Saturday’s Pick: The Mother of Flinch-Free Fiction, Lia London
I waited for twenty-five years after the publication of my first book to pick up pen and paper. I began my writing journey again after retirement. The most beneficial discovery at the mid-point of my newest writing effort was finding a group of authors on Facebook. The group is called “Clean Indie Reads” (CIR), founded by author Lia London.
I met some of the most remarkable people in my entire career in this group.
They answered my questions, made suggestions, and supported me in a way my publisher didn’t come close to accomplishing.
In many ways, the group established by Lia London became my second family. Whether I feel lost or in a celebratory mood, I go there to seek counsel and kudos.
Please help me welcome author Lia London to my blog today!
Lia London was born in southern Oregon and raised as a military brat in North Carolina and Scotland before returning to Oregon.
She attended Western Oregon University and earned degrees in Language Arts Education and the Performing Arts.
Upon graduation, Lia served for 18 months as a missionary in Guatemala. She taught cholera prevention, literacy, and gospel messages.In addition, she worked as a high school teacher and ESL instructor for college students for a few years. Eventually, she became a stay-at-home mom.
Lia, I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s, and you’re a dedicated fan of the movies and television shows of that era. What is your favorite television program from ‘back in the day?’
Ah, there are many, but my whole family is partial to the Andy Griffith Show. It’s still funny, and there’s nary an instance of risqué behavior or language. It’s totally wholesome. You almost always come away realizing you can be a better person in some way.
I’d have to say it’s not PC by today’s standards, but I don’t go into it waiting to be outraged by the women’s roles or the overall whiteness of the show. It was what it was in its time, and the values of integrity, hard work, kindness, courage, and loyalty are timeless.
I can’t even imagine being a world traveler by my mid-twenties. I traveled the United States and a wee bit of southern Canada by then, but it would be years before I traveled outside of the U.S. What are some your most vivid memories of Guatemala?
The first one that jumps to mind was the first real earthquake I felt. It rattled the stone house in which we lived, and I was very alarmed. The native family with whom we stayed, however, said we should be glad for those little shakes.They meant the local volcano was letting off steam—instead of blowing up!
Another time, I woke up from a deep sleep by a deafening clatter. There had been a military coup d’etat only months before. That’s why I feared that guerrilla troops might be in a skirmish right outside. No. It was our landlord shaking the avocados from a tree right onto our corrugated tin roof!
I recently spent some time in Scotland, and I loved it. What do you remember, and did your parents travel outside of the British Isles while you were over there?
I loved Scotland. It was only three years of my life, but they were very formative years. I still want to go “home” to St. Andrews.
I loved the feeling of being connected to the past because everything was hundreds of years old.
It was a safer time and place, and I would wander the local castle ruins or explore the cobblestone streets by myself for hours. It felt like I lived in a fairy tale.
We were exceedingly fortunate in that the “flat” that we rented (the entire first floor of an old converted hotel). It came at a delightfully low cost but wasn’t available in the summers. We had to vacate the premises during the summer period so that they could pack in all the golfing tourists.
In the summers we hit the Continent and traveled all over Europe. I spent a goodly amount of time in France, Italy, Switzerland, and Norway with shorter stays in Holland, Denmark, and Sweden.
Lia London and Peggy McAloon have more than a few things in common. I played the church organ too. People told me how much they enjoyed it when I was the Sunday organist. They said I added some life and beat to the hymns. As a product of the 50’s, do you push the beat on the hymns? I prefer “rejoicing” to a slow, plodding tempo.
I’ll tell you now; I am not an organist. The truth is that I am a bad pianist who is filling a need. My husband leads a Spanish-speaking congregation, and there are only two of us who are familiar with a keyboard at all.
The other musician in our congregation played the organ for years. She now has three little ones to take care of, so it fell to me. God is kindly magnifying my efforts, and my skills are improving.
As to tempos—oh, heavens, yes! “Let us rejoice!”
True story—the first time I ever lead the congregation in singing as a conductor/chorister type person, I looked over to the elderly (mildly stuffy) organist and said, “Hit it, sister!”
Those in charge had a hard time keeping a straight face for that first hymn.
You home school your two teens. What advantages does that give your children?
Homeschool is one of those things that doesn’t work for everyone. In our case, it was the right choice for the kids growing up.
My daughter has some learning disabilities that require a lot more one-on-one help. But, the local schools were not going to be able to provide the support she required.
