I've always loved (loved loved loved) to read, but it wasn't until high school that I began to think about becoming a writer. Being ignorant of anything to do with college, I chose one that didn't have a creative writing program (oops), so I majored in English Lit., and took what creative writing classes were offered. I can't say they were helpful. Regardless, I headed off to graduate school to the professional writing program at the University of Southern California... and left after half a year, as again, it didn't seem helpful for what I wanted to do, which was write romance.
Writing romance and getting published in romance are two very different things, as I would discover over the next ten years. I detoured into teaching English in Japan, and then into getting a master's in counseling psychology, and working the graveyard shift on a crisis line. In 1999, I finally -- finally! -- got published, and will be forever grateful to editor Chris Keeslar at now-defunct Dorchester Publishing for changing my life (we're still friends).
Tell us about your novel, Great-Aunt Sophia's Lessons for Bombshells.
Grace Cavanaugh thinks she’s in for an easy, lazy summer when she takes a job as companion to her great aunt Sophia in Pebble Beach. She’ll dab spittle from her aunt’s chin, watch Animal Planet, and work on her dissertation for her PhD in Women’s Studies. But Sophia has other plans. With a tart tongue that would put Bette Davis to shame, Sophia sets about transforming her dumpy great-niece into a copy of the B-movie bombshell Sophia once was, and in the process teaches her a thing or two about men, sexual liberation, and power. Caught in Sophia’s web along with Grace are Declan O’Brien, the college football star turned financial advisor, and Dr. Andrew Pritchard, Sophia’s dewy-cheeked personal physician. Declan makes Grace’s body melt, but it’s Andrew who seems to be on her same mental wavelength. By the time the summer’s over, though, Grace isn’t going to know whether she’s a scholar or a bombshell, or maybe a little bit of both.
What inspired you to write Great-Aunt Sophia's Lessons for Bombshells?
The distant seed of the idea came from a stranger I saw in passing, at a state fair many years ago. She was in her 50s, overweight, with brilliant red hair, and wearing a turquoise knit top and skirt with a white patent leather belt that did her no favors. BUT. The way this woman held herself and walked, she was a knockout. I couldn't stop staring at her, because something in the way she moved her body and held her head said, "Hot damn, look at me!" It was the first time I really understood how your internal attitude was what animated - and in large part determined - your external appearance. So that was the distant root of the story.
Another source of inspiration was my own long journey escaping from frumpiness, which convinced me that all women are beautiful, but most of us have no idea how to uncover that beauty, polish it up, and put it on display.
|Kamakura, Japan, 1993|
Which of your characters do you identify with the most and why?
Probably Grace, although I'm more likely to fantasize about being a Great-Aunt Sophia someday. Like Grace, I struggled with my weight, especially after college. I also spent many years dressing in baggy clothing, getting bad haircuts, and fighting oily skin and acne. Want proof of frumpiness? See photo to the left. I'm in the middle.
|Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, 2011|
What message do you hope readers will take away from your novel?
That the real key to bombshell-itude is found in an exuberant embrace of who you are.
Why do you write women's fiction?
It's not a conscious decision, it's just where my head is. I'm fascinated by the inner lives of women, the choices we make, dreams we have, and struggles we face. I also get a kick out of the differences between men and women, and how those differences create humorous conflicts.
What is the most challenging part about being a writer? What is the most rewarding?
Self-discipline and growing a thick skin are the hardest parts. The most rewarding part is creating characters and their world: the imaginative work of doing so deeply immerses you in your fictional story, consuming all your brain power. It's like losing yourself in a book times a hundred.
What are you working on now?
What aren't I working on? I've got several irons in the fire: a YA sequel to Wake Unto Me, a middle-grade mystery, and an erotic historical fantasy series. Maybe I should add 'focus' to the list of challenges of being a writer!
Thank you, Lisa!