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.