Interview with Isabel Sharpe, women’s fiction author

Basic Facts: Isabel Sharpe
Author of: AS GOOD AS IT GOT, Avon/HarperCollins, July 2008 (in stores tomorrow), and numerous Harlequin Blaze, most recently INDULGE ME, May 2008
Favorite Candy: Dark Chocolate
Favorite Cartoon Character: Bugs Bunny
Super Power Most Covets: Instant Housework
Isabel Sharpe

Q.) First tell us about your books in general. I know you write fun sexy romances for Harlequin Blaze and last year debuted in women’s fiction. Can you give us a bit about both?

I.S.) Sure. I started writing for Harlequin’s comedy line Duets. I loved the short length, the ability to let my comedic voice loose. It was a great place to start. When it folded, I fell into Blaze and relished the longer length and chance for more complex plots, and to let the book be serious when it needed to be.

Women’s fiction lets me tell stories that don’t center around a man and woman falling in love. As a single woman in her forties, I felt I had more to say about the experience of being a woman than I did ten years ago. Amusingly, someone pointed out to me that my Harlequins are all about finding men and my women’s fiction books thus far have been about getting away from them. Guess that makes me a bit bipolar.

Q.) What about your new release, AS GOOD AS IT GOT? What can you tell us about it?

I.S.) The book is about a retreat on the coast of Maine for “suddenly single” women. As in Women on the Edge of a Nervous Breakthrough, I have three heroines, Ann, Cindy and Martha. Ann’s husband ruined them and killed himself, Cindy’s often-cheating husband finally left her for another woman, and for twenty years Martha has been the mistress of a politician who has just had a stroke and isn’t expected to recover. It doesn’t sound very cheery, but I think it’s similar in tone to Women on the Edge, a dark-ish comedy.

Q.) AS GOOD AS IT GOT and WOMEN ON THE EDGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKTHROUGH are both women’s fiction. What made you decide to try this genre in addition to your Blazes?

I.S.) Very simple. I had other stories I wanted to tell. Obviously there is so much more to the experience of womanhood in this time and country than falling in love and living happily ever after. And as a writer, you know that when a story idea demands to be written, you go with it.

Q.) What is the most obvious difference between your women’s fiction and your Blazes?

As Good As it Got

I.S.) The obvious difference is that the story is not focused around the developing relationship of a man and a woman. I also feel freer to write characters that are more realistically flawed than my Harlequin heroes and heroines. I say this with no judgment. People want to be the heroine in a romance and fall in love with a hero. But selfish, difficult, weird people fascinate me and I love trying to capture them. I also haven’t done a male point-of-view in the women’s fiction books I’ve sold so far. Amusingly, people absolutely loved my hero Mike, in Women on the Edge of a Nervous Breakthrough, which cracked me up because he barely says anything and we never know what he thinks. I guess we like projecting whoever we want men to be.

Q.) Have you noticed any difference in how people perceive/treat you since your women’s fiction came out? Do you find a lot of readers cross-over from your Blazes?

I.S.) I don’t believe there has been a lot of crossover, no. People who know me well don’t treat me differently, but people who sneer at romance seem to think that suddenly I’m a legitimate author. Don’t get me started. :-)

Q.) Are you a plotter or a panster? Character-driven or plot driven? Ever try to be the opposite? Do you have a set method you use when starting a book?

I.S.) I’m a plotter. I start with a what-if premise, then choose characters who will fit it. Once I figure out what they want and how they’ll go about getting it, the plot seems to fall into place. So I guess that makes me character driven. Then I fill out a little background sheet on each character, what they look like, basic facts about their past, and then I brainstorm scenes, any idea that comes, and then I arrange it all into a coherent plot with appropriate character development along the way. That comes out to a pretty detailed scene-by-scene outline. Then I write it, polishing as I go, page one through to the end. Pretty basic. It varies here and there, but I’ve never tried it any other way. I guess because this works.

Q.) What can readers expect to find in all your books no matter the genre?

I.S.) My sense of humor. Characters I’ve spent a lot of time fleshing out. A great romance, whether it’s the focus of the book or not. And I hope a really good story.

Lori again. :) To learn more about Isabel and her books, stop by her web site!

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