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The DA Intro Interview:  Lisa Dale

The DA Intro Interview: Lisa Dale

Alyson H. brings Dear Author occasional interviews with newly-published authors. If you are an author with your first (or perhaps second) novel coming out, and you’d like to be considered for an interview, send your name, web information, and release date to DAintrointerview at gmail dot com.

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I went looking for a straight-up contemporary and found Lisa Dale, whose second novel, It Happened One Night, caught my eye with a favorite theme (friends-to-lovers) and a favorite place (Vermont) as a setting. Though Lana and Eli’s romance takes center stage, the novel is about all kinds of messy, selfish, lavish, fiercely loyal love. And it all starts with a pregnancy test in a barn.

Join the conversation: One commenter will win copies of both It Happened One Night and Lisa’s first book, Simple Wishes.

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Lisa’s Interview-

ithappenedonenightforwebA six-word memoir for your protagonist:

"Falling for a friend-’terrible timing."

The original "triggers" or inspiration points for It Happened One Night:

This book came together because of a number of elements in my life all converging at once. First, it’s set in Vermont-’because I fell crazy in love with the state when I was on vacation there. Second, it’s "about" two sisters who own a wildflower farm because I became fascinated by wildflower folklore, meanings, and trivia. Third, there are issues of motherhood and pregnancy in this book because I wanted to write about the inevitable crossroad we all face as women-’the decision whether to become mothers or not. And fourth, this is a book about friends who figure out how to strip away their own self-delusions to see the true nature of their relationship-’and that’s because I thought it sounded like a messy enough love story for me to want to write it!

An unexpected research detour you made while writing It Happened One Night:

There are so many unexpected research stops for me-’part of what let me bring many elements to a story is just following my nose. Anyway, because this is a friends-turned-lovers story, I wanted to learn more about how beta guys go about picking up women-’and how a man could consciously create a change in the dynamic of friendship. So I ended up mucking around in this really fascinating arena where men can take classes, go to conferences, and read books about how to pick up women. The techniques were surprising-’and horrifying too!

You must have learned something useful from that, because Eli’s awakening is one of the delights of the book. What’s fun about writing a "beta" like him?

I tend to love betas that have just enough alpha not to be totally lame. In other words, I like my heroes to be real men with real problems–but I like them to have a strong and sexy side too. In It Happened One Night, Eli lacks the confidence to go after what he wants (hint: it’s Lana). But then he has a big, life-changing moment–I won’t say exactly what happens. I’ll just hint that Eli learns how strong he is not because he accomplishes something impressive, but because he doesn’t.

The way life teaches us big lessons isn’t always what we expect, and I hope my books reflect real-life encounters with unexpected Grace. If I were writing two-dimensional alpha heroes, all that fun layering and texture would be impossible! So Eli is an emotional beta with the backbone of alpha–he just doesn’t know it right away.

How did you come to choose Eli’s career? There’s a nice symmetry in Lana’s passion for wildflowers and Eli’s for meteorites-’in some respects opposites, but then again, they’re both natural, elemental.

Glad you picked up on that! Eli became a meteorite hunter because on the night I got the call that my first book, Simple Wishes, would be published, I couldn’t sleep a wink. I stayed up into the wee hours watching the Discovery channel, and a documentary about geologists who find and sell meteorites came on. Eli’s love of meteorites does parallel Lana’s love of flowers–they are both sorta nerdy people who love the natural world in their different ways.

swforwebKarin is such an interesting character-’so intense and focused that she sometimes crosses the line into being blind or manipulative. But my heart went out to her, and I couldn’t ever dislike her. Did you find it tough to strike the right balance as you wrote her?

I’m thrilled to hear you like Karin! She’s a somewhat controversial character to some readers. Karin (the heroine’s sister) is a woman who means well, all the time. She wants the best for her family–for her husband and for Lana. BUT sometimes, she loses sight of the situation and ends up doing things entirely wrong (for all the right, loving reasons). Ultimately I’m happy with Karin’s role in the book because, love her or hate her, she will keep you thinking as you read. And that’s my goal–to engage people on a deep emotional level with every page I write. That means I have to push people’s buttons a bit. So I do!

