Thursday, January 14, 2010

INTERVIEW with Susan Lyons

We'd like to welcome Susan Lyons, amazing author of Sex Drive to The Raving Readers! Thank you for joining us!

The Raving Readers: Susan, we understand Sex Drive is the first book in the series Wild Ride to Love. What an apt series title! How did your idea for the series come about?

Susan Lyons: In casual chat one day, an idea came out of the blue that it would be fun to write a "planes, trains, and automobiles" series of romances. I think different modes of transportation are sexy in their own way. Also, travel is a journey, a transition time, and so is the development of a romance--that wild ride to love!--so together I could see them making for intriguing stories.

That idea fermented in my mind for at least a couple of years, as I wrote my Awesome Foursome series starring four 20-something best friends. I loved writing about female relationships (in addition, of course, to the romance and the heroine's and hero's growth arcs) and I loved writing a linked series. But, rather than doing friends again, I was intrigued by sisters--in part because I'm an only child and have always been the outsider looking in. Well, a writer gets to go anywhere she wants, so I decided to step into the world of sisters.

All those ideas wove together into the concept of the Wild Ride to Love series. Four sisters, four modes of transportation (yes, a cruise ship got thrown in there!), four very sexy and romantic wild rides to love.

TRR: How exciting! So that's how series are made. Now, let's talk about Sex Drive, the first book in the Wild Ride to Love series. The hero, Damien Black, is so sexy and charming and too good to be true! How did he come into being? Where did you get the idea for his character? Like, is he modeled after someone--or many someone's--that you know or did he spring purely from your imagination?

SL: Thanks. I love Damien too. Another joy of being a writer is that we get to create and spend time with the sexiest men in the world. Even if only in our imaginations! (No, sigh, he's not based on a real someone in my life…)

Because I was writing about sisters, I envisioned the heroine first. Professor Theresa Fallon is a studious type who's been unlucky in love, who believes herself unattractive to men, who figures her sex drive has pretty much shrivelled up and died. So, what kind of hero would most challenge and attract Theresa? Of course she thinks it's the professorial type, so I gave her the opposite. Damien is a celebrity author who writes paranormal thrillers--books that an intellectual like her considers to be superficial and a waste of time. Not only is he a hottie, he's been voted one of Australia's 10 sexiest bachelors and he could have pretty much any woman he wants.

And he chooses her.

TRR: We should all be so lucky! *sighs with envy* Still about Damien, in your opinion, how is he different from the other sexy and gorgeous heroes we read about in books? In other words, what makes him unique?

SL: One thing I love about Damien is that he's a writer. Not a wimpy, intellectual one, but a guy who writes paranormal thrillers. He loves his job and he knows the industry, and that's fun for a writer to write about. He's also a man who sees beyond the obvious--like the flight attendant with fake boobs and too much makeup--to the more subtly beautiful Theresa. And he sees her as a real, multi-faceted person: he flirts with her, he gives her sensual and sexual pleasure, and he challenges her intellectually. He also has strong enough self-esteem that he doesn't always have to be right, and he can learn from her. (Plus, did I mention, he really is sexy and gorgeous. LOL.)

TRR: No doubt about it, Damien is such a sexy guy and I don't just mean the physical. What makes him perfect for the heroine, Dr. Theresa Fallon?

SL: He genuinely finds her feminine and sexy, while most men don't see beyond her rather buttoned-up image. He brings out that side of her until she actually believes she's feminine and sexy. He's spontaneous and fun, whereas she tends to operate by rules and lists, and he helps her lighten up and learn how to have fun. They're both intelligent and they challenge each other to grow and become better people--and they have fun sparring while they're doing it.

TRR: Lucky Tezzie, that's all I can say. Would that I could be a heroine in your novel... So, what do you like about Theresa Fallon?

SL: Personally, as an only child, I relate to the pressures put on a bright oldest child. I like her responsibility and reliability. I like that she's found a career she's passionate about and that she wants to make the world a better place (she's a sociology prof, specializing in indigenous peoples, and she wants to improve their situation). I like how, even though she's a pretty structured person, she can move past that to see things in new ways, whether it's coming to realize her own sexuality, or to decide she can do more good if she comes out of the ivory tower and talks to the non-academic world. She's a good but flawed human being, as we all are, and she learns about herself and is willing to do the hard work of becoming a better person.

TRR: Yes, I like that about herself too, that she's willing to change and accept another person's criticism/suggestion. In fact, both Damien and Theresa were part of the reason Sex Drive was a fast, easy read for me. They were so compelling I just couldn't help but turn the page, or in my case, scroll down (ebook ARC). Was that how it was for you when you wrote it? Did you ever find yourself arguing with your characters, like when they decided the story has to go in the opposite direction for what you've planned? How do you handle such an event?

