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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Swinging Through the Trees with Plot Monkey Julie Leto!

Hi everyone! Sorry for the delay today! I had some computer issues and when combined with my vertigo acting up, I had to shut down the computer and just go to bed.

Needless to say, the Moonlighters and I are so happy that Julie Leto is here to visit with us today, so let's get this party started!

Plot MonkeysThe Plot Monkey's blog is pretty cool. While it is for their writing, they blog about anything and everything that comes to mind, from goofy gadgets they find to things that will just amaze you. The four of them, Janelle Denison, Leslie Kelly, Julie Leto and Carly Phillips, are great friends, successful writers and have a very successful blog.

You can see from this photo that they enjoy their friendship! You can also get a feel as to how neat they must be. What makes these ladies great writers is that what you see in this photo is what you get with their writing!

Julie LetoWhat I do you see from Julie? Well, Julie's writing can be just as saucy as she appears in that photo. At first, I was going to just put up her bio here, but when I was reading it, a word came to my mind. Gumption. According to the first definition found at it means, "initiative; aggressiveness; resourcefulness". I'd have to say that sums up the personality I get from reading her bio. She had the initiative to send out that manuscript, aggressiveness because she never gave up and she is very resourceful in that each one of her stories seems so different from each other that it's like a game to see what she's going to write next!

Let the interview begin!

I like to write about the different genres that exist in romance novels and help to explain the differences and try to debunk a few misconceptions along the way. On one website, a reviewer had called the Blaze line the tamest erotica. I had asked this of another author, but I was still unclear, so I decided to ask Julie, since this line is her forte if she would agree with that classification?

Julie's response:
Erotica, in my mind, is not a romance. And Blaze is definitely romance! I see Blaze as really hot romance rather than tame erotica. The expectations are completely different and I think “tamest erotica” isn’t going to gain us any readers. Some of the Blazes do steer close into erotica territory, but they are, at their heart and soul, romances. I think that’s what makes them so fantastic. They’re contemporary and hot, but still fulfill the ultimate fantasy of one man/one woman/one great love.

Awesome explanation Julie and clears up some of the questions I had lingering!

Me: On your website, you say that you like pushing the envelope? Do you find that continues to be the case the more books you write?

Julie: I have found though that “pushing the envelope” has come to mean something different to me now than it was in the beginning. When I first started, I wanted to break boundaries and write “firsts” or bring something to the romance plate that hadn’t been done at Harlequin before. But even that gets old. Now, it’s about pushing myself as a writer and trying to never write the same storyline or character more than once. About trying to make a book hot and contemporary, but still swooningly romantic. That’s quite a challenge after you’ve written 35+ books.

Me: I recently began reading The Domino Effect. A couple of chapters into it, I realized that, while the writing was great, I just wasn’t into it because I felt somewhat over-saturated with that type of storyline due to all the TV I like watching and decided to set it aside to finish reading later. I do intend to read it later because the writing is excellent, I just wasn't in the mood (sorry, I'm a moody reader! Must be that gypsy blood I swear I've got flowing through my veins.) the day I started reading it.

I was wondering, as an author, do you ever find yourself saturated with a certain type of story and need to write a different genre altogether or add unique elements to your new stories?

Julie: I’m sorry that The Domino Effect didn’t hold your interest. I honestly think it’s one of my best books and found Domino to be a truly compelling character. I don’t have a problem with over saturation because if I can’t bring a new twist to something, I don’t write it. In the case of Domino, I wanted to write a character who really was as cold and hard as she was on the outside. The hero definitely wins her heart, but she is a killer and feels no remorse. I was tired of bad girls who weren’t really bad. That’s not the case with Domino. For me, she worked.

Me: I recently had the opportunity to read:

Double The PleasureStripped
Double the Pleasure and Stripped.

Both were great reads and very enjoyable and I definitely recommend these titles! I found them through my local federated library system.

I really liked how you used real things to help anchor the reader in Stripped (Charmed series). Do you find that using tangible things that a reader can relate to makes it easier to set the scene? Have you encountered difficulty in making a scene in one of your stories believable?

Julie: I always find myself venturing into new territory. I do this for myself. But at the heart of my books, there’s always a really sexy love story. That’s for my readers. I can’t forget what they expect from me. So that element stays the same whether I’m writing a contemporary romance or a paranormal. I’m glad you enjoyed these other books! Stripped (which won Best Blaze of 2007 from RT) is another personal favorite of mine, mostly because of Lilith. She reminded me of Domino, except that she was hot where Domino was the epitome of cool.

I’ve never really had a problem with making scenes believable because I have great critique partners and great editors. Usually I recognize when a scene isn’t working and I can fix the problem before it ruins the whole book. However, I did write a whole book once that when I got through, I knew didn’t work. The focus of the plot was wrong. I threw the whole thing out and started again. My editor didn’t think it was necessary, but I think she was more concerned with my deadline, LOL. The story was much better once I “recast” the plot. It wasn’t easy, but I was very pleased with the final product.

