Michelle Binfiglio’s Romance: B(u)y the Book

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Category: The Author View

NY Times Bestselling Author Lisa Kleypas

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 you’d 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. It’s 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 it’s 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 you’re 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 don’t 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. It’s 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 they’ll 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). It’s 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 it’s 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 historicals—that 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 don’t 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 “what’s next?” question.

I’ve just finished my first historical for St.Martin’s, 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 he’s 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!

MaryJanice Davidson Interview

MaryJanice Davidson

MaryJanice DavidsonNY Times bestselling author MaryJanice Davidson talks cheery brooders, traditional dinners, and the ‘almost alpha’ male.

MB: What or who inspired “Doing it Right?”

MJD: I loved the idea of the ‘good guy’ being almost alpha, while the ‘good girl’ never needed saving, was emotionally closed off, and kicked in skulls to relax. I kind of took the usual romance hero and heroine and turned them on their heads, poor things.

MB: What do you like most about ‘Doing it Right’?

MJD: That it’s real. There really are damaged people walking around on the planet, and they deal with their pain in all sorts of ways, both societally acceptable (med school) and not (hacking). I [also] wanted to show [readers] that not everybody has the Normal Rockwell childhood.

MB: Who is the most heroic person you know?

MJD: My father (NYFD, etc.).

MB: Who’s your romance hero: dark brooding bad boy or white knight in shining armor?

MJD: I like ’em dark and brooding, but easily cheered up by the heroine. So the hero in ‘Doing it Right’ was a real departure for me.

MB: Answer the question you wish an interviewer would ask.

MJD: Uh … Turkey.With all the trimmings.

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Interview With Rona Sharon

In this week’s AuthorView, newbie Rona Sharon shares why she’s crazy for an Italian accent, digs a guy who does all the heavy lifting, and never fails to pay tribute to the greatest hero she ever knew.

MB: What or who inspired your novel?

Rona Sharon: I’ve always known my first book would feature a pirate. For my 9th birthday, my grandparents took me on a Caribbean cruise. Every night they screened a pirate oldie in the ship’s movie theatre – “The Crimson Pirate,” “Anne of the Indies,” “Captain Blood,” “The Sea Hawk,” “The Black Pirate…” That week has certainly left a lasting impression on a girl with a very vivid imagination.

A couple of years later, my parents took us, kids, on a vacation to Lake Como in Northern Italy. We stayed at the Villa d’Este Hotel – a 16th century palazzo – and suddenly my wicked pirate got a mysterious and very glamorous past…

Fast forward to ten years later… I am a tax specialist in the corporate world and secretly writing a full-length romance novel at night. The deeper I explore the history of pirates and Italy, the more fascinated I become with these topics.

Reading about the Algerian corsairs added the final twist to my plot. After all, I have the advantage of being intimately familiar with the scents, sights, feel, and sensual allure of the Mid East region and the Arabian Nights magic that still exists in it.

The heroine of “My Wicked Pirate” is a Grace Kelly type English lady, who dreams of sunshine and freedom. Why not have my sexy Italian pirate wine and dine her on his deck, then take her by the hand to visit an old fortuneteller in the Kasbah, and wind up making love to her on a warm sandy beach…

Add to this my being a die-hard action movies fan and “My Wicked Pirate” became a thrilling Indiana Jones-type adventure with duels, battles, and palace intrigue!

MB: What do you like most about your novel?

RS: The most enjoyable part of writing “My Wicked Pirate” was building the relationship between Alanis and Eros, the lead characters. She knows very little about him, and while she fears him, she is also intensely attracted to him.

The first half of the book is her journey into his past, his secrets, and his heart. The second is Eros’s transformation from pirate to prince as the plot thickens in Europe.

Alanis evolves from a wide-eyed traveler to a mature, sophisticated woman, who would do just about anything to save the man she loves, including help Eros come to grips with his true identity and the decisions he must make.

I hope readers will enjoy getting to know my complex Italian pirate. Italy’s fight for independence reminded me a lot of American history – and had all the flash and fury of the Renaissance period and its Machiavellian princes.

MB: Who is the most heroic person you know?

RS: My mother. She taught me the meaning of unconditional love, inner strength, courage, and compassion. She encouraged me to believe in myself and to follow my dreams. She instilled in me the importance of education – how it makes one hold his head high – and of mutual respect between people. She was the rare kind of woman who was a cuddly mommy, a fabulous cook, and a gracious hostess – a lady.

MB: Who’s your romance hero: dark brooding bad boy or white knight in shining armor?

RS: Both. It’s the duality I find irresistible. I value intelligence, candor, kindness, generosity, strength, courage, and determination in a man – and not just in this particular order. And he must be a gentleman. If he uses the “b” word with the heroine – or lets her carry heavy diet coke bottles – I’m immediately turned off.

Okay, so maybe I like the knight in shining armor type in a wolf’s skin.

Toss in a sense of humor, blue eyes with a glint of wickedness, an athletic bod, and innate sensuality – and I’m in love! Of course, it doesn’t hurt if he speaks Italian…

MB: Answer the question you wish an interviewer would ask.

RS: Interviewer: Rona, how did it feel winning an Oscar for best screenplay based on one of your novels?

Me (misty-eyed and breathless): Well, I would first like to thank…

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