Friday, July 31, 2009

Guest Chef: Debut author, LYNN RAYE HARRIS

Lynn Raye Harris interview conducted by Carol Burnside

CB: Lynn, congratulations on your first release coming out this month and thanks for being our guest today. We at PFHT appreciate you taking the time to speak with us.
LRH: Hi, Carol! It’s great to be here. Thanks so much for asking me to be your guest.

For those folks who aren’t familiar with Harlequin Presents, could you explain what your readers can expect in a Lynn Raye Harris book?
LRH: Passion, emotion, intensity. That’s the short and sweet answer. Harlequin Presents are intense, emotional reads with varying levels of heat. Mine have been described as ‘sizzling’. I like a lot of heat in my books! When that gorgeous alpha male turns his passion on the heroine, I want it to be amazing and intense. I hope I succeed!

I know you lived in Hawaii a few years back because we were both members of the Aloha chapter of RWA (Romance Writers of America). It seems you’ve been to quite a few places you could use for settings in your book. What was your favorite place and why?
LRH: My favorite city is probably Venice, because of the uniqueness and beauty, though I have yet to use it in a book! But I did use another city I loved when writing SPANISH MAGNATE, RED-HOT REVENGE. Madrid. I spent nearly a week there a few years ago and simply fell in love with the culture. The men were so intensely male, if that makes sense. Madrid is both modern and ancient, and I loved that juxtaposition. I also used (briefly) Honolulu in the opening scene.

When using a locale in your books which you’ve never visited, how much research to you do?
LRH: I do as much as necessary. I guess that’s not a helpful answer, but sometimes a setting is only a small part of a scene or chapter. For instance, Alejandro and Rebecca go to Dubai in one chapter of SMRHR. I’ve never been there. I didn’t need much, just an idea of what it looked and felt like to be in that setting. I used Google for pictures, and I read the tourism sites about Dubai. I felt like I had enough to add flavoring (kind of like a pinch of salt or Herbes de Provence!). If I were setting a whole book in a city I’d never been to, I’d do more intense study. In addition to the web research, I’d pick up guidebooks and phrasebooks. Though I’d been to Madrid, I did consult my guidebooks and photos to make sure I got things right, most specifically the location of Alejandro’s office and the beauty of the Plaza Mayor.

In my writing, I often find bits of my likes and dislikes creeping into the heroines. Is there anything about you that creeps into your heroines, like maybe your shoeaholic tendencies or gourmet cooking?
LRH: Oh yes! LOL, I did have a section where Rebecca was putting on her Christian Louboutin slingback peeptoe nude pumps. I think that got cut, though I might still refer to her CL’s somewhere. I also had her swirling and tasting a fine Tempranillo wine, eating jamon serrano and Manchego cheese, and remarking on tapas. I think all that got cut in the revisions. *G* Alejandro drinks Manzanilla, which is a sherry, but I believe it reads as simply ‘sherry’ now. This was after the copy editor changed all my ‘sherry’s to ‘whiskey’. I was not pleased and changed them all back.

Winning the Harlequin Presents contest was a fabulous break for you. Of course your hard work and great writing is what landed you there, but what was it like having an editor’s help for a year? Did you learn tons? Was it fun or frustrating? Any tidbits you can share to help out those of us still struggling toward publication?
LRH: Having an editor for a year (though I had her for only six months before I sold – and I still have her now, thankfully!) was the most amazing thing for any aspiring writer, I can assure you. I did learn tons. My learning curve was greatly shortened thanks to her guidance. It’s not that I wasn’t writing engaging characters or a good story, but having an editor to guide me saved me from the trap of endlessly rewriting, from second-guessing myself, and from the doubt demon. Oh, I doubted plenty, but I had deadlines and had to turn things in on time. I also learned how to turn up the emotion in my stories. I think we often shrink from exploring the really deep, hard emotions of our characters simply because it can be painful. But my editor didn’t let me get away with that. She made me take another look at motivation, emotional conflict, and a character’s actions and reactions.

