06 December 2010

Inside the Author's Studio with Zoe Archer


Zoe wanted to write soon after her mother taught her how to read. (Incidentally, the first book she read was Arnold Lobell’s Grasshopper On the Road.) Different people had the enviable task of transcribing stories young Zoe would narrate into a portable tape player, and they all shed tears of joy when Zoe finally learned how to type so she could write down her own damn stories. One of her first works, written at the age of eleven, was a sixty-page fantasy epic inspired by the musical Cats, which is now sadly lost to the mists of time.

In the 9th grade, Zoe began to read romances. She would read them under her desk in physical sciences class, and on the bus, and late into the night until her head spun from eyestrain. There were early forays into writing romance, but when it came time for Zoe to go to college at the University of California, Santa Cruz, she concentrated on her studies of medieval and Renaissance literature, and now those early romances are also lost. (If someone should find them, please return them to Zoe where she can seal them in a lead-lined vault.) During those years at Santa Cruz, Zoe contemplated becoming a costume designer and historian, designing costumes for small undergraduate productions and drawing lots and lots of pictures of maidens in flowing gowns.

Zoe entered graduate school at the University of California, San Diego, fully intending to earn her PhD in 18th century literature. What she would do with that PhD was something she hadn’t quite figured out. Further, she couldn’t read French or Latin, something she would have to do in order to get her doctorate. Deus ex machina arrived in the form of a short story contest, sponsored by Glimmer Train Stories, which Zoe entered and won. She even fielded a few calls from agents wanting to see her manuscript. Oddly, they weren’t asking about her dissertation.

So Zoe sat herself down and asked herself if she wanted to keep working on her PhD and head into an uncertain future of fighting for tenure, or writing fiction. She chose fiction, and left UC San Diego with a Master’s degree in literature. (Her Master’s thesis was about film adaptations of Jane Austen—go ahead and ask her about any adaptation and she can talk until you can’t bear to hear the word “simulacrum” any more.)

Although she was born in New York and lived there until she was six months old, Zoe had no recollection of living anywhere but in California. So everyone was surprised, including her, when she moved to Iowa City to attend the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Much long underwear was worn. Two years and several snowstorms later, she was the proud owner of a shiny new MFA from the Writers’ Workshop. As soon as the degree was in her hot little hand, she promptly moved back to Los Angeles, her home town.

Day jobs followed. Zoe was blessed with the most supportive boyfriend who was also a writer, and much more disciplined about writing than she had ever been. Following his example, she got up every morning before work and wrote. And wrote. And kept writing. The supportive boyfriend had to contend with bouts of extreme grouchiness as several manuscripts were written but none were bought. The supportive boyfriend became the supportive husband, and then, one day, Zoe got The Call from her agent. Lady X’s Cowboy had been bought by a publisher. A few months after that, the publisher bought Love In a Bottle.

A few awards and award nominations later, Zoe noticed that the deafening cries of acclaim and truckloads of gold ingots mysteriously hadn’t arrived. There was fear, but also freedom. She asked herself: if she could write any kind of romance, and time period, any setting, what would it be? What kind of romance would she love to read?

The answer came after several days of intense soul-searching and chocolate consumption: high adventure.

Exotic settings. Thrilling action. Sexy men in waistcoats and tall boots. Kick-ass women who carried rifles and knew how to use them. Diabolical inventions made of brass, wood and leather. And a bit of magic, just to keep things really interesting.

The Blades of the Rose were born.

Admittedly, it was a bit of a tough sell. Most editors paled in fright at the thought of setting historical romances anywhere but Britain. And to have a series where the first book is set in Mongolia? Clearly, she’d been dipping into the laudanum again.

Then, one day, a brave editor at Kensington read the manuscript for the first Blades of the Rose book, and fell in love. And when the editor said Kensington would not only publish the first book, but three more in successive months, Zoe fell in love with the editor--which was awkward, since Zoe is married and her editor, as of the time of this bio’s writing, is engaged to a lovely man. They bravely soldiered on, and now Zoe and her editor can’t wait for readers to experience the unique, exciting and exotic adventures of the Blades of the Rose.

Not fully convinced that she isn’t asleep under an Iowan snowdrift and dreaming her romance career, Zoe continues to write every morning. And write all day, with occasional breaks to force herself to exercise. Caffeine is consumed. She and her husband share an office and get up periodically to take turns accosting the cats. When she isn’t writing, Zoe loves to bake, read and plan home improvement projects.

