Interview with Historical Fiction Author Lloyd Lofthouse

As a field radio operator, Lloyd Lofthouse was a walking target in Vietnam in 1966. He has skied in blizzards at forty below zero and climbed mountains in hip deep snow.

Lloyd earned a BA in journalism after fighting in Vietnam as a U.S. Marine. Later, while working days as an English teacher at a high school in California, he earned an MFA in writing. He enjoyed a job as a maitre d’ in a multimillion-dollar nightclub and tried his hand successfully at counting cards in Las Vegas for a few years. He now lives near San Francisco with his wife, with a second home in Shanghai, China. Lloyd says that snapshots of his life appear like multicolored ribbons flowing through many of his poems.

This link takes you to Lloyd's 'Vietnam Experience' page filled with photos. He took many of them. Since Lloyd still has to edit the photos so they load faster, this page may load slow for older computers.

This link will take you to a media piece from a Southern California newspaper that Lloyd copied and posted on his Website that will give you an idea about his teaching years.

If you are interesting in learning more about Lloyd's teaching experience, you are welcome to read about it at AuthorsDen. 'Word Dancer' is a memoir of the 1994-1995 school year. He kept a daily journal that year. He is using that journal to write 'Word Dancer'. Everyday, when he arrived home, Lloyd wrote an entry in that journal. It sat on a shelf in his garage for fourteen years gathering dust. Spiders moved into the binder and built a nest. After all those years, Lloyd forgot he'd written it. When he was cleaning the garage, he found it again. Lloyd started reading, remembering and writing. Everything he writes in 'Word Dancer' happened. He's using a primary source as his guide. Memory may be faulty, but a daily journal written the day an event took place is as accurate as it can get from the author's point-of-view.

Accomplishments: Lloyd's short story "A Night at the Well of Purity" was named a finalist for the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards.

As a teacher, Lloyd found satisfaction in the number of students that published nationally and internationally while attending his English and journalism classes.

You can visit his website at www.mysplendidconcubine.com.

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Lloyd. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

After serving in the United States Marine Corps and fighting in Vietnam, I earned a BA in journalism. Eventually, I ended in the classroom teaching English literature and journalism. During those thirty years in education, I had a few part time jobs to make ends meet. One job was a maitre d at the Red Onion, a Southern California nightclub. I started writing my first manuscript in 1968. I’ve heard that ‘close’ only counts in the game of horse shoes, but ‘close’ helps in writing too. Most of the novel-length manuscripts I wrote during the last four decades made it by the readers and ended in an agent or editor’s hands. Opening an encouraging, personal rejection slip signed by an editor or agent kept the fires lit. Working days as a teacher and nights at jobs like the one at the Red Onion made writing a challenge. However, getting up at three in the morning to squeeze in an hour or two helped. Along the way, I took writing workshops for seven years out of UCLA and started a MFA at Cal Poly, Pomona that I completed at another university.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

My Splendid Concubine is a passionate love story set in China during the turbulent 19th century. Robert Hart arrived in China in 1854 and left in 1908. During those fifty-four years, Hart became the most powerful Westerner to live and work in China. No one has matched him yet. There isn’t much known about his early years in China, because he burned some of his journals in an attempt to hide the love story with Ayaou, his concubine. That hidden love story motivated me to spend nine years researching and writing this historical fiction novel. I agree with the Writer’s Digest judge that wrote, “...the novel is as much a study of the complexities of love as it is anything else.”

What kind of research was involved in writing My Splendid Concubine?

Researching My Splendid Concubine was a long trip. I started by reading Robert Hart’s surviving journals and letters (published by the Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard). My first trip to China was in 1999. The most recent was in September and October 2008. While there, we hunt for information and visit locations. That was tricky and time consuming. While writing the novel, I also researched the history, culture and people of China.

How much input did you have into the design of your book cover?

The publisher allowed some say in the selection of the cover and the final design. We went back and forth a number of times and several changes were done due to my suggestions. I guess that paid off since a Writer’s Digest judge wrote, “I was struck by the beauty of the cover, and I certainly was not disappointed by the book’s contents.”
Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

The journey to become a published author has been a bumpy, forty year ride.


For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

Only a few months. I spent eight years writing the novel before I signed the contract.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

I don’t have an agent at this time. However, over the four decades I’ve been writing, I’ve had several. Although I do not feel it is necessary to have an agent, it depends on the goals of the author. If an author wants to reach the big traditional publishers, an established agent that does not charge a reading or handling fee may be a great help since most larger publishing houses do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Do you plan subsequent books?

I’m working on two right now: Our Hart, the sequel to My Splendid Concubine, and a memoir about one year (1994 -1995) as a teacher in the rough barrio high school where I taught and witnessed drive-by shootings. After the memoir, I want to finish a thriller/mystery I started some years ago that takes place in a nightclub similar to the Red Onion where I was a maitre d’.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

It doesn’t matter what time it is. I write morning, noon or night. There have been times I get up at two or three in the morning to write for a few hours. Most of the time, I start around nine or ten. Right now it’s after eight at night.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

I’d pay for the services of a top advertising, public relations firm to coordinate a mass media campaign including newspapers, magazines, television and the Internet along with an old fashioned, multicity book tour doing author events and signings in book stores. The goal would be to build name recognition as an author and put My Splendid Concubine in front of the reading public. Since money is no object, I’d produce a movie with a top name director and actors too. A movie tie-in is a great way to generate book sales.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

Self-promotion is important. If most authors do not promote their work and the publisher doesn’t, who is going to hear about the book. I’m sure there are exceptions but not many. My self-promotion started when I mailed a thousand postcards to independent bookstores coast to coast. It took weeks to generate the mailing list. My next step was to contact local independent bookstores. That resulted in several author events. The first one was to standing room only. While that was going on, I hired a Florida company to arrange talk radio appearances. That resulted in being a guest on thirty-two radio talk shows reaching millions of listeners in one hundred and thirty countries. I’ve mailed copies of My Splendid Concubine to reviewers in the United States, China, England and Australia. That has results in some great reviews from around the world. There are copies and links to those reviews at www.mysplendidconubine.com where I also set up links to several Podcasts of radio talk shows I was on. Right now, I’m about half way through a two month virtual book tour organized by Pump Up Your Book Promotions. I plan to keep promoting My Splendid Concubine for three years. I have two years to go. Another step was to submit the novel to writing competitions. That resulted in My Splendid Concubine winning an honorable mention in fiction at the 2008 London Book Festival.

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

If you love writing do not give up. Keep improving your writing craft. Find a support group of fellow writers in your local area. Join them. Seek constructive criticism. Read books of all types. Also read books on the craft of writing. Take writing workshops at local universities or adult education programs. Never stop growing as a writer even after publication. Join on-line writing groups like those at Authors Den, EditRed or Writer’s Café.

Thank you for coming, Lloyd! Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

My pleasure. Thank you for having me. Everyone may find me through www.mysplendidconcubine.com where there are also links to buy the novel and information about China.
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