My interview with Les Romantiques
In June, Lisa Marie Rice was featured as “Auteur à l’honneur” (Author of the Month/Author in the Spotlight) in a French webzine, Les Romantiques, a publication dedicated to French Romance novels.
Originally, the article was published in French, however a modified version appears below.
INTERVIEW FOR ‘LES ROMANTIQUES’
Q: Tell us about your path as a writer. Are you a full-time writer now?
A: Hmmm. Saying that one is a full time writer nowadays is a perilous undertaking. Publishing is changing so quickly that what is true today may not be true tomorrow. I am—today—almost a full time writer, though I do keep my hand in with translations, because they pay well and because I enjoy it, and because it does keep certain language skills sharp.
As for my path as a writer—let’s just say I came up the hard way. But that is really the only way. Some people do publish their first book and it’s an instant bestseller, but that is really rare. My climb up the Mountain of Publishing was a real slog—like climbing a mountain barefoot, in the rain, trudging through mud. In other words, the usual path of a writer. I’ll spare the readers the tedious tale of the number of rejection letters, but just to give you an idea, I started writing in 1991. (Think of publishing years like dog years—one year equals seven years. By that criterion, I have been writing for 140 years). I rewrote my first novel eight times (it needed it). I then wrote another four novels which I submitted and resubmitted. However, when I found an editor who liked my voice in 1998 and she said—do you have any more?—I pulled 4 novels out of the drawer and published 5 novels in a year and a half.
To anyone interested in writing, I would say, stick to it and don’t be discouraged. I learned a lot from my failures, from rejection letters. They say to perfect a craft you must spend 10,000 hours at it. So do it.
Q: You live abroad. What is that like?
A: For a writer, living abroad is wonderful, if you can manage to keep your ear sharp in your mother tongue. Learning other languages, reading the literature of other cultures, is a tremendously enriching experience.
Moving abroad and immersing yourself in another culture is daunting at first. You have to crack open your brain to let all that new stuff in, and it’s painful. But definitely worth it.
Q: How long did it take to publish? How many books did you write first? Do you have any manuscripts in a drawer you’d like to see published?
A: I answered that above. It took me a long time to get published, but I think it was time I needed. You must listen very carefully to critiques and editor’s comments. No, I don’t have anything viable left over from that long apprenticeship, except for some chapters and a few half-baked ideas. Best that they not be published. I am a much better writer now.
Q: What drove you to write erotic romantic suspense?
A: I cannot even remotely imagine a genre more exciting than romantic suspense. Love! Danger! And erotic romantic suspense! Throwing sex into the mix! Well, that is just the best. Every single emotion and experience is heightened. I think the danger and the romance/sex are each made more intense by the existence of the other. The suspense element—the danger—is actually a metaphor for the danger of love. Love is incredibly risky, particularly for women. We give our all to our men and later, to our children. Choose the wrong man, the wrong mate and your life can be ruined. Giving your heart to the wrong guy is incredibly perilous. In my books, the danger also ‘proves’ to the woman that the man she is falling in love with will protect her with his life.
On a more practical scale, the kind of man I write about will not only protect you with his life, but he will be steadfast and loyal. Life brings many ‘dangers’ – illness, economic difficulties, death of loved ones. ‘My’ kind of hero will stand by his woman forever, no matter what. And my job is to make you believe that this couple will be together until literally death do them part.
Q: What does your writing day look like? And what do you do when you’re not working?
A: I roll out of bed in my pajamas around 6 am and take a deep breath around ten and realize that four hours have gone by and I need to get dressed and have breakfast. So I do, then get back to my computer. I write about 8 hours a day, minimum (and answering emails, blogging and all that good stuff takes up another hour). I either take a short nap in the afternoon then work until dinner time or I work straight through and knock off around seven.
I travel a lot (though not as much as before). I have a close circle of friends and we meet up regularly. I love watching good, entertaining TV. At the moment, am obsessed with ‘Fringe’, fabulous writing. And I read. And read. And read. Compulsively. Obsessively.
Q: Your books are full of a subtle kind of humor. How do you insert humor in such a natural way? Are you known for your sense of humor?
A: Actually, yes I am known for my sense of humor. Or at least, sense of the absurd. There’s not much to laugh about in the modern world, but I do try to look at the funny/absurd side of things. In Italian there is a saying—ridere per non piangere. Laugh so you won’t cry.
