Lynn Emery's romances are set in her native Louisiana. Through her work, I have gotten a sense of the uniqueness of the state. Her stories are a combination of political intrigues, family machinations, class struggles and steamy romances. She has written seven full-length novels, a novella and an e-book romance. My favorite is Sweet Mystery, Emery's 1998 story of the impact of a 50-year-old family feud on the lives of three generations. The heroine, Rae Dalcour, is a rebel with a cause. I was surprised to learn that Rae just might be Lynn Emery's alter ego. The author recently took time to talk to me about her work and her home state.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I'm a Louisiana native of African, Choctaw Indian and Latin American/Spanish descent. I've lived in Louisiana all my life. I've been a storyteller since I could talk, my mother will vouch for that. I started writing stories at the age of 10 and started my first novel at age eleven--a mystery with a female heroine. I wrote this book especially so I could create a female lead character unlike most women in mysteries or horror stories written by guys in the 60s and 70s, hysterical under pressure and/or TSTL (Too Stupid to Live)! As for my other life, I'm a clinical social worker with experience in forensic social work. I've been an expert witness and worked in a variety of areas, including as a trained investigator. Right now I work in an acute psychiatric unit.
What was your first book and how long did it take to get it published?
My first novel was Night Magic. I sold it on the first try in 1994 to Monica Harris, the editor who created the Arabesque line for Kensington Publishing.
Were you surprised by the response to your first novel?
Actually I was surprised by the excellent reviews. I expected to hear "Good for a first novel." I didn't get much in the way of reader mail, so I was surprised to read online in one of your reviews that it was very popular.
What is the most frequently asked Lynn Emery question?
Where do I get my ideas is the top question, like most other authors. I usually say "From life."
Do you write full time?
I wish. I'm a clinical social worker in the daytime and write at night.
Describe Lynn Emery's Louisiana.
My Louisiana rarely includes bayous and alligators for one thing. :) I live in a mid-sized city right on the Mississippi River, not that the swamps and bayous are very far away. In Louisiana you're never far from some body of water, alligators included. We're a spicy gumbo of people with a unique history. We were a French colony, then Spanish, then French again. We're the
only state in the union with parishes as divisions instead of counties. We also have a large number of Irish, Italian and German descendants. We love eating, parties and music.
How do you approach development of your characters?
I create what they most want (internally and externally) and why they can't have it. At least that's where I start most of the time. I have in some instances started with a plot then thought "What kind of woman would act in this story?"
Sweet Mystery is my favorite Lynn Emery romance. Where did the idea for Sweet Mystery come from? Will we revisit Belle Rose, Louisiana again?
The idea for Sweet Mystery came about because I'm a frustrated aspiring blues singer and guitarist! I can't do either, but I've dreamed of playing and singing, a female version of B.B. King. :) So I created bad girl Rae Dalcour and lived vicariously through her.
Who is Rae Dalcour and what motivates her?
Rae Dalcour is a woman who revels in being unconventional and rebellious. What she wants is respect and to be loved for who she is, not asked to change.
What are the basic elements of a Lynn Emery romance?
Always I include strong connections to the heroine's and the hero's early lives and families to help explain how they came to be who they are when the story opens. We learn about relationships and what to expect from love in our families, by watching the important adults who shape us as kids. Especially I find that I include subplots about the parent-child relationships.
How would you describe your sense of humor? Who and what makes you laugh?
I have a wacky sense of humor. I like subtle and I like slapstick. I'm all over the place so it's hard to describe. My favorite comedians are so varied: Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Sinbad, Whoopi, to name a few. Beyond that I love ordinary people caught in funny upside down situations and how they cope with a world gone insane. I love people who are verbally quick on
their feet like Robin Williams.
After All was produced as a made-for-TV movie. Can you describe the feeling of having your story presented on film?
It was thrilling and gave me chills to see Holly Robinson Peete say: "This is Michelle Toussaint reporting." I mean, it was surreal to see a living person acting out a character and a storyline that I made up in my head!
What did you learn from the experience?
That writers usually don't have an ounce of control in the making of movies. I didn't do a thing but get the call telling me BET would make the movie and then I got a check.
