A guest interview: Unravel Me by Christie Ridgway

A little something new this morning:  a guest interview with a terrific author, Christie Ridgway.  If you’re a fan of Rachel Gibson, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, or Jennifer Crusie, you really must give her a try.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will confess that USA TODAY bestseller Christie is one of my best writing buddies.  We met on the long-defunct Genie RomEx (a service that actually did die with Y2K, remember that?) and have been friends ever since.  If you’ve ever been lucky enough to meet her in person, you know that she’s so charming and sparkling that you instantly forgive her for being not only beautiful but devilishly stylish.
The other thing you need to know is that Christie is one of the very best contemporary romance writers out there.  Her work is described as sparkling, delightful, charming, sexy and funny.   All true.
But don’t let those glittery adjectives fool you.  There is so much more.  Christie’s books have a lot of depth and maturity.  She writes about the consequences of our human frailties and wrong turns, the challenge of doing the right thing, the distance we will go to keep up appearances.  If I were to try to catpure the main question she is writing to answer, I would say it is, “What does it take to be a good person?”  Beneath the charm and sparkle that give her work such dazzle is a writer of tremendous intelligence and depth.   

I invited her here to talk about her life as a writer and her new book, UNRAVEL ME, a November release from Berkley Sensation.
First, tell us a little about the book, Unravel Me.
In the story, the heroine, a recent widow, receives startling personal news that shatters her shell of grief.  As Juliet looks on the world with new eyes, the first person she sees is the man–the younger man–who aided her husband in his last days and who has been by her side during the last sad year. Suddenly she realizes Noah Smith is handsome and sexy and looking back at her with something that might be desire…

It’s about a woman building a new life for herself and finding love at the same time.
It’s the second book in a trilogy.  Is that a problem, starting in the middle?
This book can definitely be read standalone.  I didn’t have any trouble “catching up” the reader because the heroine of this book meets the characters in the previous book for the first time here.  She wasn’t around for any of the “action” of the first book in the trilogy, so when she’s told about the preceding months the reader learns what they need to know as well.
What are the other two books and when will #3 be released?

The first book is How to Knit a Wild Bikini.  The third book comes out next June and is titled Dirty Sexy Knitting.  Aren’t those titles great?   I can only claim credit for the first one.  The other two were the brain children of my agent, smart woman.
A book of yours is going to be excerpted in Cosmo in December.  That must be a big thrill.  Which book is it?
A definite thrill!  The book they selected is MUST LOVE MISTLETOE, which came out a couple of Christmases ago.  And it’s my second time in Cosmo.  Funnily enough, the other time was for a New Year’s book I wrote, NOT ANOTHER NEW YEAR’S which is a companion to the Christmas book.  
 What are the five best things about being a writer?  
1.      Flexible hours.
2.      Being able to use my creativity.
3.      Telling people I’m doing what I always dreamed of doing.
4.      Doing what I’ve always dreamed of doing!
5.      Being able to read and call it “research.”
We all know that people dismiss romances as fluffy and silly (even though we know better!)  You’re so smart you could have written anything—why choose romance? 
I love reading romances, so I wanted to write them.  I read a lot of other kinds of books, mystery being a close second for me, but I just never had the itch to write a puzzle.  I want to write about relationships and about how men and women fall in love and commit themselves to each other. 
Talk about the appeal of romances in such a challenging world.
The appeal of romance in such a challenging world is that it promises partnership.  We can face so much more when we have a partner (or a team, when you think of family and friends too).  And also, it’s everyday magic, right?  Love and commitment happen around us every day, no matter what the headlines are or what the balance is in the bank.  It doesn’t take money or special talents to feel that spark of attraction that can flare to something stronger and then brighten whole lives! 
Tell us a little about your process.  Do you start with an idea? A character? What is the easiest part of writing for you? What’s the hardest?
I often start with place.  Most of my stories are set in California and I’ll research a particular locale and discover the kinds of people that might live and work there.  Sometimes I start with an idea, too.  I wanted to incorporate knitting in some books and then I thought of a place that might be fun to set my little yarn shop…  I chose Malibu and the stories built from there.
The easiest part of writing for me is “story dreaming” when all possibilities are still there and you’re just playing with what you might lock on for the next book.
The hardest:  I am an anxious plotter.  I don’t think I’m good at it, so I spend lots of time outlining before I begin.  
Do you eat while you work, or are you in the ice water only crowd?
Oh, my gosh!  People eat while they work?  Don’t even tell me that.  I have a good friend who eats candy while she reads and now that I know that I SO have to put it out of my mind or else I crave chocolate as I’m turning pages.
What is the silliest ritual you have connected to writing?
Oh, you’re setting me up, aren’t you?  You know my silly ritual.  Here it is:  Because I have that plotting problem mentioned above, I make a one-page outline on a single sheet of paper.  I make a box for each scene, two-three scenes to a chapter, and then I use a very sharp #2 pencil and write out my scene ideas in the boxes in teeny tiny writing.