I’m glad you enjoy the humor, I love including it. And, well, I write about the difference between the sexes. That’s a HUGE source of humor right there.
Q: What’s your inspiration for the hot love scenes? Do you get advice from men? And how can you get such emotion in your raw, hot love scenes?
A: Well, I really like to think that my ‘raw’ sex scenes are really signs that there is a great deal of emotion there, right from the start. I like to make my men stumble a little, flail, be anything but smooth seducers. They might have been smooth seducers in the past, but this time it’s different and it’s new and they almost don’t know what they are doing.
As to advice—there are no techniques, no props, no sexy lingerie that are in any way a substitute for emotion and love. None. And you’ll never, ever find sex toys or experimental positions in my books, the kind you try out when you are a little jaded and bored. My men are not bored. These men do not in any way need stimulation. This is not sex-as-usual for them. This is something entirely new for them, and for the women too.
Q: Where do you go for the background technical expertise for all the high tech and weaponry information in your books. Your technical information is always precise and accurate without ever being boring.
A: Thank you for saying that! I pride myself on my research. I belong to several groups of experts who are generous with their time and expertise and make both available to writers. I have experts on weapons, military science, forensic science, police procedures. They are wonderful.
And I enjoy the research a lot. My men and women are experts at what they do, and as a writer, I try to honor that. It feels good to do something hard, well. For my characters and for myself.
Q: Speaking of heroines, yours are really, really slender! The heroes keep badgering them to eat more. Is there a reason for this?
A: Hmmm. I don’t want to encourage anorexia here!! Many of my heroines are right in the middle of crisis situations, under enormous stress and anxiety. Just to take the heroines of my last trilogy, The Protectors as examples: Nicole of INTO THE CROSSFIRE is taking care of a dying father while trying to get a small business off the ground. She barely has time to breathe let alone take care to eat properly. Ellen of HOTTER THAN WILDFIRE has been on the run from a cruel man with access to trained killers, who has been relentlessly hunting her for a year. She has to keep the lowest profile possible and is ready to run the instant she senses danger. She’s not making lasagne and baking bread over the weekend. Chloe of NIGHTFIRE (out January 2012) was grievously injured as a child, it took years of rehabilitation for her to learn how to walk. She’s been so ill it is hard for her to eat.
And in the course of the novel, of course, the heroine is in danger and not eating.
I know many people react to extreme stress by overeating (I know I do!) but I guess my heroines don’t.
Q: Who is the perfect hero—even though of course, they all are. Who is your favorite hero? And favorite heroine?
A: Do you mean in my books? The perfect hero? None of my men are perfect. I make sure we understand that. In Woman on the Run, for example, Cooper doesn’t communicate well, and has trouble expressing his feelings. WE THE READERS know how deep his emotions run, but Julia can’t really know, except through Cooper’s actions, which are definitely those of a man in love.
But if you held a blowtorch to my feet and made me choose? Sam Reston, of INTO THE CROSSFIRE.
And the heroines? I like to think that all of them share a certain mental sophistication and are kind-hearted. Just like me. ;-)
But that same blowtorch? Suzanne Barron, of MIDNIGHT MAN.
Q: Can you explain how you come to write trilogies, and why?
A: The Midnight series came spontaneously and naturally and was totally unplanned. I wrote The Protectors because my editor wanted a trilogy with 3 connected men. A lot of series are commissioned by editors. But writers love series because you get to spend more time with your characters and develop them better and watch their growth over time.
I loved writing The Protectors. I feel like I know them and I love all the characters.
Q: What is the most difficult stage in writing a novel? And the easiest?
A: I think with many writers the most difficult stage is the middle of the book, as it is for me. As a matter of fact, in creative writing circles there is even a name for it—the sagging middle. The fun and excitement of the set up is over, and you are not racing toward the denouement. Now the slog begins.
I love endings. I particularly love endings of romantic suspense because you get into a fast rhythm as you race to the end. Scenes become shorter, more fast-paced. The words become less abstract, more concrete. The stakes are high, the bad guys are very bad, the good guys are risking all.
There’s no feeling like it.
Q: Who are your favorite bit lit heroes (vampires)?
A: Bit Lit. Ah, yes, the appeal of vampires. Which mostly escapes me. Because, well, vampires are users. They suck you dry. I’ve met lots of guys like that. Who would want a blood-sucker boyfriend?
