I’m a chocoholic. Even a romance anthology called Hot Chocolate was hard for me to resist. The 1999 anthology introduced me to the work of Lori Foster. The story, “Tangled Sheets,” was
the first story in what has become the author’s continuing stories of the close-knit Winston brothers. I enjoyed the story so much, I began looking for other things she had written. In less than five years, the prolific author has published nearly 20 books. I’ve completed her backlist. I’m hooked, and I still need my Lori Foster fix! I am currently reading “Marrying Mary,” an online serial on the Harlequin web site that will run for eight weeks. The summer of 2000 is the best time to be a Lori Foster fan. A new book will be released each month, beginning with the introduction of four brothers who live and love in Buckhorn County.
Meet the feisty, outspoken author who definitely knows her way around a love scene...
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Writing background? I have none. I married right out of high school, no college, and didn't start writing until much later in life. I wrote over ten complete manuscripts before I finally sold to Harlequin Temptation. It was a *very* rough road! I think I was writing for just a little over five years before selling.
What did you do before you started writing romances?
I've worked a lot of small jobs over the years, nothing professional. I was a clerk in a grocery store, a saleslady for a clothing shop in the mall, and for a while there I worked at Proctor and Gamble. In fact, I was the first female material handler they had. Once my kids were born I stayed home to raise them. I was always very involved in the schools, but now my oldest is in college, my middle son is going into high school, and my youngest is in middle school.
How long have you been writing romances?
I *think* (it's been so long it's hard to remember) that I started about ‘91 or ‘92. I wrote long-hand first, completing my first book that way. Then I got a typewriter. I didn't buy a computer until after I'd sold. All of my revisions on my first book were done on a typewriter. Oy.
What was your first novel and how long did it take to get it published?
Impetuous, a Harlequin Temptation, was my first. It was published in 1996. Ah, the story behind that poor book! I'd just gotten a rejection from Laura Shin and then she came to our conference. I discussed another book with her, one that everyone I knew told me would never get published because it was too risque. Laura wanted to see it. She liked it, requested revisions, and then she left Temptation.
It was about six months before Brenda Chin was hired to take her place. (My husband says they were looking for a woman with a name that matched Laura's. Shin and Chin [g].) Anyway, Brenda liked the book too, but wanted all new revisions. Remember, this was all done on a typewriter. I had to literally rewrite the book each time. Finally, after several more months, Brenda called to say she could buy it.
Do you write full time?
Full time plus! I'd estimate that I work at least 60 hours a week. Not all of that is strictly writing on a novel, though the majority is. Some of it is things like this, doing interviews, or answering email. I do articles for Writer's Digest, RWR and Painted Rock. Sometimes I'm making bookmarks and fliers or working on my web page. There's a lot involved with publishing books, too, besides writing them. There are line edits, copy edits, galleys, art fact sheets, dedications, reader letters . . . Really, a LOT of stuff.
What is Harlequin's Temptation line? How does it differ from the publisher's other imprints?
Every line has its exceptions, but Temptation is really about fantasy. Young, sexy, over the top plots that are fast-paced and exciting. Temptation is the sexiest line in Harlequin and Silhouette. We don't focus a lot on cowboys or babies, though as I said, the exception to the rule will be in there when the book works.
Outrageous was the first novel in Harlequin's then-new "Blaze" series. Can you explain what the series is and how it is different from other Temptation books?
Outrageous was my second book, and the first Temptation Blaze. Blaze was started for the more risque, explicit Temptations. It's like a fun disclaimer to the reader, letting her know that this book is probably going to be a lot hotter, a lot edgier, and a lot more explicit than you expect in a category, even a Temptation.
All of my Temptations are Blazes, even though my newest series isn't labeled as such. Harlequin will only give a book one flag -- either a Blaze flag, or a Wrong Bed flag, or whatever. My newest series had the "Buckhorn Brothers" flag, but they're still Blazes, still very hot and explicit. That's the only way I like to write.
How many romances have you written?
Something like 37, 38, 39.
That have sold? 28.
