Nadia Lee | NYT and USA Today Bestselling Author of Contemporary Romance » Interview by Heather a.k.a. BookObsessedGrl

Interview by Heather a.k.a. BookObsessedGrl

Originally posted on BookObsessed in December 2009.

A HAPPILY EVER AFTER OF HER OWN by Nadia LeeToday, I have Nadia Lee, author of the serialized paranormal romance/fairy tale, A Happily Ever After of Her Own and the contemporary romance novel Devil Falls, published under the pen-name Angelle Trieste. With each of my interviews I try to get to know the person behind the stories a little bit better, so some of my questions are a little bit unorthodox. Some of them you will see over and over again, mostly because I am interested in the different answers and I will ask everyone. While others are written especially for the person I am interviewing—I try to keep each interview a bit different from most others you may have seen around the web or even read here at Book Obsessed. I appreciate your willingness Nadia, to play along and give everyone a chance to get to know you as a person and author.

Welcome to Book Obsessed, Nadia!

BookObsessedGrl: What is your favorite color and what do you think it says about you or how does it represent you?

NL: I love bright blood red. Red is color of passion, so some think I like it because I write romance. Hero Material (my fiance) clued me in to the fact that I love eating red things, such as strawberries, cherries, raspberries, tomatoes, red-skinned western radishes, red apples, lobsters and crabs, etc. so he hypothesized that I like red because of my dietary preferences. ;-)

BookObsessedGrl: I know you play the violin, how long have you played and how did get started?

NL: I started playing when I was in the eighth grade. I was in a beginner’s orchestra in junior high school because I needed to do something fun, and my mom thought it would be good to learn a new instrument. (I already knew how to play the piano by then.)

BookObsessedGrl: What is your favorite type of music?

NL: Ohh…I love all kinds of music. Some people are horrified that my playlists include both Bach and Three 6 Mafia. But if I had to choose one, I’d say classical music. It doesn’t matter if it’s a solo piano or a string quartet or full orchestral or operatic piece. I just love it.

BookObsessedGrl: Many authors talk about the music they listen to while they write. Do you listen to music while you write?

NL: Sometimes, if I can find a composition / arrangement that I think suits the tone of the scene / chapter.

BookObsessedGrl: What did you start out listening to when you first started writing A Happily Ever After of Her Own, and how did it differ from what you listened to while writing Devil Falls (if at all)?

NL: A Happily Ever After of Her Own was written mostly in silence, although I listened to some popera and orchestral pieces. Devil Falls (which I wrote under another pen-name, Angelle Trieste) was written to all kinds of classical music, but I spent most of my writing time with Bach’s Air, Vivaldi’s Double Cello Concerto in Gm and Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. Devil Falls has a classical cellist as the protagonist, though, so it really helped put me into the right mood.

BookObsessedGrl: Did you create a playlist before hand or just pick what you felt like listening to at the time?

NL: For A Happily Ever After of Her Own, I just picked out what I felt like listening to at the time. It’s somewhat unusual for me because although there’s some spontaneity to creation, I usually know what kind of music is right for the scene I’m working on (if any). A Happily Ever After of Her Own was written in less than a month from the initial idea to the final draft, so there was no time to come up with a playlist. I just started writing. (I didn’t even outline, and I’m a plotter!)

BookObsessedGrl: Did your music choices evolve throughout the writing process?

NL: They did. I started out with “Di quella pira” from Verdi’s Il Trovatore (performed by Luciano Pavarotti). Not that the lyric makes any sense for the story, but I thought the melody and the overall performance fantastic for it. When Pavarotti was singing alone, I just imagined the Beast was accusing Melinda of kidnapping Beauty, and when the chorus kicked in, I pretended everyone was outraged. LOL. (I know, I know, it’s awful how I bastardize Verdi’s masterpiece like that!)

But later I ended up revising to Beethoven’s 7th Symphony.

BookObsessedGrl: Did the music you were listening to at any given time inspire or affect how certain scenes developed?

NL: Actually it has a huge impact on my mood and the tone I’m striving for. If I can’t find anything right, I prefer to write in silence than to listen to something that’s going to jerk me out of the story in my head. So when I have a piece of music that I think is perfect, I listen to it for the entire time I’m working on the scene. It takes me hours to finish a scene, so I listen to the same piece over and over again (I set it to a infinite loop on my PC) until I’m finished. I think I listened to nothing but “Di quella pira” for almost two days.

Yes, I have a high tolerance for repetition.

