From Ashes to Honor, First Responders Series #1From Ashes to Honor, First Responders Series #1
Loree Lough
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If he had only answered that last phone call from the World Trade Center . . .
Minutes before two jumbo jets changed U.S. history, New York police officer Austin Finley ignored the call from his brother, who'd been bugging him for days. Trying to live with his one regret causes hatred and bitterness to consume Austin, and when counselor Mercy Samara recommends desk duty, Austin resigns. Haunted by her own memories of 9/11, Mercy takes a job as a school counselor in Baltimore. When Austin, now an EMT, responds to an emergency at Mercy's school, both are stunned and wary.

Finally their common-and painful-memories turn suspicion into friendship, then romance. But hard questions linger: Can they truly move beyond their past harsh judgments and harsh words? Will their past finally bring them closer or-as the tenth anniversary of 9/11 draws near-drive them farther apart?
     


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With more than two million books in circulation, award-winning author Loree Lough has 80 books in print. Reviewers and readers have dubbed her “a gifted writer whose stories touch hearts and change lives.” Her 9/11 novel (#1 in First Responders series) hits bookshelves this summer to coordinate with the 10th anniversary of the tragedy. She lives near Baltimore and loves spending time in the Allegheny Mountains. Loree loves hearing from her readers and answers every letter, personally.

Favorite Bible Verse: 1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has seized you that isn’t common for people. But God is faithful. He won’t allow you to be tempted beyond your abilities. Instead, with the temptation, God will also supply a way out so that you will be able to endure it. 


 

 Our Interview with Loree Lough


 

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I weighed 7 lbs. at birth and… Oh. You mean my writing self, don’t you! <G> Well, I cut my writing teeth on articles, starting way back in the late 80s. Between then and 1994 (when my first novel was released), I wrote slightly more than 2,000 feature stories for publications like Washington Post, Baltimore Business Journal, Baltimore Sun, Richmond Times Dispatch, Woman’s World, Redbook, Warfield’s, Regardies, and a slew of others. It was good training, as it turned out, because it taught me how to “show not tell” (the cardinal rule of fiction).

On a more personal note, I’m joyfully married to my real-life hero and best friend, and we were blessed with two beautiful and amazing daughters, who blessed us even more with 7 grandkids…all of whom are the smartest, cutest, best-behaved young’uns, ever!

What is your favorite Bible verse (translation please)? Why?

1 Corinthians 10:13 has long been my go-to verse. “…God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (Revised Standard Version/Cokesbury)

Life being what it is—filled with an overabundance of surprises (not all of them pleasant!)—would overwhelm even the most robustly spirit-filled of us, if not for His merciful promise to provide exactly what we need, precisely when we need it.

How did you come up with the concept for Honor Redeemed?
 
Second in the First Responders series, the idea for Honor Redeemed was born of my deep admiration for first responders, whether their uniforms bear emblems of the nation’s police and fire departments, EMTs, or our esteemed military. While researching these brave men and women for the first book in the series (From Ashes to Honor), I discovered Susannah Charleson’s magnificent book, Scent of the Missing, and found myself adding yet another hero-type to my First Responders I Admire list: Rescue dogs. It’s no surprise, then, to hear that Honor Mackenzie, the heroine in Honor Redeemed, trains rescue dogs!

How do you get the insights to develop the story From Ashes to Honor?

I spent considerable time with firefighters, policemen, paramedics, and soldiers who routinely put their lives on the line to save their fellow citizens. The more I learned about them, the more I admired and respected them, partly because it became abundantly clear that their career choices were made because helping and protecting isn’t just a job for them, but a part of who they are.

It seemed a natural progression…going from police officer Austin Finley (who became a paramedic following 9/11) to search and rescue personnel. And from search and rescue to those who minister to first responders, like Dusty Parker, the hero in book three, A Man to Honor.

 

How much of this story is based on 9/11?

While I don’t go into graphic detail about what happened that tragic day, all of the novels in the First Responders series are influenced heavily by the events of 9/11. The long-lasting after-effects of the terror attacks on every main character is the primary focus.

Are you basing your characters on people you know?

Yes, absolutely! Every hero and heroine is a facsimile of the men and women who gave so freely and generously of their time and memories of 9/11, and helped me better understand not only what they went through on that date, but how it impacted their lives—and their loved ones’ lives—afterward.

Do you have a favorite character in From Ashes to Honor ? Why?

I truly admire Austin Finely, whose character is a composite of 4 very different first responders (1 paramedic, 2 firefighters, 1 police officer). One of my goals was to create a man that readers could readily identify with as he grappled with the struggles and challenges of life after 9/11. The other goal was to depict him in a realistic light—faults and flaws as well as his more redeeming traits—so that by story’s end, people would respect him (and his choices) as much as I respect the men whose real-life stories made Austin possible.

