About the author...
Lena was voted #6 on Top Ten Favorite Authors list in the Heartsong Reader Poll in 2005
My husband James and I have been married since 1964. Ours was one of those love-at-first-sight relationships. We were married three months and three days after we met. He truly was God's gift to me. We are absolute opposites, but that means that his strengths are my weaknesses, and my strengths are his weaknesses. Together we make a more perfect whole. I believe that is what God intends for all of us.
We have two daughters. Marilyn Van Zant is married to Roger, and they have a son named Timothy. Tim is now in Tennessee at Ft. Campbell. His son Sebastian is almost 2 years old.
Jennifer Waldron is married to Eric, and they have three children-Austin, Marissa, and Amanda. James and I love to spend time with our family, and we are blessed that both families live in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex, so we see them often.
For several years, I worked on the support staff of a church, but in November of 2002, God changed things so that I can stay home and write full-time. It has been the desire of my heart for a long time. In Proverbs 37:4, it says, "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart." I believe that this blessing is a result of my delighting myself in Him, and I praise Him for the opportunity.
My husband worked for DFW Airport for several years, but in the spring of 2003 they offered him early retirement. He took it, but he wasn't ready to quit working completely. He worked at Wal-Mart for five years. In December 2007, he started working in the Facilities Department of our church.
James and I like to travel. We have often gone on missions' trips to Mexico, and some of our best friends are missionaries in several countries around the world. We hope to visit more of them in the future.
We worship at Gateway church in Southlake, Texas. Visit them at: http://www.gatewaypeople.com.
Cindy: Welcome to Writer's Block, Lena. I've been reading over your biography information from your website and I'm very impressed! You've won several awards. Can you give the readers a little information on your awards, which one surprised you the most and why?
Lena: When American Christian Fiction Writers gave me the Mentor of the Year Award in 2006. I do mentor other authors God brings into my life. It's a call on my life and a great blessing. Actually, I was in the Ladies room when they started the announcement. My critique group was all sitting together at two tables. They started worrying that I wouldn't get back in time if I won. I missed the part where they read the list of the authors who were nominated. She was reading actual emails when I came back in the room. My critique group thought I would figure it out when she read one of the things I often tell them, but I just thought, "How like God to tell so many of His children the same thing." I was putting on lipstick when they called my name. I dropped my lipstick and mirror and got up. Halfway to the stage I wondered if I had put it on all my mouth. I hoped I wouldn't look strange. I didn't.
Cindy: When you say in 2002, God changed things so you could stay home to write full time - (and you don't have to go into great detail if it means disclosing personal information you'd rather not make public) - what do you mean?
Lena: I had gone to the first ACFW national conference. I pitched four fiction books and one nonfiction book, and both the editor and the agent wanted to see proposals on all of them. I knew I couldn't get it all done while working full-time. When I was going to ask for less hours, I was offered a free-lance project, where I would make enough to last me six months. I felt that God had assured me He would sell at least one of the books by the time the money ran out. My husband agreed with me that I should take the project, and God sold three books in those six months.
Cindy: Both you and your husband have performed work for your church over the years. In what way might your close relationship with God and the church inspire your writing?
Lena: I wouldn't be able to write anything if I hadn't realized that God created me to write at this time in my life. I depend on Him for the stories. And He helps me see His hand in every contract and contact that I make.
Cindy: You and your husband have gone on Mission trips outside the United States to help others. - (Let me just say that God smiles on you for that and so do I) - Can you tell us briefly where, why and if you were able to accomplish what needed to be done, or do you plan on returning to help more and do you feel God paved the way for you to do such wonderful work for Him?
Lena: James and I together have gone on several short-term mission trips into Mexico. They were valuable both for us and for the people where we ministered. I've spoken in Mexico at a women's conference and at other women's meetings. We've helped with building projects and also just ministered to individuals in villages.
I've also been on a missions trip to Guatemala. The team had both builders and medical people as well as children's workers. The builders worked on a clinic. The medical team had mobile clinics out in the mountains. When they went where I could get to the place without climbing too much, I was on the children's team. When they went where it was too strenuous for my leg, I worked in the office helping bind their Bible curriculum. I thoroughly enjoyed both these events, as well as when we visited an extremely poor family and took food.
Cindy: You've written comedy routines for someone in the past. I must admit that's a new one on me and I've been interviewing authors for some time now. Please let the readers know how that came about and what did you take with you from that experience?
Lena: My teenage daughter met an up and coming Christian comedian many years ago. He wanted some fresh routines. I wrote three for him. It was a lot of fun. Making serious Biblical truths funny.
Cindy: You once (and still do) wanted to write a book on the Proverbs 31 woman. What's holding you back?
Lena: I do believe I will write that book. The time hasn't arrived yet.
Cindy: Another interesting factor (your life has been truly an adventure!) is that you were at one time, a mail carrier. Gosh that sounds like fun! My dad still tries to get me to try to get into that line of work someday, but I'm - well, let's just say I'm too set in my ways to even "want" to do that now. So, how was that experience and does anyone (or did anyone) you ever encountered during that employment ever wind up as the basis for any of your characters in your books?
