Lisa Y. Watson: A “Conventional” Path to Writing Romance
Writers find their stories and characters in different ways. Lisa Y. Watson’s path to becoming an author began with a 80s TV show and a whisper from the universe urging her to attend a romance convention. That’s where she dared to accept an offer to co-write a book. Sixteen years and fifteen books later, she’s a national bestselling author who challenges herself to deliver love and romantic suspense stories that keep readers awake in the middle of the night and the pages turning. Lisa joined Diverse Romance today to detail her writing journey and share the experiences and lessons from which she’s learned along the way.
The saying “Fortune favors the bold” seems to reflect your writing journey. Tell us how you became a published author.
How I got started was by writing fan fiction for the popular 80’s TV show, Remington Steele. I loved the show, stumbled across fan fiction sites and was hooked. I started writing short stories based on the characters and developed quite an International following. While online, I came across the Romance SlamJam convention back in 2002. It was in Raleigh/Durham for a weekend. I lived in Aurora, Illinois. It was spur of the moment, and I had small children, but something was pressing me to go. So, my mom came up to help my husband watch the kids and I hopped a plane.
As an aspiring writer, attending the writer’s convention was the proverbial kid-in-the-candy-store experience. Here were all these big-named authors there, like Beverly Jenkins, Brenda Jackson, Donna Hill, Gwynne Forster, and the late Leslie Esdaile Banks (LA Banks). It was truly a wonderful experience getting to me them in such an intimate setting. And to see so many beautifully talented authors of color. Truly inspiring. I also [met] two ladies there that are now like sisters to me. One of them, Christian Romance author, Pat Simmons cornered me on her way out of a pitch to an editor. She literally walked up to me and said, “Lisa, wanna write a book with me?” I said, “Uh, yeah.” And the rest was history. We wrote the anthology, Love is Blind, with Essence Bestselling Author, Parry “Ebony Satin” Brown-Abraham and the rest is history. So, my advice to aspiring authors is to surround yourself with like-minded people, and don’t be afraid to attend writer’s groups, and conventions. It could change YOUR life forever. You walk in alone, I guarantee you’ll come out with at least one new friend and maybe even a book deal!
That’s some great advice—and a challenge for us introverted writers. Shifting gears a bit, tell us what sparked the idea for your new romantic suspense series.
The Love and Danger series I’m working on centers around characters that either meet, or re-connect under very intense, dangerous, circumstances. For the first book in the series coming out this summer, Dangerous Desires, the main characters parted ways, but find themselves orbiting each other again when one finds themselves in a life-or-death situation. It’s an IR (Interracial Romance) centered a sexy, smart, and no-nonsense scientist, and woman of color, Dr. Marena Benson, and her ex-boyfriend, and love of her life, gritty, gorgeous, and incredibly flawed, Colonel Coulter “Colt” McKendrick.
Your book Interview with Danger looks like a page-turner. What’s it about?
My latest novel, Interview with Danger, is a Romantic Suspense that centers on newly published author, Sasha Lambert. She writes a book entitled, The Passport Diaries. The book is loosely based on unforgettable people, and exotic locales she’s visited during her romance with with her Greek boyfriend, Milo Georgopoulos. Though she breaks up with him when his web of lies surrounding his marital state starts to crumble, he wants her back. There’s just one catch. She needs to ditch her tell-all book. And he’s not the only one whose feathers have been ruffled by Sasha’s new book. Her twin sister’s brother-in-law, Pierce Deveraux is also suffering blowback from her intriguing novel. In fact, he loses a few sports endorsements when he’s mistaken for one of the characters in her page-turner. Livid, Pierce hops a plane to London to confront Sasha about the damage she’s done to his livelihood. Neither one is prepared for the series of events that happen after their heated meeting takes place.
Woo! This has got me reaching for my one-click. What five words would say best describe Interview with Danger.
Hmm…Romantic. Dangerous. Turbulent. Chemistry. Blindsided.
One click indeed! Would you say there’s a prevalent theme or message?
One of the most important messages in this novel is a theme that I carry through all my novels. Family is everything. At the end of the day, they have your back no matter what. When one is in peril, a strong family-unit circles the wagons and watches your back. And also that love isn’t perfect. It’s flawed, messy, and doesn’t always show up when it’s convenient, and on your time schedule. When you least expect it…expect it.
How about sharing a couple of your favorite lines from the book to give readers a flavor for the characters?
“I just don’t understand,” she choked out. “Who would do something like this?”
Pierce shrugged while watching events unfold around them. “Apparently, someone else you’ve pissed off.”
“You hang on his every word, you can’t even say his name without smiling, and he looks at you like he’s a man starving to death and you’re butt naked wearing nothing but a pork chop and a bow.
Ha! Great quotes. If your latest book had a soundtrack, what would be the first three songs?
You Don’t Own Me (Lesley Gore), Loved Me Back To Life (Sia, song by Celine Dion), Moments in Love (Art of Noise). The last two were on my “Writing” playlist and I played them constantly while writing a few scenes.
