It’s a busy week for interviews here at A Few Words. Today, I’m pleased to welcome Alana Lorens to the blog. Alana’s here to talk about love, law, and the dramatic inspirations behind her new novel, Conviction of the Heart.
Gwen: Welcome to the blog, Alana. Tell us a little bit about Conviction of the Heart. I know that when I read the summary of the novel, knowing what I do about your background, I found the concept fascinating.
Alana: Here’s the blurb that kind of sums it up:
Family law attorney Suzanne Taylor understands her clients’ problems—her own husband left her with two babies to raise alone. Now that they’re teenagers, her life is full. The last thing she wants is the romantic attentions of a police lieutenant, no matter how good-looking.
Lt. Nick Sansone is juggling the demands of a new promotion, and doesn’t need complications either. But when he sends a councilman’s battered wife to Suzanne for help, he realizes he wants to connect with the lovely, prickly lawyer on more than a professional level.
They are soon confronted with a different battle, when the abused woman’s husband threatens retribution. The powerful, well-connected councilman can damage both their careers—not to mention hurt those they love. Can they bend enough to admit they need each other in a time of crisis? Or will a husband’s revenge take them down before they ever get a chance?
Gwen: I know that we all carry some of our own history into our writing but as a fantasy writer, I find that I often have to translate my personal experience. Now I understand that you have a background in law yourself, Alana. How did that influence you in writing this book?
Alana: Suzanne’s story is a lot like my story. I went to law school as a single mother with two preschoolers, and during many of their growing-up years, I had my own practice without having a man to contribute to our lives. My practice has been family law all along, and that subject matter carries some real tough issues along with it. I have a bullet hole in my office window, from someone unhappy that I represented their spouse. I’ve sat in hallways with women who were too afraid to even face their abuser, just on the off chance they might look him in the eye and lose their nerve. I’ve taught classes in independence, step by step, showing abuse survivors the way to learn to take care of themselves, mentally, financially and legally. Of all the things I’ve written, there is probably more of me in this book.
Gwen: Writing that intensely can be a struggle personally but I’ve found that it often leads to great rewards.
Still, even with stories based on our own experience, there’s often the need to incorporate places and people that we didn’t know about before. What was one thing you discovered over the course of creating Conviction of the Heart?
Alana: I’d been to Pittsburgh a number of times, but I really didn’t know much about the various neighborhoods. In order to set the social strata correctly, I had to go visit some of the ritzy sections for the councilman’s home and also the less wealthy to choose a place where we might find the young prostitute Cassandra.
Alana: It is hard to choose! Suzanne is so much like me that I can’t really call her my favorite. Nick Sansone, the hero, on the other hand, is a great guy who’s never found the right woman, and so he’s over 40 and never married. He’s not looking for casual sex or time-wasting dates. His mom and dad had a wonderful, solid marriage that lasted for forty years, and they raised him to respect that lifestyle, so that’s what he wants, too. It’s kind of a staple in the Pittsburgh culture—families with strong religious roots and ethnic ties, blue collar, solid citizen. And Nick is definitely cut from that cloth. When the villain takes Nick’s good name and reputation and trashes it, it pains Nick probably more than a bullet wound could have done, because he really values the honor he brings to the table.
Gwen: Let’s go back to Suzanne for a moment. This character is surrounded by adversity in her life. She’s a family law attorney, she’s raising teenagers alone, and she has this tremendous case looming ahead. What do you think her greatest challenge is?
Alana: She’s pretty confident about her abilities in the courtroom, so I don’t think she’s really preoccupied with the technical aspects of defending her client, Maddie Morgan, against her abusive husband. Once the abusive husband makes the case personal, attacking first Suzanne, then her new relationship, and finally her defenseless children, then she really has to kick up her game to the highest level. She has some really good kids, and they’ve been a little insulated from their mother’s job—but a real villain knows how to break into those mother-child bonds. Sadly for him, he doesn’t realize just what this mama grizzly will do to protect her children.
Gwen: As a mother myself, I can really relate to strong women with a lot on their plates. How does Suzanne find ways to cope with everything that she faces?
Alana: Suzanne has created a little corner of her own in her remodeled farmhouse, a home office that nourishes her and she can go there when she needs to de-stress:
Several hours later, the dishes done, daughters in bed, Suzanne retired to her office to complete the work she’d brought home. She spread her materials out on the polished oak rolltop desk, one of the prized possessions of her sanctuary.