My son, on the other hand, was super smart and motivated to work hard. He tends to tune out in anything that resembles a lecture mode. Homeschool allowed him to be more engaged and explore his interests while still being challenged. I say all this and
(1) I was a teacher, and just plain wanted to teach my kids because I love them,
(2) This year they will be venturing out to new horizons. My daughter will attend public middle school, and my son will start taking classes at the local community college.
You are the founder and chief administrator of a network called Clean Indie Reads. It’s an organization of over 2500 authors, illustrators, and marketing specialists who work in the independent publishing industry. I can’t thank you enough for creating an atmosphere that both inspires and supports my writing efforts. When did you establish the group and what is your mission?
Clean Indie Reads began as an obscure little book blog back in May of 2013. I fully expected I’d have a readership of about 30 people.
I’d just left a publishing contract with my first book to go independent I wanted to show my friends who still looked down on self-published authors that indie authors wrote some top-notch stuff.
At first, I featured only books I had personally read. One of those authors suggested forming a Facebook group where we could cross promote. She had her group like that, and I didn’t want to copy the exact format.
There was a sharp uptick in interest in both the blog and the FB group. So, I quickly settled in on the mission: supporting independent authors from the first draft until they hit “publish” and all that marketing stuff that happens after.
I wanted to create a community where we could work together to boost our skills and our credible presence in the book market. The response has been overwhelming and wonderful.
It’s well-known that I’ve rescued two extremely high-maintenance Shih Tzu’s. One is blind and the other deaf. Both keep me awake for hours during the summer storms. What kind of dog shares your workspace and heart?
The cutest dog on the planet. (Sorry, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) He’s part silk dachshund, part terrier, and part angel. This little guy is 12lbs of cuteness on a stick (or so I call him because he’s long and skinny).
His name is Rolo after the candy because of his shape and caramelly color. He’s a total lover and car dog. If’ I have to buy milk or get gas or drive the kids to an activity, he wants to go with me!
I grew up with The Pink Panther and Monty Python, which is probably one of the reasons I adored The Fargenstropple Case. Amazon’s description states: What Monty Python’s Flying Circus might have done with Dame Agatha Christie’s lost manuscript. I’m still laughing. Describe your protagonist and why you created him.
I patterned Chief Inspector Terrence Morgan after Monty Python. He does play a bit of a straight man to the crazies around him. But, there’s still slapstick physicality. The timing of his dialogue should be very John Cleese-esque.
The man is very competent but turns a bit to jelly around the enigmatic and lovely debutante, Jessica Hadley-Merrill. He’s learned to garner the favor of the working class and wealthy alike. You’ll find he plays to their various conceitedness without deception.
Oh, and he can walk in high heels.
On a more serious note, I love your devotionals. My mother was in a nursing home for nearly fifteen years, and this is exactly the type of book that gave her joy in those last years. Why was it important to you to share these inspirational messages?
I used to send little spiritual thoughts and experiences I had to a ring of friends.
Every so often I’d get these little ideas and want to share them with those I loved. So I’d send them out in a group email.
One Christmas, a recipient typed up many of my stories and had it bound at the local copy store, complete with a glossy cover. As I pored over my words, often forgotten once sent, I realized I had something that might help others.
My first venture into the world of blogging was called Parables & Ponderings. I shared those and other anecdotes and thoughts hoping to reach more people who needed a lift.
That little blog had a small but loyal following for a while. Eventually, I decided to turn it all into a book.
Nikki Fallon in Her Imaginary Husband is a character who triggers laughter and tears with her antics. Romance Author Tamie Dearen calls it a “delectable” and “a yummy book.” Having known you for several years, I’d have to guess Nikki has a bit of Lia in her. Which roadblocks were the most fun for you to throw at her?
Most of the non-romance stuff in the book is either autobiographical or something I witnessed other teachers do. The hard part of the story for me was the “roadblock” of romance. I never had a hunky coach or the campus cop after me. So I had to stretch my imagination on that stuff!
Tell us a little about your Gypsy Girl Series.
This one started as a dream with an actual old-style gypsy caravan wagon and two kids who broke into it on a lark.
There was a creature in it that jammed a pearl into the arm of one of the children. The child then experienced supernatural strength in different parts of his body as the thing flowed through his bloodstream. No, not scientific, but it was a dream.
