An interview with author, Lori Foster! @lorilfoster @harlequinbooks

I am so pleased to have been able to do another q & a with Lori Foster as part of her blog promotion tour for No Limits!  I have to say that I loved reading both No Limits and the prequel novella, Hard Knocks and I know that after checking out this interview, you are going to want to add them both to your TBR pile and, like me, will be waiting on tinderhooks for the rest of this latest series!  

1. Can you tell us a little bit about your latest release, No Limits?

This is Cannon’s story, a character that readers met in my last series, Love Undercover. From the second Cannon showed up on the page, I knew he’d get his own story. He’s that kind of guy, the guy who steps up and takes notice and gets a lot of notice in return.

In No Limits, Cannon reunites with Yvette, another character from the previous series. They parted under strained circumstances, with Cannon just heading into professional MMA and Yvette young and traumatized from a horrific threat. Cannon saved her then, but he was noble because of her age and what she’d been through. Now she’s older, more independent, and he’s ready to make up for lost time.

2. Can you also fill us in on the prequel to the series, Hard Knocks?

Hard Knocks gives readers a peek into the MMA world and the fighters who will have novels in the Ultimate series. You get to see the inside of Cannon’s gym, the set-up and what the guys do for the neighborhood, as well as the close relationships they share. It’s a short romance featuring Gage and Harper, two fun, strong people with a few romantic quirks to work out. It’s short and sexy and gives readers a taste for how the novels will be more about fighters in a romance than about fighters fighting in the cage.

3. How has your UFC obsession influenced the writing of No Limits?

Well, I’ve gotten into the idea of picking silly fight names for the heroes. And from the fight names, I’ve come up with some “inspired” reasons for them. It also makes it easier to justify the guy being totally ripped – although not all fighters are. I’ve learned in actual fights the physical appearance can be deceiving. It’s more about heart and talent, training and speed, than how a guy looks. But naturally any hero I write about will be blessed with a six-pack and boulder shoulders.

4. What was it like getting inside the mind of a mixed martial arts fighter?

I’ve interviewed a few fighters over the years, chatted with others while getting promotional photos and during before and after “meet and greets” while at live events. Every single fighter I’ve met has been extremely nice, unassuming, dedicated to fans, and (though it sounds silly) very sweet. It took only a few questions to see how much they give to the sport they love, the discipline it takes to stay in training, and the confidence they gain from having extreme ability. Since I’ve never asked a fighter about his love life, that part of the story is pure imagination on my part. But then I only write good guys, and talented lovers.

5. What is your process for choosing names like Cannon Colter?

I’m a terrible cheat when it comes to names. More often than not I see a name on Facebook or Twitter that I like. I never, ever use a first and last name together, but I do pick and choose and mix and match. When I see a unique name, or a name that resonates with me, I grab it up. When I’m writing, I’m far less focused on names than I am on personality. Names for me are an afterthought, so stealing from my social media sites makes it easy.

6. What are Cannon and Yvette’s best physical traits?

Although Cannon is a fighter with a shredded bod, it’s more his smile and his eyes that get to Yvette. He has a very sincere smile, because he’s a very sincere guy. And when he looks at a person, it’s felt through and through.

For Yvette, she has long beautiful hair, but it’s more about the deceptive confidence she tries to exude that draws Cannon – that, and the way she looks at him like he’s a superhero. What guy could resist that?

7. What is the best scene (in your opinion) between Yvette and Cannon?

There’s a fun scene where Yvette is at the rec center (the gym) and the fighters start arguing. Cannon is irked, his buddies are irked, and Yvette thinks they might come to blows. She tries to put herself in the middle and sort of gets sandwiched between some pretty hot flesh. I smiled while writing it, so I hope readers smile when they read it.

The poor guys didn’t know what to think. They’re big, physical guys who don’t mind working out a few differences on the mat, but they’re also friends, and they’re fighters with a load of control often utilized in a fight. But with Yvette, they all want to be gentle – while struggling to figure her out.

8. What music did you listen to while writing No Limits?

I have a long playlist of about 150 songs. Much of it is from KORN and Kid Rock and Marilyn Manson, but I’ve also really gotten into Disturbed, The Pretty Reckless, Papa Roach, Skillet and Puddle of Mud. Oh, and Cage the Elephant. I like loud, strong music that I can sing along with while I’m writing.

9. How is this series different from your previous works?

The Ultimate series is a different setting, different characters, different plots – and yet you still visit some of the characters from Love Undercover series since it remains in the same fictional city and state. In the last series the focus was on Rowdy’s bar and the police station. There are visits to the bar still, but much of the action takes place at Cannon’s rec center and in different houses owned by the characters.

The stories remain super-sexy, the guys remain alphas, the women remain smart and independent, and elements of suspense go throughout both series. But I hope each character has their own personality and for me, that’s where the differences should be most evident.

10. What character did you find yourself most drawn to, and why?

I love Armie Jacobson – and I’m pretty sure readers will too. He’s outrageous, too sexy, has effortless talent in the cage, and a wounded background that has influenced his life greatly. I love all the guys – Gage, Cannon, Denver, Stack... but Armie stands out.

