7 Questions with Julie Leto

1. On a scale of one to ten, rank your current level of insanity–where ten is belongs-in-lunatic-asylum insane–and tell us why. (Pretty high, right? Six back-to-back releases!)

A week ago, I would have said 11. This week, I’m back to about a 9 because I’ve started working on a new project, which always succeeds in taking me out of the insanity for a little bit. The trick will be to keep concentrating on the new project and not letting the promotional side of the business distract me. I love making sure that my readers know about my books, but on the other hand, it’s all about the writing and that’s what I need to concentrate on. Of course, the closer it gets to September, the crazier I’ll get again. A lot is riding on the success of DIRTY LITTLE LIES.

2. Marisela is the epitome of a kick-ass heroine. Do you see any part of yourself in her?

I’d like to think so. I grew up with three brothers, all their friends and a large cache of male cousins. You had to at least have a smart mouth in order to survive. I was always very petite growing up, so I had to have a big attitude to make up for it. I grew up in a very Hispanic neighborhood, just like Marisela did, though I have to be honest and say I wasn’t conscious of that fact–I thought everyone was Hispanic or Italian because that’s what I saw everyday in the neighborhood and at school and at the ball park. Even my dance school. I’m not nearly as beautiful, tall or physically fit as Marisela and I’m much better educated, but she’s the kind
of woman I’d like as a friend. I’m actually a great deal like her friend, Lia, although I’m not as neat.

3. The Book of your Voice article on your website is an article every writer should read. It was the first writing article I read that made me go, “Ding! This makes perfect sense!” And I’m not the only one who thinks that way–I’ve seen it recommended on lots of places. What inspired you to write it?

An editor at a NINC (Novelists, Inc) conference coined the phrase almost as a throwaway comment and I picked up on it because it was a real “ding, ding, ding” moment for me, too. It’s hard when you write sexy, fun fiction to be taken seriously and the whole “book of your heart” thing just seemed another layer of stress. In other words, I knew I wasn’t writing from my heart, I was writing from my need to sell. And I wasn’t ashamed of that, but other people seemed to be. The article was my way of saying that writers shouldn’t be ashamed to write commercial fiction and to enjoy what they write if they just listen to their own voice. I’m really glad the article has made such a difference to other writers because if I can free a sister writer from some of the angst that comes with this business, I’ve won brownie points to Heaven, in my estimation!

4. Tell us, are you one of those rare writer-creatures who is manages to come up with wonderful titles? Dirty Little Secrets and What’s Your Pleasure!

Actually, I am pretty good at it. Both those titles were mine, though WYP was a collaboration with my editor, Brenda Chin. Out of the 20 books that have been released, more than half of the titles were mine. Others were collaborative. The only titles that weren’t mine were Brazen & Burning (a title I still despise…it was supposed to be Slow Burn, but Heather Graham
thought of it first, apparently) and Looking for Trouble and Up To No Good, which were entirely Brenda’s, but I loved them, so they stuck. Oh, and Seducing Sullivan was hers, too. Private Lessons was a compromise. I wanted Private Dancer. Temptation wasn’t ready for something so risque, but they did use it years later for someone else’s book! Some were tweaked by Brenda…for instance, I wanted Watch Me for my second Blaze and Brenda
changed it to Just Watch Me. I wanted Game of Chance for my Chance Brothers book, but we compromised on Pure Chance. I’m usually at least close. So far, Pocket has let me keep all my “Dirty” titles for Marisela.

5. Assuming the winds of publishing blow in our favor (Please!), will the Marisela books be open-ended? Or do you have a story arc planned out already?

I don’t have a detailed story arc, per se, but I don’t think the series should go on forever…at least, I don’t think that now. However, I have little to say in the matter. The only vote that counts is readers who plunk down their hard-earned dollars to buy the books. If DIRTY LITTLE LIES sells well, then there will be a TALK DIRTY TO ME. I will say that there is an uber-villain driving the actions of the books and that will come out more in the third book. In fact, all references to this manipulator in the second book were edited out for space. So it completely stands alone. But in the third book, I can reference action in the second book that will make sense. I hope!

6. You’ve said that writing about Marisela has given you an opportunity to explore one side of your culture you had ignored. What was it like? Do you think it has filled a hole in your life you didn’t notice before?

It’s been interesting. It has really encouraged me to make new friends and to learn a little more of the Spanish language, which I missed out on. It’s hard sometimes because my family is so much more aligned with our Italian culture and I regret not paying more attention to the Hispanic-ness of my life growing up. But my exploration has brought me closer to my Cuban-American aunt, who edits all the Spanish in my books. She’s the most generous, giving woman on the planet, so that really makes me happy that we share this. And I’ve also made amazing friends through my connection to Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, the Latina writer who spawned a whole new trend in Latina Lit. That’s the best part…the new connections.

7. It was just last year that you broke out into single title. Do you think releasing Dirty Little Lies in mass-market paperback rather than trade will help you cement your place in the market?

Oh, I hope so! I have to be honest and say that this instant switch from trade to mass market is terrifying, but I think it’s the right move. My books have a chick-lit feel in Marisela’s attitude, but I can’t honestly call it chick-lit or even a chick-lit hybrid because frankly, Marisela isn’t that self-aware. She doesn’t agonize over the state of her life or pick her emotions apart. She’s a woman who acts. She’s much more a mass market character. The trouble is, readers expecting a traditional romantic suspense from DIRTY LITTLE LIES could be disappointed. That’s just not what this story is about in terms of romance. But, romantic suspense readersseems to eat up J.D. Robb, so there is hope for me. Not that I’m comparing myself or my books to Nora, but the ratio of romance to action is similar. And both series do have really hot sex. Of course, with Marisela, she’s not married or even commited to Frankie and Ian is always standing in the wings. The relationship between Marisela and Ian undergoes a marked change in this book, which only heats up the triangle further.

Julie Leto is a Plotmonkey. The latest book in the Marisela Morales series, Dirty Little Lies, will be released at the end of this month, so keep an eye for it at your nearby bookstore!

And clicky here to join her current contest–ends on Friday!

5 Responses to “7 Questions with Julie Leto”

  1. August 15, 2006 at 11:04 pm

    Great interview, May! 🙂

  2. August 16, 2006 at 10:36 pm

    OMG! Loved the first question, May!
    I agree with Jordan…great interview!

  3. 4 Julia B.
    August 20, 2006 at 2:06 am

    Great interview! And glad to discover your site thanks to Julie’s link.

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