chrismas eve at friday harborIt’s been a while since we had our Buzz on here at AAR and we’re happy to break our drought with a good one:  An interview with Lisa Kleypas and a 10-book giveaway courtesy of St. Martin’s of the author’s October 26th release, Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor. To enter for your chance to win, simply comment to this blog by 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, October 14th.

Before getting right to the interview, a few caveats to the giveaway.  Due to high postage costs, only U.S. and Canadian readers are eligible to enter.  Since this giveaway is designed to get early copies into the hands of readers who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to get them, if you review for another Web site or blog, please don’t enter.

And, now, here’s Lisa.

Lisa, will you tell our readers a bit about the plot of Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor?

Sandy, thanks so much for letting me visit!  Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor is about a pair of bachelor uncles, Mark and Sam Nolan, who agree to share the responsibility of taking care of their orphaned niece, Holly. Mark, the older brother, intends to marry his longtime girlfriend Shelby, because he thinks it is in Holly’s best interests. But he finds an irresistible distraction in Maggie Conroy, a young widow who has recently opened a toy shop in Friday Harbor.  Christmas Eve is a short holiday novel that introduces the Nolan family, who will be featured in my Friday Harbor series. You don’t have to read it in order to enjoy the rest of the series . . . Each book can be read as a stand-alone.

Let me start off by saying that I very much enjoyed this book.

Thank you, I love to hear that!

As a reader, I’m always ready to go where you want to take me and it’s fair to say that this one seemed a bit different from what I’ve come to expect from you.  The characters – especially the hero – are not as Super Sized as they have been in both your contemporaries and historicals to date.  By that, I don’t mean physically out-sized in a J.R. Ward kind of way, but they are “bigger” in wealth and personality.  Mark, your hero, is more of a regular guy whose life has been turned upside down by this emotionally wounded little girl who has suddenly come into his life.  He’s got a lot of his plate and finding love with a young widow isn’t on his list of priorities.

I’ve always had a ton of fun with over-the-top stories and characters—I guess my natural inclination as a writer is to “go big or go home.” But when I was pondering what kinds of stories and plots felt right for the Friday Harbor setting, I couldn’t help being drawn to the idea of more ordinary heroes and heroines, who face problems that everyone can understand and relate to.  Mark Nolan, the hero in this holiday novel, has a coffee roasting business. His brother Sam has started a vineyard, and Alex, the youngest, is a residential developer who is going through a bad divorce.

For a variety of reasons, the Nolan family is basically in pieces, with all three brothers living on the same island and having almost nothing to do with each other. But as the series progresses, the Nolans will gradually become a real family. I’m working on themes such as how we all grow from our mistakes, and how we learn to accept each other.  I hate that famous line, “You complete me,” because it’s essentially false, you know? . . . we’re each already complete, whether or not we have a romantic partner. The trick is to find someone who will accept the entire person you are, including all faults and quirks.

I couldn’t agree more. I also have to mention that the sensuality is dialed down a notch or two. Still, Christmas Eve is a romance and the central story is definitely of two people finding love. How do you see this book?  Did you enjoy writing about decidedly different kinds of people?

I had to hold back on the sensuality because it was more appropriate for the story. Originally I had put one of my usual flamboyant love scenes in there, and it was definitely jarring . . . rather like watching a Hallmark movie and then accidentally flipping to an adult cable channel! So I had to stick with the overall tone of the book . . . warm, sentimental, sweet. And as you know, restraint is so difficult for me—LOL. However, in the next book in the series, Rainshadow Road, I’ll be back to my usual heat level. Because I just can’t seem to help myself.

You’ve dealt with a lot of issues in your romances – the difficulty of dealing with narcissistic personalities and domestic abuse come to mind. In Love in the Afternoon, your recent historical romance, your portrayal of PTSD went far beyond the usual “hero suffers Napoleonic war nightmares” cliché.  How important to you is it to cover difficult subjects in a realistic way?

