|Nora Roberts - Continued|
…develop those characters, those relationships, over many books rather than tying it all up in one. I wanted to explore these people, and peel the layers off book by book. Eve and Roarke have given me the opportunity to explore a marriage as well. Each book resolved the particular crime or mystery that drives it, but the character development, the growth and the changes, the tone of the relationships go more slowly. I'm enjoying that tremendously.
Crescent Blues: The Eve Dallas series is set in 2058. What inspired you to start a "near-future" romantic suspense series?
Nora Roberts: I wanted to try something a little different, while continuing to write romantic suspense. I love writing romance, and suspense, but also wanted a twist. The near future setting provided this, and allowed me to more or less create a world. What would it be like in 2058? I could decide. And I could illustrate my own feeling that while the toys may change, people remain basically the same. They still love and hate and covet, they still have courage and cowardice. They're still human.
Nora Roberts: Absolutely. That's essential. There's a different tone, there are different reader expectations, a different pace, different style. I have to know which lane of the highway I'm going to drive on before I sit down to the keyboard. The idea has to fit the particular form.
Crescent Blues: What are the differences you find in writing so many different types of books? Do you prepare for them differently? Do they require a different level of research?
Nora Roberts: I don't prepare for the actual writing any differently. Work is work. The research depends on the subject matter, not the type of book. But I have to know if this is a hardcover romantic suspense and craft the idea in that way. If it's a trilogy, what is the common thread, what binds these people together?
Crescent Blues: Where do you start when you write a book or a story? For example, do you start at the beginning and write through? Do you prefer to toy with character or plot?
Nora Roberts: I start at page one chapter one and write straight through, generally a fairly quick and loose first draft. Then I go back and do another draft from the beginning, fixing where I went off, fleshing out the characters (as I'll know them better by this point), seeing if the story holds. It'll take at least one more draft for polishing, maybe two. But I don't edit my work as I go. I like getting the story down first.
Crescent Blues: When did you make the transition from typewriter to computer? What are the differences between the two methods of recording a story?
Nora Roberts: I shifted from typewriter to work processor in the early Eighties, then to computer in the late Eighties, early Nineties. The difference is about the same as washing a shirt by beating it on a rock in a fast stream or tossing it into a Maytag ™. Give me technology every time.
Crescent Blues: When did you discover the Internet? How active are you in on-line?
Nora Roberts: I got on the 'Net about six years ago, I think. What a world! I'm very active on line. It's a wonderful way to communicate -- with writer pals, with readers. And as a research tool, I've found it invaluable.
Crescent Blues: Would you ever consider electronic publishing? Have you ever downloaded and read any electronically published novels?
Crescent Blues: How important is research to you?
Nora Roberts: It's an essential part of the job. You have to know the setting, the canvas on which you're painting. You have to know what goes into the professions you're writing about. You have to know everything, so you find out. Invariably, you're going to make a mistake along the way -- but it's vital to be as accurate, and honest, as possible.
Crescent Blues: Was it always a key factor in your books?
Nora Roberts: I've learned how to research more accurately over the years. And with the 'Net, found a way to make it easier on myself.
Crescent Blues: How have the Internet and the Worldwide Web affected the way you research?
Nora Roberts: Streamlined it, beautifully.
Crescent Blues: Are your fans particular about accuracy?
Nora Roberts: They will always catch you. Once I had a character stop to pump gas in Oregon. Honestly, I never thought to check this one. I had no idea that pumping your own gas was illegal in Oregon. Readers who live there let me know.
Crescent Blues: How much influence do your fans have on your work?
Nora Roberts: You have to know that you will never please every reader with every book. I listen, certainly, but I can't always give a reader what he or she wants. It has to come from me first. Disappointing is reader is painful for a writer.
Crescent Blues: Do you feel empowered by fan loyalty or constrained by their expectations?
Nora Roberts: Their expectations are important to me. I wouldn't say I feel constrained by them, but more aware of them. I am a reader, and a very typical one, I think. So I write the story that pleases me first. As for the loyalty of the reader, I am tremendously grateful for it.
Nora Roberts: Certainly. I've been writing nearly 20 years. When I started the romance genre was geared more to the young, virginal heroine and older, fabulously wealthy hero. Silhouette's Americanization of that theme began changing the face of romance. I've always written strong, independent characters, but they've grown up considerably since the early days.
Crescent Blues: How do you keep strong female characters from coming across as "bitchy?"
Nora Roberts: I've never thought about this. And I find, reading the question, that I'm puzzled why the word "strong," when applied to a woman, should so easily be equated with "bitchy." You have a strong hero, you think of him as tough or heroic or, at worst, arrogant. Give a heroine the same traits and she might be considered bitchy. Nope, I don't think so.
Crescent Blues: In Brazen Virtue (1988) the lead female characters say they'd prefer a sock on the jaw to infidelity. Brianna in Born in Ice (1995) feels more pain from anger and harsh words than "a violent hand." Do you feel these sentiments reflect your readers' views or are they character specific?
Crescent Blues: Have you ever gotten any criticism from fans because of the views espoused by individual characters?
Nora Roberts: I'm sure I have. What that says to me is that the reader considered the character a person. That means I did my job.
Crescent Blues: How much influence do current models of political correctness have on your books?
Crescent Blues: Birth control is seldom mentioned in your novels. Is this a philosophical stance or a technical decision not to interrupt the flow of a good love scene?
Nora Roberts: I'm a writer telling a story, not a public service announcement. If using birth control ties in with character and story, I put it in. If it's just to show the reader that these characters are being responsible, then I haven't done my job to that point of the book by creating people who have already shown they are responsible people in a loving, monogamous relationship. Tearing open a foil pack at the proper moment doesn't illustrate this commitment or add dimension to character.
Crescent Blues: Do you feel novelists have a responsibility to instruct readers?
Nora Roberts: No, I feel we have a responsibility to entertain them. If there's something learned along the way, that's wonderful.
Nora Roberts: It probably helps that I have Irish roots. I'm pretty good with accents anyway, but one visit to Ireland -- or speaking with anyone from Ireland -- should give you the rhythm. It's something like music.
Crescent Blues: Anecdotes, stories and reminiscences are woven into the narrative of Born in Ice, giving the book a very Celtic feel and a very different quality from books set in the United States. How much…