Lynn Raye Harris is a veteran world traveler and avowed shoeaholic. After a lifetime of military moves, she now plies her pen in Northern Alabama where she resides with her handsome husband and two crazy cats. When she’s not shopping for new shoes or the perfect antique for her collection, she crafts stories about sexy alpha warriors and the heroines who bring them to their knees.
A 2008 Golden Heart® finalist and Gotcha Contest winner, Lynn also won the Harlequin Presents Instant Seduction Contest designed to find new writers for the Presents line. The Spanish Magnate’s Revenge took the top prize against six hundred other entries. Though not yet contracted, Lynn feels very fortunate to have an editor and the chance to write for the line she’s always loved.
•When did you begin writing, and why did you choose romance?
Like a lot of writers, I began writing at an early age. I actually wanted to draw, probably because my mother did, but my drawing skills were terrible. I can’t even draw a straight line! I sat for hours in my room trying to draw horses (yes, I was a horse crazy girl). When I couldn’t make them look right, I tried tracing them from magazines. Still not right. One day, in about the 3rd grade, I wrote a story to go with the drawing I did for class. That was the beginning.
After starting and stopping writing over many years, and having no clue how one really wrote a novel, I decided to get smart. I went into the bookstore and studied the shelves. Lo and behold, romance had the most shelf space. I plucked a few historicals off the shelves and went home to read. That’s when I fell in love with romance all over again. I’d been a Harlequin Presents reader as a teen, but I’d gotten away from them when one too many college professors told me they had no value. Once I started reading romance again, I couldn’t ever imagine writing anything else.
•You grew up in a military family and married a hunky military man, so I can see why you ended up writing military suspense. But I understand you used to write historicals. What led to the switch?
Well, I first plucked those historicals off the shelf because I had an interest in history—by that time I’d lived in Europe and had actually been inside castles and walked through the streets of London and Paris. Historicals seemed like the thing to write. So I wrote a very long, very amateurish medieval romance that was 800 pages long. And then I actually tried to sell it. I can only be thankful no one took me up on it, though it had some interest (can you believe it?).
I stopped writing for a while and then decided to try again after I’d gone back to college and completed my master’s degree. When I sat down, a contemporary story came out. And the hero was in the military. It took me another manuscript before I realized I should add suspense to the mix. Duh.
•Europe. Asia. Hawaii. You’ve lived in some incredible places and done quite a bit of traveling. What are some of your favorite locations? Do you use any of your foreign experiences in your stories?
I love traveling to new places. I’ve hiked up a Korean mountain to see a rare giant stone Buddha, floated in a gondola, and stood on the tallest peak in Germany. I’ve also been inside the Kremlin and ridden a train through Russia. I love something about everywhere I’ve been, but I probably love Venice for its uniqueness. I lived there as a local for a glorious week and got to see the city without its tourist hordes. Another favorite place is Madrid. Oh, those Spanish men! So courteous, so masculine.
I used Madrid and a glorious Spanish man in The Spanish Magnate’s Revenge. Living in so many places has given me a global voice, which I’m able to explore as I write for the Presents line.
•With a passion for good food and a love of gourmet cooking, you no doubt sample the fare in every place you visit. Which destination offered the most memorable meal? And do your heroes and heroines savor exotic fare?
LOL, but I tend to forget to have my characters eat! I write very fast paced, and I have trouble slowing down for them to savor a meal. I did write a dinner scene into my Presents, but it got cut in the first round of revisions. Who knows, it may find its way back.
In my GH finalist, Hot Pursuit, the heroine is a chef—but since she has to deal with a killer, a missing sister, and a sexy Special Forces commander, she doesn’t have any time to cook.
As for most memorable meal? Hmm, there’ve been several. Pizza in Naples at midnight, caviar in Moscow, fresh ahi poke in Hawaii, kimchee in Seoul, my first schnitzel in Germany, a multi-course lunch in Verdun, France that cost over $300 for four people—but boy was it great!
•Unlike many, you have the luxury of writing full-time. How do you structure your writing time? How long does it take you to complete a manuscript?
I am a fortunate woman, and I thank my husband for the opportunity. He believes in me, and I’m grateful for it. I structure my writing like a day job. Hubby and I get up together. He goes to the office down the road; I go to the office upstairs. I write all day, though I have to admit I often stare at the screen and give in to the temptation to check email and read blogs. When the writing is flowing and I’m on a deadline, I can write 50K in about three to four weeks. Is it good? Not necessarily, but that’s what revisions are for.
•Although you haven’t landed a contract for a novel yet, you had a short story published, “Maddie’s Marine” in Strong Currents 2: An Anthology by Hawaii Writers. What did you learn from this entry into the world of publishing?
That anthology was a small local thing, so I was very involved in the process. And I learned that I could read an excerpt to a library audience without passing out, and that I could sit at a table with four other writers to sign books and not sell a single one. LOL! I also learned that I wish I’d had another pass at the story—there are things I’d change if I could. I suppose I’ll always feel that way about my writing.
•You’re active in your local Romance Writers of America® chapter. What do you see as the benefits of getting involved in writers’ groups?
Networking, encouragement, camaraderie. It’s all there at the local level. I’m very fortunate to be a part of an awesome chapter where the published authors come to every meeting and inspire the unpublished writers. We don’t have an us versus them thing in this chapter, which I have unfortunately seen in other chapters. We celebrate the achievements of everyone, genuinely, from partial requests to New York Times appearances. It works very well, and I’m proud to be a part of it.
These ladies inspire me. If not for them, I don’t think I’d be where I am right now. Because I wouldn’t have had the continual drive that being around other determined and successful writers brings.
