Interview and Giveaway with Alice Loweecey, Ex-Nun and Author of FORCE OF HABIT – Part 1

Tell people you’re interviewing an ex-nun on your blog and you get a certain kind of look because, let’s face it, that vocation comes with a ton of associations. We’ll explore some of them in my interview with Alice Loweecey, along with “incidental” chat about writing and books. 😉

If you notice my tone gets cheeky at times, it’s because I know Alice can handle it. In fact, I’m not sure there’s anything she can’t handle. Full-time work, motherhood, a moderatorship on Absolute Write… Alice juggles these roles and still has a take-no-prisoners mentality towards authordom. Perhaps that’s why Midnight Ink took a leap of faith – if you’ll forgive the pun – and signed her for a three-book mystery series.  

Alice’s first novel comes out in February and has earned early praise. Publisher’s Weekly called FORCE OF HABIT a “spirited debut” and said Alice’s “fresh take on crime fighting is a delight.” 

Welcome, Alice! Before we get started, I thought I’d give you a little something to help you feel at home:

So I don’t make any accidental faux pas, what are the other touchy subjects I need to avoid? No Sound of Music cracks, right? Anything else you consider out of line?

First of all, thank you for having me on your blog! And yes, please, no Sound of Music references. Sister Act, either. I still wield a mean ruler. Other than that, I can’t think of anything.

Would you like to fill our readers in on your novel’s premise?

Giulia Falcone is convinced she’s going to Hell. First, because she left the convent. Second, her new job with a private investigator has her sneaking around and lying. Adjusting to life in the outside world isn’t easy. Makeup, dating, and sex are all new to her. And despite a crush on her boss Frank Driscoll—a foul-mouthed, soft-hearted ex-cop—Giulia is sure he’d never fall for an ex-nun.

Her first case involves drop-dead handsome Blake Parker, a man with immense wealth and an ego to match. He and his fiancée are getting disturbing “gifts” with messages based on biblical verses. When Giulia is drawn into the stalker’s twisted game, salacious photos of her appear, threatening her job and her friendship with Frank. No one imagines—least of all naïve Giulia—the danger ahead, when following the clues turns into a fight for her life.   

Your road to authordom took a circuitous route with a four-year stint in the convent. Guilia’s a former nun, and I can’t help being curious about how you two might be similar or divergent. For instance, it’s implied Guilia took the veil in part, at least, due to family pressure. Was that the case for you?

No indeed! I was a hard-headed teenage rebel, and the convent was the most rebellious thing I could do. I was helped along by some excellent reverse psychology and the allure of being “chosen” and “set apart”. Don’t misunderstand me—I know several women who have legitimate callings to the religious life. There’s a good chance I was one of them, once, but in the long run the life was not for me. 

In future books, will we learn more about Guilia’s reasons for leaving the vocation? And if it’s not too personal, how long did you wrestle with your decision to “jump the wall”? What were the reasons behind such a drastic change?

In book 2 of the series, currently titled Bad Habits, Giulia goes undercover in her old convent to investigate a suicide. Being thrown back into the life causes her to question her own reasons for returning to the world. There are also catfights, excessive drinking, and inappropriate lacy underwear. Stay tuned!

It would be disingenuous to come up with a bullet point-type list of reasons I jumped the wall. The process took me more than a year, and was filled with panic, denial, and lots of anger. The latter, unfortunately, on the part of some of the other Sisters. Looking back on it, I can see that they too were afraid. Many Sisters were leaving, and there was an undercurrent of “Who’s going to push my wheelchair when I get old?” Change sucks. But sometimes change is the only answer. 

So…life after the nunnery: You have a tantalizing bit on your bio page about playing a prostitute on stage very soon after leaving the convent. How on earth did you arrive at that juxtaposition? Was writing part of your life at that point?

