Friday, February 25, 2011

Interview with Susan Fox

I’d like to welcome our guest again today, Susan Lyons, who also writes as Susan Fox. 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.

I understand you have a new release out called His, Unexpectedly. Can you tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book?

I’d love to. First, I’m very excited to say that Publishers Weekly named this book as one of their Top 10 Romances for spring.

His, Unexpectedly is the third book in my “planes, trains, automobiles and a cruise ship” Wild Ride to Love series for Kensington Brava, under my Susan Fox pen name. In the series, three older sisters come home for their baby sister’s wedding by various means of transport. In His, Unexpectedly, free-spirited Jenna Fallon returns from Santa Cruz, starting out in her yellow MGB convertible. When it breaks down, she asks a sexy marine biologist for a ride. Globe-trotting science guy Mark Chambers sure isn’t about to say no. Jenna bewitches and bedazzles him as they make their way up the Pacific Coast, camping, skinny dipping, having scorching hot sex – and sharing their most intimate secrets. For the first time in his life, Mark wants commitment – and it’s with a woman who shuns the concept. Can Jenna overcome deep-seated insecurity and believe what her heart tells her – that this wild ride has an unexpected and very special destination: love?

His, Unexpectedly is a very interesting title. How did you arrive at that name?

When my editor and I brainstormed ideas for the second book in the series, I suggested Love, Unexpectedly, and she loved it. For the third book, we decided to stick with that basic theme. The title definitely fits the book. The last thing Mark expected when he started the drive to Vancouver to present a paper at an international symposium was to find the love of his life along the way.

What made you decide to write in this genre?

I love contemporary romance, especially when it’s sexy and fun, and especially when both the heroine and hero have some issues to deal with and some growing to do. When the Brava line first launched, I thought it was terrific and always aspired to write for it. And now here I am!

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

Mostly a pantser. For series books, though, it’s not like starting completely from scratch. I already knew Jenna pretty well because she made an appearance in the first two books. So I knew her personality and I had some idea of her issues and the kind of guy who was most likely to challenge her. I also knew she’d be driving from California, so that was the framework for the story. And of course all the stories are about journeys – physical and emotional ones. Other than that, the characters and story grew as I wrote. That’s my typical process and it does mean a fair amount of going back and revising as I learn more details about characters, back story, themes, etc.

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

I didn’t do any major research for this book, just a bunch of odds and ends. I used travel guides (paper and online) to identify places where Jenna and Mark might stop. I researched his profession and some of the temporary jobs she’s had. I’d say my favorite research site is the internet in general. You can find pretty much everything there.

Where did you get your idea for this particular book?

For the Wild Ride to Love series, two ideas came together. I think different modes of transportation have a romantic, sexy allure – so, “planes, trains, and automobiles” (the cruise ship was added later). And after writing the Awesome Foursome series about four best friends (my “Sex And The City set in Vancouver” series), I had the urge to write about sisters. Now, how was I going to get the sisters using the various modes of transportation? Well, have the three older ones living in different places, and all needing to come home for baby sister’s wedding. So, that was the series idea. The first book, Sex Drive, brought buttoned-up older sister Theresa home by planes from Australia – and her romantic journey began when she was seated beside one of Australia’s 10 sexiest bachelors. In the second book, Love, Unexpectedly, Kat came home by trains from Montreal, and played a sexy “stranger on a train” game as her best friend set out to win her heart. In His, Unexpectedly, as I said earlier, I knew it was Jenna’s turn, and she’d be traveling by automobiles from California.

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

I’d really been looking forward to writing about Jenna. I’d gotten to know her a bit in the previous two books and loved her free-spirited nature and her vibrancy, but I also knew she had a secret, vulnerable side, which makes her so multi-faceted and interesting. Once I got to know Mark, he was great fun, too. He’s a serious man who takes everything literally, which makes for some amusing conversations and misunderstandings. A guy who’s oblivious to being flirted with, but sure isn’t oblivious to Jenna. An amazingly intelligent, talented scientist, yet a guy who’d always longed for love but never found it. So he, too, had his vulnerable side. Okay, what can I say, I totally adored writing about both of them.

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?

It depends on the book, but usually I’m not really organized about it. It’s more an organic process as the character begins to take shape in my mind. There are a couple of books I often find useful: The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes & Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes by Tami Cowden, Caro LaFever and Sue Viders, and Believable Characters: Creating with Enneagrams by Laurie Schenbly. And yes, research affects character development, and so does writing. As I write, I learn more about my characters and they come alive for me – like getting to know a new friend – and then I go back and revise accordingly.

Do you have any authors that inspired you?

I’ve always been addicted to books and I’m sure almost every author I’ve read has inspired me in some way. It takes an amazing blend of courage, creativity, and talent to put words on pages and send them out into the world, to bring characters to life, to make readers laugh and cry and think. Everyone who does that, whether it’s for a single incredible book like Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, or for over a hundred titles like some of our leading romance authors, is a huge inspiration to me.

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

It’s so hard to know what makes for effective promotion. One huge thrill for me has been receiving a starred review from Publishers Weekly for this book. They called it “a contemporary love story sure to make readers go weak in the knees” and said, “Well-crafted story lines and richly observed characters bolster a strong erotic element in this delightful, memorable romance.” I’m delighted! But will that result in more sales? Who knows? I just do a bit of everything: ads, bookmarks to reader groups and conferences, guest blogging, posting on Facebook, and so on. I think it’s almost impossible to trace sales to specific promo efforts. I admit to being bad with social media. I know I should get out there more, but I don’t for two reasons: first, I’m really, really busy writing, and second, I’m an introvert and while I enjoy socializing, it tends to drain rather than energize me (and that’s very bad for creativity!).

What do we have to look forward next?