The only frustrating thing was that I’m a perfectionist and I want to get things right the first time. For me, turning in a book and having revisions is like turning in a college paper and getting a B or a C. I want that A the first time, LOL!

The tidbits I think can help are these: look very, very hard at your characters’ motivations. Make sure your characters are behaving consistently, and that you explore their emotions deeply enough. When you think you’ve gone deep enough, go deeper. Don’t shrink from the hard truths. Explore them, no matter how uncomfortable it might be.

Also, stop worrying about things that don’t matter! Seriously, which font you use is inconsequential. Unless the house you’re targeting states what they want, use a good readable font with reasonable margins. Seriously. I have always written my books in TNR 12 with 1-inch margins all around. And I use double-space, turning off widows and orphans. I don’t try to get a certain amount of lines per page. I also use italics instead of underlining. My editor has never once told me to do it differently. And my line-edited manuscript typically comes to me with 23 lines per page. Don’t know why. They also change it to Courier 12 at that stage.

Ultimately, you are writing for a reader. Remember that. They don’t care about the ‘rules’. If you like to change POV within a scene, do it. Just make it smooth. I am a purist, but that’s just me. Contests are great, and judges’ comments can be very helpful, but please don’t feel you have to change every single thing someone tells you to. Story is what matters. STORY. If it’s compelling, if it starts at a point of great change and engages the reader to want to know why and if everything will turn out okay, then you’re doing it right. Those are the kinds of comments you want to listen to, not the ones that tell you that you can’t use more than one POV per scene or that you must begin the book with dialogue. All you really have to do is make it interesting and compelling.

Call Stories are favorites in the writing community. Have you shared yours? If so, where can we read about it?
LRH: I’ve been all over talking about my call story! You can read it at
I Heart Presents and Dear Author.

SPANISH MAGNATE, RED HOT REVENGE, your debut book, is really good. (I’m reading it now.) Love that yummy Alejandro! I’m delighted that you’ve sold more books. Can you tell us a bit about them and when they’ll be released?
LRH: Thank you so much, Carol! I’m always tickled when someone says they are enjoying my book. My second book, CAVELLI’S LOST HEIR, will be out in the UK in December and here in the US and Canada in January 2010. Here’s the back cover blurb:

Captive and married: by royal decree!

Prince Nico Cavelli would never normally waste his time visiting the prison cell of a tourist. Except this particular alleged criminal has stolen something very personal to him -- his son, heir to the Montebianco throne!

Lily Morgan always knew it was a mistake coming to the Mediterranean kingdom, but she'd had no choice. First she was thrown into jail for a crime she didn't she's been bailed out by the Prince -- though in return she must become his royal wife!

My third book, THE PRINCE’S ROYAL CONCUBINE, has just been accepted and will be out in the UK in March 2010. No North American date yet, but it will definitely be here! This book is about Prince Cristiano de Savaré and Princess Antonella Romanelli. They are enemies by birth, but when they must shelter from a hurricane in the Caribbean, things heat up. There’s more to the story, of course, but I leave it to editorial for how to blurb it. I suck at that. *g*

I should also say that SPANISH MAGNATE, RED-HOT REVENGE is available in India in August (with a different cover!) and Australia in September.

That CABELLI’S LOST HEIR blurb is a great teaser, Lynn. I know you’re busy working on that next book, so I won’t keep you. Thanks for answering my questions and letting us get to know you a little better. Keep writing those sexy, hot heroes for us to enjoy and we’ll keep reading.
LRH: Thanks for inviting me here, Carol! Who knew when we met in the library that day that we’d be discussing my books on a blog! I hope we’ll soon be discussing yours. :-) I look forward to reading your hot heroes someday soon.

And now I’d love to give away a signed copy of SPANISH MAGNATE, RED-HOT REVENGE to one lucky commenter! Ask me a question, about writing or about Harlequin Presents or whatever else you are dying to know and think I can answer, or simply tell me about your favorite city to set a book in or type of hero to read. I’ll pick a winner based on my super scientific method (i.e. drawing at random from all the comments).

