Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Tangled Up In Love by Heidi Betts (An Interview)
Thank you so much, Heidi, for being with us today and agreeing to this interview. Your book TANGLED UP IN LOVE is a true hoot!
Thank you so much for having me! It’s a delight---& not just because you buttered me up with nice words about TANGLED. :-D
Terra: With all the challenges you could have come up with between the male species and female species, what made you choose knitting? I know I will never look at a ball of yarn and knitting needles the same way again. Do you think your readers will also have the same reaction, and why?
Heidi: The truth is, knitting wasn’t originally my concept. It came about during a conversation with my editor at St. Martin’s Press, when we were batting around ideas. She said, “I don’t suppose you know anything about knitting.” I said, “Actually, I do—why?” She said, “Because I’ve sort of been wanting a really hot, sexy knitting romance, & if anyone can pull it off, it’s you.” And the rest is history. *vbg* Of course, once she put the notion in my head, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Hot, sexy knitting? Those aren’t exactly the first two words that pop into your head when you think about needles & yarn, are they? But I love a challenge, & I loved coming up with different ways to get the heroes & heroines of this series “tangled up” & making knitting a central part of each of the stories.
And I am absolutely hoping readers have the same reaction you did to Dylan and Ronnie! I want them to laugh out loud, maybe sigh once or twice, and realize that yarn apparently can be sexy, after all.
Terra: Your hero is a pompous ass, pig headed, ego centric and delights in putting females in their place. Your heroine is the Ice Queen from the Artic, actually probably more along the lines of Ice Queen from Jupiter and can freeze any male within glancing distance into a block of sheer terror. You couldn’t ask for two better characters. What made you go to such lengths to make them such polar opposites while trying to make an unforgettable romance out of a situation that seems utterly impossible?
Heidi: Ouch. Okay, until you got to that “you couldn’t ask for two better characters” part, I was getting nervous. Dylan & Ronnie don’t exactly sound like the kind of characters to give you the warm fuzzies, do they? But I think an important distinction to make is that this is how they see each other when the book opens. Normally, they’re perfectly agreeable individuals, & their friends like them just fine. (If I remember correctly, one of Ronnie’s friends even makes the statement that she’s such a nice person around everyone else, but she gets around Dylan & turns into a raving lunatic. LOL)
When I started plotting the “Chicks with Sticks” trilogy, one of the things I most wanted to do was set up a situation where a man would have to knit. After all, what better way is there to prove that yarn is sexy than to wrap it around a handsome, well-built hero? *g* But to get Dylan doing that, I had to give him a really good reason & sort of back him into a corner. Enter the fact that Dylan & Ronnie are bitter rivals when the story opens, with nothing nice to say about each other. On top of that, they routinely dare each other to go through with challenges in an attempt to prove that “anything you can do, I can do better.” They’ve done the bungee jumping/white water rafting/tattoo thing, but those are fairly manly endeavors. The rivalry between them had to be really big for Dylan to be willing to go through with learning something “girly” like knitting.
And that, in a nutshell, is why I had to make the characters such polar opposites in the beginning.
Terra: I must say that you are a very naughty girl! Most women could only dream of having one orgasm per encounter, most men wouldn’t even consider taking the time to give said woman that one orgasm as most men usually think of themselves. Do you really think that there is a man out there that not only would give a woman pleasure first but to also take the time to give his partner a baker’s dozen of orgasms in one night?
Heidi: Thank you, thank you very much. *vbg* Well, this is fiction & a romance novel to boot, so we have to be willing to stretch our imaginations a teeny bit & accept the larger than life. J But I suppose it’s within the realm of possibility that there’s a man out there who would be willing to work on giving his lover a baker’s dozen. Maybe once, & early in the relationship when there are still hearts & flowers & the romance is going strong. Remember, too, that this was another challenge, & Dylan couldn’t walk away from a dare. It would have ruined his reputation & possibly cost him his beloved Harrison Award. LOL
Terra: If you spotted a man in the romance book isle at your local bookstore what would you say to him to convince him that your book is a must read for men as well as women? Would you go so far as to stand there and read him one of the really juicy parts and then dare him to buy the book?
