Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Author Spotlight - Lynn Raye Harris

This week, the Minxes are very happy and honoured to have with us Harlequin Presents author, Lynn Raye Harris. Lynn won the Harlequin Presents Instant Seduction Competition in 2008 and has gone on to publish several books since that momentous event. She's also appeared on the USA Today Bestseller List

The Minxes put these questions to her: -

1. Where were you in your writing career 5 years ago?

Five years ago, I was still aspiring to be published. I was living in Hawaii (I know: poor me, right?), and I’d joined the local chapter of RWA. Though I’d been a member of RWA for quite some time, this was my first local chapter. The inspiration and camaraderie were great, and I was working hard on my writing. (I was also writing my master’s thesis, but that’s another story!)

I’d finally settled on writing contemporary romance, after trying my hand at historicals, and I was having fun. I also met Jane Porter for the first time, when she came to our chapter and gave a talk, and I remember thinking how strong and intelligent she was. See, I’d always loved Harlequin Presents, but I’d stopped reading them during my college years because I’d let myself be convinced they were trash. And here was Jane, no fainting flower, who wrote these books. I promptly went out and bought a whole bunch and fell in love all over again. I still didn’t try to write my own until 2008, however.

2. Where did you get the idea from for this particular book?

The Prince’s Royal Concubine sprang from the usual what-ifs that plague writers. Princess Antonella was a minor character in Cavelli’s Lost Heir, and I kept thinking that she deserved her own happy ending. She was so intriguing to me that I absolutely had to write her story. Where Cristiano came from, I have no idea – but I knew Antonella’s prince would be strong and ruthless and very, very focused on his goal. Once I got them together, the story just sort of magically happened. It was one of those books that comes relatively easy. That doesn’t usually happen to me, so I enjoyed every moment of it!

3. Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?

I want to be writing Harlequin Presents, of course! I love these books. They are so intense, emotional and passionate, and they are tough to do well. Believe it or not, I find them to be quite a challenge! I would also love to write other books that are longer and have subplots. I have a range of ideas – from historical to paranormal to women’s fiction. What will get written and published is anyone’s guess, but I’d certainly like to try some of these other ideas out in addition to writing for Presents.

4. Which was the last book you read that you wish you'd written?

It wasn’t a romance, believe it or not. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell. Gorgeous, gorgeous language. And such a compelling story! I couldn’t put it down. I wanted a different ending, but that doesn’t change the fact it was a great book.

5. Was there any particular author or book that made you want to be a writer?

No. I always knew. It was just something I grew up wanting to do. I read a lot as a kid, and I wrote short stories. I also tried writing my first novel at fourteen. Unfortunately, being rather autobiographical, it was boring and short. I fizzled after chapter one. Though I read lots of Harlequin Presents back then, it simply never occurred to me to try and write one. Those were Real Authors with Exotic Lives and I was just a kid from the South.

6. Do you find writing love scenes giggle-worthy or cringe-worthy?

Neither. I love writing love scenes. That’s the moment at which the emotional boiling point of the story is reached. It’s not the black moment, but it’s when both characters are at their most vulnerable. It’s a mini-black moment of sorts, I guess. My love scenes have been described as hot and steamy by various reviewers, but I swear it’s the emotional impact I’m focusing on when I write them. The steamy factor is a by-product of the emotion as well as just something that happens to be my authorial voice. I do get a bit wound up about not writing the same love scene over and over, though. Each book is different, and I want to do the characters justice.

7. What's the most romantic moment of your life so far?

Hmm, I don’t really know. My husband doesn’t do big dramatic moments, but he’s always been great about the little moments. Bringing home flowers for no reason, taking me to dinner without prior notice, buying me things I want just because I want them. He also never complains when I want to go away for writerly things – my chapter’s retreat, conferences, the RT convention – and I find that terribly romantic. He supports me in all I do, and that’s worth so much more than a big dramatic moment would be.

8. What do you wish you'd known about being an author before you were pubbed?

Ha! I always thought, even though I’d been told differently, that getting a contract suddenly changed everything. That your doubts would go away. That you’d suddenly feel like you’d “made it.” Trust me, you are the same person after that offer as you were before. Granted, you are quite happy and giggly and it truly is the best feeling ever to sell a book, but the thing you need to know is that it doesn’t change everything. You simply trade one set of worries for another.

You’ll worry about your sales, about list placement, and whether or not your editor still loves you. You’ll worry that you can’t possibly write another book, that you’ve peaked early and your best work is behind you, that readers will hate you – it goes on and on.

See, one set of worries for another! Of course you want those worries when you are unpublished because that would mean you had sold a book. But believe me, when it happens, you’ll still get the same sinking feeling that rejections or contest scores gave you before you sold.

9. What's the best writing advice you've ever been given?

Never give up. Cut the backstory from chapter one. Never give up. ;)

10. Tell us about your latest release.

The Prince’s Royal Concubine is a story about surviving storms both literal and figurative. I really loved writing this book because it’s all about two characters learning to love and trust one another when they are the last people who should do so. Cristiano wants to end a war to assuage his guilt at losing his wife. Antonella wants to save her country to prove she’s worth more than she’s ever believed. But their goals are directly opposed, which means that one of them could be destroyed in the end.

Here’s the back cover copy:

Two glittering royal houses

Prince Cristiano di Savaré hunts his prey by ruthless means. Tonight’s pickings…Antonella Romanelli, crown princess of a rival country and part of a dynasty he has every reason to despise…

…one majestic seduction

Antonella is rocked by Cristiano’s unexpected magnetism. But there’s ice in his wolfish smile… She’s far from the promiscuous, spoiled socialite he believes her to be, but Cristiano is here to persuade her into compliance. If bedding her is what it takes, then it will make his mission all the more pleasurable…

11. What’s next for you?

My next UK release is The Devil’s Heart, which is available now.