I’ve tried bigger pieces of paper, but it just doesn’t feel right to me.  And the upside is, it’s very transportable!
With my voice students, we often write lists of our top 25 favorite things (not including family members).  What are five of yours?  
Reading, particularly a romance novel.
Shopping with my mom.
Shopping with my niece (I only have boys).
Talking writing and stories with my writer friends.
Taking long walks on the weekend with my husband.

Thanks, Christie for being here to talk to us! Does anyone have a question for Christie? A comment?  Help me to make her feel welcome.   

14 thoughts on “A guest interview: Unravel Me by Christie Ridgway

  1. Hi Christie, thanks for the interview, I really enjoyed reading it, particularly your comment about love/romance being an ‘everyday magic.’ 🙂 And I totally agree with your five best things about being a writer.

    When did you know, in your heart of hearts, that you wanted to be a writer and how long did it take you to sell your first book once you knew what you wanted?

  2. Yvonne Erwin

    Hi Christie and welcome! I too really enjoyed this interview – so bright and refreshing! Thank you.

    My questions are the same as Yvonne’s, and adding another – how did you secure an agent?

    Thank you!

  3. Barbara

    How cool is it that Christie has a friend who is a current governor?

    I worried last night that I had sounded as if I were condescending about romances with that question, but it was meant to hit that prejudice!

  4. Wait, there are two Yvonnes? How cool is that!

    YvonneL: I was telling people in high school I wanted to be a writer (well, I was, since I was on the school newspsper and also wrote a column for the local town paper), but I was writing love stories and sharing them with a friend in 5th grade. I wrote a story when I was 9 that my mom then typed for me and I thought of it as “published.” So, for a long time that wish was in my heart.

    I started writing romance after my first son was born, thanks to a friend who prompted me to “do what I always said I wanted to do.” (That friend, BTW, is the current governor of Michigan!) From the day she prompted me to when I sold my first book was about 3 years. I had another baby in that time and worked part-time, so I pursued the dream in my very few spare hours.

  5. YvonneE: I met my first agent at an appointment at an RWA conference. I was yet unpublished, though I had something in submission to Silhouette. A couple of months later, I sold that book. My current agent I contacted via e-mail and then was able to meet in person in NYC. That really helped, to know that we could make a personal connection.

    Thanks so much for the welcome, and thanks, Barbara for the opportunity to visit here!

  6. Melissa Compton

    Hi Christie! So fun reading your interview with Barbara!

    As a fellow knitter, I love that you’ve incorporated knitting into your books! Like writing, it’s easy to get ‘stuck’ on a project and can require a lot of unraveling before continuing.

    What do you do when you get ‘stuck’ on a piece of writing?

  7. Melissa: Barbara will tell you what I do when I get stuck on a piece of writing…I call her! That works really well, talking to a writer buddy to loosen the knots. Getting away from the computer works too. Going for a walk, doing the carpool, grocery shopping.

    When I get stuck on a knitting project I go to my buddy Jane who owns the little yarn shop in my town. Not only is she generous with her expertise and time, she also is the source for the name of the knitting shop in my trilogy. It’s called Malibu & Ewe in my books and is a riff off Jane’s shop named Two Sisters & Ewe!

  8. Barbara

    All this knitting talk makes me want to pull out the cashmere scarf I have been painstakingly knitting for my eldest for at least three years. I WILL finish it one of these days.

    I just read that knitting and other handwork can help with creative visualizations. Isn’t that cool?

  9. I used to knit or cross stitch before I sold my first book. Now, because I try to confine my writing time to during the day and family time to evenings, I don’t seem to let that side of my creativity have full rein anymore. I know part of my cross stitch problem stems from when I had my embroidery cotton boxes all neatly set up with my colours in numerical order etc and everything just so, and in a fit of madness let my daughters at the cottons when they were into doing hair wraps and pretty knotted bookmarks and bracelets and now I just don’t feel like the cottons are ‘mine’ anymore. Maybe I need to reclaim them again and finish that European castle I’ve near completed and start the dragon I always promised my hubby. Might gird my loins and venture into our walk in linen cupboard, which has anything but linen in it, and see if I can find my treasures again. 🙂 Might help dislodge the part of my brain that’s dragging the chain on a book I actually do want to write.

    I’ve never been an adventurous knitter but it was always so satisfying to do. Something to see and show for all the hard work. Hmmm, you’ve got me thinking now. Trouble is, where I live all the lovely specialty needlework/craft shops have all closed down and we have so much less variety in the only major chain store that still sells those supplies.

  10. Alice Burylo

    Thanks Christie – you just cleared up a little mystery for me. A while back, I read one of your books that you dedicated to Jennifer Granholm. I live in Michigan so I wondered if it was “our” Jennifer Granholm. I love it that she prompted to you to write – I find her inspiring too.

  11. I live in Michigan too and am a loyal Granholm supporter! I haven’t read your books yet, Christie, but they sound great. My son’s getting married in Malibu next summer (he lives in LA) and this morning I started dreaming up the second book of my first try at a series. Lots of things seem to be saying “Buy Christie’s book!” And I’m going to look for your story in Cosmo, too. I LOVE holiday themed stories. Do either of you have a holiday story in an anthology this year?

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