Saturday, December 10, 2011

Getting to know Em Lynley

Welcome to Dawn’s Reading Nook, Em Lynley. Please let my cabana boys/girls get you a drink and make yourself at home. Comfortable? Great…now let’s get down to business.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself. What you do, either for a living or for fun or both?

I'm a full-time writer. I write freelance financial and tax articles as well as fiction and during tax season I prepare taxes. I know that sounds like fun, doesn't it? That's the right-brain part of me. The left-brain writes fiction, so there is a great balance.

For fun I read, love to go to the beach and sail. Pretty much anything to do with the ocean. I grew up in Miami and I need to be near the ocean even if I don't get to the beach as much as I'd like.
I also love to cook. I have maybe 200 cookbooks. I can read them like novels, even if they don't have pictures.

Q: Are you a by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of writer, or do you have to use an outline to put your collective thoughts into some semblance of common sense?

I used to be a total pantser, but lately I've been writing more complicated storylines, mysteries/thrillers and it takes more careful planning to weave in the clues. For shorter pieces without subplots or too many characters, I may still pants it, but generally I find myself plotting a lot more than writing. I won't write certain scenes until I've got the details set as to how it flows from and to the nearby scenes. I've learned the hard way that if I change something in the middle I really hate going back and rewriting, so I'll do my doodling in the outline until I have things settled. Sometimes it's an actual outline with a list of scenes and what each should accomplish, and other times it's me having a dialogue with myself as I figure out what needs to happen and testing out different ideas until one of them clicks. I recently read a book with a section by Sue Grafton and it turns out she does something quite similar. It made me feel very good to discover that. 

Q: Tell us all about your latest or upcoming release. What inspired it?

Rarer Than Rubies was my latest novel. It's a combination of Indiana Jones and Romancing the Stone, but set in Thailand and they are after a Ruby Buddha. Of course those two films inspired me a lot. I set it in Thailand because I spent several years working in Asia, including a total of a couple of months in Thailand, so I had many, many experiences I wanted to share with readers. And I wanted a good excuse to eat Thai food on a regular basis. 

One of the main characters is a gay-romance writer who's had some trouble getting inspired until he goes halfway around the world to shake himself out of a rut. I felt like my own writing had been in a rut around the time I was working on it, but the story and the characters solved that for me. It was such fun to write, and kickstarted a lot of ideas for me.

Q: If you had super powers, what would they be? Why?

I'm not sure it's an official superpower but I'd like to be able to time travel. I'm a huge history buff and I can't think of anything better than to visit other time periods and get a taste of what the world was like back then. I think my first trip would be to ancient Rome. I've been fascinated with it since junior high and used to always write research papers about Rome when I could.

Q: What genre haven’t you tried yet but want to in the future?

Cowboys. Definitely cowboys. I used to say Sci-fi since it's one genre I don't read much but love as a film genre. I wrote a couple of sci-fi stories I haven't shown anyone. But I haven't done any cowboy stories yet and I really really need to do a cowboy. Who doesn't?

Q: What’s a fun fact about you? Something unique, a particular talent?

I traveled around the world by myself for a year between jobs. I was working in Washington D.C. and waiting to start a job in Tokyo that kept getting pushed back so I bought a plane ticket to Europe and a Eurailpass and just kept going East. One of the most exciting things I did was spending a week in the islands off Sicily, which are all volcanic in different ways. I climbed up to the top of Stromboli, an active volcano and spent the night with a group of other hardy travelers. It was amazing. It's stuck with me to the point I've set the sequel to Rarer Than Rubies in those islands. I wish I could go back in the name of research, but it hasn't been possible. Writing has been a way for me to relive those wonderful experiences.

Q: What is one thing readers might be surprised to know about you?

I'm 7 feet tall and have three arms, so I can type faster than the average writer. Oh, does it have to be true? Well, then maybe that I use to be a White House economist.

