A Conversation with a Twist, author Lorie Langdon

By Melissa Warner Published March 7, 2020

Both the Doon series and most recent book by author Lorie Langdon are retellings of famous musicals (Brigadoon and Oliver Twist). She liked both musicals which she saw as a young child, but even at age 7, she was unsatisfied with the idea that the people from Brigadoon slept for 100 years so she rewrote that world – perhaps because she is descended from a Scottish countess! However, she characterized Olivia Twist more as a continuation rather than a retelling. Similarly, she loved Oliver Twist and had a crush on Artful Dodger. “I just pretended like [Oliver] was a girl and I would make up these adventures that they would go on together and that they would eventually fall in love…it was my first fanfiction but I didn’t write it down.” While it brewed around in her mind for years, she said “I didn’t feel qualified to write it, it just felt too big because of all the research. Being a Dickens spin-off or retelling, it felt intimidating. Once I had dived into YA and written some of the Doon books, then I started on Olivia Twist, and it came very easily actually once I started writing it.” Many readers have asked for her to retell The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and it is one of Ms. Langdon’s favorites, and is referenced in her books. “But horror is not really my genre. I would have to do it in a way that can be psychological horror with mystery and I haven’t quite figured that out yet.”

Ms. Langdon has also written Gilt Hollow, interestingly her “least selling” book, despite many readers telling her they reread it every Halloween. This book is a mystery, and came about because she grew up reading and loving mysteries, especially Nancy Drew. She had “always wanted to take a stab at a whodunit.” Believing she has no difficulty writing from a male perspective, several of the behaviors of the male character in this book, Ashton, are based on reactions her teenage sons would have “in stress situations.” She finds it “fun and challenging” to write male characters. In fact, the best endorsement she received was that both of her boys loved the book!

Her series, two published books, and most recently finished but as yet unpublished book, all have vastly different settings (Brigadoon – which was entirely created by Lerner and Loewe, small town Ohio, Victorian London and area, and a world “completely made up in my head”). Such change between locations and years between books is not very difficult for Ms. Langdon. “As a reader, I don’t like to read the same genre; I like to skip around, I get bored easily as a reader…As a writer I’m the same way – I get bored…When I’m in the head spaces of those characters, it’s all I think about. I don’t necessarily worry about the fact that I wrote a contemporary mystery and now I’m skipping to magical realism or historical [fiction]. It has more to do with characters so I’m in that character’s head…Because I’m so deeply entrenched in my character’s heads, that makes it much easier to change genres between books.”

Noting that the Young Adult “genre spans so many types of stories,” in Ms. Landon’s opinion, the defining characteristic of YA is the age of the protagonist – that he or she is between the ages of 15 and 18. She tends to keep her books “somewhat PG13” because “that’s what I feel most comfortable with.” Yet, when writing for this older group, she “always” thinks about the 9 or 12 year olds who might be reading her books. “All my books have kissing scenes…and they’re usually very vividly described. Passion is a real thing, especially for teens. But I do consider the young ones who are reading the book. I don’t want to be the one who opens their eyes to certain things.”

Olivia Twist has been described as an “epic love story.” When asked to elaborate, Ms. Langdon stated she sees an “epic love story being one that spans decades. [Olivia Twist] started when they were children and then continues as they grow older. Also the adventure aspect speaks to the epicness… To me ‘epic’ kind of implies that there’s a much bigger plot and adventure involved in the love story.” “I write love stories, I write romance. Every book I write is a romance. I don’t want to condescend to kids by glossing over that part of relationship, but I also want to show my characters making smart decisions even when they’re swept away in the passionate moment.” Ms. Langdon plans to continue writing romance in her books. She stated “I think that for me as a reader, a book has to have a strong relationship element to hold my attention. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a romance, it can be a friendship. I love the Harry Potter stories and those friendships are definitely a huge part of the plot. For me [romance] feels right. I’m good at writing romance and I’m going to stick with that.”

In fact, according to a statement on her website, “I fall head over feels in love with all my heroes.” Asked to explain this, Ms. Langdon laughed and said “It’s true. As I’m writing each book, I’m very much in the head of my heroine, and I create these [male] characters as their kind of ideal mate. It becomes a little bit of an obsession for a while, so as you’re writing it, these characters start to feel as if they’re real; they speak to you even when you’re not writing…I feel as if I could not choose between any of the heroes in my books.” But, if “forced to choose someone from a book that’s actually published, that people have read, I would probably have to choose Jamie from Doon because I wrote four books about him!”

The misconception about writers that bothers Ms. Langdon the most “is that we can sit down (and this is perpetuated through media, through entertainment like in tv shows) that we can sit down and write a book in an afternoon, or a week or even a month. It is just completely unrealistic.” Another misconception she experiences is – “and I’ve published six books now and I still get rejection” – “people think once you’re published, you’re ‘in’ and you can publish whatever, whenever and that isn’t the case.” This author handles rejection “with faith and family. I have a strong faith, and I pray about it and turn it over to God, and then spend time with family because that’s what’s important in my life. I try not to dwell on [rejection]. I’ll let myself be sad for a little bit; I’ll give myself a couple of hours but then I move on.”

The Doon series and her most recently published YA book, coming out in the fall, Catch the Light were all coauthored, but with very different processes. The most recent book came about when her agent connected her with a woman who had an idea for a book (a story she had been telling her children for many years) and had a dream to turn that into a book. They met, and developed the plot together, with the story originator providing feedback on each chapter. For the Doon series, coauthored with Carey Corp, the two authors developed the plot and story-line together, but they each took responsibility for writing the parts of the two main female characters, Veronica and Mackenna. When they disagreed about the “direction of the plot, if it had to do with our character, then that person would be the ultimate authority. It’s challenging. Co-writing can be fun and organic, dynamic… [It] can be great to have someone who is just as invested in your characters and plot as you are, but the challenges are you don’t always agree, you’re not able to have complete artistic freedom, [and] you have to compromise many times…We developed over the course of writing books…that if we didn’t agree on plot or anything really, we would throw it out and brainstorm until we came up with something new and whenever we did that… the newer idea we came up with together was always stronger. We were able to take advantage of two brains are better than one [and]…the books even [were] better than they would have been if we had written solo.”

If not a writer, Ms. Langdon would still want to “be involved in the book industry,” probably as “an agent to help other people become published.” As a child, she wanted to be an actress, and she noted that this is a form of storytelling and “translates well” into her current work. By the age of 15, “I became more practical, I wanted to be a teacher.” High school activities included drama club, no sports (“I’m not athletic whatsoever”), dance lessons, and student government. What she knows now as an adult that she wishes she had known as a teenager is “I wish that I had understood that all of my self consciousness was unnecessary because other teenagers around me are really only concerned with themselves and the projection they are giving off. They’re not over-analyzing me at all. I wish I could tell myself just to relax and be myself, and that would be OK.” If she had one extra hour every day, she would be “out in nature reading. I love to read outside. I don’t know what that magic is.”