It’s always fun to find new and interesting writers such as Lori T. Strongin. Her debut novel, Bite Me, is about some very funny and unique college student with who are dealing with more than just papers and professors. I have had the pleasure to getting to know Lori as a writer and now is your chance to know her, too.
Tropes exist for me to destroy. I mean, rework. ☺ I love looking at a character type and thinking, ‘How can I make them different from what’s come before?’ For example, in the Shadows of the Emerald City anthology, my piece featured a middle-aged Dorothy who was an alcoholic, chain-smoking, wreck of a woman working as an exotic dancer while hiding under Oz’s version of the witness protection program. Definitely not your typical Dorothy Gale from Kansas.
I’ve done the same with Bite Me. The book features a surfer-boy werewolf, a Buddhist, vegetarian vampire, a shapeshifter with ferret envy, a banshee with laryngitis issues, and a wizard whose only successful spell is making people’s clothes disappear.
Bite Me, your debut novel, is described as “a humorous, urban fantasy ‘buddy novel’ about a co-ed vampire and werewolf who loathe each other, yet are forced to partner together to stop Woodstock, New York’s most unusual psychopath.” What inspired this quirky novel idea?
It actually came from a conversation at writing group one night about genre clichés. We were talking about vampires and crosses and, being the smartass that I am, asked, “Well, what if my vampire is Jewish?” And while my question met that special kind of uncomfortable silence usually associated with epic!fail, it spawned a series of short stories that were fairly well received by readers. When one person suggested I give these characters their own novel, I knew it was a challenge I had to accept.
Your mantra is “Normal is overrated”. What does that mean to you?
Haha, oh man, is this a loaded question. I have never been normal. I hate milk in my cereal, won’t touch salad dressing or peanut butter, and think sporks are the most awesome invention on the planet. I’d rather wear a Renaissance-era gown than jeans, think the Lord of the Rings musical was the best thing I’ve ever seen on any stage, and burst out into song in random intervals. But you know what? I have FUN being different. To quote an actor I truly admire (Chris Colfer), being different is the best thing about me. It’s taken me a long time to realize the normalcy everyone is so hung up on when we’re young is just a choke chain stifling who we really are and who we could one day be. So, I’m proud not to be normal, and I hope I never am again.
This is your first published novel. Have you published any other fiction for readers to find?
Sure have! I’ve been lucky enough to have my work included in several lit mags and anthologies. I’m incredibly proud of the Shadows of the Emerald City book I mentioned earlier, not just because of the amazing stories and contributing authors in there, but it was ranked 9th best anthology of 2009 in the Predators and Editors annual poll. I’m also proud of the upcoming Ride the Moon anthology coming out next month from Tyche Books.
All my publications are listed at my website, www.loristrongin.com under the Current Publications tab.
What has been the biggest challenge or the most fun for you when writing Bite Me?
Most fun was seeing the looks on the faces of my writing group after I read them the marshmallow Peep scene. Actually, no, the best moment has to be when we shot the book trailer for Bite Me and blew up a dollhouse with something called the Insta-Crater.
Biggest challenge? The path to publication. I think a part of me always knew this would be my debut novel (versus the others trunked in my Word doc files), but finding an agent or publisher who agreed with me was a long journey—one that had me doubting my dream and myself. So I don’t think it surprised anyone that, when I got that acceptance email from Mundania, I burst into tears.
To some degree writers write a bit of themselves into their characters. Which character is most like you? Which character would you most like to resemble?
Tough question! I think probably Talbot, Fletcher, and Julian have the most of myself in them. Talbot just wants people to like him, and he works pretty hard to be the guy others will go to because he likes being needed. Julian, on the other hand, has had a lot of bad experiences in his past with trusting people, so he tends to push potential friends away before anyone else can hurt him. And as for Fletcher…well, he has no brain-mouth filter and sometimes, I’d love to be that way…if I didn’t worry about terminal foot-in-mouth disease, that is.
Even though Bite Me is your debut novel, you’ve been writing short stories and articles for years. What advice can you share with someone who would like to write, but hasn’t yet published?
Never stop writing. The more crap you produce, the more room you have in your head for the good stuff. Also, look for critiquers who will be honest with you and not sugarcoat your problem areas. And, of course, listen to the advice they’re giving you and take their suggestions into account before writing them off, no matter how harsh the comments might feel.
Do you have a mentor or another writer who helped to guide you through your writing process or with developing your career? Who do you turn to for advice?
Definitely. Author Marie Dees took me under her wing when we met at writing group…oh goodness, ten years ago? She took one look at the chapter I submitted for critique and told me it sucked. BUT, then she taught me how to make it better. She also showed me the difference between a dabbler who jots down stories for fun and the writer who wants to BE a writer. And I can’t thank her enough for that.
Who are a few of your favorite authors? What is it about these authors that resonate most with you?
Well, no one can world-build like J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien. I’m also a big fan of Carlos Ruiz Zafon and Paulo Coelho, for the beautiful lyricism of their prose. And Piers Anthony maybe had the biggest influence on me because it was his Xanth series that convinced me to pursue a career in writing.
When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Is there a moment where the need to write crystallized for you? How did that realization feel?
Excellent segue, eh? There really wasn’t a singular moment, but kind of a lifetime of just knowing. My parents said that, as a toddler, I’d line my stuffed animals along the wall and baby-babble stories at them. Then when I was older, I’d tell stories for Peter Pan, who I was absolutely certain was just outside my window, waiting to whisk me off to adventure in Neverland. And I don’t think it surprised anyone when I declared an English-Creative Writing major in college.
What are you working on next?
Surprisingly, a contemporary YA! The idea came to me at last year’s Romantic Times convention in a panel about under-represented voices in YA fiction. Which got me thinking about which groups don’t have a voice in YA but should. And so Outside In was born, a story about a male-to-female transgendered teen seeking acceptance both from her peers, and from herself. What the MC goes through might be the most painful thing I’ve ever written, but there’s an honesty in this project that makes me love it even that much more.
Thank you so much for having me here today, Erin! It’s been a blast, and I hope you enjoy reading Bite Me as much as I enjoyed writing it!
“Normal is overrated” is the mantra of author Lori T. Strongin. A hard-core Taurus with a love for elves, zombie squirrels, and cannibalistic cotton balls, Lori is an avid reader, a cat wrangler, and can usually be found glued to her laptop, killing people.
Born and bred on the New Jersey shore–yes that Jersey shore–Lori currently lives in theme park central, otherwise known as Central Florida, where she spends her days fending off the most dangerous of creatures: tourists. She’s been to all fifty states, thirteen countries, and holds the distinction of being among the few people in the world to faceplant not into one, but two glaciers. In her free time, she’s lead soloist in her shower, a champion horseback rider, and Queen of General Geekery.
An English/Creative Writing honors graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder, Lori is the author of more than a dozen creepy and warped tales—most containing fairly high body counts. Check out www.loristrongin.com for pictures, fan art, and further insight into a truly twisted mind. You can also find Lori on Tumblr and Twitter.