Tuesday, June 4, 2013

USA TODAY Bestselling Author Lynn Raye Harris

Chris Cooper  2,106 Words

Nothing Touches The Heart
Like A Harlequin

You know what you’re getting when you open a Harlequin romance
novel.  No matter what kind of angst the characters go through
they will be happy and committed to each other at the end of the
book.  Unfortunately, life isn’t always like that, so it’s nice to read a
book where you know everything will work out.  Harlequin novels are
about hope, and that’s uplifting.
Lynn Raye Harris,
USA TODAY Bestselling Author.

. . . . . In the mid-nineties Lynn Raye Harris walked into a Maryland Waldenbooks for one purpose- to see what the biggest selection was, and then, try to write a novel in that specific genre.
“The biggest section by far was the romance section.  I thought my chances might be pretty good there, so I picked up a few books to read and went home. 

She started reading the romance novels that she had purchased from the bookstore and she was immediately hooked; only to remember this was not her first experience reading the romance genre; that a long time ago, she had been introduced to the romance genre by her grandmother, Geneva.

Lynn grew up in the country, the eldest sister of two brothers, and surrounded by horses.  In fact, horses were her first love and her first healthy obsession.  She was so in love with her horses that she rode them constantly and wrote stories about them.  In these stories, the horses were the heroes and not some sheikh, prince, millionaire, and especially, not her two younger brothers.

“I was a horse-crazy girl.  I rode horses from the time I was little, all the way through high school.  I had several horses but my main show horse was an Arabian gelding named J.R.”
Her grandmother, an avid reader of Harlequin books, felt that it was time Lynn read her first romance.  She was 12 years old at the time, when her Grandmother (she passed away many years ago) came inside the house carrying a box of books she bought from a yard sale.   She read the books her grandmother gave her.  She doesn’t remember the writer’s name or what it was about.  But she does remember the hero of one of the books was a sheikh.

I loved it so much.  The excitement, the passion, the intrigue!  Back then, the bedroom door was firmly closed in these books so they were more age appropriate than they would be now.  The hero and heroine had a lot of drama between them before they reached their happy ending.  I was hooked!”
At the age of 14, she knew she was meant to be a writer and started writing her first book – her memoir.
“It was all about my life, and it was actually a bit boring.  Not surprising since fourteen-year-olds don’t have much life experience.”

A few years later, she and her family moved to Germany, where her father was stationed at the time.  It was here that she met real-life-hero and military man, her husband Mike.
“My husband and I met because my next door neighbor was dating his roommate.  It wasn't quite love at first sight, but we've been together from the night we met until now -- and that's been a very long time!  We married a year after we started dating.”
During the first years of their marriage the couple traveled extensively, experiencing lifetime experiences throughout the world.  She’s been inside the Kremlin, hiked up a Korean mountain, floated on a gondola in Venice, and stood inside volcanoes at opposite ends of the world.

She also started a new career path by working for a major retail jewelry chain that she doesn't wish to name because she didn't like working for them.  She went back to school, the University of Maryland, where she graduated magna cum laude with a BA in English and MA with a concentration in Literature.  Her goal was to teach returning adult students at the college level.  But then, she knew she’d have to try one more path before did the teaching – that of being the writer.

. . . . . The moment she walked into the Waldenbooks, she recognized that she had already made her decision:  she would write a romance novel, specifically for Harlequin. 
After reading the books she had purchased from the bookstore, she was once again, hooked on the romantic genre all over again, like she was when she was 12.
“ I'd found where I belonged.  It might have been a calculated decision to start with, but romance is truly my home.  I love writing about people falling in love.  And I love reading it too.”

She still was not sure how to go about writing a Harlequin romances.  In fact, she didn’t know much of anything at all, except for one thing:  she wanted to write a Harlequin.
“It took time to figure some things out.  Then I found Romance Writers of America and discovered there were lots of people just like me who wanted to write books.  I probably wouldn’t be where I am today without RWA.”
She started writing, and learned of a contest Harlequin was having for first time writers and jumped right in.

  “I wrote several books, sent out query letters, and got rejections.  But my writing was improving the more I wrote, so eventually I started getting more personalized feedback.  I won (the contest) with a book that wasn't finished, so I finished it (with editorial guidance) and they bought it.”
Harris has two novels scheduled for July 2013 releases:  Hot Pursuit and The Correttis:  A Façade To Shatter.  Her favorite book is the book that she happens to be in the process of writing at the time.

She doesn’t travel as much as she used to, but her experiences of travel have contributed to her writing bestselling Harlequins.  She also believes that her traveling experiences help her understand other cultures and to differential these cultures within the characters of her books.  

“I know when I write about another country that what is true for us here in the U.S. is not true for someone else.  Each culture views things differently.  Something as basic as food is a whole different experience in Italy, for instance.  In America, we eat on the run.  We go to big chain restaurants and we want our food to taste the same in that restaurant as it tastes in the one across town.  Or we hit the drive-thru for that burger and fries and get on with our busy lives.  But in Italy, food is meant to be savored.  Meals last for hours, not minutes.  Each course is special, each dish prepared fresh from the freshest ingredients.  Not that you can’t find fast food in Italy, or that you can’t have a bad meal.  Of course you can.  But food, by and large, is treated with more attention than it is here.  That’s just an example, but without travel, I wouldn’t have realized how special food is in other countries.  I’d have my Italian billionaire scarfing down something quick and not caring much about it when in reality he probably really enjoys his mealtime.  He’d never pop a plastic tray in the microwave to nuke his dinner.”

