Mabel's Way by Lila Hopkins 1.     Tell us about your latest book.

 My latest book is Mabel’s Way, a novel of suspense, fun, and I hope it reflects life in a Continuing Care Retirement Center.

2.     How has your current lifestyle influenced your writing?

 The setting in Mabel’s Way is pretty much the same as where we live now.  We have lived in a CCRC for nine years.  Friends and neighbors begged me to write it.  Finally I started keeping notes on funny or poignant scenes I saw here.  Then  I progressed to the next stage: what could happen here?  I had great fun.

3.     Why do you write novels?

  I write novels because I can “lose” myself in them.  Each of my characters becomes a friend.  I have written non-fiction also but novels can be far more exciting.

4.     Which of your characters haunts you the most? Why?

 I don’t believe any of my characters “haunts” me.  I have had more comments about two of my characters, both in the same novel: Garnet – or Gram, and Pax.  At one book reception, one of the ladies in the audience asked me: “If you ever find another Pax, will you save him for me?”

5.     Where do your ideas come from?  

I don’t seem to have any problems with ideas.  I do have trouble getting enough time to fully develop some.  I guess I have always had a “wild imagination.” At least my mother-in-law said I did. I develop my characters first, because to me, no book can succeed unless you have a character that readers can connect to.

6.     Describe your writing process.  

  I usually start slowly—with a note book and pen.  And I can do that anywhere. But I do a lot of thinking before I write much down.  The “Thinking Stage” can last for months.  If the novel requires a lot of research (example- The Master Craftsman),  my next step is talk with experts and I usually enjoy this part of the novel the most.  Often plotting ideas take shape as I research.  When I am well into the manuscript, I speed up and spend more and more time at the computer.  Near the end of the work, I become obsessed with the manuscript and neglect my husband a lot of the time.  It’s okay, he understands.  I have been known to write most of the day and far into the night.  The speed with which I write may explain the errors that I make.

7.     What advice do you have for beginning writers?

The best advice I ever had was from a college professor who really directed me to become a writer.  He said, “Write every day.  Write about everything. Just write, write, write.

Lila Hopkins8.     Who influenced you the most in your writing?  

 My father was a best selling writer for the Southern Baptist Convention.  He encouraged me when I was little more than a child and writing for school papers.  After I finished college and got married, I would go for years without writing and he would ask me quietly, “Are you doing any writing?”  “No, Dad, I don’t have time to write.”  “You must not give up your writing.”  He didn’t live to see my novels.

9.     How did you meet your husband?  We love a romance.

I was working in the bookstore at Hardin Simmons University when a tall ex GI walked in, wearing his Ike jacket (died brown) from a South Pacific Tour of Duty.  I looked up and my heart skipped a beat. I guess the marriage might last.  We have been married nearly 62 years and are still very much in love.  He is my strongest supporter and is especially helpful when I am doing research.  Also, he can spell anything and saves me valuable time when I would be looking in the dictionary.

10.     Tell us about where you live — we love to travel.

 We live in the deep south, in the Raleigh, N. C. area. We grew up in the West—Richard in Texas and I was born and raised in New Mexico.  We have done a lot of traveling and even lived in Venezuela, South America for two years.  Because of health problems, our traveling (at least long distance) is probably over but we have delightful memories of Europe, Alaska and South America, plus cris-crossing the country many times.

11.    How did you mess up your new book?

 When I was writing it, residents here kept asking if they would be in it.  “Of course,” I said, “but you will not recognize yourself.  Each person is a composite of many people.”  Several have bought the book and expressed disappointment because they were not in it, at least not that they could tell.  I have held my breath when several bought it – because I thought their character was so clear that I might even hurt their feelings.  It has become a sport here to try to identify the characters.  I tell them it is not a biography, it is fiction.  But, there is a nugget of truth in all the drama.

12.   What’s next in your writing life?

When I finished The Master Craftsman, I promised myself and my family that I was not going to write another book. But, I could not resist the pressure from friends here and “the man across the hall” who nagged me nearly every day to write Mabel’s Way.

At this point I have no plans to tackle another novel.  I am 82 and I think I have earned the right to retire!  It has been a happy journey, but I am ready to do more reading and I want to do more watercoloring.

Lila Hopkins at Amazon