Monday, September 27, 2010

The Naughty List from Susan Fox

Please welcome my friend Susan Fox to the blog today. We first met at RT a few years ago and hit if off right away. Now as it turns out, we're both writing for the same publisher--Kensington Brava.

Susan Fox, who also writes as Susan Lyons, is the award-winning author of sexy contemporary romance that’s passionate, heartwarming, and fun. She is published by Kensington Brava, Kensington Aphrodisia, Berkley Heat, Harlequin Spice Briefs, and The Wild Rose Press. A resident of both Vancouver and Victoria, B.C., Susan has degrees in law and psychology but would far rather be writing fiction than living in the real world. You can find more information about Susan and her books at http://www.susanlyons.ca./ Susan is also on Facebook.

I know you're going to love her. Take it away, Susan.
____________________________________________

Thanks, Emily, for inviting me to visit. Isn’t it interesting, all the things that have happened in our writing careers since we both participated in that panel at the 2007 RT Booklovers Convention?

Today I’d like to talk about Eat, Pray, Love, because a girlfriend and I just went to the movie. I’d already read the book and enjoyed both. As an author, I have to wonder, when Elizabeth Gilbert wrote that book, whether she had the slightest clue how popular it would become. Personally, I doubt it.

After all, it’s not exactly an earthshaking book. A woman of a certain age realizes that she’s got some relationship problems, and she needs to figure out who she is and what she wants out of life—as an individual, not as part of a couple. How to find the answers? Take a year off and spend four months each in Italy, India, and Indonesia.

Why does this resonate with so many readers, particularly women? Because we have all, whatever our age, reached a point in our lives when certain aspects of our life don’t make a whole lot of sense any more. Maybe it’s a divorce, illness, a job loss, or even good stuff like a lottery win or new job. Something that triggers the realization, “I don’t really know who I am any more, or what’s important to me. And I really need to know.”

Or maybe the resonance is simply because we’d all love to have the wherewithal to explore the world for a year, discovering our own gusto, passion, and spirituality—not to mention, hooking up with a hot Brazilian!

Personally, I love the “finding yourself” theme. It’s at the core of all the stories I write. Of course that theme plays out in different ways in each story. The “finding” may be about how to respect your family but be independent, or how to balance career and personal life; it may be about regaining confidence after a break-up or looking at your opposite sex best friend in a whole different way.

Or it may, as in my October release, “Tattoos and Mistletoe” in the Brava holiday anthology The Naughty List, be about coming to terms with your past in order to move into a bright new future.

Why would you ever want to go home again, when the town treated you like trash? Yet Charlie Coltrane has to return to Whistler this Christmas and supervise renovations on her aunt’s B&B if she’s to inherit the money to open her own tattoo parlor in Toronto. What a surprise that the contractor in charge of the renos is LJ Jacoby, high school geek transformed into the town’s hottest bachelor. LJ’s about to teach Charlie that sometimes you have to confront your past to find your future—and that Christmas really can be the most romantic time of the year.

In Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert had some hard truths to face and lessons to learn. So does Charlie Coltrane in “Tattoos and Mistletoe.” But that’s the thing about finding yourself: rarely does it come easily. But life is, or should be, about growth. We can all be better people and live fuller lives if we confront our own demons. And as the old expression says, “no pain, no gain.”

Books and movies can inspire us to find the courage to begin our own personal journeys. How many women have found strength to make hard decisions of their own after reading or seeing Eat, Pray, Love? Lots, I bet. And I hope some will after reading “Tattoos and Mistletoe” as well. Not, of course, that everyone has to get all angsty because, after all, Eat, Pray, Love and “Tattoos and Mistletoe” are first and foremost about entertainment. But it’s always very cool, as an author, to know that your story and characters have truly resonated with a reader and perhaps helped them in their own lives.

Today, I’d like to know your “finding yourself” stories. Do you have personal examples, or favorite books or movies on this theme that really touched your heart? Or is there another theme in romance novels and movies that really, really gets to you?


Emily popping in here: Be sure to leave a comment because Susan is giving away an autographed copy of The Naughty List to one lucky commenter!