BookObsessedGrl: Can you tell us a few songs you listened to while writing A Happily Ever After of Her Own (HEA)? What type of scene does each of the songs correspond to?

NL: I already mentioned “Di quella pira” and the blasphemous interpretation of the aria that ran through my head. *very big grin*

I also listened to Beethoven Symphony #7, esp. the second movement, while writing the Tudor House scenes. I wanted to have a gloomy feel about the place, and the second movement (a.k.a. funeral march) is just perfect for it. Also when revising the final chapter I had to listen to Galop Infernal from Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld because it was just too good not to use. There’s this gleeful madness about the piece, and I thought it worked when everything just crashed down on everyone. (Or maybe I was just happy that the story came out very well!)

BookObsessedGrl: Did you discover any new music or bands/singers while writing or editing?

NL: Alas, no.

BookObsessedGrl: I have read that you didn’t always dream of becoming an author, but somehow fell into it. What do you think was the catalyst that made you begin putting pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard as the case may be?

NL: It’s a bit of an odd thing—how I got started writing that is. I think I told you via Twitter that I went to primary school in Asia. There teachers always taught to the top 5% of the class, meaning if you couldn’t keep up with the brightest and quickest kids, you were left behind. The attitude at the school was that if you weren’t smart enough or studious enough to master the material after each lesson, it wasn’t the teacher’s problem. So there I barely had time to breathe, much less daydream. I had to be super alert and pay attention to everything (not to mention the mountain of homework I had to do and extra classes / tutoring sessions I had to attend after school).

When I came to the States as a kid, I went through ESL in eighteen months and was put into an honors program. But compared to the amount of pressure and crazy pace in Asia, it wasn’t enough to keep me occupied, so I started to get bored, which led to the formation of my secret habit: writing little stories to amuse myself in classes that just didn’t challenge me enough.

College rid me of the habit because I actually had to pay attention, esp. in corporate finance and accounting. It wasn’t until my second year in consulting that I started writing little bits here and there to amuse myself again while spending over 10 hours a week flying back and forth between the east and west coasts.

BookObsessedGrl: Melinda Lightfoot, the Heroine of A Happily Ever After of Her Own, is a preschool teacher with a special gift. Can you tell us a bit about her & her gift?

NL: She’s a young woman in her twenties who loves fairy tales. When she reads one, she can enter the story and experience it. Fortunately, she can leave the story at will when she wants to go back to her real life…that is, until the Evil Witch messes up everything by kidnapping Beauty (from Beauty and the Beast).

BookObsessedGrl: Even her name Melinda Lightfoot is a fairy tale name, and I not only love it but I love her. Did she start as a fully developed character in your mind, with her name and personality right up front or did she tell you her name in time as her character developed?

NL: Thanks, Heather! She sprang from my head fully formed with her name, job, personality and everything else. I was going to name her Melinda Parthenogenesis, but…

BookObsessedGrl: What motivates Melinda the most?

NL: Doing the right thing. When she’s stuck in the fairy tale jail, she’s worried about her job and her students and all the other things that she’s responsible for. She feels incredibly guilty about falling for Beast because she feels that it’s wrong to steal another woman’s man, even though Melinda herself has been waiting for her own Mr. Right all these years.

When I was working on the story, I was glad that her motivation was that cut and dried. As I mentioned before she came to me fully formed, and it would’ve been a near-impossible chore to write a story about a woman who’s not interested in doing the right thing, even if it meant she wasn’t going to get what she wanted.

BookObsessedGrl: What are the similarities (if any) and differences between you and Melinda?

NL: Similarities? I can’t think of any. Oh wait, can I say we both try to do the right thing? *laugh* We both like fairy tales and love reading.

We’re of course very different at the same time. I’ve never had any desire to be a preschool teacher—mostly because I don’t think I’ll be very good at it and I’m not the most patient person, and you know young children require a lot of patience. Also I read the Wall Street Journal for fun, but I don’t see Melinda reading about treasury yields and so on for entertainment, do you? ;-)

BookObsessedGrl: What was your favorite Fairy Tale as a child & Why? If it has changed, what is your favorite Fairy Tale now and why?

NL: Oh, tough tough! But…if I must choose I have to say Cinderella. As a child, my favorite version of Cinderella was a Korean folktale called Kongji and Patzzi. It’s about a poor virtuous girl who’s abused by her evil step-mom and so on. What I liked about Kongji and Patzz was that not only was the good girl rewarded but the evil step-mom and -sister are punished by the good girl’s wealthy and powerful aristocrat husband. I’m a vengeful reader, I’m afraid. :)

BookObsessedGrl: If you could jump into any Fairy Tale which would you choose and why?

