This week my Word Slinger is Motor Doll Lori Bentley Law. Lori is a pretty fascinating chick whose alter ego might strongly resemble the character Benny from her novel Motor Dolls. She is an author, photojournalist, Vintage car enthusiast and I’m pretty sure that she just might be a vigilante who is righting the wrongs of the world, but if she were to confirm that she might have to convince us that it is all just good weather in Belize. It’s all thumbs up in my book!
Indie Word Slinger: Lori Bentley Law
If it’s old, crusty, and has an engine, I’m into it. Cars. Trucks. Motorcycles. They inspire me, both in the photography realm and the writing realm. I don’t know why the sound of a flathead engine makes my heart sing… but it does. My ’48 Ford truck, Bondorella, is my best friend in the world. Is that weird?
I have a love/hate relationship with my day job. When I say what I do, it sounds glamorous, but given a minute, most people go… ewww! A recent Gallup poll found my industry number nine in the most hated professions. Yep. I’m a television news photojournalist for NBC in Los Angeles. Here’s the thing: I see people on their best day, and their worst. The best day stories? Those are my favorite. I’ve met some AMAZING people, gone around the world, and seen and done things I never could have imagined, like leaning out the back of a Chinook helicopter with the National Guard, or sitting down with a First Lady for a one-on-one interview. Then… there are the worst day stories. But let’s not talk about those, ‘cause I’m more of a happy-happy-joy-joy kinda girl. Writing gives me that perfect escape.
The most important thing in life (for me at least) is ridiculously cliché, but I’m going to say it anyway. Figure out your passion and find a way to make it work for you. It’s the running theme in all four of my novels. And guess what?? There are also things in my novels that go VROOM! Shocking, right? My debut novel MOTOR DOLLS is available now, a girl-powered adventure following two Motor Dolls in search of life’s passion. Yee haw! Oh… and if you’d like to read about other inspiring Motor Dolls around the world, check out the Motor Dolls blog! I try to feature at least a couple of car/motorcycle girls a month.
This Word Slinger’s Thoughts:
Motor Dolls is a great girl-power book based on the sense of self discovery that one has as they are coming over that hump where you assume that life is mapped out and awaken to realize that maybe it isn’t really what you want out of life. It’s a universal time of emotional upheaval for anyone coming of age. What was it about this time of life that inspired you to come up with Jeda and Benny and their Summer of Thrills?
I’ve always been driven, and always had a fear of making the wrong choice and getting stuck in a life I didn’t want–a notion especially strong in my twenties. There’s probably no time more dynamic than that post-college/pre-adult period when we have to bridge from our last strands of parental control, to taking responsibility for our own lives. It defines what our life will be. Yes, it can change, but for most, it rarely does. The choices we make often stick and that is scary as hell. What better thing to write about? I can happily say… I chose well… grasshopper.
I love that you allow a great deal of bonding and then misunderstanding to do push and pull in Jeda and Benny’s friendship and that gives both characters a great deal of complexity and depth. When you were developing the characters what was the boundaries that you were worried about crossing with either character that might steer the story off track or dilute it in anyway?
An early criticism of the novel was that Jeda didn’t show enough emotion, that Benny got the brunt of everything and it made no sense for her to continue in such a one-sided friendship, so I softened Jeda a bit. They’re both flawed in the friendship realm since neither had experience being one, and with the insane dynamics rotating around the perimeter, it wouldn’t feel realistic if their friendship didn’t have bumps. It’s a fine line in a story, to keep the friendship real, but to not fatigue the reader with a constant back and forth. It’s a very hard thing to gauge. Mainly, I wanted to make sure neither did something unforgivable.
There is a great scene with Benny when she is taking a Geology exam: she can’t concentrate, she is distracted, she is thinking about a conversation she had had the night before with Jeda, she is considering a possible future romance with her professor and she ultimately ends up pulling out her camera and taking a photo of a bird outside the window of the classroom. I had to laugh because that’s been me but my excuse is I’m bipolar. I’d like to consider this moment as Benny’s subconscious rebellion. Did Benny really need Jeda to flip her trigger? Would she have coasted into that preconceived reality without her?
Benny had been hyper-focused her entire life, to a point she hadn’t experienced anything outside of academia. She needed a catalyst to break her out of her old line of thinking, and Jeda’s polar opposite life did that for her. Would she have come to that on her own? Maybe. But it would have been far down the road, perhaps even at a point where turning back would have been too difficult. She needed a big jolt, and Jeda did that for her.
Jeda and Benny are part of the tattoo, vintage clothes, “We Can Do It!” womanhood. That kind of throwback culture to past decades, Classic Cars and TV shows, Oldies… what is it about that that draws someone? What is the allure?
Oh my goodness. I could write a novel about the love of old things. Oh wait! I did! HA! The mechanical nature of things, the solidness, the simplicity–these are all a big part of the allure, at least for me. Things were made to last, not to be disposed of. There was pride of craftsmanship, and national excitement for discovery and invention, unlike now when it feels as if our American pride has been outsourced. I suppose having the connection to things from an era where people cared about those things makes it more tangible and brings me joy. We live in a throwaway world. No more film. Printed books going away. Letters sent as emails. Our world has become ephemeral. Will we have a tangible history in 60 years? Hard to say. But I want to hang on to a little piece of that, and I do so in my patina’d old treasures. Okay… I could go on and on. But I’ll stop.
