Tell us about your journey to being published with Forever Romance.
LR: Last June, my agent and I brainstormed projects. I made an off-the-cuff reference about how my exchange semester to Australia changed my life (and yielded me a husband). I was surprised there weren’t many study abroad stories in New Adult. She went quiet for a second and said, “Go play with that idea.” I got to work, sent her three chapters and a synopsis. Here’s a rough transcript of our next conversation.
Agent: Lia, I couldn’t sleep last night because of this book.
Me: Woo hoo! Wait, did it give you nightmares?
Agent: No, no. I loved it! But I don’t know what to do with you.
Me: I don’t know what to do with me either.
I kept writing the book while she shopped the proposal. I’ve never been published. I ranked my chances of selling between slim to none. Still, I had a blast. Some days I’d think everything on the page was knee-slapping hilarious. Other days a crazy-eyed drunken monkey clearly took over my brain. I wrote “the end” while visiting family in Michigan. The next day my agent rang and said Lauren Plude, editor at Grand Central, read the first chapters and wanted to acquire three books for their Forever line. I jumped in the lake with all my clothes on.
Why did you choose Australia as the setting for UPSIDE DOWN?
LR: Well, I really wanted to write a study abroad book and knew Australia is a country of extremes. When it’s hot, it’s bloody hot. When animals are poisonous, it means they can kill you with one bite. When there’s a storm rolling in from the Southern Ocean? Those waves are going to be huge. When you fall in love in such a place, buckle up–the ride’s going to be intense.
What do you love the most about writing your hero and heroine, Bran and Talia?
Oh man, these two, I adored every second (even the frustrating hurl-the-MacBook Air-across-the-room moments) with these two crazy kids. They are far from perfect, deflect like a boss, and have to do a lotof character growth to earn their HEA. I love them, despite (and honestly, probably because of) their failings, and cried over their journey/growth by the end of Inside Out (Book #3).
What are you working on now?
RH: I am working on a quirky “new West” adult contemporary and a companion novel New Adult in the Off the Map universe. I also have a very intense New Adult single title plot bunny chasing me with a pitchfork.
Excerpt from UPSIDE DOWN by Lia Riley
“A few meters more, you’re almost there.”
It’s like we’re at the end of some old-school adventure tale, one where the heroes are stoic even as the blizzard rages, avalanches fall, and death hovers like a benevolent ghost.
Well, Bran is the hero.
I’m like one of the minor sidekicks who goes down during some important turning point. My death might even inspire the hero on his journey or teach him a valuable lesson. But at this point in the flick, the minor sidekick should be well and truly dead. Not white-knuckling a column of dolerite rock, thighs gripping the stone like it’s the world’s best lover.
“That’s it, Talia,” Bran’s voice is encouraging. “You’re holding tight, that’s great. Now, I’m going to need you to release your left hand and reach up a few inches to grab the next hold.”
I grit my teeth. The way he talks, you’d think I’m scaling Everest. Or at least Kilimanjaro. Instead—
“’Scuse, us, we’ll be by in a tic. That’s the way, Andy, right around the lady.”
I’m the lady. Andy is a kid who doesn’t look a day over seven who scrambles past me in a flurry of Spider-Man shoes and gap-toothed smiles. His parents bring up the rear, smiling up at their wild monkey child with obvious pride.
And they aren’t the first group to pass me.
Five Swedish women, a couple, and a guy who looked to be in his mid-seventies have also shot past me during the course of the last quarter hour.
The top is so close I can taste it. Bran is being nothing but encouraging, but below me is a twenty-foot drop. Not enough to kill me, unless I fall with some sort of suicidal intent, but enough to make me feel incredibly uneasy about the boulder field.
Bran eases toward me. “Talia, take my hand.”
“Can’t let go.”
“No.” This is it; this is the reason. Bran isn’t going to admit it here, while I’m bordering on a panic attack on a trail being conquered by elementary school children and senior citizens, but there’s no doubt this is A REASON to lose interest in me. I’m giving him a big capital-lettered reason, but I can’t stop. I physically can’t let go.
“Talia. Take a deep breath.”
“Give me your hand, no bullshit. I want your fingers in mine. You’ll be safe. I’m going to keep you safe. I need you to trust me.”
Somehow I do it. I give him my fingers. He assists me up. We’re doing this together. My head clears the boulder and I can see the steel marker that identifies the summit ahead. Holy shit, he’s right. I’m going to reach the top.
A few more steps, easy now, and we’re there. The kid in the Spider-Man shoes munches a Vegemite sandwich. I want to scoop him up in a smooshy squeeze. Except his parents would likely object, so I switch gears to give Bran a long and passionate kiss.
“I knew you’d get here,” he says.
He turns me to see the view, his hands tight around my waist. “Your place is here, Captain, in the sun,” he whispers in my ear. “Don’t ever forget that.”
UPSIDE DOWN (Off the Map #1) by Lia Riley/Grand Central (Forever) August 5