Have you been writing for a long time?
My, that makes me think back to the 1960s, more than 50 years ago. So, I guess it has been a pretty long time – long before Harry Potter, social media, and the proliferation of selfies and funny cat videos as a means to connect with others. Before I started school I used to write and illustrate stories, usually fairly humorous, but to get a bit serious here, the assassination of President Kennedy made a profound impression on me at the age of four and I used to write short stories about it – three or four sentences – and draw pictures of the late President. Then I would set up a little card table and chairs and read these “news” stories. I had trained my two-year-old sister to sit beside me as my co-anchor. At the end of my “broadcast” before doting adult family members, I would say “Good night, Chet,” and my sister would say “Good night, David.” We only had access to one television channel back in the day in southwestern Virginia, an NBC affiliate, where I later worked as the overnight editor/anchor. There probably never has been a more stunning news story than the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He inspired so many to think beyond themselves, dream big, and do things worth writing about.
What inspired you to start a writing career?
Teachers encouraged me in elementary, junior high, high school, and college. At George Mason University, I was fortunate enough to take a creative writing class from best-selling author Richard Bausch, who noted I was a good writer in a book inscription to me. Cool guy. Later I joined the student newspaper staff, then became a professional journalist, writing for newspapers, radio, and television. At that point, my late mother began telling me I should think about writing a book someday. I said, “But what would I write about?” She said something would come to me. Little did she know, after she passed, I would end up writing a book about her dating life when I was told my biological father might not be who I thought he was and I found a bunch of suspicious old love letters, prompting a crazy paternity search and publication of my first novel, Who’s Your Daddy, Baby? That project temporarily distracted me from my Dystortions series. Now I’m having fun with Dystortions: 100 Hues of Purple, released in October, and reviewing/finalizing manuscripts for the next two in the Dystortions series.
What was the most challenging part about writing this book?
With three books now written in the Dystortions series, one of the more challenging aspects of the project is to keep facts and story lines consistent, even though each book can stand on its own as a separate novel. I’m setting the stage in Dystortions: 100 Hues of Purple, creating characters and describing events that will be referenced in future novels, putting pieces of the puzzles together to make sure they make sense to new readers. So, it was imperative to take special care to track dates as I deliberately distorted events and tried to make the story realistic and account for the progress that might naturally occur. I developed a timeline so I would not get tripped up with the months or years and suddenly refer to something that had not yet happened in this book or a future book which wouldn’t fit in the sequence.
Why did you decide to write this book?
Just before Christmas on December 23, 2002, it was the anniversary of my late mother’s death. My husband had open heart surgery that turned out to be more harrowing than expected, I was recovering from a miscarriage, my business was a shambles due to the recession, and I was deeply in debt, making mortgage payments for my townhouse with credit cards. I was distracting myself from my troubles by watching late-night comedy and listening to the Beatles’Magical Mystery Tourduring the commercials. After Paul McCartney’s “Your Mother Should Know,” which always makes me think of my mother, comes John Lennon’s “I am the Walrus,” with its trippy otherworldly swirl of crazy lyrics and juxtapositions. Then, back to late-night comedy, came a joke about a politician speaking in amusing malapropisms. I thought, wonder what it would be like to be someone else, in a different world where malapropisms rained, er, reigned, on a planet named Malaprop? So, with a few mal-appropriate thoughts in mind, I decided to escape down that rabbit hole, feverishly writing all the way. I hint at, but wildly exaggerate the situation and those feelings in Chapter 24, entitled “December 23, 2502,” but delve deeper into the rock ‘n’ roll music angle in my next novel in the series, Dystortions: Purple Haze. It’s a rock ‘n’ roll mystery in a parallel universe.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Write, then edit, then edit about 10 more times before you ever show anyone anything you have written. Richard Bausch used to tell our class, “No one’s words are written in stone, be prepared to edit and be edited.” I would add, try to make it is as perfect as you can before you have a professional review it. Try to be as clear as possible in your writing and avoid mundane details and story lines. Make details and descriptions count. Bare your soul, but try to make your book as interesting as possible to others. Speaking of others, if you haven’t built up a social media network yet, you are way behind. With hundreds of thousands of books published every year, it’s tough to be noticed. Build up Facebook friends, maintain professional connections on LinkedIn, reach new people through Twitter, pin images on Pinterest, have fun with images on Instagram. There’s also SnapChat, Google+, Tumblr, Reddit, StumbleUpon, and probably several I’ve missed, with more to come. It’s all about connecting with the world. Network – you’ll come across valuable information and real-life characters to improve your story and help you market it later. Again, keep reading! As others have said, if you’re not reading, you’re probably not writing worth a damn. Learn from the masters.
About the Book
Title: Dystortions: 100 Hues of Purple
Author: Lisa Pell
Genre: Scifi / Mystery
Dystortions: 100 Hues of Purple is a tale of mystery, murder, and love in a parallel universe, with a bit of humor. Addy O’Malibul is a former journalist who is convicted of murder and imprisoned on a planet called Malaprop, strikingly similar to Earth, but with a few twists and many Dystortions in translations of data transmissions from a planet known as Hearth. Glitched up radio communications are bombarding Malaprop – a world where fearful national security analysts, politicians, and P.R. flacks re-write history and distort facts to recreate their reality in Hearth’s image. The Dystortions in those radio communications sometimes appear to twist words backwards and create opposite meanings, but maybe also reveal underlying truths.
There’s just enough good science and wacked-out myth-busting to make the story hauntingly credible – and enough saucy romance to keep things hot. It’s much warmer and more colorful than any shades of grey.
ABOUT LISA PELL: An award-winning former newspaper, radio, and television journalist, Pell has spent most of her career in the communications business. Her critically acclaimed first novel, Who’s Your Daddy, Baby? (Aberdeen Bay, 2012), was selected for a Virginia Federation of Press Women award. Born in North Carolina, Pell was raised in Virginia, is a graduate of George Mason University, and attended Harvard Business School. She has strong roots in the Appalachian mountains of Virginia, and has lived in Tennessee and West Virginia, where she covered news stories in Kentucky and southern Ohio. Connoisseurs of well-told stories, rock ‘n’ roll music, impressionist art, golf, tennis, oysters, and fun people, Pell and her husband, the self-styled Agent Provocateur, JonRe Pell, live in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.