Lisa M. Lilly is an attorney and writer whose works have appeared in various publications, such as Parade of Phantoms, ChickFlicks, Strong Coffee, and Hair Trigger. The title story of her collection The Tower Formerly Known as Sears and Two Other Tales of Urban Horror was recently made into a short film entitled Willis Tower.
Lilly currently lives in Chicago, where she serves as vice president of Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists, a group dedicated to preventing DUI injuries and deaths.
Lilly’s latest novel, The Awakening, is now available. She is already hard at work on the sequel, which is expected to be released in the spring of 2014. For more information, visit her website at www.lisalilly.com.
What inspires you to write?
For me, reading books is a way to experience things I never will in real life and to step into the shoes of people whose perspectives I might never otherwise understand. So I love that, as a writer, I get to create stories and characters that I hope allow others to do the same thing. Also, I have a lot of varied interests. I love numbers, and practicing law, and theater; I like to read about philosophy, religion, science, self-help. Writing allows me to draw on my different areas of interest at different times. Plus, I love to make up things. 🙂
Tell us about your writing process.
I start with one or two ideas that intrigue me and I free write about them in a Word document or sometimes scribbling on legal pads. Other times I take walks and talk out loud to myself, which doesn’t draw so many strange looks now — everyone assumes I’m talking on the phone. Gradually, I figure out the beginning of the story and the major plot turns at the 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 point, plus the ending. Along the way, I’m rambling in a separate Word document about characters. After I’ve filled in a few notes on the scenes that take me from one 1/4 point to the next, I start writing. I basically move from point to point in the outline as quickly as possible. As I write the beginning, sometimes the later parts of the outline change. Generally I spend about four times as long revising the initial draft as I did writing it, if not more. I’m much more of rewriter than a writer. I feel anxious during the first draft, and I enjoy the revising much more.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I rarely talk to my characters as, in their world, I don’t exist. Instead, I listen to them. How do they express themselves? Long sentences? Short sentences? Formal language? Slang? Do they get to the point or keep their emotions to themselves? If a scene isn’t working, it’s often because I haven’t listened to the character enough to know what she or he wants or really would do or say. So I may need to rewrite the scene. Or, if that scene needs to be the way it is, I need to rethink the character and give her or him different motivations or a different background that will fit the scene.
What advice would you give other writers?
Join a book discussion group. It’s the best way to hear how readers respond to and think and feel about books they are reading for fun. You’ll see a vast variation in what people like and don’t in writing. Also, it’s always easier to see the flaws in someone else’s writing. When you’ve discussed why or how a character is not believable, or what disappointed you or your co-book group members about a plot or theme, it helps you get a fresh eye on your own work to see if you have similar issues. It’s also reassuring, as you’ll realize that you will never please every reader. It will help you narrow down who your target audience is.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I wrote for many years and submitted queries and novels to agents and traditional publishers. I made progress and got some short pieces published, but never got a book contract. With The Awakening, the feedback I got was that it was a good story and well-written, but perhaps not the right fit for a very large publishers. Since with smaller book publishers authors generally need to go a great deal of promotion on their own, including creating their own marketing plan, I decided I’d rather control everything. So I self-published. I also like running a business (I run my own law firm, too). It’s challenging and fun. On the other hand, if you really want to spend the bulk of your time writing, and you don’t like focusing on balance sheets, networking and marketing plans, you’re probably better off continuing to pursue a traditional publishing contract. (Keep in mind, though, that most traditionally-published authors do still do a fair amount of their own marketing, and the query/submission process itself is very time consuming.)
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think we’ll see more and more variations and options. Big publishers will probably continue for the blockbuster books, but there will likely be more companies that offer partnerships with authors — a sort of hybrid between traditional and self-publishing. I suspect you’ll also see more and more companies that in essence screen self-published books for readers to try to help them find what they like best and pinpoint the self-published books that are well-edited and professional. Unfortunately, you’ll also see more growth in the author scamming industry where “publishers” charge ridiculous prices to authors and offer little or no service. Definitely do your homework. Self-publishing can be done both economically and professionally. Publishing your book should not bankrupt you — it should ultimately generate an income for you.
What do you use?
Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?
Horror, occult, thriller, suspense.
What formats are your books in?