Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Interview with Lisa Ruff

Please welcome Lisa Ruff a new author to the Harlequin American line. Her first book, Man of the Year debuted June 2008 and her latest release Baby on Board hits store shelves this month.

If you could be lazy for an entire day what would you do?

Read! Which is what I always do when I am lazy for any amount of
time at all. I read all kinds of stuff--romance, fantasy, biography,
adventure, history. But to complete the day-long fantasy, I'd eat
chocolate and drink tea, too. While lying in bed. A handsome man would
have to bring me the tea and chocolate, of course, for it to be a truly
lazy day. And can he massage my feet when he's not doing that?

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Sail on my 40' sailboat, Thalia. I've lived on a sailboat for
fourteen years. My husband and I spent five years sailing from Seattle
down through the Panama Canal, around the Caribbean, then up the east
coast to Maine. I like the feel of the boat responding to the wind and
sea. And there's the satisfaction of harnessing the forces of nature to
discover new places and new experiences. Absolutely nothing compares to
sailing the ocean at night with the vastness of the star-strewn sky
overhead. You are insignificant and immense, both at the same time.

What is your writing routine?

Up in the morning, breakfast and a bit of procrastinating before
I sit down at the keyboard. I usually re-read and edit what I did the
day before, which often turns out to be just more procrastination! I
have a hard time actually typing the first few words, but after that I'm
a 8-10 page-a-day writer. Lunch is in there somewhere--my least
favorite meal, since it's just an interruption--then back to the
keyboard for a while until I reach whatever goal I've set for myself on
a particular day. I'm very goal-driven, and I work best if I set a
definite end-point to work toward, like finish a chapter or scene.

If you could wish for anything, what would you wish for?

The ability to write a clean, clear sentence that says precisely
what I mean, the first time I write it. That seems nearly unachievable
most days, but the elusive goal keeps me writing.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Creating the "Black Moment," where the two characters are on the
verge of destroying the love they have for each other. I like my
characters and, after 50,000 words, I don't want to torture them. But
the conflict of a story must reach a climax, a point where the main
characters teeter on the brink of failing and losing what they most
want. Or they end up torturing each other even though they intend to
love each other. Their worst side comes out. They might even be mean.
I don't like it when the people I create turn mean and small and reveal
their dark side.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I got the idea for Man of the Year from watching Little League
and wondering what happened to those young boys when they grew up. Then
I started following my local Major League team. Have you seen how tight
they wear their pants? Mmm. Very inspiring.

How long have you been writing?

Fourteen years. I wrote my first book--which was actually Man
of the Year, my first book published with Harlequin American--in 1994.
I submitted it to a couple of publishers and an agent, but there wasn't
a market for sports-themed romance back then. So, I put it into the
proverbial "magic drawer" for the future. Then my husband and I went off cruising in the Caribbean for five years. I continued to write, but didn't try to submit anything until 2006, when I noticed a lot more romances with sports themes. I polished Man of the
Year and sent twenty-two query letters out to agents on the day before
Thanksgiving, 2006. One agent decided to take a chance on me and
offered me a contract. She sent the manuscript out that week to
Harlequin American Romance. A year later, after one revision, they
accepted and here I am!

What did you want to be when you grew up?

An interior designer. When I was six, playing with Barbie was
not so much about the hair and clothes. But my gosh, all that
furniture! I found my calling. When I got a little older, I drove my
mother crazy rearranging the house all the time. Nothing stayed in one
place for more than about three months. The dust bunnies under the sofa
got cleaned up fairly often, so how much could she complain? I went to
college to study design and did commercial design--restaurants and
offices--for 10 years before discovering writing. Suddenly a whole new
world opened up. A world that I could create. That was way better
than moving furniture--I could arrange people and design their lives.

What got you interested in writing?

I've always loved books. My father read to me every night when
I was young. The Wind in the Willows, Kim, The Wizard of Oz you
name it, he read it. There was virtually no television reception in the
small mountain-locked town where I grew up, so books were my escape to
other worlds. When I was out of college and working in Seattle, I met a
few writers—some struggling, some successful—and had an “I can do that”
moment because of them. Then I learned why they were struggling. It's
hard work writing a book! That made me admire the successful ones all
the more.

What is the one question you wish an interviewer would ask you?