These days Lynn lives in Alabama with her handsome husband and two crazy cats, Nimitz and Miss Pitty Pat (named after Pitty Pat Hamilton in Gone With The Wind).  Nimitz and Miss Pitty Pat like to be with Lynn in her office as she writes.  But sometimes, cuteness can only get them so far, and she’ll kick them out of her office with the door closed.  She describes her office as big and spacious with a fantastic view.      

“I have a nice desk, a very comfortable leather chair that I splurged on shortly after I sold my first book, and windows that look out onto trees.  I also have tons of bookshelves that are crowded with books.  And I've hung a few of my covers on the wall.”
Lynn rotates between her computer and laptop and sometimes, every now and then, she’ll sit on the couch to write or go to a coffee shop to write.  But regardless where she writes, she treats writing like a job.                                                                   

When my husband gets up and goes to his office downtown, I get up and go to my office upstairs.  I work on a lot of business aspects of writing -- blogs, interviews, emails, etc -- before settling in to write.  My brain needs that warm up time.  Then I write until my husband comes home.  Once he's home, we have a very normal family life where we have dinner, watch TV, or go out together.  When I have a deadline coming up, however, it all changes and I may be at the computer around the clock.”
Harris refuses to do outlines before she writes her stories, and instead, prefers to live the story through her characters.

I don't work well from an outline because I'm constantly forming the story as I write, so it works far better for me to let the story grow organically than to try and force it along pre-determined lines.  I think that comes down to author voice.  There are no new plots, really, but every writer has a unique story telling voice.  If you gave me and another writer the same idea, you'd end up with two different stories.  So I think (hope) my stories are fresh because they are told from my perspective.  I'm also not afraid to push the boundaries of what might be considered a typical Harlequin Presents.  I'm not the only one, of course, but I can only speak for me.”

Lynn is constantly writing, only focusing on one book at a time, and then the moment she finishes that book, she starts another.  Thus far she’s been able to avoid the writer’s nightmare.

“It's hard to get blocked when you have a deadline staring you in the face.  Mostly, I've found that if I'm really trying to avoid working on a story, it's because I know deep down that something about that story isn't working right. Rather than face it, I want to hide.  But when I force myself to figure it out, to rewrite the problem, then the words start to flow again.  Writers Block is really an avoidance tactic.  Know it for what it is and be determined to go around it or through it.”

When people tell her that writing a Harlequin romance is not creative writing but formula writing she laughs. 

The best way to burst that bubble is to try it yourself.  It's not easy, and the ONLY formula is this: there must be a happy ending.  It's a testament to the skill of the writers that it looks easy.  But it truly isn't.  And that's true of many things.  A great pianist can make playing a difficult concerto look easy, a skilled surgeon can make a routine procedure seem a piece of cake, and an expert marksman can make hitting a bull’s eye look like child's play.  But the truth is that that kind of skill only comes with a lot of practice.  I'm not a pianist, a surgeon, or a marksman, but I promise you I work very hard at what I do and I never take it for granted that I know everything.”

Lynn is also enjoying her new life as a teacher and conducts workshops throughout the Untied States on how to write the Harlequin Romance.  Her workshops are full of visual aids, PowerPoint slides, video clips, and her own mini-speeches about tension and its importance in a Harlequin novel.

“Romance novels are founded on tension between the characters.  Much of that tension is romantic (or sexual) tension.  Think about a book you read lately or a romantic movie you watched where you wanted so desperately for the characters to admit they were attracted to each other and then share a kiss.  That feeling you had was a result of the romantic tension between the characters.  When it works well, you want to see the characters get together.  When it's not working, you could care less if they kiss or not.” 

Since her debut novel came out in August 2008, Lynn’s books have appeared on the USA Today, Borders, and Nielsen Bookscan bestseller lists. 

  “I appreciate my readers interest in my work.  I love to hear from readers!”

You can visit her at www.LynnRayeHarris.com to learn more about her books, read excerpts from her books, read her sporadically updated blog, or just drop her a note. 


Photo 1.     Lynn Raye Harris.  Photo Credit Michael W. Harris.  Copyright by Lynn Raye Harris.

Jacket Cover and all other Jacket Covers:  COPYRIGHT 2013 by Lynn Raye Harris.  Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved. ® and ™ are trademarks of Harlequin Enterprises Limited and/or its affiliated companies, used under license.

Photo 5.     Lynn Raye Harris.  Copyright by Lynn Raye Harris.       

Photo 7.     Michael W. Harris and Lynn Raye Harris at Diamond Head, Hawaii.  Copyright by Lynn Raye Harris.

Photo 9.     Lynn Raye Harris.  Copyright by Lynn Raye Harris.

Photo 11.   Lynn Raye Harris.  Copyright by Lynn Raye Harris.

Photo 15.   Lynn Raye Harris.  Photo Credit Michael W. Harris.  Copyright by Lynn Raye Harris. 

Photo 17.   Lynn Raye Harris.  Copyright by Lynn Raye Harris

Photo 20.   Harris Fan and Lynn Raye Harris.  Copyright by Chris Cooper and Lynn Raye Harris. 

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