Heidi: Finally, an easy one! I’ve actually done this---though not in the romance section of a bookstore. You see, the thing men need to know is that if they read romance novels, they would understand women so much better. What we look for in a man, what we want in a relationship.
The way this usually happens is that I’ll give a man---my plumber & orthodontist come immediately to mind---a copy of one of my books for his wife. The next time I see him, I get effusive thank-yous & requests to buy more books. And though it’s the wives who read the books first, the husbands reap the benefits & usually admit they “skimmed” the story, too, & actually liked the writing. They always act so surprised that “it was actually a decent story.” LOL So the proof is in the pudding, I guess.
Terra: Not only have you made Dylan and Ronnie rivals in almost every way possible but you have thrown them into the same circle of friends, the same job field and both watched by their readers closely to see what could possibly happen next. Why throw them together on a deeply personal level also?
Heidi: Because TANGLED UP IN LOVE is the first book in a trilogy, all three books had to be plotted out & very closely tied together from the very beginning. (If I were a more organized person, I swear would have storyboards & pie charts littering my office!) My editor & I both loved the idea of a sort of “jocks vs. knitters” feel to the series, & the best way I could think of to set up something like that was to actually create these two groups of individuals who were separate but very closely connected. It also gave me the perfect opportunity to keep tabs on all the other characters & slowly build toward the situations that would take place in Book #2 & Book #3.
Terra: I must admit I am usually not a reader of contemporary romance but this book has really made me think that I’m missing out. Convince me that I must read the next book in the series!
Heidi: Yay! I just love hearing that I “converted” someone. J As far as convincing you that you must read the next “Chicks with Sticks” book… I guess I’m hoping that TANGLED UP IN LOVE will in large part do that job for me. But I can tell you that the title is LOVES ME, LOVES KNOT, which I love. The cover is awesome! (And can be sneak peeked at my WIPs and Chains blog, but you’ll have to scroll down because it’s been a week or two now since I posted it.) And it’s Gage & Jenna’s story, both of whom appeared in TANGLED. I don’t know about you, but my heart broke for them, seeing how lonely & miserable they were after their divorce. LOVES ME gives them both the chance to find love again, & I for one am rooting for them.
Terra: If I were a shadow looking over your shoulder while your were writing one of the rivalry scenes between Dylan and Ronnie, what would I be witness to? Do you get really animated while writing scenes such as this, mumble under your breath, just let everything play out in your mind and then type frantically before you forget? Have you ever had anyone walk in on you while you were in antagonistic storyline writer’s mode?
Heidi: For the most part, I think I’m a pretty calm writer. I don’t usually talk to myself or cackle uncontrollably. But once in a while, when I’m really enjoying a scene or am really involved in what I’m going, I do chuckle, snort, or make faces. And I usually just get annoyed when I’m interrupted, no matter what type of scene I’m working on, because it pulls me out of the moment & makes me lose my train of thought.
Terra: Okay, dear, do tell---how many times did you read the Kama Sutra before you found the perfect position for your characters’ encounters and will we get more sex education in upcoming books? (grin)
Heidi: LOL Believe it or not, I find the Kama Sutra is a bit of a snooze. But you will definitely get another nice, sexy treat in upcoming books. Something along the lines of…oh, I don’t know…a big, strapping hero being tied to the bed & very thoroughly seduced? *vbg*
Terra: I thought your descriptions of the pajamas that you dressed Ronnie in were a hoot, how did you come up with them? Do you have them yourself, see them at a Dept. store or did you find them online? Picture yourself answering the door at 10 PM in the monkey jammies and tell me what would be the person’s reaction on the other side of the door as he spotted that monkey sitting in the middle of your chest.
