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Interview with Loren Stephens

She is a published novelist, essayist, and short-story writer. She is also president and founder of Write Wisdom and Bright Star Memoirs, a ghostwriting company based in Los Angeles. She is a two-time nominee for a Pushcart Prize. Prior to founding her company, she was a documentary filmmaker and theater producer. 

The recipient of two Cine Gold Eagles, and an Emmy nomination, she is a graduate of Cornell University and Columbia University’s School of Public Policy and International Affairs. She sits on the National Commission of the human rights organization, the Anti-Defamation League, and is a member of Greenlight Women, a mentoring program in the entertainment industry.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
I studied cabaret singing but never made it to the Algonquin.

Q.2 Do you have any upcoming books?
I am working on a rom-com set in Manhattan and Paris in the 60s.

Q.3 When did you decide to write All Sorrows Can Be Borne?
Inspired by my husband’s family history, I wanted to know why his mother gave him away. I went to Osaka, Japan to interview his biological mother and that became the beginning of a ten-year adventure leading up to the publication of All Sorrows in 2021.

Q.4 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
As a ghostwriter, I am responsible for 40 books. Under my own name, I have published two including All Sorrows. The other is Paris Nights: My Year at the Moulin Rouge by Cliff Simon with Loren Stephens which was named by Kirkus as one of the best memoirs from an independent press. 

I don’t really have a favorite book. Each book I have written has taken me on an exciting journey leading to many surprises and revelations.

Q.5 If you could tell your younger writing self anything what would it be?
Be in it for the long haul. Writing is rewriting. And the most important skills are to be curious, to pay attention to details, and be willing to cut words that don’t serve the story.

Q.6 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good and bad ones?
I read all my reviews. I bask in the glory of good ones and ignore the bad ones.

Q.7 What are the three things a reader can expect from your books?
Strong characters with complex emotions; lots of research; and attention to place whether it is Paris, New York, Shanghai, Vienna, Italy, or Los Angeles.

Q.8 What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Making sure that I honored my husband’s family while writing a good story.

Q.9 What were your feelings when your novel was accepted/when you first saw the cover of the finished product?
I worked with the publisher to find a designer to do the cover. I was given four choices and selected the one that I thought best represented the atmosphere of the book. 

I stayed away from the common trope of “woman with her back to the reader.” I was happy with the cover design, but will probably make a few changes when the paperback is issued. It will probably be less abstract.

Q.10 Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?
It chose me. I originally thought I was writing a family memoir, but there were so many holes in the story, that I turned it into a novel so that I could exercise my imagination.

Q.11 Share something or any anecdote from your initial draft that didn’t make the part of this book.
There was a whole section between my husband’s adoptive mother and father that I had to cut out of the book in order to focus the story. One of the drafts was almost 500 pages, and the published version is 360 pages so a lot landed on the cutting room floor. I have enough material for another novel, but I’m ready to move on.

Q.12 Do you believe in writer’s block? If yes, how do you deal with it?
I don’t have the luxury of writer’s block - especially when it comes to my clients’ books. I am on a schedule and need to deliver chapters in a given period of time. When writing for myself, I am theoretically not on a schedule, but I plan my week to include so many hours for my own writing.

Q.13 How long does it take you to write this book?
I wrote six drafts and worked with three different editors. From initial inception to completion it took me nine years.

Q.14 What is your favorite book from other authors and why?
My reading is very eclectic - other than science fiction I like most genres. I particularly like murder mysteries (Stephen King); historical fiction (Amor Towles); psychological novels (Barbara Kingsolver and Abraham Verghese).

Q.15 How do your family/friends feel about your book or writing venture in general?
Because my husband’s family is stage center, I was very apprehensive about their reactions, but they are very excited to see the novel come to fruition and are my greatest fans.

Q.16 What would you share with folks who are skeptical of reading Non-Fiction?
Nonfiction and fiction are two sides of the same coin. Both need a good story, compelling characters, identifiable themes, etc.

Q.17 What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Write what you are curious about. Forget about the “write what you know,” trope. You can learn what you need to know in order to write a compelling novel about almost anything if you are willing to do the research.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead, would you like to meet and why?
A. Eleanor Roosevelt
. I admire her beliefs; and her ability to navigate a difficult marriage and find her own voice even when it was oppositional to her husband’s. She found a room of her own and led a fascinating life serving as a model for women.

Q.19 Who designed your book covers?
Sorry, I have forgotten the name, but the publisher helped me in finding one.

Q.20 Share the experience of your writing journey so far?
I am in the thick of marketing my book. I believe that writers need readers, and without good publicity and constant promotion, your book will die on the vine or at the back of the bookshelf so to speak. 

I love independent bookstores and love meeting with booksellers. They are my best friends. I am happy to do podcasts to get the word out and have entered a number of prize competitions. Fingers crossed.

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