouth. In addition to this blog tour, I’m very active on Facebook and Twitter, as well as several Kindle discussion forums. People who participate in those are spreading the word. I’m also doing some readings/signings at local bookstores, and I have my own blog as well. Networking is key to any venture, and the internet makes it a helluva lot easier, and fun, too. But there’s always more I can do.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
Learn more about me at my blog “I’ll Have What She’s Having”: The Official Blog of Elisa Lorello (http://elisalorello.blogpot.com) or my official website (www.elisalorello.com). You can find ORDINARY WORLD on Amazon.com for the Kindle version, and Lulu.com for the print version.