T. I. Lowe is an ordinary country girl who loves to tell extraordinary stories and is the author of nearly twenty published novels, including her debut, Lulu's Café, a number one bestseller. She lives with her husband and family in coastal South Carolina. Find her at www.tilowe.com or on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
The Gloss Book Club: How did you get into writing and what inspired you to write your first book?
T.I. Lowe: I’ve always enjoyed the gift of story. The way a book can sweep you away is simply magical. Writing has been my dream for a long time. I remember reading the Sweet Valley High books in middle school and thinking I could write a book like that too. It took my mother losing her life to cancer to open my eyes to just how short life is. I didn’t want to die with regrets, so at age 38 I quit hiding my dream and published my first book.
TGBC: When you start writing a new book, what is your goal? What do you aim to invoke in your readers?
TIL: I’m a curious person, wanting to know more about something or someone, so most of my books typically start with a question I want answered or a subject I want to understand better. My first book, Lulu’s Café, was my journey to understanding the mindset of an abused woman. With Under the Magnolias, I wanted to understand why someone might not reach out for help in dealing with a mental illness and how that choice affects those around them.
TGBC: What does your writing process look like? Do you map each story out from start to finish or do you begin with an idea and see where it takes you?
TIL: My passion is storytelling, and I never want to stifle the creative process by mapping the journey. Sure, I have an idea, but I like not knowing the ending until I arrive. Maybe that’s the reader in me, but it works.
TGBC: What can you tell our members about your novel Under The Magnolias?
TIL: Set in the 1980s on a tobacco farm, this story is about Austin Foster and her family and their efforts to hide their father’s mental illness—and what that decision ultimately costs them. It’s gritty and raw with marginalized characters that you’ll fall in love with. There will be tears, but also laughter, and by the last page you’ll feel like the Foster family is a part of you. I know it feels that way for me!
TGBC: Where did the inspiration come from for Under the Magnolias?
TIL: The subject matter of this book, even though it’s fiction set in the 1980s, is so relevant today. Everyone hurts. Everyone struggles. And everyone hides their truths to some degree. I was led to write this story in a way that I hope helps readers realize it’s not so healthy to hide, and it’s okay to seek help no matter what they are going through.
TGBC: Do you ever base your characters on individuals from your own life?
TIL: I love the idea of creating new friends, so I never base characters on actual people. I’m sure I place a little of me or others somewhere in a character—Austin shares my curiosity, for instance, but she is her own person. This makes the creative process more of a fun challenge.
TGBC: What makes a book great, in your opinion? What elements does a great story possess?
TIL: I personally like messy characters that the readers find endearing. No one is perfect, so an imperfect character is relatable. I enjoy elements of mystery and romance, but neither needs to dominate the story. And give me some food! Ha! I enjoy when an author includes local cuisine and culture.
TGBC: Any advice you can share with the aspiring writers within our community?
TIL: Write what you’re led to write and not what you think readers want. Readers can easily tell if your story isn’t authentic, so put away preconceived notions and just write your story.