An Interview with Lori Dillon

Please help me welcome Lori Dillon to the blog today.  Lori will be giving away an electronic copy of her book to one lucky commenter so be sure and leave a comment or question for Lori.

How did you get started writing?

I wasn’t one of those people born with a pen in my hand. Well, not a writing pen, but maybe a drawing pencil. I’ve always been an art geek. I have a BFA in Graphic Design and Illustration. Before doing the stay at home mom thing, I worked for 14 years as a graphic designer.

To be honest, I came pretty late to the romance novel fan club. As a teen, I read mostly horror. Stephen King, John Saul, and that staple of adolescent girls at the time, the Flowers in the Attic series. I didn’t discover romance novels until I was 28, when I was newly engaged and enthralled with all things romantic. So when I found one of my roommate’s romance novels lying around, I picked it up and read it cover to cover in one day. Needless to say, I was officially hooked!

Of course, we all know there are good books, keeper books, and wall-banger books out there. After one too many paperbacks hit the drywall, my husband dared me to write a book myself. So I did, and I amazed myself that I actually finished it. (Completing projects is not my strong suit.) I entered the novel in several writing contests and it finaled a few times. Hey, what do ya know? I didn’t totally suck as a writer. Although now that I know better, that book will forever remain under the bed keeping the lonely dust bunnies company. So I wrote another book, which ended up being OUT OF THE ASHES. That novel landed me an agent and came really, really close to selling to a New York publisher.

What genre(s) do you write in and why?

I pretty much stick to paranormal historicals. I love being transported to another time and place. And when you throw a little magic in the mix, how can you not love it? For now, my paranormals are not what’s all the rage—you know, the dark, sexy immortal brotherhood, each warrior in search of their soul mates. I love to read those books (love me some Kresley Cole and Gena Showalter), but I have yet to write one of them. Try as I might, my inner comic comes out and can’t help but dribble humor all over my books. I’m not saying I never will write the dark, tortured immortal warrior series. I just have too many out-of-the-box paranormals that are clamoring around in my head to be written first. I’ve got a gothic time travel (it’s a spoof on Jane Eyre) and a medieval series (they’re a mix of shape shifters and time travels) that I hope to have out later this year.

What inspired your latest book?

David and Sera’s story started out with the idea that if a cat could have 9 lives, why not people? My initial thought was to write short vignettes of their first eight lives, starting from when they meet each time until their untimely deaths, then end the book with their 9th life where they finally get it right. Unfortunately, a book like that would’ve ended up being a War and Peace behemoth. So I decided to focus on their first and last lives, and just hint at the tragedy of their other lives that came in between.

While I was doing research for possible time periods and settings, I came across a National Geographic photograph of a plaster cast of a couple from Pompeii. The man and woman died in each other’s arms as they tried to flee the city, forever frozen in time, his hand shielding her face in a vain attempt to protect her. The cast is beautiful, touching, and heartbreaking. In fact, I use a photo of that exact cast from the Pompeii Exhibit taken by photographer Ken Thomas on the back cover of the print book. (You can see his original photo here.) I began to wonder what their story might have been, and the tragic couple eventually evolved into a young Pompeian girl and the slave gladiator she loved. Then I wondered what might have happened if they were given a second chance.

What is your favorite part of writing?

Hearing from readers that they’ve enjoyed the book is the best thing evva! I used to be a contest diva back in my pre-published days. A few weeks ago, a contest judge blogged about how she’d judged the first few chapters of ASHES in the Golden Heart Contest years ago and has been waiting ever since for it to be published so she could finish reading it ( I swear, I cried like a baby when I read her post. Being able to touch a reader like this is why I do what I do.

What is your least favorite part of writing?

Keeping the word count down. I’m a wordy writer. I find it hard to keep a book under 120,000 words. ASHES originally clocked in at 124,000 words. I managed to trim it down to 110,000. DRAGON weighed in at a whopping 137,000 words. I’ve got it down to 120,000 now and I’m still cutting. Ugh.

Where do you get the ideas for your stories?

