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Interview With Romance Novelist Isla Dean

10 of the Most Inappropriate Questions I Get Asked as a Romance Writer

Isla Dean is a bestselling romance and romantic suspense writer. Her latest book, Valor in Darkness, is available for preorder and will be on sale March 24.

1. Do you write from personal experience? (Translation: do you have all the sex that you write about?)

This is the number one question I receive. I don't write erotica; I write romance and romantic suspense, so the idea that sex scenes are what people want to know about is an interesting glimpse into cultural curiosity. My answer is this: Stephen King doesn't kill people in order to write horror novels. If I lived all the experiences I wrote about, I wouldn't have time to write them. My job is to use my imagination, and that's what I do. Imagination, research, and discipline.

2. Do you turn yourself on while writing?

This question comes from men more than women (surprise, surprise!). I'm a creator, and if I don't feel anything for the world and characters I'm creating, then I can't expect anyone else to. I write for six to 10 hours a day, seven days a week. My feelings and imagination have to be open, or I'm not doing my job.

3. Is it embarrassing to have people you know read sex scenes you've written?

When I first began publishing, I thought this may come up for me, but largely it hasn't. It's empowering to create and put my creation out into the world and trust that everyone will have their own reaction, and whatever it is, it's not really any of my business. I'm proud of my work, and I love when people share that they love it too. This does, however, give way to hilarious conversations at times. A woman recently said to me in public, "I just read Pacific Passion, and I really enjoyed when he was sliding into her when they were outside, high above the harbor!" I can't say I ever thought I'd have conversations like that, but hey, if I brought a little joy to her life, then my work is done.

4. Do you base characters on real people (and where can we find them)?

No — I let my characters be who they are. I feel like if I tried to model characters after people, I'd sell the characters short by placing undue expectations on them rather than discovering who they are along the way, and allowing them to be authentically themselves. My latest book, Valor in Darkness, features a famous baseball pitcher from a small town, and I happened to have grown up in a small town with a major league pitcher (Ted Lilly), so I've been asked this question quite a bit recently. I can't be clear enough — I never model characters after individuals. Sorry, ladies!

5. You must have had a lot of really great sex in your life to write sex scenes. Is that true?

[Smiles and leaves it at that. Sometimes silent answers are the best answers.]

6. Where do you get your ideas?

I get my ideas in my imagination. It's a fun, familiar place that I've been frequenting my whole life.

7. Do you fantasize about being rescued by sexy firemen/cowboys/Navy SEALS?

No, and those are not the kinds of stories I write about. I write about independent characters doing interesting things, not virginal secretaries who've just lost their job then suddenly need rescuing by the chiseled man walking by. Not that there's anything wrong with those storylines; in fact, the romance genre has undergone a lot of changes recently and there's a story for everyone. I prefer writing about spirited characters who are doing interesting things in their lives and their paths happen to come together.

8. So . . . you basically write porn?

No. Not even close. I write stories about characters and relationships. And sometimes, just like in life, those relationships include sex.

9. Are you a romantic?

Funny enough, no, I wouldn't say that I am. I find it much sexier to hear a man say "Hey, I bought all new LED light bulbs for your entire house, and I'm going to replace them for you" than "Hey, babe, I drew you a bath and put rose petals in it." Home improvement is sexier than hygiene, in my opinion. People are just sexier when they're doing something they enjoy.

10. Why romance? Why not "real books"?

I think author Jennifer Crusie answered this quite well: "I like writing fake books. It gives such joy to those who need to feel intellectually superior." As for the "why romance?" part, the stories I love reading most are character-driven stories that feel good and are richly imagined. There's enough turmoil in the world already; I would rather contribute to people feeling good. Writing romance suits me.

For more information, visit or follow Isla Dean on Twitter.

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