A couple of years ago, I began hearing about an author who wrote very smart contemporary romantic novels. I picked up Lisa Dale’s It Happened One Night and fell in love with her style.
Lisa’s intelligence and curiosity about a wide array of subjects shine through her stories. She’s here today talking about her latest release, A Promise of Safekeeping, and giving away a copy of her previous novel, Slow Dancing on Price’s Pier.
Thank you tons for having me!
1. Your novels always feature characters who have really interesting careers – or maybe it’s the way you include fascinating bits of your research into your novels that makes their careers seem so interesting. From astronomy to flowers to the history of coffee, you cover a wide range of topics. What’s been your most interesting subject to research, and what can we look forward to reading more about in A Promise of Safekeeping?
I love all of it! I’m as nerdy as it gets…so I’ve always got my nose in a book and am trying to learn new things. Part of that comes from being a writer: we have to know things like, what certain flowers are called, what certain trees are, what are the architectural parts of a building and what period are they from…etc. Knowing those kinds of things aids in writing good descriptions.
My characters’ careers are often just an excuse for me to dig into a subject. Lauren, in A Promise of Safekeeping, is a body language expert—which is SOOOOOO fascinating. Lauren’s great at her job, but not so good at reading body language in her personal life. She can tell if a criminal is lying…but her love life is a different story. What kind of person would you be if you could read the words beneath the words?
The hero, Will, is an antiques dealer, and I think that’s because I’m starting to realize that I’m infatuated by the concept of history, by the notion of so many lives and experiences happening in the same space, by history being all around us, right now, in the present.
Will collects antique keys, which reflects the themes of “keeping” and “locking away” that run through the book. Old keys embody what I love about antiques: the mystery of the past. The inherent opaqueness of it. What did this key secret away? Or, who did it imprison? Who was it meant to keep out? I think this idea of the layers of history has been a latent theme of my writing that is just starting to come out in A Promise of Safekeeping, and more in my W-I-P.
2. Your characters face enormous challenges that many readers will recognize from their own lives. To me, this makes their happily-ever-after all the more satisfying. Do you get many emails from readers who’ve experienced the challenges your characters have?
Yes. And I love them. My books aren’t “hard” reading, but I do think they’re cathartic for many people. I do love a story that’s high on conflict, drama, and emotion—but I also love an HEA.
3. You have an MFA in fiction and have been published in several literary magazines. How did your career writing romantic fiction come about? Have you always written novels alongside shorter literary pieces?
I’ve always been reader of many genres—with the exceptions of horror, westerns, and high fantasy (though I’ve read some of these too). And I’ve always loved romantic stories and romance novels, even since the girls in my college dorm starting trading them like baseball cards. So it was natural that when I started writing books, I started with romance.
Lately, though, my books keep getting more and more complex—but always with a love story at the center. So while my prior novels were shelved strictly in romance, my new book, A Promise of Safekeeping, is shelved in fiction, but there are strong elements of genre romance as well.
4. One thing many readers might not know about you is that you offer manuscript consultations for novelists. With your MFA and previous experience working for a literary agent, what would you say are the biggest weaknesses you see in manuscripts? And what kind of stories really take your breath away?
This is so awful but I’m just going to say it: there’s a huge population of “writers who don’t read” out there. And you can tell, instantly, when a writer isn’t also a reader. How well a person writes is very often in direct correlation with how much a person reads. Professional writers read professionally.
Stephen King says it best: “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.” So—anyone can write a novel by banging the keys for a long enough period of time. But it takes a reader to write a story that’s capable of touching people’s lives.
5. On your website, you say you’re a big Revolutionary War buff. Any chance of a Lisa Dale historical romance in the future?
Actually…yes! Someday in my future—you know, after my contemporaries appear regularly on the Times list—I hope to write historicals for fun. Pirates, probably—but different than you’ve ever read pirates before. But alas, me hearties, that’s years away!
Pirates, eh? You’ll love my guest post from Shana Galen next week, then. 🙂
Leave a comment by Tuesday January 24th for a chance to win Lisa’s 2011 novel Slow Dancing on Price’s Pier. (Open to U.S. entrants only.)
Slow Dancing on Price’s Pier
Thea Celik has devoted herself to running her Newport coffee shop, to parenting her daughter, and to being a meaningful part of her in-law’s loving family. Her life is mild but satisfying—she’s sure of her place in the community and in her family. But when her childhood friend and husband Jonathan uncharacteristically cheats on her, her certainty about her role in the world is shaken.
Now as Thea strives to rediscover herself and remain close with the only family she knows, Jonathan’s brother Garret vows to exile her from their lives once and for all. Garret has never forgotten his history with Thea, and he hopes Jonathan’s divorce from her will mean he can reconnect with his brother at last. But his increasingly frequent encounters with Thea—and his unresolved feelings for her—threaten his relationship with his family now more than ever before.