Interview with Lisa Kleypas

October, 2015
Lisa Kleypas Lisa Kleypas knows how to make us swoon in any time period, playing Cupid for couples in Regency-era England (Wallflowers and The Hathaways series) as easily as she does in modern-day Texas (Travis Family series) and the Pacific Northwest (Friday Harbor series). After favoring contemporary tales of love for the past few years, the bestselling author returns to historical romance with Cold-Hearted Rake. The new book, the first in a planned series, sweeps readers back in time, to a sprawling estate occupied by a beautiful young widow—and newly inherited by a notorious scoundrel. London's high society is ill-prepared for the pair's clash of wills, a whirlwind of wit and calculation, intensified by a fiery attraction neither can ignore.

Read on as Kleypas answers your questions on how to set the mood, who inspires her characters, and what kind of historical romance heroine she'd want to be. (Spoiler alert: one with wealth, wacky family members, and a mysterious suitor, of course!)


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Meks: If the main characters of Cold-Hearted Rake were born in the 21st century, what kind of people would they be? What would they do for a living?
What a fabulous question—I love this! Well, in the Victorian era Devon Ravenel is a carefree, irresponsible bachelor who inherits an earldom he doesn't want, along with a huge estate that's basically in shambles. So in a contemporary context, he would probably inherit a family company with about 200 employees, and it all desperately needs to be modernized and restructured.

The easy option would be to sell everything and let the employees go, especially because Devon doesn't think he can handle it. But something deep down won't let him turn his back on all those people.

As for Kathleen, she's the widow of the earl who just died, and she's trying her best to take care of the estate and her three young sisters-in-law. She's constantly pushing Devon to make the right decisions and meet his responsibilities, which of course he finds annoying (while being wildly attracted to her). So in the modern-day version, I would probably make Kathleen a high-level executive, maybe an operations manager. I think the setup would work really well in either a historical or contemporary setting, because the story is about two strong-willed people who challenge each other to become their best selves.

Peggy: I love, love, love your books! What's your biggest challenge writing historical versus contemporary romance?
Thank you! I love hearing that! The biggest challenge is getting the voice right—I don't like my historical characters to sound too contemporary and vice versa. So I'm constantly reworking narrative and dialogue, compulsively playing around with words and looking up etymology. It feels more natural for me to write in the historical voice—I have no idea why. And it's always more difficult to create conflict in my contemporary romances because it's usually more psychological and internal (which means I have to think harder).

Hajar: Which one of the Wallflowers heroines do you identify with most?
Absolutely Evie. As a very young child, I tended to stutter, and there are even times now that I'll stutter when I get too excited or nervous (not often, thank God). I came up with the idea for the Wallflowers series when I was reflecting on how it felt to be in middle school and early high school—I was a bookworm with braces and big glasses, so I felt very much like a wallflower. I definitely remember standing at the side of the room during the dance! But my friends and I always supported each other and had a great time together. So it occurred to me that there weren't really any historical romance series that really celebrated female friendship. I started imagining four wallflowers sitting in those chairs at the side of the room during the ball and what they might say to each other.

Catherine: What advice do you wish someone had given you before you started writing your first book?
From a technical standpoint, I wish I had understood POV right from the beginning. I think point of view is one of the biggest challenges for less experienced writers—it certainly was for me. But it's crucial to learn because then you're able to really focus a reader's attention on exactly what you want them to notice or understand. The exact same scene from one character's POV can be pretty mundane but insanely exciting and intense from another POV.

In terms of overall career, the most important thing I can ever tell anyone, including myself, is to focus on the joy of what you're doing. You have to maintain the sense of fun and playfulness that fuel your creativity. There are times when that seems impossible. So many things will chip away at you…worries over sales numbers, money, business, critics, reviews, and your own insecurities. It's even worrisome when you write something that pleases a lot of people, because that leads to questions like, "How can I do that again? Should I try to write something similar? Different? Is what I'm writing now going to please people that way again? What if it doesn't?"

The answer to all of this is to push it aside, go to your happy place, and focus only on your book. A person who can do this consistently is a romance-writing ninja.

M.E. Bellamy: Do you draw any inspiration from real people (specifically in regard to physical appearance) for any of your characters? I'll find pictures online and in magazines—or even people I see in person—and think, "That face needs a story!" Do you do anything similar?
Sometimes! I know exactly what you mean—there are some faces so compelling that they strike a chord in your imagination. I never deliberately choose an actor/actress and form a character around them, but every now and then there's an obvious connection. For example, right after I started writing Brown-Eyed Girl, featuring a smart, voluptuous, funny but insecure red-headed wedding planner, I knew she looked exactly like Christina Hendricks. Harry Rutledge from Tempt Me at Twilight is totally based on Richard Armitage, and Lord Westcliff was influenced a lot by Colin Firth (although Colin is taller).

Christelle: If you weren't a writer, what do you think you would be doing?
I'm sure I'd be a storyteller of some kind. It's what I was built to do—undoubtedly from having grown up as a latchkey kid in the '60s and reading piles of books in the attic of our rented house. I'm guessing I'd be in Los Angeles in the film business, writing or producing. But this is better!