The Naughty List (containing Susan’s “Tattoos and Mistletoe” plus novellas by Donna Kauffman and Cynthia Eden) releases tomorrow, September 28. Here are some purchase links:
Amazon
Borders
Barnes and Noble
BooksAMillion

33 comments:

Booklover1335 said...

Hey Susan & Emily!

I've not seen Eat, Pray, Love or read the book. But I love the idea of taking a year off to travel and discover things about yourself :)

My finding myself story was when I studied abroad in Rome during college. Being in a foreign country, seeing how Europeans live and their priorities in life (which is very different than Americans) changed what I consider important in measuring my own success, it made me more of who I was at the core.

Thanks for sharing your story and can't wait for the Naughty List. Brava's holiday anthologies are something that I look forward to every year :)

EmilyBryan said...

Booklover--I think travel does open our eyes to new ways of thinking about life and about ourselves. It forces us out of our comfort zone and makes us take hard looks at what's important. My kids were really impacted by a trip to a developing country and came back so thankful for their blessings. Of course, I also like to think getting them passports before they were 10 and taking them to Europe was an eye opener too. They never think of 100 years as a long time.

One of the reasons I'm sort of addicted to suitcase living...

Susan Lyons said...

Hi Booklover. Great story about Rome, and I think that's a wonderful way of putting it - that it made you more of who you were at the core. But I think, for that kind of thing to happen, a person has to be open to it. Some people can travel and not learn anything new - about the world or about themselves. In fact, some just make negative comparisons ("back home, our ways are so much superior") rather than opening their minds to the possibility that "different" provides a learning opportunity. Good for you, for making the most of that opportunity.

Susan Lyons said...

Good morning, Emily, and thanks again for inviting me to your blog.

It's wonderful that you took your kids traveling when they were so young. My parents did that with me too, except in our case it was Mexico, in a small camper. Driving from Victoria, BC, in the middle of winter. They'd take me out of school and I'd come back with a tan (honestly, I thought I had brown skin because I was tanned year-round!). It made me really aware that there was a whole big world outside my own little community.

Of course not everyone has the money or time for major travel, but even hopping a bus and going to a different town or neighborhood can be really enlightening.

Linda Henderson said...

I think when my children grew up and moved out it forced me to think about my life. I got married right out of high school and eventually had a family, so I'd always been around people. When the girls moved out, since I was divorced, I was alone for the first time. I found out that I was happy with my own company. I like people, but I don't need to go out all the time. I get out when I want, when I don't I'm content at home reading a good book.

Sandy said...

Hi Emily and Susan,

I found myself when I started writing.

Traveling has always been a part of my life, but I've settled down. Smile. Still love to travel.

EmilyBryan said...

Susan--The only reason we were able to travel so much was that my DH worked for an airline. We know lots about waiting in airports and getting bumped, but it was always an adventure. We also camped all over the West. Our first trip to Yellowstone as a family was awesome.

My oldest daughter has been to Nicaragua multiple times and always comes away refreshed by the lovely spirit of the people there.

EmilyBryan said...

Linda--When you're alone, you're in good company. That's valuable insight, my friend.

EmilyBryan said...

Sandy-- I agree. Writing is a process of self-discovery.

Susan Lyons said...

Linda, isn't it a wonderful thing to learn that you're happy with your own company? For people who had lots of siblings and friends, then got married early, you often don't find that out until later on in life. I'm an only child, so I had to learn to be alone right from the beginning. Except, you know, I rarely actually am alone because I've always been a reader. Once, I started working through Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way" and made it to the point where she said you couldn't read anything for a week. I lasted all of a day - and discovered I'm addicted to books. Don't need mags or newspapers, but totally need books! So, does that mean I'm happy with my own company or not? Something for me to ponder...

Susan Lyons said...

Sandy (and Emily), I had the same sense, that I really found myself when I started writing fiction. For me, it was a "aha, this is the kind of persons I was meant to be" revelation. And of course, as Emily says, each book brings more self-discovery because we always put something of ourselves - our issues, our beliefs - into them, and we learn along with our characters. (And of course, when you write, you can always travel in your mind!)

Susan Lyons said...

Emily, what a great opportunity, being with an airline guy. I bet your passports have loads of stamps! And camping is wonderful too, in a very different way. My dad was a naturalist, started up the Parks Branch in BC, and I spent a lot of my childhood outdoors. Now, it's still really important to me to be surrounded by trees - and yes, even in downtown Vancouver, there are tons of them. It's one of the things I love about the city.

