NY Times bestselling author Lisa Kleypas and Michelle talk Cinderella stories, ‘New Feminism,’ and that thing all women remember (with a sigh) about being single.
MB: What inspired “Sugar Daddy?”
LK: I wanted to create a story about a real, working-class woman, someone who starts out with virtually nothing and has to struggle and sacrifice to make ends meet. And I wanted this deserving heroine — Liberty Jones — to have wonderful things happen to her, so it would ultimately be a very satisfying Cinderella story.
MB: Speaking of Cinderella, you’re a former Miss America contestant and a Wellesley grad. What did each of those seemingly divergent experiences bring to the way you write romance fiction and navigate the industry?
LK: You’re right, these seem like divergent experiences, but they’re really not. They helped me to develop into what I guess youd call a new feminist.
I’ve come to understand that women are complex and smart enough to wade through this sea of choices we all face (Should we be stay-at-home moms, or work-outside-the-home moms? How should we dress and behave? How should we relate to the opposite sex?) . . . and none of us can or should be conveniently labeled.
Women are beautiful, intelligent, capable, insightful, sexual, caring, risk-taking, multi-tasking, and most of all, strong. And we always have been. Its just that only in modern times have we been able to express all these aspects of ourselves.
So I always have this in mind when I write, whether its a historical or contemporary romance. And I think that’s why underneath all the sexiness and banter and challenge, there is an underlying respect my heroes always feel for the heroine.
MB: What do you like most about “Sugar Daddy?”
LK: I was given the freedom to make it unique — at this point I don’t think there’s anything out there like “Sugar Daddy.” This has been the best writing experience of my entire career.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that my editor, Jennifer Enderlin, is already legendary in the publishing business. Jennifer encouraged me to spend as much time as I liked developing my heroine, and to really let loose with my writing style and the story.
MB: How’d you arrive at the decision to write “Sugar Daddy” in first person, with the heroine telling us her story rather than the “all knowing” narrator doing so?
LK: It was a carefully made decision — I tried it many ways, from multiple points of view, third person, first person, present tense and past tense . . . and after all these approaches, it seemed obvious that telling the story from Liberty’s perspective was the most gripping and intimate.
I think as you read the novel, you actually tend to forget youre reading. It feels like you’re experiencing what Liberty is going through. What surprised me was that even though I don’t go into any of the other characters’ heads, the reader understands exactly what they’re feeling and thinking, even when Liberty doesn’t.
So I think readers will get to know Liberty more than any other heroine I’ve ever written. The Texas settings of the novel range from a dusty small-town trailer park to the mansions of the super-rich in River Oaks, so there is a huge spectrum of characters. If you put it in terms of food (which I always like to do!) this book is an eight-course meal. With three helpings of dessert!
MB: You must have written “Sugar Daddy” because of those rumors about the “demise of the historical,” right?
LK: Heh heh. I dont believe in the so-called demise of the historical — but I do think readers are trying to let writers and publishers know that they want variety. Its fun for us in the publishing business to identify trends, and even more fun when you coincidentally happen to be at the beginning or middle of a trend. But there are certain elemental needs readers have that can’t be ignored in favor of the latest hot stuff.
Let’s look at it in terms of pants. Right now in my closet, there are two great pairs of classic straight-legged black pants that go with everything. They looked good three years ago, and theyll still work for me three years from now. But alongside those pants are gauchos, capris, cropped pants, exaggerated flares, everything but the new skinny pants (which will never, ever work for me). Its nice to have all those choices, but I’ll always go back to those good black pants.
I love writing historicals because I tend to be a very dramatic, intense, maybe even a little over-the-top kind of author. With historicals you can really have a lot of flair and flourishes, and the research is so fun, like digging for buried treasure. However, I was surprised by how much of that intensity I was able to bring to “Sugar Daddy,” even though the setting was contemporary. Maybe I was able to be so dramatic because its Texas. LOL. We tend to do things in a big way here.
The challenge of trying something new was what appealed to me most about writing a contemporary. I wanted to get the prose and the dialogue just right. I didn’t want anyone who read “Sugar Daddy” to think, Oh, you can tell she’s written historicalsthat doesn’t sound like a contemporary guy.” So I had to get rid of some stylistic habits for this book, and strip down quite a bit. Rather like walking around naked. If I were inclined to do that.
MB: Who’s your romance hero: dark brooding bad boy or white knight in shining armor?
LK: I can’t remember what I said — what was it?
MB: Well, I have it right here: Tormented bad boys a certain kind of (working class) hero who built his own fortune, and that is still relatively hard to find in the historical genre.
LK: Oh, well. As things stand now, greedy moi wants to have both. The romance heroes I love the most are bad boys who turn out to be the white knight, or white knights who have the occasional wicked impulse.
I love heroes who are fascinated by the heroine and know that they have to engage her intellectual interest as well as her emotional and sexual interest. I dont like heroes who erupt in flowery speeches nearly as much as the ones who express themselves in direct masculine terms.
And I have a particular quirk in that I like to read about the way the hero smells —- not just “clean” or “spicy”, but that indefinable something that appeals to a woman on the most primal level.
Because I still remember that from dating — some of them just have that smell that is almost irresistible.
MB: Oh, yeah, I don’t think a woman ever forgets that. And before I forget. Answer the question you wish an interviewer would ask.
LK: I always like the “whats next?” question.
Ive just finished my first historical for St.Martins, titled “Mine Till Midnight,” and the hero is Cam Rohan, the sexy and mysterious character who appeared in Devil In Winter.
MB: Oh, my, Cam! We’ve been dying for his story.
LK: I think he turned out to be a spectacular hero, as well as a somewhat offbeat one. He’s superstitious, charismatic, very physical and sexual, but at the same time hes a mathematical genius.
He’s a loner, but he’s also tribal by nature, and he’s looking for a place where he belongs. And I’ve paired him with a very strong-willed and independent woman who is his match in every way.
“Mine Till Midnight” will be published some time in 2007, so I hope you’ll keep an eye out for it!