That have been published? In July it'll be 18.
You once said writing comes very easily to you. The number of romances you've released in just four years attests to that. How is it so effortless for you?
I have no idea! I used to assume everyone wrote the way I did, straight out, complete, without a lot of revisions. I've since learned that isn't so. Everyone works very differently. I can't imagine sitting and staring at a blank screen. There always seems to be words, entire *scenes* in my head that just come out as I want them to. I tweak here and there and sometimes go though to check for mistakes, but I seldom do much revising. I think I'm just very lucky that I've found publishers and readers who enjoy what I spew out.
Your story, "Marrying Mary" is Harlequin's current online romance. What is it about? How can readers access it?
“Marrying Mary” is a short online serial about a young woman who, for her birthday, wants to experience really great sex, and so she asks her best friend if he'll help her out. He's loved her forever and of course, jumps at the chance to prove to her that they'll be perfect together.
Readers can find it by going to www.eHarlequin.com and clicking on the weekly serial link.
How long will the series run?
It runs a chapter a week for eight weeks. It started June 5th but each chapter remains accessible until the book is finished.
How do you develop your characters?
They come to life in my head. Long before I start writing, I think about them. I've usually got four or five books in my head all the time. I think about them and what they'd say in different situations, and by the time I sit down to write I have the whole book, complete with characterization and motivation and plot, all worked out. It stays in my head too. I don't do outlines and I try not to do detailed synopses (mostly because I'm terrible at synopses ). I do take little notes here and there, things that wouldn't make sense to anyone but me.
What traits, if any, do your heroines Lace, Josie, Olivia and Melanie share?
They're all compassionate, honorable, intelligent. They may be inexperienced, but they know sex with the right person is never dirty, it's natural and wonderful and something to be cherished. They love children and the elderly and animals. They're gentle but strong. They're all independent. They are NOT all beautiful. I don't really like to continually read about the perfect woman with large breasts and a tiny waist and silky hair and a lush mouth . . . Good grief! Few women look like that, but most women have been loved by a man.
Brandi Sommers, the heroine of your novel, Fantasy, was raped at 18. How difficult was it for you to explore this topic within the parameters of a romance? How did you approach it? What has been the response to the story?
That the book was a romance didn't hinder me at all. But researching the topic was painful. In a lot of ways. What these women have to put up with! And I found out first hand from reviewers. The reactions of my heroine were based on actual bona fide feedback I got from women who'd been raped, yet reviewers didn't think I'd handled it correctly. Really steamed me.
Yes, some women who've been raped never get over it. But others do, and all they want/need/ask for is the right man with the right reactions. Raspberries to the reviewers who didn't like that book!
Now readers, they liked it a lot! I got so much fan mail from that story, and even some from women who'd been abused or raped. It still chokes me up to read those letters.
"Tangled Sheets" was published in Jove's Hot Chocolate anthology. It is a wonderful story about four brothers. How did the story develop?
Cindy Hwang at Berkley invited me in on the anthology. It was my first. She wanted the story to be short (natch) and she wanted it to be very sexy. It took me all of about five minutes to come up with Cole and Sophie. I'm kind of partial to mistaken identity / secret fantasy themes, as anyone who reads me much knows. Actually, I have NO idea how or why these stories come to me. But they do. Luckily fast enough that I can keep up with my schedule!
Had you planned to tell the stories of each Winston brother when you began with Cole in "Tangled Sheets?”
Planned, no, because I had no control over that. Hoped, YES! I kept thinking to myself: Please,
please, please like all the brothers . . . and when Cindy said she did, I did a little dance. It was a chancy thing, falling in love with Winston brothers. I'm the type of writer that once I have a book in my head I SO want to write it. And of course, the second I introduced Mack and Chase and Zane, I had stories for them.
Thank goodness Cindy liked them enough to want them to each have their own story.
And thank goodness the readers liked them, too!
The Austins, Blakes, Sawyers and Winstons are close-knit families. How important is the portrayal of such families in your work?