SL: Most books go by fits and starts, for me. I rarely plot ahead of time, except to know that the story's a romance so it's going to have a happy ending. How the characters get there . . . well, that's something I discover along the way. (I have my own wild ride, too. LOL.)

TRR:  Ooooh... sounds exciting! Oops, sorry, please go on.

SL: Sometimes I stall, then I have to go walk around, puzzle things out, wait for inspiration. Often the characters do kind of take over the keyboard, and it's always fun when that happens. Because I don't really do much plotting, I'm pretty open to where the characters want to go. Once, when I was writing She's on Top, the final book in the Awesome Foursome series, the hero decided how the story was going to end, and it took me by surprise and I had a mental argument with him. He won, and he was right!

TRR: The way you put it, writing sounds so exciting. How long does it usually take you to write a book from conceptualization to research to the finished draft? Let's take, for example, Sex Drive.

SL: I usually allow four months to write a book, but often some of the brainstorming happens ahead of time. The idea's in my mind, germinating, before I actually get started. Recently, I've been lucky enough to have back-to-back contracts, so I haven't had spare time to play with ideas. I finish one book, and it's time to start the next, and I'm on a relatively tight time line. With series books, the first one is very interesting – e.g., with Sex Drive, I wasn't just learning about Theresa and Damien, I needed to get a fairly clear idea of Theresa's three younger sisters. Whatever I said about them in Sex Drive, I'd have to live with in three more books. Then, when I get to the next books (the second, Love Unexpectedly, comes out in April and I'll be starting to write the third in two or three weeks), I at least have a fair idea about the heroine's personality and issues, which makes it a little easier. Unless of course I have some brilliant inspiration and want to change things, and get frustrated if I can't!

TRR: You have another series, I believe, this one about four friends. Please tell us a little bit about this series and how different is it from the Wild Love to Ride series.

SL: Yes, that's the Awesome Foursome series. Champagne Rules, the first book in that series, was the first book I sold. I wasn't planning a series, but when I developed my heroine, I gave her three girlfriends. I have several 4-women groups in my life, and I've loved Sex And The City and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. There's a certain magic about 4-girlfriend groups.

TRR: Sorry, I couldn't help but comment. Maybe I should get one more person to complete my own magical 4-girlfriend group!

SL: You certainly should! Anyway, by the time I'd written Champagne Rules, of course I'd gotten to love the heroine's three friends, and of course they all deserved their own sexy heroes and their own love stories. So, it became a series. Each book follows one couple's romance, and they go in chronological order. Each book has all four of the women in it, and the reader gets to follow what's happening in each of their lives. Also, each heroine has an issue that resonates for contemporary women: e.g., balancing career and personal life, respecting your parents but making your own way in life, having body image issues. I've had lots of great feedback on those books.

TRR: Sound like my kind of books. I've often heard that writers are readers, too. Your own books aside, what books have you read that you wouldn't hesitate recommending, because you believe other people will love it as you do?

SL: I'm definitely a reader. I'm addicted to reading. I read when I'm brushing my teeth. Seriously. But I do know we all have distinct tastes, so I'm reluctant to make recommendations. Also, I have so many writer friends now, I don't want to recommend one writer over another!

TRR: Speaking of writers, Damien mentioned that he has a beach cottage where he goes to write. What is your special place?

SL: I have a bright, ergonomically set up home office in downtown Vancouver that looks out on a garden courtyard. I love nature, love plants, have orchid plants on my desk. I do a lot of writing there, but sometimes the desk starts to get associated with the business aspects of the writing life rather than the creative ones, so then I take my laptop and go work in a chair in the living room. We also have a fixer-upper country home in Victoria, with a gorgeous ocean view, and I often work there as well. Or on the ferry, going back and forth.

TRR: I've heard that a change of scenery does wonders for the creative juices. Looks like that works for you! So, what do you have upcoming for your fans?

SL: In January, I have Sex on the Beach, from Berkley Heat. It has three intertwined romances set around a destination wedding in Belize. In January, February, and March, I have three Harlequin Spice Briefs, the Erotique series, about three "average" women who find erotic, romantic adventures at a private sex club. In March, I have a novella in a Kensington Aphrodisia anthology called Some Like It Rough. My story's about a buttoned-up admin assistant who goes undercover as an exotic dancer and discovers her wild side – and her female power over the sexy PI who's "keeping an eye on her." In April, there's the second Wild Ride to Love book, Love, Unexpectedly. This one is in the Kensington Brava line, under the pen name Susan Fox. It's about the second sister, and explores what it takes for best friends to turn into passionate lovers.

TRR: Now that you mention it, it's interesting that Sex Drive is published under the name Susan Lyons, and Love, Unexpectedly plus the 3rd and 4th books in the series are under the name Susan Fox. Why would different books in the same series be published under different pen names when both Susan Lyons and Susan Fox are you?

