Friday, April 25, 2014

SUNNY - BLOG TOUR SPECIAL: Q&A with Lori Foster on the "Dash of Peril"

Welcome to the blog tour for Lori Foster's lastest in her Love Undercover series, Dash of Peril.  We are so privileged to have the author, Lori Foster, for a special Q&A. 
1. Tell us a little bit about your new release, Dash of Peril.

Readers met these characters in other books in the series, and little by little, they were drawn to each other. I don’t deliberately plan romances for my characters, so at first I wasn’t sure if they’d end up together or not - but I’m very pleased that they did!
Dash is brother to a police detective who works for Lieutenant Margaret Peterson, and it’s safe to say Margaret has never met anyone like him.

2.     How did you come up with the title?

My editor and I had been using hero names in the titles for a while. (That ended with this series, though.) I’m *terrible* with coming up with titles, so I left it up to my editor - who just so happens to be a Margo herself. Yes, I stole her name as Margaret’s nickname... and then she and I both had to blush our way through the sex scenes.

3.     When you come up with an idea for a novel, do you imagine it as a series or standalone? Do you think in terms of chapters? How do you envision the book?

I start a book with the opening scene and the knowledge that whatever happens, the story will end a “happily ever after” romance. That’s it. Usually everything else is up in the air. Occasionally, as one story is revealed so is another. For instance, I know going into the first book in this series that the hero had a partner who would get his own book. I didn’t at that time know the hero had a brother named Dash who would insist on telling his own story.

As far as chapters - mine are usually around 25 manuscript pages each and this helps me to pace myself. It’s a method and pattern that I’ve fallen into and it works for me.

4.     What was the defining moment when you knew you wanted to be a romance writer?

It feels like it was a gazillion years ago. I’d never done much reading, but then I was stuck in bed sick and my sis brought me over a paper bag full of romances. I flipped through the first one until I found a sex scene, then got so engrossed in the story I had to go back to the beginning to see how they’d gotten to that point.

In record time I went through that bag of books and became a romance novel addict. Very shortly after that I decided I wanted to write as well, so I could ensure the story always went exactly the way I wanted it to.  It took me over 10 written books across 5 years before I finally sold my first book.

5.     Amongst all the competition in the romance genre, why do you think your books are so popular?

Wow. Well, I never think in terms of competition. Every writer brings her own unique style to a story, and every accomplishment, whether it’s my own or another author’s, is a door that’s opened for all. Once you see it done, you know it can be done, and that’s a terrific thing for every author.

If I have to try to pinpoint what readers specifically like about my books, I’d say many of them can relate. I hear over and over again how the characters feel like real people - a compliment that thrills me! So even though there might be some unfamiliar plot situations - human trafficking, kidnapping, etc... - the readers can put themselves in the place of the hero or heroine and find common ground through attitudes, emotions, priorities and more.

6.     Do you have any say in what goes on the cover of your books? Do they model the men on the cover after your descriptions or do they base them on real models?

My publisher has been very generous in allowing me to contribute my thoughts to the final cover. I’m not at all involved in hiring the models, but I do give descriptions of how my characters look and any background/backdrop info needed.

I get to see the cover concept - which is basically stock art that gives an idea of how the cover will be staged. Often there’s text accompanying the concept saying things like, “The hero will not be a suit. He will be in jeans and a T-shirt. The backdrop will not be glass shelves but instead a brick wall.” Things like that, so that I can better visualize what they have planned.

Then the publisher hires models, does a cover shoot, and sends me the preliminary shot selected with tentative placement of text, such as my name, the title, any quotes, etc...
On occasion I’ve asked for changes, but usually the covers are just amazing and I’m happy.

For an upcoming cover, I loved, loved, loved everything - except that the model didn’t have chest hair. (I seriously beg for chest hair, because I have never written a guy without it.) The publisher was able to accommodate me and I’m over-the-moon thrilled with the final cover.

7.      What type of advice would you give to a struggling writer?

Finish books. Plural. Write and then write some more. Sure, you want to submit the finished product in hopes of a sale, but don’t wait around to see what happens. As soon as possible, start and finish another book. Then another. The biggest hurdle I’ve seen for new authors is discovering their own voices. There’s this tendency to rely heavily on a critique group of partners - which I’ve always considered a very bad idea.