Your favorite line or moment in the book:

Oh! I don’t want to give anything away! Readers have been reporting that moments in this book have made them go teary-eyed. So I’ll just offer you this quote: "And now even as an adult who lived among flowers, she still felt humbled to think that a wildflower could coax the most iridescent purples or fierce magentas from the most inhospitable soils. She wanted her own life to be like that, to grow something worthy from hardship and strife."

At your blog, Book Anatomy 101, you write that you like figuring out "how books work, how authors pull off the magic of writing a book." Would you say there’s a particular lesson you learn over and over, or one that helped you as you wrote It Happened One Night?

I have to admit, the blog’s taken a kind of different direction these days. I always blog about books, but I’m not doing quite the same hardcore analysis that I was before. Now it’s more about connecting with other book lovers–AND, I should mention, giving away free stuff. Every month one commenter wins a prize of her choice from my LOVE TO READERS page. And I throw in some other giveaways as well.

As to a lesson I learn over and over as a writer, that’s a hard question! You’re making me dig deep (a challenge I’m always up for!) Let’s see… I suppose what I keep learning and forgetting and relearning is that I’ve got to be true to my own voice. When I worked in publishing and then later when I went to grad school, there were so many people around me telling me how to write. Everyone meant well, and everyone was “right” in his or her way, and I learned a lot. But ultimately, I’ve really just got to trust my instincts (which are getting sharper by the day, thank goodness!) and follow my fascination wherever it leads.

Length of time from page one, draft one of your first book, Simple Wishes, to the "sold" call:

About 2 years.

Your paying job before and after publication:

I held a number of odd jobs-’so many little jobs here and there. I also worked briefly at a literary agency and got an MFA in fiction, where I worked at a lit mag. Now, I work three days a week at an author’s submission service called Writer’s Relief. It’s cool because it keeps me in touch with helping other writers place their work, but it still allows me plenty of time to write.

A published author who helped you along the way:

When I was a senior in college I went to hear Mary Jo Putney speak at a tiny library in Westminster, Maryland. Her poise, confidence, and sensitivity to gender issues made me think maybe there could be a future for me in romance someday. Someday I hope to tell her that in person. J

Your oddest or most reliable writing ritual/habit:

I do my best work in bed. My desk can’t hold a candle to my blankets and pillows.

Writing advice you’re glad you followed or ignored:

This may sound strange, but I think that in order to follow advice, it’s like you have to discover it within yourself. You know how you can hear something 1,000 times, but it’s only the 1,001 time that it finally takes? I’ve got a lot of good writing advice over the years that has helped me a lot, but at some point, all of that external advice really comes down to internal discovery. Now I know to listen harder to my own instincts-’and I’m learning this lesson more and more each day.

Your favorite book when you were 10:

Tough one! At ten I guess I was reading Sweet Valley High books and Goosebumps. But I can’t really remember!

An author or book you recommend again and again:

Jodi Picoult. For her lyrical voice, her intense plotting, and her fascinating research.

Lisa’s web address is www.lisadalebooks.com. There, you’ll find a link to her blog, which has a simple motto: Share your thoughts = Win stuff.

Dear Author

REVIEW: Montana Creeds: Dylan by Linda Lael Miller

Dear Ms. Miller,

book review Despite the fact that I’ve heard of your name since I got back to reading romances, I’ve never tried any of your books. Can’t say why since I don’t recall any horrible press or bad reviews. I guess it’s just a case of never having picked one up. When Jane sent a copy of this arc, I decided it was time to finally one of the romance world’s best known authors.

Dylan Creed is from the legendary Creed family. Born and bred in Montana for generations, the Creeds seem to be hard living, hard loving, down home cowboys. Dylan certainly lives up to a lot of this.

The middle son of Jake Creed, he had to live down his father’s hard luck, hard drinking life. Now, Dylan’s a former rodeo bull rider who just got saddled with his two year old daughter when her mother decided she couldn’t take care of Bonnie anymore. His first thought is “What does a two year old eat?” followed by the instinctive urge to head home to Stillwater Springs.

When he arrives, he discovers that his high school love, Kristy Madison, is the town librarian and that she didn’t marry the man she rebounded to after Dylan left town. Dylan also discovers that Kristy is still a little pissed at him, that the spark between them is still hot and that Kristy adores Bonnie.

