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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.

The DA Intro Interview: Leanna Renee Hieber

The DA Intro Interview: Leanna Renee Hieber

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Welcome to a new feature at Dear Author: the Intro Interview. Alyson H. will bring us 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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cache_505946313This month, we’re meeting Leanna Renee Heiber, whose Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker leads off a series that’s part fantasy, part historical-paranormal romance. In Heiber’s Victorian London, Jack the Ripper is no mere elusive criminal-’supernatural forces are at work, an apocalyptic unrest threatening the city. The title character is also a refreshing mix: people keep describing her as timid, but Percy Parker’s heart "is fortified with passions." She keeps rising to-’and above-’the occasion, and the blushing, crushing schoolgirl becomes the dauntless heroine.

Leanna is also a playwright and actor, and her novella Dark Nest won the Prism Award. She and fellow writers Maya Rodale and Hope Tarr founded Lady Jane’s Salon, a monthly romance reading series in NYC.

We have one copy of The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker to give away; you’re invited to leave a comment for a chance to win.

The Interview-

A six-word memoir for your protagonist, Percy Parker:

From beneath my veil; a radiant light.


The original "triggers" or inspiration points for this story:

In my mind: Miss Percy Parker walked into Professor Alexi Rychman’s finely appointed office and I had to figure out why Miss Percy looked like a ghost but wasn’t one. Across the room from this apparition of a woman sat the dark and brooding Professor and I had to know what made him tick. I had to figure out the tense and aching relationship between these two distinctly different people, staring at one another with such intensity, their hearts filled to the brim with secrets. These questions, these characters, utterly consumed me, immediately, and I knew when I met them that my life would never be the same. And it wasn’t.


Where did the phrase "strangely beautiful" come from?

My agent, Nicholas Roman Lewis. It was a brilliant call. I tweaked the title a little, but it’s basically his. He earned his keep with that one, it’s garnered us a great deal of attention. And consensus seems to be that it fits. I couldn’t be more pleased with it and cannot imagine the title now any other way. I suggested that "Strangely Beautiful" be the series title and that was met with immediate approval at Dorchester.

Your favorite line or moment in the book:

Utter tie between the following: the Beethoven’s Fifth to orchestrate Alexi and the antics therein, the entire waltz scene at the Academy Ball, the first kiss, and Lord Withersby’s entirely inappropriate comic relief in the final scene.

An unexpected research detour you made while writing Strangely Beautiful:

Looking up information on the Ripper murders I came across a newspaper article that was written at the time, lamenting that there were no streetlamps in the heart of Whitechapel. If there had only been more light, the article cried, it could have perhaps stopped these horrific deeds from happening in the safety of darkness. I found this fascinating, that the impulse to fix the situation was just more lights- This tidbit made its way into the novel, where I mention the streetlamps abruptly ending and plunging my hero into darkness.

You allude to the experiences of the Guard in the 18 years prior to the opening of the novel. Do you have this backstory fleshed out, or are you discovering it as you write the series? Any plans for shorter-form prequels?

I have their basic backstory in my head, but subtle details still emerge every day that I spend with them. Book III is a prequel novel, but we’ll be dealing with two Guards at that time, the former one and Alexi’s Guard, so glimpses of the familiar Guard will be shared with the other characters sent to put Prophecy in place.

And I’ll always be discovering more and more as I go forward. I have enough material on Lord Elijah Withersby for a full length-novel I can tell you that, but it just depends on if it can fit within the story arc. If people continue to warm to him, I may have to give him his own book – if Dorchester will let me. :) I’ve a novella for Rebecca and Michael.

The last 80 or so pages of the novel are just riveting-’thrilling-’satisfying. How did you go about creating a pay-off ending like that?

*blush* Wow, thanks! Well I guess I’ve always been drawn to stories where a whole lot happens in one fell and maddening swoop. And I certainly write in the sorts of ways I’m most drawn to reading. There’s something very engaging to me about reading– and writing– events at that seizing, tense pace. I honestly can’t say how I came up with the climax other than that it was simply there, in my head, presented like a film. That’s how I write – I see "film bits" in my head and I write them down and string those clips or stills together into a flowing whole. I guess I was watching a bit of a Gothic action-movie in my head when it got to the latter part of the book. Within the revision process a lot of time was spent smoothing that flowing action and really making it hum as the narrative shifts between the relative parties.

A few things I’m hoping to see in future Strangely Beautiful installments: Percy coming into her own. Stoic Alexi being a bit of a love-struck doofus. Jane-doing anything, because she’s fascinating. Rebecca wildly happy. More Shakespeare references. Anything you can confirm or deny about the direction of the series?

