This week I had the privilege of reading a wonderful book called When Heats Conjoin by Erin Marie Herrin and Lu Ann Staheli. I also had the pleasure of interviewing Lu Ann and I'm excited to share her comments and give you the chance to get to know her better.
Me: Lu Ann, tell us a little about yourself.
Lu Ann: I’m a born and bred Hoosier. I grew up in Smalltown, U.S.A., literally. Alexandria, Indiana, was nicknamed Smalltown U.S.A. in a propaganda booklet issued during World War II meant to promote rural America as a great place to live. The nickname stuck. I was raised in my parent’s camera shop, and from the time I could walk I was helping out at the store. I sold lots of cameras because people figured if that Poloroid or Kodak camera was easy enough for a little girl to figure out, then so could they.
I graduated from Indiana University, taught English for five years in Rockville then moved to Utah in 1983. I started working at Payson Jr. High School in 1984, and met my husband-to-be there in 1993 when he was hired as a substitute teacher. I knew the first day I met him that I was going to marry him. It took him about 18 months for him to figure it out. We have five adopted sons, ages 9 to 19.
Me: What got you into writing?
Lu Ann: I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and I learned early on that a well-written paper could earn me a good grade in school, even if I didn’t really know what I was talking about. I crafted some incredible papers in college, I guess, because I earned A’s on papers about books I hadn’t read, concepts I hadn’t understood, and discussions I hadn’t attended. What I discovered was that writing is one of my passions. The other one is reading, but they do go hand in hand, wouldn’t you agree?
I used to say that I was going to grow up to be a writer, but my mother told me I needed to get a real job. I ended up as an English Education major at Indiana University where I could spend all my time reading and writing without feeling guilty. For the past thirty years, I’ve shared those passions with my students and I’ve seen many of them adopt those same passions in their lives.
But being a writer was always my real dream and I knew I had to actually pursue it. When I moved to Utah, I joined the League of Utah Writers and began to learn about the submission process, query letters, finding leads, etc. I became a stringer for several local newspapers doing concert and movie reviews, and even covering the women’s basketball games at UVSC for a season.
With a few credits under my belt, I was ready to try some new venues. I went to work for Alan Osmond Productions and started writing press releases, newsletters, and the scripts for Stadium of Fire shows. I wrote articles for national publications, including Grit, Scouting, and the Church News. Every experience gave me more confidence and the extra money was nice as well.
Now, I’m ready to try just about anything, as my current project list proves.
Me: I loved When Hearts Conjoin. It was one of the most touching stories I've ever read and I couldn't put it down. Tell us about it. How did you come about writing this amazing story?
Lu Ann: When Hearts Conjoin is the true story of the Herrin family and their daughters Kendra and Maliyah who were born conjoined in 2002. Told through the voice of their mother, readers have the opportunity to go into the heart of this family as they struggled with the decision to bring these little girls into the world, see them face separation surgery, and undergo a kidney transplant for Maliyah. It’s truly a story of a mother’s courage, and it’s because of Erin that I had the opportunity to write this story.
I teach writing classes for WriteWise, a business owned and operated by New York Times Best-selling author Richard Paul Evans. I was presenting at a conference where the participants were practicing their 30-second pitch for the book they wanted to write when I heard Erin tell about her story. Of course, because I live in Utah I had heard about the Herrin twins almost since they were born. When Erin gave her pitch, I thought, “Wow! I wish I could write that book,” but they already had someone else who was working on it. Little did I know that less than a year and three attempts by other authors to put the story to paper that I would actually have that chance.
Rick and his assistant Karen Christofferson approached me about taking over the Herrin project, I wrote a sample chapter, Erin loved it, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Me: Do you have any other writing projects in the works? If so, tell us about them.
Lu Ann: I have so many writing projects underway that it’s crazy sometimes to think about them. I am currently working on three biography projects with entertainers Alan Osmond, David Osmond, and Jim Karol. In addition, I have two new film script projects I’m writing. I had two previous scripts optioned last year, and one of them is currently in pre-production. I’ve not given up my dream of publishing fiction, so I have three novels in various stages of draft, and I have four completed middle grade and young adult novels that I’ve been shopping to editors and agents. I continue to write magazine articles and I’m ready to return from hiatus in my newspaper column as well. I’m sure by tomorrow, I’ll have a dozen more projects underway, or at least on the idea chart I keep for my next projects. I once told my mother that I wanted to grow up to be a bum. I figured it would be kind of nice just to lie around, doing nothing all day. What I’ve discovered is that I’m really an over-achiever and work-a-holic, but some days I take on that bum personae and give myself an entire day to lie around and read a good book. Just not today!
Me: Well, it sounds like you're keeping pretty busy. You're a Superwoman:-)
Thanks so much for letting us get to know you better and for the opportunity to get to know Erin through her story.
Lu Ann: Thanks for your kind words about When Hearts Conjoin and for letting me be a part of your blog. If people want to buy a copy of the book, they can be ordered online at www.utahtwins.com. Proceeds from the book sales go to a medical trust for Kendra and Maliyah Herrin.