Welcome, today we are talking with Susan Lyons AKA Susan Fox! I would like to thank you for taking time out of your busy writing schedule to answer a few questions.
First, I think it’s important for readers to get a little insight on an author that they don’t necessarily get from your professional bio. You’d be surprised at what readers connect to, and sometimes the simplest ‘I can relate to that’ grabs their interest where nothing else can. Don’t answer anything you feel uncomfortable with.
Can you share a little something about Susan Lyons that’s not mentioned in your bio on your website?
I’ll do my best! But first, thanks so much for this interview. I appreciate having the opportunity to connect with readers.
Okay, what’s “a little something” that’s not in my bio? How about this? As well as getting degrees in psychology and law, I have two unfinished Master’s degrees. One was in counseling psychology and one was in social anthropology. My anthropology thesis topic was utopian communities (like the commune in my new book, Fly Away With Me). I wanted to know what factors contributed to their long-term survival. Anyhow, I ended up dropping out of anthro grad school because of a disagreement with my thesis Chair. She wanted me to do a statistical analysis and I tried, but in the end said it wasn’t feasible because, in my words to her, “Some things just can’t be measured.” She said, “Of course they can.” I said, “Love?” She said, “Yes.”
LOL. I should have known right then and there that I was destined to be a romance writer! Maybe you can measure things like the body’s reaction to sexy images, or the number of times you have sex, but I absolutely do not believe that you can measure emotion. And I sure have to feel sorry for that poor professor, if her love life could be measured by statistics!
What are your favorite:
It’s a three-way tie: dogs, cats, and horses.
Depends on my mood. But I think the single best thing I’ve ever tasted was a Grand Marnier soufflé at a French restaurant on the island of Saint Martin.
To Kill a Mockingbird. That’s also my favorite book. I’m in love with Atticus Finch (and maybe Gregory Peck, too!).
Heartland – a Canadian production about a young woman who’s kind of a horse whisperer, who has a large and quirky family. The show’s been on for ages, following her from being a youngish teen through to becoming a mom. Great scenery, great characters, great romances – and horses!
Helen Mirren. Such a talented, classy, and beautiful person.
Sadly, I don’t have one. I look for not only a great voice but heartfelt delivery, and right now no singer is really grabbing me.
Mary Stewart. Hers are the books I’ll re-read over and over. She was pretty much my introduction to romance and to spunky heroines who had intelligent, equal connections with the men in their lives, and who never waited for someone to rescue them. I love her settings as well as her characters. I’m so sad that she died and there’ll be no more Mary Stewart books. I actually wrote Fly Close to the Sun, which is set on Crete, as a modern-day homage to her. I can’t resist sharing an excerpt from the heroine’s grandfather’s journal, written on Crete during World War II:
To live in this land, among these people, is an adventure that makes me reflect on the nature of life. It is to fly so close to the sun that you risk singeing your wings; to frolic with dolphins; to follow mazes to ultimate destruction or salvation; to leap with infinite grace the horns of maddened bulls. What is life, if not to risk all because of the compulsion—the necessity—of living the moments of opportunity to their absolute?
What are your pet peeves?
The big ones – really too big to be called “peeves,” I guess – are things like bigotry and intolerance; people who think they are better than other people. On a smaller level, I don’t like it when people are inconsiderate (e.g., late for appointments) or rude. I also get annoyed by noisy, repetitive habits like gum-chewing, pen-clicking, and fingernail-tapping. They make my nerves twang, like fingernails screeching on a blackboard.
Who is your hero?
There’s no single person. I admire people who speak out for what they believe in and who stand up for others who have trouble standing up for themselves. If some school kid stands up to nasty kids who are bullying someone, then that high school girl or boy is my hero.
Give us one thing on your bucket list.
Maybe I just have low aspirations or I’m easily satisfied, but there’s really nothing. The big two were to go to be a published author and to go to Greece. Greece, because Mary Stewart made me fall in love with it through her books – and I have been there twice, and wrote part of Fly Close to the Sun on Crete. There are loads of things I wouldn’t mind doing or seeing one day, but nothing that leaps out. I guess, basically, if I really want to do something, I set my mind to it and make it happen.
For me, the concept of a bucket list means things that you could reasonably achieve, that aren’t out of your control. So, much as I’d love to win a 10 million dollar lottery or have a villa in Greece and a private jet to fly me there, I don’t really count those as bucket list items.
What would readers find surprising about you?