The older I get, the more important it seems to me. When I was younger, it was enough to write happy stories with some romance and adventure. (And I still love those kinds of books, of course.) But eventually I started exploring issues that I felt strongly about,  and that gave me an entirely new sense of connection to the romance genre. Because I realized that no matter what problem you’re facing, or what level of pain or challenge you’re dealing with, love is always the answer. Not that love fixes everything . . . but it gives you the strength, courage and insight to go on. For example, at the resolution of Love In The Afternoon, it is clear that Christopher will still have to deal with his PTSD—it doesn’t magically disappear—but he will be able to face it, and have a good life in spite of it, because of his relationship with Beatrix.

Lisa, you’ve been around long enough to see romance trends come and go.  Are you feeling good about where we are now?  Any predictions you’d like to make about what the next big thing might be?

I am feeling great about the romance genre—it’s an exciting time! I think we’re in one of those transitional periods when all kinds of fresh new directions will appear. Now that paranormal has come into its maturity, I think we’ll be seeing some new breakout paranormal subgenres (I personally adore angels and ghosts). I also see contemporary romance gaining ground. I think there’s a lot for room left for Victorian romances. What do you think about time-travels, Sandy?—do you miss them as much as I do?

I do—big Outlander fan here. I also miss complex, American-set historicals; and Renaissance historicals; and, gee…everything that isn’t Regency.  I find myself more and more drawn to Victorian romances and seek them out rather than another Regency.  Laura Lee Guhrke’s next series is actually Edwardian—as in actually set in the 20th century, believe it or not—and I’m looking forward to those. Sort of on that topic, you rose to fame as an author of historical romance.  Will you continue to write both historical romance and contemporaries? Is there any other genre you’re itching to try?

Yes to everything! . . . I have another historical on my current contract with St Martins, and the Friday Harbor books are all contemporary romance with an occasional nudge in the direction of women’s fiction. (It’s sometimes hard to distinguish between the two, because there’s often so much romance in women’s fiction, and vice versa.)

As to other genres . . . I’ve just had the longest non-writing break I’ve taken in years, and it was incredibly refreshing and much-needed. During this time off, I was studying the genre of magical realism, and I was fascinated by one of the main precepts–that ordinary things and magical things all have the same value in the story.  It makes perfect sense to me as a romance reader—because we see magic in everyday things, don’t we? Love, especially. So I’ve been experimenting a little, trying to find ways to incorporate those elements into a romance, and we’ll see what I can come up with.

I’ll admit I actually had to Google that.  Should be interesting, Lisa.

I knew practically nothing about it, and now I’m obsessed.  This is one of the things I love most about being an author—there’s always more to learn.

Who are you reading these days?

I’m wild about Nalini Singh’s angel books, and I really enjoyed Crusie’s Maybe This Time. I just gave quotes to Donna Grant and Tiffany Clare, who both have terrific original voices. I was riveted by Kathryn Stockett’s The Help—so wonderful–and stayed up ’til two in the morning to finish it, which I haven’t done for years. I also read Franzen’s Freedom out of curiosity. (I believe I’ll keep my opinion to myself about that one.)

Ah, yes, Emperor Franzen! What’s next for you, Lisa?  What will readers see in the year ahead?

Since I decided to take a break, 2011 is going to be a quiet year for me. Nothing scheduled—I’ll just be working. And of course I’ll be checking AAR to find out about the great new romances coming out every month!

So, since I can already hear the collective screams of readers, let’s be clear that there will be no new releases in 2011?

yes

(Let the record show that I typed that in the most apologetically tiny font I could find. But . . . no new releases from me.) With all the terrific authors out there, however, I know we’ll all have great books to read in 2011.

Thanks, as always, to Lisa who is an excellent friend and supporter of AAR. Please note that the giveaway has ended, but we’d love to read your comments.

– Sandy AAR