Lisa Kleypas is one of the Heavy Hitters of the historical romance genre, with several international bestsellers, and awards to her name. With her new work in contemporaries, it looks like she will be dominating that genre as well!
When we learned of Lisa’s two upcoming new releases, Seduce Me At Sunrise and A Wallflower Christmas, we Smugglers decided that we had to dedicate a full week to Lisa’s work. And, for the grand finale of our Lisa Kleypas week, we were dead set on getting an interview with this wonderful author…although we weren’t expecting to *really* accomplish this. So, when we learned that Lisa was actually going to participate, we were bouncing off the walls with excitement! (Literally, there have to be somewhere around 50 emails between the two of us that basically say “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!”, “OMGOMGOMGOMG”, or derivations thereof)
And so, we are proud to present our very own Chat With Lisa Kleypas!
The Book Smugglers: You have two books coming up within a short period of time between releases – how hectic is this moment for you? Can you tell us a bit about each book?
Lisa: I am enjoying this tremendously! I think it will be a lot of fun to have two books coming out so close together. And the tone and format of each is quite different, which keeps things interesting. The first one, “Seduce Me At Sunrise,” is a very dark and passionate story about a Gyspy hero, Kev Merripen, and his forbidden love for a fragile invalid, Winnifred Hathaway. The second book is a Wallflower novel, and it was a joy to write—probably the happiest book I’ve ever done. I think a lot of that had to do with the Victorian Christmas setting. All the heroines and husbands of my original Wallflower novels make appearances, and I also introduced a new hero, Rafe Bowman, an American entrepreneur who has come to England to marry an aristocratic English bride.
The Book Smugglers: In addition to being a historical/regency romance maven, you have recently turned to contemporary fiction and romance with Sugar Daddy and Blue-Eyed Devil. What made you decide to step out of the historicals and venture into new territory?
Lisa: After writing historicals for so many years, I felt the need to stretch a little and challenge myself. I could never abandon historicals—I love them too much—but I knew there were different kinds of characters and plots I could write in a contemporary setting. And it has been some of the most satisfying work I’ve ever done, as well as the most difficult. The hardest part for me was finding a true, authentic contemporary voice and learning to “strip down” my writing style. But that forced me to express emotions and thoughts in a different, more creative way. The surprise was in discovering how much that refreshed my historical writing when I went back to it!
The Book Smugglers: In your historical fiction novels, and even in your contemporary work with Sugar Daddy, physical settings and locations play a large part of your novels, almost as characters in themselves. What’s your research process for creating these vivid time periods and locations? Have you visited some of the places you name in your stories?
Lisa: The setting of a book is really important to me as a writer—I can’t tell the story unless I know where things are and what’s going on at the time. I load a lot of sensory details in my place descriptions—I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out street-smells, what the sky would look like at a certain time of day, what kinds of plant and animal life would be in the rural settings, and of course I’m big on food and fashion! . . . I think this has led to some fun scenes, such as the calves’-head formal dinner in “It Happened One Autumn,” or the bees-behind-the-curtain scene in “Mine Till Midnight.”
In the past I visited England twice, and that helped tremendously in a sense of the dialogue and the country’s remarkable character. Unfortunately my opportunities for travel are now more limited than they used to be, because I have two young children at home. But I read piles of research books and information on the net, and there is always so much more to learn.
For my contemporary novels, the setting was much easier because I’ve lived in Texas almost half my life, in Dallas, Houston, and also in the environs of San Antonio. So I have a keen ear for the unique features of Texas dialogue, and an affection for the eccentricities of Texans.
The Book Smugglers: Similarly, your two latest Historical novels, Mine Til Midnight and Seduce me at Sunrise have gypsies as heroes . There is a lot of information about gypsy beliefs and rituals. Are they all product of research or are there some intellectual liberties?
Lisa: I researched as much as I could, buying every book available and going on the net, but it is very difficult to research the Rom, because there are so many variations in language and ritual among the different tribes! So at times I had to guess whether one tribal custom I read about might have been appropriate for other tribes in the area. I did not invent any words or customs, however, just tried to decide which ones would have been the most widely used. And appalling acts such as the “Gyspy Hunt” described in “Seduce Me At Sunrise” really did happen, when landowners brutally attacked Romany tribes and drove them out of the area.
The Book Smugglers: Speaking of research, you latest contemporary book, Blue-Eyed Devil taps in the very complicated subject of domestic abuse and personality disorders. We were awed at the manner in which you were able to present a very complex subject in a very straight-forward manner without ever succumbing to generalizations or gross interpretations – was it a very difficult topic to target? What kind of research was done for BED?
Lisa: Thank you!– it was definitely a difficult topic to address, but I wanted so much to share this knowledge with readers in the hopes that it might help someone. Whether we are aware of it or not, we have all come into contact with personality-disordered people in the past, and will in the future. You can’t avoid them. So there are important ways in which we can protect ourselves from being taken advantage of, hurt, or even abused, by recognizing the warning signs. Before I wrote the book, I consulted professional experts personally and also emailed with some respected authorities on the subjects of narcissistic personality disorder.
