Frequently Asked Questions

Career | Personal | Reading | Writing

Career

What did you do before you became a writer? Do you write full time?

I was a simultaneous interpreter and translator. See? I’ve always worked with words. I would be unemployable otherwise. Now I write more or less full time.

Source: In Interview with Night Owl Romance, July 2010

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Do you have any advice for other writers?

The same advice everyone gives: don’t give up. As J.A. Konrath says—there’s a word for writers who don’t give up: published. Keep at it. Join a writers’ organization, find critique partners, don’t give up. Find the time even when you don’t have any, and—don’t give up.

Source: In Interview with Night Owl Romance, July 2010

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Do you see writing as a career?

I absolutely see writing as a career, and a wonderful one at that. I mean—you sit all day in your pajamas (or something equally comfortable), your daily commute is from the bedroom to the study, and you write exciting, sexy stories. Now THAT’S a career! Sometimes the royalties aren’t enough to keep me in La Perla lingerie and champagne and bon-bons and then I fall back on translating. But it doesn’t hold a candle to writing.

Source: In Interview with Night Owl Romance, July 2010

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Do you find it’s challenging trying to balance your personal life with your writing career? Has your family supported you in your career choice?

My family has provided immense support, no question. It is also true that this job is less wearing on a family than when I was traveling 2 to 3 weeks a month. And it is also true that I make sure that I have time for them and that I care for them in every way.

I’m a decent cook, and a passionate believer in unprocessed, local food (which is spectacularly good here) so husband and son get plenty of home-cooked meals. I make sure the house is warm and welcoming (albeit at times messy) and that my husband and son’s friends are always welcome. I will at any moment happily add a place or two or five at the table.

I make sure I’m there when they need me.

Luckily, when at times I’m immersed in a novel, they don’t always realize I’m not actually listening to what they say.

I married late, and had a child late. So I really appreciate having made a family, since being an only child with both parents dead, I have none of my own.

I’ll never forget the moment when my mother had a huge health problem and this man I was dating helped me deal with it. All of a sudden, I realized that from now on, I wouldn’t be alone. It’s a powerful moment and I write about that in my novels. That electric moment of connection when you realize you’ve found your mate and you’ll never be alone again. It’s magic.

Source: In Interview with Just Erotic Romance Reviews, September 2007

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Is there any particular anecdote involving your life as a romance author living in Europe that you would like to share?

I founded a writer’s group in Florence, Italy and one of these years, that experience is going to find its way into a short story.

I put up a notice in the American church for people interested in writing and for about three years we met weekly in the basement. It was a truly motley group of people, many of them eccentrics. Since people drift in and out of Florence, they consequently drifted in and out of the group. We tried to meet once a week and we tried to bring new material. One lady was so incredibly slow and meticulous that changing a comma or an adjective was a big thing and she’d bring it the next week, showing us the change. Shades of Oscar Wilde!

There was a really cute, shy gay guy just back from an extended stay in Algeria, who wrote long involved essays about his experiences. There was a whip-smart, incredibly hip young woman who wrote fabulous chicklit before there was a name (and a market) for it. She had no luck publishing, though her writing was incredibly good. When the chicklit boom started, I often thought about her. Her writing was better than 80% of what I read in chicklit, but her timing was off. There was an elderly American lady, quite wealthy, who had had a massive stroke and could barely speak but wrote like a dream. We often ended up meeting at her house because she had such difficulty getting around. She wrote incredibly well, but I got the impression she wasn’t pursuing a writing career, but rather just enjoyed the company. A former priest who wrote wrenching stories of being abused as a child in the backwoods of Minnesota. A gentle Englishwoman who wrote long, involved stories about … tea? And the Women’s League. The stories rambled, but fairly pleasantly. Another English lady who wrote about northern England during World War II, everything set in 1942 to be exact, using local dialect. I found it hard to understand one word out of three.

