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Interview with Lisa Dale – and giveaway!

Lisa Dale

Photo by Eric Rank

A couple of years ago, I began hearing about an author who wrote very smart contemporary romantic novels. I picked up Lisa Dale’s It Happened One Night and fell in love with her style.

Lisa’s intelligence and curiosity about a wide array of subjects shine through her stories. She’s here today talking about her latest release, A Promise of Safekeeping, and giving away a copy of her previous novel, Slow Dancing on Price’s Pier.

Welcome, Lisa!

Thank you tons for having me!

1. Your novels always feature characters who have really interesting careers – or maybe it’s the way you include fascinating bits of your research into your novels that makes their careers seem so interesting. From astronomy to flowers to the history of coffee, you cover a wide range of topics. What’s been your most interesting subject to research, and what can we look forward to reading more about in A Promise of Safekeeping?

I love all of it! I’m as nerdy as it gets…so I’ve always got my nose in a book and am trying to learn new things. Part of that comes from being a writer: we have to know things like, what certain flowers are called, what certain trees are, what are the architectural parts of a building and what period are they from…etc. Knowing those kinds of things aids in writing good descriptions.

A Promise of SafekeepingMy characters’ careers are often just an excuse for me to dig into a subject. Lauren, in A Promise of Safekeeping, is a body language expert—which is SOOOOOO fascinating. Lauren’s great at her job, but not so good at reading body language in her personal life. She can tell if a criminal is lying…but her love life is a different story. What kind of person would you be if you could read the words beneath the words?

The hero, Will, is an antiques dealer, and I think that’s because I’m starting to realize that I’m infatuated by the concept of history, by the notion of so many lives and experiences happening in the same space, by history being all around us, right now, in the present.

Will collects antique keys, which reflects the themes of “keeping” and “locking away” that run through the book. Old keys embody what I love about antiques: the mystery of the past. The inherent opaqueness of it. What did this key secret away? Or, who did it imprison? Who was it meant to keep out? I think this idea of the layers of history has been a latent theme of my writing that is just starting to come out in A Promise of Safekeeping, and more in my W-I-P.

2. Your characters face enormous challenges that many readers will recognize from their own lives. To me, this makes their happily-ever-after all the more satisfying. Do you get many emails from readers who’ve experienced the challenges your characters have?

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How a small community can smother your characters

As a contemporary romance writer, I know that series set in small towns and tight-knit communities are insanely popular.

But there’s also a danger that, as a series grows, those communities can begin to smother the vibrancy of later novels and their characters.

This isn’t just a danger with small-town contemporary romance. It can happen in any series that focuses on a particular community, whether that’s the ton in Regency romance or a fantastical world completely of the author’s creation.

Here are the ways communities can alienate me, the reader, and my thoughts on how to avoid it.

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Filed under Contemporary romance spotlight, Writer's toolbox

Discovering the book you wish you’d written

A few weeks ago, I sat down to read a book by a new-to-me author that’s coming out soon. The premise had sounded intriguing, but to be honest, I’d requested it along with about a dozen others so by the time I started reading it I couldn’t even remember what it was supposed to be about.

So I read. And I read. And soon I started thinking, “Holy crap, why didn’t I write this book!”

Just to be clear, I don’t think I could’ve actually written this book, for many reasons. It doesn’t have a similar plot to any of my stories. The characters are very different from mine. It’s not even the same subgenre I write.

But it’s set in the same sort of world I’ve worked in for years, a world I’ve researched backwards and forwards and spent countless hours writing about for my day job: the world of major disasters.

The book I wish I’d written is Hot Zone by Catherine Mann. And this is how I tried to console myself for not having written it.

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Sarah Mayberry interview – and giveaway!

Sarah MayberryLast year, after reading loads of buzz online about a couple of Harlequin Superromance authors, I bit into my book-buying budget and ordered about a dozen Superromance novels.

Why was this expensive? Because they wouldn’t ship to me in London, so I had to have them sent to my parents’ house and then reimburse my mom for shipping a big heavy box to London.

Worth it?

Oh God yes!

In that box, I discovered two new favorite authors: Sarah Mayberry and Karina Bliss. Sarah Mayberry has a new release out this month—All They Need—and she’s giving away two copies here. Huzzah!

Thanks for being here, Sarah!

Thanks for inviting me. I always love talking about writing and reading – two of my most favourite things in all the world.

