The thing I enjoy most about the Indie Spotlight is meeting the authors behind the stories and Lorrie Farrelly is so full of energy, it’s contagious. Despite a pixilated Google Hangout, her passion for books makes it across the Atlantic vividly, as she talks about what inspires her, free-spirited first drafts, the importance of a good edit and the pride of winning an award at the end of it all.
An energetic storyteller
Retired from classroom teaching, Lorrie is relishing in the time she now has to write. She has published several novels, two of which were winners in the 2014 Readers’ Favourite International Book Awards. I read Terms of Surrender, one of her triumphs, which has a cast as lively as the author. She uses dialect to give each an unique voice – “Lordy…it hurts somethin’ fierce” – which, although a little too literal at times, is energetic nonetheless.
She’s given the lead role to Michael Cantrell who has lost everything in the war between the states and – although keen to move on and leave his bitterness behind – finds himself entangled in yet another war, that of Annie Devlin, who’s fighting against violent opposition to save her ranch. Unsurprisingly then, there’s a tornado of action like the “sudden gunfire, crash of pots and pans, and explosions of firecrackers just outside the window” tangled with swirls of tender emotion as Michael begins to fall for the courageous Annie.
Spontaneous writing is a thrilling highway
Lorrie seems to have much insight into the American civil war – several of her ancestors were involved in the conflict and she’s clearly read a lot about it – and felt a strong desire for such devastation to be the catalyst for Michael’s story. Writing at her kitchen table, surrounded by the bustle of three generations, cats, dogs and Mickey Mouse on the telly, Lorrie felt the pain of the families broken up during the war and this helped her bring the characters’ feelings alive. (I did wonder, though, if she retreated to her study to write some of the more passionate scenes!)
The characters, admits Lorrie with pride, have a mind of their own and she loves the thrill of discovering what they’re going to do as they journey through the story. In fact, Lorrie begins writing with little more than a premise and uses her first draft to discover the plot. Often this approach takes her down the highway to a full novel but one of the downsides of being such a free-spirited writer is that, occasionally, she has to abandon stories that end in a cul-de-sac with a flat tyre. Fortunately, Terms of Surrender turned out to have a lot of mileage and Lorrie’s gone on to write two sequels as a result of the encouraging response she’s had from readers.
Great writers love consuming stories
Lorrie reads widely, everything from the supernatural to the historical, and speaks excitedly of a novel about a siege in a rail road town, which she finished recently, because she loved the way reading it made her discover a little more about herself and got her involved emotionally. She believes every great writer is also a heavy reader and feels passionate about encouraging children to read because it’s crucial to sew the flower of language as they grow.
However, it’s not just books that she enjoys and she says writers shouldn’t be afraid to turn to other creative forms for inspiration citing a number of successful television series as great examples of storytelling and successfully capturing humanity.
Lorrie also believes in collaborating. She’s fortunate to have a designer and creative writing major, who’s qualified to edit, in the family to help her as she polishes each story. She recalls, with a giggle, a book she read that featured an anecdote to poison rather than antidote. I’m sure doctors have many anecdotes but none would counteract venom. Small errors, however funny, can certainly taint readers’ enjoyment.
Even master writers who have written many great stories know a good edit, whether from a professional, peer or family member with experience, is crucial. It could make all the difference if you want to win your readers’ praise and, like Lorrie, maybe even an award!