To celebrate the recent release of her book Blue Running, we asked author Lori Ann Stephens to take part in our 'seven things' series, where writers open up and reveal some interesting facts all about themselves! Here's what she had to say...
1. Blue Running was originally titled Empire Wide and Glorious, a phrase from the Texas State Song. Every morning, all Texas schoolchildren must recite not only the United States pledge, but also the Texas state pledge: 'I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible'. It’s laughably ridiculous.
I also belted out the Texas State Song in choir class at school: “Texas, our Texas, All hail the mighty state!...Oh empire wide and glorious, you stand supremely blest!” My original title for the novel was scrapped because in the UK, "empire" has a hugely different connotation than it does in Texas, where it's just a bombastic brag.
2. Several of the events with guns in my book were inspired by real tragedies. I remember vividly the day I was told that my little sister’s boyfriend had accidentally shot himself in the stomach when he was cleaning his hunting rifle. He was only 14 when he died. And then there was the Waco shootout between two biker gangs in 2015 that inspired the biker shootout in Blue Running. Guns are a part of everyday life in Texas, but somehow it’s still shocking when people die because of guns.
3. I've been writing songs since I was a teenager, and my little side-hobby now is writing commissioned lyrics for opera and classical music. When I have a writer’s block or have a deadline, my favorite thing to do is write lyrics to music. Some of my pieces have been performed in London, Minneapolis, and Dallas.
4. When I was 16, I was a "background chick singer" in a Top 40 night club band and dressed in the cheesiest outfits and sang the cheesiest songs and loved every minute of it. The other musicians were in their 30s and protected me from leering men in bars. I did miss my high school prom because I had to sing at a gig, but being a doo-wop girl paid my way through college.
5. I'm a reckless DIY-er. I've gutted my kitchen and installed cabinets, lighting, and floors myself while my partner hid in the office and hoped the roof didn't cave in. I've rebuilt the stairs to the second floor and installed a mudroom where the laundry room used to be. I’ve learned all my fix-it skills from YouTube.
6. When I was a pre-teen, I was the epitome of the Texan stereotype: I shoveled manure at the neighbor's horse stables to fertilise my parents' garden, memorized every Dolly Parton song, worked the concession stand at the rodeo while my brother rode the wild broncos, and rode a horse at any opportunity that presented itself (which was never often enough).
Then I turned 14, and it was all Cyndi Lauper, Van Halen, and Journey -- leaving my cowboy-love in the dust.
7. My comfort food is Tex-Mex. At Christmas and New Year’s Eve, it’s not unusual for families in Texas to make tamales (seasoned shredded meat wrapped in a hot cornmeal dough--I’m drooling now), and I’m secretly jealous of these people because 1) no one in my family makes tamales, and 2) one can never have enough tamales. Comfort food is big in Texas.
My character Bluebonnet is bereft of family and stability and comfort, and her emotional hunger is reflected through a physical one that gnaws at her. Comfort food is love, but not all of it (like the deep-fried smorgasbord at the State Fair of Texas) is good for you.
Lori Ann Stephens' new book Blue Running is available now from Moon Flower Books, £16.99 in hardback.
MORE FROM BOOKS: Seven things I want my readers to know about me, by Yaba Badoe
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