Monday, September 19, 2011

A Man Like That

By Susan Sey

Everybody, I'd like you to meet my good friend and chapter mate Alison Henderson! Alison, this is everybody. Alison graciously agreed to sit down with me for an interview about her latest release from the Wild Rose Press, A Man Like That.

Susan: I'd like to start by complimenting your voice. It has a beautiful, lyrical quality to it without ever feeling fussy. It's a perfect fit for the Ozark setting of A Man Like That, as well as the post-Civil War era. Can you talk a little about how you developed your voice? Did your natural voice lead you to the time frame/setting for A Man Like That, or did you choose your time frame/setting first then tweaked your voice to fit it?

Alison: What a lovely compliment! I’m afraid I can’t take much credit for “developing” my voice. After reading my first book, Harvest of Dreams, both a co-worker and my hairdresser commented that the book “sounded exactly like” me. Since it’s a historical, I’m not sure how to take that, but they claim to have enjoyed the book, so I guess it’s OK. I do think my natural voice led me to write American-set historicals rather than the more popular English or Scottish versions. I love to read about rakes and highlanders, but I was afraid my less formal, more direct American voice wouldn’t sound British to anyone.

It’s clear from the lovely descriptive passages in AMLT that you know and love the Ozarks. Can you tell us about your history with the area?

Alison: I grew up in Kansas City, where “going to the lake” usually meant the Lake of the Ozarks. I vacationed there with my family as a child and spent a week at Girl Scout camp in the Ozarks in the fourth grade. I remember it as buggy and blistering hot, but the land was also wildly beautiful. I was an art history major in college and have always responded to landscapes in a visual way. I relied on the paintings in my mind to bring the beauty of the Ozarks alive for my readers.

Your heroine Jessy is a wonderfully headstrong redhead who brought to mind my favorite Julie Garwood heroines. I found her an endearing mix of bravado and naiveté, and really enjoyed watching her mature into somebody with the patience and compassion to truly love and be loved. Can you tell us anything about how she came to be? Do your characters just show up and start talking or do you have to discover them?

Alison: Jessy began as a secondary character in Harvest of Dreams. She was the heroine’s best friend and meant to be a foil for the quieter, more serious main character. She was so vibrant and so much fun to write that after I finished Harvest of Dreams I knew she deserved her own story. As a secondary character, she wasn’t fully developed. I knew she could be more than the stereotypical feisty redhead, and I wanted to give her the chance to grow and mature. I usually do quite a bit of character work with the protagonists before I start a story, but the secondary characters start out less well-formed. A Man Like That gave Jessy the opportunity to blossom.

Speaking of characters who bloom, tell us about Morgan Bingham. It sounds like he spent some time on the wrong side of the law in a previous book. Was he always destined to be a hero, or did he surprise you? And if so tell us about the redemption process. (Because as you know, I’m all about redeeming the outlaw with the reluctant heart of gold.)

Alison: Morgan is by far the most troubled hero I’ve ever written. As a teenager, he joined the Confederate guerilla band led by “Bloody” Bill Anderson and after the Civil War drifted into the company of Jesse James. By the beginning of A Man Like That, Morgan has left the James Gang to face the demons of his past by returning to his family deep in the Ozark Mountains. He’s no longer an outlaw, but he‘s deeply scarred by things he’s seen and done.
When he first appeared in Harvest of Dreams, I had no idea he would end up a hero, but after his reaction to Jessy at their first meeting I had to find a way to redeem him. Morgan is a man who doesn’t believe he’s worthy of love, and he fights redemption tooth and nail. Ultimately, the unselfish love of a good woman wins him over.

What’s next for you?

Alison: After two historicals, I switched gears to try my hand at contemporary romance. I’ve recently finished a sharp, snappy story about an ex-FBI agent who owns her own all-female bodyguard agency. She signs on to protect a sexy former CIA agent-turned-bestselling author on a book tour and ends up fighting her attraction to her client along with a would-be assassin. This book was a complete change of pace, and I had great fun with the witty contemporary dialogue.

Wow, that sounds like a lot of fun! Can't wait to get my hands on it! Before you go, Alison, is there anything you'd like to ask our readers?

Alison: How do you feel about the importance of setting in romance novels? Are there some settings that always catch your eye and others you try to avoid?

