Hi, Nora. You and I go way back since you were one of the first encouragers on my website, I thanked you then, and I thank you now for allowing me to chat with fellow book lovers!

You are one busy lady, Patti. When do you find the time to write?

Writing is my passion, my ministry, and my job. Plot lines and cool words buzz through my brain nearly all of the time. Since I received a contract for An Irishwoman’s Tale, I average at least an eight-hour workday like most of y’all do.

What time of day works best for you to write?

When all cylinders of my brain are firing, I get up EARLY (sometimes 4:45 a.m.) to get my three-page minimum down in a Word file. Then I can do all the fun stuff, like research and edits and publicity contacts!

Where do you enjoy writing the most?

(Patti's Dog - Laura)

In my office! Seven plants respirate around the clock to freshen the air I breathe. A Scott Mutter poster, an Angel Ambrose painting, and a Names of God poster inspire me from the cheery buttercup-yellow walls. And Laura, my trusty dog, curls up in my favorite old chair, snoring her encouragement!

Occasionally great ideas come when I take my daily run. I used to stop at random neighbors’ homes to borrow pen and paper, but my husband not-so-gently encouraged me to take my cell and call and leave myself a message. Perhaps safer, but not as much fun!

Some writers plot out what they are going to write step by step and other say they write by the seat-of-their-pants. Which style of writing best describes your style Patti?

I combine several styles, including Randy Ingermanson's snowflake method, the seat-of-the-pants technique, and the Big Idea.

Here’s how it works: I read about, hear about, or see an image that won’t leave my mind. (In An Irishwoman’s Tale, it was that sad-faced, red-haired girl, sitting at that scarred oaken table, hearing moon-shaped faces tell her that “the little eejit’s got to go.”)

Then I daydream a bit and open a computer file, collecting conflict and character ideas. When those ideas seem to have gelled, I try to compose a hook in a couple of sentences. Next I expand the hook to a paragraph. The final step is preparing a two- or three-page synopsis. If I’m feeling really organized, I make a list of potential scenes, then seat-of-the-pants it from there.

What inspires you to write?

An idea, an image, that won’t leave my mind. As I was driving to a writers’ conference last summer, a man passed me in a pickup. Plastered on his bumper was a sticker saying, “God save me from your followers.” To this day I’m haunted by that sticker. What happened to sour that man’s view of Christians? Look for an answer one day…in one of my stories. I also listen to a wide range of music—Eden’s Bridge, Harry Chapin, Switchfoot, Odetta—to free my mind from the mundane and grab inspiration from fine artists.

Do you write with your eyes closed so you can visualize what you are going to write?

Oh, dear, no. I would fall out of my chair and bang my head on the static mat. Sometimes I do surf Google Images to get a pictorial representation of the place I’m “visiting.”

Is being an author everything you thought it would be?If not, what has been surprising to you? Please explain.

No. I never dreamed chatting with people about books would be so rewarding. The most interesting, quirky people show up at signings and library events. At my local Barnes & Noble book signing, I admired a woman’s Kelly green jacket and told her how I disliked shopping, how I wish they would’ve had something like it the one day I looked for an outfit for all these Irishwoman’s Tale things. She ripped it off her back and slung it on the bookstore table! Of course I demurred, all to no avail. I wore the woman’s jacket on my television appearance and at the special dinner my husband threw for me to celebrate my first book.

Where did you get the idea for An Irishwoman's Tale?

In 1995, God yanked our family from our warm Southern porch and dumped us in the Midwest. To make new friends, I started a book discussion group. After one such meeting at my home, Mary, a red-haired woman, hung around. I thought she just wanted to pick through the hors d’oeuvres I’d spent half the night making. But that wasn’t it at all.

Mary seemed nervous, which made me nervous, so I chatted faster and faster.

“What is your first memory?” Mary interrupted some long-winded story about my children.

“I don’t know, I’ve never really thought about it,” I stammered.

“How pretty, not to think about it. My first memory cut into my heart, and I’ve never really forgotten it.”

“What is your first memory?” I managed.

“A scarred oaken table, moon-shaped faces guzzling tea. Cups and cups o’ the steamin’ stuff. Sayin’ the little eejit’s got to go.”

“How awful!”

“Oh, that’s not awful. What’s awful is what happened next.”

For hours, Mary sat in my house and shared her poignant first memory, then the story of her life. I always said somebody should write about Mary’s life. Imagine my surprise when God said it should be me!

Did you have any say in the cover?

Kregel sends us authors an Author Questionnaire that thoroughly explores our ideas re the title, the cover, the publicity, and about anything else you can think of! I presented them with two basic images, one of the Irish Cliffs of Moher and one of the real Mary’s passport photo (reminiscent of Angela’s Ashes cover). They chose a brighter version of the Cliffs. What was your working title? An Irishwoman’s Tale.

What is your passion?