*grin* #1. Indeed. #2. Indeed. #3. Indeed. #4. Not yet (However, they may get their own novella in Oct. 2010! – full details TBA). #5. Not as many

Book II picks up exactly where Book I leaves off, with Percy and Alexi in the main focus as they attempt to establish themselves, with greater insight into the rest of the Guard along the way. But again, time is short, as an all out spectral war looms thick on the horizon.

Length of time from page one, draft one to the "sold" call:

9 years. 9 long heartbreaking years. But worth every minute of it. It’s where it’s supposed to be now. It’s the right publisher, the right editor and the right time.

How you found your agent:

At the time the President of the RWA NYC Chapter, Elizabeth Kerri Mahon (an extremely talented author, look for her Scandalous Women book in 2010!) asked me if I’d tried (in my exhaustive search for an agent) Agent Query.com. I hadn’t. I found my agent, Nicholas Roman Lewis, there. I was intrigued that he also represented theatre artists and had sold movie rights. I thought that might be a good fit. So, thankfully, did he.

A published author who helped you along the way:

Oh, so many. Isabo Kelly, a gorgeous writer, dearest friend and critique partner, and Marianne Mancusi, also a delightful and successful author, who was a guiding hand in the right direction.

Your weirdest or most reliable writing ritual/habit:

Drinking clove tea. It smells like Alexi.

Writing advice you’re glad you followed or ignored:

I’m very glad I didn’t change this book to be only one genre and kept it cross-genre. It may make it difficult at times to market, and was the reason why it didn’t sell for such a long time due to that marketing difficulty, but in the end it has greater appeal for its cross-genre qualities.

Percy spent her childhood acting Shakespeare with a ghost. What have been your favorite Shakespearean roles to play? How has your acting experience helped you as a writer? And where did you get that fabulous Miss Parker costume?

Titania in Midsummer Night’s Dream – playing a faerie Queen just rocks. Amiens, who sings all the music in As You Like It, that was pretty magical.

My theatre background influences every aspect of my writing. I’m very visual when dreaming up ideas, and the settings are very intense in my mind. I think in many ways like a cinematographer. So I’m a cinematographer for the setting of the book. For the staging, blocking, mood, structure, conflict and general goings on, I’m a director. Then for the dialogue, physicality, motivations, emotions, I’m an actor. I actually have a workshop I teach called "Direct Your Book" that addresses each of these in more detail.

As for the costume, the corset was from a shop in New York, the hat was from Mrs. Parker’s Millinery (when I was searching on-line and found Mrs. Parker – hello, that was fate.) and the skirt is from Gallery Serpentine www.galleryserpentine.com (I’d lusted after their work for many, many years and told myself I’d treat myself to one of their Victorian skirts but only when I sold my book). I put all the pieces together and it seemed to work very well. I felt so happy and at home in it.

A place you’d like to haunt in your afterlife:

Victoria Embankment – along the North bank of the Thames river, London.

Three sources of inspiration for you:

All 19th century novelists (listing them all would take forever. Any 19th century novelist I read became an inspiration – but particularly Gothic novelists with their interest in hauntings and Classical influences like Mythology)

Graphic and fantasy novels and fantasy films.

Music. 19th century composers and my favourite Goth band, VNV Nation.

And the city of London goes without saying. But I’m just saying.

How did you become involved with Lady Jane’s Salon?

It started like all great things start; in a bar with wonderful company. I was the connective tissue who knew Maya Rodale, Hope Tarr and Ron Hogan, respectively. I know to always accept Ron’s invitations, something cool always happens. Maya asked "why isn’t there a reading series in NYC devoted to Romance fiction?" We didn’t have a good reason why not so that meant we had to start one. Lady Jane’s Salon showcases readers on the first Monday of every month at a red-velvet drenched bar called Madame X and the proceeds raised from $5 admission or a gently used romance novel go to Maya’s Share the Love www.share-the-love.orgstyle=’font-family:Palatino’> , which serves women in need / crisis / transition. We’re humbled and exceedingly proud of this venture that started as a dare of sorts and grew organically into a popular venue for bestsellers, debuts, all lovers of romance and most importantly, a good cause. More at www.ladyjanesalon.comstyle=’font-family:Palatino’>!

An author or book you recommend again and again:

I physically cannot pick just one–sorry. The short list of a long list: Tolkien, King, Gaiman, Rowling, Stoker, Leroux (The Phantom of the Opera), Hugo, Carroll, Poe, Dickens, Shelley, Bronte(s), Wharton, Austen.

Leanna’s website has plenty of goodies, including a contest, free short stories, videos, and her blog. Visit www.leannareneehieber.com .