Friday, January 8, 2010

Interview with Susan Lyons

I’d like to welcome our guest today, Susan Lyons. It’s a pleasure having you come visit us at Much Cheaper Than Therapy, where chocolate is plentiful and advice is free. So grab some chocolate and a lounge chair. Your therapy session has begun.

Thanks so much for inviting me. Everyone can use a little free therapy – not to mention chocolate!

I understand you have a new release out called Sex on the Beach. Can you tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book?

I’d be delighted to. An exotic wedding turns into an erotic escapade for three unlikely couples who find lust – and maybe even love – on the white sands of Belize.

In “War of the Sexes,” wedding planner Sarah McCann learns that the groom’s best friend, Free Lafontaine, intends to save his pal from the mistake of marriage. It’s an all-out war between the sexes – a war that just might have two winners!

In “Sex With the Proper Stranger,” model Tamiko Sato comes to the wedding as arm-candy for the groom’s deep-in-the-closet uncle, so what’s she to do when resort manager Ric Nuñez proves far too tempting? Is Ric the man who can heal her wounded heart?

In “Sexy Exes,” Giovanna Moncrieff and her ex, James, mix as well as Italian olive oil and English tonic water, so it’s embarrassing – and exciting! – to discover the flame of passion still burns. Is true love possible the second time around?

These are three interrelated novellas, each taking place in the week leading up to the wedding. They are all secret romances, so the lovers are all sneaking around trying to get together without anyone else knowing.

Sex on the Beach is a very interesting title. How did you arrive at that name?

A sexy book, set in the tropics – it seemed a natural fit. The drink “sex on the beach” became a kind of theme drink for each couple. By the way, there are a number of different recipes for the drink, so I held a contest to find the best one. The winning recipe is posted on my website (on the Recipes page).

What made you decide to write in this genre?

I write the full spectrum from sweet to spicy. It all depends on the characters and the story. The whole concept of this book was sexy and fun, so it’s a very spicy romance.

Are you a plotter or a pantser and how did it affect the writing of this book?

I’m mostly a pantser. I start with a general idea of the characters, including why they’re attracted to each other and what their conflicts and issues are going to be. Sometimes I know how they’re going to meet; sometimes I need to puzzle over that. I do have some vague idea of story structure (LOL), but mostly I let the characters guide me. Sex on the Beach was a challenge because the three novellas take place in the same time frame and include the same characters. That’s part of the fun of it (e.g., there’s one night when Free, Tamiko, and James all cross paths in the bushes as they’re sneaking off to meet their secret lovers). But it also meant I had to keep close track of the book “calendar” and what each heroine and hero was doing at any given time.

Did you have to do a lot of research for the book? What are your favorite research books or sites?

I had visited Belize, which is why I knew it would make a great setting. I did a bit of Belize research, then a bit of research on various characters’ occupations, and that was it. I’m not a fan of research – I’d rather be writing (or reading fiction)! For some topics, I head to the library but for most I just Google and see what turns up. Sometimes I arrange interviews. My only two staple resource books are Rodale’s The Synonym Finder (an excellent thesaurus) and The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes & Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever, and Sue Viders (a great guide to developing character).

Where did you get your idea for this particular book?

The idea for Sex on the Beach came to me on a cold winter day in Vancouver, BC. I thrive on sunshine and warmth, and I wasn’t getting any, so instead I nourished my soul with memories of tropical holidays, like the one I took to Belize.

Then I happened upon an article about the popularity of destination weddings, and I remembered how many people I’d seen getting married on tropical beaches – in Belize, Costa Rica, Australia. I imagined the sexy fun that might ensue when a group of wedding guests assembled in Belize for the week before an exotic wedding. And especially if each of the couples had a reason for keeping their relationship secret? Could you imagine how complicated that could get, and how much fun it would be for the reader?

Which character did you like writing about the most, and why?

