This week’s interview is with Romance writer, Marie Lavender. It was a pleasure to discover this enthusiastic author of a whopping 17 books (in addition to her other written works), so I invite you, dear Reader, to read on and meet her yourself.
Welcome, Marie! So great to have you with us. Can you begin by telling us a little about yourself?
I am a romance author. I have published 17 books. I grew up in the Midwest and I still live there with my family and three cats. I have been writing stories since I was a kid.
Are you interested in other forms of artistic expression besides writing? Where does writing fit in, and why are you drawn to it?
When I have the time, I like to cook. Most of all, I like to just come up with something without using a recipe. It usually turns out pretty well. I like to express myself with home decor as well, whether it is designing the look of a room or adding small touches here and there to make the theme work with the space. Let’s see…what else? I’ve always liked music a lot. I was in choir from the third grade to my senior year of high school. I even took a voice class in college. I was a soprano in my choir, and I did a lot of solos for performances. Music has always called to me. But, my main love has always been writing. Sometimes I combine the two, however. I listen to certain types of music while I am writing a scene. I’ve always had whole scenes playing out in my head, and my only choice was to write it all down.
What forms of writing and genres do you prefer and why? What can you never see yourself writing?
I have written short stories, books and poetry. Poetry is more of a hobby. I love writing short stories and books. That’s mainly what I write. And for the most part, I write romance, though I have dabbled in literary fiction and mystery before. As for what I can never see myself writing, I think I would have trouble with science fiction. I certainly don’t mind watching the occasional sci-fi film, but I don’t think I’d have the penchant for writing it.
As a reader, what do you think makes a good story? What’s one thing a ‘bad’ book taught you to not do in your own writing?
I think a good story has likeable characters (or at least some redeeming qualities), a compelling plot line and a good resolution. I can’t think of any “bad” books off the top of my head. But, I think we have all read books by authors we like or follow that maybe bother us in some small way. Perhaps we don’t like waiting until the next book in the series gets released because the author gave us an infuriating cliff-hanger. One thing that does bother me is killing off characters. That is an absolute no-no in the fiction world. But, it’s done all the time, isn’t it? In my Creative Writing classes, we were told never to kill off main characters. I guess that is a pet peeve of mine, and it’s not something I plan to do with my characters. If deaths do happen in my stories, they occur with villains or they happened in the back story, in the character’s past. I don’t think I would ever kill off a character, unless there was no other choice. But, it requires two living people to pull off a romance so I think I’m good there.
Very interesting points about killing main characters. I, too, have a hard time accepting books like that, as it’s hard to say goodbye to a character I have become attached to.
As a writer, what elements do you find are the most crucial to include in your stories? What are your strengths and weaknesses?
I think there should be an antagonist in a story, something or someone who keeps the character from what he or she wants the most. Maybe the hero’s enemy is himself, a certain past or belief that works against him. Maybe it is an actual person, preventing the character from getting what they want. I think having that makes the story interesting and drives the plot forward.
As for strengths, I think I am pretty decent at delving into a character, getting into the heart of that character and seeing how they tick. What are their hopes? Fears? Secrets? What do they want most and how do they plan on getting it? One weakness of mine is description. I can see a place in my mind, but I get so involved in the writing of the story that I forget to add what the environment might look like. A lot of times, that’s something I have to add later on in one of my revisions. I use research for the story or book and add the sensory details to bring it home. But, it’s something to learn, and I’m starting to get better at adding it right away.
Who/what are the biggest influences in your writing? How do they influence what you write?
Encouragement from readers is one. It is a major boost when a fan comments on how well they liked one of my books. That makes me want to get back to more writing. I am also inspired by the romance in my own life. What is the one thing a romance writer feeds off of the most? Love. I use love in my own life, my own love story with my fiancé, the love I observe from the couples all around me as well as my own imagination to fuel the fire.
What draws you to your preferred genre? What do you think makes your genre unique? And why is it so popular?
