Something I forgot to ask in the last interview makes a great starting question here. While there are bits of intrigue, cooking and other themes included in your storylines, they are wrapped around the main focus which is Romance. As a writer, why did you chose to write in this genre.
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I don’t think my latest book fits neatly into the romance genre. At least one romance blogger/reviewer says romance is secondary in this novel. And some, expecting the usual trajectory of this genre, have been disappointed. I think it’s because the story does not conform with some tropes they expected. The sexy billionaire bad boy doesn’t get the girl, for instance. You could go further and say that, as far as that particular pairing is concerned, there isn’t a happy-ever-after. I intended to subvert a few expectations from the get-go. I turn the tables on another trope. The bad guy usually commits the crimes. In Sugar and Spice and All Those Lies, the crimes are perpetrated by the heroine’s close friends. But that’s real life—stats show victims often know their assailants well.
It’s also real life that love is a big concern among the age group I write about. My books, though, are cross-genre, with more than a soupçon of mystery/thriller and an emphasis on character development that lends a literary flavor. There’s no one category you can snugly fit them into. So I choose a vague genre— women’s fiction. And this is okay. The focus is the heroine’s viewpoint, her growth, and what loving means to her. In romance, the alpha hero is front and center, even when the POV is the heroine’s.
Writing gets easier, but because I’m compulsive and try not to repeat myself, I struggle occasionally. Promotion and marketing have always been hard, though. When you think you’ve learned techniques that sell, the marketing landscape changes, maybe because there really is no science to it. And very little data. The book business remains in a state of flux.
I love to eat and I live in an area where the first gourmet ghetto sprang up in the seventies. If the name Alice Waters rings a bell, then you know what I mean. The San Francisco Bay Area is a foodie paradise. Of the 14 three-star Michelin restaurants in the US listed in Wikipedia, half are in the Bay Area. You can stumble on ethnic restaurants—which greatly enrich local cuisine—nearly everywhere.
More a propos, the oft-mentioned but absent grandfather of the heroine is a French chef who has an artisanal French deli. He’s based on a real person. It was while walking out of his deli carrying my purchases in vacuum-sealed bags that I got my inspiration and the hazy first outlines of the story. He remains alive and well with his Chinese American wife and their now grown-up kids. They were young children when I first saw them.
Ah, love! Can it hit you at that first shy glance? If you remember, Gina, the heroine, discounts this idea. She calls it lust at first sight. And if you read research studies, which I still do (I always ask: Who says this and what’s the evidence?), you’ll learn she’s right. The trouble is too many of us cannot distinguish lust from love. If you care to know a bit more about this, read my short article.
So, have I had lust at first sight? No, some tingling, yes. My trouble is I think too much.
Apart from love of food? And love of music like that of the heroine in Hello Agnieszka?
The female protagonist’s interiority. My heroines all have rich inner lives. Sometimes, they even talk about it like Elise in Hello My Love when she says, “Our inner life is what makes us human and, to me, it’s even more important for the way we live now.”
She is voicing my thoughts. The overt passivity of thinking doesn’t appeal to many modern readers, however. We prefer action and excitement. Maybe interiority is important to me, at least partly, because of my training which I share (somewhat) with the heroine of Welcome Reluctant Stranger. Leilani is a clinical psychologist, while I trained more in the theoretical/research area of psychology.
Only one? I remember many. My most vivid first memory, though, is of steaming black rice rolls sprinkled with brown sugar and freshly-grated coconut, served on fresh banana leaves. The fragrance, the contrasting textures, the cool and hot, the sweet caramelly sugar and the rich, creamy, chewy coconut sinking into sticky Jasmine-scented black rice. Imagine how that hits a three-year old, standing outside an old Spanish-era Catholic church after midnight mass on Christmas eve. Shivering in the humid tropical breezes from an ocean only a mile away.
Writer’s Life is chiefly about my thoughts on writing. Love, Life, and Small Things is much more about those topics. Many times, of course, the categories intersect—how can they not since writing is what I do? So several posts are classified under both.
I want my next novel to be about an artist, a painter. Art is one of my other loves, apart from writing and my family. I’m toying with the idea of a historical novel, using material from an art history paper I once wrote on illuminated manuscripts—the first illustrated books inscribed on paper (vellum actually). Or I could write parallel stories, one set in medieval times and the other in the present when illustrated manuscripts have morphed into comic books or graphic novels. This book would be much more demanding and would take longer to write.
I’ll end by saying you have the best, most original author interview questions. Thank you for that.
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