After that, I have a story in an anthology: Mills & Boon New Voices, coming in September. The same story that appears in the anthology, “Kept for the Sheikh’s Pleasure,” will also be out in North America in a Harlequin Presents 2 in 1 with Kim Lawrence in November. That collection is called Chosen by the Sheikh.

In January 2011, I have another UK release called Prince Voronov’s Virgin. This is a Russian set story! To read about any of my releases, including excerpts and my Behind the Book feature, visit me at


Romy Sommer said...

Wow - you've been busy Lynn! I really look forward to reading all these new stories.

Jennifer Shirk said...

great interview! I loved hearing how you got started writing HP. :)

Rachael Johns said...

Oooh another fab interview. You have been a busy lady Lynn. Was very interesting reading more about your journey to romance writing. thanks for sharing!

Maya Blake said...

Great to have you with us today, Lynn. I've read all of your books so far and absolutely adored seeing Antonella get her prince in The Prince's Royal Concubine! Can't wait to read the rest of your books.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi, Romy, Jennifer, Rachael, and Maya! It's great to be here today! I guess I *have* been a bit busy since the contest, LOL, but until I look back at it I usually don't realize just how busy. :)

It's so much fun that I don't complain though.

Thanks for the compliments, Maya! I'm so glad you enjoyed Antonella's story. I had fun writing it!

Unknown said...

Hi Lynn,

Great to hear your story, thanks so much for sharing! I was in the same contest and was given a golden ticket to submit again. I've been working hard for the past two years with Presents hoping to reach the publication dream. (Here's hoping the story I have in now is THE ONE.) Good to hear what to expect after the big day. Oh, did they call you or e-mail when they decided to buy? And, I LOVED Antonella and Cristiano's story! FABULOUS read with tremendous depth! Much success to you in all your work! Take care, Barb Han.

Nancy said...

What an inspirational blog for those of us still trying. Thank you, Lynn for keeping us all inspired.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi, Barb! Best of luck with that submission! The key is not to give up, no matter how disappointing the rejections. Sounds like you are determined, which is great!!

I got a call. :) It was very exciting, of course! The contest call was the more exciting of the two, but that's because it was out of the blue and unexpected. The first sale call was fabulous, but not as unexpected. I was very happy, of course!

Thanks so much for the kind words about TPRC! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. :)

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi, Nancy! I try to inspire because I know how much it meant to me when I was still trying to get published. :) Did you get those toes painted yet? ;)

Suzanne Ross Jones said...

Great answers, Lynn - I'm really looking forward to reading your new books.

Dawn Chartier said...

Hi Lynn Raye,

I enjoyed reading your interview and look forward to grabbing your books off the shelf.

Question: What types of promotion do suggest authors do if they don't have a big publishing house behind them?

Dawn Chartier

Sally Clements said...

Great interview, Lynn, thanks so much for being with us Minxes here today! I particularly love your hint about slashing backstory from the first chapter. Having backstory intrude into the beginning of the book is one of my bete noir's - thank goodness I have my minx colleagues to point it out!

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi, Suzanne! Thanks so much. :)

Dawn, thanks for the question! Whew, this one isn't easy for me because I do have Harlequin and their fabulous distribution, but I think the biggest thing I would say is NOT to spend a lot of money on promotion. There's just no proof any of it equals sales. I do buy bookmarks, and I recently branched out into pens and totebags (an author friend went halfsies on the bags), but I don't think any of it is necessary.

I'd say a good, professional-looking website is KEY. I paid a designer, and I'm happy with her. Websites need to be updated regularly, and they should be easy to use -- no flash, no music, no "Enter Here" things. Just the facts, ma'am, so to speak.

Use social networking to your advantage. Get on Twitter, Facebook, and even MySpace. Then download a client like Tweetdeck and set it up to send your Twitter updates to all sites. I can choose which updates I want to go to the other sites so that all my inane chatter isn't constantly updating onto my other pages. :)

Seek out interviews in your hometown, offer to do library talks, etc. But don't pay money for these things. I don't really think the return is there. If you can get free promo, do it if you're comfortable speaking in public, etc. I think some of the really popular blogs, like Dear Author and Smart Bitches sell ads on their sites -- and those might be a good thing to explore. It's a cost, but not a tremendous one.

Okay, and now that I've said all that, I looked at your website and see you really are doing most of it already. :) The one thing I'd suggest for you is finding out if you can integrate your blog onto your site so readers aren't shuffled to a third party site and then have to click the "back" button.

I'm not sure any of that helps, but I hope so!

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi, Sally! Backstory is a story-killer, at least in the first chapter! That's not to say I don't drip it in here and there with my books now, but I've usually been directed to do so by my editor, who wants reasons, etc.

But I still try to keep it to a minimum! And when I was still submitting and entering contests, I noticed that when I cut the backstory and simply hinted at it, I started getting noticed. It wasn't too long after that when I won the Instant Seduction contest. :)

Maya Blake said...

Wow, that's some pretty sound and useful advice there, Lynn. Thanks and great question, Dawn.

Sandra Sookoo said...

Interesting post! I laughed out loud about the part of signing a contract means no worries! If anything, your stress level increases ten fold. Sales, promo, etc. really makes you think about your next submission LOL

Best wishes for the future!