Heidi: Although I don’t own jammies exactly like that, they were definitely personally inspired. I love cute, fun pajama sets, & I like my heroines to have them, too. J And I actually do answer the door at all hours of the day & night in my pjs, so the reaction is usually an indulgent smile. If it’s one of the little girls from next door, I’ll usually get, “I like your Spongebob pajamas” or “I have Betty Boop slippers, too!” LOL Unfortunately, even if the person on the other side of the door were a handsome, unattached male, I’m not sure my chest would be enough to inspire much of a reaction at all---monkey or no monkey. :-P
Terra: Okay I have to know how authors can take such simple physical characteristics of a man and make him sound like a sex God. A simple thing such as blond hair and blue eyes could turn a head or two but authors seem to be able to turn those two characteristics into something that can make a woman burn with desire. How do you do this? Do they give classes for authors in how to make a man so delicious, or do you go hunting down pictures or male models until you find the right one for your book?
Heidi: LOL I’m not sure how we do this, exactly. It must be a gift. I am just always searching for new ways to describe characters---male & female alike---that will draw a picture in the reader’s mind that helps them feel more connected to that person. I’d also prefer it not feel like every other character description you’ve ever read.
The topic of using pictures of celebrities or from magazines actually came up on my blog recently, but the truth is I rarely do that. I’m not even sure why not, since it’s a good idea! But I tend to get a pretty clear mental picture of my characters in my head fairly early on & they’re just there, ready to be described. However…we do have this nifty thing called “Sexy Saturday” over at WIPs and Chains where I post pictures of exceptionally hot guys on a weekly basis. Right now, I’m focusing on ones that remind me of the hero of TANGLED UP IN LOVE, Dylan Stone, but any of them could be ample fodder for a romance writer’s imagination. :-D
Thank you so much for having me today, & for the interesting-if-tough questions. LOL I’m thrilled that you enjoyed TANGLED & are already looking forward to the sequel.
I’d also like to offer a free book from my backlist (http://www.heidibetts.com/books/index.php#back) to three winners from today’s visit. (This includes the HOTTER THAN HELL anthology, by the way, though you have to scroll up a bit to see the cover.) I look forward to chatting with you, so let the questions begin! ;-)
Tangled Up In Love
“I hate that man with the flames of a thousand fiery Hells,” Ronnie spat as she returned to her table of friends and started refilling glasses from the pitcher of slushy, pale green margarita that shook in her hand.
She said it. She meant it. So what was with the strange sense of exhilaration she always felt after one of their sparring matches? Even now, with adrenaline pumping through her system and rage burning in her brain, she almost wanted to dive back in for Round Two.
“What man?” one of them asked, glancing around the bar as though the offender would be standing under a spotlight.
“Who do you think?” Grace said. Blond and beautiful, she was the picture of calm, never a hair out of place, never an emotion left unchecked. Only her close friends knew she had a sharp wit and a tongue like a razor blade. “Only the same guy Ronnie’s been bitching about for the past year—Dylan ‘That Arrogant Jackass’ Stone.”
“Let’s just call him ‘The Jackass’ for short,” Ronnie clipped out, filling her own glass to the brim before plopping down on her chair with very little finesse.
“I don’t get it,” Grace said. “You’re such a nice person otherwise, and get along with just about everyone you meet, but put you within a ten mile radius of Dylan Stone, and you turn into a slavering she-witch.”
Ronnie’s eyes narrowed as she finished filling glasses and set the pitcher aside. “Payback’s a bitch,” she quipped, “and you’re looking at her.”
“So what did he do this time?” the petite, short-haired Jenna inquired.
“He asked if my new tattoo was sore.”
“Of course it is,” Ronnie grumbled, taking a long, fortifying drink of her deliciously frothy tequila-laced concoction. “It throbs like a suffering bastard and rubs against my clothes all day, every day.”
“Did you tell him what it means?” one of the other girls asked. The rest of the group chuckled, because they knew. Ronnie had divulged that little secret at their first knitting meeting after having the body art done.
“No way. Let him wonder.”
“Fuck him, right?” Grace teased.
A cocky, knowing grin spread across Ronnie’s face and she reached around to pat a spot high on her left buttock. She didn’t even wince at the added sting it caused. “That’s right.”
