interview by Nancy Northcott
Dee Davis joins us in the lair today. Dee is the author of fifteen novels and three novellas and has made a name for herself writing time travels and romantic suspense. She has won the Booksellers Best, Golden Leaf, Texas Gold and Prism awards, and she’s been nominated for the National Readers Choice Award, the Holt, two RT Reviewers Choice Awards, and an RT Career Achievement Award. Last year, she published her first romantic comedy, A Match Made on Madison. A sequel, Set-Up in SoHo, is due out later this year. And her newest romantic suspense series will begin in 2009. Welcome, Dee!
Tell us how you became interested in writing.
I’ve always written, pretty much from the first time I had a blank page in front of me and the power to wield a pencil. I always talked about writing a book, but I never seriously considered doing it until I had a sort of mid-life crisis just before I turned 40 and realized that if I wanted to write – it needed to be now.
We have tremendous interest in call stories in the lair. Would you like to share yours?
Well first off, I have to say that I had a very Cinderella beginning. I wrote my first book Everything In Its Time in 1998. Got an agent six months after finishing and sold the book seven months after that. EIT was published in June 2000. So much about this business has to do with right thing, right time.
As far as the call itself is concerned. I was actually asleep. And was so excited by the news that I hung up on my agent before I realized that I had no idea who I’d actually sold the book too. Had to call her back to find out for sure. And then I spent the rest of the day literally shaking with amazement and excitement (and running around screaming like an absolute loon). Here I was on the verge of reinventing myself at almost forty. It was, and still is, as I approach fifty, absolutely fabulous.
Everything in Its Time was a Scottish time travel. You followed that up with a western time travel. What drew you to that sub-genre?
Interestingly enough, the three time travels were actually published out of order. I wrote EIT, and then Wild Highland Rose(a second Scottish time travel), and then The Promise (the western). All three books stand alone but are loosely related. After EIT came out, I actually sold my first romantic suspense, and then since I thought The Promise was more suspenseful, I decided it should come next. Hence the out of sequence publishing.
As to time travel, I’ve always loved time travel romances. Particularly Diana Gabaldon’s first book in the Outlander series. I think it’s something about a love so strong it transcends even time. Sappy I suppose, but there you have it. Anyway, Katherine and Iain’s story had been hovering at the back of my mind in various forms I think for a long time, so it was almost therapeutic to finally work out the details and put it on paper.
After your second time travel, you turned to romantic suspense with your fabulous Last Chance, Inc. group. How did you go about developing the concept?
The Last Chance Series came on the heels of a couple of related romantic suspense novels I’d written – Midnight Rain and Dancing in the Dark. Characters from the first continued (one of them as the hero) in the second. I really enjoyed having more time to develop these characters and wanted to explore the idea of writing about a continuing group of people. Last Chance itself was born from the idea of bringing together the best of the best from different expertise without the bureaucratic red tape of the various organizations they worked for. Cullen Pulaski, the head of Last Chance, was based loosely on H. Ross Perot. And also, I loved the idea of three men who had shared a horrific wartime experience and the bonds it created between them and the residual affect the event continued to have on their lives.
Match Made on Madison makes superb use of New York City. How did you research that book?
I have dreamed my whole life of living in Manhattan, and now that we actually do, we spend a whole lot of our time exploring the city. So the research, if you want to call it that, came easily. Vanessa’s favorite places are, for the most part, mine!
How did you come to have such an eclectic career?
I like tackling different kinds of projects. Although to be honest, both my time travels and my paranormal novellas are romantic suspense at their basic core, which means that it’s not as much of a departure as one might initially think. And Match was a lark. I read an article in the New York Times about matchmakers and combined it with my love of Jane Austen’s Emma and Vanessa was born. I think writing different kinds of things stretches a writer’s wings and makes her a better at her craft. Or at least I hope it does! Anyway, my first love will always be romantic suspense, but it’s fun to write something else, as well.
How do you create romantic conflict and integrate it into your plots?
Well, Nora Roberts always says that if you need to raise the level of conflict: kill someone. (My apologies to Nora if I’m misquoting-but I’ve always loved that.) Seriously, I think the romantic conflict must be integral to the story or you’re not writing a romance. The trick with romantic suspense is that you have two sets of conflict – the romance and the suspense. And for the book to work, I think that the two have to feed off of each other. At the most basic level, one should not be able to exist without the other. And that’s probably the trickiest part. So it’s not so much a matter of creating the conflict, typically that just happens as the story goes along, it’s more about balancing the romantic conflict against a backdrop of escalating suspense.
Your books have a variety of settings. How have you drawn on your own experiences in creating them?
Well, definitely places that interest me. And usually some place I know and love. Although I recently set a book, Chain Reaction, in Idaho and I’ve only been there once, but I have family in Montana and have spent time there and the culture is similar I use Creede, Colorado a lot, as I spent my summers there growing up. I also lived in Vienna for three years and so it seemed natural to set a book there. I’ve traveled extensively in Ireland and Scotland, so it was with love that I set books in those countries. And the same is true of Atlanta in Dark of the Night. I lived in Austin a number of years and also Corpus Christi (and all over Texas for that matter), so it’s natural to set books there. I think you do draw on places you know. I also think that books are a marvelous way to travel around the world. I still remember reading Mary Stewart’s books as a teenager and the joy I got from traveling with her to places all over Europe. My love for Vienna came from Airs Above the Ground and I still yearn to travel to Greece because of The Moon-Spinners and My Brother Michael. So I guess, I hope that my readers enjoy the same ‘traveling’ with me.
What’s the most fun about writing for you?
Creating a world and the people that inhabit it. And honestly, the moment when you reach ‘the end’ and it’s actually all come together. And most of all—when someone talks about one of my characters as if they’re real. Truly, there isn’t a greater compliment-even when they’re trying to explain to me why the character should have done something different from what they actually did.
What’s the hardest part of writing?
The middle of the book. To quote A.A. Milne: ‘you’re neither up nor down’. And usually I’m ready to just blow everyone up and be done with it.
Tell us about Set-Up in SoHo and your next romantic suspense.
Set-Up in SoHo is the second book in the Matchmaker Chronicles. When Andrea Sevalas’ long time boyfriend announces he’s seeing someone else, Andi’s Aunt Althea (the infamous Manhattan matchmaker) figures a little manipulation is in order. Things are going charmingly until truth is revealed. But, with Althea at the helm, Andi will discover that love comes in all kinds of packages, and that sometimes all it takes to recognize the fact, is opening your heart to the possibility.
Now available are Chain Reaction, Match Made on Madison, and Hell in Heels. Next up on the romantic suspense front, a dark, sexy new series about an off the books black ops division of the CIA. Look for the first books in ’09.
Readers can learn more about Dee from her website, http://www.deedavis.com/. Dee is giving away a copy of Chain Reaction to one lucky commenter.
So, dear readers, what kinds of settings do you like? Of romantic comedy, romantic suspense, and paranormal, what’s your favorite?