I was the only one consciously pursuing a career in a commercial genre. I kept explaining that over and over. Whenever we read out our new pieces, I’d have to go into a long, involved explanation of the ‘romance genre’ and its likes and dislikes. Why I had to do this and why I couldn’t do that. They looked at me as if I were a Martian, and they were quite right. I truly regret wasting all those years trying to fit into a box.

In Greek mythology, there was this evil king called Procrustes who used to invite people to his bed and if they were too tall, he would lop off their limbs. That’s how I felt, trying to fit into those old-fashioned romance boxes. Thank god they are gone!

But I suppose it’s all grist to the mill.

Source: In Interview with Just Erotic Romance Reviews, September 2007

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You live in Europe, which places you in a rather unique position, how would you say does this affect your life as a writer, if at all.

I love where I live, that has to be said right away. But any human being who gets to be my age and doesn’t love where s/he lives is crazy. Hating where you live is a recipe for illness, physical and mental. You should find things to love about your home and embrace it.

There are tons of fabulous things about living in Europe, starting with the food and the wine. And, well, the art and architecture. And being able to travel easily to different countries with different cultures is really stimulating.

It’s not a good place to be to start a writing career, however. At least a US writing career. When I started many moons ago, the fact that in Europe we use A4 paper (taller and thinner than US paper) was a PROBLEM, can you believe it? One publisher (who never published me) asked me to import US paper because they weren’t used to the format of A4.

I spent half my time at the post office, mailing off big packages of manuscripts, hoping they would arrive. Waiting 10 days, two weeks, for the packages back. Luckily, email attachments have put paid to that.

It’s harder to get to conferences. It’s harder to meet with other romance writers, though I have the great great boon of living near Shannon McKenna, who is a fabulous writer and a good friend.

It’s harder to browse bookstores for books in English, though Amazon is great that way. They’ve got offices in the UK, in Germany and in France.

All in all, it takes one—or at least it took me—a little longer to make it when you’re living abroad.

All in all, though, I’m pretty happy with things.

Source: In Interview with Just Erotic Romance Reviews, September 2007

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Personal

Boxers, Briefs, boxer briefs, kilt, or commando?

This is for heroes right? Hmmm, I’m not too sure I have a definite Underwear Doctrine. Boxer Briefs, probably. Commando sounds sexy but uncomfortable. Like thongs.

Source: In Interview with Desert Island Keepers, July 2010

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If you were stuck on a desert island what 3 things would you bring with you?

Well, that’s easy and hard. Hard because there are so many things necessary to a civilized life, lots more than just three, but if we’re going to have to strip down to basics, I guess I’d absolutely have to have my Kindle, an endless supply of sunscreen SPF 50 (I burn easily) and my computer with wi-fi. Those would be the essentials. To be able to read, to connect and not burn myself to a crisp.

Source: In Interview with Desert Island Keepers, July 2010

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What is your favorite cuss word?

Fuck, alas, in all its permutations. As adjective, adverb, exclamation, you name it. I have a bit of a potty mouth, need to watch it.

Source: In Interview with Just Erotic Romance Reviews, September 2007

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What sound do you hate the most?

Loud, harsh noises. Heavy metal, techno music.

Source: In Interview with Just Erotic Romance Reviews, September 2007

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What sound do you love to hear?

Silence. Deep, deep silence. It calms me. Or leaves rustling in the wind.

Source: In Interview with Just Erotic Romance Reviews, September 2007

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What do you find sexy in a man?

Strong hands. Deep voice. And seriousness of purpose. I don’t like man-children, no matter how cute.

Source: In Interview with Just Erotic Romance Reviews, September 2007

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How would your friends describe you?

Loyal. I think. I hope. Because I am.

Source: In Interview with Just Erotic Romance Reviews, September 2007

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Reading

What are your favorite books of all time?

WAY too many to list. In romance, I sometimes return to old Linda Howards or Nora Roberts for comfort. Stephen Hunter… nope, can’t go on, the list would be endless.