Writing the stories God lays on my heart. Teaching Bible studies to women and writing classes to other writers. Running. Praising God. Being in the Word. Enjoying food with friends and family. My prayer is that everything I do will be offered up as a pleasant fragrance to God.

How do you stay sane? With all the plots and characters racing around in my head, I’m not sure I am sane.

Can you tell us what you are working on right now?

Well, right now I’m doing the final edits for What the Bayou Saw, (the story of Sally, the chatty Southerner in An Irishwoman’s Tale. Here’s a “sneak peek: In 1960s Louisiana, segregation and a chain link fence separated twelve-year-old Sally Flowers from her best friend, Ella Ward. Yet a brutal rape and a blood oath bound them together. Forty years later, when Sally's community college student is raped, Sally must decide whether to dredge up childhood secrets long buried beneath bayou waters in order to help the young black woman. Fragments of hymns, spirituals, and protest music are woven into this framed story which deals with the aftermath of sexual assault, suppressed memories, and racism.

Can you tell me of two "Wow" moments you have had since you have been published?

Taking a box of author-copy books to Mary, the real-life Irishwoman, who is also my best friend. The enthusiastic crowds that have flocked to my book signings and library events, just wanting to chat about books. It’s so fun to learn about their first memories! What made the moments so special for you? Sharing with Mary the culmination of blood, sweat, and tears and a God-inspired trip back to the cliffs of Mary’s homeland. Having all kinds of people understand what writing means to me.

Is your husband a hands-on kind of partner?

Definitely hands-on! Alan has paid the bills so I can write full-time. I’d call that real hands-on. He also reads my final drafts and gives me that analytical professor point of view! He’s caught so many loose adjectives, implausible timelines, and messy adverbs, I’ve quit counting. And his price is real cheap.


If you were trapped in a dangerous and life-threatening situation, which fictional character would you choose to save your life?

Dr. Kildare! I’m dating myself quite a bit, aren’t I? Susan, one of my favorite cousins, and I used to play with Barbies at her gigantic, two-story home. We’d throw our dolls down their laundry chute, shove the Barbie car down the stairs, and Dr. Kildare would come to the rescue. He’s still my “mind’s eye” image of a heroic pretend person, a doctor dedicated to saving lives that’s also pretty easy on the eyes.

What two places do you love to shop?

Common Ground, a health food store owned by my friend Kathe. They make delicious hummus sandwiches with grated carrots and lettuce and all kinds of other goodies. Plus they have these cool bulk containers for steel-ground oats, whole-wheat flour, and golden flaxseed. Yes, I am a health food nut.

The other place would be the Coffee Hound, my second office, with branches in both downtown Normal and Bloomington. The Coffee Hound owners, April and Steve Fritzen, grind and roast their own. When I walk to the counter, the barrista automatically starts mixing up a soy latte. As you can see, I’m not much of a traditional shopper as far as clothes and stuff like that.

What special quality or talent do you have that would surprise people?

Though I’m awful at details, I love tending to plants, even naming some of them. It got so bad last year that Alan said for every plant that came in our home, one had to go out. My latest “find” is Hibbie, a six-foot Hibiscus plant gifted to me by a special friend who decided not to nurse it through another Midwest winter.

My cool neighbor Carol hijacked her husband’s vehicle and the three of us hefted Hibbie into the bed of a hard-top pickup. Talk about an adventure! To Alan’s dismay, Hibbie shares our bedroom. For the last month, there’s been breathtaking salmon-colored blooms waving “good morning!”

What special event have you experienced that would surprise people?

I ran the New York Marathon on the date of their 60th anniversary and got to visit all of The Big Apple’s amazing boroughs in one morning.

If you had all the time in the world (and just as much money); to do ANYTHING you wanted, what would you do?

Make a personal list of “Places to Go Before You Die,” get Alan to plan the logistics, and head out. A couple of them would include: visiting the Tahiti island where my parents spent an anniversary, hiking the NaPali coast on Kauai, Hawaii, scouring every inch of lovely Ireland, and sailing through the thousands shades of blues and greens and whites that are the Greek isles.

If money is not a problem where is your favorite place to have breakfast?

My absolute favorite place to have any meal is my own kitchen! I adore cooking! Steel-cut Irish oats, fresh berries, raw butter, and a handful of nuts get my cylinders firing most mornings.

We Lacys cherish our mealtime together, but when we do dine out, we love Thai House, a wonderful place in our town that serves spicy, fresh noodle and soup dishes. It’s fun to go with friends and order family-style so we can share untasted specialties. My favorite is Pad Thai and a delicious eggplant beef dish whose name I can neither pronounce nor spell. The papaya salad and spring rolls usually grace our table as well.

If you found a magic lamp and the genie inside was going to grant you three wishes, what would your wishes be?

My mindset isn’t such that I think of genies and lamps, but I yearn for God to show my unbelieving friends His way, His truth, and His light. My heart aches for the hungry and cold in our community; I wish they could be fed and housed. I long to know God in a more personal and intimate way.

