Kit Kat and Lucy - an Interview with Lonnie Hull Dupont

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I am honored today to interview my fabulous acquisitions editor at Revell, Lonnie Hull Dupont, who is also a multi-published author, and is here to talk about her newest release, Kit Kat & Lucy: The Country Cats Who Changed a City Girl’s World.If you have met Lonnie, you know that she is a serious editor but also a fun, compassionate friend. I'm privileged to welcome her to my blog today. First, a bit about Lonnie:

Lonnie Hull DuPont is an award-winning poet, book editor, and writer. She is the author of several books, including five compilations of animal stories under the pseudonym of Callie Smith Grant. A member of the Cat Writers Association, she lives in rural Michigan with her husband and their cats.

JES: You have been writing for many years but editing fiction and non-fiction is your career, yes? Please tell us a little about yourself and what lead you to choose these complimentary careers?

LHD: I’ve been writing since I learned to read – mostly poetry which I still write. I became a teacher and taught five years in public high school plus a year as an English teacher to Greeks. Then I left the teaching profession because I seemed unable to have a life beyond it. I moved to Europe for a year and became a beach bum while I contemplated my future. I journaled a list of things I wanted to do in my life – today’s bucket list – and opened my mind to new possibilities.

I returned stateside unemployed at a time when jobs were hard to come by in my home state of Michigan. But a good friend had started working for Spring Arbor Distributors, a company that served Christian bookstores with books, music, Bibles, and gifts. She put in a word for me, and I was hired in the order entry department. It was a young company, open to new things, and I soon became a copywriter. (What a thrill to write my occupation as “writer” on my tax forms!)

I eventually wrote or was in charge of all their written advertising and catalogs. Such a great way to learn the industry, plus writing copy made me able to edit my own work without drama and stay on deadline. I’m very grateful for that time. I became so familiar with the products for Christian bookstores that I was highly employable in the industry. After Spring Arbor, I became an acquisitions editor at Guideposts Books in NYC, Harper San Francisco, Thomas Nelson, and then, after a stint of freelancing, Revell where I’ve been since 1999.  

I was not a courageous writer. I always wanted to be a writer, but I did not grow up with readers or even with books in the house, and I did not know anyone who was a writer. I hoped that being in publishing would demystify things for me and make me braver about my own writing and showing my work. It did. Plus I have a strong sense that writing is the thing I should be doing.

JES: You’ve written under a pseudonym but with this new book you chose to write it under your own name. Was there a reason for the switch?

LHD: I wrote and compiled under a pseudonym simply because I work in the industry, and I wanted to be a little removed from those who would handle my books. Now that I’ve gone into more personal writing, I’m using my own name – as I always have with my poetry. My new book, Kit Kat & Lucy, is memoir, so it made sense to use my own name.  

JES: I’ve been reading this book and loving it. I can hear your voice in the pages as if we were having a conversation over a meal. It feels as though this story reads a little like your memoir. Was it hard to talk about your life in a personal way and to allow yourself to be vulnerable to your readers?

LHD:   I love animals and have written about them a lot. I’ve also read just about every current animal book or “pet memoir” out there. I came away thinking the best ones are about the human writing them and that show the reader how an animal helped or changed something or added value to the human’s life. Armed with that thinking, I dove in. I’d written a short piece in the past (it’s in my horse stories compilation, The Horse of My Heart) about my childhood anxiety and depression issues and how animals helped me, and I decided to go for it in my book. The beauty of a memoir is that you get to choose what to write about and what to leave out; it’s not a full-blown autobio in that way. So I spotlight that part of my life. I didn’t have to throw anyone under the bus. It’s personal, but I’m at an age where I can handle sharing it. I have high hopes that it may help someone else deal with their own issues. And I hope a nice cat or two gets a home!

JES: What is one random thing about you that isn’t in the book that you might share with readers?

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LHD: When I was a student teacher, I lamented to my supervising teacher that I wasn’t writing and didn’t know when I ever would. She told me the novelist Pearl S. Buck didn’t write until after the age of fifty; Buck didn’t think she had anything to say until then. For my own writing journey of writing while holding down editing jobs and also wondering what I really had to say, I personally found that detail helpful over the years.

JES: What was it like, as an editor, having your own work edited?

LHD: I’ve had excellent editors for everything I’ve ever written except once. The first time an acquisitions editor sent me back a memo of revisions suggestions, I actually found it very exciting. I had noticed in my own editing work that some authors clearly respond positively when the editor “gets it” in terms of what the author’s trying to do and say. They feel someone has come alongside to partner with them. Now I understood and had that same feeling. More than one editor goes over a book in the publication process, and sometimes you negotiate your writing with them. I’ve had only one bad experience, and I’m not sure how I would have handled it had I not had confidence from my own editorial work. But negotiating calmly and at times insistently turned it around.

With Kit Kat & Lucy, my acquisitions editor suggested I delete or move a large piece of the prologue writing. That very writing was what got me my contract with Revell – plus an offer elsewhere. I thought the writing stood just fine and felt resistant. But I didn’t say anything at the time. I did all the other revisions and let this one suggestion sit for a week. I’ve learned this about myself: decisions need to percolate. After a week, I woke in the night thinking, Oh my. She’s right. I changed the prologue as soon as I got up. The thing is, what worked for a proposal didn’t necessarily work for the actual book. I realized that I had written the prologue as a short piece without thinking about the book at large.

JES: Have you ever written fiction and if not is it something you’d like to do someday?

LHD: I wrote one short novel as a hired gun – one book in the Barbour series, Sisters in Time. It was called Janie’s Freedom, and I absolutely loved doing it. My personal reading tends these days to be more memoir, bio, history, animal info, so I guess it stands to reason that I like to write non-fiction. I don’t have any “great American novel” aspirations. But I would like to try my hand at a cozy mystery down the road.

JES: Do you have other stories in the works, and can you please give us a list of the books you have written?

LHD: I am contracted to compile two more animal anthologies for Revell – one about dogs on the theme of rescue, the other to be determined.

I’m currently writing a memoir about my adoption experience. That’s been on pause for a bit, but I’m into it over 50k words presently; I think I’ll need the same number of words to finish it. It’s not contracted.

JES: I hope you find a publisher for this one. I look forward to reading it!

As Lonnie Hull DuPont, my current new book is: Kit Kat & Lucy: The Country Cats Who Changed a City Girl’s World

As Callie Smith Grant, compiler (w/my own writing):The Cat in My Lap (formerly called A Dickens of a Cat)The Dog at My Feet (formerly A Prince among Dogs)The Cat in the Window The Dog Next DoorThe Horse of My Heart

As Callie Smith Grant, author:Janie’s FreedomFree IndeedHarriet Tubman

As the unnamed ghost writer, I wrote Pit Stop in a Southern Kitchen by Martha Earnhardt and Carol Gordon Pickford.

JES: Where can readers find you on the web?

LHD: I’m behind in social media, so I don’t have a FB page or even a web site yet. But you can find these books wherever you would buy books.

JES: Do you have any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers of both fiction and non-fiction?

LHD: Don’t give into fear. If you feel you are supposed to be writing, write. At some point, try to publish. But don’t give into fear. It gets you nowhere. It wastes time. Remember the birds of the air. Remember Who has overcome the world. Don’t give in to fear.

Thank you, Lonnie, for a wonderful interview. I love your advice!

And to my readers -  if you haven't yet read Kit Kat & Lucy: The Country Cats Who Changed a City Girl’s World,I hope this encourages you to pick up a copy. It's a wonderful story!

You can find the book here:

AmazonBarnes & NobleChristian Book

Happy Reading~