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Our sincere thanks to Lynn Raye Harris for being our Guest Chef on PFHT and good luck to those who comment!

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Update: 8/7/09:
Lynn has chosen Linsey Lanier from the comments to receive a signed copy of SPANISH MAGNATE, RED-HOT REVENGE. Congratulations, Linsey!


Keli Gwyn said...

Great interview. I like Carol's questions and your answers, Lynn.

I'm most intrigued by the detail the copy editor removed. What reason were you given? Just space? Or did something else drive the decision to cut the interesting details?

Tami Brothers said...

I second that, Keli, and was honestly wondering the same thing. I didn't know they went that far as to change those small type of details.

Lynn, I also wanted to say that I LOVE your website. I LOVE the look and feel and the little tidbits you have on each page. Great job. Also, LOVE the sexy photo we have posted on our sidebar of you. That really caught my eye.

Thanks a ton for blogging about the tidbits when sending the MS to an editor. I have heard the font quesitos tons of times and often wondered if I was being too bleh about it.

Thanks for blogging with us today and I can't wait to read your story!


T-Ray said...


Thanks for visiting us today. Very informative, very interesting.

Great insight about standing your ground if you think a requested change will impact your story. I was told an issue should be brought in later in my book, but I disagreed and when I explained why, they left it where it was.

They want the best product and it's a team effort, so we need to remember that.

Thanks again for joining us today.

Sandy Elzie said...

Good morning Lynn,

Great Q&A. In a moment I'll be heading over to read about your "Call" story and checking out your website.

I write about cities in the U.S., but like areas of the country where unusual things happen. I'm working on one right now where it opens in the middle of an Los Angeles, of course. (since I'm from Calif, no research was needed)

Thanks for taking time to join us today.

Sandy Elzie

Marilyn Baron said...

Great post. Thanks for all the valuable information. Venice is also one of my favorite cities but I've never set a book there. I seem to set most of my books in Florida, where I'm from, and because I love the ocean and it figures into most of my stories.

I've been to Europe often, even lived there for six months in Florence, but have never been to Madrid. I've always wanted to go just to visit The Prado. Hearing how much you enjoyed your time there makes me want to visit even more. What did you think of it?

Marilyn Baron

Debbie Kaufman said...

Morning Lynn:
I love that you can bring all that authentic background into your stories and darn anyone for cutting those tidbits that make it unique! So what's next?

Susan May said...

Thanks for being with us today and I enjoyed meeting you at nationals. I'm working on a manuscript for Presents and plan to enter the I Heart Presents contest. When you talk about going deeper with the emotions do you have a process you use? Any helpful ideas?

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Wow, so many great comments this morning! I'm absolutely thrilled y'all invited me to be here. Sorry to be late, but most of you are an hour ahead (except Keli for sure -- Keli, you were up late!) and my sleep is still wonky after conference and a whirlwind trip to New Orleans.

So I've got my coffee and I'm diving in!

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi, Tami! Thanks for the comments about my website. I owe all the credit to the fabulous Frauke Spanuth at Croco Designs. She really did a great job when I said I wanted glamorous and sexy, but elegant, at the same time.

Oops, and now I see I'm answering out of order since Keli was first! But Keli asked about those details, and Tami seconded, so I can answer both here. (Whew!)

I honestly don't know what drives CE decisions. The CE is different from my editor, btw. Once my editor accepts a manuscript, it moves on to copy editing. Because I am American, I'm edited to the Webster's American Dictionary (instead of the OED) and my mss is done in Toronto (the Brits and Aussies are CE'ed in the UK).

With my first mss, SMRHR, I was too new to argue much. I assure you I have no problem with it now! I didn't know what to expect, and when I got my book back with some things generecized (if that's a word), I accepted most of it.

Except a Spaniard drinks sherry, and I held fast on that one. I have no idea why the CE thought whiskey sounded better, but I didn't like it. I'm actually the one who cut the food details, but that's because the food scene ended up being gratuitous in the scheme of things.