Have you lost weight? I wish everyone would ask me that, even if
it's not true. I hope I never get asked about how to calculate the
square root of some number. I'm an art major; I don't do math. Though
I am the person who can always calculate the tip on a bill. How strange
is that?

What's a saying you use a lot?

"It could have been much worse." That's from Sir Francis
Chichester's book, Gypsy Moth Circles the World. Sir Frances was one
of the great solo, 'round-the-world sailors. This was his stock phrase
when disaster struck, anything from running his boat aground on a reef
to having his mainsail shred in a gale. Sailing on the ocean always
seems to entail close calls and disasters of one degree or another. So
when things go wrong on my boat or in my life, I invoke Sir Francis'
spirit and remind myself that the situation could be much worse. He
also poured himself a cocktail when things went wrong. He figured that
by the time he was done drinking it, he'd either have thought of a way
to fix the problem, or the problem would have fixed itself. Not a bad
way to go about life. Sometimes I do that, too.

What's your favorite dessert?

Flan. One of the first phrases I learned in Spanish was: ¿Hay
Flan? We sailed down the coast of Mexico and Central America and I
asked that question in every restaurant, no matter how tiny or
primitive. And you know what? The answer was "Si", nearly every time.
I've eaten flan in Tijuana, Panama City, Panama, Mazatlan, Mexico, Playa
del Cocos, Costa Rica, Cartagena, Columbia, and Puerta La Cruz,
Venezuela. All of it different textures and flavors and most of it very

Do you have any talents readers might find interesting?

I can wiggle my ears. That's pretty cool, if you're a

Are you a cat or dog person?

Definitely a cat person, since I'm allergic to dogs. I don't
have one right now, though. My beloved 18-year-old Mali died three
years ago and I haven't been ready for another cat since. She had a
long, good life. Against her will, she traveled to 19 countries by
sailboat. She was never much impressed with any of them. She survived
four gales at sea, one swim test, innumerable baths and one falling
over-board. She was a good cat, though she was never interested in
being good. She was more interested in being what she was: difficult,
funny, loud, affectionate, obnoxious and demanding. I still miss her,
but she started haunting me immediately after she died. She still
does. Her ghost pops around the corner or lurks in the dark, watching
me, wondering how I'm getting along without her.

If someone gave you a million dollars what would you do with the

I've always loved to travel, and I would do more of that. The
thing I like best about cruising on a sailboat is going to a foreign
country and staying there. When you can stay for months, rather than
days, in a town you get to be part of the community, not just a
tourist. I love Spain and I've always wanted to go to Chile and
Patagonia, too. Last winter my husband and I spent four months in
Woodstock, England, in a cottage built in 1780. We got to be know the
people and had "our" local pub that the neighbors on our street
frequented. We felt like we belonged there, as much as a foreigner can
belong to a place for four months. With a million dollars, I would look for more experiences like that.

Lisa Ruff
Baby on Board (Jan 2009)


Anya said...

Yes, I've found a fellow flan lover! Unfortunately, I haven't tasted it in another country yet (does the Brazilian steak house in Baltimore count? All the staff spoke Portuguese?).

Question: How was the experience of writing your second book (Baby On Board) different from your first, Man of the Year?

Inky Productions said...

Great interview! I loved hearing about the "black moment" I never knew it had a term.

Lisa Ruff said...

Writing Baby on Board was much different because I knew so much more about writing. It was a much smoother process because of all those years I spent working at crafting clear sentences, ideas and characters. It was also different because I was writing specifically for American Romance. That helped define the story from the start.

And flan in a foreign language definitely counts the same as eating it in a foreign country.


Megan Kelly said...

Lisa, welcome! Your travels sound exciting, and staying for a while to really get to know the people sounds wonderful. Good luck here at American.

Estella said...

Sounds lke you had a great time sailing around!

Linda Warren said...

Wecome to American. Your life sounds like a dream - sail away with no worries, no TV, no phone calls, no nothing except doing what you want - seeing beautiful places and meeting new and interesting people.
Yep, that a dream for someone who is deep-rooted in Texas.
Mar-The Sheriff of Horseshoe, Texas

Lisa Ruff said...

Thanks to everyone for the welcome. This has been a great experience and I hope to have more like it.


kimmyl said...

Very interesting post.