They come from all difference things. I already talked about where the idea for ASHES came from. I can’t remember how GOTHIC came to life (most likely it was while I was watching a BBC version of Jane Eyre?), but I can definitely recall the moment DRAGON (the first in my medieval time travel series) came to me. My daughter was having her 6th birthday party and she was so sick of going to princess parties that she insisted on having a dragon party. After hand making dragon hand puppets, a pin the flame on the dragon poster, and 3D a dragon cake (complete with blue tortilla chips down the back for its spines—it was actually quite cool looking), I was on dragon overload. While I was up to my elbows in suds doing dishes one night, the idea of a modern woman being send back in time and sacrificed to the local dragon came to mind. Then I thought it would be a lot of fun if the dragon was actually a dragon slaying knight cursed to be the creature he once hunted. The story took on a life of its own from that moment on.

What advice do you have for other authors wanting to self-publish?

Hire a good professional editor (not your mom, your sister, or the English teacher down the street). I’m a firm believer that no author, even those who’ve been published for years by NY, should edit their own work. At some point, you’re just too close to it and can’t see the mistakes staring you in the face. I thought I had a decent grasp of the English language, but after having two editors go over ASHES, I’ve discovered I have comma issues. *G* Oh, and if you don’t have an artistic bone in your body, hire a good cover artist, too. Unfortunately, people do judge a book by its cover. Your novel may be the next Gone With the Wind, but if your cover looks like a 4 year old slapped it together with magazine cutouts and a glue stick, they’ll never see beyond the bad artwork to find out.

Do you have critique partners?

I used to be in a critique group. But I’m not a linear writer. I tend to jump around, working on the scenes that are screaming in my head to be written as opposed to writing chapter 1, then chapter 2, then chapter 3. I might work on the cute-meet today, the black moment tomorrow, and then the love scene the next day. It’s a process that works for me, but it makes it nearly impossible to critique my work until it’s pretty much done. I’ve decided at this point in my career, beta readers will serve me better. BTW, I’m on the hunt for a few good beta readers, so if anyone’s interested, shoot me an email!

What is your favorite dessert/food?

Snow crab legs. Any time there’s a birthday or special occasion, it’s always celebrated with all you can eat crab legs in our family. Pass the butter, please.

Was your road to publication fraught with peril or a walk in the park?

Definitely no walk in the park. After I wrote my first book (the aforementioned dust bunny babysitter), I wrote ASHES. One of the first agents I queried signed me, so in that aspect, I did hop on the fast train. I thought, “Sweet! I made it to the big time with my second book.” Not so fast. Although my agent loved it, NY had ‘issues’ with the WWII time period. Apparently it has cooties as far as they’re concerned. The book made its way up the editorial ladder at one NY publishing house and they asked me to reset the WWII part as a contemporary.

After a lot of soul searching, I had to say no. It would have changed the characters and the story too much. So I put ASHES away and waited for NY to come around. They never did, so I self-published it. It was the best decision I ever made. I love the control, the ability to say THIS is how this story needs to be told. And being able to design my own book covers really appeals to the graphics geek in me.

Do you have a view in your writing space? What does your space look like?

Oh, yes. Once my kids were old enough to no longer require my attention 24/7, I turned the sunroom—which was their playroom until about 6 years ago—back into a sunroom. It’s on the 2nd story and has huge windows on 3 sides with views of the woods behind our house and the babbling creek that cuts through our backyard. I’ve had deer, fox, hawks, and a wild turkey traipse by while I’m writing. You’d never know we live in a suburban neighborhood. I have a lounging couch by one of the windows that I pretty much live in, with my laptop on—what else?—my lap.

Tell us about your hero. Give us one of his strengths and one of his weaknesses.

David is a closet beta forced to be an alpha. He abhors the idea of taking another person’s life. Unfortunately, being born a slave gladiator and then again as a soldier in WWII, he’s had little choice but to kill others if he wants to live. I’ll let you in on a little secret—he’s much braver than he thinks he is.

Tell us about your heroine. Give us one of her strengths and one of her weaknesses.

Sera is a head-strong woman in a man’s world. All her life, she’s had to fight for respect and recognition as an archeologist. But behind the strong façade, she’s still the lost and lonely girl from her past life—until David comes along to rock her world.


David must have sensed her presence. Turning, he leaned a broad shoulder against the crumbling wall and gazed down on her from his high perch, casually sticking a blade of dry grass in the corner of his mouth.

“I wasn’t sure if I’d be welcome here this morning.”

She was struck by how fluent his Italian was. His voice sounded so calm, so relaxed. Did he feel half as uneasy as she did? If he did, he hid it well.
“And I wasn’t sure if you’d be here at all,” she replied.

He shrugged and rolled the piece of grass from one side of his mouth to the other.

“I almost didn’t come. I figured instead of you, I’d have the Italian guard waiting with a complimentary blindfold and cigarette.”

