Southern Romance Novels by Loraine Despres
Southern Romance Novels by Loraine Despres

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Loraine Despres was born in the snows of Chicago, but within months moved to a little town in Louisiana. She grew up in the family home. It had white columns on the front porch and bullet holes in her bedroom wall. She discovered her love of books at the local grammar school, but her real education came from her grandmother, who wanted her to become a gracious Southern lady; her popular aunt, who taught her on how to flirt; and her mother, who just didn't want the boys to take advantage of her. Loraine kept their advice in her head, adding to it over the years, and giving it the ironic name, the Southern Belle's Handbook. It became her survival manual for life and she lent it, with some changes, to Sissy in The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc.

Loraine grew up Jewish in a little Bible belt town with no Jewish congregation. Like the Rubinstein children in her latest novel, The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell, she was an equal-opportunity churchgoer. She has fond memories of Sunday school at the Episcopal Church and Summer Bible sessions learning to sing hymns and climb trees with the Methodists. When her father had his first heart attack, all the churches in town prayed for him, which may well have played a role in his recovery. But she was always an outsider. Her school friends were convinced that, unfortunately, she was going to hell. Her parents told her she always had to be on her best behavior, because she was "a representative for our people." Loraine was rarely on her best behavior.

Southern Romance Novels by Loraine Despres

The bullet holes in the wall of her bedroom were courtesy of a vigilante gang, who tried to run her family out of the parish around the turn of the Twentieth Century. After weeks of threats, they galloped into the yard under the cover of night yelling, "Be prepared to meet your Maker!" Bullets slammed into the walls of the house and burst through the windows where her great-grandparents and their children were hiding. "Nobody's gonna run me out of my home!" her great-grandfather had yelled, shooting back. Unfortunately, he was blind. However, her great-grandmother was a good shot, so when her sons and daughters returned fire, and the more responsible members of the town came to their rescue, the vigilantes fled and never bothered the family again.

At least that's the family legend and was the inspiration for The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell.

Loraine wrote her first novel in 6th grade. Forty-eight hand written pages. The reviews were unanimous: the child needs her head examined.

After high school in Highland Park, Illinois, she graduated from Northwestern University with a BS from the School of Communications. A fitting degree, she says, for a future writer. But first, she spent her junior year in Paris, where she studied painting with the great artist and teacher André Lhote, and became a part of the young art scene there.

After college, she began to write educational radio, film, and advertising in Chicago, Paris, and New Orleans, where she was also a founding editor of that city's first feminist journal. It was in New Orleans that she began to write seriously, becoming a regular member of the New Orleans Poetry Forum. Two of Loraine's poems and a short play won the Deep South Writer's and Artists' Conference Awards of Honor. Her play was later produced by Women In Film in Los Angeles.

Next was a move to Los Angeles to break into show business. The reaction of her family was again unanimous: Loraine still needs her head examined. But within two years, she was writing for the prestigious television show FAMILY. She went on to write for THE HIGHLANDER, THE EQUALIZER, CRIME STORY, DYNASTY, THE WALTONS, FAMILY, LOVE BOAT, CHIPS, and KNOTS LANDING. She is best known, however, for writing the "Who Shot J.R.?" episode of DALLAS, now a veritable icon of pop culture.

She was writing pilots, movies of the week, feature films and even soap operas and was still getting assignments when she decided she had to stop to fulfill a life-long ambition. She wanted to write a novel imbued with her own cynical humor, a love story set in the South at the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. Over three years later, The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc was born. It became a National Best Seller and engendered, "The Southern Belle's Handbook, Sissy LeBlanc's Rules to Live By." After years of research, she finished her third novel, the The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell in 2005.

Despres has also taught screenwriting at UCLA and worked as an international screenwriting consultant. She has given workshops, supervised writing staffs, and developed new TV series in such far-flung cities as Berlin, Cologne, Stockholm, Montréal and Sitgès, Spain. In 1998, the Multiple Sclerosis Society awarded her the first place prize in journalism for an article she wrote in the YOGA JOURNAL. In 2001, she won the Western Publishers Association's prestigious Maggie Award for the best interview or profile in a consumer magazine.

Southern Romance Novels by Loraine Despres

She is currently serving on the Board of Directors of PEN USA and is an active member of PEN's Freedom to Write Committee. She is also a member of the Northwestern University Council of 100, one hundred of the most successful women ever to graduate from the university. They return to Evanston twice a year to mentor students and recent alumnae. Loraine has served on the Board of Women In Film and was for many years a Trustee of the Women In Film Foundation. She also served on the Board of El Nido Family Services. In the past, she helped organize a study center in an African-American neighborhood in Chicago, edited DISTAFF, New Orleans' first feminist journal, and was a founding member of the Fair Housing for Children Coalition in Los Angeles.

She also owns and manages a forest in Louisiana, which keeps her in touch with the South she loves.

She has a son, David Mulholland, from a brief and impetuous first marriage. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, television writer/producer Carleton Eastlake, who over fifteen years ago fell for a Southern belle and taught her that marriage is not the root of all suffering after all.

Click here for an e-interview with Loraine Despres!!


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Loraine's Bio    The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc

Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell    Southern Belle's Handbook    Reviews

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Southern Novels by Loraine Despres