One Love is a spin-off from an earlier work, Tender Touch. Who is Lanessa and why was it important to tell her story?
While writing Tender Touch the idea for the heroine's sister to have a substance abuse problem just popped into my head almost three chapters into the book. Later my experience as a social worker dealing with the special issues of women who abuse alcohol and drugs lead me to write Lanessa's story, to expand on what happened to her.
You have written full length novels and a novellas. Which form do you prefer and why?
I don't have a preference. Novellas are nice because you can really focus on fewer characters and then be through with it. Novels are great because you can explore all kinds of subplots and more major secondary characters.
What is Gotta Get Next to You about? How would you describe your approach to romantic suspense?
Gotta Get Next To You is about a woman who is trying be better than her mother and be her own person. Of course she's very hard on what she sees as her mother's mistakes. She learns not to be so judgmental. My approach to romantic suspense is place real people in real perilous or shaky situations that could happen to us all and then show them using their assets to
What are the "Lipstick Chronicles"? How did you get involved in the project?
The Lipstick Chronicles was originally a serial published online. The entire collection is about five smart, sexy women who all work for an online greeting card company in Washington D.C. Mightywords.com hired Lark Productions, a book packaging company, to create a romantic comedy anthology like "Sex In The City." Five romance authors were contracted, each to write a
novella centered on one of the women. Romantic Times Magazine gave Lark Productions a list of authors' names, mine was included. Lark e-mailed me, asked for an excerpt from one of my books and offered me the contract.
What is your story Tumbling Down about?
Alix Harris is a graphic designer who has a nasty shock that leads to a painful break-up with her long time love, Cal. Tumbling Down is how she gets back up, dusts herself off and reclaims her groove. :)
From an author's standpoint, how is the process of developing and distributing an e-book different?
Development is much faster for sure. For Tumbling Down everything except the hard copy of the contract was done by e-mail. I sent my sections via e-mail, editorial revisions were all done by e-mail and it was great. No piles of paper to mail was a good thing. Distribution is a big problem in my view. Most people had trouble finding the fiction section of Mightywords.com. Then the site went through big design changes when Barnes & Noble bought Mightywords.com.
The URL leading to the collection would change without warning. Getting e-books into a lot of readers hands is still a big limitation, I think.
Like your first novel, Night Magic, many of your stories include subplots involving the environment. What are the environmental issues of your region that concern you?
Louisiana has a huge dependence on the oil and gas industry. We struggle with balancing the economic needs of the state with making the oil/gas and chemical industries environmentally responsible.
Louisiana politics often play a prominent role in your work. What is it about Louisiana politics that makes for strange bedfellows?
Louisiana has a different political tradition because we were a colony of France and Spain. Some of the attitudes can be traced back to those first colonial governors. Louisiana was so different from the rest of the country because of that. Our political tradition is heavily influenced by the
What haven't you done as a writer that you'd like to attempt?
I am intrigued by the idea of writing a mystery with a white protagonist.
Which of the covers of your novels is your favorite and why?
Gotta Get Next To You because I love the artwork.
Which writers have influenced you?
Ernest Gaines, J. California Cooper, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Agatha Christie, George Simenon, Charles Dickens, Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston
What do you read when you are not writing?
Everything, fiction and non-fiction. Every genre.
My next book Tell Me Something Good is coming out in May 2002. Visit my website
to find out more over the next few months for more details.
Can you tell us anything about your life outside writing, about your family
or other interests?
I write and have a day job. Who has time for a life? [LOL] Seriously, I work hard to spend time with my family and friends, keeps me sane. I'm single, no kids and I still don't have much time, go figure! I enjoy gardening, music, reading and museums (art and historical). I love seeing old houses and watching the Antiques Roadshow, mostly to hear all the interesting stories since I have no interest in buying antiques.
What advice can you give writers who are getting started?
Read, read, read. Then write, write and write some more. Read about writing, read novels, read non-fiction not related to writing. Then write some more.
How can readers contact you?
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or
write to me at P.O. Box 74095, Baton Rouge, LA 70874.
I have a monthly online newsletter at my website http://lynnemery.home.mindspring.com/ .
January 25, 2001