“Don’t think I didn’t consider turning you in a half a dozen times last night.”

David jumped down from the wall, startling her, and she took an involuntary step back. Just how dedicated was he to this mission? Did he see her as the threat she saw him? Would he kill her if she got in the way? Was he even now planning a way to silence her forever?

Closing the gap between them in four quick strides, he stood so close she swore he could feel her heart pounding even though he wasn’t touching a single inch of her.

“So, why didn’t you?”

Why did he have to stand so close? She glanced down at his hands hanging loose at his sides. Strong hands that could easily wrap around her neck and squeeze the life out of her before she could utter a sound.

“I promised you I wouldn’t.”

“People break promises all the time.”

Her eyes shot back to his face. Whether he knew it or not, he’d hit a nerve. She tried to pretend telling Maria didn’t count.

“Not me.”

For a long time he just stared at her. She wondered what secrets he saw, what vulnerability he might sense deep inside and use against her. Regardless, Sera refused to retreat.

“I know.” He spoke in English, his voice so low it was almost a whisper. “That’s why I trusted you enough to come back.”

Now it was her turn to look into his face and search for the truth. His soft brown eyes showed nothing but trust, full and complete. But then again, she’d been wrong about men before.

He tilted his head to the side, and the slight movement blocked out the morning sun in the sky behind him, creating the effect of a glowing halo around his handsome face. But she reminded herself that he was no angel. He was a spy.

She stepped back, needing to put some space between them, and tripped over the forgotten shovel David had thrown in anger yesterday. Her arms spun around, grasping for balance in the air as she felt herself falling. He reached out to grab her, but her feet tangled with his, and they both crashed to the ground.
David raised himself up on his arms above her, concern evident as his eyes flicked over her face.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, except for the fact that I have a shovel digging into my back, and you weigh a ton on top of me.”

A slow grin crept across his face, the boyish charm he flashed sending her heartbeat into double-time. He reached beneath her and eased the shovel handle out from under the small of her back. After tossing it to the side, he looked back down at her, his upper body hovering over her with his arms braced on either side of her face.


“You’re still on top of me.”

The grin slowly faded. “So I noticed.”


In a previous life, Lori worked as a graphic designer for fourteen years for the power company, occasionally venturing into nuclear power plants for her job (yes, nuclear plants need graphic designers, too). In her current existence, she weaves tales of the past, the present, and some places only magic can take you.

Lori lives in Virginia with her engineering geek/hero husband, two kids who test her sanity on a daily basis, a dog named Hokie (named after the Virginia Tech Hokies, of course), and various other critters of the furred and finned variety.

10 thoughts on “An Interview with Lori Dillon

  1. A lovely interview.

    Tell me, Lori, with your background in art, do you do your own covers?

    Also, I have a friend who jumps around as she writes and has trouble organizing it all at the end. How do you do it?

    • Hi Roxy. Yes, I did the cover for ASHES and will do them for the rest of my books. It really appeals to the graphics geek in me. I love the control of it — no more dark haired hero on the cover when he’s a blond in the book. *G*

      As for the jumping bean writing method, I have an excel spreadsheet broken down into chapters and scenes. It follows the hero’s journey, with pivotal plot points staggered throughout so when I write a scene out of sequence, I kinda sorta know where it should go and proceed to fill in the blanks. If your friend would like a copy of it, have her email me at

      Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Thanks for discussing your new book! I loved the interview. I really liked the story you told about the inspiration from your daughter’s birthday party. Neat! I love how inspiration can come from anything!

  3. I enjoyed the interview! Too bad the NY houses didn’t want to take on a WWII…sometimes I think they miss out on great opportunities for books that don’t fall into their exact formulas. Kudos to you for taking on the publishing yourself!

    • You’re right, Lacey. I had a book signing yesterday and the author signing at the table with me said that she noticed people’s eyes would light up when I mentioned my book was set during WWII. It’s a very romantic era NY is too afraid to take a chance on.

  4. Great post loved the story. I’m a panster so I reaach a point where I think hmmm chapter break I stick in there. One of these days I might learn to write using a little plotting lol.
    Thanks for sharing your book excerpt sounds like a great read.

  5. I was that contest judge, and was so excited to see this book published! So don’t enter me in the drawing, as I already have it – but for those who don’t, go get this book, now! I’m looking forward to the other books you have on deck, Lori! Thanks for a fun interview, Cindy!

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