Author Lori Beasley Bradley grew up on a small farm in southern Illinois, where she fell in love with reading and writing at a young age. By the age of ten, she was reading adult fiction and, once she hit her early twenties, Bradley made an effort to write professionally. Husbands, children and jobs got in the way of her literary dreams, however, and she didn’t publish her first novel, The Legend of the Swamp Witch, until the age of 56. Influenced greatly by Bradley’s love of the American South, the novel tells the story of one family’s rich lineage in the swamps of southern Lousiana.
In 2015, Bradley published The Ruby Queen, book one of her Soiled Doves Sagas, a series that follows the lives of a pair of young prostitutes in the Old West after the Civil War. The second book in the series, The Queen of the Cow Towns, is scheduled to be released in late 2015.
To learn more about Bradley and her books, visit her online at lori-beasley-bradley.branded.me.
What was your childhood like? How did the experiece of growing up on a farm help to shape who you are today?
I learned to be self-reliant. I also use much of what I learned about growing plants and tending animals in my books. I lived in a 100-year-old farm house, drew water from a well, milked cows, and learned about herbal remedies.
What inspired the story of The Legend of the Swamp Witch?
The Legend of the Swamp Witch was inspired by a ghost story I made up 30 years ago to tell around campfires. I expanded it with the chapters about the men who triggered the curse.
What do you find most enjoyable or fascinating about the historical fiction genre?
I enjoy historical fiction because I’ve always loved history. I took every history class offered in high school and college. I spent 20 years doing costuming for historical re-enactors at Renaissance and Medieval events. I’ve also played a little with Steampunk because I love the 19th century so much.
How did you become interested in the subject matter of The Soiled Doves Sagas?
I came up with the idea for the Soiled Dove Sagas after watching a History Channel documentary about prostitutes working the California gold fields. Then I watched the HBO series Deadwood and decided I really wanted to write about prostitutes in the Old West. I found it fascinating.
What are some of the most interesting things you learned about the lives of prostitutes during the time of the Civil War?
Some of those women were forced into that life due to the limited options women had during that time. Men held all the power. Many women found themselves homeless after the Civil War because male relatives could come in and take over property left by a dead soldier, tossing out his wife. If she had no family to turn to, she had few options.
I’ve also found that prostitutes were actually the ones who began many social programs in towns. They sponsored schools, libraries, and fed the homeless. It was a madam who covered the loans for the rebuilding of San Francisco after the earthquake and fire that destroyed the city.
What is your writing process?
That can be a very involved question. When I have a new idea for a project, if I remember it in the morning, LOL, I generally scribble it out on a notepad. If it goes further than that, I’ll go to my computer and begin a Snowflake outline. Using the Snowflake outlining process has been very effective for me. That process involve first writing one sentence summarizing the project. Then you expand that one sentence to one paragraph, then three paragraphs, then a page. This helps to expand the storyline and develop characters. By the time I’ve expanded to a few pages, I’m ready to begin writing.
After I check my emails, pop in on Facebook, and write a blog post, I’m ready to begin my day writing. I turn on a zen music station and begin. I try to write at least 2,500 words a day. Some days, when the creative juices are flowing, I can write up to 10,000 words. When it flows, it goes.
I generally have two or three projects in the works at any one time and if I get blocked on one, I simply jump to another.
From your perspective, what are the pros and cons of self-publishing a novel?
You have so much more freedom. You also have all the responsibilities. I use Createspace with their distribution channels and cover creator, but the author is still responsible for all the marketing. I have contracts with two small presses for a couple of my books, but even they require their authors to bear the brunt of the marketing responsibilities. When you have a traditional publisher, they do the editing, but they also want creative control. If they want content changed, they expect you to change it.
What authors do you most enjoy reading?
My favorite authors are many. Marion Zimmer Bradley got me hooked on fantasy, which I read for years. I’m currently hooked on James Rollins. I’ve read all his books. I love the way he combines history and science. I also love his new vampire series with Rebecca Cantrell. It’s a great twist on the vampire genre.
If you could jump back to any point in your life and do one thing differently, where would you go and what would you change?
That too, is a very involved question. Looking back — and I’m 57 so there’s a lot to look back on — I’d have to say that I’d like to go back to high school and apply myself better. I allowed myself to be distracted by so much that I let my education slip. Had I applied myself, I could have won scholarships to college. Instead, I experimented with drugs, messed around, and got pregnant. I graduated in the top third of my class, but had I applied myself in school, I could have been higher. So, that being said, I’d go back to 1972, remind myself that all males are pigs, and while drugs and alcohol can be fun, an education is more important.
If you could offer one piece of advice to aspiring authors, what would it be?
If I could give just one piece of advise to an aspiring author it would be: Find a critique group you are comfortable with and participate! I joined The Central Phoenix Writers’ Workshop and it has improved my writing 3000%. Having your work critiqued by your peers is a great way to improve your writing and develop a shell, so when those bad reviews of your work hit Amazon, you know how to take the critic’s words and turn them into a learning experience. We never will improve our writing if we don’t know what we’re doing wrong.
How is book two in The Soiled Doves Sagas coming along?
Book Two, The Queen of the Cow Towns is written and with my editor now. We just went over the first 200 pages last night. I’m hoping to have it polished and ready to publish in the next few weeks and I have 13 chapters written of Book Three, Crown Queen.