I’d been involved in amateur theatre since high school. I always loved putting on the character of someone else. My last year in the convent, I received permission to act in a college play. That was interesting for some of the other cast members, who didn’t recognize me in the habit offstage. I enjoyed their startled reactions. When I became a regular person again, one of the first things I did was to audition for local amateur theatre. I was cast in a repertory company (the same group of actors doing several plays) and one of the roles I won was the hooker in The Owl and the Pussycat. So much fun! It’s a two-person show, and my male co-star was naturally shorter than me. My costume consisted of a skintight tank top, black vinyl mini-skirt, fishnets, exaggerated makeup, 5-inch stiletto heels, and a riding crop. For my initial entrance, I came storming onto the stage, whacking the riding crop on pieces of the set, and yelling. My (short) co-star had several comic expressions and could make his voice crack. The audience always laughed. Of course, my parents were in the front row opening night, and my father’s horrified gasp at my costume nearly caused me to break character. 

While you may have a three-book deal, I know you worked very hard to achieve publication. What did it take for you personally?

I have this folder on my hard drive labeled “Passes.” It represents four solid years of work, three complete novels, and several layers of rhino hide.

The novels are three different genres: religious horror, paranormal, and mystery. The mystery has an interesting story behind it. I queried Nathan Bransford with the religious horror, mentioning in my query that I was an ex-nun and thus knew religion. He passed, but suggested that he’d like to see a mystery starring an ex-nun who solves crimes. I dismissed that suggestion initially, because “I wrote horror.”

However, the idea percolated in my head, and wouldn’t leave me alone. Eight months later I had Force of Habit. I queried Nathan with it, he asked for the first three chapters—and passed. In the politest way possible, too. Ya gotta laugh.

So there I was on the query-go-round. This turned into roller-coaster time. I got requests for partials and fulls. I also got form rejections on requested fulls (ouch!). I got two offers to revise and resubmit on two different books. I had one agent love my characters and another say they were bland. It truly is a subjective business.

Then in spring of 2009, I sent a “Why not?” query to Kent D. Wolf, an agent whose list of sales and genres he was seeking looked interesting. The next day, he called to request the full of the mystery. (Agents don’t normally call for that. I was a bit startled.) Two days later, he called to discuss the book, the characters, the convent, and how I felt about revising. (Is the sky blue? Of course I was willing to revise!) Two days after that, he called to offer representation.

That was the long answer. The short answer is: Six days. Okay, four years, 185 rejections, and six days. 

Any sense of what you brought to the table that earned you a three-book deal out of the gate?

I think the mystique of the convent played a part. Almost all the people I’ve talked to about the book want to know more about the convent. It’s such a closed world, and one that sometimes appears to be vanishing.

Peeps, that concludes part 1 of this interview. In part 2 we’ll cover Alice’s suggestions about plotting, time management, and conquering writerly fear.

Now, if you thought Alice had a traditional giveaway for her interview, you underestimated the power of an ex-nun. 🙂

To be entered in the draw for the nun doll to the left, you will:

1. Comment below or in Part 2 of this interview, which will run in one week’s time; 

2. Live in continental North America and;

3. Have your name drawn by RNG.

To have your name entered twice, retweet this post, post a link on your Facebook page, or a link on your blog, then make sure to post the url below. Contest is open until midnight MST, Sunday, February 6, 2011. 

Alice will pop guy later if you have questions for her, but she also welcomes visitors to her website, Facebook page and Twitter.

To read more, Part 2 can be found here.

30 thoughts on “Interview and Giveaway with Alice Loweecey, Ex-Nun and Author of FORCE OF HABIT – Part 1

  1. Terrific interview! Alice is my heroine for her “never give up, never surrender” take-no-prisoners approach to dealing with the whole query-to-book-release process. I also love the community theatre stories. Alice, I hope you’re going to have Giulia act in a play in a forthcoming book.

    Love Barbie in the crocheted nun’s habit! 🙂

  2. What a fun interview — I don’t want to wait for the rest!

    Alice, congrats to you for all your hard work and determination paying off. I know I’m gonna enjoy the HELL out of this book. (Sorry. I had to go there.) It sounds like it’s going to be a great read. 🙂

  3. My copy is in at my bookstore — I can’t wait to read it! Jan and Alice, thanks for a fabulous and fun part 1 — can’t wait to read part 2!

