Friday, April 27, 2007
Welcome to “Up Close & Personal.” For every interview I will be introducing a literary personality discussing her views and insights, as well as upcoming literary events around the world.
Today’s interview is with Erica Orloff. She is a best-selling author notably writing across several genres to an international market. She writes for the Red Dress Ink, MIRA imprints, and the Silhouette Nocturne series. She publishes under the pen name Tess Hudson. Her young adult books are written under the name Liza Conrad.
Her books have been noted in US Weekly magazine, Cosmopolitan, Women’s World and American Girl magazines, as well as countless newspapers and online sites. Her titles and topics range from Rock My World, for teens, to The Roofer, a dark mob saga set in Hell’s Kitchen. Ms. Orloff is especially noted for her romantic comedies. She enjoys writing for the 'action line' Bombshell, where she gets to write about heroines who save the day.
E.I. What were you like as a teenager? Please tell your readers more about Erica Orloff-- the woman behind the author?
Erica Orloff: I was actually a "brainiac." I skipped a grade of high school (didn't go for my senior year and instead went off to college). I was shy, and if you read my YA books, the heroine is often the outsider girl--just something about her is different.
E.I. You are well known in the writing community of multiple novels across several genres. And also writes under the pen name Tess Hudson and Lisa Conrad when you write Young Adult books. Could you share with your fans about your other pen names?
Erica Orloff: I write romantic comedies and paranormal romances as Erica Orloff. I use the Tess Hudson name for darker thrillers or books that have darker themes. And I write YA books as Liza Conrad, so that when I go to speak at schools, the kids will then look up those titles as opposed to wading through all the other ones.
E.I. You were already publishing romance novels for the adult market when you decided to add YA books to your writing. What inspired you to branch out? What about writing for teens appealed to you?
Erica Orloff: I adore writing YAs. I think I carry inside me that "outsider girl"--just a little bit of a loner, a little different. I think when I start writing in my teen voice, I find that spot inside. I originally branched out at the suggestion of an editor . . . and when I tried it, I found I was very comfortable in my teen voice.
E.I. Many writers describe themselves as "character" or "plot" writers. Which are you? What do you find to be the hardest part of writing?
Erica Orloff: I am most definitely a character writer. I actually find plotting the hardest part of writing. My characters are always very complicated, eccentric individuals, and I just know who they are inside and out. I like writing dialogue, too. But plotting my books takes a lot of discipline on my part.
E.I. Could you describe your path to publication--any stumble along the way? Is there anything about you that you would do differently, knowing what you do now?
Erica Orloff: I have a nauseating "first sale" story, I'm afraid. I wrote my first novel, Spanish Disco, and then stuck it in a drawer--the bottom drawer of my grandmother's antique hutch, to be specific. I was freelancing as a book editor and met an agent at a conference in L.A. but didn't mention it to him. About a year later, I ran into him again and finally told him about the book in the drawer. He said to send it to him--and called me a week later to say he laughed out loud. I signed with him and had a deal with Red Dress Ink in about three months. That was 20 books ago.
What would I do differently? I am not sure. I think I would have more diligently done P.R. when I started out--authors really have to promote themselves, and I was very "green" at that at first.
E.I. As a bestselling author, do typical writer insecurities fade away, do you feel more pressure, or are you able to separate all that from your own creative process?
Erica Orloff: I am feeling very insecure at the moment. I have two ambitious projects in the proposal stage--I do like flexing my creative muscles. So I definitely feel the pressure. And to be honest, the only time I feel "paralyzed" about writing is when that internal pressure is heating up--when I write and don't know, for sure, that I am in the zone or nailing it. Sometimes you just "know" what you have and sometimes you are feeling your way.
E.I. Everyone is eager to learn about your new book, “Blood Son,” published by Silhouette Nocturne in February of 2007. Can you give us a hint as to what it's about?
