Friday, July 15, 2011

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.

Thank you so much for inviting me. As for the chocolate, I’m grabbing my new favorite, Ritter Sport dark chocolate with marzipan.

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

It’s the third of my Berkley Heat titles set around a destination wedding—where it’s not only the bride and groom who find sexy romance! Sex on the Beach was set in Belize, Sex on the Slopes was set in Whistler, and Heat Waves takes place on a Greek island cruise.

In charge of her first destination wedding, sex is the last thing on widowed wedding planner Gwen Austin’s mind—until Santos Michaelides helps her rediscover herself as a single, sensual woman. But then Gwen finds out that there’s more to the charismatic cruise director than meets the eye…

When Kendra Kirk meets up again with Flynn Kavanagh, the sexy IT consultant she’d unsuccessfully prosecuted, sparks of all kinds fly. 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…

The two novellas intertwine, and take place during the same time period. In fact, Santos is an undercover investigator—and he’s investigating Flynn!

Heat Waves is a very interesting title. How did you arrive at that name?

My editor and I considered a number of titles. This one just seemed to fit best, especially given the ocean setting. I also created a signature drink for the wedding cruise, which I called a Heat Wave. It’s fruity and boozy and fun, and you can find the recipe on my website.

What made you decide to write in this genre?

I’m a character-driven author. I love taking characters who have flaws and vulnerabilities and challenging them to dig deep inside themselves, face their fears, and have the courage to change and grow. To have the guts to do that, a person needs strong motivation. Meeting someone special—someone who doesn’t fit neatly into the emotionally safe life you’ve constructed for yourself—and starting to fall for them can be a wonderful motivator. So, that’s why I write romance.

Why contemporary? I relate to the people I know and the issues we face, and that’s what I like to write about. It’s also, most often, what I like to read about.

Why super-sexy? Well, sometimes a romantic relationship develops slowly, and the sex is a natural progression in that development. But sometimes, a couple connects immediately (call it lust, call it chemistry, call it pheromones), and they land in bed before they really get to know each other. And then what? Likely, they didn’t intend a serious relationship, and so they could just walk away. But what if they can’t? What if there’s a special connection that makes them want to see more of each other, to get to know each other, to maybe risk taking that initial fling into territory that’s emotionally dangerous? I think that’s a fascinating journey, and I love traveling it with my characters.

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

Mostly a pantser. For me, it’s more fun to learn about the characters as I go along. That means I need to do lots of revising, but that’s just part of my process. It’s tougher to “pants,” though, when I’m writing interconnected novellas as in Heat Waves. They both take place in the same period of time, and hero #1, Santos Michaelides, is an undercover insurance investigator who’s investigating hero #2, Flynn Kavanagh. There are lots of details of timing and activities that I needed to keep track of, to make sure both novellas matched. So it was a challenge!

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

I researched a number of things. I needed to update my information on the Greek islands, because it’s been a while since I was there, and to figure out how things work with a small, privately chartered cruise boat. I needed to research some law, and verify my understanding of Asperger’s Syndrome (which Flynn’s brother has).

My favorite research method is reading novels that deal with a particular subject, then verifying by searching the internet. I also love person-to-person research, and for this book my friend Nick was especially helpful in sharing his memories of an anniversary cruise in the Greek islands. I also had the lovely experience of asking on a writing loop if someone spoke Greek, and having an author respond—from where she was cruising in the Greek islands!

Where did you get your idea for this particular book?

I had so much fun writing Sex on the Beach and Sex on the Slopes that I was dying to write another destination wedding book, and fortunately my editor agreed. So then I had to choose the location. I thought about various places I’d traveled to on holiday, such as Mexico and the Bahamas—but they felt too similar to my Belize book. Then I had one of those “aha!” (or, “well, duh, dummy!) moments and realized that my very favorite place, Greece, would be a perfect setting. I’ve been there twice and loved it, and always wanted to set a book there. So, this is my time.

