Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes, from the time I was a child, I said I was going to grow up to be a writer. Unfortunately my mother said something that made me set aside my dream for too long. I know she had my best interest in mind, but she told me, “You’ll never make a living as a writer,” so instead, I majored in English Education at Indiana University. If only she were here now to see the success I have had in both careers, I think she would be doubly proud.
Tell us about your new book.
When Hearts Conjoin is the true story of the Herrin family, along with their daughters Kendra and Maliyah who were born conjoined in 2002. These two little girls won the hearts of people all around the world, and helped bring their parents back together from the brink of divorce. Their separation surgery was the first of its kind, and Maliyah’s kidney transplant was a second gift of love from her mother.
Tell us about your other books.
Most of my previous publications have been in the realm of educational publishing, including Books, Books and More Books: A Parent’s Guide to Adolescent Literature and an invitational chapter in Teaching Ideas for 7-12 English Language Arts. I have written several middle grade/young adult novels that I am shopping, and I have several other works in various stages of writing, but the next book to be published will likely be another non-fiction biography. I’m currently working with Alan Osmond, David Osmond, and Jim Karol on each of their biographies. I also have two screenplays that have been optioned.
What inspires you and motivates you to write the very most?
Since much of my writing has been non-fiction, I often find myself writing about topics that I’m already passionate about—especially when it comes to education and literacy issues. But I also love a good story. That’s where the fiction and biographies come to me. I find situations, memories, or conflicts that I think would come together into a good tale and I find myself in the middle of writing it in my head before I ever get to the computer.
Is there an established writer you admire and emulate in your writing? Do you have a writing mentor?
I’ve had many mentors through the years—Carol Lynch Williams, John H Ritter, Joan Bauer, and the members of my writer’s critique group—Heather Moore, Annette Lyon, J. Scott Savage, Michele Holmes, and Rob Wells. I wrote my first novel—Leona and Me, Helen Marie—after reading Gary Paulsen’s Harris and Me. His was based on events from his own childhood. Mine was based on those from my mother. The book is about growing up in Southern Indiana in the 1920s, and as a native-Hoosier author, I’ve been thinking lately that if there were an author I’d like to be most like it would be Richard Peck, who also sets many of his books in those same familiar settings.
Location and life experience can sprinkle their influence in your writing. Tell us about where you grew up and a little about where you live now - city? Suburb? Country? Farm? If you could live anywhere you want to live, where would that be? Well, as I said, I’m originally from Indiana, a small town named Alexandria. Three of my novels are set in the Hoosier state. I was the youngest of four children, and the last one living at home since I was in the third grade because they were all much older than I am. I was raised in a Kodak box at my parent’s camera store, literally! If most of my friends from high school had any idea about all the places I’ve gone and things I’ve done since I left home, they would be amazed. Although I live in Spanish Fork, Utah now, I still call Alex home. My husband and I own several rental properties there, along with the home my grandparents lived in while my dad was a kid. As for living somewhere else, I’m one of those people who hates to move, so I’ll probably stay right where I’m at now for a good long time, although my husband and I have talked about moving to Los Angeles—the place I dreamed about living as a new college graduate—and the place he often works. How would I ever make it to critique though if I lived that far away?
Bring us into your home and set the scene for us when you are writing. What does it look like? On the couch, laptop, desk? Music? Lighting, handwriting?
I most often work in an office at home that is way too messy (my summer cleaning project, actually). Messy is what you get when you keep adding new kids into a family and the office becomes the dumping ground for stuff you don’t quite know what to do with, I guess. A few months ago, we set up a reading room where I keep my laptop, and I sometimes write there as well. When I’m teaching school, I’ll often write at the same time as my students and then send the files home to add everything into my hard drive on the desktop.
Do you watch television or movies? If so, what are your favorites? Do they inspire your writing?
I used to be addicted to television, but I honestly don’t watch much anymore. I did enjoy The Celebrity Apprentice this year, and I used to watch American Idol, but not after David Osmond was eliminated. One of my favorite shows was Clean Sweep because it inspired me to clean out junk—the kick in the pants I need right now for this office! I do enjoy movies, and since I’m writing scripts, rentals and going to the theater are both tax write-offs for me. I’m working on a film treatment for a comedy that I envision starring Donny Osmond and William Shatner, so I’ve watched several comedies the past few months. I usually go to at least one new release a month. Last week I saw Star Trek, not only to see how they revamped it, but because my husband worked on the Utah crew who filmed the beauty shots on Vulcan. We plan to see Angels & Demons sometime this week as well.
How has being published changed your life?
It’s been interesting to see how people view me a little differently as a writer now that my name is on the front cover of a book. I’ve been writing for years, and I have a following in my newspaper columns for the Spanish Fork Press, but when I tell people I’m a writer, the first question is always, “What’s the name of your book?” Now I can tell them, and they seem more satisfied than when I said I was a newspaper columnist. Now that I have one book actually out I think I’m also a little hungrier to see the next one, and the next. I’ve not been afraid to take on more challenging projects, and I’m ready to try some new venues and niche markets that I might not have been interested in before. I still hope to see my novels published, and I’ve even started one for the LDS market.
Do you have any book signings, tours or special events planned to promote your book that readers might be interested in attending?
If so, when and where? Also tell about your blog and website. Richard Paul Evans hosted an incredible book launch and media party for us the last week of April, and I’ve spoken at a couple of conferences since then as well. Right now my next scheduled presentation is in September at the League of Utah Writers Round-Up, but I’m hoping to add a few more things onto my calendar soon. Juggling writing, book promotion, and teaching school has been an interesting experience and there does come a point in time in which one simply has to sleep! I have two blogs that might be of the most interest to your readers: www. LuAnnsLibrary.blogspot.com is where you’ll find my general musing about writing, life, education, etc. and http://www.luannsbookreview.blogspot.com/ is where I post author interviews and book reviews. My website is in desperate need of an overhaul—another summer project—but if you’d like to follow my progress on that one, the site is http://www.luannstaheli.com/.
Thanks for giving me this opportunity to talk about myself and my book. Copies can be ordered online at http://www.utahtwins.com/. Royalties from the book go into a trust fund for Kendra and Maliyah’s medical expenses.