Me: I really liked the idea of having twins switch places. I’ve even worked on a storyline using twins and the idea seems to becoming more popular with the masses (General Hospital currently has a possible “twin” storyline running with the characters Emily and Rebecca).

Julie: I have no clue! I’m sure there are plenty of theories out there. I’ve only written twins that one time. As the aunt of twin girls, I can tell you that a lot of the myths are just that—myths. Sue and I tried not to include any of those in our books. Like that they have some sort of telekinetic power. I’m sure some do, but on the whole, it’s very rare. Our heroes only know what the other is thinking because they talk to each other!

Me: Were Zane and Grey Masterson (of Double the Pleasure and Double the Thrill) a joint creation effort between you and Susan Kearney or would you say that you created them and she took on where you left off?

Julie: Oh, we definitely created them together, but each character belonged to the author who wrote the story. Double the Pleasure and Double the Thrill were the first concurrent books ever written for Harlequin in any series. The books not only take place over the same timeline, but they have heroes who have switched places. The cover concept (two halves of one handsome man’s face) was our idea.

Me: This is a cool effect and, just for fun, let's see the look:

Double the ThrillDouble The Pleasure

Very cool ladies! I like it!!!!!

I haven’t had the chance to read Double the Thrill yet, but would you say that Zane turned out to be everything you’d hoped for him?

Julie: Zane really wasn’t my character, so I had no preconceived notions about him at all except what Sue decided about him during our extensive talks. Sue and I were critique partners and had worked together before (though not as closely,) and we each read over any scenes where our heroes appeared and made “corrections” as we saw fit. It worked best for us to each “control” our own hero, no matter which book he appeared in.

Me: How hard is it to watch people write about characters you’ve created?

Julie: That’s never really happened except once. I did a “round robin” story for eHarlequin where I wrote the first chapter and other people submitted possibilities for the next chapters. OH! I did NOT enjoy that experience. The editor who chose the winners clearly had a different vision for the story that I did. Many totally ignored the HUGE clues I put into the first chapter. One chapter didn’t even allow the heroine to speak! A few people sent me their entries on the side and they were much more in keeping with what I wanted to do than the “winners.” I knew I’d never do that again!

Me: I can see how that could happen, which is sad. As a reader of a "round robin" on another site, I'm not afraid to ask questions about what's going on or make comments that I thought a story would go one way or the other and point out why. Too bad someone wasn't doing that at eHarlequin!

How tempted are you to offer your input to make the character work the way you want it to?

Julie: I was very tempted to do so with the eHarlequin thing and I tried in subtle ways, but it wasn’t my place, so I had to let it go. With the Double series, it wasn’t an issue because we each retained “final say” about our characters. Sue and I have a very healthy working relationship and have no trouble voicing our opinions!

Me: In the acknowledgments to Phantom Pleasures, you mention that the storyline was conceived about 14 years before publication. What was your inspiration for the original storyline and characters of Thornbriar?

Julie: Honestly, I think it was a dream. It was so long ago. But at the time, I was teaching a lot of Gothic literature and I think I was highly influenced by that dark and dangerous vibe. I believe my dream was about a man trapped in a painting. I know it was in a castle. That’s all I recall!

Me: How did you feel when you saw a similar storyline in the WB’s Charmed (Season 2, Episode 3 – "The Painted World")?

Julie: To be honest, I never made the comparison until you asked the question! I did see that episode, but I came to Charmed in syndication after the series was canceled. And while I’m a huge fan now, I never would have compared my storyline with theirs. On the surface, they are similar in that a character is trapped in a painting, but otherwise, they are vastly different. It’s like comparing Star Wars to Grapes of Wrath because they both have farm boys as characters.

Me: Good point. Because I'm curious, I have to ask, would you say that The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde had something to do with inspiring the story?

Despite my extensive reading of the classics, I’ve never read Dorian Gray and really didn’t know the story beyond the fact that a man has a painting that grows old while he does not. (That’s the concept, right?) I only learned more when I saw The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which caused me to do some research. But again, I saw it on television. My book had long since been written by then.

Me: After reading through the blurbs on the back of both
Phantom Pleasures Phantom's Touch
Phantom Pleasures and Phantom’s Touch

it is evident that there is a possible connection between Damon and Aiden Forsyth. According to the blog Genre Go Round Reviews by Harriet Klausner, Damon (Phantom Pleasures), Aiden (Phantom’s Touch) and Rafe (Kiss of the Phantom) Forsyth are brothers and are cursed by the same gypsy, Rogan. In scanning the first book, there is another brother, Colin, mentioned.