Karen Woodward said...

Wonderful article! Susan I love your writing. Emily this is the first time I have visited your blog but it certainly won't be the last.

Now, don't laugh, but my finding myself story is about when I went tree planting up in the interior of British Columbia as a summer job when I was in University. The work was grueling, the hours were long and I was the only girl on my team of six. The experience helped teach me the value of hard work and I met many wonderful people that summer I never would have otherwise.

Susan Lyons said...

Karen, thank you so much! I love your tree planting story. Being a British Columbian, I knew all about those summer jobs but I had a bad neck and shoulders and was way too wimpy (though probably it wouldn't have killed me, it would have made me strong, right?). My summer jobs tended to be in offices and what I learned was that I don't like offices. LOL. Your summer adventure sounds amazing in so many ways (including all those tanned, fit guys). A great premise for a romance novel. And now I'm wondering if you had a real-life romance out there in the wilderness...

Jacqui Nelson said...

Hi Susan,
My "finding myself" story is an ongoing one. Not there yet! I was extremely blessed to grow up in one idyllic spot for the first 18 years of my life. Since then nothing seems to live up to that experience and I often feel like I'm in limbo.

And I have discovered that the themes for my first two manuscripts reflect that. My stories are about heroines trying to find a place where they feel they belong, a place they can call home.

Looking forward to reading Tattoos and Mistletoe!
Jacqui

Susan Lyons said...

Hi Jacqui. Your story is an interesting twist. We usually feel sorry for people who have a terrible time growing up - without realizing that if everything's too perfect, it can be hard for the rest of life to measure up. It's great to tap into your feelings and bring them into your stories.

My own themes are always some variation on "finding yourself" - which I guess tells me I'm a work-in-progress myself. LOL.

Rachel said...

I've noticed that the stories I write reflect the same theme in different ways – just as you mention, Susan.

Always, the character's looking for the right job or the right guy or the right strategy so she can live *her* best life – not someone else's version of what her life should be.

Still working on it for myself, too, although thank goodness I found the right guy!

Susan Lyons said...

Hi Rachel, and thanks for dropping by. That's a great theme, finding your own best life, not the life someone else thinks you should have. It can be so hard to figure that stuff out, when we're being influenced from so many sides: parents, other relatives, friends, spouses, bosses, colleagues, the media... Seems to me that's what Elizabeth Gilbert was doing on her Eat Pray Love journey - separating herself from the people who had been influencing her, and carefully choosing people and places that had messages that would resonate with her. Without the people in that story (Richard from Texas, Ketut Liyer and Wayann, Felipe, etc.), her emotional journey would have been a very different one.

Ramona J. Bucknell said...

I was very moved by reading the previous blog comments because I agree with Susan that you can have tremendous experiences but gain little if you don't choose to reflect on them and then move forward. Bravo for your courage!

There are a number of times when I've "molted" and the transformation occurrences with the most impact have all placed me in new physical and/or social environments and then challenged my sense of self. The first big one was a motorcycle trip across Canada and the U.S. with my parents and sister the summer I turned 16. I fell asleep on a beach in California with my head to one side. Half of my face got terribly burnt and when it peeled I looked like a parody of Phantom of the Opera. I started the new school year having to use my personality and get over looking good. It resulted in developing and retaining friends who had depth and applied self-determination to their dreams.

The second big epiphany was a month-long solo I did in the lake country in northern Ontario. I was trying to decide if I was capable of salvaging my first marriage. In the process I learned that I was a survivor with skills and that the earth brings healing. It gave me the confidence to make healthy choices.

The most recent review of who I am came from living in France for a year and a half. Developing a community in a foreign country and language was very affirming, and when we returned to Canada I was able to see everything with fresh eyes. The enduring consequences are that I am more open-minded, reflective and grateful (and I have friends in 32 countries!). I'm hoping the experience will have long-lasting positive results for my six year old son. And I'm intrigued to see how it impacts my writing. Glad to see other people writing about such rich pivotal moments. It's inspiring.

Susan Lyons said...

