Friday, January 29, 2010

Interview with LORI ARMSTRONG

Lori Armstrong writes in several genres and her books have been nominated for a number of prestigious awards.  She lives in South Dakota, which is the setting of her mysteries.

Your mysteries have all been nominated for numerous awards, most notably the Shamus Award (Snow Blind won in 2009) and the Willa Cather Literary Award (Hallowed Ground won in 2007). What prompted you to start writing them?

Being nominated for awards is a nice side benefit of being an author, winning is even better, but it hasn’t changed the way I write. I’ve always been a mystery reader, like most girls I started with Nancy Drew and I haven’t looked back.

How long have you been writing? You write in more than one genre—care to share your thoughts about the differences between the two?

I’ve been writing toward publication since 2000 and my first book was published in 2005. I’d always wanted to write crime fiction, but it was near impossible with small children. When my youngest was three and could entertain herself for more than five minutes, I put pen to paper. I also write contemporary erotic western romances under the name Lorelei James. I get asked if I took on a pen name for the romances out of embarrassment, but the answer is a vehement no. I’m as proud of the erotic books as I am of the mysteries. Bookstores and libraries shelve fiction by genre, so that was the main reason for the alternate name. Genre readers know what they like and what to expect. For me, the mysteries are about the character’s relationship to violence—and in the erotic romances, it’s about the character’s relationship to sex. But all my stories are character, plot and setting driven no matter which genre. As far as the technical aspect, the mysteries are written in first person and the romances in third, from multiple points of view, so it allows me to flex those different writing muscles.

You live in South Dakota, which is where your mysteries are set. Tell us why you chose that setting over any other.

The research is easy! No, seriously, I’m a native South Dakotan and I want people who’ve never been here to see it through my eyes. That always gives people a different, more accurate depiction of “real” life struggles and triumphs out here in the Wild West/flyover state.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?

Writing under deadline is a whole different animal than writing because you’ve got a great idea and interesting characters. I’ve been lucky to be under contract for the past few years, but I’ll admit I haven’t had much of a life besides writing to keep those contracts coming.

What is the title of your most recently published book? Briefly tell us what it’s about and let us know where we can buy it.

The book that released January 12th is titled NO MERCY. It’s a mystery set on a ranch in western South Dakota. The main character is a woman named Mercy Gunderson, who couldn’t wait to get the hell off the ranch and see the world. So she joined the army at age 18. Twenty years have passed, her father recently died, and she was injured in Iraq so she’s back where she started. While Mercy is home trying to decide her future, bodies start to show up on her land. The book is available at bookstores and online, in several formats: hardcover, ebook and audio book.

What are you working on now and when/where do you expect it to be available?

I’m working on the second book in the series, MERCY KILL, and if I meet all my editorial deadlines, it’ll be available January 2011.

Writers, especially new writers, are always looking for tips and helpful information. What is the single most important “tip” you can give to a new writer?

Write every day. There is no muse. Don’t be afraid to just get it down on paper because self-editing is your best friend. Seriously. Self-editing is my favorite part of writing now when it used to be my least favorite.

Are you a member of any writer’s organizations? Why? Why not?

I’m a member of Mystery Writers of America, and I’m actually on the Board of Directors as a member at large, in addition to being the treasurer for 2010. I also belong to the International Thriller Writers and my local group, Black Hills Writers Group.

Do you have any upcoming book signings or appearances? If so, give us all the details.

I’m all over the map in the next few weeks. The best place to keep track of me is by checking out the appearances page of my website:

FUN QUESTION: As a transplant from New England to Montana, I am especially fond of the weather extremes in this part of the country. What do you like best: the winters or the summers, and why?

I love summer and spending time at the lake or up in the Black Hills or out on the prairie. Maybe because summer seems so fleeting that’s why I prefer it.

What are the addresses of your website(s) and blog(s):


  1. I've wanted to visit South Dakota and now you've convinced me! Congratulations on your write accolades, and thanks for the interview, Lori.

  2. Thank you for such an in-depth interview. I'm a new follower and have really enjoyed reading all your interviews. Please keep them coming.

  3. Justine,

    Thanks for the kind comments.