Lisa Kleypas' Rainshadow Road comes out in February, and her publisher has offered 10 finished copies to give away. Whoo! And not only do we have books to give away, but Lisa Kleypas was kind enough to answer several inane questions from me via email. Hooray – bonus interview!
Rainshadow Road has magical realism while Friday Harbor did not. Why add it to this novel? Did you plan to go this way all along with the series?
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 unique place–a mixture of steep hills and bluffs, forests, rolling farmland, sandy beaches, and all of it is protected by the Olympic mountain rainshadow. 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.
The one glitch was that “Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor” was conceived as a Christmas novella, to sort of gently introduce a few of the characters, and it didn't seem right to launch into magic realism with that shorter format. So I tried to leave possibilities open with that story, and figuratively blow some kisses in the direction of magic, and then I really went for it with Rainshadow Road.
How many times have you been to Friday Harbor at this point – or is that where you live now?
I think I've been about four times so far, and I would love to have a place there! It would be incredible to slow down and relax, and live on island time. But Greg and I still have school-age kids, and they want to stay where we are, and we all have too many friends and interests to even think about moving. And also . . . at this point in my life I'm not very good at relaxing.
How many books do you envision setting in Friday Harbor?
What I've got on the schedule right now is Dream Lake (about the bitter and hard-living Alex Nolan, being haunted by the ghost of a WWII fighter pilot who wants to be reunited with the woman he once loves) . . . 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.
Your character, Lucy, has a number of challenging and almost unavoidable relationships with people. Which do you think was hardest for her – or for you?
I think the most difficult relationship for Lucy to deal with–and for me to ponder and write about–was the dysfunctional family system she grew up with. Because Lucy loves her parents and her spoiled younger sister, but the family structure is hurtful to her. Together the three of them damage her self-esteem, and they collectively parentify her by loading a lot of responsibility and expectation on her. And that brought me to question of how Lucy might be able to change the dynamic and let her family know that the hurtful patterns have to change. What I've experienced in my own life is the discovery that the people who truly love you will listen and try to respect your needs, and they will make an effort to change. Whereas others will basically say, “I love you but this relationship has to be done my way, period.”
What's one thing you are really excited to share with readers in this book? Is there a scene or a character, or something you're just so very proud of, that you can't wait to share?
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, and 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.
And, while I'm asking, which is your favorite scene?
By far, the scene I 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.
I really loved Sam, I confess. I think nerd geek heroes are finally getting the audience they deserve. And I think Sam's t-shirts are going to be a reader favorite – where did you find the inspiration? Do you have a favorite?
Thank you! What's not to love about a geek? As one of Lucy's friends says in the book, they're great in bed because they fantasize a lot and love to play with gadgets. As for the tees, I was inspired by both my husband and son, who both love nerdy shirts. My favorite was the Shrödinger's cat shirt, not because it was funny so much as it forced me to try to understand the classic thought experiment using a hypothetical cat in a box. (The best explanation I found, incidentally, was this one . . . and among the scientists who describe the experiment, there is a very attractive young dark-haired geek with a Scottish accent who has a nice monologue at 3:44!) I finally sort of got it, although I discovered that I don't have the right kind of brain for quantum physics. Which was not a big shock, by the way.
One thing that struck me: Sam and Lucy meet at the worst possible moment for her, literally right after she's been dumped. And there are a lot of things lining up against them. Did you think one obstacle was the most difficult for them to overcome?
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!
If there's a reader of yours who loves your historicals, for example, why would they also like this book? Which of your strengths do you think most shines in this book?
I think no matter what genre or setting a romance features, as long as it has a strong relationship and emotional appeal (and of course some spicy love scenes!) it will work for most romance readers. But here's something interesting that happened as I was writing Rainshadow Road: As I was going through my usual process, which is to start each day by rewriting what I did the previous day, and then periodically revising the entire manuscript, I found myself adding more lyrical and elaborate phrasing because it seemed to suit the story more. Usually in my contemporary writing, I try to keep the prose really simple and stripped-down, but for some reason the magical elements worked better with “prettier” prose. (Wow, look at how alliterative that sentence was, and I wasn't even trying!*g*) So that more lyrical style is usually what I do with historical romances, and I think it lends the book some of that “fairy-tale” feeling of a historical.
About strengths . . . I think the best thing I do is to be passionate about every book I write . . . if a writer doesn't feel that way, it shows. There are always going to be flaws, or scenes I would still like to revise . . . but I spend a lot of time pondering whether to use one word or another, or trying to think of how to make a particular scene better. Undoubtedly this makes me sound weird, but I really love playing with words!
Want to read Rainshadow Road? I have ten to give away. Woo hoo!
Standard disclaimers apply: I'm not being compensated for this giveaway. Your mileage may vary. Void where prohibited. Must be over 18 and driving a golf cart to win. Open to international entries. Close cover before striking.
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