Now without further ado here's my interview with Lisa.
Lisa, first thank you so much for joining us in March for our month long featured read and discussion of your last novel The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship, I say last because you have one due out soon One Good Friend Deserves Another.
Thanks so much for inviting me here! I’m thrilled to be part of this forum, and I’m looking forward to some fabulous, nitty-gritty discussions.
Tell us a little about the new novel
Well, my next book, One Good Friend Deserves Another, is about love, marriage and, of course, friendship. It follows three women as they struggle to save a fourth—Dhara, an Indian-American cardiologist—from her sudden and shocking decision to submit at the age of thirty-seven to a traditional arranged marriage. It’s Dhara’s commitment to this path that troubles them most, because it calls into question all the friends’ former assumptions about romantic relationships, and shines a harsh light onto their own troubled situations. Forced to take a fresh look at the choices they’ve made, each woman must decide how much she’s willing to risk for happiness, for love, and—most importantly—for each other.
Now let’s talk about your history as an author, according to your website you have a wicked past, would you like to enlighten us about that.
Ah, yes, my “wicked past!” I actually started my career writing historical romances, sweeping, sensual stories mostly set in France and Ireland in the eighteenth century and published in the 1990s under the name Lisa Ann Verge. (Saucy details at www.lisavergehiggins.com)
But when my third child was born, I took a hiatus from writing. When the youngest went off to kindergarten, I took up my pen again . . . and decided pretty much right away to switch genres. I have three daughters, you see. It became increasingly difficult explaining to them and their Catholic school teachers what I was doing, scribbling in the attic all day.
Here’s my secret vice: I still adore big historical novels. When I’m reading for pleasure I’ll most often pick up a nice meaty tome like Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran, or Ghost Light by Joseph O’Connor.
Now on that same note tell us about the challenge of going from a Harlequin heart throb writer to mainstream fiction, what is different and what’s the same.
The main difference between the two genres is this: Romance is glorious escapism; romance is all about the happy ending. Mainstream women’s fiction is reality-based, gives the writer a breathtaking amount of freedom, and is most fundamentally about a woman’s emotional journey.
Strangely, I’ve never felt that it was much of a “switch” for me as a writer. When I wrote romance, I always felt that I was writing about a woman’s romantic journey that led, after much strife, to a satisfying ending. Now, writing women’s fiction, I feel I’m writing a different sort of emotional journey but it’s still about women, it’s still about transition, but it’s less singularly focused, more grittily real, and more all-encompassing of the many issues any woman will face.
I like to think I’ve grown as a writer; I guess it’s only natural that the issues I write about have matured, too.
The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship is very definitely a Women’s fiction and from the description of your upcoming novel it would fit in that category too, do you mind getting put on a genre shelf like that.
Genres are created for marketing purposes—they define books in a way that’s easiest for the readers who love them to find them. I think my latest books fit smack in the middle of the women’s fiction genre, so I’m happy to be so wisely placed.
What’s next for you
Like most authors, I’m very excited about the book I’m writing right now! It’s slated to be released next March as Friendship Makes The Heart Grow Fonder.
It’s about a widow whose husband left behind a “bucket list” as well as the financial means to fulfill it. For four years she has ignored it, too busy raising her only daughter to think about resurrecting old dreams. But when one neighbor starts acting wacky in her empty nest, and another receives a shocking medical diagnosis, the widow starts to wonder if that crazy list of adventures might just save them all.
Do you know how the novel ends before you start writing it.
I do! Or, at least, I think I do. I write a detailed outline before I start the first draft, so I don’t write myself into a tiny dark corner. But it’s during the first-draft process that all kinds of exciting new ideas emerge, and I will adjust the outline accordingly. I’m fifteen books along, now, and it’s still a wonderful, mysterious process every time.
Now I have to ask about a tidbit I saw on your website, it says that you were a PhD candidate in chemistry, now this we have to hear, tell us about what happened on the way to the lab.
Yes, I was a Ph.D candidate in organic chemistry at Stanford University, taking classes, teaching as a TA, and working in a laboratory for one of the professors. But after a year I began to doubt this was my path, so I took a leave of absence and got a job working as a chemist in a local environmental lab. I also began writing a novel, just for fun. Avon Books bought it and published it, and soon I had an agent and two more books in the pipeline.
For a number of years, I worked as a chemist and wrote novels at night, and always in the back of my mind dangled the possibility of returning to get my Ph.D. Three fantastic choices: A strange luxury. So I sought advice. A friend told me this story about Pavarotti, the opera singer: When Pavarotti graduated from college, he asked his father if he should teach or sing. His father said: Choose one, because you can’t sit in two chairs.
I followed my heart and chose the writer’s chair. I’ve never regretted it.
It’s one of the reasons why my books are all about taking risks.
For facebook friends of yours we know you often tell of life with teenage girls in the house so let’s expand on that just a bit and go one further and give us an average day in the life of Lisa Verge Higgins
I do live with three teenage daughters. Someday I’ll write a book about all the drama and upheaval . . . when they let me. In the meantime, my life is a sit-com, and I’m shamelessly mining it for my facebook friends in the snippets “Life With Three Teenage Daughters.” I invite you to laugh heartily at my expense at www.facebook.com/lisavergehiggins.
I’d wager that an average day in my life mirrors the average day in the lives of any woman: I get up, shuttle a car full of neighborhood teenagers to school (hopefully not in my pajamas), run errands, gulp coffee, and settle down to my computer. While I’m supposed to be writing I’m cackling over a video someone posted on my facebook wall, reading my email, paying bills, and thinking up new ways to avoid working (I call this “refilling the creative well.”) But when I finally start writing, I’m all in: I lift my head and suddenly it’s three in the afternoon and my kids are texting me wondering why I’ve forgotten about them again. I chauffeur them to their various activities then, after taking care of mail and phone calls, I make a fabulous dinner (McDonalds? Pizza? Only under deadline of course!) Finally, I collapse into the dining room table to share my day with my patient, fabulous hubby of twenty-three years.
What is your dream vacation
In my youth, I spent three months backpacking through Europe. I lived on a few dollars a day, slept in a series of frightful youth hostels, drank a lot of cheap wine, slept on a lot of trains, met amazing people, laid eyes on many of the world’s masterpieces of art and architecture, and roamed through breathtaking cities from Edinburgh to Rome.
My dream vacation is to be twenty-four years old and do it all over again. ;)