Source: In Interview with The Good, The Bad, The Unread, August 2007

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Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

One of my favorite authors is actually also a close friend, Shannon McKenna. What I love about her stories is the intricate plotting and, above all, the emotional intensity. Shannon takes her characters sometimes into uncharted territory and makes them SUFFER for that happy ending, and you are with them all the way, chewing your fingernails and with your stomach clenched, hoping it all works out.

Source: In Interview with Night Owl Romance, July 2010

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Favorite Heroine and why?

A couple of favorite heroines – one heroine from way, way back: Lindsay Danner of Tell Me No Lies by Elizabeth Lowell. She’s an incredibly appealing heroine of one of the best romantic suspense novels ever written. Annabelle Peyton of Lisa Kleypas’s Secrets of a Summer Night. I usually don’t like historicals because beyond the Vaseline over the lens of romance writers, it’s quite clear to me what the position of women was in the past, and it wasn’t pretty. Annabelle keeps her dignity intact under horrendous circumstances and shows intense loyalty to her friends at the same time. And, oddly enough, Beth Randall of J. R. Ward’s Dark Lover. It is really interesting to see her struggle with her dual nature. Those are my favorites for now. Maybe next year, or certainly in five years’ time, the list will differ.

Source: In Interview with Desert Island Keepers, July 2010

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Writing

Do you have a ritual when it comes to writing? Example….get coffee, blanket, paper, pen and a comfy place?

Up early, check email, check news websites (favourites: The Guardian, The New York Times, Huffington Post) and favourite blogs (Andrew Sullivan, John Scalzi, Nathan Bransford) to see if the world has blown up. This is probably not a good idea because it takes me a while to get to the writing. I should do all that at the end of the day as a reward. And I imagine that if the end of the world comes, I’d hear about it anyway.

Source: In Interview with Night Owl Romance, July 2010

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Do you have a favorite object that is pertinent to your writing? If so what is it and please describe it. (Pen, Coffee Cup, Pet, Blanket, Chair)

Not a favorite object but a favorite PLACE. My study, which I love. I travel a lot and simply cannot be creative on the road, or in a place other than my study. I know every aspect of it. The light at dawn (I’m an early riser), how the light changes throughout the day, how I look up over the monitor and see my bookshelves. My study also gives out onto a big terrace and around noon and around 7 pm I take a half hour break on the terrace, looking out over a valley. It refreshes me.

Source: In Interview with Night Owl Romance, July 2010

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What is your writing process? Do you outline, fly by the seat of your pants or a combination of both?

Well, I sell my books on proposal, so an outline is necessary. Furthermore, I write romantic suspense and I care a lot about the suspense subplot and its accuracy, so I outline carefully. I know exactly where I’m going. Having said that, I often find that in the writing, a sort of serendipity creeps in. Insights, events from my daily life find their way, suitably transmogrified, into the story. As I write the story, I become aware of hidden symbols and a certain degree of cohesion and circularity that wasn’t in the outline. It’s an interesting process.

Source: In Interview with Night Owl Romance, July 2010

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Do you have a specific writing style?

I guess I do. I think what distinguishes me a bit is that I write completely in ‘deep third’, i.e., when I’m writing in the POV of the character, I am completely in that character’s head. And particularly when in my hero’s head, I don’t pull punches. Most of my heroes’ internal monologues are profane and funny. They’re tough, no-nonsense and unsentimental. UNTIL…they meet the woman of their heart. It takes them a long time to recognize love through the lust, though, and they are knocked for a loop. They find themselves almost frightened by the intensity of their feelings, and the words they use to themselves to describe what’s going on inside aren’t tender until the very end. The words aren’t tender but their hearts are.

Source: In Interview with Night Owl Romance, July 2010

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How comfortable are you about writing steamy love scenes? Do you have to force yourself to write them or does the inspiration come naturally depending on the characters?

Sometimes it’s hard to write love scenes. You really need to be in the moment, right there with your characters and if you’re tired or depressed or not feeling well, that’s very hard. I try to keep it fresh and I try to make it real, warts and all, so to speak. Sometimes my hero is so excited he can hardly control himself. Sometimes it doesn’t really work for the heroine. But count on it, by the end of the novel, they are getting it right.