For those readers not familiar with them, can you please tell us about the four Forsyth brothers’ family tree, the men themselves and a little bit about how they came to be cursed?

Julie: There are actually six Forsyth brothers in this order: Damon, Aiden, Colin, Paxton, Logan & Rafe. They also have a sister named Sarina. The first five brothers (Paxton and Logan are twins) have a different mother from Rafe & Sarina, whose mother was a Gypsy. Their father was the governor of a fictional Gypsy colony in Germany (created by the British king, George I, to rid London of the Romani). They were cursed when magic performed by a mysterious sorcerer named Lord Rogan went awry. They are trapped in objects associated with the Gypsy leader, who is the figurehead in a cult of followers called the K’vr. In each book, my heroine frees the hero from his object, then helps him go up against the K’vr in their quest for Rogan’s ultimate power.

Me: Did you have any specific men in mind when you created the Forsyth brothers? If so, who are they and how are they connected to you?

Julie: Nope! These men are all in my imagination. I did have pictures of actors to send to my editor after I’d written each the manuscript. I can’t remember who I had for Damon, but I remember I had Clive Owen for Aiden and Eduardo Verisetegui for Rafe. (I may have spelled that wrong!)

Kiss of the PhantomKiss of the Phantom is currently available in print and eBook format at Amazon and other places.

Me: Can you please give us a sneak peek into the story?

Julie: Here’s the back cover copy...I think it really sums it up!

New York Times bestselling author Julie Leto continues her scintillating series about brothers who were cursed by gypsies—and the modern women whose seductive touch is their destiny…

The youngest of all the Forsyth brothers, Rafe believed that the mysterious Lord Rogan would protect the Romani inhabitants of Valoren against the vicious mercenaries threatening them. Instead, Rogan’s dark magic trapped Rafe inside a stone, forcing him to watch his wife’s murder. Consumed by grief and guilt, Rafe doesn’t wish to be freed—he only wants to be left alone with his growing rage.

Three hundred years later, treasure hunter Mariah Hunter has traveled to a remote corner of Germany in search of a stone that could solve her financial troubles. But from the moment she touches the artifact, Mariah is haunted by erotic images of a man with eyes as dark as night—a man who appears out of nowhere just in time to save her from certain death.

As Mariah finds herself undeniably drawn to her dark savior, it might be Rafe who is the real danger to her heart…

Me: Will Colin and Sarina Forsyth have their own stories?

Julie: Right now, there is currently no plan for me to finish off the rest of the brothers and it all comes down to economics. I know some authors shy away from the subject, but the truth is, the series did not sell well enough for my publisher to invest in the second trilogy. Luckily, I saw this coming before I wrote Kiss of the Phantom and I was able to give the series some closure. Some questions do remain and I hope to answer them for my readers at some point, if only through some short stories I write for my website. I have not decided yet. But the plan was to write stories for Colin, Logan and Sarina. And Lord Rogan, as well. His story would have been with Sarina.

However, if people do read the first three, they will get a full cycle of a story. The villains are done for—questions are answered. Each book experience is heightened by the other, but I did not have my heroes/heroines come back in each book. I had one set of continuing characters, but they were secondary.

Me: Thanks again for swinging a vine on over here today! My fellow Moonlighters and I hope you have enjoyed your time here and would love to have you back anytime you feel like stopping by Julie!

Julie: Thanks for the interview, Carrie.

Me: I'm usually not much of a cover person, but I find I really like these covers and they definitely have some sizzle to them!

To learn more about Julie, visit her at
To check in with the Plot Monkeys, Swing Here

8 Moonbeams (comments):

Paula R said...

This was a great interview...I am sad to see that there won't be a story for Sarina and Colin, but we can't always get what we want...

Jules, I abso love this series...see you in the jungle...

Peace and love,
Paula R.

Kenzie Michaels said...

Wow...maybe I need to go back to reading Harlequin???

Great interview!

Carrie said...

Thanks Paula and Kenzie! I strive to make my interviews interesting and thanks to Julie for providing such great answers!


Cher Gorman said...

Great interview, Julie

Chin up! Better things are on the horizon.

See you back in the Jungle,


Sheila Deeth said...

Oh, gumption. That's a wonderful word. It's really been a while since I last heard it.

I love the "double" book covers. Neat.

Carrie said...

Thanks Cher and Sheila for stopping in and checking out the interview!


JulieLeto said...

Carrie, I didn't realize I could leave a comment...but I really, really enjoyed your interview. Thank you so much for thinking of me and for reading my books!!!

Margay Leah Justice said...

Julie, thank you so much for stopping by our little blog. I loved your interview and I love reading what you ladies come up with on the Plot Monkeys blog! And your Phantom books are on my Mount Vesuvius tbr pile (as in, it keeps threatening to erupt every time I add another book to it. Does that stop me? Um - no.)