Q&A with New York Times bestselling author Lisa Kleypas

Our featured author Lisa Kleypas dishes with SheKnows Book Lounge about her new book, Rainshadow Road, coming out on Feb. 28, 2012.

Lisa KleypasSheKnows: You’re famous for your historical and contemporary romances. With your newest Friday Harbor series, you’ve tried something new by weaving in a hint of magical realism. What inspired this subtle shift?

Lisa Kleypas: Well, when I first visited Friday Harbor with Greg and the kids a couple of years ago, I really felt a sense of “otherness” or magic in the air. It’s a misty Brigadoon-type place — but you’re probably too young for that reference, unless you’re a show tune queen like me. San Juan Island is a unique place — a mixture of steep hills and bluffs, forests, rolling farmland, sandy beaches and all of it is protected by the Olympic mountain rain shadow. And I’d read and loved so much magic realism in the past, including Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, and Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen, that I really saw this as the chance to try something fresh in my career.

SheKnows: You’ve chosen to set Rainshadow Road in Friday Harbor — a real, rather than fictional location. Have you ever been to the actual Friday Harbor and how many books do you envision setting there?

Lisa Kleypas: I think I’ve been about four times so far. I’ve even daydreamed about living there! It would be incredible to slow down and relax, and live on island time. But family and I have too many friends and interests to even think about moving right now.

As for other books at Friday Harbor, there are at least two coming up: Dream Lake — about the bitter and hard-living Alex Nolan, who is being haunted by the ghost of a WWII fighter pilot who wants to be reunited with the woman he once loved… and Crystal Cove — about Justine Hoffman, a free-spirited young woman who casts a spell to fight a dangerous attraction to the mysterious Jason Black. Beyond that, I’m not sure yet. I’ve been getting a lot of nudges from readers who might like to read a book featuring Joe Travis from my Texas trilogy.

SheKnows: What was the most interesting thing you had to research for Rainshadow Road and what was the hardest thing to research? Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas

Lisa Kleypas: For the Friday Harbor series, I’m having to research viticulture and winemaking, because Sam, the middle brother, owns a vineyard. It is really interesting but also challenging — so much to learn! But I’ve always wanted to know more about winemaking, so this is the perfect opportunity. This also gives me a good excuse to drink more wine, doesn’t it? 😉

SheKnows: Who was your favorite character to develop while writing Rainshadow Road?

Lisa Kleypas: I had so much fun developing the character of Sam Nolan! Although my husband Greg has been the inspiration for many of my heroes, I think Sam is the most like him. Sam is cute, sexy and all-out geeky. I sprinkled geekitude in every scene he’s in, including describing his nerdy tee shirts, his love of space and science, and his computer skills. For example, when he and Lucy want to watch a movie, and she points out that it will take too long to download it, and Sam replies smugly, “I’ve got a download accelerator that maximizes data delivery by initiating several simultaneous connections from multiple servers. Five minutes, tops.” So he’s a different type of hero for me, and I really loved that.

SheKnows: Sam and Lucy find each other when she’s in a particularly vulnerable place — having just been dumped by her boyfriend for her sister. In addition, Sam has his own dark history when it comes to relationships. Can you talk a little more about this?

Lisa Kleypas: I thought that although they were both struggling with trust issues, for Lucy it was more a problem of trusting other people, whereas for Sam it was a problem of trusting himself. Because many children of alcoholics, as Sam is,  grow up with this feeling that the seeds of destruction are sown at the beginning of every relationship. And if you believe that, then the more you love someone, the worse it’s going to hurt when they inevitably abandon you or let you down. So I felt that Sam’s issue was the most challenging obstacle — and I loved it. That magic eventually reflected the realization that his heart was pulling him toward.

That’s the neat part of magic realism — the magic doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. It’s just part of the world — the same way sunlight or flowers are. In that sense, ordinary things like babies and rainbows and love itself are just as magical as transforming glass. And that’s very easy for a romance writer to believe!

SheKnows: What is your favorite part of Rainshadow Road?

Lisa Kleypas: By far, the part I most enjoyed writing the most was the one with Sam and Lucy in the shower. I won’t spoil anything by revealing exactly what happened to Lucy, but after a major turn of events, Sam has to help Lucy shower. And since this is still at an early point in their relationship, he’s trying desperately not to become aroused. So he’s nervous and breathing heavily, and he can’t help flirting with her in spite of himself. From that point on, I really had a handle on their relationship, the way they constantly try to set up barriers but still just can’t resist each other. I think there’s a metaphor somewhere in the book where he describes their relationship as a binary star, which is a pair of circling stars caught forever in each other’s orbit.

SheKnows: Now, a little more about you! When did you know you wanted to be a writer? How long did it take for you to make your first sale?

Lisa Kleypas: I was always an obsessive reader and writer. When I was 16, I started a romance novel at summer camp, and the process was so intriguing and enjoyable that I kept writing for the rest of the summer until it was done. I submitted the finished manuscript to several publishers, and of course it was turned down by all of them. But at that point, I was hooked. Every summer after that, I wrote another novel, sent it out and was rejected. Finally when I was 21 and graduating from college, I made my first sale to NAL. It was a historical romance titled Where Passion Leads.

SheKnows: Do you have a writing routine? What is your average writing day like?

Lisa Kleypas: I try to have a very disciplined routine, which is hard when you have two children. Also hard when, if you’re like me, you’re not an innately disciplined person. I wake up around 4 a.m., which is perfect because the house is quiet and the phone isn’t ringing, and I write until it’s time to get the kids up and get them ready for school. I work while they’re gone, and I stop when they get back home, so I can hear how their day was, help with homework projects, etc.? My goal each day is to have 1000 words, as polished as I can make them. I always start by going over the previous day’s work and editing it, and that gets me on track to keep pushing forward. And some days it’s frustrating because even though I’m working hard, I don’t like what I’m putting down on the page. The important thing is to keep at it, because that’s the only way to get to the breakthrough moments. Sometimes, very rarely, a book will practically flow from my fingertips. But 99 percent of the time it’s like being in stop and go traffic… you have to keep telling yourself you’ll get there eventually.

SheKnows: And lastly, but not leastly, how do you spend your “free” time — when you’re not writing?

Lisa Kleypas: You probably won’t be surprised to hear that I love to read in my spare time! I read a wide variety of books, but my favorites are biographies and history, and of course novels of every genre. I also love to cook, so my daughter and I are always trying out new recipes together. And at least twice a week, I make time to exercise with one of my dearest friends, Christina Dodd. We like to suffer together.

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