In addition, Dylan is still working on reestablishing a relationship with his two brothers, Kristy’s father might have committed murder years ago, Sharlene is still hitting Dylan up for money even though she no longer has Bonnie, there’s a town election for the next sheriff, rich people are bidding on the old Madison place and the local real estate agent has some kind of grudge against Kristy. Yep, there’s a lot to keep track of in Stillwater Springs.

I started the book wanting to see more of Dylan the rodeo performer but quickly realized that he’s retired. Bummer. Then suddenly there’s a toddler in the picture. Generally this would be the time when I start to twitch. However, I was amazed that I actually liked Bonnie. Here’s a real two year old. Though she’s often described in terms of an angel (surrounded by halos of light and with golden curls) she acts like a toddler. Sometimes she’s sweet and sometimes she’s a holy terror. Dylan’s interactions with his daughter are not cloying but very realistic.

“I shoveled some of that toddler goop into her mouth earlier,” Dylan answered, after tossing a fond glance in his daughter’s direction. “She spit most of it back at me, but I figure enough went down to hold off starvation.”

Dylan has a fine sense of humor and I laughed with him throughout much of the story. He’s also having to work hard at not slugging his brothers after swallowing his pride to ask his elder, lawyer, brother for help with his custody suit for Bonnie. There’s bad blood between the three men that you slowly explain the origins of. Fine and good and I can see where it came from, given their father and their upbringing.
These were actually the best parts of the book for me, watching Dylan and his older brother Logan, who just had his own book last month, gingerly ease back into being a family.

I did get tired of the many references to the Creed Family History, the Creed Bond with The Land, what Being a Creed Means, etc. It’s obvious that this is a family you’ve written about often in the past but at times I could almost hear the crescendo of western style, manly music as these men got back to their Creed Roots. Be that as it may, I still think your descriptions of them sound like some rowdy brothers I know.

Kristy Madison is a cowgirl turned librarian. She’s pretty, hard working, has a nice life, a home of her own that she’s lovingly restoring and a Persian cat. I have a Persian cat so you score points with me there. I was glad that she didn’t dissolve into a puddle of goo the moment Dylan and Bonnie hit town. She actually waited a few days before the meltdown.

And this is when the grade for the book began to slip. Right about the point where it dawned on me that this was going to be one of those stories with characters who worship at the Alter of the Holy Womb. That’s right. Women who genuinely seem to feel that unless they’ve spit out a young ‘un, nothing in their life is really worth while. Of one woman Kristy thinks, “though she and Bill had never had children, it was common knowledge that they were still as deeply in love as ever.” At another point, Kristy glances around her pristine car and despairs that there are no sippy cups or baby seats or toys scattered through it.

Now don’t get me wrong. I realize that my choice and ardent desire to remain childfree is not one shared by many women. I know fast friends whose main desire in life was to be a mommy. God bless ‘em and my own mother too. But I hate the feeling that I should be kowtowing to a diaper bag and that there’s something wrong and sad about my life if I’m not. And the fact that the one woman in the book who doesn’t want a child is a worthless, gold-digging tramp.

While I was sinking under the weight of all this Womb Worship, I was still wondering about the mystery of Kristy’s father. Had he done somebody wrong years ago? And what would be discovered when a supposed grave site was exhumed? And could a murderer still be roaming loose in town?

As the remaining pages of the book dwindled, I started to worry that the resolution wouldn’t arrive until the last book in this obvious trio. Which pissed me off but since I want to know about that brother, I was prepared to wait it out. I almost wish this was what happened instead of the deus ex machina wrap up I got. My notes state, “Where the fuck did this come from!?” ‘Nuff said.

So, was my decision to try one of your books a good one? Yes, and no. I loved the relationship between the Creed brothers. I enjoyed the subtle humor in the book. I actually liked the toddler which flabbergasted me. Though if a pharmacist actually advised giving this child aspirin, I hope someone stops Dylan before he does it. I also think that readers new to the series will be able to pick it up here and not miss anything.

I didn’t like feeling that my life accomplishments so far would be deemed a nice try but ultimately doom me to third place in the world of the Creeds. And the resolution of not only the murder but the custody battle were weak. After debating, I’m going to settle on a C+ grade.

~Jayne

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or ebook format from the Sony Store and other etailers.