Q: Were your stories secret projects or were you able to be open with your family and friends about your writing?

At first they were secret projects. It took me a long time to tell anyone in real life what I was writing, even after I got published. Then I got up the guts to tell my mom and she nearly died laughing. She thought I hadn't told her because I was writing some Mommie-Dearest style memoir about her being a bad mom (which she was not, but she's kind of paranoid). She started to ask me once about how I did research then decided she really didn't want to know. But she's read my books and she was surprised how much she liked them.

I've told more friends recently and gotten a lot of great support and encouragement, so I wish I'd shared my excitement and successes with them sooner.

Q: Do you have any weird writing habits?

It all depends on what you mean by "weird," but probably not. I write at the library a lot since I need to do a lot of research. Or I go to Starbucks. For some reason people talking at the next table at Starbucks doesn't bother me as much as someone whispering at the library. I can find myself distracted by eavesdropping if I'm at a café or restaurant, which is good for ideas but not so good for productivity.

Q: What's your favorite genre to read?

Mysteries. I love them. I used to live down the street from a wonderful mystery book shop that had authors in nearly every day. I got to meet some of my favorite writers and that was a huge inspiration and encouragement for me to write and try to get published. I met Michael Connolly, Elizabeth George, J.A. Jance, Lawrence Block, Steven Saylor, Anne Perry and many, many more.

Q: What type of book have you always wanted to write?

I used to want to write something like The Count of Monte Cristo (one of my favorite books) or Dorothy Dunnett's Niccolo series, with a huge far-flung storyline and lots of historical details. Then I realized what I most wanted to write was something that entertained other people. It doesn't matter the style or genre, as long as people love the story and the characters and it makes them forget their real life for a while. One of the most wonderful comments I get from readers is that they stayed up late reading one of my books to see what happened next. I had one reader say she called in sick to work, and another asked a friend to pick her kids up from school so she could finish the book. That tells me I succeeded, no matter what the story is about.

Q: What authors can be found in your library of books (print, audio or e-books)?

I've already mentioned some of my favorite mystery writers. I also love the Harry Potter audiobooks. They aren't read, they are performed. Jim Dale makes the characters and the stories come to life for me in a way the books did not. He's got some Guinness world record for performing the higher number of different voices in one recording. No surprise there!

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world (money is no object), where would you go? Why? And for how long?

I've been incredibly lucky in that I've lived abroad and traveled quite extensively already. I've been all over Asia but never to Hawaii, so I would love to visit Hawaii. I'm also fascinated with Mongolia. I had a chance to visit there and work with their Health Minister on an HIV-prevention campaign but since the temperature is only above freezing for 2-3 months of the year I chose not to. (I really really hate cold weather).

I would love to go back to Italy, maybe forever. I could easily settle into a villa on one of the lakes north of Milan. And despite the temperature I would absolutely go back to Nepal and spend another month or two trekking in the mountains. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I'm not a particularly physically active person, but after a few weeks of trekking in the clean fresh mountain air I never felt fitter or healthier.

Q: Do you have any obsessions? What are they?

I'm kind of obsessed with cooking. I will go out of my way to get specialty ingredients and cook dishes with complicated recipes. I once did a French dinner party with boeuf bourguignon that took three days to prepare. I made everything from scratch and even years later my friends were talking about that dinner party. I get invited to a lot of potlucks because everyone knows I'll bring something amazing.

As for writing, I am a bit obsessed with getting details correct. I'll check out flight schedules to make sure my characters arrive at the right time of day if they are traveling from one place to another. Or I'll use Google Earth to see if a street slopes uphill or downhill before I let the guys walk down that street. I've even checked out how much a ferry costs from Bora Bora to Taha'a for a story set in French Polynesia.

Q: Is there anything you’re currently working on that you can give us a taste of?

I'm just finishing up the sequel to Rarer Than Rubies, which has Trent and Reed in Italy. We'll find out that Reed had an old partner, who wasn't just a work-type partner and Trent's surprised and a little insecure about the whole thing. This time the case involves some ancient artifacts from an underwater dig near Sicily, but it turns out the case is much more complicated and dangerous than expected.

I'm also working on another book set in Italy, which is the third in my Rewriting History series about Tobin Wyler, a museum curator and Pierce Worthington, his art-thief boyfriend. It takes place in Florence and Siena, around the running of the Palio horserace, which I was lucky enough to see one year. We'll learn a lot about Pierce's family in this one, since he grew up in Florence. It was just coincidence both books are set it Italy, but I really want to visit again now!

And a little teaser for those of you who have read both series: Trent and Reed are going to run across Pierce and Tobin in a future book. That one is going to take a lot of plotting, I know that already! It's going to be a lot of fun to write. I haven't decided what the setting will be. Maybe some readers would like to give me some suggestions for that!

Q: When creating your characters, do you have models in mind or are they totally fictional?

It's a mix of a character that inspires me and my own creations. Sometimes it's a personality or a look, though usually it's some of both.

Q: Are you in control of your characters or do they control you?

I'm usually in control. I'm kinda bossy. But it's hard work deciding everything for everyone all the time. I wish they spoke up more. I know other writers tell me the characters write the books for them. Maybe I'm doing it wrong! I need some more productive characters.

Q: If you came with a warning label, what would it say?

When in doubt, add chocolate.

Q: Please tell us where we can find you on the web.

I have a website:

Rarer Than Rubies

When Trent Copeland runs into Reed Acton at a Bangkok airport, he thinks the handsome American is too good to be true. Why would someone like Reed be interested in a quiet, introverted gay-romance writer? After all, even an obvious tourist like Trent can see that there is more to Reed's constant unexplained appearances in his path than meets the eye. 

Reed Acton has one mission and one mission only-he needs to get the map that was accidentally slipped into Trent's bag and keep the mobsters who want the priceless artifact from taking deadly revenge. Trent Copeland is a delicious and damned near irresistible diversion, but Reed can't afford distractions right now, especially if he wants to keep Trent safe. 

From Bangkok's seediest back alleys to the sacred north, the two men will fight to stay one step ahead of the bad guys and learn that the only treasure worth finding is... each other.


"Are you following me around?" Trent put his backpack on again, this time putting both arms through the straps. Obviously he wasn't taking any more chances. Reed knew he wouldn't get another chance to get into the pack, but where could the map be? Had Trent found it in his pack and knowing it wasn't his, already thrown it away? Or was he working for a competitor and had already passed it off. Reed hadn't let him out of his sight for very long, but there might have been someone waiting in his room at the Pink Tiger.
But this guy appeared too clueless to be part of any underworld organization. No one was that good an actor. The only explanation was Trent somehow realized the map was valuable and hidden it hoping to sell it to someone who would pay big money for the information.
"No, man. Bangkok's really kind of a small place for farangs, you know? I run into the same people all the time. I'm Reed Acton, by the way." He started to put a hand out but Trent didn't look to be in a trusting, hand-shaking mood yet. He also didn't volunteer an introduction.
"Farangs?" Trent rolled the word around on his tongue and squinted in puzzlement.
"Foreigners. Westerners. It's kind of an insult, but if you spend enough time here you get used to it."
"But you speak Thai. You said you live here?"
"Yeah, for work." Fuck. This conversation was getting into dangerous territory for Reed. But he didn't want to just walk off on his own and suddenly it had nothing to do with the map. He wanted to get closer to Trent Dallas and breathe in the beautiful scent of him--probably courtesy of that fancy body wash Reed had watched him apply earlier--and lick along the curve of his jaw, and then maybe rip off that shirt Trent was wearing and trace around every muscle on his chest and abs. Reed had seen what was under there and this time he wanted more than to look. He wanted to touch, and taste and--
"Well, thanks for getting my bag back. Do you want a reward or something?" Trent's voice jolted Reed back to reality and with difficulty he pulled his mind out of Trent's pants. Which was too bad, because he was just starting to plan out what he wanted to do with that ass.
"No, no." Reed shook his head. "I don't want money. If that's what you're thinking, that I'm trying to scam you or something, you're dead wrong."
"Well..." Trent looked at Reed out of the corner of his eye and Reed knew he wasn't convinced Reed was harmless.
"Look, let's sit down for a few minutes and grab something to drink. The heat is getting to me." Reed wiped the back of his hand across his sweaty brow and smiled up at Trent, getting another suspicious look in return. But Trent looked hot and sweaty, too--though it just made him look even sexier--and let Reed lead him to table set up under a canvas canopy near half a dozen street vendors.
Reed ordered cool coconut drinks for them. Trent eyed the drink warily at first, but when he saw Reed slurp down half the glass in one long pull he cautiously sipped and smiled in delighted surprise. The coconut drinks were one of Reed's favorites, though some vendors made them too sweet. He loved the soft fresh coconut flesh that floated in the glass and he'd usually save a few pieces to suck on and savor the taste after he'd drained the liquid contents. From the look on Trent's face he seemed to be relaxing and Reed decided to take a time out here and put him at ease.
"I admit I saw you in the airport and thought it might be fun to hang out. I know a lot of places to go in the city, if this is your first time here." Reed smiled hoping Trent would trust him, no matter how suspicious Reed's behavior might have been up till now. He wished he could forget about the map and enjoy a few fun-filled days with Trent Dallas--preferably in a bed in Reed's air-conditioned apartment where they ordered in food and didn't get dressed the entire time.
"How do I know I can trust you? I mean, what were you doing in the airport anyway?" Trent repeatedly poked his straw at the pieces of coconut at the bottom of his glass.
"I had to pick up a package for my boss." Thankfully Reed could tell the truth. "It got misdirected so I have to get it from a different location later today." He paused for a moment. "You can eat that. It's coconut flesh." Reed took a bite from a piece he pulled from his own glass, to demonstrate it was safe.
"Really? I've never seen it so soft."
"It's from young coconuts. I guess they don't leave them on the trees long enough to get really hard. They're much easier to open when they're young, too."
Trent fished a piece out and took a tiny bite. He quickly ate the rest of it. "Mmm."
"See? You can trust me." Reed laughed. He enjoyed watching Trent consume the rest of the coconut pieces, picking each up and licking it to catch the last drops of the drink before sucking it into his mouth with a tiny slurp.
"Eating coconut and going somewhere with you are two entirely different things." Trent tilted his head slightly then licked his lips and Reed had to keep from jumping across the table and kissing him. Did Trent know how he was torturing Reed as he imagined what else those lips and tongue could be doing. The smile on Trent's face led Reed to believe that maybe he did. Damn tease! But Reed was enjoying the game. He couldn't remember the last time he'd felt a spark like this for anyone.
"Fair enough."
They chatted casually for another ten minutes, where Reed kept the conversation mainly about Thai food--deftly avoiding personal topics--until Trent seemed to have relaxed and become less suspicious. Reed noticed Trent's appraising glances and grinned, hoping his dimples might be extra convincing. God, he hated doing it this way but he was on a short timetable and he didn't have the luxury of being smooth about it.
"Have you decided you can lower the threat level on me to blue or green?"
Trent laughed and Reed's spirits picked up. He liked the sound of Trent's laugh.
"Well, I might go as low yellow, with an option for blue."

1 comment:

Leaundra said...

Great interview EM, Wow you're a smarty, lol. The places you've traveled really cool. My husband being in the military we didn't go anywhere you have but we did live in Germany twice:-) You and my husband would get along great he loves to cook and has our whole marriage. I hate to cook so I lucked out. Oh yeah and the Cowboy ideal is a great one:-) I loved learning more about you cool.

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