Interviewed by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel
“With several million books in print and New York Times and USA Today’s bestseller lists under her belt, former CPA Patricia Rice is one of romance’s hottest authors.” So starts Patricia Rice’s biography. But it tells nothing of why Pat Rice’s fifty-sixth book just hit the bookshelves—or why readers keep coming back to her for more.
Be it historical or contemporary, magical or mundane, Pat Rice’s emotionally-charged novels vibrate with excitement. Her characters are people you’d like to know (or at least observe from close quarters!) and there are no snarls or knots in the plots and settings she weaves. By the end of her tales, you feel like you have followed real people through important parts of their lives. She has a gift for creating interesting heroines in intriguing situations, and heroes who feel real yet can get into the spirit of romance when it’s needed.
Pat has brought to Book View Cafe her series of novels about the magical Malcolm women and the Ives men who have been both their nemesis and their salvation. Intuition meets logic on many playing fields, and this time, the result is humor, adventure and romance.
Q.) The Magic books were your first offering at Book View Café and have since been reissued in print by Sourcebooks. When did you realize that there had to be more stories about the Malcolms and the Ives, and how did you decide which story to tell next?
- ) Readers kept demanding more Magic books, and I really wanted to delve into the children who combined both elements of Ives technology and logic and the Malcolm magic of their mothers. But at the time, my contracts tied me up, and I couldn’t write more historical Malcolms—but I could write contemporary ones.
So in January of 2012, Sourcebooks released The Lure of Song and Magic, the story of Malcolm and Ives descendants living in contemporary California. In January, 2013, BVC released the second California Malcolm book, The Trouble with Air and Magic. And I’m working on the third book, although it’s untitled for now.
Q.) You are known as a romance writer, whether historical or contemporary. Were the Magic books your first serious foray into writing Fantasy? Have you used fantasy tropes in other romance novels?
A.) I’m a fantasy reader, and my imagination is not limited to the corporeal world. Unfortunately, the historical romance market is limited. Until the Magic series, I had to satisfy my fantasy cravings with a ghost or two and several paranormal novellas. After the success of the Magic series, I was given the opportunity to write much stronger fantasy with the Mystic series about an island invisible to the human eye containing superhuman beings who guard a powerful sword and chalice, and what happens when the chalice escapes. I’ve just received the rights back to these, and as soon as I have some spare time to edit them, BVC will be reissuing them.
I’m also writing urban fantasy under the name Jamie Quaid. Boyfriend from Hell was the first book released by Pocket, and Damn Him to Hell just came out in June, 2013. The third book, Giving Him Hell will be a BVC original release sometime in 2014.
Q.) Do you have a favorite period of time to write in? Does one part of history call to you, or do you like the convenience of writing about modern brands and trends?
A.) I devoured English literature, science fiction, and westerns while I was in grade and high school, and I believe they’ve seriously warped… er, influenced… my writing habits. I have a strange predilection for Georgian and Regency England and for post-Civil War America.
I enjoy writing contemporary fiction simply because I can play with topics that weren’t relevant to women in historical eras. It’s rather difficult to have a woman in Regency England kick serious male butt and still write romance. But set that woman loose in California of today… I can have lots of fun. Still, the ever-changing technology can date a contemporary novel quickly.
Q.) You’ve been writing for a while—how has your work changed since the first story you wrote?
A.) I’d like to think for the better. <G> Back in the 80s, there wasn’t an adjective, adverb, or point of view that wasn’t exploited in our enormous tomes. I believe at some point even dogs and horses had a thought or two. As word count dropped, I was forced to tighten my writing and—horrors—actually plot ahead so I didn’t end up writing off the map. Besides that, once the excitement and shock of writing about sex wore off, editors no longer demanded quite as much, and I could taper back to love scenes that were about emotion instead of body parts. I’m still inclined to dive into a story that’s nagging at me, skipping the tedious plotting part, but at least I know now not to start without a strong conflict!
Q.) What sparks your creativity? Music, travel, hobbies? Do stories always start with the plot, or with a character? Have you ever chosen a period of time to set a story in before you even knew who the story would be about?
A.) Anything can set my mind to wandering. I once wrote a book simply because I listened to a song about a man who intends to go home, tear down the town that hated him, and start all over. Boyfriend from Hell emerged as I was driving through multi-state cornfields listening to a radio news story that triggered my need for justice.
