Interview with Lori Nelson Spielman- author of The Life List

IMG_1491_2_4Today, Lori Nelson Spielman, stops by to answer some questions about The Life List (her debut!), writing space, and many other things. Plus: A lucky person will win a copy of The Life List!


Interview with Lori Nelson Spielman

1. What was the inspiration for The Life List?

–First I want to thank you, Tamara, for hosting me today. A few years ago, I came across an old cedar box, and tucked alongside my grandmother’s rosary and my first bankbook was a yellowed piece of notebook paper folded into a neat little square. In my flowery 14-year-old handwriting, I’d written “Lori’s List” across the top, along with 27 life goals. As I read it, I thought about the dreams I once had, some of which had been fulfilled, others that never would be. It struck me how very different my life would be now, had I achieved each goal. Suddenly a story was taking shape…the story of a woman forced to complete her old life list, humble goals she thinks she no longer wants.

2. The main character, Brett, seems to have quite the life- until her mother passes away. How hard was it to write about a mother passing away and the affect it would have on Brett?

— I wrote so many of Elizabeth’s letters with tears rolling down my cheeks. But I didn’t want the book to be a downer, nor did I want it to be complete fluff. So it was tricky balancing lightness with heft. The aftermath of her mother’s death was devastating, yes, but also bittersweet. In the end, it forced Brett to become the person she was meant to be, exactly what Elizabeth had hoped.

3. From the beginning to end, how long did The Life List take to write?

–I started writing in October of 2009 and finished the first draft in January, 2010—record time for me. And that’s when the real work began. I polished and re-wrote for a year, then spent months querying agents. I was offered representation from Jenny Bent in August of 2011. I spent another six months revising, and the book sold in March of 2012. Then time seemed to stop. Nobody outside the business seems to understand why it takes another 16+ months for the book to be published. My mother would say, “It’s finished, so why can’t they just publish it now?”

4. Do you have a writing space? A writing routine?

–I do have an office where I keep my laptop, but I often unplug and take it elsewhere. We have a high counter in one room where I can stand, rather than sit, which as any writer knows, is a nice relief! Because I work full-time, my writing time is generally reserved for late afternoons and evenings. I know the common wisdom is to write every day, and I try to, but I’ve learned not to torture myself if I don’t.

5. Are any of the characters based on people in real life? Or just figments of your imagination?

–That’s an interesting question. I think bits and pieces of my friends and family can be found in almost all of these characters, but there is no character who is completely true to life. I’ve done some volunteer work in a homeless shelter, and I work as a homebound teacher in an inner-city school district, so although these characters were completely fictitious, I was able to draw on real-life experiences when writing these scenes.

6. Will you be going on a book signing tour? If so, what are you looking forward to the most about the tour?

–I’ve got quite a few events lined up, which simultaneously thrills and terrifies me. I’m honored to be invited and cannot wait to connect with readers, but public speaking isn’t my forte, nor do I enjoy being in the spotlight. These events will definitely force me beyond my comfort zone. Maybe I’ll try to channel Brett’s courage when she had to do her stand-up routine!

7. Do you want The Life List to be made into a movie one day? If so, who are the actors that would comprise your dream cast?

–It would be a dream come true to see The Life List on screen. And this dream is an inch closer to reality because Fox 2000 has purchased the film option! I say an inch because it remains a long shot that it’ll ever be produced. Still, it’s exciting to think about the possibility. And my dream cast? I’d love to see Emma Stone, Hilary Swank, or Jennifer Garner as Brett; Mark Ruffalo, Paul Rudd, or Gerard Butler as Brad; and Hugh Jackman or Bradley Cooper as Garrett. (Sadly, Clooney might be just a tad old for a role…darn!)

8. After a person reads the last page of The Life List- what is the most important thing you hope the reader will take from the experience?

–I get the most satisfaction from people who tell me the book inspires them to take a look at their own goals. So many of us feel we have no control over our destiny. Sure we have dreams, but we never really seize them, and before long another year has passed, then a decade. I’d love to think the story might motivate someone to find a new job, dump Mr. Wrong, move to a new place, or anything else they’ve been too timid to do.

9. Are you working on another book? If so, can you tell us what the book is about?

–Between my full-time job and promoting The Life List, I haven’t had the time to fully immerse myself in my new project, but it’s one I’m very excited about. It’s about forgiveness—granting and seeking it. Once again, life forces a woman to make changes, this time to atone for a serious accusation she made years ago, an accusation that as an adult she’s come to doubt.



