Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Meet prize-winning author Liana Laverentz

Today we welcome Liana Laverentz to the Sweeter Romantic Notions blog.
Liana Laverentz is the author of two contemporary romances with The Wild Rose Press, Thin Ice and Jake’s Return. Thin Ice is a 2007 New Jersey Romance Writers Golden Leaf Award winner, a 2008 EPPIE winner for best contemporary romance, and was a nominee for Best Romance of 2007 at Long and Short Reviews. Jake’s Return is a 2008 NJRW Golden Leaf winner. Her next release, Ashton’s Secret, a murder mystery romance, will be available from The Wild Rose Press June 26, 2009.
Liana is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Washington Romance Writers, and Pennwriters, Inc. In 1998, she won the Pennwriters Meritorious Service Award. Liana also hosts a monthly chat on the Long and Short Reviews Yahoo Group the first Thursday of each month, where we discuss ways to find our balance between writing and Life, which tends to get in the way of our writing more often than not. For more information, go to http://www.lianalaverentz.com/.
We would love to get to know you.
Thank you. And thank you for having me here today. I’m very happy to be here.
If you could be one of your characters – Who would you be? And why?
I’d be Rebecca from Jake’s Return. She knows who she is and what she wants, and isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes in or for those she loves. But she does it with a quiet grace that I find very appealing. Rebecca is a lady, through and through, but nobody’s fool. She’s also a homebody, like me.
What's your favorite genre to read?
Romantic Suspense.
Who or what influences you when you write?
What do you do on a typical writing day?
Every day is different for me, but the ideal day would be: Wake up really early in the morning. Write until my son needs to get up for school. Make breakfast, tidy up the house and send him off to school. Write until I need a break. Go to the Y, come home, shower, have lunch. Write until my son comes home. Spend time with him, asking about his day. Post promo before dinner. Sometimes I take a nap, doze while he uses the computer. Then I get up, make dinner, eat dinner, clean up after dinner. (Sometimes, if I’m on a roll though, I skip this whole nap and dinner thing and tell him he’s on his own…Dinner is from the red box tonight…go to the freezer and pick one.) Then I do odds and ends on the computer or around the house until eight or so. Watch a DVD with my son to unwind. We like Scrubs, and are currently re-watching it from the beginning. Bedtime is at 10:00 if I haven’t already crashed. Weekends and holidays and summers are a different story. Then it’s catch as catch can. I kind of go with the flow. The same goes for errand day. I bundle my errands and run all over town, and don’t plan on getting any writing in on those days.When you have writer's block how do you break free?
Work on something else that has nothing to do with what I’m stuck on. Invariably it frees up my mind to sort out exactly what I need. Or I read something totally unrelated to what I’m working on. It has the same effect. I never try to force myself through it. The sooner I let it go, the sooner the problem is resolved.
Can you please give us a sneak peek at any of your upcoming books?
My next release is Ashton’s Secret, and that’s more than six months away, so I’m going to offer you a peek at Jake’s Return, which just won a Golden Leaf award, and this month is a featured romance at The Wild Rose Press.