There was a bit of an issue with changing some things to past perfect tense. I argued with some of them and let most of them go. There were also odd changes that weren't American (in spite of me supposedly being edited American) -- trouser suit instead of pantsuit for instance.

The last mss had a most fabulous CE. I loved everything this one did, and she left my voice alone (none of those pesky PP changes). I hope I get her again on the one I just turned in.

Oh and Tami, LOL about the sexy photo! I hadn't thought of it that way, but now I see why you described it that way. I do seem to be practicing my come hither look. *g*

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi, T-Ray! You are so right, it really is a team effort. My editor wants the best story possible, and she is usually right. I did disagree in book 2 with a suggested change, so I didn't make it -- and she accepted the book, which told me that she really did mean it as a suggestion and not a command.

I had told her when I sent it back that I thought I'd explained everything leading up to the event and I felt it still belonged. She has told me before that I am the author and it's my story. She might see a problem, and make suggestions on how to change it, but it's really up to me to find the best solution that works with my story and voice.

I heart my editor. :)

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi Sandy! I do love when Nature plays a part in a story. The book that was just accepted has a hurricane for much of the middle section. I enjoyed throwing my characters together in a storm and letting them rely on each other. :)

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi, Marilyn! I see nothing wrong with setting books in a location you are from! Since I've moved a lot, I have a lot of locations, LOL.

Oh Madrid. Yes, I definitely loved it. And I had a most fabulous guided tour of the Prado that lasted for hours. Then I went back on my own the next day. I also spent time in the Plaza Mayor (which figures into the book in one scene) and ate at Botins, the restaurant Hemingway frequented and made famous in THE SUN ALSO RISES. I would go back to Madrid in a heartbeat. It's very cosmopolitan.

Oh, and LOL, Rebecca's ride across town with Alejandro, where she talks about the limo crawling along and then shooting gaps in traffic -- that's straight from my experience in the taxis there. Scary driving.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi, Debbie! It's funny you ask what's next -- I'm expecting a call from my editor any minute now and we are going to discuss Book 4 -- which so far seems to have a priceless jewel and a family rivalry. She may not like that idea, so we'll see. I am very much a pantser, which she gets, so thankfully I don't have to have the whole thing plotted in advance. But she does try to head off potential problems, which is great. She sees the bigger picture even when I don't.

C.J. Redwine said...

Wonderful interview, Lynn! Here's my question: What's the most amazing meal you ever ate while abroad? :)

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi, Susan! It was great meeting you too. Best of luck with the contest -- you don't have to win to sell, as one lucky entrant proved recently!

Hmm, I don't think I have a process for going deeper, but I've sort of learned over the process of 3 books with my editor that I need to be sure to explore my characters' feelings more.

For instance, in the last book the heroine was abused (physically). She is strong and determined not to let that rule her now, but when I had a part where she shoved the hero, my editor said no, she wouldn't do that. So I had to think about it and think how she would behave in a situation where she's upset if she has an abhorrence of physical violence.

That made me go deeper into her emotions. I almost had to become her in some ways, had to feel all that pain and anger -- and that is a hard thing to do. We give our characters backstories because they are compelling, but then we sometimes forget to feel that backstory as we write. So, I guess I'm saying you have to feel it. If you aren't feeling it, you aren't deep enough.

I hope that makes sense. And truly, that is MY process. Your own might be different. I'd say to just make sure that you feel *something* when writing the emotional scenes. That's when you know you are getting there.

Playground Monitor said...

I'm reading your book now and yes indeed, it is HOT! I'm visiting my mother on the Georgia coast and if the weather holds out for this afternoon, I'll take it with me to the beach.

You've written your settings well (haven't gotten to the Dubai part yet) and I've gotten a real feel for Madrid, a city I never got to visit when I lived in Europe.

I have to say you've given me a new view on Presents. I'd read one with a totally hate-able hero and a wimp heroine and said I'd never read another. You've redeemed Presents for me.


Carol Burnside said...

Wow, Lynn. Looks like you're very much on the ball with the Q&A today.