NL: Sleeping Beauty. I want to wake the princess up and tell her to pick her own man instead of waiting for someone to come kiss her! It’s one of my least favorite stories because the heroine really doesn’t do anything to deserve her happy ending. Other heroines such as Snow White and Cinderella and Little Mermaid all suffer horrible ordeals but remain positive and proactive to earn their happy ending. Sleeping Beauty does nothing except sleep and voila, she gets her man!

BookObsessedGrl: What inspired you to write this novella and to release it as part of your newsletter?

NL: I can’t say what inspired me to write the story really because I don’t know. It just came to me when I was soaking in hot water. It was the most incredible inspiration.

I decided to release it as a part of my newsletter because I wanted to start it with a bang. I’d always wanted to start a newsletter, but didn’t know how. Hero Material said why not give away A Happily Ever After of Her Own to subscribers as a thank-you gift. So I figured I’d go for it. :)

BookObsessedGrl: The worldbuilding is so strong in HEA that while reading it, I had a feeling like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. Did you experience anything similar as you wrote it or did you create that feeling on purpose?

NL: If you’re asking me if I’ve ever fallen into a fairy tale world, the answer is no. Just kidding. :) Everything in HEA is all just a figment of my imagination, including the fictional Virginia town and Tudor House. But I think it helped that I used to imagine what it would be like to be in fairy tales as the heroine.

For example, I used to daydream that I was Sleeping Beauty and I threw the spindle at the hag before she could enchant me by forcing me to prick my finger. (Think ninja stars except we have a spindle flying in the air.) In my version the spindle hits the hag, and I save the day. When all the princes hear about my uber-valor they come to court me, and I choose the most handsome and deserving prince of the lot.

BookObsessedGrl: What attracts you most to Paranormal Stories or Fairy Tales, as writer and as a reader? (I think HEA could be classified as both or either)

NL: I love the magical / paranormal elements because they were in so many stories I grew up on. I’m especially fond of romance and fairy tales because good guys win and bad guys lose. I don’t mind really messed up dark stories like Darkly Dreaming Dexter, but there are times I need the comfort of knowing that justice does triumph and good deeds are rewarded and people can find happiness.

BookObsessedGrl: Tell us about your writing practices or methods. I know you advocate writing for a set number of pages, words or time frame per day. Which do you do & why?

NL: It depends. I usually go for page and/or word count. It helps me focus on my production goals. Also if I do it for a month, it becomes a habit. It’s very valuable to learn to write consistently, esp. if you’re a new writer. And it’s critical to maintain the habit. I fell out of it this summer because I spent two months in America, and it took me months to get back in the groove. (Though Hero Material says it may be all the wedding planning, etc.)

BookObsessedGrl: What is your work-space like?

NL: Messy! With mountains of papers—notes and ideas and so on—esp. when I’m revising. I write at my desk or on the couch, depending on my mood, etc. I usually have two dictionaries plus a notebook near me when I write.

BookObsessedGrl: How old were you when you started reading?

NL: Uh…before preschool. I can’t really recall exactly how old though. I learned to read very fast, and I was a super fast reader even as a small kid. I could read faster than some of my teachers when I was in Asia.

BookObsessedGrl: What types of book did you read most in your youth/teen years?

NL: Mostly classics. Alexandre Dumas’s Three Musketeers, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Shakespeare, etc.

BookObsessedGrl: Will you be doing more stories in the Fairy Tale realm or creating a full length novel Fairy Tale of your own?

NL: Of course! I’m working on a full-length novel right now. It’s a bit Cinderella-esque with a missing shoe, mistaken identities, the CIA and Russian mafia.

BookObsessedGrl: Last but not least, what advice would you give to someone who is living their life doing something that is not fulfilling to them—but has a dream they aren’t chasing?

NL: Pursue your dream. (Although don’t abandon your responsibilities! If you have kids, you have to feed them and clothe them. If you have a mortgage, you have to pay that off too…)

Life is short and you only live it once. You don’t even have to pursue your dream full-time if you can’t for various reasons, but don’t ignore your calling to satisfy the expectations of your spouse or parents or whatever.

When you’re on your deathbed, what are you going to think?

a. “I have no regrets because I went for my dream.”
b. “I have no regrets because I lived to fulfill my parents’/wife’s/husband’s/children’s/society’s expectations”

Yeah, me too.:)