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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Writing a Series: Author Interview with Lisa Harris

My interview today is with Lisa Harris who is a prolific writer. She has over thirty novels and novella collections in print. She is a Christy Award finalist for Blood Ransom and Vendetta, a Christy Award winner for Dangerous Passage, and the winner of the Best Inspirational Suspense Novel for 2011 (Blood Covenant) and 2015 (Vendetta) from Romantic Times. 
What drew you to the idea of writing your first novel? 
I always wanted to write a book. Even in junior high I wrote chapters of Nancy Drew-type mysteries and planned to write a gothic romance one day like Victoria Holt. But it wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I actually sat down and wrote my first book. My husband and I had just adopted our oldest son, and I was a stay at home mom without a car. So while he slept, I wrote my first novel. 

How long did it take for you to write the first book? Was it harder or easier to write your second book?
It took me about six months and was never published, but I’d taken the first step, loved it, and had no intentions of stopping even though I honestly had no idea what I was doing. My second book was a Gothic romance and once again, it was never published. I continued to study the craft on the side, learned as much as I could, and tried to improve with each book I wrote.

What makes for a good mystery? 
Several years ago, I wrote three cozy mysteries and found it both fun and challenging. A cozy mystery needs both a great whodunit as well as an interesting cast of characters. It’s usually a puzzle that’s solved by an amateur sleuth who usually didn’t intend to get involved. Today I write romantic suspense instead of mysteries, but there is always a puzzle (or case) to be solved, and a number of red herrings (twists) woven into the plot. Most of the time I discover these red herrings or twists as I write. I figure if it’s a surprise to me, it will be a surprise to my reader as well. 

As for the process, instead of writing straight through the story, I usually write in threads. For example, I’ll go through and write the romance scenes and the main interactions between the hero and heroine.This helps give me get to know the characters as I write. I’ll later then go add details that were left out the first time through. I also research everything, from mountain climbing to felony laws in various states. And yes,I love doing the research and admit to getting distracted too often.

You’ve written numerous series with one to five titles. What makes you move

on from a series?
I really enjoy series writing because it allows you to dig deeper into the characters over the course of several books. Because I write for traditional publishers, they are the ones who decide how many books are in each series. And while it’s always hard to move on, I’m usually ready for something new to jump into.

Besides writing mysteries, you have written contemporary romance suspense ,and historical. Do you have a favorite?
I was able to write a two book contemporary series set in Africa (Blood Ransom and Blood Covenant) as well as a historical set partly in Northern Rhodesia and New York City. (An Ocean Away) I found the research for all three of these books fascinating, whether it was the modern day slave trade or cultural anthropology books of the early nineteen hundreds that I used as a reverence. Weaving in the setting and culture always interests me.

You live in Africa, but you’ve written books about different states in the U.S. How did you do the research? 
I spend hours doing research, especially if it’s a place where I’ve never been before. Thankfully, the internet is a great resource with blogs, photos, and google maps that can take you to a specific setting and let you see things up close. For the first book for my Nikki Boyd series, Vendetta, I decided on the area around the Smoky Mountains as a setting. I read stories by people who’d walked the Appalachian Trail, studied maps, photographs, and travel guides. I later was able to visit the setting of the story and was amazed at how I felt as if I’d really been there simply because of all the research I’d done.

I see you written a few novellas. What is different about putting them together - besides word count? How do you novellas sell in comparison to full length novels?
I haven’t written novellas for quite a while, but when I did, I always did them with other authors on a related theme. Sometimes the stories tied together tightly like with the To Catch a Thief collection, I worked very closely with the other three authors in the group. With Cowboy Christmas, it was simply a theme that we all wrote on but the stories weren’t linked. While I did enjoy the tightly connected novella projects, it does take a lot of time and cooperation with the other authors. 

How do you novellas sell in comparison to full length novels? 
I would also say that my full length novels sell better, but I do know that there are a lot of novella collections out there that are doing well.

What do you know now about writing/publishing now that you wished you had known sooner?
I had no idea how much work it was going to be, but on the other hand, I’m so glad I stuck with it!

What is the best advice you’ve been given about writing or that you've learned that you would like to pass along?
As with any craft, writing takes time to learn. When I wrote my first book, I thought it was perfect and ready to be published. In reality, it was far from that perfect. After twenty years, I’m still learning and growing and try to improve with every book I write.

What other works do you have in the process?
Right now I’m working on book four of my Nikki Boyd Files series as well as a romantic suspense for Love Inspired Suspense set in Italy.

Any last words you'd like to share on writing?

Thanks so much for inviting me to your blog! I appreciate it. If you enjoy romantic suspense, I’m super excited to share that my latest novel, Missing, has just been released! (It’s best to read book one, Vendetta, first.)

That's all for today's interviews. If you'd like to learn more about Lisa's past, present and upcoming books, here's the link to her website...

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