*Special thanks to Lori Nelson Spielman for agreeing to be interviewed!


lori twitter


Lori Nelson Spielman’s debut novel, The Life List, will be in stores July 2nd! To find out more about Lori, visit her website, Twitter, and Facebook page.




**Giveaway! Traveling With T is giving away a copy of Lori’s book, The Life List, to a lucky person (Thanks Lori!) To enter: Leave a comment telling 1 thing that is on your “life list”!  Please leave a email address in the comments (you may use the AT and DOT). Giveaway begins July 2nd and ends July 9th at 11:59pmEST. Winner will be notified by email July 10th.





81 thoughts on “Interview with Lori Nelson Spielman- author of The Life List

  1. On my life list is to finish writing a book. I’m not even gonna say publish at this point just finish, lol.

    Great giveaway! I’ve had this on my wishlist for awhile!

  2. Heather C says:

    I’m not entering to win, because I’ve already had the privilege of reading the Life List (and I just LOVED it! It’s one of my all time favorite books) but I enjoyed the interview and still wanted to respond. I enjoyed reading that the inspiration for the story was a real life list from the author- very cool! As for items on my life list, I recently revisited some of the things I once wanted to do and think I will pick some to pursue: When I was younger I wanted to be a veterinarian, open up a cafe/bookstore/place to play board games and listen to live music, and I wanted to help people directly (like volunteering and that sort of thing). I also used to be invincible (I went skydiving a few times!) but as I’ve gotten older I’ve because more cautious and afraid (I can barely fly on a plane, no less jump out of it lol). I think my goal is to step back and re-find the things that used to be so much fun. I’m starting with little things like: jump in puddles, go kayaking, write paper letters (email is overrated and so much less personal), and maybe get back in touch with a few friends from childhood that I lost along the way (Brett inspired that!). And I think after I tackle a few small things, then maybe I’ll be ready for some bigger adventures 🙂 It’s definitely a wonderful book that’s inspired me, and I think it was exactly what I needed in this stage of my life (I’m around Brett’s age).

    • Dear Heather,
      You are so kind. Have you thought of being a writer, because you write the nicest letter. And I love that you’re going to start writing more paper letters! I agree, they’re so much more special.

      I hope you resurrect that fearless girl who used to skydive, and maybe open a small business. I would definitely hang out at your bookstore/cafe, w/music and board games! My kind of place.

      The biggest compliment you could give is that the book inspired you, so thank you from the bottom of my heart! I’m rooting for you, and wishing you every good thing you deserve.

  3. Julie K. Burkey says:

    My life list has been completed as I met the man who fulfilled the one empty spot on my list at our 40th year class reunion, and even though we both claimed at our first meeting that neither of us were interested in ever marrying again… we are, just celebrated our 4th anniversary.

  4. I’ve never been out of North America..Canada and Mexico are fine, but one goal on my life list is to travel to Europe. Others are reading all the books, and writing just one.

  5. My dad told me (at age 13) to write a “want list.” The list has morphed and grown with me and has guided so many choices in my life. New addition: reach the audience I write for!
    nantanslp at yahoo dot com

  6. One thing on my life list would be to visit my friend, Elisabeth in Austria whom I’ve never met in person but have been emailing with for the past 10 years!!!! nellie94atgmaildotcom

  7. Britney Adams says:

    Doing a better job of writing for my children is one thing on my list; baby books, family history, life lessons, letters of love, etc. It is so easy to get caught up in day to day activities and not take the time to record these precious moments! texaggs2000 at gmail dot com

  8. Wonderful interview, Tamara, and great answers, Lori! The Life List is something that resonates with me, as I am sure it can resonate with everyone. Looking forward to reading it!

  9. Books in the Burbs says:

    My dream is to have a small quaint bookstore, where I’ve read them all and now want to share them:). Best place to visit and live-Maui,Hawaii where it’s never hot and everyone is so friendly!

  10. Lisa Briggs says:

    I Am A Middle School Language Arts Teacher And One Thing On My Life List Is To Read Every Newbery Medal Winner Since The Award Was Created! ( Sorry For Capitalizing Every Word – My Phone Is Doing This Automatically…)
    Lisabriggs4 At Yahoo Dot Com

  11. Karen warriner says:

    I can’t wait to get your book Lori, I am really looking forward to reading it. The subject is something I can relate to more, the older I get and realize that life is so short and we need to enjoy ever minute. Congratulations on this terrific accomplishment.