1. In addition to writing romance, you also write for TV, including the insanely popular Australian soap Neighbours. What skills have you developed through writing scripts that carry over into writing novels? And what’s the craziest storyline you’ve ever developed for Neighbours?

One Good ReasonI actually credit Neighbours with helping me develop me the story chops that led to me getting published. Before I’d worked on the story table, I had made something like 8 different attempts at writing a romance novel, all of which had been rejected.

Then I worked at Neighbours and helped plot a long term, slow burn romance between two of the characters and I suddenly understood what I’d been doing wrong.

Working on Neighbours also taught me to love planning and plotting my books in advance. A lot of romance writers are “pantsers” – ie they write by the seat of their pants and what happens next is as much of a surprise to them as it is to the reader. But Neighbours taught me to love thinking about the story and teasing out the nuances of the story before sitting down to actually write it.

It also taught me to love thinking about character. I always try to build layered, multi-dimensional characters who feel real and who you can believe existed before they walked onto the set (or onto the page) and who will continue to exist after the show ends (or the last page is read).  That’s something we spent a lot of time on on the show – talking through who people were and what they wanted and what their strengths and weaknesses were before throwing them into the mix.

As for the craziest storyline… I wasn’t actually working in-house at the time, but I can remember there was a storyline where Paul Robinson, the show’s current big baddy, and his daughter, Elle, arranged to have one of the other character’s delivery van blown up. I’m actually not sure if that story ever made it to air – my memory has become a little hazy over the years. As storylines go, it was a little out there for a show set on suburban cul-de-sac. But I guess far weirder things have happened on Desperate Housewives!

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Kristan Higgins interview – and giveaway!

Kristan HigginsWhile I was preparing for this interview, I cruised on over to Kristan’s website and stalked her did some research into her life. I clicked on the link to her blog and ended up spending TWO HOURS reading her posts.

I’ve never spent that long on anyone’s blog before – not even mine.

Kristan’s novels have the same effect on me. They suck me in and don’t let go until I’ve sobbed my way through the happily-ever-after. If you like romance featuring strong, quirky families, lots of dogs and even more smooching, Kristan Higgins is your gal.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Kristan, and for giving away a copy of your latest release, UNTIL THERE WAS YOU!

Absolutely my pleasure, Kat!

1. One of countless things I love about your books is the strong sense of community you build. It makes me think that living in a small town must kick city-life’s ass. Is there anything bad about life in a small town (I ask this as someone who’s moving from London to the vast emptiness of the northern Netherlands, so please say no)? How do your communities challenge your characters and help them grow?

All I Ever WantedAnything bad about a small town? Er, um, of course not! Small town life is perfect! Especially if you love people knowing you perhaps a bit better than  you’d like, eating at the same restaurant over and over and over, being viewed as exactly the same person you were when you were thirteen and threw up in math class, no, there’s not one drawback!

I think life in a small town challenges my characters to be more than they were back when they were puking in Mr. Eddy’s class. But there’s an intimacy and caring that’s very evident in a small town; a person gets hurt, and there’s a spaghetti supper to raise money for medical costs.

I do think that’s true in big cities, too; cities are nothing more than a bunch of different neighborhoods, but there’s something about a small town that invites personal interaction.

2. Most of your novels are written in the first person from the heroine’s point of view, but UNTIL THERE WAS YOU is told in third person and lets us see things from the hero’s perspective too. What made you decide to switch things up for this one?

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Ten tips on writing characters with accents, by Rose Lerner

Rose LernerAnyone who’s read one of Rose Lerner’s novels (In for a Penny and A Lily Among Thorns) will know that her characters come from a wide range of backgrounds. Rose is a master at writing accents so a reader can hear her characters’ distinctive voices.

She’s very generously written this post on how she writes characters with different accents, and she’s giving away a copy of A Lily Among Thorns to one lucky commenter!

Hi everyone! Kat already wrote a great post about how I used accents in In for a Penny and a really awesome post on writing accents generally…I’ll try not to repeat myself, or her!

British people pay a lot of attention to accents. People from different regions and different social classes have marked differences in speech, and everyone is very conscious of that fact. Of course this is true in the States as well, but I really don’t think the degree is comparable.

I can think of several British memoirs off the top of my head that extensively discuss accents, either by referencing others’ accents by specific type or talking about the memoirist’s own accent (poor Roger Moore practically had a complex about not sounding posh enough!), and anyone remember that Monty Python sketch where no one can understand the rural accents and slang at the airfield?