How much research did From Ashes to Honor take?

A lot. A whole lot! I began my research in January of 2002, and never really stopped, even as the plots unfolded and character details began to form in my mind.

How involved are you with the SAR?
 
I’ve never participated in an actual search, but conversations with rescuers have infused me with a strong desire to get the training required to do just that!

Why did you include dogs in your story?

There was just one dog in From Ashes to Honor, a stray that Austin took in, then gave to Eddy’s (his former partner) boys. The dogs in Honor Redeemed are actual SAR dogs…Golden Retrievers that are as smart as some people I know! There will be a dog in A Man of Honor, too. But I can’t tell you about that one…yet!

What are the most interesting facts that you learned while researching and writing From Ashes to Honor?

Whew. The list would be too long for inclusion here! I guess if I had to choose just one or two, it would be that the best of the first responders—those who get involved from a genuine desire to help their fellow man—aren’t made…they’re called. As Christ said, “’Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’” (John 15:13) Consider this: First responders are willing to lay down their lives for strangers!

How many books will be in the First Responders Series?

Right now, only three books are planned (but trust me, I have more than enough material for at least three more!); the future of the series will depend entirely on the success of these three novels.
 

What are some of the challenges you face as an author?

My biggest enemy is time. Or rather, lack of it! I have a thousand ideas for novels, characters, settings, time periods, conflicts-and-resolutions pinging back and forth in my head…but not nearly enough time to write them all down. Why? Because after completing church- and other family-related duties, I must, must, must have my grand-delights time! In addition to meeting book, short story, and articles deadlines, there’s an ever-growing laundry mountain in front of my washing machine. Weeds to pull. Roses to prune. Floors to scrub and carpets to vacuum… (Ack. I’d better stop; I’m boring myself! <G>) Suffice it to say, once all the must-do items are crossed off my To Do list, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to write all the stories I’d love to tell!

 

What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?

Hearing from readers tops my list! It’s refreshing to read notes and letters in which they cite a particular character or event that reminded them of themselves or someone close to them. And it’s uplifting to know that my storylines are realistic enough to inspire them to say “I’ve been through that!” or “I never thought about handling that problem that way!”

What clubs or organizations are you involved with helping with your writing?

American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) definitely tops the list. Whether in person at conferences or online via e-loops and the organization’s fantastic web site, I get lots of good advice and ideas for making the “work” of crafting a novel a whole lot more fun.

Romance Writers of America is another favorite. In its hay-day, RWA wasn’t terribly “inspirational fiction” friendly. But these days, the membership includes some of my favorite authors of Christian fiction, and the organization as a whole provides well for our needs.

Local writers’ groups (like PennWriters and Maryland Writers Association) have also been helpful.

What new projects are on the horizon?

I’m working on a novella for Abingdon’s upcoming “Quilts” series, tentatively titled For Love of Eli. I’m also hammering the dinks out of a contemporary Amish series, and a series set in Texas that features four handsome, blue-eyed cowboy brothers.

What message would you like your readers to take from reading From Ashes to Honor?
 
More than anything, I’m hoping they, too, will take a new look at the things first responders are willing to do—during and after a catastrophe—for their fellow man.

That, and to find some reason, however big or small, to appreciate God’s love for all His children, regardless of their “right here, right now” level of faith.

What were your favorite books as a child?

I loved anything by Jack London (and still do!). As I matured a bit, Steinbeck caught my fancy. And believe it or not, I’m quite fond of Shakespeare!

What is your greatest achievement?

I’d have to say that my greatest achievement in life is whatever small role I played in helping to create this amazing family that I’m blessed to call “mine.”

 

What do you do to get away from it all?

I fancy myself a bit of an artist, so I dabble with watercolors and acrylics, and pen and ink sketches. I love roses, and have 8 big beautiful blooming bushes in the back yard. Last (but certainly not least!), our humble cabin in the Allegheny Mountains. I painted a sign that hangs at the end of the drive: “Gottaway.” And that pretty much sums up how I feel about that place!

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Only that I love hearing from readers, and hope anyone who has a mind to, will drop me a line or two. I’ve been blessed by some truly wondrous friendships, thanks to readers who’ve taken time to write and stay in touch.
They can reach me at http://www.loreelough.com, http://www.theloughdown.blogspot.com, Facebook, Twitter, and Shoutlife. Looking forward to hearing from you soon!


 
Honor Redeemed, First Responders Series #2
Honor Redeemed, First Responders Series #2
CBD Price: $11.99