Friday, February 27, 2015

Interview with Lorna and Larry Collins

While Lorna and Larry are a married couple who collaborate on books, each has published separately as well. Their shared experience helping to design the Universal Studios Japan Theme Park became the basis of their memoir, 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park. They have since published numerous books in various fiction and nonfiction categories. The International Guy of Mystery interviewed them electronically while hiding in Pinocchio's nose in a crowded amusement park.

1. IGM:  If you had to give a quick, one-sentence description of  one of your novels to a Hollywood mogul, what would you say?

L&L: We have elevator pitches for all our books. Since we have twelve published and several more in the works, I can’t give you all of them. For Ghost Writer, for example, the pitch is this:
Nan Burton loses everything: job, boyfriend, apartment, car. Then she inherits a cottage with resident ghost. In time, they each learn what really matters.
Lorna wrote a recent blog on this subject:

2. IGM: What inspired you to write your books (personal experience, books you love, real people and events, etc.)?

L&L: Our first book, 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park, is a memoir about living in Japan for nearly three years building the Universal Studios Japan theme park. Our mysteries (Murder…They Wrote and Murder in Paradise) came about by accident while attending a writers’ conference. The Aspen Grove romance anthologies, which Lorna co-wrote, evolved from friendships with other writers. Our historical novel, The Memory Keeper, was inspired by Mission San Juan Capistrano and the local Indians who were here before the Spanish arrived. Each book has its own inspiration.

3. IGM: What gives each of you the most joy as a writer?

L&L: This is an easy one. Last October a friend, whom we have both known since early childhood, called to tell us she had read The Memory Keeper. She spent over an hour carrying on about how much she loved the story and the characters. This is a person with severe dyslexia, who never before had read a book for pleasure. She was hooked. Between October and January, she read 97 books—including all of ours! To be able to give the gift of the pleasure of reading to that one person was worth all the effort.

IGM: What is the hardest thing about writing?

L&L: For both of us it’s concentrating on one story. We always have several in the works, so focusing on one becomes difficult.

5.   IGM: How did you come up with the titles?

L&L: The titles usually evolve from the stories themselves. Sometimes they are ironic. We have found ourselves a long way into a book before the final title emerges. With The Memory Keeper, we tried several working titles. Once we found this one, it became obvious it was correct for this book.

6.   IGM: Tell a little about your process. Do you know how a book should end before you start?

L&L: We usually write the first chapter and then the last chapter. Those define the story arc, and we always know where we have to go with the story. Larry is a plotter and Lorna is a ‘pantser’—that is, she writes by the seat of her pants. The only way we can collaborate is if we both have a good grasp on the overall story as we write it.

7.   IGM: Pretend you are fielding a baseball team with your favorite writers. List them by position. (If you dislike baseball, I just don't know what to say).
L&L: We hate sports, except surfing—and they don’t have teams…

9.   IGM: (faints and falls out of nose. Is revived when Skippy the Spy Dog licks his face) :Pretend your book is being made into a movie. What actors would play the lead characters? (Note: if your book is being optioned for a movie, you may wish to send several thousand dollars to the International Guy of Mystery Foundation as a tax write-off).

L&L: For AgapĂ© Jones, the protagonist in our mysteries, we decided long ago we’d love to have Lawrence Fishburn play the role. We discussed this with the fellow who inspired the character, and it turns out, he grew up with ‘Larry’! Unfortunately, they haven’t seen each other since grammar school, but we continue to hope…

1 comment:

  1. John, thank you for a fun interview. Hope to meet you in person at a conference soon!