So if, like me, you tend to write romances that have major characters from a variety of places and social classes, paying attention to accents is important. Here are a few guidelines and tips for how I do it:

1. I never write an accent phonetically.

Writing a particular word phonetically because its pronunciation is so different or it’s unique to a particular accent, okay. Writing all a character’s dialogue that way, no. Apart from being sometimes confusing for the reader, I’m going to come right out and say that I think this is rude.

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These hot men are concerned about your breasts

Ladies and gay men, behold the best breast self-exam video I’ve ever seen.

I work in charity communications, and I’m jealous as all hell of the team that developed this video and app.

Done drooling yet? No? Okay, watch it one more time and then come back to me.

Done now? Good.

Writer and blogger friends, this video is a lesson in packages. No, not the packages the happy dancing men display during the credits, but the packages we wrap our content up in.

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Why community is key to contemporary romance – and giveaway!

“In contemporaries, community is key,” Selina McLemore, Senior Editor at Grand Central Publishing, told me at the Romance Writers of America national conference last week.

It makes sense, right? Those of us who love contemporary romance fall for books set in a particular town or city that feels as fleshed out as the hero and heroine. A place we’d love to visit, move to, or just immerse ourselves in for a few hours.

But community shouldn’t be confused with setting. It’s more than that.

It’s characters—oddballs who make a town unique and help the hero and heroine when they need it most; fast-talking city folks who are so savvy they make a reader jealous; and families who can overwhelm the most patient person but pull together when it’s most needed. It’s colleagues who challenge and sharpen you, while also making you howl with laughter, like in Louisa Edwards’s Recipe for Love series.

But community shouldn’t be confused with character development. It’s more than that.

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Recharging a drained brain

Brain Drain game

© What What / flickr.com

I’ve spent the past six months in servitude to my work in progress. My daily word counts have been massively helped by writing marathons, like the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood‘s Winter Writing Festival and Savvy Authors’ May Bootcamp.

These helped me finish my first draft just a few days after my husband finished writing his PhD.

The last two months have been particularly difficult for us as we both spent every waking hour writing writing writing. My husband handed his PhD in a week ago, and I sent my draft off to readers on Saturday.

Then we both hit a wall. After going to the library every day (yes, even Saturdays) from opening to closing for months, my husband didn’t quite know what to do with himself this week.

After spending hours getting words on paper and crafting my story, I’ve been feeling brain dead.

But the process isn’t finished for either of us. My husband will have to defend his PhD in just over a month, and I’ll have to make (probably significant) changes to my story once my readers get back to me.

So how do you recharge yourself when you’ve given everything yet know you need to gear up for round two?

Here’s what I’ve been doing.

1. Make time for all the things you sacrifice when you’re in your writing cave.

For me, that’s things like watching The Apprentice (British version) and laughing at how the candidates’ arrogance is directly proportionate to their ineptitude. This week, I’ve also been cooking dinners with my husband instead of buying ready-meals. My husband spent Tuesday at Lords watching cricket. And we spent several hours at the beach in Norfolk, followed by sharing a cream tea in a pub on Saturday.

Bliss.

2. Don’t come to jarring halt.

I always have plenty of writing-related things to do – whether it’s critiques for my friends, writing blog posts or reviewing books. But this week I’ve focused on getting my pitch ready for RWA Nationals. I’m still doing something productive, but it’s a small, manageable project and helps me keep my head in my story.

I always find that motivation is difficult to kick-start once I’ve put a project aside for a while.

How do you refresh yourself after hitting a milestone in a big project?

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Romance Writers of New Zealand magazine

The Romance Writers of New Zealand very kindly printed one of my blog posts in the June issue of their members’ magazine Heart to Heart!

Even more kindly, they’ve said I could make the pdf available here so people can read it.

My entry is on what novelists should do when writing for the web, but having read through the magazine I’m incredibly flattered to be included alongside some of my favorite writers. Seriously, check out these amazingly helpful articles:

  • How Do You Mend a Broken Scene? by Roxanne St. Claire
  • Five Tips for Getting to Know Your Characters by Tawne Fenske
  • Writing the Best Body Language And Dialogue Cues by Margie Lawson

Here’s the Heart to Heart pdf. Hope you enjoy reading it this weekend, and many thanks to RWNZ!

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