In July, I have a Berkley Heat book, Heat Waves, coming out. It’s my third book set around a destination wedding, following Sex on the Beach (set in Belize) and Sex on the Slopes (set in Whistler). Heat Waves is set on a Greek island cruise, and there are two interwoven romances. Here’s a teaser.

In charge of her first exotic destination wedding, sex is the last thing on widowed wedding planner Gwen Austin’s mind. But Santos Michaelides might be the perfect man to help her rediscover herself as a single, sensual woman. At least until Gwen finds out that there’s more to the charismatic cruise director than meets the eye – in more ways than she believed possible.

Kendra Kirk wasn’t expecting to meet up again with Flynn Kavanagh, the sexy IT consultant she had unsuccessfully prosecuted for white-collar crime – especially on what was supposed to be a pleasure cruise. Even so, sparks of all kinds fly and soon Kendra’s sleeping with the enemy. But her newfound ability to put her life ahead of her career will be pushed to the breaking point when she learns the truth about Flynn.
My next book after that will be the fourth Wild Ride to Love book, Merilee’s story. It’s called Yours, Unexpectedly and will come out in December 2011.

Thanks, Susan!

And thank you so much for having me at Much Cheaper Than Therapy.
To celebrate her book release, Susan Lyons/Fox is offering a free book of His, Unexpectedly to one lucky commenter on today's blog. (please check the blog Monday night to see if you 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...

Susan Lyons, who also writes as Susan Fox, is the award-winning author of sexy contemporary romance that’s passionate, heartwarming, and fun. She is published by Kensington Brava, Kensington Aphrodisia, Berkley Heat, and Harlequin Spice Briefs. A resident of both Vancouver and Victoria, B.C., Susan has degrees in law and psychology but would far rather be writing fiction than living in the real world.

Check out author’s website at
Buy His, Unexpectedly:


Kim Watters said...

Good Morning Susan. Thanks for joining us again here today. I hear the whistle of the teapot so your hot chocolate will be ready in a few moments. His, Unexpectedly sounds like another fun read. For some reason, I love travel/destination books but find them a challenge to write. What tricks do you use to keep things interesting since your characters are pretty much confined to a car, a train-especially a plane? Enjoy your day with us.

Susan Lyons Fox said...

Hi Kim, and thanks so much for inviting me here. Mmm, that hot chocolate's going to taste good. It's a chilly winter day here, though it promises to be a sunny one - when dawn finally breaks.

Wow, you’re starting off with an excellent question. Warning: the answer’s a little long!

I love travel books too, and of course one thing you can usually do - and which I've done in His, Unexpectedly - is to break the journey. In His Unexpectedly, Jenna and Mark stroll Glass Beach, have two evenings of camping by the beach, visit a hokey dinosaur museum, etc.

In Sex Drive (the planes book), I gave Theresa and Nav have a day in Honolulu (where he has a book signing, they take a couple of long walks on the beach, they have a romantic dinner, they go skinny dipping at night – and they have a bed!).

Stops along the way not only give the reader a sense of discovery, of being on the journey and discovering new places with the characters, they also allow the characters to interact in different atmospheres. In Love, Unexpectedly (the trains book), Kat and Nav weren’t so confined because you can move around a lot on a train. I did stop them for a night in a ritzy hotel in Toronto, but they also got a lot of variety on the train, and talked to some different people who each contributed to Kat’s and Nav’s insights and character growth.

Being “confined” (side by side on a plane or in a car, or in a cramped train compartment) is terrific for almost forcing people to talk, which can lead quickly to intimacy, as in these books. The fact of journeying also somehow seems conducive to people exploring their own thoughts and feelings and taking emotional journeys along with the physical ones. But also, escaping the confinement to interact with different people and see different places can be a catalyst for new things to talk about and fresh discoveries.

Also, I should mention that in each Wild Ride to Love book, the heroine and hero end up in Vancouver (because the Fallon sisters are all traveling to their little sister’s wedding) and so there are also interactions with family, to add a new level of challenge and growth.

CrystalGB said...

Hi Susan. Great interview. I love the cover to your book.

Susan Lyons Fox said...

Thanks, Crystal. I love the cover too - and I also love that it has the same "look" as the one for Love, Unexpectedly (which you can see on my website). I'm so curious to see what the publisher will do for Yours, Unexpectedly in December!

catslady said...

I most admit I've not read a lot of contemporaries lately but this does sound like a fun read. Are the books connected or stand alone or should one really read in order?

Susan Lyons Fox said...

Thanks, catslady. There are three Wild Ride to Love books, with another coming in December. Each is standalone, but they follow four sisters' romances over a short period of time. So it's kind of nice to read them in order. The first is Sex Drive (planes). Then Love, Unexpectedly (trains). Then His, Unexpectedly (automobiles).

Carolyn Hughey said...

How exciting, Susan. A good review from Publishers Weekly is a BIG deal. They rarely give good reviews, so you should be very proud of your accomplishment.

Your book sound delightful. I can't wait to read it.

Estella said...

I enjoyed the interview.
Your book sounds wonderful!

Can you tell us what you are working on now?

Susan Lyons Fox said...

Thanks, Carolyn. Yes, I'm thrilled by the Publishers Weekly review, and by them choosing my book as one of the top 10 spring romances!

Susan Lyons Fox said...

Thank you, Estella. Next up for me is a July book called Heat Waves, set around a destination wedding in the Greek islands, then in December the 4th Wild Ride to Love book: Yours, Unexpectedly.

Cara Marsi said...

What a great interview! Your books sound terrific. I love contemporary. I read your short stories in New Love Stories Magazine and they were great.

Susan Lyons Fox said...

Thanks, Cara. And wow, I think that's the first time someone told me they saw my stories in New Love Stories!