of Minnesota Brothers
by C.J. Darlington
Lena Nelson Dooley Interview
"I love the Lord. I can’t imagine living my life without Him in it." -- Lena Nelson Dooley
Lena Nelson Dooley makes her home in Texas. She has been married to James since 1964 and they have two daughters, and four grandchildren. She enjoys traveling and missions trips and hopes to do more in the future.
C.J.: Have you always wanted to write, or did you discover your desire later in life?
Lena: I have written all of my life. I didn’t know other people didn’t write until I married a man who didn’t read or write. He wasn’t illiterate. He just didn’t like to read or write. Now he reads. He’s read all of my books except one, and he’ll start it soon. However, I didn’t consider writing as a career until I was in my forties.
Were books a big part of your life growing up? If so, what books would you say influenced you most as a child?
I grew up in rural Arkansas. My family encouraged reading. Going to the library every Saturday was a big thing. I read such books as The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, Heidi, Nancy Drew mysteries and Hardy Boys mysteries. Later I read Gone With the Wind and The Agony and the Ecstasy. I loved reading books on history and travel.
Romance is one of the most popular novel genres. Why do you think it’s so popular?
I think most people want to believe in a happily-ever-after life. One of the reasons I wanted to write Christian romance is because the Enemy of our souls has taken what God created for the highest human fulfillment and twisted it into something that is no longer pure. I want to show romance the way God intended it to be.
Christian fiction’s popularity really began with Janette Oke romances. How have you seen the genre grow over the years? Any trends worth noting?
Actually, Janette Oke led the way in the current wave. Grace Livingston Hill wrote a multitude of books earlier in the twentieth century. I have read most of them. I was pleased to see the romance genre grow and evolve over the last twenty years, especially since I write romance. Even my women’s fiction contains a romantic element. The genre is always changing, and that’s a good thing. Readers would get tired of the same old stories told the same way. Romantic suspense continues to grow. Christian chick-lit has spawned a whole spectrum of lits—hen lit, lad lit, etc. Because as Christians, we are connected to the Author of creativity, I believe that things will continue to change.
Can you talk about the future of Christian romance?
I believe there will always be a market for Christian romance. Sales continue on a steady upward slope.
Of all your books, which was the hardest to write and why?
The one I’m working on at any given time. Just joking. Actually, the hardest scene to write was the one in Gerda’s Lawman when two brothers led a former US Marshal to the Lord. Staying in a male point of view that was so serious was difficult, but I’ve had men tell me they loved the scene.
How about the most personal?
Probably Never Say Never. The idea for that book came from an event in a close friend’s life. Of course, my first book, Home to Her Heart had a beginning teacher, and I had been a beginning teacher. And a couple events in The Other Brother came from my family history.
Who’s your favorite character?
I often say it’s someone from the book I’m writing right now, but actually that’s true. The hero in the book I’m writing right now, Christmas Confusion, which will come out in September 2007 in the Montana Mistletoe Christmas anthology is my kind of man.
Research. Love it or hate it?
Because I’m a stickler for details, I love research. It makes my books more authentic. I love authenticity.
Ever had any unusual or embarrassing moments at a book signing, conference, or while performing research?
I’ve learned to always ask how the person’s name is spelled. I’ve assumed I knew and misspelled a name at a book signing. Since names are important to a person’s identity, I hate to do that.
How do you share your faith in your stories without coming across as preachy?
By illustrating how the characters deal with the problems in their lives utilizing their walk with the Lord. I’ve received a lot of reader feedback from people telling me how they recognized themselves in what was happening. The way the characters dealt with their problems helped these readers deal with their own. Sometimes, I’ve sat and cried as I read the mail.
Do you ever struggle with balancing your family and writing career? Any specific steps you take to keep the balance?
Since November 2002, my writing is my day job, and I praise the Lord for working that out. My family has learned that it is my job, and they understand deadlines. However, since I can easily adjust my schedule, I make room for events in the family. Also, if my husband comes to the office on his day off and wants to go somewhere or do something, I always do it, unless I’m on a drop-dead deadline. Usually, he knows when my deadlines are, and he doesn’t plan anything on deadline week.
You’ve been on many missions trips to Mexico. Have you ever used your experiences in your writing?
I have some proposals with Mexico in them. Also, I’m working on a proposal for a three book series set in Guatemala, where I’ve also been on a mission trip.
Can you share with us an incident or story you’ll never forget from Mexico.
A couple of things happened on my last trip. We took three clowns with the team and ministered at orphanages across the border from McAllen, Texas. We went to a couple of Christian orphanages and one state run. The Christian ones were in really good shape with plenty of care and food. We took shoes and food items for the state-run orphanage, but we let them know that we wouldn’t be providing lunch. As a team we made a sack lunch with sandwiches and chips that we would be eating. The orphans weren’t going to have any lunch. We couldn’t stand it. We all pooled our pesos and several of us took one of the vans and went to a Burger King there in the Mexican town. We bought hamburgers and fries for each of the kids and workers. While two waited for them to be made, two others of us went to a grocery store in the same shopping center and bought 2-litre bottles of drinks for them.
That night we ministered at a church. They had a building, but it wasn’t finished. It had no walls or roof, but the tiers of concrete from the bottom to the top level of seating was there. We presented a mime that depicted the gospel. Then I gave my testimony and the pastor translated. We didn’t know that he was going to do this, but when I finished, he said that the team would pray for anyone who wanted prayer. We spread out along one of the upper tiers, but we didn’t have enough translators for all of us. I didn’t have one. Every person who attended got in line in front of one of the team. Several people stood in front of me. I listened as each of them poured out their needs, only understanding part of the words. Then I began to pray. God sovereignly gave me the words to say. His spirit fell on each of the people, and tears streamed down their faces. A holy and special time.
What would you love to write someday but haven’t yet?
I have a proposal out for a women’s fiction, which my agent is marketing. I’m going to write a proposal for a cozy mystery when I meet my deadlines I have right now. I also would like to write at least two non-fiction books.
What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
If anyone has met me, they won’t believe this, but I was painfully shy until I was a senior in high school. My husband and I married three months and three days after we met. We celebrated our 42nd anniversary last week.
When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
I like to travel, help other authors improve their craft, spend time with family—especially my grandchildren, read, attend movies and go out to eat with my husband, knit or crochet. I could go on listing things.
Three things always found in your refrigerator:
You mean besides the unidentified things in plastic containers? Just a joke. I have been known to throw away good Tupperware because of what was in it. Always have milk, eggs, and real butter.
You’re next in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?
Frozen mocha latte
What’s currently in your iPod?
I would love to have an iPod. Hopefully, I’ll get one soon. However, I do have an MP3 player that also plays CDs. I use it for the ACFW national conference files. As far as music, I love contemporary Christian, jazz, romantic instrumental music, and especially Christmas music.
What’s next for you novel-wise?
I have contracted another Heartsong. It’s a contemporary with a bit of mystery titled Who Am I? I’ll start working on it as soon as I finish the Christmas novella
Anything else you’d like to share with TitleTrakk.com readers?
I love the Lord. I can’t imagine living my life without Him in it. I pray that you find a real personal relationship with Jesus as a vital part of your life, too.
C.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.