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

Ooh, nasty question! That’s like asking which of my best friends is my “bestest.” I love them all. Gwen tugged at my heartstrings as a minor character in Sex on the Slopes—a widow who’d married young, only loved one man, then lost him, was devastated, and was trying to get her life back together. She tugged at my heartstrings even more when I wrote her story in Heat Waves. As for her hero, Santos, OMG, I want that man! He’s tall, dark, handsome, sexy, charismatic, and a little bit dangerous. In other words, just perfect. But then hero #2, Flynn, is perfect too, in a very different way. He’s got that wounded hero thing going on, and he’s utterly loyal to his single-parent mom and his Asperger’s little brother, and of course he’s gorgeous too and he has an Irish lilt to his voice. As for heroine Kendra—she’s wounded too, and she’s a character type I love to write: the smart, driven, buttoned-up woman who doesn’t believe she’s feminine and sexy until the right man brings out her repressed sexuality.

No, sorry, I just can’t pick. I love them all, and had so much fun joining them in Greece (at least in my imagination) and giving them their challenging journeys to love, and their happy endings.

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?

Character sheets? Interviews? Oh man, that’s way too sensible and organized for me. Not to say those aren’t great tools, and as it happens, in most aspects of life I’m very sensible and organized. But when it comes to creativity, my muse isn’t so keen on structure and sensibility.
I develop my characters by writing them, thinking about them, worrying about them, taking walks and mulling them over, brainstorming them with my critique group, and referring from time to time to books such as The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes & Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever and Sue Viders and Believable Characters: Creating With Enneagrams by Laurie Schnebly.

And yes, my research does affect character development, and I’m trying to learn to do the research before the fact or at least as I go along, rather than waiting until I finish the book. Elements relating to occupation, family circumstances (e.g., Flynn’s brother’s Asperger’s), etc., can definitely affect character.

Do you have any authors that inspired you?

Oh, only pretty much every author I ever read. Writing a book is an amazing thing. When I’m in the middle of writing a book, I often go through a crisis of faith, wondering if I’ll ever make the thing work and finish it. I know that many, many other authors have their own crises of faith, and yet we keep turning out these wonderful books. The writing community always inspires me and buoys me up. Also, I’m a reading addict and whenever I’m absorbed in a book and happily taking a break from real life, I’m so grateful to the author for giving me that gift.

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

We never really know which promo efforts pay off. For Heat Waves, I’ve done ads in RT BookReviews, Romance Writers Report, and Romance Sells—also featuring the other two books in my destination wedding series. I have also prepared a booklet with excerpts from all the books (contact me through my website and I’d be happy to mail you one). I handed that booklet out all over the place at the RWA National conference in June, and am sending it to other conferences and to reader groups, bookstores, and so on. And of course I’m guest blogging—and thanks again for having me here.

You're welcome. :) Thanks for coming back. KW

What do we have to look forward next?

In my Susan Fox author persona, last year’s Brava Christmas anthology, The Naughty List (with novellas by Donna Kauffman, Cynthia Eden, and me as Susan Fox) is being reissued in mass market in October.

Also as Susan Fox, I’ve been writing the Wild Ride to Love series for Kensington. It’s a “planes, trains, automobiles, and a cruise ship” series in which three older sisters travel home to Vancouver, BC, for their baby sister’s wedding and find sexy romances along the way. The fourth and final book comes out in December. Yours, Unexpectedly is baby sister Merilee’s story. Let’s just say that her honeymoon cruise doesn’t work out exactly the way she’d expected!

After that, the next two upcoming titles are Body Heat from Brava (a Susan Fox book) about a buttoned-up accountant who falls for the hot guy on the Harley, and Dirty Girls Book Club from Heat (under a new pen name, Savanna Fox): don’t you wish your book club read sexy books? LOL.

Thanks, Susan!

To celebrate her book release, Susan Lyons is offering a free copy of Heat Waves 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 (and in future as Savanna Fox), is the award-winning author of “emotionally compelling, sexy contemporary romance” (Publishers Weekly). She is published by Kensington Brava, Berkley Heat, and Harlequin Spice Briefs. Publishers Weekly gave her February Brava, His, Unexpectedly, a starred review and ranked it as a Top 10 Romance for Spring 2011. 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


Kim Watters said...

Good morning Susan. Thanks for joining us again today. Your treats are almost ready. Oh a book set on a cruise and in the Greek Islands. How can a gal refuse? Especially since there's no chance of getting seasick! I can see where being a pantser could get you in trouble with multiple story lines. Are there any other areas that this creates a problem for as well? Enjoy your day with us.

Susan Lyons/Fox said...

Good morning Kim, and thanks for having me here again. Yup, I can guarantee no readers will get seasick - and nor do any of the guests on the cruise.

