Talking with Dara Joy

(This interview originally written for The Romance Reader in 1997)

Dara Joy interview – 1998


Most of us have engaged in hand-wringing about favorite authors who seem to have gone stale or about book after book seeming alike. There is a rising star in the genre who absolutely does not write books that are similar to any others, and that is Dara Joy. An author who is literally an overnight success, her first four romances (three have been published to date with a fourth to be released in September) have been in entirely different genres of romance, which is likely a first for any romance author. Dara is very proud that Knight of a Trillion Stars was futuristic, that High Energy was contemporary, that Rejar was a combination of time-travel, paranormal, and historical elements, and that her upcoming Tonight or Never is historical.

“It was my way of showing that romance authors need not be bound by convention, that creativity need not be confined to one specific direction. If the story and characters are there, the reader will be there with you. I have always believed in the reader.”

Dara’s second full-length book, High Energy, was published with a Jayne Ann Krentz reissue. It is ironic that Leisure, her publisher, chose this vehicle to introduce Dara to the public at large, because Krentz is perhaps the only other author to have written in so many sub-genres, and, in fact, is one of Dara’s favorite authors. So is Susan Johnson, another author often mentioned in relation to sizzling love scenes, as is Dara. We discussed Dara’s love of the genre, her style of writing, and our shared obsession with Highlander: The Series recently. I found her to be an elusive subject, but I think you will agree that she is a fascinating author.

–Laurie Likes Books

What is it like to be an overnight success?

It’s been fabulous and I understand from talking to many writers both published and non-published that my experience has been very atypical of many, many writers in RWA. From that standpoint, I can say that it can serve as an inspiration at a time when the mid-list is in a crunch and you hear all kind of gloom and doom reports. Many writers who have had a first book published have difficulty selling and publishing book a second book, and I think that my experience, in light of a downsizing market, is definitely unusual.

Let’s review your backlist. You have three full- length romances in Knight of a Trillion Stars, High Energy, and Rejar, and two anthologies published. Can you list the titles?

The first anthology was called Lovescape; my contribution was My One. That was published in August 1996. The other anthology was a Christmas anthology, The Night Before Christmas; my story was Santa Reads Romance, and it was out last November. One was a contemporary and the other a paranormal.

How did you feel when you learned High Energy was going to be published with a reissue by Jayne Ann Krentz?

┬áThat was quite a shock to me. My agent called me and had told me that Leisure was offering me a 5-book contract. They wanted to publish High Energy with Jayne’s reprint as a marketing strategy to introduce me to a larger reading public who would obviously know her name but definitely not mine.

You defy classification because you write in so many sub-genres. What’s up next for you?

I like to, as the mood takes me, do everything. My next book is an historical with no paranormal elements. It’s another departure for me. It’ll be out in September and is called Tonight or Never.

When will you follow up Rejar?

There will be a number of books in the Matrix of Destiny series that began with Knight of a Trillion Stars and continued with Rejar. I’m not sure when the next will be out, because I am doing a special project right now that will be coming out after Tonight or Never. I think the date for that will be next April, and it’s a special release that I can’t talk about yet. After that, I will go back to the Matrix series, for the third book in the series, which is Gian’s story. He’s the other familiar introduced at the end of Rejar. The fourth book in the series will be Traed’s story. Everyone will be in the third book who was in the first two. And, Traed will play an important role in book number three as well.

Your writing is described as sexy and funny. Do you plan to use humor in all your books?

I think that I let my creativity of the moment propel my writing. I don’t set out to say to myself what I’m going to do and then stick by that. I let my inspiration guide me.

Readers know what it’s like to read sizzling love scenes. What is it like to write them?

You definitely need a fan! Just teasing here. What it’s like in terms of actually writing the scenes? The way I go about it, it’s part of an entire picture. It has to come out of what’s happening in the story at the moment. If I feel that the scene is progressing, it just naturally flows into it from these two characters coming together at the moment. My characters have always come alive for me and I just feel that they are very passionate who have passionate encounters, flowing from the intensity of the book. I think there is a level of intensity in all ways, not just sexual. I think there is a level of intensity there in things that are happening in the plot line. Humor can be intense. It’s all part and parcel of making a book come alive for a reader.

Is your taste in reading within the genre as eclectic as your taste in writing?

Rejar was my first semi-historical book. I’m a fan of the entire genre and I like to read everything. A good book is a good book, whether it’s contemporary, historical, futuristic. . . I read a wide spectrum.

While we’re on the topic of Rejar, can you address the criticism that the heroine was stereotypical and less developed than the hero?

Rejar was an extreme challenge for me. It was very difficult to write. It was intense and I gave it everything I had. It was a real milestone for me. Because the elements were so fantastical — a man who turns into a cat who comes from an alternate universe who lands in Regency England, I felt I had to ground the book by making the setting as “real” for the reader as possible.

So you’re saying you created Lilac as a way of grounding the story? As a stereotypical Regency miss, she acted as counterpoint to Rejar’s other-worldliness?

In constructing Lilac’s character, that was a factor for me.

Do you see your stories in your head as other authors do, as a movie playing out? If so, can you play casting director?

I do get a movie that plays out in my head, but my characters are my characters — they are not actors. I do see them in the flesh but they have their own physical attributes. I have a certain image of my characters that is as alive for me as they are. I would be interested in seeing if your readers could play casting director for me.

My characters are just too real to me in terms of who they are. It’s hard for authors when we get the book covers, too, because sometimes you have an image of who you expect to see on the cover and it may not be what you imagined.

Covers for Leisure are very distinctive. What types of covers do you prefer?

I’ve been very happy with my covers. I think Leisure has done a fabulous job with them. I like to see people. I don’t enjoy the flowery covers very much — they are too generic. I like to see the characters in a scene from the book. I think the character covers sell better because it gives information about the book.

Have you any stories to share about unpleasant encounters you may have had as an author of romantic fiction in terms of stereotypes about the genre?

I haven’t encountered a situation like that yet. I think all authors are told things that can be hurtful because we put a lot of ourselves in our work. I think that’s part of the whole process. It’s a part of creating and being an artist.

When you were a child, what kind of stories did you make up?

I’ve always written wild, wonderful, and weird stories.

October 23, 1997:
Dara Joy is also a long time reader of Laurie’s News & Views and long time fan of Highlander: The Series. She read Issue #37 of my column and wrote in to share some good news and to respond to my take on my new favorite hero, Tyber Evans from High Energy.

Here’s what she wrote:

It’s official. Knight of a Trillion Stars has been re-issued and is available for order! Thanks for the kudos on High Energy – I just got a chance to read your column and was very pleasantly surprised. Your analysis was terrific and you saw exactly what I was trying to do with the book in breaking away from traditional conflict between the characters that we see so much of – I wanted to write a story wherein the hero and heroine engaged in a love affair without angst and misunderstanding between them. Tyber, to me, was a man who embodied all of the great characteristics that I look for in a hero. I balanced him carefully between alpha and beta all the while retaining his unique flavor. At the time, the term gamma wasn’t coined, but it is an appropriate one for this hero. The conflict, as you said, was intra-character conflict in that Zanita (by the way that is a real name of someone I know – had to use it!) wasn’t sure she wanted to commit to a relationship due to her past life experiences regarding men. Tyber, a modern day pirate, decided he was going to ‘lay siege”. I had a great time writing this book and I’m always glad to make someone smile. Thank you again for your kind words of praise and for those who have asked. . . yes, I do intend to write a sequel but it won’t be for awhile due to other projects.

Dara Joy interview – 1998