What are some of your favorite books you read as a child?

Since we moved constantly before I entered seventh grade, books became the friends I didn’t have. My old friends line the shelves of our basement library.

A few of my favorites: Beautiful Joe, Pippi Longstocking, Black Beauty, Fairy Tales of the Orient, Booker T. Washington…I could fill a few pages with my favorites, so I’d better stop here!

What film do you remember seeing as a kid that really made an impression you?

Mary Poppins.Why? Our family didn’t go to many theaters, and the big screen captured my imagination the times we did attend. The nonconventional behavior of Mary Poppins and Mrs. Banks spoke to the rebellious nature of me, even at that young age! And the music and dancing birthed a yearning to express myself in creative ways.

Who is your favorite athlete? How do they inspire you?

I love just about every sport, a legacy from my football-playing daddy. Back in the 60s, "The College Game of the Week" dominated our Saturdays. Can you imagine a time when only ONE game was on TV? But Daddy gave us more than just that love of sports; he taught my brothers and me to play tennis in the streets of our Louisiana neighborhood. He unscrewed creaky wooden racquets from bulky frames and said, "Have at it." We'd try to keep from hitting cars and kids with the odd variety of objects we used for tennis balls (superballs, balls of string; sometimes real tennis balls!) I didn't play tennis in high school, but somehow I scratched my way onto the first women's tennis team at Baylor University. My "career" ended a few years back, when a group of women formed a 4.0 USTA tennis team here in Normal and made it to the National USTA Finals in Tucson, Arizona.

Because of my own nontraditional acquisition of a few junkyard dog tennis skills, I admire the Williams sisters. Venus and Serena, shut out of private clubs catering to those with plenty of money and leisure time, used equal measures of determination and unbelievable God-given ability to rise to the top of professional tennis. I love their athleticism, their looks, and their clothes!

What is your favoriate veggie? What is your favorite way to eat it?
Gosh, that's like asking Imelda Marcos to pick her favorite pair of high heels!

I'll pick eggplant so y'all can all say "yuck." I roast it (skin on), then peel it, mash it with lots of minced garlic and olive oil and salt and pepper and smashed chick peas, then slather it on these wonderful nutty crackers we buy called Dr. Kracker. Yum! Yum!

THANK YOU for hanging out with me today, Patti. I loved every second of it. It's nice to get to know you better. We learned alot of FUN things about you we normally wouldn't have! Thanks for sharing from your heart friend. :D

To read, write, work, play, sleep, eat for that Audience of One. It will be enough, dear friends. It will be enough.

(Watch Book Trailer for "An Irish Woman's Tale")


  1. You have the most wonderful interviews, Nora! This one was so informative yet entertaining, too. That eggplant thing Patti described is also a favorite of mine known as Baba Ghanouj or m'tebl (don't know an English transliteration for it). I see it sometimes called hummus with eggplant. Good and nutritious.

    I so want to read this book but don't have anything left over for buying books these days. I hope soon. This just made me want to read it even more.

  2. I got teary-eyed thinking of what your book must have meant to Mary. What an act of love and healing for her.

    I'm not a fan of Thai food ... too spicy for me. Butnext time you're in Georgia, Patti, I'll take you out for sushi. :D

  3. Wonderful interview! Hope to read your book sounds like a terrific read!



  4. Ane, I get teary-eyed thinking of what God did for Mary--and all of us!
    Thanks, Ane,Sandy and Cathi, for your comments! Visit my website, and enter the November contest! Who knows, you might win that Barnes & Noble gift card. It sure would come in handy!!

  5. What an interesting person. I loved reading about how you write and what you eat. How different from my life. Look forward to reading your book.


  6. "Hi Nora, great interview! Thank you for tagging me. Your friend, Lyn"

  7. "Great interview! I love the pics that go along with the dialogue. :)

    Eva Marie"

  8. "I love Patti's new book and she is a wonderful person"

    Tina Ann Forkner made a comment from facebook

  9. Jennifer AlLee made a comment from facebook

    "Great interview. Patti's one of my favorite authors, and a special friend, to boot!"

  10. Cara Putman made a comment from facebook

    "What a great interview!"

  11. I have written a few devotional-type stories and can identify with plot lines and cool words buzzing through the brain. The more stories I wrote the more devotional application type stories buzzed.
    I can see why Patti would enjoy the enthusiastic crowds talking about books. I'm not the author but I am just part of that enthusiastic crowd. GO, PATTI, GO!!
    I didn't think to ask the question about a next book and am glad to know there is one coming.
    Looking forward to doing the ACFW book discussion in December!
    Pam W

  12. Coming from rural Texas where everything was fried (even eggplant!), I had never heard of wheat germ or health food until I met Patti at Allen Hall as my suitemate at Baylor! Loads of fun and great memories! Looking forward to "Sally's" next book!