Noemi: When working on a novel, how do you immerse yourself in the main characters' lives? Do you observe people in a certain culture, or do you try to walk in their shoes?
When I'm in deep writing mode, the characters occupy a lot of head space—in a sense I really am living with them! I'm constantly pondering their problems and fears and desires, and they do seem real to me. Most writers are observers, and we love to question motivations—our own and everyone else's.

To me, the part of novel writing that's the most fun, and often the most difficult, is throwing characters into new situations and finding out how they'll react. Sometimes you plan for them to react a certain way, and they just won't, or it feels wrong when you force it.

I've created characters I never really feel I know or understand until the end of the book…I've had to puzzle a lot over some of them, like Ella from Smooth Talking Stranger, Nick from Worth Any Price, and Christopher Phelan from Love in the Afternoon. But other characters appear fully formed in my head, and I never have to wonder about who they were or how they would react…such as Sebastian and Evie from Devil in Winter, Derek Craven from Dreaming of You, and both Hardy and Ella from Blue-Eyed Devil.

Teia: Where do you think romance as a genre is heading? Where do you want it to go?
As a reader, I love all kinds of settings, themes, time periods, and fantasies. I couldn't begin to predict where the genre will go next—it's so elastic! Whatever direction it takes, however, I particularly love the big, full-blooded books—definitely with some humor and action, but most of all, lots of emotion and sex. In the historical genre I wouldn't mind seeing more history—not big info dumps, of course, but more texture and period detail. I once attended a fabulous workshop done by Joan Johnston, where she showed us how to improve a historical scene in which a character turned on a lamp at the beginning of a love scene. She included a few details about this specific kind of Victorian lamp and about how much softer the light was because of the glass shade. It totally established a mood for the love scene, and we readers got to learn something, too!

Seanna: If you could transport yourself into one of your series or stand-alone books, which one would you choose and why? What would your story be?
Oh, what a fun question…I wish I could hear your answer! I would love to be one of the Hathaways because I've always fantasized about coming from a big, supportive, slightly wacky family. I would turn myself into a Hathaway sister who stays at the Rutledge Hotel with Poppy, and then I would meet a mysterious and handsome hotel guest who needs to marry someone within a week. How does that sound?

Vanessa: You are one of my favorite authors! Your writing touches on the complexities of human relationships, and your stories are a joy to read. In your mind, what happens to the characters after you write their final chapters? Do they continue to "live on" in your imagination?
Thank you so much, Vanessa—you are now one of my favorite readers! Not all of my characters stay with me, but a lot of them do, and I definitely have a good sense of what happens to them. One of my favorite parts of world building is that I often get to revisit couples from previous books and "see" how they are. I loved doing this while writing A Wallflower Christmas, and I was so carried away that a 30,000-word novella turned into 50,000 words. Every scene that included Evie and Sebastian felt so vivid—I just locked into their rhythm as a couple, even though it had been a few years since I'd written Devil in Winter. I don't know what it is about Sebastian—it feels like he exists in some part of my brain. At the time I wrote Devil in Winter, I had already accepted that no hero I ever created would be liked as much as Derek Craven, and that was sort of liberating. Then Sebastian and Cam Rohan both appeared in Devil in Winter, and they were each so different but fun.

I seem to use that word a lot when talking about writing—fun—and it is! Enormous, torturous, challenging, absorbing, exhausting, exhilarating fun. How lucky I am to be able to share it with my wonderful readers!

Comments Showing 1-21 of 21 (21 new)

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message 1: by Sheri (new)

Sheri Cam Rohan is my favorite hero from all your books! So excited to read another historical romance from you.


message 2: by Didi (new)

Didi Sebastian, from DiW has got to be one of my favourite heroes, ever.


message 3: by Seanna (new)

Seanna Yeager I would want to be connected to the world of the Wallflower's, specially Evangeline Jenner. Somehow connected to her relatives, who try to do me wrong but I get a HEA.


message 4: by Tory (new)

Tory I loved the Hathaways as a family. The banter was always so true to life. I also loved the Wallflowers. In a time where romance series are based around brothers or brothers-in-arms or other groupings of men, it was lovely to see a series based on the friendship between four women. Go, LK!!! You're the best!


message 5: by Vintage (new)

Vintage Your writing, especially the Hathaway series and Sebastian (Devil in Winter), so bad but so good, opened my eyes to Romances again and how incredibly well written they can be. I grew up in the Barbara Cartland and old school Harlequins so pardon....