When the farmhouse had been remodeled, Suzanne had taken great pains to make this room as comfortable as possible, because she planned to spend a lot of time in it. The southern exposure held a bay window with a seat cushion matching the sage and mustard, large-flowered chintz draperies which fell from ceiling to floor, ruffling softly at the bottom. The room’s west window was filled with plants, hanging, potted, rooting, that benefited from the long hours of sunshine each day. Paintings of geraniums and other flowers hung on off-white walls. A conversation corner grouping of natural rattan with soft flowered cushions, ruffled pillows and a glass-jar lamp filled with sea shells completed the office.
It also allows her to work from home when she can, so she can keep an eye on her teenaged daughters—in this day and age, unsupervised teens can get into so much trouble so quickly!
Gwen: I’m pretty sure that was true even back when I was a teenager. [grins] So I’ve got to ask–we know about Suzanne but how about you, Alana? Do you have any coping strategies you’d like to share with us?
Alana: Juggling so many things as I do, I definitely relate to the need to create space for myself. One of the best gifts I’ve come across lately is the ability to say “no” when people ask me to volunteer for things. Sure, I probably could do whatever it is, but if it’s going to create pressure and upset the rest of my day, then is it really worth it? Not usually. This leaves me time to say “yes” only to those things I really want to do.
Gwen: There’s one last question that I’d like to ask before we go and it’s perhaps a tricky one to answer. Conviction of the Heart deals with the difficult topic of domestic violence. Do you have any advice for authors who write about sensitive themes?
Alana: Some of the women and men I’ve worked with over the years have been the strongest people I know, and have lived through lives that would bring others to their knees. If I’m able to convey part of this journey in a way that explains their situation to others—i.e. answer the question “Well why doesn’t she just leave?”—which isn’t really the questions at all—then I’ve shed a little light that might help make the next survivor’s road easier. Domestic violence is epidemic in this country and even worse in other countries around the world. Shining a light on those who’d like to help , and being thoughtful about how their stories are conveyed, is something I think authors can do.
Gwen: Is there anything you’d like to share with our readers?
Alana: I hope you read CONVICTION OF THE HEART, and that you enjoy it. The issue of domestic violence is one that creeps through the social strata of our society, men and women, rich and poor, young and old. The Centers for Disease Control announced last week findings from a ground breaking study that indicates domestic and sexual violence against American women at epidemic rates that affects “on average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner.” Everyone can help—contact your local battered women’s shelter or support agency and find out how you can volunteer.
Not sure where yours is? Look it up here: http://www.ncadv.org/resources/StateCoalitionList.php
To purchase Conviction of the Heart, visit Alana’s website.
DUAL BOOK/BLOG TOUR!!
CONVICTION OF THE HEART (release date June 8, 2012)
And SECOND CHANCES (release date July 2012)
The first and Second books of the Pittsburgh Lady Lawyer Series!
Come by the following blogs or live booksignings listed on Alana’s website and leave a comment to be entered in a drawing—at the end of the tour, Alana will give away one ebook copy of each book and one paperback copy of each book—Four lucky winners!
About the Author
Alana Lorens (aka Barbara Mountjoy) has been a published writer for over 35 years, including seven years as a reporter and editor at theSouth Dade News Leader in Homestead, Florida. Her list of publications includes the non-fiction book 101 Little Instructions for Surviving Your Divorce, published by Impact Publishers in 1999, stories in A Cup of Comfort for Divorced Women, in December 2008, and A Cup of Comfort for Adoptive Parents, in June 2009. Her Clan Elves of the Bitterroot series (as Lyndi Alexander) is available from Dragonfly Publishing; THE ELF QUEEN in 2010, THE ELF CHILD in 2011, and THE ELF MAGE in 2012.
Her newest release (as Alana Lorens) is SECRETS IN THE SAND, in the Crimson Rose line from The Wild Rose Press. CONVICTION OF THE HEART is her sixth published novel, which will be followed in July 2012 with SECOND CHANCES, a women’s fiction with romantic elements story. The Wild Rose Press is also publishing her contemporary romance novella THAT GIRL’S THE ONE I LOVE later this summer.
When she’s not busy writing, practicing law or teaching, she takes care of a husband and a bunch of kids and blogs on a variety of subjects, including autism, science fiction and life at Awalkabout.