Oh gosh, I loved all of them. But maybe Tamiko, because on the surface she’s the most successful and lovely of the heroines, but on the inside she’s the most vulnerable and wounded. I gave her a very good male friend (the closeted gay writer) who gave her a nudge in the right direction, then I paired her with the kind of man we’d all love to be with: a fabulous lover, of course, but also one who is very sensitive to her needs even before she reveals what happened to her in the past.

Tell us about how you develop your characters. Do you create character sheets, do interviews, that sort of thing? How does your research affect your character development?

I’m not super-organized about character development. Although I can be incredibly structured and organized about the business aspects of writing, when it comes to the creative ones I’m better to let the other side of my brain fly free. At some point in writing most books, I do refer to the archetypes book I mentioned above. Sometimes I use it to help me develop the characters in the beginning, or sometimes I have a pretty good sense of the characters already and may refer to the book a bit later on, to see if it provides further insights. I don’t do character sheets or interviews. Sometimes I write some first person freestyle stuff from the character’s POV, like a person might write in a journal or to a good friend. I go for walks and mull over the characters, because fresh air and exercise often get my brain going on a fresh path.

Research does have an effect on character, too. For example, when I first researched firefighters for Hot in Here, I learned that they’re often good cooks and housekeepers, because that’s important in a firehall, so I don’t give my firefighter heroes messy bachelor pads – and my heroines are often surprised that these big, brave men can be so good at the domestic stuff. When I started my Wild Ride to Love series featuring four sisters, I read a lot about birth order and sisters, which mostly confirmed what I already knew (there are advantages to having a psych degree!), and that information helped clarify each sister’s distinct personality.

Do you have any authors that inspired you?

In some fashion, almost every author I read inspires me. It’s a wonderful thing, coming up with ideas and putting words on a page in a way that gives readers laughter and tears, escape from their own problems, and often something thought-provoking. The author who had the most powerful impact on me was Harper Lee. She wrote only one book, To Kill a Mockingbird, but I think that book was a masterpiece of character, point of view, and story. It entertains but it also makes you think. And to me, lawyer Atticus Finch is the perfect hero: principled, strong, with that quiet confidence that to me is the hallmark of a true leader.

What do you feel is the most effective promotion you have done for your book?

While I do some promo for individual books (e.g., bookmarks or blogs), really my focus is on promoting my name and brand. I take a multi-faceted approach. Probably the single most important thing is my website, which I update monthly, and which has lots of goodies for readers (e.g., behind-the-scenes notes and photos, book videos, discussion questions, recipes from each book, writing articles, some of my own photos). I have a monthly contest at my website (this month you can win one of my books and a firefighter calendar). Then, I also have a monthly e-newsletter (please go sign up on my website!); I send promo items to stores, reader groups, conferences, etc.; I guest blog; I put ads in RT BookReviews, Romance Sells, and Romance Writers Report; I respond to fan mail and send goodies without requiring an SASE; I attend conferences and present workshops; and I’m a member of a number of RWA and other writer groups. I avoid social media like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter because, if I took the time to do them regularly, I wouldn’t be writing as many books a year, and I think it’s more important to get the books out there.

What do we have to look forward to next?

This month I have the first of three Spice Briefs at (Erotique: Carrie), and the second and third will be out in February and March. At the exclusive sex club, Erotique, three women find the erotic adventures they’re seeking – and much more!

Also in March I’m in an Aphrodisia anthology, Some Like It Rough, with Kate Pearce and Anne Rainey. In my story, “Private Eyes,” straight-laced Haley Croft goes undercover as an exotic dancer and discovers the thrill of strutting her stuff. And when she catches sexy PI Ry Montana checking out her moves, she can’t wait to give him his own private show...

Then, in April, my first Kensington Brava book will be out. It’s under a new pen name, Susan Fox. Love, Unexpectedly is the second in my sexy “planes, trains, automobiles, and a cruise ship” Wild Ride to Love series. (The first book was Sex Drive, from Aphrodisia, in December 2009.) So, I have lots to look forward to this year!

