It’s release day for Loveswept debut author Lauren Layne’s fabulous After the Kiss (which I got to read in advance, nyah-nyah), and I managed to buttonhole Lauren long enough to get the inside scoop on the novel.
After the Kiss made me laugh out loud several times. You think it’s going to be all fluffy fun and then it keeps tricking you with these hilarious and intelligent close observations that you don’t quite expect.
Here we go!
The hero of After the Kiss is a stockbroker, and when our heroine first sees him from across the room, she thinks he’s the dullest of the dull. Why do you hate stockbrokers?
Just kidding. No, no, that’s not really the question.
One of the things that’s interesting about this hero, though, is that he’s what I think of as a “serial monogamist” — not a hero type we often see in romance. His friend thinks he’s literally unable to date a woman a few times and then break things off amicably. What made you want to write a hero like this?
Lauren: Honestly? All I knew about Mitchell at first was that he frequently sported a dead-sexy pinstripe suit. Why pinstripes? I don’t know. Are those sexy on principle? I’m not really sure. But let me tell you . . . they’re sexy on Mitchell.
(Ruthie interrupts: Having myself written a sexy pinstripe-wearing banker named Neville *cough About Last Night cough*, I can testify that yes, they are sexy on principle. Or pinstriple? And also probably we are soul sisters.)
And why Wall Street? No noble reason, really. It sort of came down to the fact that there is this whole flock of really good looking men wearing great suits down in the Financial District of NYC. And they don’t get nearly enough time to shine in a contemporary-romance world dominated by CEOs and entrepreneurs.
But back to Mitchell and his pin-stripes and occasional glasses (swoon)
(Ruthie interrupts again: SWOON!)
. . . I knew I wanted a hero that was very “buttoned-up.” Someone who Julie (my heroine) couldn’t rattle with her saucy come-hithers and hair flicks. And while there are plenty of stoic businessmen that might fit that mold in contemporary romance, I wanted to try something a little different:
See, generally in romance we get the classic alpha who’s a loner, a womanizer and a broken soul. Or, we get the beta guy–the reliable, there-for-you, family man. I wanted to combine the two. So I created a taciturn alpha who was a little more, shall we say…adjusted than some of those damaged alphas out there. Mitchell eats healthfully, works out, treats women with respect, and ultimately just wants someone to love him back, even if he doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve. To me, that is sexy.
Ruthie: It is! Mitchell is so sexy. And highly marriageable. Which is good for the HEA, because honestly sometimes these heros are hot in the abstract but then you imagine cohabiting with them and kind of lose your lady-boner.
Anyway. The Stiletto books are very New York — a setting we don’t see all that much in contemporary romance these days. What’s your relationship with New York City, and how did you want to portray the city in your Stiletto novels?
Lauren: *Dabs eyes and honks indelicately into a tissue* You went right for my jugular with that question, and you didn’t even know it. See, NYC and I have come through a very recent breakup, and I wasn’t the dumper, if you know what I’m saying. I lived there for two years, right up until about a month ago, and leaving was hard. Really hard.
As to why I set my Stiletto series there? The obvious answer is that I was living there. It was my backyard. I wanted to write about the well-heeled men and women I saw strolling up Fifth Avenue, or going to their after-work happy hours, or taking a jog in Central Park.
You know in those sassy New York romantic comedy movies where the men and women are fit, stylish, and maybe, um, slightly better looking than the rest of us? I feel like those characters are too often dismissed as figments of Hollywood’s imagination. But those people really do exist! I’ve seen them! Talked to them! This elusive, Manhattan-dwelling breed captivated me, and I wanted to tell their story and explore what the dating world might be like for them.
Ruthie: You know, I think this is one of the things you achieve in the book that I had trouble putting my finger on, because these New York rom com (or chick lit) characters are so often caricatures of people that it’s what I’ve come to expect in fiction about them — particularly fiction with humor. But After the Kiss presents these New York people as fully rounded and real. It takes them seriously, as it should. Well done, you.
Okay, so. After the Kiss is your Loveswept debut, and your first novel? Or one of your first? Tell us what got you started writing romance and what you love about this book.
Lauren: Well do I have to count all the crappy half-novels I wrote back when I was learning this tricky craft? Let’s not.
Falling into romance writing wasn’t much of a fall for me. As a kid, I always fancied myself a “writer,” and after I discovered romance novels around age sixteen, there was really no other kind of book that I could imagine writing. Granted, it took me awhile to actually try it. I had to get a Political Science degree and an e-commerce career under my belt before I worked up the guts. My only regret is not doing it sooner. I once thought there’d be no feeling in the world like typing “The End” on my first finished manuscript, but so far I’ve found that that euphoria doesn’t fade with the second book, or the fourth, or the seventh. There’s just nothing like the joy I get from writing a book.
As for what I love about this After the Kiss specifically: Mitchell. In case you couldn’t tell from the rhapsody above, I love this hero. There’s just something so compelling about a man who has so much love to give, but doesn’t know how to go about it. And I love the banter in this book. These characters were kind enough to be witty in my head, and there’s a specific scene in Central Park where Mitchell’s trying to coax Julie to go on a jog that makes me laugh every time I reread it.
Ruthie: Cosign on your love of Mitchell. In a big way. And the banter! I love the humor in this book.
All right, so to wrap this up — what’s coming next from you?
Lauren: Oooh, lots! Next up is my New Adult novel, Isn’t She Lovely? which will be out on October 28th. It’s a college-aged take on Pygmalion/Pretty Woman themes, and is really fun, if I do say so myself.
Then it’s Love the One You’re With, which is book 2 in the Stiletto series out on December 9th. It features a Hugh Jackman lookalike for a hero, so I figure that baby just about better sell itself, right?
Early 2014, I’ll have the third book in the Stiletto series which I just typed “The End” on yesterday, and then my other series from Grand Central, which I can’t talk much about yet, but let’s just say the first hero is very much a modern Mr. Darcy . . .
Ruthie: This all sounds awesome. Particularly the Hugh Jackman bit. I will hope for adamantium claws, because that’s where my Hugh Jackman button is located.
Thanks so much for chatting with me, Lauren! Readers, if you want to get to know Lauren’s Mitchell and Julie, leave a comment. Comments will stay open until midnight CT on Tuesday, August 28, and I’ll randomly select two winners to get ebook copies of After the Kiss on Wednesday!