Erica Orloff: It is about a comparative religion professor hunting for her brother who went missing in Prague. As she searches for him, she meets a dhampir--a half-human, half-vampire--who may be able to help her. On a darker level, the book is about myths and truths through history about the nature of evil.
E.I. What challenges or obstacle did you encounter while writing and creating Elizabeth Martin and Josef Darecky? How did you overcome these challenges?
Erica Orloff: Elizabeth, I felt, was very much like me. Loyal to her family and intense, yet very "reasonable"--into philosophy. I tried to create a world or a situation in which a real person might actually and truly begin to believe that vampires exist. So what I did was explore serial killers. Why is it sociaty accepts that there are men who are born with a sociopathic coldness--who can kill for sport and are incapable of feeling no remorse--yet we have a hard time believing in vampires or other mythic evil creatures? Can men be born soulless? The challenge was to take that "thesis," if you will, and make it believable. That vampires are just as real as soulless men.
E.I. If you were allowed total control of a Hollywood version of “Blood Son” who would be in it? In your own opinion, who do you think should direct?
Erica Orloff: Wouldn't I love that? Well, I would cast Rufus Sewell as Josef, and Jennifer Connolly as Elizabeth. And to direct? David Funcher (who did Zodiac and Fight Club).
E.I. Let's talk about “The Poker Diaries” how did you come up with the title and idea?
Erica Orloff: I love to play poker, and I have been playing since I was a kid--I'm from a family of card players. So I decided to write about a girl who gambles--but she understands the rules. In other words, you never bet what you can't afford to lose. Lulu is a phenom--an unbelievably intuitive player. And I crafted a story in which a friend bets irresponsibly and loses an heirloom he simply cannot lose. And she has to win it back--and gets in way over her head. I know for myself, if a friend is in trouble, I will risk more than for myself.
E.I. What can we expect from your characters Lulu and Mark?
Erica Orloff: Lulu is a blend of her divorced parents. Her mother is an heiress--and raises her on Central Park West in a world of art and museums and society. And Lulu's father lives in Hell's Kitchen in a world of tough bars and tough men. Lulu, in effect, is New York. The city has culture--and it has a flavor of its boroughs and its history of grittiness. So Lulu is both streetsmart and able to blend in with the bluebloods. Mark is her "downtown" crush--a poker player with a tattoo and an earring, and an air of "tough guy" about him--but underneath it, he has a soft spot for Lulu.
E.I. How much of Lulu’s mom and Mr. Tough on crime’s life is planned out in your head? How do you know where you will go next with him or with any of your characters?
Erica Orloff: Very little is planned, which is a horrid way to work. That's where being a character writer comes into play. I throw them into situations and there is a spontaneity in terms of "what happens next."
E.I. You have a very colorful and extensive Web site about yourself and your books, which I'm sure encourages more young adult readers to write you with their thoughts. Do they express themselves to you differently?
Erica Orloff: I do hear from a lot of teen readers . . . and they are usually very enthusiastic. I also hear from a number of teen readers who want to be WRITERS and they have amazing questions asking for advice on becoming one. Occasionally, I hear from teens who are "outsiders"--and I think the books help them to feel less alone in some way.
E.I. Would you like to close the interview by providing any tips for aspiring writers?
Erica Orloff: My advice is always "carpe diem." I think the richer, more fulfilling your life is, the more you have to write about. Don't be afraid to try anything once, go outside your comfort zone, meet people you would never think of being friends with initially, go to interesting places, break out of any ruts. I think the more you have to draw on in yourself, inside yourself, the more experiences you have . . . that reality and richness will translate to the page. I've worked as a blackjack dealer in illegal backroom games, and have worked for years with war refugees as an ESL teacher . . . I've traveled and met amazing people from all walks of life. I've crammed as much living into every day I am given on earth . . . and I think that makes for powerful writing.
E.I. Ms. Orloff, So great for you to do the interview. Thank you so much.
Erica Orloff: Thanks so much for having me, E.I.!
To learn more about Erica Orloff, please visit her at:
Posted by E. I. Johnson at 2:29 AM