Writing isn’t an easy task and it certainly doesn’t happen by magic. It’s one task that often leaves writers asking other writers, “How do you do it?” Share with us a few details about your writing space and routine.
My writing space is anywhere I’m at with my laptop. I’ve recently moved, so I’ve lost my designated office, but normally I’m on a couch with my laptop and two lap dogs, Brinkley and Lily by my side. Lily’s a puppy and hasn’t grasped the concept of not walking on, or licking mommy’s laptop, so when she gets going, she gets put in her kennel so I can work. Brinkley knows the deal and is very accommodating. I work full-time, from home, and I’m usually writing for work all day, so I eke out time where I can in the evenings to work on my novels, and social media. I’ve got note pads everywhere, so if inspiration strikes, I’m covered.
When deep in the thick of writing, pushing through our routines, readers often keep writers going in tough times. What’s a favorite comment you’ve received from your readers?
My favorite is when a reader tells me that they lost sleep because of a book of mine they were reader. I was a reader before I was a writer. So I’ve been there. Delaying eating, bathroom breaks, work, etc. because I was so wrapped up in the novel I was reading that I didn’t want to put it down. That to me speaks volumes. It is what makes me want to continue to do what I do. To write novels and try to get them out there to the readers that may benefit in some way from what I have to say.
On the flip side of that, what would you say is your worst critique? How did you handle it?
I recall being down about a harsh review I’d received for Love Contract from The Match Broker Series (Harlequin Kimani). The main character, Milan Dixon, is mixed race, Black and Hispanic), so she’s bilingual. Much later she finds out that her counterpart, Adrian Anderson is fluent in Spanish. So, some of their dialogue in the book is in Spanish, but if one spoke in Spanish, the other answered in English so the reader could still follow the conversation. Most loved it, but one woman gave a scathing review and said if she’d have known Spanish would be in the book, she wouldn’t have bought it.
The review really got me down until one reader sagely pointed out that my stories will never be everyone’s cup of tea. The story will touch those that it’s meant to touch. After that, I stopped staying up at night agonizing over a bad review. Some people get so caught up in the anonymity of the Internet, and the seduction of being able to say whatever you want, to whomever you want, however you want to say it. Some lose sight of the fact that their words matter. I always choose my words carefully when doing something like leaving an opinion, a review on someone else’s work. Why? Because there is a real person on the other end receiving it. A living, breathing person that has feelings, and emotions. Writing a book, an opinion, a poem, letter, or whatever it is, is a very personal experience. You are giving something of yourself that’s coming from your very soul. It’s not something that is done lightly. And though we are in fact choosing to give ourselves over to public scrutiny, we are compelled to do so by Divine inspiration, by our Muse or whatever a person feels drives them to be creative. There is always more than one way to say something to get your point across. A way that can voice your displeasure, without coming at someone full-throttle with the maximum amount of venom. I always recall the sage advice my mother, and grandmother used to say, “If you don’t have anything nice to say…don’t say anything.”
What was the low point of your career?
Getting caught up worrying if I was good enough to continue writing. As far as how I handled it, I allowed myself the time to wallow (with ice cream), asked myself, who am I to sit on my spiritual gifts? And then got back to work.
With the lows, come highs. What has been the high point of your career, so far?
The high point has been the continued support from readers, and by going to writer’s conventions, being able to meet people that wouldn’t normally cross my path. I’m one of the publicists for the RT Booklovers Convention. I’ve attended over 12 of them over the years, and it’s allowed me the ability to meet phenomenal people. Readers, authors, movie stars, television and soap opera stars, people who I’d have never met had I never gone to that first writer’s convention and set myself on this path. There is not one day that goes by that I am not thankful for, and humbled by, my God-given talent to touch people with my words.
At Diverse Romance, we believe that lifting up one diverse author helps uplift us all. Give us the name of a diverse author you’ve read that you would highly recommend to readers
LaVerne Thompson. She’s a phenomenal author that writes in several genres and is fearless when it comes to writing stories that engage readers.
What’s your favorite piece of advice to writers?
My advice to fellow writers: Don’t get caught up writing what you think readers will want to read. Write the stories that are in your gut, begging to be set free. When your heart isn’t in it, that comes through in your writing as if you’d used yellow highlighter on it. A very wise woman once told me, write as if no one is watching.
What is something your readers don’t know about you that you wish they would?
That I LOVE connecting with readers at events, and on Social Media, so if you want to reach out, don’t be afraid to do so.
You’ve certainly had a full career. What’s next on your writing journey?
Alexa King: The Guardian. It will be book one in my new Lady Doyen series. A Romantic Suspense series [that] will tap into the strength, power and purpose that as women all of us share.
How can we find you online?
Connect with me on Social Media: Facebook (NCLisaWatson), Twitter(@LisaYWatson), Goodreads (LisaYWatson), Pinterest (LisaYWatson), Instagram (LisaYWatson), and www.lisawatson.com
Thank you for joining us today! Please check out Lisa’s latest releases in contemporary romance and seasonal fiction.