“So it’s your turn to send him out on a dare. What are you going to make him do?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t thought of anything yet that’s adequately dangerous or embarrassing.” Her brows knit in a scowl. “He’s so obnoxious about thinking men are braver and more accomplished than women. I feel like daring him to walk into traffic blindfolded. A nice Greyhound bus to the temporal lobe would knock some of the smugness out of him.”
She lifted her head and met the gaze of each and every one of her friends around the table, her eyes conveying her desperation. “Any ideas?”
“You could figure out a way for him to go through simulated childbirth,” Melanie, a mother of two, offered flatly. “That would shut him up and have him bowing down to every woman he met from now until the end of time.”
“You could send him for a bikini wax.”
Ronnie flinched slightly at that suggestion. “Don’t remind me. I still have that landing strip in my panties that is in no way ready to wave in approaching air traffic. Plus, I don’t want to repeat myself, and I already made him get his legs waxed.” She smirked. “Wonder if his hair has grown back yet.”
“You could dare him to meet you at some no-tell motel for hot, sleazy sex, then leave him tied to the bed until the maid finds him the next day. And you could be there to capture his degradation on film.”
Ronnie laughed with everyone else, but inside, her stomach had clenched, and picturing Dylan tied to the bedposts, beneath her and at her mercy, sent an odd fluttering through the rest of her body.
Which was ridiculous, because he was a jerk, and if she was going to be attracted to any man at the moment, it certainly wouldn’t be Dylan Stone. She was only having this reaction because it had been so long since she’d had any type of sex that didn’t require batteries. After such a long dry spell, it was completely natural to have a physiological response to anything even remotely suggestive.
“How about walking across hot coals or dressing in drag and going down to the red light district?” one of the women asked, bringing her focus back to the matter at hand.
“If you really want to trip him up on the men-versus-women thing, then he should have to do something women do on a regular basis and are really good at,” Melanie spoke up again. “Like cleaning the house, getting a kid ready for school and to the bus stop on time, or making a Halloween costume from scratch.”
Reaching under the table, she retrieved her purse, which was oversized and stuffed to the gills. She pulled the knitting needles and skein of yarn she’d been working with earlier that evening off the top and set them aside, then continued to remove items one at a time.
“Do you know any men who have to carry around the crap women do, especially ones with kids? They grab their wallets and keys and take off. The rest of us have to make sure we have tampons, tissues, make-up, and nail files. And if you have kids, then you have to walk around with a steady supply of Band-Aids, baby wipes, antibacterial lotion, snacks, toys . . .” She punctuation her words by pulling every one of those things from her purse, including a couple of strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups and a tiny yellow dump truck that was missing one wheel.
“Yikes,” Jenna commented, blanching at the pile of junk cluttering the tabletop.
“So what are you suggesting?” Ronnie asked. “That I challenge Dylan to carry an overstuffed lady’s handbag everywhere he goes for a month?”
Melanie’s mouth twisted as she started loading things back into the purse, making its seams stretch and bulge. “He’s certainly welcome to carry mine. It’s no wonder women end up with osteoporosis. Most days, I’d swear I’m going to be a hunchback by the time I’m forty.”
She squinted an eye and twisted her mouth, lifting one shoulder much higher than the other in a near-perfect imitation of Quasimodo. “You guys will come visit me in the bell tower, won’t you?” she inquired in one of the funniest voices they’d ever heard.
They all laughed, and Ronnie nearly choked on her ill-timed sip of margarita.
“If we’re not already there with you,” Jenna promised, deliberately straightening her spine and throwing her shoulders back, the model of perfect, chiropractor-approved posture.
A moment later Grace said, “I have a better idea,” so quietly Ronnie almost didn’t hear her.
Her attention was immediately drawn back to what had started this thread of the conversation—her ongoing feud with Dylan Stone. “What?”
One side of her friend’s mouth quirked up in a sly, conspiratorial grin and she inclined her head in Melanie’s direction. Or more accurately, to the bag balanced on Melanie’s lap, a tangle of pale yellow yarn and two shiny, metallic blue needles sticking out of the top.
Ronnie looked at the purse . . . then back at Grace . . . then back at the purse.
And finally comprehension dawned. A slow smile spread and lifted her lips until she was grinning like an idiot.