Ramona, thanks for sharing those wonderful learning experiences. Your story about the sunburn is evidence of something else I firmly believe. Even things that seem terrible at the time can have a silver lining, if you look really hard for it - or even create it yourself. It's like the world view of "glass half full" rather than "glass half empty" - you stay alert to opportunities, and try to be positive.

I know spending time in Mexico when I was a kid had a permanent, good effect on me. I'm sure France will prove the same for your son.

And it'll be very interesting to discover how your last year and a half's experience weaves its way into your writing. Enjoy the process!

Laurel Ennis said...

I enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love, the movie. Thus far I've enjoyed the Eat portion of the book but am kind of stuck in Pray. As for Sue's story, I was surprised by a tattoo parlour aspiring heroine. That's different. The hero sounds wonderful. And I love a good renovation story, all that change, all those lessons.Can't wait to read it, Sue. Congrats.

Chelsea B. said...

I've never really watched or read anything that was really 'finding yourself' but I've definitely read things that have touched me deeply :-)

Susan Lyons said...

Thanks, Laurel. As for Eat Pray Love, I'm with you on having got a bit bogged with the Pray section, but I've heard others say they love it. I guess for me, I'd just rather eat or love. LOL.

And as for my tattoo artist heroine - yes, she's a bit unusual. Graffiti artist turned businesswoman - but still with a distinctive edge. I had a lot of fun writing her. She's got such a tough girl attitude, but underneath it is a totally mushy heart that doesn't want to be rejected and hurt again.

Susan Lyons said...

Chelsea, I love the stories that really touch my heart, whatever the theme. Those are the ones that stick with me. And that's the kind of story I always try to write.

Katharine Ashe said...

Hi, Susan and Emily! Susan, "Tattoos and Mistletoe" sounds wonderful. :)

It didn't take too many novels under my belt to realize I kept putting my characters in disguises and making them work to get out of them to find the real person who'd been underneath all along. It's my own story, of course. I chose a career I admired, and I succeeded at it. But it didn't satisfy my soul. It took me years to work my way out of that masquerade. Happily, my heroes and heroines do the same! ;)

Jane said...

Congrats on the new release, Susan. I haven't read or seen "Eat, Pray, Love." I quit a job I've had since graduating college because I was unhappy. I didn't have another job lined up so it was a little scary. I've worked at a few places since then, but I guess I'm still trying to figure out what I really want to do.

Susan Lyons said...

Katharine and Jane, I read both your posts at the same time. Great resonance, about being in a job that just isn't the right fit for you (or being in anything else in life - like a relationship or a place - that isn't "you"). It's so liberating and so scary when you finally shed it and have to figure out who you really are and what you want.

Congratulations to both of you for taking that step.

EmilyBryan said...

Great insights all around,ladies. We all hit crossroads in our lives where the choice we make impacts every choice thereafter--which people we choose to have close to us, which profession we pursue, to marry or not, having children . . . These are the milemarkers that shape us. We get so caught up in day to day, we sometimes lose sight of where that life is taking us. I think Susan's idea that we can come apart from our life a bit to give it some serious introspection is a wise one.

Ashlyn Chase said...

I went through my introspection phase early. I did a lot of journaling then. Ironically, I knew I was finally 'found' when I could stop writing about the little discoveries I was making each day--yet I missed that.

My theme is about characters who reinvent themselves. Only it's usually due to outer conflict more than pure inner conflict. But I like themes that involve growth, however it comes about.

Susan Lyons said...

Emily, I think it's really difficult to "re-envision" our lives when we're in the middle of them. Life seems so fast-paced these days, with so many things to do, so many inputs, we're all running around like crazy. But it's so important to occasionally, somehow, step back, step away from all the "trees" of daily life and envision the "forest" - the grand scale, the balance, where we want our lives to be heading, whether we're living according to our values and working toward our dreams.

Susan Lyons said...

Ashlyn, that's so interesting about journaling. I can definitely see it as a way to help a person figure themselves out. It's a time when you reflect on what's going on in your life rather than just fling yourself into activity. And hey, if you miss it, you can always keep doing it, right? You never know what fresh insights await you.

As for your reinvention theme - well, I think it's often outer conflict that does trigger change in our lives, and that changes is often not just external (e.g., losing a mate or a job, having to move) but internal too because the external stuff brings up issues and fears, it challenges our internal resources. It's a great theme!

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