Writer’s Corner for January, 2005

Rachel Gibson

With such beloved books as True Confessions and Truly Madly Yours to her credit, not surprisingly, Rachel Gibson is a writer with a devoted following. Whether the New York Times bestselling author and RITA winner (for the aforementioned True Confessions ) sets her story in a quirky small town, in the sunny Bahamas, or in slick Seattle, her novels are always peopled with some of the most original, refreshing, and memorable characters in all of romance. (And, then, of course, there are those hockey players.) With her latest set for release at the end of January, I asked the author about those hockey hunks, why she thinks her characters strike such a chord with readers, and just what readers can look forward to in the years ahead.

–Sandy Coleman

Rachel, like a lot of AAR readers, I was excited when I heard that your next book is a return to what we all fondly call your “hockey books”, this time set in the town of Gospel, Idaho. So, without getting too high falutin’ in my questions, what’s up with the hunky hockey guys and why do you think we love them so much?

Testosterone on ice. By the nature of the game, hockey players are larger than life. They’re big and strong and knock the crap out of each other. I think women have a genetic predisposition to be attracted to the toughest man in the cave. Hockey is one of the toughest sports out there. And of course, a lot of them are hot, which helps.

In The Trouble with Valentine’s Day it sounds like you’re tapping into the deep pool of anger and resentment that many women out there feel towards this “festive” day. Will you tell us a bit about the book and the characters and what we can expect?

TTWD is one of my lighter books, not that I ever go real angsty. The hero, Rob Sutter is a secondary character from my sixth book, See Jane Score. When I wrote about Rob in SJC, he intrigued me. He was a bad boy in serious need of torture. As a writer, I have always thought it was my duty to torture bad boys. So, I figured I’d get around to torturing him when I came up with the perfect heroine for the job. The perfect heroine is Kate Hamilton, an out of work PI with a smart mouth and a grudge against Rob.

TTWD is set in Gospel Idaho, the town I created in my fourth book, True Confessions. Some of the old characters from that book make an appearance in this one.

What is it about the bad boy hero, anyway? I have to admit that a good woman bringing down a bad boy is one of my favorite of all romance themes.

I think there are several dynamics that attract us to those boys who are mad, bad, and dangerous to know — at least in novels and movies. They’re hot, hunky, and irreverent. I think a lot of us have the fantasy of meeting a bad boy with snake-charmer eye, a wicked smile, and a smooth tongue. Before we know it we’re naked, but it’s not our fault because we were mesmerized. We were caught up in his overwhelming desire for us, and we just couldn’t fight it.

And too, we all want to believe that we are the one person in the world who can change a bad boy into a one-woman man.

Rachel, when I’m preparing to interview an author, I always ask AAR readers if they have any questions to contribute. Usually, these questions cover a wide variety of areas, but rarely are they as focused as they were for you. To put it simply, people want to know about your characters. This almost exclusive focus tells me that you are an author with a real gift for making these often quirky and usually quite imperfect people come alive for readers. Are they as real for you as they obviously are for your readers?

The characters in my books are very real to me. Even walk on characters. At some point in every book, the characters take over and I don’t have to wonder about their reactions. I know how they’ll react and what they’ll say.

Perhaps readers relate to my characters because they have some of the same faults, weakness and fears that we all have. They all have a nugget of truth in them that makes them seem real.

Linda Howard refers to this phenomena of her characters taking over as “channelling”. Does that description have a ring of truth for you?

Channeling huh? Well it’s obviously working for Linda Howard. She’s a wonderful writer. Son of the Morning was just amazing. I wouldn’t mind channeling Black Niall.

I wouldn’t call what my characters do channeling. It’s more like they just take over. For the first 150 pages, they’re unclear to me. I struggle and fight with them and write and rewrite for months. Then they just get real clear to me. I think it’s more like two people suddenly moving into your head and you have to get to know them before you know how they’ll react, what they think or what they’ll say.

Are you ready for our reader questions? Several readers mentioned (really fondly, I might add) Nick, the hero of Truly Madly Yours as the only character anyone could think of who’s of Basque descent. Is there a large Basque community in Idaho and, if so, where can we go to find them?

Ahh, Nick Allegrezza. He was such a tortured bad boy. The only woman he’d ever wanted was the one woman he could never have.

Idaho has the largest population of Basques outside of the Basque lands of Spain. I grew up with kids with last names like Uberuaga, Berriochoa, and Egisquiza. I had a mad crush on Juan Oleaga all through grade school. It wasn’t until I was older that I discovered the rest of the country didn’t really know much about the Basque culture or history. They make up such an important and prominent piece of Idaho’s history, I learned a lot about them in school.

Where can you find a guy like Nick or Basques in general? Sorry, Nick’s taken, but you can go to the Basque Center in downtown Boise. They have parties in there, but a word of caution. Bring your dancing shoes and a hallow leg. Those Basque boys know how to party.

Do you have any plans for the younger sister of Luc of See Jane Score?

Marie? She’s very young. I tend to write heroines how are in their late twenties to early thirties. So perhaps in fifteen years I’ll revisit Marie.

What about Dimitri, the Russian hockey player – any plans to make him a future Gibson hero? (I was instructed not to take “no” for an answer.)