I love romance. I am a hopeless romantic at heart, and I think if I had the chance, I would travel back in time to Regency or Victorian times just to see how it really was. I love reading historical romance. I really love any kind of romance, even modern ones. The genre is changing all of the time, encompassing new aspects. Now we have paranormal romance, romantic suspense, time travel romance, romantic fantasy, you name it. And I think that’s great. I have read some of these sub-genres. I think it’s wonderful that the genre is evolving so much. As for why it’s popular, I think partially it is about love. A lot of romance readers love reading about “love”. And beyond that, there is probably an appeal for escapism, just like any fiction lover would feel. What better way to forget about the realities of your own life than to escape for a time into the world of literature? It is another world, and, when I read, I welcome the escape.
You must be right. I hear Romance is one of the most, if not THE most popular genre at the moment.
Can you tell us about your books? What other projects are you working on?
As aforementioned, I have published 17 books. I have published literary fiction, poetry, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, romantic mystery, paranormal romance and historical romance. In February of 2013, Upon Your Return, a historical romance, was released through Summer Solstice (a division of Solstice Publishing). And in November, I released a romantic suspense, Leather and Lace. I am polishing the sequel to Upon Your Return right now. I also have plans to release a new anthology. I am working on a romantic suspense collaboration with another writer. So, at all times, I have several projects at once.
If you promote other writers on a blog or website, why is that so important to you?
I do run a blog called Writing in the Modern Age. We host guest authors through interviews, guest articles and poetry spotlights. I don’t mind helping other authors promote their books and writing. It is very rewarding.
What do you find is the most difficult aspect of writing and how do you cope with it?
I used to think research was difficult. It still is very challenging, but I am actually starting to enjoy it a lot. It is part of any project, and I learn a lot of new information in the process. Now, editing seems like one of the more difficult endeavors. It is grueling, though necessary work. It is hard to make major changes to something that you have built from the ground up, so to speak. It is painful, but I still do it. And I know making those changes improves the overall work.
Who are your favourite writers and why?
My favorite for contemporary romance is Nora Roberts. I choose her because Nora always tells it like it is, no matter how gritty the subject is. I admire that. For historical, I would choose Kris Tualla, Catherine Coulter, Tessa Dare and Emma Wildes. I was referred to Kris Tualla this year, and I don’t regret reading any of her books. She has a unique spin on Viking romances. I like the other historical romance writers mentioned because they deal mostly in Regency romance, and the Regency period is one of my favorites. I have several works in progress set in Regency times. For paranormal romance, my favorites are J.R. Ward, Kerrelyn Sparks, P.C. Cast and Chloe Neill. If you didn’t know, these writers tend to write a lot of romances about vampires. And did I mention I like vampire stories? I have a few of those stories in progress as well. Of course, I read books by many other authors, but these are the main ones I follow.
What advice would you give to new writers, especially those looking to break into your genre?
Read everything you can in the genre or sub-genre you want to focus on. Then read some books on the subject of writing. Most of all, practice! It doesn’t hurt anything to implement what you’ve learned. You will pick up the techniques along the way, and end up creating your own voice. Oh, and step out of your comfort zone if you can. Your writing will be all the much better for it. For any aspiring writer, I would recommend starting a blog and creating a following, even a small one, early on. You’ll thank yourself for it later. And for aspiring romance writers, all of the above still applies, but don’t forget the HEA. If you’re familiar with the genre, you know what I mean.
That’s a great point about stepping out of our genres. I think that makes for more rounded writing and, possibly, something unique.
How can readers get into contact with you?
You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. You can also subscribe on both of my blogs and my website for updates and blog posts. Feel free to use the “contact me” button on my website. I’d love to hear from you!
Marie, it was great to meet you and to learn more about you and your work. It was wonderful to learn of your passion for romance writing and your advice was useful and easily applicable. Readers, I hope you enjoyed meeting Marie as much as I did. Please leave her a note below and visit her on one of her links.
Have a great week!