SL: Well, it wasn't my decision and I wasn't a fly on the wall at Kensington's editorial meeting, so I can't answer that one. After Sex Drive was in the works, Kensington asked me if I'd like to move from the Aphrodisia line to the Brava line. Aphrodisia is explicitly erotic; Brava is very spicy but doesn't go quite as far. I'd always thought my writing was better suited to Brava, so I was delighted to have the opportunity to write for them. It was weird timing, being in the middle of a series, but that's just how it worked out. I think the publisher's general idea is to have somewhat different branding for the two lines and my two names. I could certainly understand that if I was, for example, writing both erotic romance and sweet romance. But in fact, my writing is pretty much the same. My focus is always on the romance rather than the sex, and the sex is one woman and one man (no ménage, shapeshifters, or vampires!) and not incredibly kinky (no BDSM), and the books under both names are very spicy. Oh, and just to confuse matters further, I also write very sweet short romances for The Wild Rose Press under the Susan Lyons name (they're collected in an anthology called Calendar of Love).

All I can say is, I hope this works out for the best! I hope readers who find me under one name will be savvy enough to track me down under the other name as well. I have to figure the publisher knows what they're doing. In this business, we all have our expertise and role. Mine is to write the books.

TRR: True enough. With the Internet, I think it's safe to say we're all getting savvier every day. Any last words for us?

SL: Just that I love, love, love hearing from fans. They can contact me via my website.

TRR: Not only that, but Susan's website is stuffed full of goodies for the readers. I know I had a fun time browsing the site.

SL: Thanks, Shana. Yes, I have excerpts, trailers, behind-the-scenes notes, discussion guides, recipes, review quotes, a monthly contest, and an e-newsletter. Thanks so much for having me here. It's been a blast, and I'm looking forward to chatting with readers. Ask me anything and I'll do my best to answer.

TRR: Thank you so much for this interview! It's great having you here with us.

Interested to read Sex Drive?

Buy Links (paper): Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes and Noble
Buy Link (ebook): Barnes and Noble Ebook

Interested to read Sex On The Beach?

Buy Links (paper): Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes and Noble 
Buy Link (ebook): Barnes and Noble Ebook

Enter for the chance to win an autographed copy of Sex On The Beach!

How to Enter:  You can do any or all of the following:
1. Comment on any of the posts on January 13 and 14.
2. Ask questions. Susan will be dropping by the blog from time to time and will answer any questions you might have.
3. Answer this question: ("stolen" from Susan's book discussion questions in Sex Drive. More discussion questions can be found on Susan's website.)

Birth order. Theresa is the oldest of four sisters. How has that fact, and family history, shaped her personality? What's been the influence of birth order on her younger sisters? And how about you? What's your order in your family, and do you think that's affected you?

Who Can Enter: Anybody on this planet.

Contest Deadline:  11:59pm EST on January 14, 2010

Winner Announcement:  The name of the winner will be posted on the blog on January 15, 2010. Instructions will be given then on how to claim the prize.

* Check out our review of Sex Drive and a Sneak Peek of Sex On The Beach!


Sunny Gonzales said...

I'm the oldest in the family. I think it's made me more responsible and dependable. However, this doesn't necessarily make my brothers look up to me, so I don't really know...LOL

Great interview. Lots of question I have have been answered. I do have a question for Susan though. I was intrigued. So...what's this wild ride of yours? *naughty grin*

Susan Lyons said...

Too bad about your brothers, Sunny. I bet they appreciate you even if they don't always let on.

My own wild ride? I just meant that writing each book is a kind of crazy journey. I have a vague idea of my starting point and ending point, but how the characters get me from one to the other isn't usually predictable. Some authors plot everything out in detail first, but that's not my process and for me it would spoil the fun. I like finding out the story, and getting to know the characters, as I go along.

Sunny Gonzales said...

Thanks for answering the question, Susan. I thought it was something naughtier. LOL But I can see why you'd see your writing as one wild ride. It'll be totally wild if you can't connect the middle parts to the ending.

Jinky S said...

Brilliant interview! I have a group of girlfriends myself (there are 12 of us) and it's been fun (we met in college and we try to meet at least on Christmas every year, although some aren't able to make it as they've gone overseas). I have to say though that although we're such a big group, I'm only close to about 3 of them. I think people tend to operate in small groups.

Susan Lyons said...

Unfortunately, I'm nowhere near as exciting as my characters - LOL. One thing that's nice about writing romance, you know that the couple's going to get together in the end and (hopefully) the heroine and hero you've created have the potential to be life-long loves. Yes, they have differences and issues and some growing to do, and the fun of the book - the journey! - is seeing how they're going to realize they truly love each other and figure out how to overcome the obstacles.