He offered lemonade, she accepted. Their fingers brushed when he handed hers over, and Jake felt a damning jolt of sexual heat. He looked up and caught a faint flush in Rebecca’s cheeks. Their eyes locked. Apparently she’d felt something, too.
Great, Jake thought. Just great. If he thought for one second she’d go for some hot, no-strings-attached sex, they’d be halfway upstairs already.
But that wasn’t Rebecca, and never had been. Rebecca came with all kinds of strings.
“The yard looks nice,” she said.
“Thanks.” He’d spent most of the afternoon working on it. “It’d look better with some grass instead of these ratty clumps of weeds, though. I’ll have to look into seeding it.”
“I thought you were leaving right away.”
“Can’t hurt to fix the place up a bit before I unload it.”
Strong emotion flashed in Rebecca’s eyes, startling him. The unexpected flare-up passed too quickly for him to be sure, but Jake would have put his money on anger—or maybe bitterness.
Bitterness? Over his selling the house?
Maybe she expects you to stay.
She couldn’t. If she knew him at all, she couldn’t.
Please tell us what you have planned next?
I’m working on a new romantic suspense novel, Justice is a Lady, about Samantha Dallas, an ambitious assistant DA determined to prosecute every gang-related case she can in response to her cop husband’s gang-related murder. She ends up on the run with undercover FBI agent Alexander Caldwell when she gets framed for killing a park ranger while on a camping trip she’s practically forced into going on by her loving family to escape job burnout. Alex is investigating a car theft ring and chop shop run by the same people who are after Samantha, only neither of them know it. Samantha also doesn’t know that her uncle, Alex’s boss, has asked Alex to keep a discreet eye on her. All Samantha knows is someone is out to get her, and this entirely too compelling criminal seems to be the only person who will help her. Her attraction to him makes her wonder if she’s lost her mind.
In 5 years, where do you see yourself? -In general and in you're writing career
Sitting right here in this chair and writing. Making people laugh, and cry, and sigh in happy satisfaction at the end of my stories. Lots of people J.
Who is your perfect hero? And why?
Eric Cameron from Thin Ice is my perfect hero, because I created him just the way I thought a hero should be J. I adore that man. And since he’s based on a real person, I know men like Eric do exist.
What do you do for inspiration?
Read. People watch. Eavesdrop. Watch movies. Go for walks. Talk to people. I love to ask people about themselves.
Is there a genre of book you would like to write but haven't yet?
I would love to write a medieval romance, or even a time travel back to that period.
What type of book have you always wanted to write?
Books about real people facing real challenges, portrayed as realistically as possible. Stories with layers and layers of emotional depth about characters who grow and change without even realizing that’s what they are doing. Because they do it for love. They find themselves unexpectedly involved in something bigger than themselves that they come to realize is worth holding on to and fighting for—even if it means fighting the person they are falling in love with. Because inevitably you have that black moment in the book where they both think all is lost, and in that moment, one of them has to step up to the plate and say, “This separation is wrong. We belong together.” One of them has to care more about the relationship than “being right.” One of them has to move past their hurt feelings and dented pride, and open the door for the other person to join them. In real life, this happens over and over again, in all our relationships, and I think that’s why romance readers can relate.
What kind of research do you do for your books? Do you enjoy the research process?
I love the research process, and I do ten times more research than ever shows up in the books, but then I love to learn, so none of it is wasted.
Do deadlines help or hinder your muse?
