Tell us a little about yourself
Aside from a year spent in Florida following grad school, and a sabbatical in D.C. a year ago, I’ve lived in Michigan my entire life. I was raised in the sweet little town of Grand Ledge, attended Central Michigan University and Michigan State University. I currently live with my husband in an old, treelined East Lansing neighbourhood. I work for the Lansing Public Schools—initially as a speech/language pathologist, later as a high school guidance counsellor, and now as a homebound teacher.
The Life List tells the story of a young woman who embarks on a year-long journey of self-discovery after her mother passes away and leaves her an inheritance with one big stipulation — in order to receive it she must complete the items on the “life list” of goals she made for herself when she was 14.
What was the inspiration for The Life List?
A few years ago, I came across an old cedar box, and tucked alongside my grandmother’s rosary and my first bankbook was a yellowed piece of notebook paper folded into a neat little square. In my flowery 14-year-old handwriting, I’d written “Lori’s List” across the top, along with 27 life goals. As I read it, I thought about the dreams I once had, some of which had been fulfilled, others that never would be. It struck me how very different my life would be now, had I achieved each goal. Suddenly a story was taking shape…the story of a woman forced to complete her old life list, humble goals she thinks she no longer wants.
The main character, Brett, seems to have quite the life- until her mother passes away. How hard was it to write about a mother passing away and the affect it would have on Brett?
I wrote so many of Elizabeth’s letters with tears rolling down my cheeks. But I didn’t want the book to be a downer, nor did I want it to be complete fluff. So it was tricky balancing lightness with heft. The aftermath of her mother’s death was devastating, yes, but also bittersweet. In the end, it forced Brett to become the person she was meant to be, exactly what Elizabeth had hoped.
From the beginning to end, how long did The Life List take to write?
I started writing in October of 2009 and finished the first draft in January, 2010—record time for me. And that’s when the real work began. I polished and re-wrote for a year, then spent months querying agents. I was offered representation from Jenny Bent in August of 2011. I spent another six months revising, and the book sold in the US in March of 2012. Then time seemed to stop. Nobody outside the business seems to understand why it takes another 16+ months for the book to be published. My mother would say, “It’s finished, so why can’t they just publish it now?”
Do you have a writing space? A writing routine?
I do have an office where I keep my laptop, but I often unplug and take it elsewhere. We have a high counter in one room where I can stand, rather than sit, which as any writer knows, is a nice relief! Because I work full-time, my writing time is generally reserved for late afternoons and evenings. I know the common wisdom is to write every day, and I try to, but I’ve learned not to torture myself if I don’t.
Are any of the characters based on people in real life or just figments of your imagination?
That’s an interesting question. I think bits and pieces of my friends and family can be found in almost all of these characters, but there is no character who is completely true to life. I’ve done some volunteer work in a homeless shelter, and I work as a homebound teacher in an inner-city school district, so although these characters were completely fictitious, I was able to draw on real-life experiences when writing these scenes.
Do you want The Life List to be made into a movie one day? If so, who are the actors that would comprise your dream cast?
It would be a dream come true to see The Life List on screen. And this dream is an inch closer to reality because Fox 2000 has purchased the film option! I say an inch because it remains a long shot that it’ll ever be produced. Still, it’s exciting to think about the possibility. And my dream cast? I’d love to see Emma Stone, Hilary Swank, or Jennifer Garner as Brett; Mark Ruffalo, Paul Rudd, or Gerard Butler as Brad; and Hugh Jackman or Bradley Cooper as Garrett. (Sadly, Clooney might be just a tad old for a role…darn!)
After a person reads the last page of The Life List- what is the most important thing you hope the reader will take from the experience?
I get the most satisfaction from people who tell me the book inspires them to take a look at their own goals. So many of us feel we have no control over our destiny. Sure we have dreams, but we never really seize them, and before long another year has passed, then a decade. I’d love to think the story might motivate someone to find a new job, dump Mr. Wrong, move to a new place, or anything else they’ve been too timid to do.
Are you working on another book? If so, can you tell us what the book is about?
Between my full-time job and promoting The Life List, I haven’t had the time to fully immerse myself in my new project, but it’s one I’m very excited about. It’s about forgiveness—granting and seeking it. Once again, life forces a woman to make changes, this time to atone for a serious accusation she made years ago, an accusation that as an adult she’s come to doubt.
As part of this feature I've been asked to come up with 3 life list goals for myself. If I'd been asked this a couple of months ago, a change of career would probably have been top of the list but I've since found out that I'm being made redundant next year so this looks like it's now going to be a reality. So anyway here's what I've come up with...
- Swim with dolphins
- Take a trip to Australia and New Zealand
- Stay in an Ice Hotel