I guess one other minor problem when I was writing was having to remember which couple's story I was telling at the time. Both heroines and both heroes appear in both stories - but the first novella is definitely Gwen and Santos's romance, and the second is Kendra and Flynn's. Then there's a final section that ties up the ending of the suspense plot, and confirms the happy endings for both couples. (Not to mention, gives the reader a wedding to sigh over!)

Anyhow, I did find my characters were pretty well behaved. Kendra and Flynn didn't try to take over Gwen and Santos's; they were happy to keep their secrets during novella 1, then expand their story in novella 2.

CrystalGB said...

Hi Susan. Good to see you here. Heat Waves sounds good.

Linda Andrews said...

Heat Waves sounds fun. Are you planning any more books in the series?

Susan Lyons/Fox said...

Thanks, Crystal. You can check out an excerpt on my website at Hope you like it.

Susan Lyons/Fox said...

Thanks, Linda. No, this will be my last destination wedding book for awhile, at least. Right now I'm finishing up my Wild Ride to Love series for Brava (with "Yours, Unexpectedly" in December). It's a "planes, trains, automobiles and a cruise ship" series about 3 older sisters who come home for their baby sister's wedding and find sexy romances along the way - and book 4 in December is baby sis's story. What happens when the runaway bride finds that her discarded groom has come along for the honeymoon cruise?

After that, I'm working on a "Classic Bodies" series for Brava (featuring hot guys, classic vehicles, and steamy fantasies) and the "Dirty Girls Book Club" series for Berkley (don't you wish your book club read sexy books?).

Na said...

Hi Susan!
It's wonderful to see another person from BC. It's beautiful here despite the mild rainy summer thus far. You are a new author for me but I am glad I learned about you on this blog. I love the setting for HEAT WAVES. I don't think I have ever read a book set o na cruise (nor have I been on me myself) so this is new for me. Even better that it is on a Greek island, which sounds very exotic. I'm going to keep your book on my radar.

Estella said...

Hi Susan,

I am an armchair traveler and I love the settings of the Destination Wedding series.

Susan Lyons/Fox said...

Thanks, Na, and hello to another British Columbian! By the way, a number of my books are set in Vancouver - and "Sex on the Slopes" is set in Whistler.

And yes, we haven't had much of a summer yet, have we? Every time we get a few sunny days, we think summer's arrived, and then it turns cool and damp again. Bummer! But yes, it's lovely here.

Susan Lyons/Fox said...

Thanks, Estella. I'm glad I can give you some armchair travel. I have the same experience myself, when I'm writing these books. They're all places that I've been myself at one time or another, and I get to revisit while I'm writing.

Maureen said...

Congratulations on your new book Susan. What types of stories do you like writing the most, opposites attract, friends to lovers, etc.?

Susan Lyons/Fox said...

Maureen, what a great question! It really makes me think. Somehow, the characters just come to me and I go from there, so now I have to think back about what kinds of pairings I've written. I had a lot of fun with friends to lovers in "Love, Unexpectedly." I've done people who sort of knew each other long ago, in my novella "Tattoos and Mistletoe" in "The Naughty List" (which, by the way, is being re-issued in mass market this October). And Flynn and Kendra in "Heat Waves" definitely knew each other before, and were pretty much enemies because she prosecuted him. But mostly, I've written about strangers meeting, like with Gwen and Santos.

And I guess a fairly common theme for me, with those strangers, is that at first they think they're opposites in many ways (e.g., Gwen thinks she's the quiet, serious type who avoides risk and has to control things, whereas Santos likes excitement and risk and he's more about trusting his instincts than about controlling the world) - but as they get to know each other, they realize their differences are complementary, and that they also have some very important things in common (e.g., core values).

Something else that's typical of my stories is that they take place in a short time frame, rarely more than a week to 10 days. They're intense! (Fun, and sexy, and emotionally intense.) And I want my readers, by the end of the story, to know that my characters are truly falling in love with each other, not merely in that first exciting flush of attraction and lust. In that short time span, I want to show that they're really coming to know each other, and to know themselves better, and they've worked through some personal issues and some couple issues, and that they are two people who are really going to make it together in the long term. To get all of that stuff into the length of one book - or one novella! - is definitely a challenge, but I want my "happily ever after" endings to be believable.