Deadlines hinder me, period. I resist any kind of deadline, although I usually meet them. I’ve got a strong sense of commitment and responsibility, but am also a free spirit. It’s a constant struggle, getting my go-with-the-flow self to conform to any kind of expectations. If I commit to doing something, I’ll do it, and do it 100% to the best of my ability…but not without some vestige of inner resistance. I’m never late deliberately, I don’t rebel like that, but inside there is definite resistance to being controlled by a clock.
When did you first decide to submit your work? Please, tell us what or who encouraged you to take this big step.
I submitted Thin Ice to The Wild Rose Press the day Rhonda Penders and RJ Morris opened for business. My best friend Louis (the inspiration for all my heroes) and I had been having a disagreement. After him nudging and prodding me to re-write Thin Ice and send it out again for well over a year (it had already made the rounds of the traditional publishing houses twice), and me nudging and prodding him to do something equally big for himself (we tend to do that, bring out the best in each other), he said, “If positive thinking is all it takes, why aren’t you published again?”
So I submitted Thin Ice with the attitude of “I’ll show you,” and that was that. Rhonda snatched it up and the rest is history.
What would you like to tell your readers?
That I really appreciate your encouragement and support and all the emails you send letting me know how much you enjoy my books. Thank you so much, and please keep in touch J.
Do you outline your books or just start writing?
I outline. I use the outline as a map. It doesn’t mean I stick to it 100%, but if I get stuck in the writing, I then go back to the outline to figure out where I’m supposed to be in the story. And if I find a better direction to go in, I’ll revise the outline to reflect the change.
What was your first published work and when was it published?
My first published work was Ashton’s Secret, a Meteor/Kismet romance, in 1993. I had my son in 1994 and went off in another direction for a while. In 2002 I started writing again. Just this year I revised Ashton’s Secret for The Wild Rose Press, and although the basic story structure is the same, the writing is completely different.
I loved revising Ashton’s Secret because it taught me a lot about the difference between then and now, both in my world perspective, and my writing. When I first submitted it to The Wild Rose Press, it was rejected, because it was out of date regarding the writing, the relationship dynamics between the hero and heroine (me man, you woman), and a few modern conveniences, like video games and cellphones. At the time, I really didn’t know how to fix it, but once I got into the story, I saw all sorts of room for improvement and expansion, since I was no longer limited to a certain word count. This allowed me to play with the characters and develop them more fully within the existing structure of the story.
One main difference between the first version and this new, much improved version (I am so excited about this…it was a real eye-opener to see how much I had grown and changed as a writer) is the hero’s occupation, which is another secret (one of many) in the story and is not revealed to the heroine the end of the book. Astute readers, I am sure, will catch on quickly. His former occupation is now his hobby.
But his new occupation makes much more sense and adds a lot of tension to the story. She knows he has secrets, but he’s not saying, and that makes it hard to establish trust between them, which heightens the conflict. I also changed the ending. Not the happily ever after part, but how they got to it, and a glimpse of their future through their dialogue. The story will be released on June 26, 2009.
What is the best and worst advice you have ever received?
Worst advice…that category romance was the only romance worth writing. I was never going to fit into the category romance mold. It was like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, and I lost a lot of years trying to write something I wasn’t suited for.
Best advice…never give up. If you don’t write the books in your heart, no one will. No one will even know they exist except you, and they will die when you do, never having been released into the world. Never having even had a chance.
What would be the best way for readers contact you? Do you have a website? Email address? MySpace site? Blog? Message Board? Group?