Part of what interested me in the subject of abuse was that a long time ago, before I was married, I was involved with a verbally abusive guy. It never got to the point of physical abuse, thank heaven, but it started in little ways and was definitely getting worse. Because it always does, It’s a progressive disease. And no matter how sorry the abusers say they are, they’ll keep doing it. It’s sad to learn that people with personality disorders can’t ever really change, because it goes down to the bedrock of who they are. But it’s crucial for people, especially women, to understand that it’s not a question of loving an abuser more, pleasing him more, because no matter what you do, you can’t ever change him.
The Book Smugglers: On to lighter topics: You have another winner with the Hathaway series. The family is absolutely delightful and adorable, and we have to ask: which sibling is next? We have the feeling it’s Leo and he is to be paired with…the governess?
Lisa: Oh, I’m so glad you’re enjoying the Hathaways—to me they are turning out to be loads of fun, they’re all such misfits! The next romance is going to feature Poppy, who so desperately longs for normalcy. And of course she won’t get it *g*. She’s going to be paired with the mysterious hotel owner of the Rutledge, where so many of my previous characters have stayed, going back to McKenna in “Again The Magic.” And you’re absolutely right about Leo—I think from the moment the governess appears in “Seduce Me At Sunrise” you know something very intense and unexpected is happening between them.
The Book Smugglers: In A Wallflower Christmas you bring back fan favorites such as the four wallflower friends and their respective consorts. Do you have plans on writing more stories about them in the future?
Lisa: If my readers are open to that, absolutely! I love the wallflowers. Writing about them is like putting on a pair of cozy slippers.
The Book Smugglers: We heard that you next contemporary is titled Smooth Talking Stranger and is set to be released in 2009 – any information you can share?
Lisa: Yes, it is the story of Jack Travis, who just may turn out to be my sexiest hero ever. I have paired him with a feisty feminist vegetarian, Ella Varner, who approaches the macho Jack with the news that he has fathered her sister’s baby! And while her sister is off in rehab, Ella is having to take care of the baby, and she tries to force Jack to take a paternity test, and she generally drives him crazy. It is a fun story, with some deeper issues, of course, and there are some good twists and turns in the plot.
The Book Smugglers: You are a former beauty queen turned writer–now that’s quite a leap! What inspired you to start writing novels and become a full-time author?
Lisa: Well, I was always sitting in the attic reading when I was younger. I was a nerd with glasses and braces. So the beauty pageant was sort of a way I tried to prove to myself that I was pretty. The surprise was, even after the hair and makeup and winning a crown, I still didn’t feel beautiful. That came later, with self-confidence and maturity and happiness, and being able to do what I love the most—writing. So that’s it–doing what you love is the best beauty secret!
The Book Smugglers: What is your usual writing process like? Can you describe a day at work for us?
Lisa: My average day starts at four in the morning . . . I get up early to write while it’s quiet, before my husband and children get up. Then at seven I make the breakfast, pack the lunches, get everyone dressed, and at nine o’clock I’m back to work until two o’clock. That’s the time when the children get home, and I’m able to be with them, do school projects, help with homework, etc. I am so lucky to be able to arrange my day around them, and I never take it for granted.
The Book Smugglers: What are you reading right now?
Lisa: Two wildly different works…one, “Atonement” by Ian McEwan (fantastic), and two, “Desperaux” by Kate DiCamillo, which I’m reading with my daughter.
The Book Smugglers: Who are your major writing influences? Which authors do you love?
Lisa: I have always loved the work of Judith McNaught, Laura Kinsale, Christina Dodd (who is also my dearest friend!) Kristin Hannah, Jayne Ann Krentz and SEP.
The Book Smugglers: Many of your books figure in reader’s favorite’s lists – what are Lisa Kleypas’ top 5 romance novels?
Lisa: That is tough to answer! Some of them I have a special fondness because they sort of articulated a turning point in my career, such as “Dreaming Of You”, when I started writing self-made non-aristocratic heroes. So I can tell you the books that aren’t necessarily my best-written works, but they represent particular times in my life that have personal meaning . . . “Blue-Eyed Devil”, “Sugar Daddy”, “Dreaming Of You”, “Devil In Winter” and “It Happened One Autumn”.
The Book Smugglers: And finally one last naughty question: if you were to be stranded in an island and could only pick one hero between Derek Craven and Sebastian St Vincent, which one would you choose?
Lisa: That is definitely a naughty question! Really, I would be equally happy with either of them, but Derek and St. Vincent have been spoken for so strongly by other women that they are unavailable at present! So I’ll settle for Kev Merripen from “Seduce Me At Sunrise”, because he is the kind of hero who, even on an deserted island, could get you dinner, make you a hammock and build a boat, and keep you quite warm at night!
Lisa Kleypas is the RITA Award–winning author of twenty novels. Her books have been published in fourteen languages and are bestsellers all over the world. She lives in Washington State with her husband and two children.
For more about Lisa, please visit www.lisakleypas.com.
A big Smuggler thank you again to Lisa for taking the time to chat with us!
And, here it is folks! As promised, we have one copy of Lisa’s upcoming release, Seduce Me At Sunrise up for grabs. All you have to do to win this bad boy is leave a comment, letting us know who your favorite Kleypas character is and why! The contest will run until Sunday (September 28) at noon, Pacific Standard Time. Best of luck to you all!