Susan Lyons said...

Thanks, Jinky. Wow, 12 definitely is a big group! It's amazing and wonderful that you manage to keep in touch. And yes, I agree that small groups are much easier, and more intimate. You can really get to know each other.

Rex Robot Reviews said...

Susan, I saw that you said you like writing romance because all the couples can over come obstacles and get together in the end. Does this mean you are closed to the idea of writing books without happily ever after? (I love books with happily ever after because it is a rare occurrence in real life- just seriously curious!)

I'm not too informed on birth order and how it has shaped her personality, but it has had a huge influence on mine. I'm the oldest daughter in my family- I'm also the only girl in my family. It kind of makes me the "pillar." I keep everyone sane, together. I'm more responsible than my brothers and also much more independent. While I value my "alone" time, I find that they (for the most part) can't stand being alone. They all come to me with all their problems... and I love it. I love being the one to fix things and help them. I'm always there to support all of them... it works. I totally wouldn't be this way if I was much younger than them. Being the oldest is so much fun.

Susan Lyons said...

Hi RRR. That's great that you're happy about your birth order. Seems to me, a lot of people complain about theirs. Sounds as if it works out beautifully for you.

As for your question - no, I'm not closed to writing books that don't have happy endings, but if I'm writing romance I definitely want happy endings because that's what readers are looking for. A romance reader hates it if they get all invested in a developing love relationship, then one of the characters breaks it off or dies. There's a sort of "contract" with the reader in genre fiction, and in romance that contract includes the happy ending.

I also love women's fiction, which may or may not include romantic elements, and even there I do like some kind of uplifting resolution. It doesn't have to be a happy love affair, but I want the protagonist to have grown and learned. For example, if the story is about a woman going home to her long estranged mother because her mom is dying, and the two end up hating each other to the bitter end, I'd probably feel disappointed. I'd like the two of them to grow in their relationship and not necessarily be all sugary sweet together (because that may not be realistic) but at least come to a better understanding of each other, and respect for each other.

Ina said...

Hi Susan!
great interview - especially the part of the change in the publication name is very interesting...

*gg* I have a younger sister, but since I'm the firstborn I got my way very often ;) you could say I'm a little bit stubborn, but who asks? *gg*
@Rex Robot Reviews: you are totally right - being the oldest is much more fun ;)

greetings, Ina

Susan Lyons said...

Hmm, Ina, I'm an only child. I wonder if that's why I'm stubborn? LOL.

Sunny Gonzales said...

I think birth order affects each person differently. Though I'm the oldest, I don't recall having much fun. I remember my two brothers ganging up on me. That wasn't fun. Makes me wish I have a sister or at least a twin who'll take my side.

Allison('s)Reads said...

Hi Susan, thanks for the new-to-me excerpt and I'll just comment to say that I have both the Men on Fire and Unwrap me anthologies, and your stories/contributions were me favorites. I've very happy you have your own single-author anthology for readers (like me!) to check out. Congrats!

Booklover1335 said...

Hi Susan!
Great interview....and I'll definitely be looking for your books @ Brava :)

I think birth order plays a huge part in who we are. I am the oldest and have always felt responsible for much more than I am, or that I should be. I tend to be more cautious. I think parents expect more from their oldest, and that has an effect on who you are as you mature.

Can't wait to read this new series, and love the book discussion questions.

Sue A. said...

It's just me and my brother, but I'm older and with working parents I was always responsible for him. Funny how decades later it's come around again due to health issues, and I'm now taking care of him again.

I was always jealous of my cousins, three girls in one family. I'd always wished I had sisters. So I still like reading series about sisters.

Susan Lyons said...

Sunny, you definitely need a sister. Guess it's too late? Maybe you can get some girlfriends together and gang up on those boys?

Susan Lyons said...

Allison, I'm so happy you liked my stories in the anthologies. Yup, I have lots and lots of single title books as well. Same kind of thing, just a little longer, deeper, more complex. Still romantic, sexy, and fun! Hope you enjoy.

Susan Lyons said...

Thanks, Booklover. Yeah, as an only, I understand about cautious. Deciding to be a romance writer rather than a lawyer definitely took a leap of faith! And thanks for checking me (or my alter ego Susan Fox) out at Brava.

As for the discussion questions, I always have so much fun writing them. I didn't do them for my first book, then a reader group emailed and asked if I had them - and my answer was, "not tonight, but by tomorrow!" I was so flattered to be asked and it was such a great experience to put them together, so now I always do them.

Susan Lyons said...

Hey there, Sue. Nice to see you. That's rough, having to look after your brother again. Sorry about his health issues. I sure hope he appreciates you.

And yeah, those of us who are sisterless have to get the experience secondhand through books...

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