VERY important. I believe strongly in family. I know I cherish my own with all my heart and wish everyone felt the same. My husband is wonderful, my boys are wonderful. I'm very lucky. I truly believe a lot of society's problems would be solved if families were tighter. Somehow, in some way, that family unity and support have broken down. It's so very sad.
Is this part of the inspiration for the "Buckhorn Brothers" series?
Most definitely. Families don't have to be perfect to be strong. Personalities can mix and mesh and clash and still each member should know he or she is loved unconditionally and has support when needed. I tried to show that variety of personality in the Buckhorn Brothers, both with the brothers and the women they hook up with.
What is the series about?
In a nutshell (Like I could tell anything in a nutshell! Ha!), it's about four men, brothers, who live together and more or less run Buckhorn County. Sawyer Hudson is a doctor. Morgan Hudson is
the sheriff. Their half brother Jordan Sommerville is a vet, and Gabe Kasper is a handyman.
Their mother has been married three times. Her first husband died in the service and left her with two young sons. She remarried Jordan's father, but divorced him later when it became apparent he had a drinking problem. Then years later, she learned to trust love again and married Gabe's father -- who she's still with. Women who meet the brothers don't quite know the education their mama gave them. The brothers know women, love and respect women, and understand women.
Who are the brothers and how do they differ?
Sawyer is the most somber. He has a 15-year-old son, Casey, who matures throughout the four books. Morgan is a muscle-bound behemoth, a surly sheriff who growls his way through life -- until he meets his heroine. Jordan is the quietest, with a voice that can melt butter and female hearts and talk baby birds to sleep. Gabe is a blonde-haired, gorgeous rascal, a devil-may-care ladies’ man who loves the sun and water and women, but not in that order.
What's the secret behind your sizzling love scenes?
Realism? A healthy libido? [G] Heck, I dunno. I jus’ tells it as I sees it. I personally think that my love scenes are popular because I don't pretty them up with frou-frou words and euphemisms that detract from the realism. Sex is beautiful and romantic enough without that nonsense. Plus, I try really hard to always show the emotional connection between the characters. It isn't just sex, it's mating, bonding, showing and sharing love . . .
In "Body Heat," your story in Sizzle, you created a great scene between Melanie and Adam that was one of the most suggestive I've read in a romance. It really was about the weather! How would you describe your use of language and the double entendre?
Oh heck, doing that is easy! Men do it all the time. If you say, It's hot outside, they bob their eyebrows and say, "Getting hotter by the second." If you say you need to weed the garden, they'll say, "Honey, I'll weed your garden . . . har har har." Men tend to see everything as something sexual. I think it's great, and find men pretty darn entertaining. And considering I live with four of them (my husband and three sons) I feel qualified.
I've learned that around men, especially the young ones, there are certain things you don't say. For instance, I told a neighborhood boy who'd been at our house playing golf, not to forget his balls. Good grief. My kids snickered and elbowed each other for an hour.
In a review of "Body Heat," I described your stories as "one-word titled romances about heroines with limited sexual experience and heroes who are more than willing to offer intensive one-on-one tutoring." Was that a fair assessment to that point? What about your style has changed?
Well, I'm not going with one word titles anymore. I now have "ta da" multi-word titles! At least some of the time.
And yeah, I think your assessment was right on. I have written some heroines that sexually experienced, but not a lot. I've had a few reluctant heroes -- like in SAY YES. It was the hero holding out, and in my next two Duets there's another guy, for a different reason, doing the same.
Scandalized, Tantalizing and "Say Yes" demonstrate your flair for comedy. How would you describe your sense of humor? Do you enjoy writing romantic comedies more than romantic suspense scenes?
Argh! I never knew I had a flair for comedy. *I* chuckle at what I write, but then, *I'm* warped. Again, I think I just tell life. I love to laugh, and I sure prefer to laugh instead of cry. If you're raising kids, you know something funny happens every day. My boys are all three comedians, and so is my husband. They keep me smiling all the time. I incorporate their attitudes, their one-liners into my stories, and other people get to laugh with us. But I MUCH prefer not to write comedy. It's the hardest writing I've ever done.
