Interview with Lisa Dale
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Sure! I’m a total book nerd—I’ll read anything. Actually, my college graduation t-shirt from our English Department said “Will Read For Food.” I thought it was a joke at the time! I live in “Mafia Country” New Jersey with my husband and our pet hedgehog, Cleopatra, who is painfully cute…which is to say…it’s painful to hold her if she’s in a funk, but she’s so cute it’s impossible to resist her. I’ll include a picture.
What do you do when you are not writing?
Reading. Or doing promotional stuff for the writing. Occasionally I have flickers of a social life. I like knitting, SyFy network shows, and good beers with friends, and I recently dusted off my guitar so that my brother and I can learn to play some songs for our friends and fam to sing when we’re having bonfires or camping.
How did you choose the genre you write in?
I think it chose me. ?
Are you a “plotter” or a “pantser”?
A little of both. I like to have a good skeleton plot in place, but then, I also need lots of elbow room for the story to grow into. My latest book, A PROMISE OF SAFEKEEPING, started with a rather simple idea: A woman who reads body language accidentally sent an innocent man to jail. There are three main characters: Our heroine (Lauren), ex-con (Arlen), and love interest (Arlen’s “keeper,” Will…who would HATE me calling him the love interest because that’s a little marginalizing). The more I wrote about them, the deeper and more complex the book became. It was amazing to watch the story unfold.
What project are you working on now?
Eek! You know those authors who can’t really talk about what they’re working on? I’m not always that way, but I am with my new project. It’s almost as if talking about this new project would be like loosening the cap of a soda bottle months before you’re ready to drink it. Don’t want it to go flat!
Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
I have to say, Will from A PROMISE OF SAFEKEEPING is one of my favorite characters ever. He’s an antiques dealer in Richmond, Virginia. He clawed his way out of poverty to make a good life for himself, and he loves antiques—things that are a little worn down, a little rough around the edges.
Will had a secret that came out about halfway through the book. It quite shocked me, and yet was so….right. Will’s secret has kept him from being in any kind of relationship. But Lauren...she’s tough as nails. And if anyone can handle his problem, she can.
What inspired you to write your first book?
My mom tells people I was born writing. So it was inevitable. But my books always come from the same place…whatever I happened to be fascinated with at the time. So my first novel, Simple Wishes, demonstrates a fascination with Korean culture and woodworking, among other things. My previous release, SLOW DANCING ON PRICE'S PIER—which, I should say, was a Top Pick at Barnes and Noble and Bookpage Magazine—was inspired by a fascination with coffee (the “story” of coffee is staggering). A PROMISE OF SAFEKEEPING was launched in part by my fascinating with body language reading, antiques, and the tragedy of wrongful incarceration.
What books have most influenced your life most?
Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, because it was one of the first book’s I read as a young adult that really spoke to me. I love Virginia Woolf, though it’s been years since I’ve read her now. Austen and the Bronte sisters books are high on the list.
What book are you reading now?
Usually I’m reading many books at once, in order to fully indulge. So… in the car I’m reading Richard Yates Revolutionary Road (which is making me want to drive into a tree). In the house, I’m reading Ellen Meister’s The Other Life, which I would very much recommend. I’m loving it so far. And for nonfiction, I’m reading a big fat out-of-print regional history book that about other three people have ever heard of, since I’m a history nerd.
What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
A PROMISE OF SAFEKEEPING was difficult to write on many levels. It required a ton of research. Some of the research was a joy (who knew that the direction you cross your legs indicates your level of comfort!). Some was tedious…I will not do another book that has courtroom imbroglios in it. It looks fun in the book, but the research to get one small legality correct was hideous.
The characters are fascinating and gave me no trouble. But I had to write the book quickly…in about seven months. And that was really tough, psychologically. When I came out the other side, I was actually kinda depressed for a little while there. Postpartum book delivery depression. But the response to the book has been fantastic, so it was totally worth it.
Do you ever experience writer's block?
If you’d asked me this question six months ago, I would have said no. But then I had a rather turbulent December. When you sit down to work on a novel, you have to let the fictional world replace the real one. So that fictional world has to be more important, in a way, than the real one. And when you’ve got “stuff” going on in your life (here, “stuff” is a euphemism for another word that starts with “S”), it can be hard to allow the fictional to usurp the real. But lucky for us all, December (and the holidays) ends. Hard times pass. Then it’s back in the saddle. And when you do get back into the fictional world, oh man does it feel awesome.
Thanks so much for this fun interview!