I am thrilled to have the opportunity to interview the three very talented authors of Surprise Packages, recently released by Deseret Book. I admit I am extremely curious how three women can write a book while living in three different towns. Nancy Anderson is from Sandy, Utah, Lael Littke is from Pasadena, California, and Carroll Hofeling Morris from Green Valley, Arizona.
So ladies, tell me how you came up with the idea of writing together.
We were vacationing together in Moab, Utah, when Nancy said, “Why don’t we write a book together?” We sat down right then and brainstormed about what we wanted the themes of our novel to be. We still have the notes that Carroll wrote in aqua ink!
I know you three have vacationed together a lot. What’s your favorite vacation spot?
Our favorite place is Carlsbad, CA, but Moab, Utah, and Sedona, Arizona, are right behind.
I went to high school a few miles from Sedona. What did you enjoy the most there?
Carroll: The fantastic red rock scenery and the energy of the place. Even though it’s become incredibly commercial, there still is a grandeur and spirit about it that touches me deeply. I love parking off Red Rock Loop just past the high school at sunset. If you walk out to a vantage point and look east, you can watch the formations turn even more fiery as the sun goes down.
Lael: I especially enjoyed the cave dwellings we climbed up to. I liked thinking about the safety factor of being open only on one side so that you could always see what was coming at you. And I loved the view from up there, the canyons and streams and mountains.
Nancy: I liked the fantastic air and the fabulous company as well as the place.
I know Surprise Packages is the last book in your trilogy, The Company of Good Women. Tell me what makes your trilogy unique.
It’s the story of three women in three different parts of the country and their quest to become Crusty Old Broads—written by three women from three different parts of the country who are self-professed Crusty Old Broads! Readers praise it for offering a realistic—but hopeful—view of the issues faced by LDS families.
With such a successful partnership in writing this series, you must have all learned to use each other's strengths. What do you each consider to be the main thing that each of you contributed to this latest book?
Carroll: The technical part of merging text form all of us and making all the corrections on the galley proofs.
Lael: I had the great good fortune of having studied for many years with Helen Hinckley Jones, whom I and the rest of her students regarded as the best writing teacher in the world. (At last count, the old students we know of have produced well over 1,000 books.) So I passed along what I learned from her about structure and substance.
Nancy: I’ve learned so much from Carroll and Lael through the last two books we didn’t have to make anywhere near the amount of changes on my manuscript as before!
How long did this book take you to write?
Carroll: About a year, which was four months past the deadline our editor gave us. Aargh, as Deenie would say. We were wiped out after meeting the deadline for Three Tickets to Peoria and we were starting from scratch. We had a structure to work from but nothing—nada, zip, zero—on the page. That, plus the complexities inherent in a book written by three co-authors, put us way behind. But we’re very happy with the way the book turned out and the early response to it.
Lael: ‘Nuff said.
Was this one easier to write than the first two, or did you find it difficult to tie up all of the details as you concluded this trilogy?
Carroll: We’re all “big picture” thinkers, so keeping track of all the details over three books—names, dates, events—was a challenge. But the greater challenge was bringing home the three storylines in a way that would satisfy us and, more particularly, the readers. For me personally, book three was easier to write than book two, because my character, Erin, was moving past the trauma of her divorce from Cory, and I got to write the romance between her and Vince.
Lael: After we got going, I found the last book a bit easier than the others because we had the characters set in our minds by then and didn’t have to work too hard to figure out how they’d react to a new challenge.
Nancy: I agree with both Carroll and Lael. And I found the third book easier because I have learned so much. But I struggled with not including every thing I wanted to readers to know about all the characters who have lived in my head for the last four years.
What is your favorite part of Surprise Packages?
Lael: Gradually bringing Juneau and her husband, Greg, closer so that eventually they “speak the same language.”
Carroll: The romance between Erin and Vince Gerlach. Much of the Erin material is quite serious and dramatic, but the romance was fun to write.
Nancy: Deenie discovering that being a Mormon woman raised in Utah doesn’t make her better than other people. She learns a lot about herself and other as she sees life with this new self-awareness.
What age group do you think your books appeal to the most?
Carroll: Women from the twenties onward.
Lael: I’d say thirtysomething and beyond.
Nancy: The most interesting responses I’ve received have been from readers 65+ who consider themselves Crusty Old Broads already and feel they have found a voice in our books.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
That no matter what situation a person is in any moment, the story isn’t over yet. Never, never, never give up—on others or on yourself!
Do you three have a new project in the works?
We have an idea for a book that will have the same format as the series—we’ll each write from the viewpoint of a character. It’s a stand-alone novel set in Powell, Wyoming, during World War II. But it is on the back burner while we’re working individual projects.
Finally, have you decided if the three of you qualify yet to really be considered "Crusty Old Broads?"
Carroll: The answer to that is on our blog: crustyoldbroads.blogspot.com: In our trilogy, "The Company of Good Women," a COB—a Crusty Old Broad—is a woman who, in the face of whatever life sends her way, "pulls up her socks and goes on." We all feel that we’ve pulled up our socks many times!
Lael: I’m old enough now that if I haven’t achieved Crusty Old Broadhood, I’ll never make it. I’ve had a lot of experience in pulling up my socks and going on. I like the description of a COB that Nancy provided in the first book: “’Like a fine sourdough bread,’ Willadene added. “Warm and nourishing with some real texture.’”
Nancy: As Deenie would say, “Heckuba! I think I was born a crusty old broad. Just without the experience and the wisdom.”
Now that we've all seen how this book came into being, check it out here!