Lloyd Lofthouse served in the Vietnam War as a U.S. Marine; then taught in the public schools for thirty years. He lives outside of San Francisco with his wife and family with a second home in Shanghai, China. Lloyd earned a BA in Journalism and an MFA in writing.
What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?
I enjoy writing the rough draft the most. Editing is tedious and no matter how many times a manuscript is edited, some typo or missing comma escapes the scrutiny. For instance, my first book, My Splendid Concubine, went through a twelve-step editing process ending with Serenity Software’s editing program designed for college student research papers. Serenity’s program put all other editing programs to shame. Then the novel was edited by several other people, but the last person to edit it still found typos that are not misspelled words but the wrong word.
Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?
Editing and revisions wait until the rough draft is completed. I prefer to focus on one task at a time. If I allow myself to get distracted by editing a chapter before the manuscript is done, I tend to lose track of ideas I had for the next chapter.
After working for a very long time on a novel, many authors get to a point where they lose their objectivity and feel unable to judge their own work. Has this ever happened to you? If so, what have you done about it?
I agree with authors who think they lose their objectivity. That’s why I attended writing workshops starting in 1968 while I was in college and later, after college, I joined UCLA’s extension writing program and attended workshops once a week for several years where authors sat around a table and listened to each other read scenes/chapters followed by feedback that was both constructive and sometimes harsh leading to revisions and rewrites. Now that I don’t join writing workshops, I rely on five or six Beta readers to read and critique the rough draft of a book after it’s finished before I start to edit and revise. Some Beta readers offer a brief critique and some go into great detail page by page. It all helps. And if all of the Beta readers agree on the same thing, listen and take that advice seriously.
Have you ever written characters that you truly despise?
Yes, I despise both of the villains in my latest novel, Running with the Enemy. One sexually abuses his sister and treats her as if she was his personal slave and deserves to be abused because she was born after their mother ran away from home to live with a lover. The other villain enjoys torturing and killing his victims. His favorite weapon is his teeth that he files until they are razor sharp so he can easily disfigure his victims and bite off body parts.
Can you tell us about your road to publication?
My road to publication started in 1968 when I took a creative writing workshop my first year of college where I wrote my first novel. Without an agent, I mailed out hundreds of queries to publishers and one publisher was interested.
To make a long story shorter, that small publisher was interested in pushing one book by a new author but was looking at two authors. The editorial board split between my work and the other author. There was no clear majority, so the publisher hired a consultant to decide and he picked the other guy.
I kept writing and eventually earned an MFA in writing. I then attended the UCLA writing extension program for several years.
After five years and a finished and very polished manuscript, the UCLA professor found me an agent who represented the book I wrote in that program to publishers. The feedback—Random House was one of the interested publishers. In the end the feedback was the same from all of the publishers. We enjoyed the book but the market’s glutted with Vietnam War stories. No one was interested.
I kept writing and the books I wrote kept getting rejected.
Then the publishing world changed drastically because of Amazon, POD and e-books. I discovered that authors didn’t need agents or publishers and could self-publish my work and sell through Amazon.
I stopped banging my bloody head against the great wall of traditional publishing and came out with my first novel in December 2007 that landed in a local Barnes & Noble brick and mortar bookstore for a few weeks in addition to landing on shelves in a few independent bookstores near where I live. My Splendid Concubine has now earned more than a dozen literary awards and sold more than 16,000 copies. Concubine was not my first book or the one I wrote at UCLA. Over the decades, I’ve written more than a dozen manuscripts.
Were you “born to write” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?
I don’t think I was born to write. I was motivated to write. I can pinpoint the time. It was 1968 soon after I was honorably discharged from the U.S. Marines and started to attend a community college on the G.I. Bill. For one of my electives, I signed up for a creative writing class. Then I attended a lecture at the college given by Ray Bradbury. What Bradbury said flipped a switch inside my brain and that’s when I decided I wanted to write books.
If you were to write a non-fiction book, what might it be about?
It would be a memoir called Crazy is Normal, a classroom expos”, and I’m working on the second draft of that memoir now.
Have you ever started out to write one book and ended up with something completely different?
Yes, my latest novel, Running with the Enemy, was as a complete memoir that I wrote at one university and then it morphed into a suspense thriller when I attended the writer’s extension program out of UCLA.
We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?
A book cover is the first thing a reader sees so I place a high value on book covers. For instance, the Midwest Book Review checks the covers of books submitted to them for a review first and if a cover does not look professional, that book does not get reviewed.
Do you write anything besides novels? Care to share?
Yes, I have several Blogs that I write for and host: There’s Anything Goes at Lloyd Lofthouse.org; iLookChina.net; Crazy Normal, an insider’s look at education, teaching, parenting and coming of age, and The Soulful Veteran with war, combat and the troops as the primary theme.
(See blog links at bottom of page)
What makes you angry?
When I read about the public schools and teachers being criticizes as if they are all failures and have to be replaced by corporate-run private sector schools. I also get angry when anonymous cyber bullies target an author and spread lies about them and their work to deliberately destroy an author’s career.
What’s your favorite film of all times? Favorite book?
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings for both answers.
What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?
Apple pie is both my favorite comfort food and one of my least favorite foods because it’s made with sugar and white flour for the crust. I’m into health and sugar and white flour don’t make the list when it comes to healthy eating.
If you are a TV watcher, would you share the names of your favorite shows with us?
I don’t watch TV. I don’t like TV because of the commercial breaks. Therefore, I watch DVDs that started out as TV programs. My favorite TV show that graduated to DVD is Elementary with Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu [I’m keeping an eye on the DVD release date for the second season] and then the Game of Thrones ranks second—season three will be out on DVD February 18, 2014.
It seems that I’ve also been captured by AMC’s The Walking Dead, and I’m in the middle of watching season three.
While I wait for the next DVD release of my favorite TV shows that graduated to DVD, I keep trying out new ones to see which will make my to follow list.
CONNECT WITH LLOYD