So how about it, everybody? Do you have an opinion about setting? Share!

40 comments:

Sheree said...

Setting like small town, big city or setting like New York City, Paris, Savannah, GA?

marybelle said...

There are no settings I avoid, but wind swept moors & Highland Castles would be among the favorites.

Helen said...

Hi Alison and Susan

I don't avoid any setting this is the way I travel LOL back in time into the future and around the world love them all. The book sounds really good Alison

Have Fun
Helen

Deb said...

Alison, I'm glad you are in the Lair today. I confess that I've not heard of you, but look forward to adding your books to my TBB pile.

I've always preferred stories set in England, Scotland, America, New Zealand, or Australia. I loved to read books set on an Outback station when I was younger. A tall, rugged Aussie was so romantic to a young girl. ;) Now I like to read about Highlanders. I haven't read books set in the American 19th century for awhile, but have been reading a new series and have enjoyed it.

Kim in Hawaii said...

Aloha, Alison! I've heard great things about your new book! I'll go anywhere a good story takes me!

Mozette said...

Settings of all kinds are a great challenge; no matter where they are. I'm currently using my home city of Brisbane, Australia for vampire romance (and no not the tweenie crap type, I mean the pushie, gross, OTT type).

I'm also using Brisbane as a setting for a futuristic action sci-fi thriller; and have had two different results from the same place.

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Sheree, looks like our chook is going international again! He's been in Oz for most of the week.

Alison and Susan, really enjoyed the interview. I actually like reading unusual settings. I remember when I started reading romances, I found out about all sorts of wonderful places with romances. Category romance still offers readers a variety of settings but historicals seem to have settled for the UK which is kind of a pity, much as I love British-set romances. The Ozarks sound like a fascinating setting for a historical romance! I wish you all the best!

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Welcome to the Lair, Alison. Your books sound wonderful. I'm a huge fan of making setting so integral to the plot of a book that it's a character in and of itself, so much so that I do a workshop on that topic.

I visited the Lake of the Ozarks once when I was in high school and thought it was lovely. I was dating a guy at the time whose sister owned a place in Osage Beach.

Susan Sey said...

Sheree wrote: Setting like small town, big city or setting like New York City, Paris, Savannah, GA?

Oooh, good question! I was thinking more in general terms--like do you enjoy it when the setting is really distinct & functions in the story almost like a third main character? Or do you like to just focus on the characters & let the setting be background. But now that you mention it, that's a really important distinction.

For me, if I read a book set in Paris, for example, I want the detail. I want the street name where that bar or cafe is. I've been to Paris & can call up a visual. When it's a fictional town, however, I want the flavor rather than the detail. I want the vibe, not the particulars.

What about you?

Very interesting take on the question, Sheree!

Susan Sey said...

marybelle wrote: There are no settings I avoid, but wind swept moors & Highland Castles would be among the favorites.

Oh, you're a windswept moor kinda girl? I enjoy those myself. :-) But I tend to read them in the summer as they make me feel chilly. I love being able to spend some time in a place (and weather pattern) of my choosing sometimes.

Susan Sey said...

Helen wrote: I don't avoid any setting this is the way I travel LOL

Me, too! That's a wonderful way of putting it, Helen. This is exactly the way I travel. Spending $8 on a book is waaaaay cheaper than going to Africa or Paris or Scotland or any of the places I dream of (plus safer, & no jet lag!) I'd never been to the Ozarks, either, but Alison's book left me wishing I could go right now while the leaves are changing.

Susan Sey said...

Deb wrote: I loved to read books set on an Outback station when I was younger. A tall, rugged Aussie was so romantic to a young girl. ;)

And to the not-so-young girls. I adore tall, rugged Aussies. :-) And like you, Deb, I hadn't read any American-set historicals lately but Alison's book made me wonder why not. I love that time period (post-Civil War)--there's so much rich history going on. I quite enjoyed it.

Susan Sey said...

Kim in Hawaii wrote: I've heard great things about your new book! I'll go anywhere a good story takes me!

Hear, hear! I just cringe when I hear people (especially people who know what they're talking about) point at certain eras or subgenres & declare them "dead." I know they're right--especially as they're talking about what the industry will buy--but I also know they're wrong because I know that if a story's well told & brings the setting/era to life, people will read & love it. I hate that wonderful writers are discouraged from writing what they want to for fear they won't sell.

