I had a phone chat with Kleypas recently and we discussed romance novels, careers, risks, and reviews. If you’re a fan, you may already know that Kleypas was a Miss Massachusetts; that she started writing a book at summer camp when she was 16; that she sold her first novel just after she graduated from college; that at one point early in her marriage, her family lost everything in a flood; and that her extended family has known a great deal of joy and tragedy.
The more I learn about Kleypas, the more I understand how this multi-faceted woman writes such compelling and textured romances, and in this interview, I discovered even more fascinating tidbits.
On the magic of writing:
“There are two books I wrote that seemed like magical experiences. The words just flowed, and the story poured out; it felt like they practically wrote themselves: Blue-Eyed Devil and Devil in Winter.
“Don’t ask me why both books have Devil in the title! I don’t want to contemplate that!”(Kleypas’ voice can twinkle as much as her writing.)
“Sebastian in Devil in Winter came into my head fully formed, and writing his and Evie’s story was sheer joy. I’m not quite sure why, but I think it has something to do with the electricity of opposites. Evie and Sebastian are vastly different, so when he falls, he falls hard and is completely devoted. The energy of that couple has always been incandescent, and I almost feel like they created their characters and their story independently of me. It was a wholly fun and gratifying adventure.
“What was interesting about Blue-Eyed Devil is that in writing Hardy and Haven’s story, I worked out a lot of personal issues from a past relationship. Don’t worry, I wasn’t physically abused, but words and emotions can be abusive too. I felt myself changing as I wrote the book; I was sifting through my own choices, learning how to be stronger and healthier. It was an amazing journey, both as a writer and in contemplating my self journey. It was very inspiring and empowering.”
On writing magic:
Kleypas’ last series, Friday Harbor, had elements of magic in each of the four titles. I asked her if she felt she’d revisit that element in the future.
“As a writer, I think it’s important to try new things, and to constantly work to expand my abilities. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to integrate magic into the Friday Harbor stories, but to be honest, it was very hard for me. It didn’t come naturally, as it seems to for some authors who do magic so well. I’m proud of the effort and the books. They were challenging and interesting; but at this point I don’t expect I’ll go back to that kind of world.”
On reviews and romance:
Brown-Eyed Girl inspired so many mixed reviews, I asked Kleypas how she felt about them.
“Well, of course all authors wants fans to love their books, but I love Brown-Eyed Girl and I think some of the people who didn’t like the book felt like Avery was giving up something to be with Joe. I don’t feel that way. However, once an author writes a book we put it out into the world, and it becomes whatever readers see it as. Some readers and some reviewers see it the way I do, and others don’t. I can’t say they’re wrong, because they’re not. It’s the way they experience the book.
“Unlike some authors, I read my reviews, and one reason is because once upon a time, a book review changed me for the better as a writer. The book was Somewhere I’ll Find You, and the review said the book lacked urgency, that there was no sense of life-and-death consequences to the relationship. And the reviewer was right.
“I realized that a romantic arc needs this level of intensity. Readers should believe that if the romance doesn’t work out, those characters will never be whole again; if they don’t wind up together, they may never be truly happy.
“Good romance sweeps us away. We crave the intensity of emotion, and that’s what a good romance novel gives us. But because of the struggles that ultimately bring the couple together, the gift of a good romance novel is really the guarantee of optimism and hope and the reassurance that love will make things better.”
Lisa Kleypas is a beloved romance author for many reasons, and as far as sheer joy goes, I’ll admit that being able to discuss romance novels and love stories with this master of the genre was a highlight. I loved both Brown-Eyed Girl and Cold-Hearted Rake and definitely look forward to seeing what direction Kleypas goes in the near future. (Though in the historical realm, Cold-Hearted Rake gives us hints of the next love story in the series.)
Happy reading!Bobbi Dumas is a freelance writer, book reviewer, romance advocate and founder of ReadARomanceMonth.com. She mostly writes about books and romance for NPR, The Huffington Post and Kirkus.