So thank you for so many wonderful books. I can't decide if you write better heroes or heroines, but I think my vote may fall on the hero side.


message 6: by Lisa (new)

Lisa sebastian and derek are probably my favorite historical heroes of all time but the Hawthaway series is definitely the best historical romance series of all time.
p.s sebastian as stuck with me as well.


message 7: by Christy (new)

Christy My all-time favorite hero is Zachary from Where Dreams Begin. That was the first historical romance I ever read, and I've reread it a dozen times since. The richness of the story and incredible depth of emotion gives it a prominent spot on my keeper shelf always. I'm so excited Lisa is returning to historical romance. Thank you, Lisa, for your gift of beautiful stories that make me stay up all night to read them, and for inspiring me as a reader and an author.


message 8: by Diana (new)

Diana Sheri wrote: "Cam Rohan is my favorite hero from all your books! So excited to read another historical romance from you."

I agree with you Sheri. I've read MTM dozens of times because of him.


message 9: by Betty (new)

Betty Strohecker Love your books, Lisa. I have read the Wallflower series, the Bow Street Runners' series, and Friday Harbor series. All are spectacular! So glad you are starting another historical romance series. Some of my favorite characters are Sebastian and Evie, Lord Westcliff (I can totally see Colin Firth as him) and Derek Craven. Great interview!


message 10: by Erica (new)

Erica Allen I am so excited that you decided to write another Historical Romance! I really love Evie,Zachary,Sebastian,Harry Rutledge and absolutely love Derek Craven.


message 11: by Esther (new)

Esther Thank you for gifting us with more of your Historical Romance novels!!! Missed them and am looking forward very much to this new series!! Thank you! Thank you!!!


message 12: by Elaine (new)

Elaine Mitrovich Your Wallflower Series is my lifetime favorite series of all the books I have read in Historical Romance. I am still in love with Lord Westcliff! I loved the Hathaway Series as well as the Wallflower series and the Bow Street Runners series.
Just can't get enough. By Elaine


message 13: by Lady Gabriella of Awesomeness (On Hiatus) (last edited Oct 25, 2015 01:00AM) (new)

Lady Gabriella of Awesomeness (On Hiatus) Sebastian is amazing...BUT. Derek Craven is the hero that will always have my heart ! <3


message 14: by Jay (new)

Jay In My Room Reading I absolutely squealed upon reading that Harry Rutledge is all about Richard Armitage =D well his face at least, I assume. I LOVE HIM, and I loved Tempt Me In Twilight, and everything Wallflowers and Hathaways. This little tidbit made me love the books even more!! :D (sorry, totally fangirling here!)

Next time I reread TMaT, I'll definitely have Richard in mind. Oh my ovaries..!


message 15: by Max (new)

Max A. The idea of the Four wallflowers, somehow it reminds me of the sisterhood of the traveling pants, how they unite and form motivation to use it when they are apart


message 16: by Tina (new)

Tina Mckee I love all your books and charactors! You,Johanna Lindsey and Karen morning for her time travel historicals are my favorite author's. I so get into the stories and feel like I'm in it myself. It's my only escape from everyday life. I learn more history and feel I've traveled to places I've never been before. I don't know how many times my husband or one of our 4 children have come up on me while reading and crying at the same time, they used to ask me what's wrong but not anymore, now they just look at me and smile and say "mom, it's only a book". I just say "I know dear". They just don't getting the feeling I do when reading a good book! But at there age I hadn't either. Lol. Thank you so much. Your stories are my treasures! Your fan, Tina McKee


message 17: by Kim (new)

Kim Phan I'm a huge fan and am glad you are doing new historical romance. Your historical romance always seem to come more alive with great strong characters that are also true to the time in a sense. /The wallflowers (especially Devil in Winter) and all the hathaways are my favs!


message 18: by siriusedward (new)

siriusedward I seem to be the exception here.i love your contemporaries.esp the first three friday harbor series Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor (Friday Harbor, #1) by Lisa Kleypas Rainshadow Road (Friday Harbor, #2) by Lisa Kleypas Dream Lake (Friday Harbor, #3) by Lisa Kleypas books,smooth talking stranger and brown eyed girl.... Smooth Talking Stranger (Travises, #3) by Lisa Kleypas Brown-Eyed Girl (Travis Family, #4) by Lisa Kleypas

From your historical romance i loved Love in the Afternoon (The Hathaways, #5) by Lisa Kleypas Married By Morning (The Hathaways, #4) by Lisa Kleypas
I love the hathaways...

I adore zoe and alex,ella and jack


message 19: by Lucimar (new)

Lucimar I love the Mr. Winterborne, but I have curiosity: Gabriel is first son of Eve and Sebastian?
How many children they have?


message 20: by Arbe (new)

Arbe Banaco I think Dr. Gibson and Weston Ravenel will going to be a good match and so is Cassandra and Tom Severin. Just saying...


message 21: by Ligita (new)

Ligita Mikelytė I just found this interview and could't believe that Sebastian is Lisas's favorite hero. I've read Devil in Winter several times, because this book gives me shivers and I simply adore Sebastian. This is my one of most favorite books I own. Now I'm reading about Gabriel and trying to save it because son is the same lovable as father. I hope to get books about other Evie and Sebastian children. Especialy Phoebe.Keeping my fingers crossed. I'm already out of historical Kleypas books that I haven't read yet :)


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