International Author Series: Lisa Marie Rice, Italy
Lisa Marie Rice was one of the first ebook authors that I recall garnering a large internet following. Her Midnight series– Midnight Man, Midnight Run, Midnight Angel are some of the most often recommended Ellora’s Cave books. She is often compared to Linda Howard in terms of blending action with sensuality and her strong male characterizations have garnered her the dubious accusation of actually being a man. She’s not a man, just a good writer who’s able to convey a realistic alpha male. In August, Ms. Rice will make her NY publishing debut with an Avon Red book, Dangerous Lover.
Is English a native language or is it your second language? If so, does that make it challenging to write for US Readers?
Oh English is definitely my mother tongue, even though I’ve lived abroad almost all my life. I’ve been passionately in love with the English language all my life, since I can remember. I learned to read at a very young age and once I got my hands on a book, well — there was no turning back. I speak, read and write Italian, French and German and can read a newspaper in Spanish. All exquisite, beautiful languages with a rich literary tradition, but there’s nothing like English — its strength, its pithiness, its endless inventiveness, its clarity — to my mind.
Do you have modify the language in the books to exclude colloquialisms from your native tongue?
Well, I think in English. However, I do find myself thinking of something in Italian, say and think — wow, I wish there were a word for this in English. And so I have to censor it out of my head. And sometimes — rarely, but it happens — my ear will be off and I need to have a friend read the passage.
Where do you prefer the books you read to be set?
Oh, I’ll read a book set anywhere. But I’m a bit off fantasy lately so I think I prefer Earth.
How does living outside the U.S. affect your ability to research your books?
Well, of course the internet takes care of about 99% of most writers’ research needs. Sometimes I come up short because I don’t live in the States. For instance, about ten years ago I lost count of how much a local call costs from a payphone. I have a whole line of great people who’ll answer most questions I need to ask. And of course, I help writers who are setting their novels in Italy or need to add a few words of Italian.
Because of the expense of travel, you can’t do many book signings or in person appearances at American bookstores or meet in person with American readers. The cost of mailings is also more expensive. Do you find these to be disadvantages? If so, what can you do to ameliorate that disadvantage?
Yes, they are disadvantages. And there is another odd disadvantage, as well. I’m often asked to participate in online chats, but since I live in the GMT +1 I’m never available because I’d have to get up at 3 am –or stay awake until 3 am, which is much worse. What can I do? Not much, short of abandoning my family and moving to the States. Seriously, I answer all my fan email, try to send books for contests, that kind of thing. It’s not the same as a book tour, but then since I traveled enormously for 30 in my previous job, I dislike travel nowadays, so maybe I wouldn’t do too many book tours, even if I lived in the States.
As a writer who lives outside the US, do you attempt to make the characters to suit a more US based audience?
Oh, absolutely! I have to. My characters are firmly American. It helps that I’ve lived in the American expatriate community all my life. I’m not out of touch, not with the psychology of people. I might not immediately know what a Starbucks venti costs, but I think I can put myself in an American woman or an American man’s shoes — with that little extra something, I hope.
Are there cultural differences that need to be addressed in a book?
No, not really. Not for romance, which focuses on the relationship between the hero and heroine. I do have a few women’s fiction books in the back of my mind and there, the cultural differences will be embedded in the very bones of the novel.
What promotional efforts have you found to be most successful in reaching the US audience, other than writing an appealing book?
Answering email. But I’m the wrong person to ask as I am lousy at marketing myself. Knowing this, I truly throw myself heart and soul into my books, because they are my best marketing tools.
If there is one thing that you could change about the publishing industry, what would it be?
Right now, I’d change the crazy insistence on high productivity. You see people coming out with books, bang bang bang! Sometimes a book a month. That works for some people, but if you’re not one of them, it’s really hard. Books are works of art. They are peopled by characters who to me are as real as my best friend and some need their time. They can’t be rushed. Some come fast, some need their time to come to fruition. It would be nice if every writer were given enough time to do right by her book and her characters. But of course, there’s the economics of the equation, and writing fast means earning more money. Until you burn out.
What is your biggest challenge as a writer living outside of the US? What have you done to overcome it?
Biggest challenge — keeping my ear fresh. Keeping the language clean and modern. Not letting other languages seep in, however much you might love them, too. How do I overcome it? By reading voraciously, talking a LOT on the phone to my friends and watching LOTS of TV. So, any profession where you must read lots of romance, talk on the phone a lot to your friends and watch lots of NCIS — well, it can’t be beat.