Just wanted you to know that we'll have a review of SMRHR posted tomorrow. Don't worry, it's all good! :)

Dianna Love said...

Hi Lynn -

Just stopping by to congratulate you on not just selling your first book, but doing it in a category line so highly respected.

The PFHT are asking great questions, as usual, so I'll come back later and read.

Regarding your meeting with Carol in a library, it's wonderful to see how a simple hello leads to other things down the road.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi, C.J.! Well, I've had some great meals, definitely. But probably the most memorable was the $400 lunch in Verdun, France. It was the middle of winter, snow everywhere, no one else in the restaurant, and there were four of us. The wait staff each came out with plates with those silver covers and positioned themselves beside our chairs. The covers came off in one synchronized movement. This went on for the whole meal.

I don't even remember what the dishes were, but it was excellent and perfectly cooked. After lunch, we had sherry and the men smoked cigars. It was amazing. I truly felt like a princess eating that meal.

I've also had excellent meals in Italy, where the food is so fresh and expertly prepared even when very simple. And tapas in Spain are very good as well.

Pamela Varnado said...

Hi Lynn,
I'm a big Presents fan and look forward to reading your debut book. I'm sure it's loaded with emotion and an exotic location. Other than visiting a city, how do you research your location to learn those little things that make your setting authentic?

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi, PM Marilyn! (To distinguish you from the other Marilyn.) :)

Thanks so much for the compliments! I know how you felt about Presents, and rightfully so based on what you told me, so I'm very honored you are enjoying mine. They can be intense, and not everyone enjoys that alpha. I'm glad it's working for you!

Enjoy your beach time!

Lynn Raye Harris said...

I'll look forward to the review, Carol! :)

Hi, Dianna! I'm very happy to be here and the PFHT is a GREAT blog. Yes, Carol and I met at an Aloha chapter meeting in the Aina Haina library. She moved back to the mainland shortly after I arrived, which was a big bummer because I enjoyed talking with her. It's great to still be in touch and see how things change over the years!

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi, Pamela! Great question. :) I just got off the phone with my editor, so this is kind of timely. I was writing another Spaniard and we were talking about heroes, etc, when she mentioned Argentina. And I said that I'd almost made this hero Argentinian and it wasn't a problem at all to flip him back to that.

So now my hero is Argentinian and I've never been there! I have to do some research, which will involve photos, travelogues, and guidebooks. If I can find someone who's visited there, that's a great bonus!

Heather B. said...

Hey Lynne,

just stopped by to show my support. You know I love this book and don't need to be in the drawing cause I already have it and love it.

I can't wait till your next book comes out, it will be a definite autobuy. I love books that has some greek mythology or mylan influence to them. They are some of my favorites.

Maxine Davis said...


Thanks for the interview on PF&HT. I really enjoyed it.

AND a big congratulations on selling your first book! I can't wait to read it. It sounds like one I would love to read.

I do a lot of research because I have not been many places - hope it does not show in my writing.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi, Heather! Thanks so much for coming by to support me! I appreciate the book love. :) Oh, I like Greek mythology too!

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi, Maxine! Thanks for the congrats! It still feels rather surreal, believe it or not. Even with it on the shelf. :)

I bet your research is just fine. I think we simply have to be open to the idea that people have different priorities in some areas of the world and let it inform our writing. That's one of the keys to authenticity, I believe.

Linsey Lanier said...

Chiming in late after a long work week. Thanks, Lynn, for joining us on PFHT. Great interview.

Thanks for sharing your experiences and all the wonderful information. Your advice is going in my keeper file. Your books sound exciting.

I submitted to Presents several years ago. Your post is tempting me to try again with a new story. :)


Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi, Linsey, and thanks! If you're thinking of submitting to Presents, consider the contest. It just started and goes through November, I believe. The prize is the same as I got: an editor for a year. You can find the info on the I Heart Presents blog.

Carol Burnside said...

Lynn has chosen a winner via her super scientific method (i.e. drawing at random from all the comments) and the name she pulled is...LINSEY LANIER!!!