•Your manuscripts have placed in several contests. Does any win stand out?
March 20, 2008, Sally Williamson from Mills & Boon called to tell me I’d won the Harlequin Presents Instant Seduction Contest with my entry, The Spanish Magnate’s Revenge (first chapter and synopsis,) and that she would be my editor for a year. That was the most awesome win ever.
•You received a three and a half page revision letter from your Presents editor right before RWA® Nationals. Since she asked to see the changes before the conference, how did you deal with having so much to do in such a short time?
I sat down and did it. I drank a lot of coffee, ate takeout when I remembered to eat, and slept about four hours a night (until the last night, when I didn’t sleep at all and worked for 24 hours straight). It was brutal, and I ultimately didn’t get it right. When I spoke with my editor at breakfast in San Francisco, we discussed further changes.
Writing a highly emotional 50K book that packs a punch and tells a tight story is harder than it looks. And in all fairness, I hadn’t tried to write a Presents before. Or, indeed, any category novel shorter than 65K. So I was learning as I was going. I winged a lot of it, and I missed the mark. I was pretty mad at myself for messing it up, and felt quite discouraged. Until several Presents and Modern Heat authors told me not to fret, that revisions were quite normal, and that I’d be fine.
I needed the encouragement. And I know I can do it. I love the Presents line, and I believe in my characters. I will get it right. My editor tells me I have a Presents voice, and the editorial team is confident I will succeed. That means a lot when I feel overwhelmed by all I need to do.
•So, Lynn, it sounds like the Presents story has taken you in a new direction. I did wonder when I read the title, The Spanish Magnate’s Revenge. That doesn’t sound like a military story, whereas your GH finalist, Hot Pursuit, definitely does. Would you clarify the difference between the two and tell us what you like about each genre?
I’m glad you asked, Keli, because I’m sure people have been confused by my split writing personality. (It’s a new development after all!)
First, let me tell you about Harlequin Presents. These are the white books with the red border and the hero and heroine depicted in a big circle on the front. And they tend to feature billionaires, virgins, secret babies, marriages of convenience, and exotic settings. They are pure escapist fantasy stories with wealthy alpha male tycoons and the women who ultimately tame them. I LOVE them.
The focus in these stories is on the emotional tug of war between the two characters. They are tightly woven books (ahem, and I’m working on that) that don’t have room for subplots and outside influences. Presents are edited out of Richmond, England, and many of the authors are British, Irish, and Australian. But there are Americans, and I’m proof that the line is open to more Americans in the ranks. You need a global voice, but you can be from anywhere. Even my use of “y’all” (though not in the story, LOL) didn’t faze them.
I suppose this is getting long, but I should say that when I entered the contest, I’d always wanted to write a Presents. But I’d never done it. A chapter mate sent me the contest announcement and told me I should enter. We’d been talking at our chapter retreat, and she said that since I’d lived all over the world, I should try to write a Presents. So I did.
All I needed was a first chapter and synopsis, and the book didn’t need to be finished. I looked at it like a chance to write mini-proposals. I wrote two and sent them off, the second one only hours before the deadline. It was the second entry that won. I’m working with my editor to whip the finished manuscript into shape (more revisions on the horizon) and hope I can call myself a Presents author someday.
Now, as for my military romantic suspense, I love those too! It’s a different voice, more edgy and American, but my writing tends to be hero-centric regardless—I write alpha males, and I fall in love with them. It’s not much of a stretch from a military man to a tycoon—they are both, after all, alpha warriors determined to slash and burn and succeed no matter the cost. I love both types of stories because they allow me to write the kind of hero I love: dark, dangerous, sexy, and wounded. Whether he wears Armani™ or camouflage, he’s still a warrior on a mission.
For now, the Presents is taking center stage in my life, though I hope to be able to write the military suspense too. I’ll just have to see what happens, right?
•Rejection. Discouragement. Doubt. Every writer encounters these villains at some point on the road to publication. How do you deal with the hills and valleys of a writer’s life?
Wow, this is a question that always has so much emotion for me. I did quit once. For eight years in fact. But when I came back, when I had the maturity and the courage to try again, I knew I wouldn’t ever quit again.
Oh, I get discouraged, and I have my pity parties. I wail and gnash my teeth and think I suck. And then I dust myself off and sit down and remind myself that I can’t succeed if I don’t keep trying. God did not give me this desire and this measure of talent, however big or small, for nothing. In American Idol, there can be only one winner. That’s not the case as writers. Publishing is not finite. There will always be room for great stories. You just have to keep trying.
•What encouragement would you offer other romance writers on the journey?
Don’t give up. Know there will be days, maybe weeks, when you feel like you’ll never succeed and that everyone else is better than you are. Realize it’s not true. There will always be new ideas, new stories to write. You have to follow those paths and see where they lead. The only way you will fail is if you give up. I truly believe that. Learn from your mistakes, grow, and keep writing.
Thanks for having me, Keli!
I’m honored to be among this group of fine writers you have on this blog.
Leave a Comment for Lynn:
Lynn will drop by throughout the day to chat. She’d love to hear from you. Feel free to ask her about her experience working with her Presents editor, her many travels, or her life as a military wife.
If you don’t see a comment form below, please use the link by the post title.
In honor of the fact that Lynn writes about military heroes, I found some pink camo, mini lunch pails and some bookmarks that pay tribute to those serving in our Armed Forces. Two people leaving comments for Lynn will each receive the two items.
Congratulations to Marilyn and Danniele, the drawing winners!
Learn More About Lynn:
Her website: www.lynnrayeharris.com
Her blog: lynnrayeharris.blogspot.com