However, I do absolutely love love love J.R. Ward’s the Black Dagger Brotherhood. I love the world she has created, the rules of vampire life (at least they suck each other’s blood, not ours). I love those hugely damaged heroes, who have been put through so much. I love that they mate ferociously and for life.
Also, from a writerly point of view, I find J.R. Ward’s writing enormously original and energetic. She just pulls you into her world and doesn’t let go until the book is over. Chapeau!
And, since we’re at it, I love Angela Knight’s vampires and Nora Robert’s one vampire (that I know of) in The Circle Trilogy.
Q: When do you think you’ll finish Mike’s story, the third in the Protector Trilogy? And speaking of the Protector Trilogy, how did you get the idea to write it? And can you introduce your characters?
A: I just now finished writing Mike’s story–NIGHTFIRE! It’s being edited, and is scheduled for publication by Avon for either January or February 2012, which is great news. It means readers will get a chance to read the novel well before the world ends on December 21! (Just kidding. I hope.)
I loved writing NIGHTFIRE, it might actually be my favorite in the Protector series. The Protector series began with the premise of three men who bonded in a brutal foster home and became closer than brothers. They will do anything for each other. All three saw a great deal of cruelty to women and children when growing up and vowed to do something about it as adults, if they could.
All three men went into the armed forces. Sam became a SEAL, Harry went into Delta Force and Mike into the Marines and Force Recon. They all made the elite Special Ops teams and became dangerous warriors without losing their humanity.
Having left the service, the three men set up a security company that becomes very successful. However, behind the scenes, they also run an underground railroad. The 19th century underground railroad was made up of series of safe houses that allowed runaway slaves to escape from the south up north. This underground railroad helps abused women and children escape from their abusers and create a new life under a new identity elsewhere.
Sam, Harry and Mike help abused women and children escape from dangerous husbands and lovers. They give them new identities and give them money to start a new life. A good person is, almost by definition, a protector. You protect those less strong and less fortunate than yourself. These three men—Sam, Harry and Mike—have made this their life’s work.
I had so much fun writing Mike. Mike has been very promiscuous all his life, never capable of giving his heart. He is running away from a secret from his childhood, as is the love of his life, Chloe. So when he discovers love for the first time, he barely knows how to deal with it. But when Chloe’s life is threatened, he knows what to do with THAT. Oh, yeah.
It’s a very emotionally intense book and I hope that readers will enjoy it.
Q: You’ve traveled a lot. What are your favorite countries?
A: Yes, I’ve traveled extensively in my life. I must say that France is one of my favorites. I lived in Paris for a short while and I worked about a week a month in Strasbourg for years. France seems to me like Italy in many ways, only better organized. I love the usual things about France—the beauty, the food, the architecture. But I also love the fact that it has a superb universal health care system, and excellent public universities. It seems a country that has not abandoned itself and its ideals in the race toward globalization. That’s very admirable. I think it has kept its soul.
The country that has most affected me? Maybe Slovenia. It seems like Italy must have been in the 1950s. Pretty, slow-paced, and the Slovenians I’ve spoken to are very loyal to their country. They’re not rushing to emigrate because they realize that they have a charming, small country that is a winner.
Q: Let’s round this off with Chinese Portraits.
If I were a city?
A: I’d probably be Portland, Oregon. Liberal, small, well-organized, with a creative and artsy bent and vibrant cultural scene.
Q: If I were a dish?
A: Pasta! With every single sauce there is. Something simple and simply perfect. Of course no human being can be as perfect as pasta.
Q: If I were a monument?
A: The Statue of Liberty, because I believe in what it stands for.
Q: If I were a song?
A: Stand by Me. My favorite song in the world. It says it all. Stand by Me means the very best human quality—loyalty.
Q: If I were a book?
A: Oh wow. That’s a hard one. Something by Jane Austen. But if you ask me next week, the answer will be different.
Q: If I were a fictional character?
A: One of Nora Robert’s heroines. Tough without being obnoxious.
Q: If I were an author?
A: Would love to have J.R. Ward’s energy and verve.
Q: If I were a quality?
A: Being kind of heart. It is the basic human quality without which there can be no civilization.
Q: If I were a fault?
A: Greed. Not greedy for money but for pleasurable experiences. I’m a hedonist down to my bones.
Q: If I were an emotion?
Q: If I were an action film?
A: The Bourne films, all of them. Smart, tormented Jason Bourne.