But no, I don’t force myself to write them. I love writing them. I consider myself the luckiest of women (and, contrary to the little internet meme going around, I am definitely a woman!) to be writing when erotic romance is so popular and so much stuff is allowed.

Source: In Interview with Just Erotic Romance Reviews, September 2007

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You write absolutely fabulous heroes, all of them intense and all male, with all of the yumminess of an Alpha hero, without making them look like jerks, what is your inspiration for such appealing males?

My heroes cannot have even a molecule of jerk-dom or dickheadedness (can I say that?). Nothing, nada. They don’t have misconceptions about their women that are cleared up on the last page. They don’t suspect her of being a slut. They’re not mad at her. And above all, they like their women, from the first moment. My love stories happen fast, over a short period of time. My heroes fall fast. They are not going to waste time disliking the heroine. There will be time enough through the rest of their lives for them to get angry, usually when they think she’s put herself in danger. But if they get mad, it will be against a backdrop of strong, mutual love, and it will pass. How can you have the hero and heroine angry at each other while they’re supposed to be falling in love? It vitiates the whole process, in my mind, at least. My books are usually about the first couple of weeks of what will be a lifelong love affair. The men are too busy tripping over their hearts to have negative feelings about the heroine.

And—I’ve said it before. My men are men, not children. They don’t need their egos stroked. They say what they mean and mean what they say.

Source: In Interview with Just Erotic Romance Reviews, September 2007

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You have one story, PORT OF PARADISE, which takes place in Italy, do you plan on writing any more stories taking place in Italy or anywhere else in Europe?

I loved writing Port of Paradise. Franco, yum. And readers might want to look up my Ellora’s Cave Twelve Quickies of Christmas, The Christmas Angel, which takes place mainly in Naples with a delicious Italian hero.

There is, indeed, something extremely sensual about Italy. It is such a beautiful country, so rich in art and architecture, with such good food and wine that you can run the risk of writing a travelogue. You know that old saying about never wearing a shirt prettier than you are? Well, the same holds true here. Never write a story where the setting risks being more interesting than the plot!

Source: In Interview with Just Erotic Romance Reviews, September 2007

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What do you like best about being a writer?

NOT TRAVELING. I’ll say it again. Not traveling. I was in a profession for 30 years in which I traveled constantly, and it’s not fun, year after year, decade after decade, living in hotel rooms and spending hours in airports and train stations, nearly eaten up with stress. Now I’m just a little agoraphobic. Traveling from my study to the kitchen is a big deal. Just kidding.

And the other big thing is that I finally get to write down these stories that have been in my head forever. And they PAY me to do this. How cool is that?

Source: In Interview with Just Erotic Romance Reviews, September 2007

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Have you written any other categories of fiction, or do you plan to? Have you considered writing any other category of romance i.e. paranormals, or are you perfectly happy where you are?

I love writing exactly what I’m writing right now. Umm, paranormals? Maybe not. I was a big science fiction fan as a kid, teenager and young adult. Read loads of the stuff and loved it. But somehow I’m not attracted to it now. Since I write something akin to thrillers, I really really enjoy the gritty details of the suspense subplot, and making it as real as possible. I read lots of books about soldiering, truly fascinating. Those are all intensely reality-based books and I like to have that solid base and build my wonderful fairy tales on top of that.

And I particularly like my heroes to be absolutely thoroughly grounded in this world. They know exactly how it works, how things work. They can change a tire in a snowstorm, shoot their way out of trouble, survive in the Arctic. They are a little clueless about the human heart, but luckily their women are up to the task of teaching them.

Source: In Interview with Just Erotic Romance Reviews, September 2007

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What attracted you to writing erotic romantic suspense?

Well, I can’t imagine any genre more exciting than erotic romantic suspense. You’ve got true love, passionate sex, danger and adventure. As the song goes, who could ask for anything more?

Source: In Interview with Just Erotic Romance Reviews, September 2007

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