Recently, I sat down with best-selling author Joyce Lamb to talk about her exciting new column with USA TODAY, her career as a journalist and her terrific new suspense series.
MK:TRUE VISION won the Daphne Du Maurier award in Single Title Romantic Mystery Suspense. You've been compared to Iris Johansen and Tami Hoag. Heady stuff for a novelist?
JL:Yes, it is! When I saw that the review on one of my earlier titles, Found Wanting, mentioned Tami Hoag and Iris Johansen – that was probably an even cooler moment than when I made my first book sale. I mean, those two are my idols. Amazing. Found Wanting, incidentally, is a 99-cent e-book now. Just in case you want to see for yourself. : )
The True Vision win was a total shock. It was up against books by Cindy Gerard, Laura Griffin and Brenda Novak, so I thought, “No way.” I was truly just thrilled to be in such great company. The night of the awards, all the finalists were asked up onto the stage, and so I was standing there with Cindy, Brenda and Laura and thinking, “Don’t look stupid, don’t look stupid.” I was so starstruck that I didn’t even really hear it when True Vision was named the winner. So I probably ended up looking stupid anyway, because I couldn’t believe it. So, yeah, that was pretty heady stuff.
MK: You've interviewed everyone from Nora Roberts to Brenda Novak for your USA TODAY "Happy Ever After" column. How did the column come about? You're creating a lot of buzz for so many wonderful authors.
JL: Thanks, Mary! It’s been a lot of fun. How it came about: I’m a copy editor at USA Today, and part of my job is to copy edit the paper’s video game blog. I was reading it one day and thought, “Romance novels are to women what video games are to men and boys.” So I pitched the idea for Happy Ever After to the PTBs. USA Today already has great brand recognition with readers (lots of romances say “USA Today best-selling author of …”). And I pointed out that my experience as a romance novelist would add an element that no one else on the USA Today staff or at other major media outlets could provide. Plus, no other major media organization caters to the genre that supports the publishing industry, so the opportunity to have a big impact is there. Luckily, I work with some very smart people, and they saw the opportunity, too.
MK: Your father was in the newspaper business and you were a news editor for the Rockford Register. Charlie Trudeau in TRUE VISION is a newspaper reporter. Is art imitating life here?
JL: A little. My dad and I worked together at the Rockford newspaper in Illinois. Because of my dad, I grew up in that newsroom before I started working there. This is fun: I ended up supervising at least one person who’d sat with me on her lap at her desk when I was a kid. By the time I left the Rockford paper to go to USA Today, I outranked my dad. It was kinda cool – and he loved it. In True Vision, Charlie is a super frustrated reporter, which does reflect some of my frustration with the newspaper business at the community level. Some advertisers try to manipulate news coverage, which is super unethical, yet they seem to think they can do that because the newspaper needs their money to survive. That’s happening at Charlie’s community newspaper in True Vision, and she does something to counter that that gets her and the newspaper into some deep doo-doo. It was fun to write – I got to work out some of my own issues. : )
MK: You mentioned that you read Sidney Sheldon. How did he influence your writing?
JL: Sidney Sheldon’s Rage of Angels set me on the path to being a novelist. I was only 17 when I read that book. It didn’t have a happy ending, but it really made me feel a lot: happy, sad, angry. And I thought, “I want to make people feel like this. I’m going to write books.” I started right away, too. I was only 17, though, and kinda sucked as a writer. Plus, there was the whole going to college thing and getting a job to pay the bills before I could really focus on writing novels. It was pretty much a hobby until many years later, when I finally ended up in a job where I could balance working and writing and managed to sell my first book.
MK: TRUE VISION is the first in a trilogy. I know that TRUE COLORS features Charlie's kid sister, Alex. Can you tell us something about book three, TRUE CALLING?
JL:True Calling is now called True Shot (publisher wanted something edgier for the title). It's about Charlie and Alex's older sister, Sam. I had a blast writing True Shot! Romance writers who do trilogies are advised to save the best story for last, and I feel I really did that with True Shot.
Here's a little about True Shot:
Samantha Trudeau is a psychic spy for a secret government agency that she's recently discovered has gone rogue. She goes on the run and ends up at the Trudeau family cabin at the same time as a vacationing Mac Hunter, a burned-out journalist and good friend of Sam's estranged sisters. The bad guys show up to reclaim Sam (for a sinister purpose, of course), and things go from bad to worse when a drug wipes out Sam's memory, leaving her dependent on the un-spy-trained Mac to get her to safety.
Mac and Sam are a hoot together. Sam has a serious, down-to-business, where's-my-gun attitude, while Mac fights his battles with words and humor -- not something that works all that well when you're dealing with ruthless rogue government spies. Though it is pretty entertaining.
I love Mac and Sam together! Especially when Mac comes out swinging, completely counter to his nature, to protect Sam. Sigh. I've fallen hopelessly in love with all of my heroes (as it should be!), but Mac is the one I most wish actually existed.
MK: Your earlier books were single title releases. Why did you decide to write a trilogy?
JL:When I first started writing True Vision, I planned for it to be more of an ongoing series featuring Charlie Trudeau as the main character solving mysteries with her psychic ability. I planned for her to have two potential heroes, a la Stephanie Plum's Joe and Ranger, though my plan wasn't to be as comedic as the Janet Evanovich books. Unfortunately (or fortunately actually!), that kind of series setup is more accepted in the mystery genre than in romance, so I decided to give Charlie two sisters who also have psychic abilities. It turned out to be really fun, because for each True book, I ratcheted up the power of each sister's psychic ability to keep each story fresh and different.
MK: What is it with writers and cats? I have eight cats and I was happy to see you featured Maddie on your website. Is she your inspiration?
JL: Maddie would like to think she's my inspiration. : ) I've asked other authors this same question, because it does seem as if many of us have kitties. Inspirational (and hysterical!) author Jenny B. Jones said it best: With cats, "you can throw out some kibble and water, and they're set for days. If you get totally engrossed in your book and forget to feed a dog for a few days ... people report you."
MK: You credit your friends and fellow writers on your acknowledgments page. It seems you have a strong network of fellow authors and critique partners? Is this important for a writer?
JL: Most definitely! When I first started writing, I operated in a vacuum. There was no Internet then, so finding writers with the same interests and goals was tough. Plus, I had no idea what I was doing, so I think it took me a lot longer to figure out what works and what doesn't. Once I found a group of writers to critique with, lots of light bulbs went off in my head when we'd meet and discuss each other's work. When I discovered Romance Writers of America, it was like finding the Holy Grail. I went to my first RWA annual conference in 2004, and I've been to almost every one since, because the vibe is unbelievably supportive and exciting. Now I have a ton of romance writer friends, and they are the coolest, best people on the planet. Generous and kind and funny as hell. I'm so lucky!
MK: Where can fans catch up with you? Any appearances, book signings on the horizon?
JL: Fans can find me at my Web site, JoyceWrites.com, and at my Happy Ever After blog at USATODAY.com (happyeverafter.usatoday.com). Liking Author Joyce Lamb on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJoyceLamb) certainly wouldn't be frowned upon. : )
I'm also doing a book signing with Nora Roberts (woo hoo!) and several other authors in Boonsboro, Md., on Dec. 3. You can find info about that at the Turn the Page Bookstore Web site: http://www.ttpbooks.com/
And if you'd like to leave a comment below, I'll give away a signed copy of True Shot to two commenters here! Here's a question to get you started: Who's your favorite all-time romance novel hero?
Dr. Mary Kennedy is a licensed psychologist in private practice in the northeast, and the author of The Talk Radio Mysteries for Penguin. Visit her at www.marykennedy.net
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