Lisa Doughty: Reimaging Romance
By Carin Chea
If Jane Austen was fused with Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) with a touch of Tina Fey's charming quirk, you would have the brilliant Lisa Doughty, who may very well be one of the most prolific and inspiring romance novelists I have ever known.
With a thriving engineering career, Ms. Doughty decided (one day in 2017) to simply start writing romance literature. And since then, she hasn't stopped and shows absolutely no sign of slowing down.
Ms. Doughty is the personification of forward-moving momentum with an ever-growing fan base. And I am her newest fangirl.
You are an engineer by trade. Tell us how you got into writing.
It was pure frustration. I'm a big romance novelist reader. I've read thousands and thousands of romance novels. My engineering degree is actually a Master's of Engineering in the lost art of making vinyl records.
I work in the music industry and I learned how to master making vinyl records. They used to cut straight to vinyl in the mid-80s, when we were still listening to vinyl. Engineering is a puffed-up word for what I did.
Romance is a pretty set formula. You know what's going to happen. I wished there were more books that were out-of-the-box and not the norm.
So, I started writing instead of reading, and that's where my first novel was born. And that turned into another novel, then another novel, and that turned into 13.
Wait a minute. This started only one year ago? You've really penned 13 novels in just one year?
I've been called "prolific" before. My response is: "I don't know why it takes everybody else so long." [Laughing] I don't have a reason for it. Maybe it's all already in my mind and it just needs to pour out. There's even more to come!
I have a play and a series as well. This play is called One Night in Jamaica. I have a big theatre background, also on the technical side. I had an idea about this 19th century love story that's a comedy. I started jotting stuff down and it turned into a play. It's a fun musical parody that uses modern songs.
Your books are all part of series. Was this intentional, and how did that come about?
I think I enjoyed reading series, so I enjoy writing them in series as well. Most of my series are connected.
The storylines are all alike. It's all about strong ladies making their way in the 1800s and 1900s when women didn't have power. They couldn't have a job or a career. I love that time because I can be obstinate with my characters and fight against that. It's a fun storyline to put your teeth into.
Back then, sex (and even being alone with a man) could ruin your reputation. It was difficult to have relations with men. That forbidden fruit quality is really fun to play with. I have so much to draw from in this era. I really do love that forbidden fruit quality. You're always sneaking off to an alcove to kiss, or something like that. Rather than give a history lesson in my books, I develop the characters in that era.
For instance, the first series I wrote was about pirates who were nobles. I had no idea about ships in that era. I had to really sit down and figure out the architecture of ships in that time period so that I could write realistically.
Who or what are your inspirations when it comes to your writing?
I don't have a single person. All my characters are very fictional and not drawn on anyone in real life.
But I do like [romance novelist] Julie Garwood. I like how she made her characters different, interesting, especially when it's historical because you can get redundant. So, I try and make my characters really different.
For example, in The Ladies of Kent series, each character has their own talent. One is a super creative cook, and she ends up making jellies and jams all over the world.
In Black Star, I have a character who's a brilliant engineer and creates ships. I try and define the characters by something they do all on their own.
Out of all the protagonists you've created so far, do you have a favorite?
All of them are something that I've always wanted to be, so that's really hard to answer. In Devious, the girl is this beautiful singer. That comes from theatre, right? I can't sing. I'm sure if someone asked me to sing, they'd ask me to leave the room.
Another character I have is beautiful to a fault, and she can't get away from that. One character is a genius. I wish I could be all of them together. They're all little pieces of what I wish I could be someday.
I've noticed most, if not all, of your writing are historical romances set in England. Would you call this your niche? Have you always wanted to write period pieces?
Those were my favorite to read, and there are actually a few set in Scotland. Red Raven, Deidra and the Dilemma, and Lily are all in Scotland. I haven't been doing this for very long, but I'm just not bored with that era yet. I'm sure it'll lead me to something else, but at this moment in time this is what I'm interested in.
Your most recent collection, The Ladies of Kent series, is gaining a lot of positive momentum. Tell us about how this particular series evolved.
You're going to laugh at me!
It was The Kama Sutra.
I was thinking, "How can I incorporate The Kama Sutra" into my stories, and that's where Ella was born. The story is about a handsome lord who needed help on a weapon he was working on.
Ella is a genius who works at a university and someone refers her to him. She's a genius who works with logic and numbers all day long. She studies The Kama Sutra to see what this sex-thing is all about. He comes to her and asks for her help, and she in turn asks him to help her test a few things out of The Kama Sutra.
From there, Deirdre [and the Dilemma] came out of Ella's story. Letitia also came out of Ella's story. My response so far for Ella is that people read it in one day. I design my books as super-easy reads.
I don't put flowery words in there, so people don't need a dictionary to understand my books. Ella [and the Experiment] (even though it's 400 pages) is an easy read.
Tell us more about The Matchmaker series, and when your fans can expect to get their hands on it!
I tried something different with this series. Most of my books are from the point of views from the two main characters and the story develops from how both protagonists are thinking.
This time the Countess is the lead character in the first book and it's told only from her point of view. You have no idea what the man is thinking until you read The Marquess. Only then do you discover what he's thinking.
The story develops from these two completely different points of views. The third book is an accumulation of their stories together.
If you were to make yourself a protagonist in one of your romance pieces, when and where would it be set, and what would this character be like?
I can't seem to get myself out of the 19th century, as much as I hate to put myself there since women have so little control over their lives and fortunes. I would love to experience that era. I don't know if I'd want to stay there, but I would stay historical.
I would be an innovator of some sort. I'm living my life vicariously through these women, so I think I'd be an artist because I've always had an artistic background one way or another. I've always been attracted to art. Having some type of artistic outlet has spurred some type of emotion.
I think my character would end up having an impact in other people's lives through some type of artistic outlet.
Hey! That's who you are now! You are your character! That's so cool!
I love when readers ask me questions and they make suggestions. They actually influence my thinking. I enjoy being challenged by my readers.
If you'd like to stay up to date on Lisa Doughty's prolific writing career, please visit www.LisaDoughty.com.
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