I shared the idea with my son, who thought the story had potential. So then I took it to my website, which at the time was an interactive and collaborative fiction thing.
I presented the general arc, asked my readers to give me a setting and who the character should be.
They switched the boy child to a teen girl and bumped the whole thing out into space. We worked together for a few chapters, and then I took the reins alone.
My main character then completely took over the story and made it into so much more than I ever expected.
Caz is a teen girl with wanderlust and curiosity, but also a big heart for those who are different. She has lived her whole life on a space station in the Granbo System.
When her restlessness gets her in trouble she ends up transferred to a reformatory on the surface of one of the planets. She is thrilled at the adventure.
What she doesn’t know is that she has been chosen by the leader of another species to perform an arduous quest. A quest which was intended to change the whole balance of power throughout the planets.
It’s action-packed, but also touches on many sociological and environmental themes. In the end, I hope it opens people’s eyes to the fact that we don’t have to all be the same to get along or do great things.
You take your readers into a world filled with magic and teenage hormones gone a bit wild in your novel, Magian High. Be honest here, are the kids based on your memories or on the teens who fill your home to overflowing on the best of days?
I don’t know that there are so many raging hormones in the story, though there is a subplot of romance. As for who are they patterned after – good question!
I’ve worked with teens ever since I was a teen, so I’ve had thousands and thousands of examples to choose from in my writing. I’d say the Magian High characters are all shadows of the various types of kids I’ve known over the years.
Certainly, the core characters are similar in values to the kids who were in my closest group of friends as a high school student. We tried to be inclusive and kind.
I’d have a problem going to a high school where some kids have magic and others don’t. How did you keep those with powers from “overpowering” the less fortunate?
Well, that’s kind of at the crux of the story, isn’t it? The story happens during the first time the mages have mixed with the non-magical kids. Some of them abuse their power.
The heroes of the story try to help everyone see that there are different kinds of talents. Just because we have the ability to do something to someone else doesn’t mean we should.
If Lia London could spend Halloween anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Hmmm. I’d go to a neighborhood (in a warmer clime) with lots of adorable little kids. I’d love to sit on a lovely white porch swing, pass out candy, and chat with Trick-or-Treaters about their costumes.
What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy afternoon?
Quick! Favorite comfort food Lia London reaches for when the pressure’s on:
Milk chocolate with a jar of JIF peanut butter for dipping!
Do you write from the perspective of an only child – the oldest – youngest -middle child?
I am one of two siblings, but my sister is eight years older. So for much of my youth, I felt like an only child. So far, it seems like all my main characters come from families with two siblings, though they are usually closer together in age.
Tell us one thing no one knows about Lia London.
That’s hard because I’m a pretty open book. (No pun intended. I’m just very candid.) I suppose something that is not common knowledge is that I used to be quite a little jock—field hockey, volleyball, basketball—until I broke my leg in a bike accident and turned to music instead.
Thank you for joining me here today, Lia London. You have made a huge difference in the lives of thousands of authors, and I salute you for your hard work and compassion. Please keep writing, I love your imagination and style!
Lia London – Additional Links and Sites:
Clean Indie Reads started as an obscure little blog founded by Lia London, but it grew up into much more–a unique support network for independent authors. It has become so large (over 2500 writers!) that some of our brave members have formed genre-specific websites and groups, much like committees at work (only a lot more fun). Let me introduce you to them.
Fellowship of Fantasy is a reader/writer site that seeks to provide ways for authors. They have an author directory, a blog, pages for fan art, and a free book library. You can find contests, events, and social media tag games. Look for them on social media using #ReadFoF and #FellowshipofFun. The incomparable Heidi Lyn Burke, a past recipient of the CIR Strong Award and prolific author of steampunk and dragon lore, started this group!
Clean Romance Books features clean romance novels and novellas. Feel free to browse, or use our search box to discover your personal interests. These books are free of swear words, gratuitous violence, and sex. It has a newsletter with great recommendations coming right to your inbox. USA Today best-selling romance author Victorine Lieske, also a past recipient of the CIR Strong Award started this group (can we pick ’em, or what?).
Clean Indie Reads Sale is the hosting site for our seasonal sales. You can click on it at any time to see either a countdown to our next big gig or the actual listings of dynamite deals by CIR authors. We have a whole team of people working on this, but our top dog on this project is Dyego Alehandro, a valued member of our CIR admin team.
You Can Find Lia London at these additional sites: