As some of you know, I got the chance to actually sit down with Lani last week and spend some time with her. It was so much more fun that I ever thought it would be. She was gracious, and funny, and honest, and she opened up about her writing, and publishing, her Firth love, and of course, wine. So read on to learn more about Lani Diane Rich, author of my FAB Pick for March, The Fortune Quilt. And don't forget to check out Lani's podcast with Samantha Graves, Will Write For Wine. It airs tonight for the first time, and I can hardly wait to hear it. I've already got my wine picked out for this evening. I'm going with a cheap red Lambrusco. How about you guys?
dee: what's up with your name? Is it pronounced Lay-nee, or Lawn-nee (like from WKRP fame) or what? I'm only asking because I've heard people refer to you both ways.
Lani: Heh heh! Actually, my name is Hawaiian, despite the fact that no one in my family has ever so much as been there. I have no idea what my mother was thinking. I think it might have been a result of the drugs from the cesaerean. But, to put you out of your misery, it’s pronounced LAH-nee. Like Bonnie. Or Connie. Or Ronnie. Or Donnie. Or... well. You get the picture.
dee: What in the world made you decide to start writing? Was it something you've always wanted to do, or did you have to figure out a way to get the voices in your head to be silent?
Lani: I’ve enjoyed writing ever since I was a kid, it’s always kind of been a default activity for me, so when I thought about writing professionally, it was kind of like finding out you could get paid for breathing. “You can do that? Wow.” But then, I knew how hard it was to really make it as a professional writer, and I was married with kids by the age of 28, so I needed a real job. It wasn’t until I quit my job to stay home when I had my second baby that I had the freedom to really pursue the writing, and I haven’t looked back since!
dee: How much does your family support your writing career? Have there been times when you wished that they were more (or less) supportive? How do they choose to show their support? Do your children ever refer to you as an award winning author to impress their friends or teachers or soccer coaches? Would you ever insist that they do so?
Lani: My husband has always been wildly supportive. I think it’s hard on him because the work takes me away so much – it’s a full-time job, and between that and taking care of the kids and doing the websites and now the podcast, he’s feeling a little neglected, I think. Poor guy. Whenever I’m under deadline, he tends to get this look in his eye whenever he sees me, that “Don’t I know you from somewhere?” look. But he puts up with it, mostly because he’s hoping I’ll become a bestseller someday and, as he likes to say, “support me in the manner to which I hope to become accustomed.”
As for the kids, well, they’re kids. They’re 5 and 7 and they don’t really care what I do as long as I keep the fruit snacks coming. I do spend a lot of time in the back room on my laptop, shooing them away to go ask Daddy if they need something, but they handle it pretty well. They both write little books all the time and bring them to me, and we read them together, which warms the little cockles of my heart. (Cockles? Is that right? That doesn’t sound right. That sounds dirty. Maybe I’ve been writing romances too long...) Then they ask if they can read my books, and I say, “NO!” My kids are gonna learn about sex and cursing on the school bus, the way God intended. When they’re old enough to know better, I’m going to hide all the books and tell them I’m a dental hygienist.
dee: Are any of your characters modelled after people in your own life? If so, which ones? Which character was the most fun for you to write? Which one is most like you? Like your husband?
Lani: Well, I stole the opening scene in TIME OFF FOR GOOD BEHAVIOR from my friend Wanda’s life. (Also stole her name!) She’d actually been blown up in a gas explosion (no serious injuries, thankfully) and had a defense lawyer get in her face telling her she wanted to get blown up, and she got in his face right back. I love that story. At the point where my Wanda takes a swing at the lawyer (the real Wanda didn’t do that) the novel becomes all my own fabrication.
Aside from that, though, I don’t know if I’ve ever based a character on a real person. There are bits and pieces of me in my characters – I’ve got Wanda’s smart mouth, Portia’s (EX AND THE SINGLE GIRL) obsession with Pride and Prejudice, and I used to do the very job Carly has in THE FORTUNE QUILT, although I did it in . A lot of my characters share some of my background – many of them attended Syracuse University , as did I. My husband likes to look for qualities in the heroes that come from him, but he always finds the negatives and says, “That’s me, right? When he’s being a jerk. That’s me?” And it’s really not. All my heroes share three basic characteristics with my husband; they’re funny, sweet, and they love their girls. Awwwww.
As far as which character is the most fun to write – I have to say, as a whole, it’s the crazy mothers. I write a lot of crazy mothers. I used to worry about myself. I thought maybe I had some kind of serious issues with my mother that I was denying, but she is nothing like these women. She’s calm and soothing and likes to drink tea. My crazy mothers are... crazy. Then I realized that it’s just that I like writing older heroines who remain vibrant and alive past the age of fifty. In much of the mainstream fictional world, like television and movies, women tend to lose their vitality once they either a) have children or b) their breasts start responding to gravity. Women over fifty are usually baking pies or serving their husbands or kids. My crazy moms are their own women, with their own lives and desires and quirks, and I adore them all. I’ve got one I’m writing at the moment, an ex-child star named Lilly Lorraine, who is probably the craziest – and my current favorite. I just love her.
dee: What kinds of writing groups do you belong to? How important is their feedback in your writing process? Do the Literary Chicks get to read your stuff before it's published? How close are the six of you REALLY?”
Lani: I belong to Romance Writers of America, and the local Central New York chapter. I don’t share my writing with any one group in particular, though. When you’re just starting out, I think it’s important to get a good critique group going with a large number of people, but as you go, that number dwindles, which is necessary for a lot of different reasons. Right now I have one crititque partner, Samantha Graves, who I co-host a podcast with, and she and I go through every step of our WIPs together. She’s freaking brilliant; I’m so lucky to have her. I have a set of beta-readers who read the book for me after the first draft is done and give me impressions; that group is made up of both readers and writers. The Literary Chicks are very close, but we don’t critique each other’s work, typically; we’re more a personal support group, going through the landmines of the business together and holding hands. We have our own private mail loop, and we chat all the time, and blog together – I think any more togetherness and we’d probably be ready to kill each other! The balance is perfect as we have it, and we’re looking forward to having all six of us in the same place at the same time someday soon!
dee: Did you know that we have something in common? Unknown to all but a very select group of people (including, unfortunately, my husband!) I am ALSO in love with Mr. Darcy. How did you come to realize that your love for him was real and pure? Are you in love with any other fictional characters? Did the portrayal of Darcy by live up to your imagination?
Lani: I first fell in love with Darcy in high school, when I read PRIDE AND PREJUDICE for the first time. It was, however, a fleeting affair, as I read EMMA soon after and fell in love with Knightley, and then JANE EYRE and fell in love with Rochester . It wasn’t until a few years back, when suddenly everyone was talking about in the BBC version that I took another look. I saw that movie, and that was it. I was hooked. So now Darcy smolders in my heart, in the visage of , much to the distress of my husband, who likes to refer to them interchangeably as “that poncy British poofter.”
dee: You've got some incredibly quotable lines in your books. One that I am incredibly fond of (and hear quite often) involves something along the lines of 'not being crazy, jus a different level of interesting'. How do you come up with lines like that? Do you struggle over them, or are they just so much more dialogue to you?
Lani: Wow, thanks! Yeah, the line as I remember it is, “There’s no such thing as crazy, just various degrees of interesting.” Vera said it in EX AND THE SINGLE GIRL, and I stand by it. Although, I think after a certain point... there is such thing as crazy. Vera’s a much more generous soul than I.
I don’t think of a line as quotable or not when I write it. The words just come. There‘s something writers always say, and it sounds like a load of hooey to everyone but other writers, but it’s really true – a lot of writing is like taking dictation. These characters spring up in my mind, and start talking and doing stuff, and I just kind of guide them into a story structure. That sounds like it’s not a lot of work; it is, trust me. It’s exhausting wrangling these people into a novel form. But still... there is a mystical element to the process which allows for a certain level of detachment from my ego. So when Vera said this, I had the same reaction as many of my readers; I laughed and said, “Right on, baby!” And many times, when people quote me to me, I’m like, “Who wrote that? That’s good!” Honestly, in my head, I didn’t write it, so it’s as much fun for me as it is you guys. (See? Told you there was a certain point where crazy is just flat-out crazy!)
dee: You've been very frank and earnest over on the Literary Chicks site about your battles with food, most notably a certain bird at a certain time of the year. Have you ever considered enrolling in a culinary institute to prepare you for battle this year?
Lani: I think the battle you’re talking about is my battle with cooking? My battle with food is mostly about wine and Cheetos, and I think that’s another question. But, yes. I’m a terrible, terrible cook. The turkey completely kicked my ass this year. (Can I say ‘ass’ on your site? I’m sorry, I should have warned you. I tend to bring down the property value.) I won’t enroll in a class because it takes time and money, and I have neither, so I’m just gonna keep getting up, dusting myself off, rolling up my sleeves, and going after that bad boy. Eventually, I will prevail, if through nothing more than sheer determination. Or idiotic stubbornness. Potato, po-tah-to.
dee: If you could have written any book in the world, what would it be? What grabs you about that particular book?
Lani: The Harry Potter series. What grabs me is the scads and scads of merry cash. I’m no fool. J No, kidding, kidding... although I would have loved to have written that series, really. What I love about it is the way that Rowling isn’t afraid to go where the story takes her. The themes in those stories are so deep and resonant; there’s a reason why it’s a huge bestseller. There’s a certain amount of bestsellerdom that happens by chance, but maintaining your audience and being true to story rather than marketing is a sign of absolute talent. I’m sorry to see the series end this year, but I’m excited to see what else Rowling might have up her sleeve. Although I really think the poor girl deserves a bit of a break.
dee: What's next on your horizon? Any new books coming out soon, besides The Fortune Quilt?
Lani: Well, in October I’ve got another romantic comedy coming out from Warner called CRAZY IN LOVE. It’s a story about a woman who inherits a posh, historic inn... and with it the ghost of her dead aunt, a murder mystery, and a bartender. Not a bad deal though; the bartender’s way cute. After that, about this time next year, will be the book I’m working on now, tentatively called , in which a misanthropic woman gets “adopted” by a woman who thinks she’s an angel, and ends up kidnapping my heroine to force her to go to her estranged mother’s eighth wedding. It’s really fun, and features crazy Lilly Lorraine, who I talked about earlier in the interview. Ah, I love Lilly.
I can hardly wait for those next books! That's all for the interview. Wasn't it worth it? Be sure to pick up your copy of The Fortune Quilt, available in bookstores everywhere, and online, and at all of the really cool people's houses. Seriously. It would be at MY house right now, if I hadn't sent it to Dee! Also, check out Lani's podcast, first one is tonight! Lani is over at The Literary Chicks all the time as well, so check her out over there. And finally, she'll be out in Cincy this October for Cherry Con II. For more details, check out the Cherry Forums.Thanks so much for being here all week, Lani. I've said it before, but it bears repeating...
You are FABulous!!
Keep turning those pages!