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Author Spotlight with L.R Eckley

Find the inspiration behind Luke's debut novel 'God's Country'

Luke Eckley, from Pittsburgh, PA, is in his words '49.75' years old. His past education includes a bachelor's degree from Indiana University, and a master's from Robert Morris University. He is happily married with three children, and enjoys any activities which takes place outdoors, such as running, hiking, kayaking or snorkelling. His favourite, and only social media platform is Instagram. He has published his first debut novel 'God's Country' and is currently writing a WIP called 'Life Boat'

"Writing has always been a passion of mine, so publishing my first novel was the realization of a long time bucket list item."

Luke! I am beyond thrilled to have you as a part of my blog and having the opportunity to interview you properly! After getting to know you a little, and have read your incredible book myself, where did you get the inspiration for your debut novel 'God's Country'?

Aimee, I’m equally thrilled to be part of your blog!! It’s been a pleasure getting to know you a bit too, and in case I haven’t mentioned it seven times already, I greatly appreciate you reading God’s Country! As for the inspiration, it was quite organic. I went on my first fly-fishing excursion with a couple friends back in 2014. It was just an overnight camping trip, and really nothing like the experience that Cole, Mark & Matt had. I did not catch fish, but had a great time nonetheless. On the drive home, a little spark of the story materialized in the old noggin, and a few weeks later I sat down at my computer and started typing. Six years later, God’s Country was finished.

What I absolutely loved about this novel, that although it seems from the offset a complete 'Christian Fiction' novel, it is far more than that, and something so much deeper, and every single individual has taken a different viewpoint and opinion of the book, is that something that you wanted to achieve?

Thank you, I’m glad that was a major takeaway for you, and it was absolutely my main goal of the story. Starting with the title “God’s Country,” which for those who have read it, know that it has a bit of a double meaning. And also with the cover art; it initially evokes divine and peaceful feelings…but if you look closer there are some darker clouds forming that get slightly more prominent as you wrap around the back side of the book. Those visuals, coupled with the story, were part of my goal to keep the reader in limbo with what would develop. And most of all, as you referenced, I didn’t want there to be any single definitive viewpoint/opinion to take away when the reader closes that back cover.

How long did it take you to write 'God's Country' and how did you find the time to write amongst your hobbies, your role as a husband and a father?

It was a six-year project, which was roughly five years longer than I was expecting. Ugh, right!? Who knew life would get in the way of writing a novel? Ha! Seriously though, my roles as a husband and father are priorities 1-10 as I approach each new day. My day job is a distant 11th, and everything else takes a backseat to those; a very far backseat…more like that third-row seat, and many times those other priorities get towed behind the car on a trailer. How’s that for a metaphor?

So, I would pick my windows of time, very sporadically, either late at night or early in the morning. Sometimes I’d write in a hotel room when I was traveling, or inside a Starbucks while my kid was at some kind of sport-practice or other activity. Needless to say, my process was painstakingly slow.

If you could make this book into a film, who would you choose to play your characters?

Ah, great question, but a tough one. For Cole, I could imagine someone like a Matt Damon or Ben Affleck. Those two are about the right age, and certainly have had some roles with depth.

I don’t know of any male twins in Hollywood at the moment, but I’m sure there are some. I’d probably go with someone like a Bradley Cooper to play the twins. He could play both Mark and Matt, and just do a lot of costume changes for each scene. What a pain in the ass for the director, right? Oh well. I’d suggest paying Mr. Cooper twice as much as his typical asking price. After all, it’s not my money. Ha!

Chuck, who is also more of a side character but very important, could be someone like a Sam Elliot. I even referenced at one point in the book that Chuck resembled Mr. Elliot.

You said Instagram is your favourite social media, you have had so many good reviews, and from what I have seen the Bookstagram community have been impressed by your work, how do you deal with any bad reviews if you have any?

First, thank you, I appreciate that! Yes, Instagram is my favourite (and only) social media. I just haven’t had the time or energy to expand, but I know I probably should. I had a stint on Facebook that lasted about 2 months. I don’t think I’ll ever return there. The Bookstagram community on IG has been nothing short of fantastic!

Bad reviews, fortunately, have not been a major issue thus far. There is one though…a 1-Star review on Goodreads. It actually makes me smile when I read it, because I know the back-story behind it. Check it out if you get a chance. I won’t get into the details, because I would never disparage the person who wrote it. With any other bad reviews that come down the pike, I will try to take something constructive from them and help me improve my writing for the next book. I’d be lying if I said negative feedback doesn’t affect me negatively, but I really do try hard to find the silver lining in every instance of pessimism.

You left your novel on a cliff-hanger, I won't reveal in my blog what it was as a risk to spoil to others, but was your intention to gain different perspectives on what was taken from this? Is it exciting to get various thoughts from your readers?

That was most definitely my intent, and it’s been really cool and exciting to hear the different interpretations from readers. There have been several that I hadn’t even considered myself while writing it, so it’s been especially interesting to contemplate those.

Your novel is incredibly different to anything I have ever read, it deals with some pretty hard topics, you said some of your life has been implied into this book and circumstances you've been through yourself, do you find it easier to implement your own life into books you write?