Maybe that, even though I write romance and most of my heroines and heroes end up engaged or married, I personally am not a big believer in marriage. It’s an institution that’s either religious or state-sanctioned, and I’m not big on either of those things. I’m divorced and have not remarried, though I’m in a long-term relationship. I like it when each couple (or threesome or whatever) finds a personal way of declaring and celebrating their own commitment. But I do realize that the institution of marriage is meaningful to most people, and that’s why I typically include it in my books. Although I have just been writing about a heroine (Iris Yakimura, who will appear in Sail Away With Me, my fourth Blue Moon Harbor title) who shares my beliefs, and that’s been great fun.
If you could go to heaven, who would you visit?
Mary Stewart, of course! But actually, before her, my parents. I didn’t take the opportunity when they were alive to learn all about them, their lives, and their families. I suppose I was a typical “child,” caring more about me than about them. Now I’d love to be able to make up for that time I squandered, and invite them to tell me their stories.
Any bad habits?
I sometimes speak without thinking enough about what I’m going to say. I can be a bit OCD about clutter – unless it’s my own clutter and it’s organized in my particular way. J
What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you?
Many years ago, my partner and I had been out for dinner and had a bit too much wine. We decided it would be a good idea to go for a walk before driving home. Our walk was through a residential neighborhood, and when we spied an adventure playground, we went to swing on the swings and play on the fort. It was a Saturday night, fairly dark by then, and the playing became a little, well . . . I’ll leave that to your imagination. Next thing we knew, headlights were strobing us and it was the police. We thought it was hilarious. The cops thought it was pretty funny, too. I think they’d expected to catch a couple of teenagers, not “adults” like us. They informed us that the park was only open until sunset, they asked for ID, etc. – and all the time they were struggling to keep straight faces. They didn’t arrest us, but they said we needed to take a walk before driving home. To which, of course, my guy said, “That’s what we were doing.” By the way, a version of that scene made it into Champagne Rules, my first published book. (Write what you know, right? LOL.)
Now that our readers know a little bit more about Susan Lyons/Fox, let’s get down to the business of Fly Away With Me, the first book in your new contemporary series, Blue Moon Harbor. How long did it take you from beginning to end before your novel was completely finished, and how did you decide on the topic and title?
I submitted it 7 months after I started writing it. Before I started writing, I researched and brainstormed for an hour here and there. And once I was writing it, I had to take breaks to work on edits and so on for books in my Caribou Crossing series. There was also a non-writing month when a near-final draft was out with critiquers. So, I guess it really takes me 4-5 months of actual writing and editing to create a book.
The idea for the series setting came from my boating in the Gulf Islands near Victoria, British Columbia (something my partner and I do every summer). I love the islands and the ocean, and these islands have diverse and quirky residents. So it’s a small community setting, as with my Caribou Crossing books, but an island has the added quality of only being accessible by water or air. You’re isolated and depend on the weather.
I love seaplanes and they’re an intrinsic part of island life, so making my first hero a seaplane pilot was a “well, duh!” kind of thing. But to make for contrast and conflict, I thought he needed an off-island heroine, and who could be more different from him than a big city lawyer? She’s not there on holiday, but on a mission for her ailing mom. More on that below.
I called my fictional island Destiny because I thought that would lead to some interesting book titles. I named the village Blue Moon Harbor because who doesn’t love the romantic notion of a blue moon? My publisher, Kensington, decided to use Blue Moon Harbor as the series name, and wasn’t keen on having Destiny in the titles. So, rather than being Destiny Calls, the first book became Fly Away With Me. (Thanks to my agent for suggesting the perfect title!) Of course what Aaron really flies away with is Eden’s heart. J
How many books do you plan in the series?
So far, four titles have been contracted. In October there will be “Blue Moon Harbor Christmas” in Winter Wishes (an anthology that also contains novellas by Fern Michaels, Jules Bennett, and Leah Marie Brown). Come Home With Me will be out in late December, and Sail Away With Me in the fall of 2018. I know the next heroine I want to write about, and do hope I’ll be able to continue with the series. The Caribou Crossing Romances went to eight before my editor and I decided that was long enough for the series. So I think eight might also be perfect for Blue Moon Harbor.
In comparing the Blue Moon Harbor Series to your Caribou Crossing Romance Series, what is different between the two series?