  4. Great interview! As always great questions. Alice, you are such a great hand at describing your books. Both the one coming out and the second one sound really appealing. Also, I really, really like the cover. Really 🙂

  5. You all are so great! Thank you for coming.

    Timothy and Donna, I didn’t get near enough mileage out of the jokes in this interview — not sure why I held back — so thank you for filling that potential. 😀 I’m sure Alice will appreciate it when she’s free to come by.

  6. What a great interview! I am really looking forward to reading Pt. 2 — and reading FoH!

    (p.s. — as much as I love Nun Barbie, I don’t need to be entered in the contest — am currently purging my small house of “stuff,” so I’m trying not to acquire any more!)

  7. Oh, Lord, I can’t STAND The Trouble with Angels. Jan, I think anyone here who talks about cloying nun movies should be held down and their rulers whacked with a wooden ruler. 😀

    Also, I’d like to announce that Force of Habit is in stores TODAY! Yippee! Two weeks early! A pic of me in B&N and grinning like a loon is on my Facebook page.

    Elizabeth, Giulia’s going undercover in the next book, and right now that’s all the acting she’s doing. But you never know!

    Thanks for your comments and congrats, everyone. 🙂

  8. It took me all day to get the right combination of time and connectivity to stop by. A wonderful interview! I told my mother about the premise for Force of Habit when I first heard about it a couple months ago. She laughed and laughed, clearly not believing it was real, and said it would be great if someone would actually write it. Guess who’s getting a surprise book delivery this weekend?

    Can’t wait for Part II!

  9. I loved this interview (when have I not loved a Jan interview? ha), but I especially enjoyed learning more about Alice and her road to publication. Cane wait to read my copy of Force of Habit. I’ve been waiting for its release for months, so I’m especially glad it’s out early! Looking forward to Part II of the interview.

  10. Oh, what a fabulous interesting path, and i LOVE the sound of the mysteries! I think you’re right, that people are eager to get a gander into this life they know nothing about. It really strikes me how a very fresh concept can make such a huge difference, and your ability to do it authentically, rather than stereotypically, I’m sure makes a huge difference. congrats!

  11. Sounds like a fabulous story. Yes, the mystique of the convent and its denizens. 🙂 I think that my former teacher, Sister St. Cornelia, (who wielded a mean ruler) would have been a wonderful ex-nun.

    Can’t wait to read the stories! 🙂

  12. Terrific questions , Jan, and tremendous answers, Alice. I learned a lot about Alice, my fellow Midnight Ink author, about the book, and about ex-nuns. BTW, please tell me that doll pictured in the post is NOT Barbie dressed as a nun! And I thought Brain Surgeon Barbie was a stretch!

  13. Hillary, LOL! I hope your mother enjoys Force of Habit. Deb, that is indeed a Barbie dressed up as a nun. Think of all the Ken and GI Joe dolls whose plastic hearts are breaking right now. 🙂

  14. Cannot wait to read FOH. Going to try to get to the bookstore today to see if it’s out in the wild 🙂 If so, I’ll take a pic.

  15. When I was in my preteens and teens, I met one of my friends and we visited back and forth. Her father was the caretaker of a Carmelite Monastery. I am not Catholic so when we took something over there or picked something up, everything seemed even more mysterious. For example, we knocked or rang a bell (I can’t remember) and part of the cubby hole spun and we got the grocery list without ever seeing who put it in there. Also, I saw one of the empty room for the nuns and
    was amazed at the bareness. A crucifix on the wall, a knob for the habit and a bed. I can’t remember if there was a chair. Early every morning we heard them chanting and I loved it.

    I would be very excited and interested to read “Force of Habit”.

    CarolNWong(at)aol(dot)com

  16. Alice,

    Congratulations on the books! Your series sounds like one I’ll have to watch for.

    I have a character in my work-in-progress who is a nun. I would love to chat with you if you have time. An easy way to find me is on Twitter @jhansenwrites.

    I’m looking forward to the next interview. 🙂

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