Thank you again! I had certainly set out to write something fairly original. I think that’s so difficult to do these days, with all of the books and movies out there, I sometime marvel at the fact that anything original is ever still being written/made. Fortunately I’ve had what I’d consider some unique experiences in my own life, so I was able to draw from a couple of those. There will be quite a bit more of that in my second book, so I’m hoping it’s also an original story. But yes, I took some of my own experiences and personality traits from myself and the people I know well, and wove them into the characters and story. Interestingly, I’ve never stepped foot in Colorado, so that presented some challenges given most of the story takes place in that state.

If you don't mind me asking, what first got you into writing? Has this always been a passion of yours?

I think I’ve always had an interest in writing. Not sure if it was an actual passion up until recently. I took a creative writing class in college. Just an elective to get some base credits. I don’t want to age myself here, but that was circa 1991 (I just grunted like an old man after writing that). Anyway, I liked the class a lot, and decided that I’d write more in my life…at some point. Then I took a short break from writing, and 24 years later (eye-roll), starting penning God’s Country.

What is something that us readers don't know about you yet?

Hmmmmm. I’m trying to think of something remotely interesting here. How about this; when I was a kid, I spent an entire year of my life living on a sailboat in the South Pacific islands (Samoa, Tonga, & Fiji).

Were you asking something more like a personality trait? If so, I guess I’d say that I’m a closet eater. Do not leave me alone with ice cream or salty snacks. And don’t try to take them away from me….I’ll bite your arm off.

What's your plans for the future, I know you are in the process of writing a WIP called 'Life Boat' could you tell us more about that?

That is correct. I’m working hard on ‘Life Boat,’ and my pace seems to be about twice as fast this time around. I’m in my third year of writing it and am hoping to have it finished by the end of 2022. We’ll see. Life Boat, in brief, is centered around a devastating loss that a father and his daughter suffer. The story revolves around their journey to recover from that loss…or at least their attempts to recover.

In the meantime, I plan to put a lot of time and focus into those priorities 1-10 (noted above in my response to your earlier question).

Have you ever googled yourself, if so have you found anything to be of interest to you?

I actually plug “l r eckley” into Google a couple times a month, because the first link listed is the one to my book on Amazon. That actually gets me there quicker than pulling up the amazon site and then searching there. Odd use of google, right? Other than that, I can’t say I’ve ever reviewed all of the different items that come up under my name when it’s googled, but I think they’re probably a lot of Facebook and Instagram references. You have me a little paranoid now, and wondering what might come up….hopefully nothing that I couldn’t evade with plausible deniability.

What does literary success mean to you? I bet you are so proud of yourself of your first debut novel!

Another great and tough question, and one that I haven’t thought about in any real depth. I will say that literary success is more about readers liking the content of my writing over anything else. I never expected my writing to be a financially lucrative endeavour, and I don’t believe it ever will be. All it really takes is a positive (or even semi-positive) comment/review for me to feel vindication for the six years of work. That’s not to say that I don’t doubt the sincerity of those good reviews sometimes, and I’m probably never going to escape the “imposter syndrome,” no matter how well my writing is accepted.

Who was your favourite author as a child, and who is your favourite author now?

I loved Shel Silverstein as a kid, and “The Giving Tree” still gets me choked up. Also, Maurice Sendak’s, “Where the Wild Things Are,” brought me hours and hours of pleasure as a kid. I loved so much that Max’s supper ”was still hot” at the end. I still read both of those books on occasion.

As I grew I gravitated towards authors like Stephen King, Patricia Cornwell, Michael Crichton, and John Grisham. I’m not sure I could tell you who my favourite author is today, but I’ve really been liking the indie authors that I’m finding and reading on Bookstagram.

To start writing your book, what do you do which helps you focus? Do you have any thoughts and advice for any upcoming writers that you think they would benefit from?

Oh wow, Focus. I’m the wrong person to ask only because…..wait, what was the question? Seriously though, sometimes I feel like it’s impossible for my mind to focus on anything for more than a few minutes. It’s no surprise to me that it took six years to pen a simple fiction novel. If this next one really does only takes me three, it will be a minor miracle.

To end this interview let's end with something light! What is your favourite food if you had to pick one for the rest of your life? (Aside from the noodles and fish from your novel, haha!)

LOL! Noodles and fish. Proof that you can add salt to just about anything and make it tasty! Ok, now that I’ve deflected and bought myself some time, I think I’d answer that question with: TURKEY. If I’m allowed, I want all of the Thanksgiving sides that go along with it. But even without those, if you put me on a desert island with one food source and nothing else…..give me turkey or give me death!

Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy life to take part in this interview, I really appreciate you being able to chat to me more, and I am so looking forward to reading some more of your work next!

The pleasure was all mine, and I sincerely thank you for taking the time and interest to do this interview! I apologize for not being more serious, but I typically stay very light-hearted in most of my endeavours. I think the serious and heart-felt emotions that I have are more evident in my writing, and I sort of hide a lot of them there.

But this was awesome, and I greatly appreciate it Aimee!!

To follow Luke on Instagram: @author.lreckley To buy 'God's Country': Amazon: God's Country eBook : Eckley, L. R.: Kindle Store (Kindle) God's Country: Eckley, L. R.: 9798622770838: Books (Paperback)

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