My stories almost always start with characters and situations. Sometimes the situations are more powerful than the characters, but my settings are always built to suit the protagonists and their stories. The first book of my Rebellious Sons series, The Wicked Wyckerly, came about because I envisioned this jaded aristocrat traveling with a bratty small child who calls him things like blazing dragon dung and then escapes. Wouldn’t you want to know their story?
Notorious Atherton will be the third book in that series and will be an October 2013 BVC original release, although it will be available in e-format at B&N on July 23.
Q.) Do you think your “voice”, the thing that stamps your writing as uniquely yours, changes from book to book, story to story—or can you see themes that reoccur in your work?
A.) Wry smile. I try very, very hard to write original material with each book, even after 56 books. And I’m always convinced that I’ve found a new conflict, a new path to take. And I always end up writing about prejudice, equality, fairness, and justice along with love and family. It doesn’t matter if I’m writing about a drunken doctor in gold rush era California or a warped lawyer in an environmental wasteland, the theme will ultimately pan into my protagonists fighting for what’s right. Historical romance doesn’t lend itself well to the fight of Good against Evil as such, but underneath the pretty costumes, that’s usually what’s happening right along with the love story.
Q.) Has writing taught you anything you didn’t expect?
A.) Interesting question. I think—and I hesitate to say this for fear of loud laughter from those who know me—writing has taught me patience. My creative side is impulsive, impatient, and wants to take the reins and gallop. But that’s utterly impossible when writing and selling a book. Yes, in those first few novels I did dive in and get carried downriver quickly. But then I had to learn to sell different material to different editors and my world changed. Amazingly, not everyone thinks my ideas are brilliant. <G> So now I’ve learned to think things through to their conclusion before galloping off. Except for my “play” books, of course, where I let my wild creativity take over, without expectation of selling. But if I want to sell a book, I have to plot and plan and come up with marketable concepts. I had no idea that my business training would pay off so well in a creative world.
Q.) Do you have any unusual facts in your past that you’ve brought to your writing? I’ve heard that you have been an accountant, but are there any odd, writerish jobs or experiences that have helped create characters in your books?
A.) My dysfunctional childhood taught me to study people closely, so I’ve always been aware of the little blue-haired ladies who run the world, and the slothful dragons who sit on their gold and watch the world go by. I’ve worked as cashier in a discount store before Wal-Mart was a gleam in Sam’s eye. I paid my way through college by working credit collections, repo’ing Sears refrigerators. (My creative writing ability produced some very effective credit collection letters in the days when such things were allowed!) My accounting career allowed me to audit banks and appliance stores and work with farmers who brought in their tax receipts in pink lingerie boxes. I have a stunning array of characters to draw on, but I think the women I’ve met in schools and suburbia and rural farm country provide some of the strongest protagonists I’ve ever written.
Q.) What are you working on right now? Do you research before you start a story, or while you are writing?
A.) I’m working on Giving Him Hell, the third book in the Saturn’s Daughter series, as well as the untitled third book of the California Malcolm trilogy. And I’m also toying with a new Regency historical romance.
I used to research the historicals before I started, but since I’ve been working in these same eras for a few decades now, I have a pretty good handle on the background material. So I may research in which particular year an event occurred so I know where my story starts, but in general, I research details as I write—probably because of that problem plotting and planning. <G> I never know what kind of information I’ll need until I run up against it as I write.
Q.) How did you become involved with Book View Café? What is it about the BVC organization that appeals to you?
A.) I’m on several writers’ lists with a number of members of BVC. As e-books and e-readers came into existence, we had discussions about the possibility of bypassing publishers in the not-too-distant future. I had too many balls to juggle to join at the time the talk turned from future to present and an author’s co-op became BVC. But when the Magic books began going out of print before the series ended, and I had readers pleading for the first books, I knew it was time to put my money where my mouth is.
I like the idea of authors working together to produce works that the New York market can’t support. There’s an immense range of originality going begging because print publishing has become too expensive for publishers to take chances. Authors have already been trained to write, edit, and promote. Why shouldn’t we expand our horizons and distribute our books as well? Once we pool our various experiences, we easily have all the components necessary for forming a publishing company. I once thought there weren’t any more new frontiers except in space, but I think publishing has reached an exciting new frontier I’m going to enjoy exploring!
ETA: Since this interview first aired on the BVC blog in 2014, Pat has published more than a dozen additional books with us. You can find her latest entries at https://bookviewcafe.com/bvc_author/patricia-rice/