Big Hands and Tight Jeans

Alison Kent On The Male Psyche and To-Die-For Heroes

Interview by Kassia Krozser

Alison Kent is known to her fans as the creator of steamy heroes and even steamier romances. Her latest Harlequin Temptation furthers that image as Alison tells the story of a woman and the four (yep, four) men who love her.

In real life, Alison is newly wed to her own romance hero, is the mother of three, and lives in a suburb of Houston. She’s been writing for ten years with her first book, written under the name Michaila Callan, published in 1993. In addition to her Alison Kent titles, she’s also writing for the new Zebra Bouquet line as Michaila Callan.

Read our review of Four Men & A Lady

Subversion: The new title from Alison Kent is Four Men & A Lady. Can you tell us
more about this book?

Alison Kent: Four Men & A Lady is the second of three books by the three authors Harlequin chose to write reunion stories celebrating Temptation’s 15th Anniversary.

S: What was the inspiration for Four Men & A Lady?

AK: A combination of things. First of all, a 1981 movie called Four Friends and starring Craig Wasson, Jodi Thelen & Michael Huddleston. One of those obscure movies that I’ve never heard another person mention, but struck a chord with me all those years ago. Secondly, a newspaper article about a group of friends in high school who called themselves “The Deck”. (And you just thought I was original!) When my editor called and asked me to write one of the 15th anniversary reunion stories, the two ideas melded into one and voila! The rest, I hope, is history!

“I love men. What can I say? I value the friendships I have with men and am fascinated in the way the male psyche works.”

S: Are there any sequels or follow-up stories planned for the other men?

AK: Not at the moment, though every piece of fan mail I’ve received has asked for that very thing! We’ll see!

S: Heidi Malone is a complex heroine – how did she come about?

AK: The character of Georgia in the movie Four Friends had very complicated relationships with the men in her life. The book is nothing like the movie, but I did draw on the richness of those interpersonal relationships. I knew for each of my four men to feel about Heidi as strongly as they did, she would have to be a complex woman deserving of their loyalties. (Funny, but I have a secondary female character named Georgia–and she wasn’t even named after the movie character, but was instead fashioned after the character of Renee on Ally McBeal! My subconscious must’ve been at work!).

S: This title has a slightly different “feel” than your other books – wasthis intentional?

AK: Yes and no. The very first scene I wrote for this book was the flashback in chapter one. I knew then that I needed to connect with each character’s past in order to bring him to the present. Writing the flashbacks–and flashbacks where the characters are teens, at that–truly grounded me in the story. I think that grounding gave the characters their unique personalities and fueled my editor’s instincts to go with the title and cover treatment.

S: So, Alison, tell us how you sold your first book.

AK: My first book to Temptation was sold on national television. CBS 48 Hours did a segment in the fall of 1995 called “Isn’t It Romantic?” featuring the entire romance genre. One segment was slated to be a new author making her first sale. That was me, selling my first Temptation Call Me! There’s a part of the segment where I’m talking to the senior editor at Temptation. Well, the news magazine did a good job of splicing, because in the middle of that conversation I turned to the crew and said, “Did y’all set this up?” Up until the call from the editor, I’d been playing along. I truly had no idea I was going to sell.

S: What are you working on now? Can you tell us more about it?

AK: I just finished my second book for Zebra Bouquet. Love In Bloom (by Michaila Callan) will be out next June. My first Bouquet, Love Me Tender, is on the shelves now along with Four Men & A Lady. Yes, I have multiple personalities!

S: How do you develop your stories – which comes first, the characters or the plot?

AK: Characters always. I am totally plot impaired. I love relationship stories the same way I love relationship movies. I love to explore the entire human experience. Usually I’ll come up with a “what if” and assign characters to play their parts before I ever work out the actual logistics of the action. I can’t even fathom the action until I have the players in place. Backwards, but it works for me.

S: You create wonderful heroes. What makes an Alison Kent hero, like BenTannen, special?

AK: I love men. What can I say? I value the friendships I have with men and am fascinated in the way the male psyche works. I also have a hero, to whom I am married, who is a student of human nature. He knows people and has given me great insight into the male mind. I take the best qualities from the men I know and admire, the universal qualities that appeal to all women, add big hands and tight jeans and there ya have it!

S: When writing a book, what is the key ingredient that you try to give readers?

AK: Emotional Involvement. If a reader doesn’t care, she’s not going to read. And that defeats the purpose of all that work!

“Romance because I am an inveterate people watcher. And male / female interactions are SO entertaining! If you don’t believe me, watch. At a gym. A mall. Wherever. So much fun!”

S: Can you tell us more about your writing background? Why romance?

AK: Romance because it feels my need for exploring relationships. Romance because I can write fulfilling stories without having to know the difference between the functions of the FBI and the CIA! Romance because I am an inveterate people watcher. And male / female interactions are SO entertaining! If you don’t believe me, watch. At a gym. A mall. Wherever. So much fun!

S: You write category romance. Why? Have you considered other subgenres or genres?

AK: Yes and no. I’ll always write romance. I love romance. But I might explore longer formats. I think that’s a natural growth process of any writer, wanting to test her own boundaries.

S: What is the best part of your job? The worst?

AK: The worst is the writing. Slaving to make that sentence work. The best part is the writing. Getting that sentence to grab the reader. It’s a terrible love / hate relationship!

S: How have your life experiences influenced your writing?

AK: All my stories focus on the importance of family. Of children in a family. Of a family’s friends. That does come out of my own experiences, going through hard times and always having the support of loved ones.

S: What are your favorite storylines? Which plotline would you love to explore?

AK: I’m not sure I have a favorite. I love the fireworks of new romance and rekindkling the sparks of reunited lovers. I love quiet times (Runaway Bride) and I love adventure (Six Days, Seven Nights). I love strong women and the men who deserve them.

S: What are you reading now? Any favorites to recommend?

AK: I’ve just started Tess Gerritsen’s Gravity Wowza! And I could not put down The Cowboy and The Vampire by Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall. I’m anxious to read ‘Tis because I adored Angela’s AshesS. I’m much more of an eclectic reader than writer.

S: Any exciting hobbies or news in your life?

AK: I have no life. I have a full time job, 3 permanent teenagers, 2 part-time teenagers, a dog, a husband . . . I’m lucky to have time to write! My only true hobby has to be movies. I’m a junkie and don’t get out to the theater as often as I want.

S: The desert island question: assuming that fresh water is plentiful and that bananas are chock full o’ protein, what item(s) would be
essential until you could be rescued?

AK: Well, books, of course! And chocolate. Not milk chocolate. Or dark chocolate. But Godiva’s fruit creams and liquid centers. I am particular in my decadence!