  12. Kevin Lippert says:

    I am not sure why I feel like I am suppose to share this, but I hope it’s alright. In 1994, I almost died in a cycling accident that collapsed my lung after puncturing it with broken ribs. As I sat on the ground I could not breathe. I felt and probably looked like a fish out of water. After roughly 45 seconds went by, I absolutely knew I was going to die on the spot I was now sitting. I thought, “Ok God, if this is it, I guess I am ready to go”. People say they have their life flash before their eyes at moments like this. I didn’t experience that, what I felt was regret that I wasn’t going to be there for my kids as a dad as they grew up. My two children were 5 and 3 years old at that time. At that moment I felt a huge sense of love and peace wash over me. I also felt like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders and I sensed my time was at hand to met my maker. I hadn’t felt a love or peace like that before that moment nor have I actually felt either like that since. It was a feeling that I truly can’t describe and I know when my time is up here, I will be loved. After a second as I waited for what was to come next, a little voice inside of me said, “relax and breathe”. So I tried, I relaxed and tried take a breath. In that shallow but hard fought effort it was like someone shoved air down my wind pipe and I started to take very shallow breaths. My friends rode up at that moment and asked me if I was alright. I whispered “no”. They asked what I wanted to do. I again whispered, “get me out of here”. I had to walk 2 miles out of the woods with a collapsed lung and my friends drove 100 mph to get me to the hospital that was 50 miles away. Time from accident to chest tube was an hour and forty five minutes. That day changed my life. The doctor said I shouldn’t have lived through that one and was given a second chance. To me, it was a first chance to experience life in a new way. Since then, I have tried to look at life as a bucket list, though not always successful. I know all to well as Lori said, some dreams will never be fulfilled. That’s ok, because, when you realize everyday could be the day you exit this temporary home, some day’s can be bucket list days that you hadn’t even thought about and life works out just the way it’s suppose too for the benefit of all that will except it. Some unexpected experiences can make your life more beautiful, peaceful, fulfilled, or more complete, just by events that just happen and you don’t have them on your list. One bucket list item that I didn’t realize was on my list before that day has been fulfilled as my children are adults now with bright futures and I was there to help guide them as a father and more importantly a dad.

    A few years ago, I adjusted my sails and wrote my own bucket list. I don’t know what the future holds, but I am hoping nothing but good things come from it and it creates good for all involved. I am looking forward to reading this book and experiencing the expression of artistry of a person, who most don’t know, is one of the nicest people walking on this planet. God bless you Lori and your family. It’s wonderful to see you doing something you love. KevinLippert AT Comcast Dot Net.

  13. My dream is to have a job which requires that I travel around the world attending Ted talks and other similar educational and inspirational seminars in order to bring back the knowledge to the funding organization. 🙂

  14. I want to travel to the Scottish highlands. My genealogy is pre-revolution melting pot American, but the granite outcroppings and lakes of northern New York, along with my maiden name of Graham and the incredible music of Scotland, call me to the highlands! When my son told me he wanted to take me some day I burst into tears—so yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s on the bucket list. 😉 I’m eager to read this book!

  15. Anne says:

    My lifelist is to travel since my serious illness last year prevented me from enjoying life and this is important to me. The Life List sounds unforgettable and special.

  16. What a great premise for a story, I’d really like to win a copy for my wife and I. I was reading the other comments and one of our top life list items is also to travel to Italy. Not necessarily Tuscany but probably more to the art centers to see the great works of painting and sculpture. Hopefully we will one day soon. Thanks for making a copy of this book available. carlscott(at)prodigy(dot)net(dot)mx

    • Thank you for your kind words. I hope you and your wife get to Italy. Judging from the comments on this post, there may be several of us wandering the streets of Italy one day soon! Wishing you the best.

  17. Lori, I am SO excited for you and all that you have accomplished. And to think, you’re just getting started. You go, girl.
    One item on my “Life List” is to keep meeting people like you whose friendships I will hold in my heart forever.
    And the other item… drumroll…is to have my memoir published and endorsed by you!

  18. kravmarie says:

    I want to make it a habit to not worry and be so stressed, and to live each day with a lighter spirit. I want to stop worrying about health, money, family, or whether I will ever meet someone and just live and enjoy my life to the best of my abilities! Once that is out of the way, then I can look forward to knocking out all of the fun stuff on the list. 🙂

  19. lorispielman says:

    That’s so smart, Kravmarie. I definitely worry too much. I hope you achieve your goal of not stressing so much over things beyond your control, allowing yourself to enjoy the here and now. (And once you’ve achieved this, please let me know how you did it!) All best to you.

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