Describe yourself in one sentence?
I'm a lifelong writer, inveterate reader, sometime baker, boot addict and incorrigible smart-ass.

What are the one record, book, and food, you'd take to a desert island?
Can't I just take my iPod? No? Then I'd go with Duran Duran's Seven and the Ragged Tiger. '80s New Wave, baby, yeah! Asking a book lover to pick just one book is the height of cruelty. Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, because it's wonderful and also long. If I wasn't dependent on the food I pick to give me all my nutrition, then I'd pick brownies, because life without chocolate is dismal, indeed.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A writer. Pretty much from the time I could read, I wanted to write. But I also contemplated being an illustrator, a costume designer, and an academic. Yet it always came back to writing, through my many permutations. So, here I am. Hi!

Which book do you wish you'd written?
I don't want to write anyone else's book but mine. There are authors whose style I admire and respect, but we each have our own books to write.

What makes you happy?

What makes you angry?

Name five people how you'd like to invite to a dinner party?
I'm trying to think of who would have the best stories. Stephen Fry, Richard Hammond, Jane Goodall, Bear Grylls and Gale Gand.

What's the scariest thing you've ever done?
Moving from California to Iowa to pursue an MFA, which meant leaving behind a wonderful relationship, my friends and family. The upside is that I'm now married to the man with whom I had the relationship. I'm back in California, too, so I don't miss the Midwest winters.

What inspired you to start writing?
Everything. Nothing. Writing was always intrinsic. I never decided to write. I just did it.

Where would you most like to live?
Can I have a flat in London and a villa in Tuscany? I'll take those.

What is your favorite curse word?
Fuck. It serves so many wonderful purposes, especially as a verb.

Who is your favorite man candy?
First, if my husband is reading this, please look away, honey. It's just part of the job!

Okay--is he looking away? Yes? Well, like many women, I do enjoy ogling Richard Armitage. If you have functioning eyeballs, you really can't do much better. But my friend Carrie Lofty has introduced me to the wonderful world of soccer (football) players. I've become recently converted to the church of Aitor Ocio, a central defender for Athletic Bilbao.

Incidentally, may I also direct your attention to the wondrous website Kickette? Perhaps the greatest website in the history of breathing. http://www.kickette.com/

Okay, honey, you can look now. I love you!

Sum up your latest release in no more than twelve words!
Final Blades book. Inventor genius and reporter fall in love, save world.

So is everyone ready? Comment away to enter to win a copy of Zoe's latest release Stranger! You have until Midnight EST Sunday to comment!

post signature

12 people posted their 2 cents:

Anonymous said...

The final Blades book? Nooooooooooooooo (she says, as the reviewer who claimed that Zoe saved her sanity)

Books and Bane said...

Oh, we have so much in common. Boots, fuck, sarcasm, soccer players (heavy sigh), San Diego/California, London & Tuscany... you rock if I do say so myself!!
nedsped at verizon dot net

Romance Girl said...

I am a new follower so what better way to get acquainted then to win one of your books. Just saying.

FredTownWard said...

I'd like to win this book and (eventually) review it on Amazon.


RK Charron said...

Hi Zoe :)
Wow - loved the bio and interview.
LAST Blades novel!
All the best,

kittykelly28 said...

Zoe I can't help but love you a little more knowing that your favorite cuse word is Fuck. I love that word! It's perfect for anything. It's the little black dress of cuss words...it goes with anything too. YOu can't go wrong using it! :)

kittykelly28 @ hotmail.com

BlithelyBookish said...

Zoe, kudos to you for creating an amazing, unique world, which isn't easy to do in today's market saturated with new authors and stories. Warrior was so, so good and I'm looking forward to reading more of the Blades of the Rose series.

Blodeuedd said...

Oh my that guy was certainly oogleworthy ;) But I do prefer my Armitage

Robin K said...

Great contest! I would love to be entered.

robin [at] intensewhisper [dot] com

Bells said...

Great interview! I have the 1st 2 books in the series and need to get on the ball and read them! I love it when authors give us personal insight into their lives.


Anonymous said...

Okay, I am now totally curious to read one of Zoe Archer's books. This interview has pushed me over into cracking open Scoundrel, which I had bought a while back but hadn't gotten to reading, but will start this weekend. Cool interview.

jenid [dot] davis [at] yahoo [dot] com

Marq said...

Another series I need to read. I'll never catch up. I have the first 3 books thanks to the evil 1 click buy button on Amazon. Once I have book 4, I'll start reading the series.

Great interview!


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