Susan Sey said...

Mozette wrote: 'm also using Brisbane as a setting for a futuristic action sci-fi thriller; and have had two different results from the same place.

I think this is awesome, Mozette. I love the idea of using a place you know & love, then applying a couple radically different visions to it. It's recognizable and yet completely different. You'll have to keep us posted on how those projects are going for you!

Susan Sey said...

Anna C wrote: Category romance still offers readers a variety of settings but historicals seem to have settled for the UK which is kind of a pity, much as I love British-set romances.

I'm with you, Anna. I love learning about/visiting different places through fiction & as much as I love the UK, I'd be really interested to dig into a meaty, lengthy romance set somewhere novel. Like, I don't know, ancient Rome? (winking at Joanie.) I do love me a good gladiator. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Trish wrote: I'm a huge fan of making setting so integral to the plot of a book that it's a character in and of itself, so much so that I do a workshop on that topic.

I'm going to have to visit this workshop, Trish, because I have a terrible time with setting. I'm such a character driven girl that my critique partners often have to remind me to let the reader know where all this charming back-and-forth, witty repartee is happening. Because I haven't mentioned it in several pages.

So...are you giving this workshop anywhere near Mpls in the next year? :-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Living in the Ozarks, I can attest to the lovely and wild landscape. I live about an hour from the Lake and we rarely go there--I know, shameful, lol! But we have so many great spots along the river to visit and they're much closer.

Sounds like you visited in late July or August. Hot and humid.

I like the premise of your contemporary.

Settings? Can't say there are any I avoid, perse. Depends on the story line and what I'm in the mood to read. :-)

Sia McKye's Thoughts...OVER COFFEE

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hi Allison! Welcome to the Lair!

There's no setting I wouldn't give a shot, and so many I love, it would take forever to list 'em. Grins.

Pat Cochran said...

Hi, Alison and Susan, enjoyed the
interview! Sometimes setting is just
that: background music. In other, more
involved stories, setting helps me
understand how the characters evolved
into their current state. Looking for-
ward to reading this book!

Pat C.

Susan Sey said...

Sia wrote: I live about an hour from the Lake and we rarely go there--I know, shameful, lol! But we have so many great spots along the river to visit and they're much closer.

Isn't that always the way? I live twenty minutes from the Mall of America (my husband works across the street from it!), and I go there approximately twice a year. Usually to meet my husband for lunch, & almost never to shop.

I recognize that the MoA is nothing like the Ozarks, & but I get how it is. You live really close to something people fly in from all over the world to see & you're like, "Meh" about it. However, I'm thrilled I visit the mall so seldom, where visiting the Lake is probably a way better experience. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Jeanne wrote: There's no setting I wouldn't give a shot, and so many I love, it would take forever to list 'em. Grins.

As long as you can blow stuff up, you're good, then? :-) You & Nancy...

Susan Sey said...

Pat C wrote: Sometimes setting is just that: background music. In other, more involved stories, setting helps me understand how the characters evolved into their current state.

That's a really great way of putting it, Pat. Sometimes the way a person interacts with his surroundings provides such insight into his character. Sometimes I like to think of a character's family as the setting. It's the same thing, to my mind. Putting them where they grew up is so revealing...

Susan Sey said...

Okay, bandita buddies, I'm off to get some writing done. Alison is on the road today but is going to try jump on from time to time to say hello & answer any questions you might have. Be on the lookout & I'll check back in after my precious kid-free hours are over. (God bless preschool....)

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Susan said: As long as you can blow stuff up, you're good, then? :-) You & Nancy...

Hahaha! Pretty much. And Cassondra too. Jo obviously likes to stalk things...a lot.

But yes, it's just as much fun to blow something up in Scotland as it is in Montana or Arizona or Detroit. Or Istanbul/Constantinople for that matter.

Bwahahahaha!

Julia Smith said...

Alison, Morgan Bingham sounds deliciously dark.

Alison H. said...

Good morning, Susan, Banditas and friends! Thank you so much, Susan, for inviting me to visit Romance Bandits and for being such a lovely hostess. I've enjoyed reading everyone's comments about setting. I love a wide variety of setting and wish we saw more in publishing today, but the market is what it is. I've had a change of setting myself and am currently on vacation in my favorite place in the world, Carmel, CA. I'm using it as the setting for my current WIP. So I can write this trip off as research, right? :)

jo robertson said...

