I’m fortunate to belong to two different groups of writers. One is my local RWA group – the Mid-Michigan Romance Writers of America. Since the group travels and meets in a different city each month I don’t get to every meeting, but I enjoy the ones I attend. We also have a retreat each year where we bring in a guest speaker, eat monstrous amounts of food, and laugh until our sides hurt.
One very gracious lady who always lights up the room is a transplanted southern belle named Loralee Lillibridge. I had the pleasure of teaching some of Loralee’s grandchildren when they were in elementary school. Loralee’s first book, Accidental Hero, was published in 2005, after her children and some of her grandchildren were grown, but now she’s got a shelf full of books to her credit. I’ve read several and loved them all. Loralee will celebrate her 80th birthday in May during a trip to Ireland. I cornered her at our retreat to ask her some questions about her most recent publication.
Loralee recently branched out and started a mystery series under the pen name of Lora Lee. I bought and read the book as soon as it was released. I love a good cozy mystery, and the fact that the protagonist directs a youth choir at her church made it a must-read for me. I fell in love with the hilarious fast-paced story of Frankie Lou Birmingham McMasters and her family. As a former director of a church’s children’s choir I sympathized with Frankie Lou and her charges. And as a former music teacher I loved the accurate descriptions of the young people in her choir. Here’s the book’s blurb:
Create a church choir filled with teenage misfits?
Over Poppy’s dead body.
Minister’s daughter Frankie Lou McMasters has come back to Ruby Springs, Texas with her daughter, Betsy, eleven years after running off to marry the town bad boy. Her mild notoriety as a bad girl is prime gossip for her childhood enemy, Poppy Fremont, now choir director of Faith Community Church–where Frankie Lou’s daddy, now retired to Florida, was the preacher.
When Frankie Lou comes to the deacons with a request to add a youth choir of at-risk teens she’s been coaching, Poppy throws a fit. A few hours later, Frankie Lou finds her dead in the baptistery pool. And Poppy’s not playing possum.
Frankie Lou sets out to clear her name as the main suspect, and tries to locate the real killer. Could he be sexy Joe Camps, the father of one of her teen singers? In the meantime, her momma shows up from Florida to take charge of Frankie Lou’s life. Bless her heart.
Doesn’t that sound like a fun read? Since we both attended the writing retreat this past weekend I asked Lora/Loralee if I could ask her a few questions and she most graciously agreed. I didn’t ask her to write her responses, so I’ll paraphrase here.
Asked how she came up with the idea of a mystery with a church choir director as the main character, Loralee told me she’d pitched a story to Belle Bridge Books, and while that particular story wasn’t accepted she was asked, “What else do you have?” Not having any other manuscripts ready, she sent what amounted to a memoir – an essay about her experiences growing up as a Preacher’s Kid (PK) in Texas and how she’d always felt different. Fortunately for us, Belle Bridge loved it and told her to develop it into a story!
I wondered how much of herself was in Frankie Lou. Lora quick response was, “Probably more than I want to admit!” I asked when the next Joyful Noise Mystery is coming out. She assures me she’s working on it!
Loralee/Lora Lee is a member of RWA, Mid-Michigan RWA, PASIC, Sisters-in-Crime, and is currently published in contemporary romance. She is also a proud graduate of the Grand Rapids Citizens Police Academy. When not writing or trying to keep up with her ever-growing family, she enjoys reading, music and travel.