Here’s a taste of one of Liana’s great, great romance novels, JAKE’S RETURN, available through The Wild Rose Press http://www.thewildrosepress.com/

The last person small town bad boy Jacob Donovan expects to find when he returns home in disgrace after serving time is Rebecca Reed, head librarian. Rebecca had always had much bigger ambitions. Jake hadn’t wanted to stand in her way, so after one night of passion with his former best friend, he’d hit the open road.
Rebecca refuses to believe Jake is guilty of murder. The boy who’d been her friend and protector when they were town outcasts together could never have killed a woman. Not to mention the tender, loving man who’d given her their daughter, Katie.
But who is Jake now? That’s what everyone wants to know, including the town council chairman, who is determined to send Jake back to prison, by any means available.
Jake’s been running from love for all of his life. Will he find the courage to defeat his demons and stay this time?
Rebecca Reed would never forget the sound of Jacob Donovan walking back into her life. The sharp hiss of startled gasps that suddenly swept across the town library’s main reading room was enough to grab anyone’s attention. She frowned and straightened from where she was shelving books in the children’s section, looked to see what had happened, and felt her heart stop.
Omigod, she thought. He’s here. He’s really here. In Warner.
Her heart jerked to a start again, and she was sure every soul in the building could hear its wild, erratic beat in the shocked silence that had settled over the room.
Jake stood at the front desk, his left profile turned toward her and the rest of the main reading room. He looked tall, dark and rangy in faded denims and a black T-shirt that matched his windswept hair. The clerk behind the desk finished checking out a patron with two small children. A short, stout, no-nonsense woman who had never married, Eunice Lee Larmer had been with the library for as long as most of the town could remember. She looked up at Jake and froze, her eyes rounding with recognition. Her face two shades paler, she stepped back carefully.
The sight of Eunice’s fear sparked a surge of protective anger in Rebecca, taking her by surprise. Damn. She’d thought she was prepared for this.
Obviously not. Telling herself she was rescuing the situation—not Jake—Rebecca started forward just as Jake turned her way. His expression stopped Rebecca in her tracks. He looked completely out of place. Completely unapproachable. A lone wolf barely tolerating the trappings of civilization.
An eternity passed as she bore the weight of his sharp scrutiny from across the now suffocatingly silent room. Rebecca would have sworn she actually felt his cold, dark gaze move from the top of her French twist to the tips of her navy pumps.
She shivered.
Sounding as if it were right next door instead of three blocks away, the daily noon wail of the firehouse siren pierced the unnatural silence. The familiar sound seemed to nudge everyone back to life. Rebecca swallowed hard and braced herself to meet Jake again, to speak with him for the first time in eight years.
The first time since the night he’d given her Katie.
Amid a rising tide of rustles and scandalized whispers, Jake seemed to recall why he’d come to the library. As he slowly wended his way across the crowded reading room to where Rebecca stood, neither of them smiling, a paralyzing thought struck her.
What if he still doesn’t want anything to do with us?
She beat back her own wave of fear, and focused on Jake. He was leaner now, harder and tougher-looking than she remembered. True, he’d always looked tough, but his toughness as a teenager had been a fa├žade. One she’d seen through from the start. But this was different. This was no small town bad boy trying to make the best of his messed-up life alone. This was a grown man who’d spend most of his adult life in hell.
With a sinking sense of dread Rebecca realized she’d made a mistake. She was staring into the face of a stranger.
“Hello, Rebecca.”
His voice was rougher, deeper than she remembered. Deep enough to send a shot of awareness down her spine. “Jake.”
“Been a long time.”
Rebecca knew exactly how long it had been. Counting Jake’s four-year stint in the army, with the exception of those few unforgettable hours they’d shared in Pittsburgh eight years ago, they’d been apart for almost twelve years.
Before that, they’d been the town outcasts together.
“You’re looking good,” he said quietly.
“Thank you. You look...fit.”
He arched a dark brow. “Considering I spent the last eight years locked up, you mean?”
Rebecca flushed. A nearby cough reminded her everyone within earshot would shamelessly repeat anything she or Jake said, first chance they got. A town like Warner had precious few secrets, and Jake obviously didn’t intend to play down his recent parole from prison.
She squared her shoulders and offered Jake her most professional smile. “Would you like a cup of coffee? My office is right behind the desk.”
“Your office?” He looked blank, then over his shoulder at the checkout desk, the open door that led to the tiny office behind it. The eavesdroppers’ expressions ranged from indignant to shocked. Frowning, Jake turned back to Rebecca. “You’re head librarian?”
She understood his confusion. She wasn’t even supposed to be in Warner, much less working at the library. The last time he’d seen her, she’d had much bigger plans. “For three years now.”
Jake stared at her a moment longer, then ran a slow, speculative gaze over her short-skirted navy summer suit and heels. Just as slowly, he smiled. “Well, I’ll be damned.”
Rebecca’s knees nearly buckled. His smile was vintage Jake. Reckless, unrepentant, and sexier than black satin sheets. Her heartbeat soared, her palms broke into a sweat. With what she considered an amazing amount of grace, given the state of her nerves, she managed to smile back neutrally and avoid tripping over anything as she led Jake past their astonished audience, and into her office.
Once inside, she made a beeline for the coffee pot, then forced herself to take a deep breath before she handed Jake a steaming mug of coffee. “Black still okay?” Her hand only trembled a little.
His slow half-smile hovered between some private amusement and pleasant surprise. “You remembered.”


Unknown said...

You are an incredibly talented author that I am thrilled to hang out with from time to time. Great interview ladies. Happy Holidays!

Liana Laverentz said...

Thanks, Adelle! Same goes!

Diane Craver said...

I'm impressed that you devote time to going to the Y. I need to start exercising.

I love your cover for Ashton's Secret! Great title, too. Thanks for the information about your books. And I know what you mean about category romance. My writing never seems to fit the HQ lines. Thank goodness there are other publishers with more flexibility.

Sheryl Browne said...

I adore Jake's "damning jolt...". Adelle is right, you are one extremely talented writer. I have Jake's Return and Ashton's secret, but every time I read an excerpt... Well, I read it! I.e. it's still sizzles with excitement. Only good writing can do that.

Oh, can I travel back with you to medievel times, please? Hmm, mind you we'd have to watch our sharp wit, Liana. Eeek!

Nice interview. I am sooo glad you re-wrote Ashton's Secret. Oh and Justice is a Lady sounds wonderful. Really strong!
Go, girl!

Liana Laverentz said...

Thanks for stopping by, Sheryl and Diane. I spend so much time in the chair, I need to get to the Y or I'll be totally stiff and sore.

Denise Patrick said...

Wonderful interview. Thanks for letting me get to know you better.


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