Hmm, Dimitri. That’s going way back. Let me think. He had issues with dating and gold chains as I recall. Would I ever write a book with him as the hero? That’s a tough one. If I ever had a story idea that would work for him – maybe. The problem with writing a Russian hero is that I don’t know any Russian people. I don’t know if I could do him justice. But I am extremely flattered that someone asked about him.

So, on behalf of AAR regular maggie b, I can assume that’s not a firm “no”?

How about, pretty firm but not definite.

Any plans to revisit Truly, Idaho? (I would argue that Truly is a character, too.)

Yes, but not for several more years. Right now I am writing four connected books, and the fourth will be set in Truly. I think Truly was a character, too. Just as I think Gospel was. Which for me as a writer is the fun of writing small towns. They just lend themselves to quirkiness.

And, finally – and in a very different vein – one of our readers wondered if Truly Madly Yours was your homage to Sandra Brown’s Slow Heat in Heaven.

If anything, TMY was an homage to Wuthering Heights. Okay, I’m just going to say it, I hated Wuthering Heights and yet there is something so appealing about it. I am a huge sucker for unrequited love. It’s my all time favorite romantic theme. I love to write it and it’s something I probably will revisit in future books. I just love the idea of a man so in love with one woman that it makes him do crazy things. TMY was my way of writing a modern Wuthering Heights.

I used to be a huge Sandra Brown fan, and I certainly read and loved Slow Heat in Heaven. Writers are sponges. We absorb everything we see and read. It is very possible that TMY had a lot in common with Slow Heat in Heaven. They are both unrequited love stories that began in the hero’s childhood.

Man, you’ve got me so curious that now I’m going to have read both books and compare.

I know what you mean about Wuthering Heights. Heathcliffe is a wonderful character in that he’s so brooding (and women love that, don’t we?) and so desperately in love with Cathy. But then you just can’t get around the fact that it all turns him into something pretty awful. WH one of those books (and movies – I especially love the version with Ralph Fiennes) that I’m always hoping will end differently this time.

Exactly. Heathcliffe didn’t just love Cathy; he loved her so much that he did horrible things because he couldn’t have her. You not only saw how much he loved her, you felt his pain. I know what you mean about watching the movie and hoping that it will end differently. I do the same thing — but Ralph in all his fineness still couldn’t make the story have a happy ending.

I am a romantic to the core and I want everything to have a happy ending. Since I am also a writer, if a compelling book like Wuthering Heights is unsatisfying to me, I can just re-write it and have it end differently.

Rachel, with the publication of The Trouble with Valentine’s Day you’ll now have a total of eight very well regarded books in print. Of the books making up your most impressive backlist, is there any one – or are there any characters – who resonate more deeply with you than others?

That’s a tough one. If I didn’t really like each and every book that I’ve written, I wouldn’t have written them. But if I had to choose a book that perhaps touched me a little deeper, it would be Daisy’s Back in Town. To me it wasn’t a secret baby book as much as it was a book about a mistake a woman made when she was young and scared. A huge mistake that snowballed and got bigger with each passing year. A mistake that a person can’t make up for really, but one that isn’t all that uncommon.

One question I always like to ask authors is about the books and authors that you love. Who or what hits the spot when you really want to relax and recharge?

I am really into paranormal and science fiction right now. I love Laurell K. Hamilton and Charlene Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse books. Simon R. Green’s Nightsideseries. Lori Handleland’s werewolf books. When I read romance novels I pick up historicals. I read Lisa Kleypas and Laura Lee Guhrke. I just finished Adele Ashworth’s The Duke of Sin.

You mentioned you’re writing four connected books. Do tell! Also, of course, what can we look forward to in your next book?

I’d resisted writing connected books because I never had an idea that excited me. I didn’t want to write connected books just because other authors were writing them and doing well. Then one night my friends and I were sitting around, drinking cosmos, and talking and gossiping like friends do, and I got the idea to write about four friends who are all in the same profession. I know, it’s been done before, but Rachel Gibson’s never done it. The heroine of the first book is a mystery writer. The hero is a homicide detective. He thinks she might somehow be involved in a series of murders. But how could he be so attracted to a suspected killer?

My next book is The Trouble with Valentine’s Day. I’m really bad at giving short descriptions of my books, but there’s a blurb and an excerpt of it up on my website . If readers enjoyed my fourth book, True Confessions, they’ll probably like TTWVD. Also, there will be an excerpt of it in the issue of Cosmopolitanmagazine that comes out in February. Since its Cosmo, they picked a love scene of course. So, if you’re sitting in your doctor’s office and he/she has a copy of Cosmo in the waiting room, you can read all about my hero and heroine doing it on aisle five. It might make the time pass a little faster.

So, your connected series starts after The Trouble with Valentine’s Day?

Yes. Avon is pushing back the publication of the first book then publishing the second book within six to nine months so there won’t be a year between books.

Rachel, is there anything I didn’t ask you that you wished I had?

No, but I would like to thank AAR for providing a site where romance readers can log on and talk about books. You are all so passionate in your opinions, and it’s always interesting to read what is in the heads of readers. I love writing romance novels, and I am extremely grateful for the support of romance readers.

And our thanks to Rachel Gibson,too – for, those great books, of course, and for taking the time to chat with us. As always, don’t forget to check back on 20th of each month for our  Writer’s Corner interviews.