Thanks, Susan!

To celebrate her book release, Susan is offering a free book of Sex on the Beach to one lucky commenter on today's blog. (please check the blog Monday night to see who won. Chances of winning determined by the number of entries.) She will be around all day today. I'm sure some of you have questions or comments for her, so please ask away...

Award-winning author Susan Lyons is a Pacific Northwester with homes in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia. She has degrees in law and psychology, and has had a variety of careers, including perennial student, computer consultant, and legal editor. Fiction writer is by far her favorite, giving her an outlet to demonstrate her belief in the power of love, friendship, and a sense of humor.

She writes sexy contemporary romance that’s passionate, heartwarming, and fun, and is published by Kensington Aphrodisia, Kensington Brava (writing as Susan Fox), Berkley Heat, Harlequin Spice Briefs, The Wild Rose Press, and Freya’s Bower. Her books have won Booksellers Best Awards, the Aspen Gold, the Golden Quill, the More Than Magic, the Lories, the Beacon, and the Laurel Wreath, and she was a nominee for the 2009 RT Reviewers Choice Award.

Visit Susan’s website at for excerpts, discussion guides, behind-the-scenes notes, reviews, recipes, articles, contests, give-aways, and other fun stuff.

Buy Sex on the Beach:


Anonymous said...

Good morning Susan. Thanks for visiting with us again. How about a cup of hot chocolate to keep you warm? So now that you're settled in, what process did you use to keep all your stories and characters straight while writing this? Did you use graphs or spreadsheets and did you write them at the same time or one after another? Sometimes what sounds simple enough can be the hardest of all. Enjoy your day.

Susan Lyons said...

Hi Kim,

Good question! Actually, I kind of hate graphs and spreadsheets, but I did need a method. I always keep a Word file going with basic character details, but when I'm writing interrelated novellas or books I also set up a book calendar. I'm more comfortable in Word than in other programs (I like its flexibility and the formatting options), so I just set up a big table that's a combination calendar and scene chart tracking all the stories.

I wrote the stories one by one, in the order they appear in the book. In a way the first was the easiest, because I wasn't yet bound by anything I'd done in another story. In some ways it was the hardest, because I had to learn about the other characters and introduce them appropriately.

Believe me, after I'd written all 3 stories, I did end up doing a lot of revising to make sure they worked effectively and accurately together. The book was a challenge, but it was fun!

And it was great experience because now I'm doing a 4-book series (Wild Ride to Love) where the books overlap in their timeframe so I have to do the same kind of thing.

CrystalGB said...

Hi Susan. Great interview. Sex on the Beach sounds good. I love your writing.

Author Kathryne Kennedy said...

I love the secret romance angle and how the stories are all interrelated. The book sounds fabulous! Great interview!

Susan Lyons said...

Crystal, thanks so much. I'm so glad you enjoy my books.

Thanks, Kathryne. I hope you check out the book.

Libby said...

Susan, thanks for visiting. It's always fun to hear about another writer's process. I'm looking forward to reading the novellas!

Susan Lyons said...

Thanks, Libby. One thing I've learned is that each writer has her/his own process - and sometimes it's different for each book. What works for one person often doesn't work for another - but often when I hear about another writer's process, I get some ideas to try out myself.

Alexis Walker said...

Hi Susan,

Your book sounds awesome! I love the idea that the three stories intertwine so directly. I've always hoped to do that one day. Plus, I LOVE the islands and have seen many a wedding take place there. What a great idea!

Susan Lyons said...

Thanks, Alexis. Personally, I think beach weddings are so much more fun and romantic than church weddings.

joder said...

The book sounds great! And considering how cold it is here in the Midwest we can use all the steaminess we can get.

Looking forward to even more steamy books from you in 2010!

Susan Lyons said...

Joder, I'll do my best to warm things up!

Estella said...

Sex On The Beach sounds great!

Susan Lyons said...

Thanks, Estella!