The setting is the big difference – and of course setting to some extent influences the characters. Caribou Crossing is a fictional ranching-and-tourism community in the interior of British Columbia. There are lots of horses in those books, and a number of the heroines and heroes have horse-related occupations. There’s a lot of country and western music, too. Blue Moon Harbor is set on a tiny fictional island in the middle of several small Gulf Islands near Victoria, British Columbia. The stories include a lot of ocean-related rather than horse-related activities.
What is similar about the series?
They’re both “small town” types of books. Communities where the residents mostly all know each other, and strangers stand out. The types of stories are the same, though. Romances that verge into women’s fiction, character-driven, with some serious issues confronting the characters. Emotional stories with happy endings.
Please tell us a little bit about Fly Away With Me.
It’s a “fish out of water” story. Eden Blaine is an Ottawa lawyer who works for a non-profit foundation. She thought her life was perfect: great family, great job, great long-term boyfriend. But then her grandmother died, her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, Eden and her guy broke up, and she’s even struggling to manage her responsibilities at work because she’s spending so much time helping her parents. As if all that isn’t enough, Eden’s mother finds a long-lost letter from her oldest sister, who ran away back in 1969 and disappeared from Eden’s mom’s life. Mom asks her responsible, reliable, organized, amazing daughter Eden to track down that clue – to a long-ago commune on tiny Destiny Island in the Pacific Northwest.
That island is the opposite of everything Eden’s ever known – and her seaplane pilot Aaron Gabriel is the opposite of her previous beau, and of what she thinks she’s looking for in a man. But he’s charming and when he offers to help her in her search, not to mention teach her how to have fun, she can’t resist. Though she’s never been the type to have a fling, this seems like the perfect time.
As for Aaron, he had a terrible childhood that left him believing that love isn’t in the cards for him. He’s always resisted any relationship that smacks of being serious – and he makes that clear to Eden.
So they start out convinced it’ll be a holiday fling. But then . . . All that good romancey stuff starts happening, like mental and emotional connections on top of physical (the stuff you can’t measure with statistics!). But if Eden and Aaron are ever to truly get together, they have a lot to overcome. Not only is he afraid to trust in love, but each of them is tied to family and careers thousands of miles apart. Is their love for each other strong enough to meet all the challenges?
Well, it’s a romance, so of course you know the answer to that question!
What was your hardest challenge writing this book?
Oddly enough, it was probably the setting. It’s a setting I’m almost too familiar with, because I grew up in this part of the world. It makes it difficult for me to imagine what a stranger would see, and what a reader needs to know. I love the setting so much that I really, really want to bring it to life for my readers.
What in your opinion makes good chemistry between your leading characters?
Something that goes beyond physical attraction. Yes, pure old lust or pheromonal attraction is a fun thing, but I think true chemistry requires there to be some other kind of connection. It could be something that tugs the heartstrings, like if one person does something particularly generous. It could be intellectual, or a shared interest, or a great sense of humor. Something that makes each person see the other as a special human being rather than just an attractive physical package.
In Fly Away With Me, of course the first thing Aaron and Eden each notice is the physical package, and they’re attracted. But it starts to become personal, to become real chemistry, when they talk. He sees how committed she is to her mom and to doing what her mom has asked of her. That, as much as finding her sexy, leads him to offer to help her. Then she sees his generosity. When he also flirts a little and says he wants to help her unwind and have some fun, she’s much more seriously tempted because now she knows he’s a good guy as well as being hot.
If they’d just met and basically said, “Hey, you’re sexy, let’s hook up,” there would have been some chemistry but it wouldn’t have been as textured and interesting as when the chemistry is more than just physical.
Any other works in progress?
I’m finishing Sail Away With Me and working on a proposal for more Blue Moon Harbor books.
Any advice for aspiring authors?
Practice, study the craft, persist. Put in your Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours like every other professional person who wants to achieve mastery. Get input, evaluate it, and use whatever resonates with you. Before you submit to a publisher or self-publish your book, make it as perfect as it can be. If you’re self-publishing, use an editor and copy-editor. Your name is going on this book, so you want it to be a quality product.
Thank you for this interview! What great questions! I appreciate the opportunity to share myself and my books with readers. I do hope readers will take a look at Fly Away With Me. There’s a lengthy excerpt, behind the scenes notes, a discussion guide, a recipe, and even a few photos on my website (and for the rest of my books as well). I also run a monthly opinion poll contest on my website, and there’s a link to sign up for my newsletter as well as links to my various social media. There’s also a Contact form. I love to hear from readers!
Happy reading, everyone!
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