You craft Jeda into this adrenaline fed superwoman whose only conscience is Benny–although even that doesn’t really reel her in. When you were writing her story and she believed she had an expiration date was her checklist of ways she wasn’t going to die giving her courage or just making her be more reckless?
I had a wonderful model for Jeda, a condiment eating, hotrod girl with a fear she’d die before 27. Thank goodness, she made it beyond her deadline and is thriving. For Jeda, I would say the list made her more reckless, pushing her to the point she just wanted to say, “Come on! Just do it if you’re going to!” The anticipation was hell, and at heart, she truly was terrified.
Jeda’s mom and Benny’s dad both tend to ridicule them for what they want to do with their lives. While Jeda and her mom seem to work out their issues, it’s left open ended as to what happened between Benny and her pop before she hightailed back to SoCal. Was the friction there just meant to spur her to go back and readers to assume it was all worked out?
This is one of those sections my agent at the time had me add when we converted the novel to YA (17 and 18 instead of 20 and 22), and truthfully I don’t think I ever integrated it that well when I reworked back to adult. This novel went through a lot of evolutions during the time my agent shopped it, and frankly I got to the point after ten years that I needed to just be done with it. SO… I will be dealing with this issue in the second book and giving a conclusion to it. Ultimately the point of this scene is to have Benny make that final break with the parental strings, something that isn’t always easy to do.
There is a tidbit of romance here and there. It really barely plays into anything… but if you were to just to send a postcard from Jeda to Benny regarding time spent with any gentlemen… would Cal be around?
Hmmm… reckon you’ll have to read book two to find out! 🙂 With book one, I wanted to steer clear of romance to keep the focus on the girls finding themselves. Book two will have a bit more lovey-dovey. And who knows? Perhaps Cal will be there too!
I saw on your website, “The Adventures of Bondorella and Friends”. So Bondorella is a star. What came first the truck or the story and how did the truck play into the novel Motor Dolls?
My baby Bondorella! In case you can’t tell, I’m madly in love with my truck. When I started writing Motor Dolls, I was between classics, but knew I wanted another old truck. At the time, I thought I wanted a Studebaker, but then I started reading about ’48 Fords, so the Studebaker in the novel became the Ford, and about a year later (in 2006) I found her. We’ve been inseparable ever since. As she evolved, the truck in the novel evolved with her.
You do these incredible, almost tangible, descriptions of races and car shows in your novel. Is the attention to detail that you put into writing these events a credit to you creative writing skill or to the eye you have developed from putting so many of your own vehicles together?
Thank you! It’s important to me to have viscerally visual scenes. I would say it’s a combination of both, although I’ve experienced nearly every event in the novel, so I am writing with a certain level of knowledge. Plus, I think as a photographer, visual things make an impact that sometimes speak louder than words.
I’m sadly not a motor babe so a lot of the gear-talk in the book went over my head but it was fantastic to read. What has the feedback been from those who’ve read your book outside of the Subculture of the cars and motorcycles?
Frankly, I’m surprised how positive it’s been! I assumed my book would have a narrow audience, and I was okay with that. I wanted to write something for my little world of car and motorcycle lovers, but it seems it does in fact translate outside that world. Recently, a friend of ours told my husband that his mother-in-law (not a car scenester) read the book, adored it, and is begging for a sequel!
In Escondido where I live we have Cruisin’ Grand on Friday nights. They shut down the entire section of town for it. It’s rather awesome, if I may say so. I’m really pretty interested to know if any of the places that Jeda or Benny went to in Motor Dolls are real or what places inspired locales in the book?
Yep. All of the places, shows, and situations are based on reality, including Jeda’s ’55 Buick Special, owned by my pal Jefro, and of course, my truck and motorcycles. Motor Dolls actual began as a vintage-stylized TV show about two pals who want to build a motorcycle with modern running gear but a classic look (like Benny did). Problem was? I TOTALLY hated myself on camera. My pal Jefro was awesome… but not me. But I really loved these “characters” we’d created for ourselves, thus the novel was born.
How important is it for you to share with other people the idea that there are women out there that love things with wheels? What are your feelings about how women are perceived by men who might think things with engines are just a guy thing?
It goes a bit beyond sharing the passion for things with wheels, to encouraging people to chase down their passions with a vengeance no matter what they are. Girls simply need to know to look beyond the perimeters of norm and explore anything and everything that interests them. Regarding men’s perceptions? They’re often surprised that I’m the truck’s owner, and how much I know about her, but they are 100 percent excited, supportive, enthusiastic, and respectful. I’m not a big fan of being the victim because I’m female. If I do something, it’s because I simply want to do it, never to prove a point.
If you were to review your own book what would you have to say about it? Tell me what you feel are the strong part and the weak parts about your novel and in hindsight is there anything that you might have changed.