There’s also a tendency to want a short cut. I can’t tell you how many unpublished authors I’ve heard from who say they’re having a hard time selling and want to know how to make it happen. Hello! I’m the wrong person to ask since it took me 10 books and 5 years to sell. I certainly don’t know any secret shortcuts!
But I can tell you that the end result is worth the time and trouble it took me to get there.

8.     Are there any special places that you like to frequent to clear your head and write?
I can write anywhere - and have - when necessary. But I prefer to write at one of my two desks, either at home or at our lake house. Either works. My desk at home faces the back of our property and our large pond so I can see the fish jump and the deer come up for a drink, the geese and heron, and the occasional fox or coyote.

My desk at the lake house faces the lake so I can see the same things I see at home, along with the boats that go by. I’m very drawn to nature and write best when I’m not cooped up in a hotel room.

9.     How long does each book typically take you to write?

That entirely depends on what’s going on in my life. Like most people, I have very few weeks without some sort of chaos. I’ve learned to adjust to that. But if there’s any serious illness in the family (immediate or extended family) or if I have a lot of travel obligations thrown in, that sucks up some of my energy. There are times where writing obligations overlap - like now. I’m trying to work on the next book, but I have THIS book out now, so there’s promo to do for it, like interviews and blogs and radio, etc... So I juggle.

Recently I wrote a short story over a weekend, but sometimes it can take me a month.
A single title usually takes me three months, give or take. Honestly, some stories and characters make it very easy, and others... not so much.

10.  Do you have any special rituals or habits when preparing to write?

I have my playlist (currently 121 songs) that I crank up. And I burn scented candles (floral usually, with my favorites being hyacinth and lilac) when I’m working on a book. Also, I snack. A lot. And it’s starting to show. I think I need to learn how to write on the treadmill!

11.  What are your other passions outside of writing?

Nature! I could spend every hour on the boat enjoying the sunshine and the scent of the water. We loving going to state parks like Hocking Hills or The Natural Bridge, hiking the trails and going through the caves, or just enjoying the trees.

I also love movies. I can sit in the theater every day if there are movies I want to see. I prefer horror and action flicks, and I can sometimes tolerate comedies. I’m not too keen on dramas or romances. :-)

12.  If you could run away with any one of your male characters, who would it be and why?
There’s a character none of you have met yet. Armie Jacobson. Just wait - I promise you’ll love him, too! He’s in Cannon’s story as a secondary character (No Limits, out August 26th) and from the moment he appeared, he won me over. He’ll eventually get his own book.

Of characters who’ve already been in print, probably Dare from When You Dare. I love his cover so much, but I also love how he loves. His pets, his friends, his mate - once Dare cares, he doesn’t hold back. He’s also big and macho and very capable. And he has a lake in his back yard.

13.  What is your all-time favorite romance novel?

Wow, that’s a toughie! There have been so many that I’ve loved, that there’s no way I can choose just one, but maybe one from several categories?
For historical romance, I’d say Honor’s Splendor by Julie Garwood.
For a contemporary read,  probably Perfect Partners by Jayne Ann Krentz.
Paranormal would have to be A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole.
YA would be Dare You To.
Category would be Mackenzie’s Mountain by Linda Howard.

14.  If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Oh jeez, I never even think about that. If I found a typo I’d fix it…haha! But otherwise, I’ve already moved on. Since I turned in that book I’ve written 3 others (2 short stories and 1 single title) and I’m working on another single title. No time for regrets or looking back! At this point all I can do is hope readers enjoy it.

15.  Any future plans for Dash and Margo?

Oooh, now see, there have been plans, but you’ll see what happens in the next book and I don’t want to ruin the surprise. Let’s just say that Cannon’s book, No Limits, involves Dash and Margo a few times and you see how they’re getting on and how their lives have changed - always for the better. I never rob my characters of their HEA (Happy Ever After) once I’ve given it to them.  But beyond them showing up as secondary characters and giving us glimpses of their married life, I don’t plan to expound on them. They’re happy. That’s good enough for me!

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