Brazen is an electronic book. What is it about?
A book of my heart! A favorite of mine that no publisher would touch because of a small stint in Central America. ::weep weep:::
I love that book. Eli, the hero, has a brother whose been taken hostage, and Eli wants to hire the meanest son-of-a-bitch the special agency has so that he can rescue him. The agency sends the Ray Jean, the heroine to him. If Eli doesn't accept Ray and what she's capable of, he'll have to settle for the second meanest son-of-a-bitch there is, cuz she's definitely #1.
What has been the response to this book?
Amazingly enough, I've gotten nothing but great reviews and wonderful reader letters. To everyone who's read it -- thank you!
How was the process different from traditional publishing for you as an author?
Well, it's all done electronically, for one. And you don't make near as much money on an E-book as you do in traditional publishing. But it was worth for me. I got to share the story and I'm so grateful. Plus, I got the most beautiful cover. I really love it.
What does E-publishing say about the future of the romance genre?
I think in four or five years, E-publishing will be well established within romance, as well as everywhere else. Remember those sage words in five years.
What are your working on now?
Another Duets. This will be a Duets book with two stories by moi. Annie will appear in the first book, Max in the second. They're the siblings from my one and only Silhouette Desire, Little Miss Innocent. I'm hoping readers will make the connection! I've had a lot of requests for their stories.
When will your next book be released?
The Buckhorn Brothers come out one a month. June is Sawyer, Morgan in July, Gabe in August, and Jordan in September. In October I have book # 3, titled Married to the Boss, of the Maitland Maternity Continuity. November I'm in All I Want for Christmas, a St. Martin's holiday anthology, and November will also be a reissue of my third Temptation novel (You mentioned it above), Scandalized. It'll be in the new Intimacies reissue line, with a sharp new cover.
Which authors do you read when you're not writing?
Well, whoever is available when I find a spare minute, but my favorites are Linda Howard (anything by her is a keeper!), Johanna Lindsey, Patricia Ryan, Pamela Burford, I just recently discovered Christine Feehan and LOVE her Carpathian books, Jayne Ann Krentz . . . lots and lots more.
What authors have influenced your work? How?
Two more than any others. I've always loved the sensuality of Linda Howard's writing. I knew after reading her that I'd never be happy writing "tame" stories. And the humor in Catherine Coulter's earlier books, plus her alpha heroes, sort of put my mind on a more lighthearted bent.
What are the other influences that have affected your writing?
Family is the biggest influence. Beyond that, I've never taken any writing course, or read any how-to books. I'm too antsy to sit through them. I taught myself to write by writing and also by reading.
How important is participation in writers' organizations like RWA for aspiring authors?
You don't NEED them. But I think it's so helpful just for the understanding. Writing keeps you in a vacuum. Problems come up that you'd never guess or imagine. By being around other writers, you have a chance to understand that it's not just you.
What do you say to romance readers who shy away from category romances?
I don't say anything to them. I've never felt it was my job to defend the genre or sway people over. Now if someone is asking or curious, I LOVE to sing the praises of categories!
Do you plan to move from series romances to single-title contemporaries any time soon?
What I might plan, and what might happen, could be two very different things! I'd like to write single title. I have one single title scheduled through Harlequin. As to whether or not I can get another publisher to bite . . . we'll have to see.
What's the most frequently asked "Lori Foster question"?
"Do you sleep?" I guess because I write so fast and produce so often, people wonder. [G] I DO sleep, just not very much unfortunately.
What advice would you give to writers who are getting started?
Don't sell yourself short. Don't let others change your style. Protect your voice against *everyone!* And know that you're never alone. No matter what it is -- difficulty selling that second book, a horrible revision, an editor who's decided she hates you, a nasty review or reader letter -- another writer (MOST writers) have had the same happen to them.
Do you have a web site?
My personal pages (where I play) are linked from there.
How can readers contact you?
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or write me (I always return a free bookmark and flier) at Lori Foster, P.O. Box 854, Ross OH 45061
Thank you, Lori!
June 13, 2000