Whew. Boy. That’s a tough one, Ali! So the strong parts. I love my characters, their zest for life, their girl-powered bad-assery, their fine taste in automobiles and motorcycles. Weak parts. Because this didn’t start off as a novel, I didn’t take the same approach as the other novels I’ve written, which are plotted out in detail before I write a word. Plus, SO MANY people had a hand in it during the agent/publisher days, wanting this changed or that changed, and because of that, I think it suffers a bit of inconsistency. Things I might have changed? Well… I might have made certain elements a bit on the more realistic side.
As a self-publishing author how do you feel about book pirating? Do you think that indie authors are more strongly impacted by illegal book downloading than publishing companies? Would you be willing to make your books free and request donations if you found that was a better earning model as a self-publisher?
Frankly, I’ve never even thought about book pirating. I’m sure it happens, but I’m not going to make myself crazy thinking about it. Working in news, you come to accept that certain people will continue with bad behavior, regardless of the punishment for the crime.
Regarding the free thing. Several years ago, I shot a documentary on THE COOLEST man I think I’ve ever met, Milford Zornes, an artist. Over lunch, he told me to never, ever give my art away (I was shooting the project on spec). He said it devalues the work, and that has always stuck with me. Funny, though, that at the time of his death a couple of years later, he still hadn’t cashed the check I wrote to him for a piece of his art. But still… he did not GIVE his work away. See what I’m sayin’?
What does being an indie author mean to you? What would you wish to change about it?
I was lucky several years ago. I had an agent fall in love with Motor Dolls and sign me. Considering the percentage that get signed, I was pretty darned stoked. And when we had interest from Penguin and St. Martins? OMG!!! I thought I’d made it. BUT… there are a lot of doors to break down even beyond that point, and everyone wants their say on what should be different. I started to hate the book. I mean, hate it. When it finally all fell apart, I put the book on a shelf and swore I would never lay eyes on it again. Thankfully, a friend convinced me to put it out there on my own, and I’m beyond happy I did. I’m a bit of a control freak, so getting to be in charge of every aspect works for me. In fact, another of my novels is with an agent at the moment, but part of me thinks I would rather bypass that process this time, and just go my own route.
The biggest challenge is the marketing and the stigma of self-published books. That is what I’d like to see changed. I’d like to see them get a bit more respect.
Are there an opportunities that you would like to find out about or network with that you don’t have available to you currently that would help you become a more accomplished writer, increase your fanbase or help establish your work publicly that you would be interested in having someone contact you about? (Writing workshops, online writing jobs, printing press companies, beta readers, reviewers, editors, illustrators, photographers, web designers, etc.)
Primarily, I’m focused on the marketing end right now. I’m in this for the long haul. I want to steadily build my name and reputation as an author, and hope with each novel I put out there, that the interest in my work fans out. So really… any opportunity for reviews or ways to expose readers to my work would be greatly appreciated. Like this great blog!
This Word Slinger’s Books:
Motor Dolls Synopsis:
Heart Stopping Stunts! Cameras Galore! And a mysterious man in gray with nefarious plans…
Welcome to the world of the MOTOR DOLLS!
Set against the subculture of classic cars, motorcycles, tattoos, and vintage fashion, MOTOR DOLLS takes the reader on a thrilling, girl-powered ride in search of life’s passions, featuring:
Jeda, a graphic artist full of bad-assery, and Benny, a photographer seeking her Perfect Moment on film.
A prophecy shared by a stranger on the day of her grandmother’s death pushes Jeda to live like there’s no tomorrow, chasing one outrageous stunt after another, all instigated by mysterious messages from an unknown source. But when the danger escalates, she begins to question the motive behind it all: Is she simply nuts? Or is some mysterious man in gray really trying to drive her to her death?
In her search for answers, Jeda lets Benny in on the secret, and since Benny is at a crossroads—finish her Masters in Geology? or drop out of school to pursue her true passion? —she agrees to help. As Benny documents the madness of Jeda’s life on film—like driving in a Blindfolded Death Race and luging downhill on a skateboard with no brakes—they learn the truth behind the enigmatic man in gray; a truth that tests the foundations of Jeda’s family and of their friendship.
GET YOUR ADRENALINE PUMPING WITH THE MOTOR DOLLS!
This Word Slinger’s Reviews/Interviews:
Note from Lori:
~If someone wants to hear me ramble on in a radio interview. I hit at about the half-hour mark, talking about my truck, motorcycles, and Motor Dolls!
Motor Mouth Radio
Sheri Bomb Review of Motor Dolls – Book Review + Giveaway: Motor Dolls
GREASE GIRL post – Motor Dolls: Just in Time for Christmas
My Review – Tongue Wagger – Motor Dolls by Lori Bentley Law
If you are an Indie author and you would like to be part of the All The Things Inbetween Weekly Indie Word Slinger Project 2014. I’d love to hear from you! Contact me via email after reading the details on my Just The Facts, Ma’am post and we will get you sceduled for your own Word Slinger profile.
(Follow all the updates for this blog by visiting and liking the All The Things Inbetween Facebook fanpage. You can also add Google+ All The Things Inbetween page. You can follow me personally on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Shelfari and Goodreads.)