Hi, Alison, welcome to the Lair. "A Man Like That" sounds wonderful. I like how you've drawn both your protagonists. I'm a sucker for a redemptive rogue, too!

I like settings that are wild and untamed, but I don't like them to take over my story. I want them as enriching backdrop.

Susan Sey said...

Jeanne wrote: Pretty much. And Cassondra too. Jo obviously likes to stalk things...a lot.

You know, I feel a lot safer knowing you ladies are on our side...

Susan Sey said...

Julia wrote: Morgan Bingham sounds deliciously dark.

He *is* Julia. He is. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Alison wrote: I've had a change of setting myself and am currently on vacation in my favorite place in the world, Carmel, CA. I'm using it as the setting for my current WIP. So I can write this trip off as research, right? :)

Hi, Alison, & welcome to our nutty little world! So glad you could make it & Carmel sounds wonderful. I've never been but I've always liked the idea of it because it sounds so much like caramel, which I love more than chocolate, even. And that's saying something.

Susan Sey said...

Jo wrote:
I like settings that are wild and untamed, but I don't like them to take over my story. I want them as enriching backdrop.


I'm with you, Jo. I can always tell when an author did a whole bunch of research on a thing or place & really wants to use it in the story. It's just info dump & I don't like that. I want details that matter & move the story forward. If it's not helping the story, leave it out.

Of course, this is how I end up with talking heads in my books but we all have our own struggles. :-)

Nan Dixon said...

I don't care what setting the book takes place in. I just want it to be vivid. Murky settings drive me crazy.
Congratulations Alison onlaunching your 2nd book! Can't wait to read it. (It's sitting on my TBR shelf!)

Cassondra said...

Hi Susan, and Welcome Alison!

What a lovely cover for AMLT! I'm from southern Kentucky, so your descriptions would probably be not too far from what I know here. and as to setting--as a reader I love it when the characters are almost a part of--or spring from--the setting, whether that means they love it or hate it. And I love just the right amount of description of the setting. As a writer I sometimes think I use too much...I tend to make parts of the setting metaphor for the emotions of the characters and what's going on in the story.

My favorites, lessee...that would probably be either the highlands or the American countryside--I don't mean cowboy country, but the south, the midwest--what I call "farm" country. I think I like this best because it speaks to my heart since I come from that.

Nancy said...

Sheree, congrats on the bird!

Allison, welcome and congrats on your new release! I like American-set historicals and have quite a few on my keeper shelf. I might avoid a French setting since I'm an Anglophile, but then again, I might not. :-)

I tend to gravitate toward settings that have some familiarity. If I want strange new worlds, I go read science fiction or fantasy.

Susan Sey said...

Cassondra wrote: As a writer I sometimes think I use too much...I tend to make parts of the setting metaphor for the emotions of the characters and what's going on in the story.

I think this is the best possible use of setting. It's what makes me as a reader dig into the setting & really start to develop a sense of place, somewhere to put these people I care about. I'll bet you're awesome at that. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Nan wrote: I don't care what setting the book takes place in. I just want it to be vivid. Murky settings drive me crazy.

I'm not sure I'd even notice! Give me some witty repartee & I'm happy. This is why I love and adore my critique group. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Nancy wrote: I tend to gravitate toward settings that have some familiarity. If I want strange new worlds, I go read science fiction or fantasy.

I had never thought of that, Nancy! Not being a huge sci-fi girl, I tend to get my world-building from just reading books set places I haven't been. It had never occurred to me to get my arm-chair traveling fix in a fantasy novel. But I should have thought of it since I'm so taken with Game of Thrones & the seven kingdoms. I'd love to travel there...

Nancy said...

Susan, you're reading Game of Thrones?! That's hard core fantasy.

I have others I could recommend. . . .

Cathy P said...

I love almost all settings except for the supernatural ones. Give me a historical or a military/PI setting and I am happy.

Alison H. said...

Thank you all for your kind wishes and support of unconventional settings. And a huge round of applause for Susan for hosting this fun gabfest for me while I've been basically incommunicado.