Lena: Actually, I created my first book (in my mind) while driving that rural mail route. But I haven't used any of the people as characters yet.
Cindy: Twice in one week, once with someone you knew very well and once with someone you were only acquainted with, you were told that you should write the Inspirational stories you had only thought about and that they both felt God wanted you to do that and would guide you along the way to writing them. As a strong Christian woman who not only attended church, but often helped with church events and activities, why did this surprise you? (Someday you can ask me how I felt when my first novel wound up not only being an Inspirational story, but a trilogy at that!)
Lena: That was almost 25 years ago. Actually, it didn't surprise me really, but it just demonstrated to me how God works things out in our lives. I praised Him then and I praise Him now for using all those things to get my attention.
Cindy: Of all your published novels, stories, skits, (etc.), which has been your most favorite to write and why, and which the most difficult and why?
Lena: I'm often asked what is my favorite. I usually answer, "The one I'm writing right now." I've loved so many of the books. And so many of them have touched and changed lives. I love that. God surprises me often while I'm writing and has me change something I planned to a different way. Those are the ones that become the strongest scenes. Probably the one I'm writing now is most difficult. It's my first 90,000+ word book.
Cindy: You have several published novels, some solo, some with other authors. Briefly tell us what transpired in getting that first one published and how you felt the first time you held your first published book in your hand?
Lena: I started wrote the first book when Christian fiction was just really beginning to grow. And the market was much different from now. It went through fluctuations that affected many contracts. That happened to me. With each rejection, I learned more about writing. Finally, after about 8 years, I held the first book in my hand. It's an awesome moment, but you know what. Each new book that I hold in my hand the first time is almost as thrilling.
Cindy: Now a well-seasoned author, can you enlighten the readers on your next release and what we might be able to await in the near future?
Lena: My July release is Cranberry Hearts. This is a compilation of three Heartsong books written by Lisa Harris, Laurie Alice Eakes, and me. All three are romantic suspense set mostly in Massachusetts, and either the hero or the heroine in each book are cousins.
Then in September, I have two Christmas novella releases. Wild West Christmas is my first book set in Texas. The other authors are Kathleen Y'Barbo, Vickie McDonough, and Darlene Franklin. The historical stories are about the Ames sisters, who were raised by their rancher father after their mother died. I love these stories. My novella in the collection is Charlsey's Accountant.
The second book is a contemporary. Christmas Love at Lake Tahoe takes place at the same ski lodge in Incline Village at the north end of Lake Tahoe. The ski lodge is owned by one of the girls' grandparents, and they girls go to work there after college. Actually, I love these stories, too. My novella in this one is No Thank You.
Cindy: What advice, as both a writer and editor, can you offer those who have yet to see their first "baby" hit the bookshelves - what can they do to ensure they'll get that "big break" and what might they expect as far as "rejections"?
Lena: Rejections come. Very few people sell to the first person they submit to. They're part of the business. Learn from them and move on. Remember, if God wants that publisher to publish your book, the publisher will. If He doesn't, look elsewhere. I believe that God has specific places where He wants the stories to go, so the people who need the message woven will read it. God's timing isn't our timing. He's never early, but He's never late.
Cindy: Where can we purchase your books?
Lena: This year's releases are available in Christian bookstores, in Barnes & Noble, in other bookstores, and online. Amazon has all my books.
Cindy: Of all your books, which do you recommend as the "one" you hope everyone reads if only one of many?
Lena: Everyone should read Minnesota Brothers. This book has changed many lives. Also you really must read Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico, when it comes out next year.
Cindy: Where can we learn more about you and your work, and keep up to date on any events coming up?
Lena: I'm all over the Internet.
http://www.lenanelsondooley.com - my web site
http://lenanelsondooley.blogspot.com - a blog where I interview other authors
http://lenanelsondooleynewsletter.blogspot.com - my monthly newsletter. Come over and sign up for it. I'm also on Shoutlife, Facebook, and Twitter.
Cindy: Lena, I do have one thing I would like to tell you, while I have your attention. The first thing about you that stuck out at me immediately was that you so closely resemble one of my aunts on my mother's side of the family. She recently passed away, last year about this time. I'm sure that God has led me on the path I am following now and I'm even more positive that everyone who has entered my life at one time or another was sent my way by Him for a specific reason. So I just want to thank you for this wonderful opportunity to learn more about you and get to know you more personally. Is there anything else you would like to add that I may not have covered in this interview?
Lena: I love to hear from readers, so visit one of my sites and leave a comment or contact me. Thank you, Cindy. I've enjoyed spending this time with you.
Cindy: Lena, thank you so much for your time and I'm looking forward to not only reading your future books, but all of them. You've been most gracious. God bless you!
Cranberry Hearts, Barbour, July 2009
The Spinster Brides of Cactus Corner, Thorndike Press Large Print, August 2009
Can You Help Me? and... Caught Red Handed, Thorndike Press Large Print, September 2009
Wild West Christmas, Barbour, September 2009
Christmas Love at Lake Tahoe, Barbour, September 2009 and... Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico, Summerside Press, Summer 2010