When last we left Donnell and Anna, they were in the throes of discussing setting. Today, they move on to her protagonists.
D.B. Anna, as you stated yesterday, you have to dig deep to bring out your characters. Jenny, in particular, demonstrates some amazing hidden attributes in Run Among Thorns, which you soon bring to light. Was she a product of your imagination? Do you know someone like her, or is she in any way like you?
A.L.L. I don't know anyone like Jenny, except Jenny. [Anna smiles here]. I know plenty of resourceful, hands-on talented women, though! I spent some time working on conservation projects, stone walling, fencing, timber work, footpath work...many of the volunteers were like Jenny. Practical, clever, quick-thinking. I can drive an off-road vehicle competently, and I'm pretty comfortable in the wild.
But I think Jenny's biggest talent is being able to see what needs to be done, and being willing to do it -- no matter what. That's the core of heroism, isn't it?
D.B. I certainly think so. Speaking of heroic, we should probably talk about Kier McAllister. You make an unlikely character the hero in your book, where in other novels, he might have made a compelling villain. My main questions here are: Did you base his agency on reality? Was his character formed from research? In other words, what brought Kier to life?
A.L.L. You've put your finger on what made me write this book, you know. -- He [Kier] might have been the villain. The question that made me want to write the story was simply what happens if you truly fall in love with your enemy? And for a good chunk of the book, that's what Kier is to Jenny. No, Kier and the Agency aren't based on anyone I know, but I knew that no one wakes up one morning and thinks, "I'm going to be a villain." It's the little steps, the thousands of daily choices that bring someone to that conclusion. And then, if he's lucky, someone comes along who makes them look back and think, "How did I get here?"
Looking back and identifying some of Kier's "little steps" made him seem more real to me, and so it made him more real in the book.
And Kier has a very strong mind of his own, you know! Once he was formed on the page, I just had to wind him up and let him go. He's still the only character I can get into the head of, and write in his point of view, any day, at any time, without having to read back and remember. He's just THERE!
D.B. What a gift, Anna. I will never forget Kier. But someone else who intrigued me was Jenny's brother, Alan. Will I see more from this very mysterious secondary character? How about Jenny and Kier?
A.L.L. Oh, yes! I had immense fun with Alan. He's charming, confident, laid-back and juuussst a leeetle bit shallow and selfish. [another wicked smile here]. I gave him a heroine who was convinced she had no strengths at all, let him put her into mortal danger, and then let guilt, love and a flight for their lives do their merry work.
And of course, when Marianne's in danger, and Alan has to go halfway across North Africa to rescue her, who else would he go to for help? Yes, both Jenny and Kier crop up in that story, too! It was so much fun revisiting them and their young family. Dangerous Lies is the result, and that's out in June, 2009.
D.B. I look foward to the entire family's new adventure. So now that Run Among Thorns is in America, are you seeing success in England as well?
A.L.L. Frankly, no! You see, the sad fact is there is no market for romantic suspense in the UK. In fact, most readers in the UK aren't even sure what it is. Speak to editors and agents, and they'll talk about the difficulty of marketing and shelving it, and ask you to write something else.
So I'm in the strange position -- writing romantic suspense for the US market with a very English voice.
I think I will try something else for the UK market very soon -- I'd like to be published over here, too -- but I'll always come back to action, adventure, and a setting that's part of the story.
D.B. Anna, I think you're in a unique position. You may, in fact, be the door that swings open an untapped market in the UK. Word of mouth is a pretty strong motivator. Finally, as I indicated above, your log line was the first thing that gleaned my interest. Do your stories result from what-if scenarios?
A.L.L. I think my stories result from several things coming together at once. The what-if scenario, a sense of characters, and a place for them to react. Often those things will float about, independent of each other for a while, before I put them together in the right match.
For instance, we know that for Run Among Thorns, the what-if was the unexpected killing, the characters were light and shade in equal strength and the setting started out with wild Scotland. For Dangerous Lies, I had the Sahara desert, Alan and his innocent tourist, and the what-if a spy used someone to carry his secret information?
D.B. I love it! Get my attorney back on the phone! 2009, you say? [sigh]. All right. Forgive my editorializing. Before you leave us, Anna, what are you working on now? And what advice would you give to aspiring authors?
A.L.L. Oooh. Well, I'm working on two things, actually. A contemporary romance based in London aimed at the UK market, and what I hope will be my third book for Medallion Press. Danger: Deep Water. In this one, I had the hero and the setting (mostly the sea), but it took me a while to come up with the heroine and the what-if, both closely bound with modern-day piracy. Not all pirates are Cap'n Jack sexy.
[As for aspiring authors,] I find it hard to give advice, because I've gotten so many things wrong! But for me it comes down to one thing: Don't defeat yourself. There are plenty of people and circumstances more than willing to get in your way -- don't be your own worst enemy. Keep writing, keep learning, and accept that your process may change.
D.B. Anna, I so appreciate you sharing yesterday and today with us. I promised not to give too much of the book away, and I hope I kept my word. What I will share with readers is thanks to Anna Louise Lucia, I've been on a voyage. I've traveled parts of America, Scotland and England, and never once suffered jet lag. Expect great things from this author. I certainly do. Check out her web page at AnnaLouiseLucia.com
A.L.L. Thank you, Donnell, for the chance to chat with you and with your readers! I've had a blast.