11. Do you prefer writing about small town romance settings (like in No Limits) or city settings?

I’m not sure I’ve ever written a large city setting. Smaller towns, always fictional, work best for me because I like the lack of anonymity in a small town. Everyone knows everyone, or has at least heard of everyone, and it can lead to some touching, and embarrassing, situations. I like the warmth of knowing your neighbors and caring about them. And I like the ease in creating the town.

12. Who would play Cannon and Yvette in a book-to-film adaptation?

Josh Duhamel, while a little too old, would make a fabulous Cannon! He’s big and gorgeous and built. I think he’d be perfect if NO LIMITS was ever made into a movie. For the heroine, Mila Kunis is beautiful and I can easily picture her as Yvette. They’d make a hot couple!

13. What are your five favorite verbs to use during a love scene?

Favorite verbs to use in a love scene... Only five, huh? Wow, that’s difficult. How about catch/caught, press, contract, nuzzle/nibble, lick/suck. I’m not sure I could write a full love scene without them.

14. Can you tell us about the process behind the cover artwork?

Ooooh, I LOVE getting new covers, it’s so exciting. The way it works is that I give my editor an idea of what the characters look like. Usually this means emailing her my own character sheets – notes I keep on the characters to detail (and help me remember) height, eye and hair color, body type, etc... I usually include any and all info like the car he/she drives, job description, age and any other pertinent information that I might need to recall from book to book.

My editor also asks for a synopsis, but since they usually start working on covers long before I know what the story is about, it’s a guessing game on my end. I know there’ll be a hunk, a heroine, some suspense, hot sex, lots of emotion, and a happy ending. The how and why is often not clear to me at that point.

Then the publisher has a meeting with the art department and they brainstorm cover ideas and come up with a concept that I get to see. The concept is just an idea. It’ll show a model, but not THE model. It’ll show a pose, but not THE pose. I see where the placement of my name and the title will appear, along with any quotes.

Once that’s approved, the art department does a photo shoot and from those images they choose the one they like best. I weigh in with pleas of chest hair. Chest hair is always my #1 requirement if they show the model with his shirt off. To be clear, this is for new novels, not novellas or re-issues. For those they generally use stock art. It’s all very fun and I can honestly say I’ve loved the artwork so far.

15. If you were stranded on a desert island with one of your many characters, who would you choose and why?

Since I’m an enormous wimp and not at all heroic, I’d love to have Trace with me, from Trace of Fever. He’s bossy and take-charge and lethal. He knows what he’s doing, how to protect and how to survive. Plus I think he was pretty sexy.

If it needs to be a character from my current Ultimate series, I’d say Denver – for many of the same reasons. He’s far more autocratic than Cannon or Armie or Stack. He’s big, brawny, and when necessary he can be lethal. I’d feel safer with a real bad ass if I had to be stranded.

16. What was the most difficult part of the process when writing No Limits?

My heart broke for Yvette. She’s one of more damaged heroines I’ve ever written (although there have been a few) and she struggled so hard for her independence. More than anything she wants Cannon, but because he’s so brave and strong she doesn’t feel quite worthy, and the stigma of being seen as a victim really hit her hard. I image something like that would be very, very difficult to overcome.

17. Have you written an outline for the No Limits series or do you make it up as you go?

I totally make it up as I go along. Or I should say my characters make it up. I never try to figure things out in advance because as sure as I do, the characters will have a different idea and they’ll rebel, making it difficult to write until I give them their way. Fighting it is futile. But since they’re seldom wrong, it works for us. (And yes, I’m nuts. I don’t fight that either.)

Usually the characters will give me enough clues along the way to keep the writing flow steady. For instance, while I was writing No Limits, Denver stepped up and talked about Cherry and made it clear his book needed to be next. Now while I’m writing Hard Knocks (Denver’s story) Stack is giving me nudges, saying, “Me next, me next. And I’m going after Vanity... whether she or I know it yet or not.” So that’s how I know Stack’s story will be after Denver’s.

Armie has said he wants to wait, stew on things a while, come to grips with his future... so I’m letting him get used to the idea of what is to come.

18. What was your go-to snack while writing No Limits?

Goldfish cheese crackers and pretzels. Occasionally I drink Mountain Dew when I need more caffeine but I usually snack with Lipton Citrus Green Tea as my drink. I also love baby carrots. And far too often I cave to the call of the Pringles can.

19. What’s your favorite part of the book?

There’s a fight scene in the book. Not a sporting match, but an angry, defensive, you-dared-touch-what-is-mine kind of aggression filled with rage and loss of control and an awakening of strong emotion. Call me barbaric but I love writing scenes like that. I love getting down to the basics of how love can affect a person, whether it’s in sex or fighting off danger or just showing vulnerability awareness. It’s the real stuff people are made of.

20. What are you working on next?

I’m writing Denver’s story right now, titled HOLDING STRONG. It’s due out in spring 2015 and I’m loving Denver and Cherry together – and them as a couple with the rest of the fighters around. It’s a very fun dynamic.

After that I’ll do another benefit novella for June 2015. It’ll be part of the Buckhorn family and all proceeds from sales of the book will go to a charity. I’m not yet sure which of the Buckhorn clan will be featured, but I’m sure it’ll all come to me in plenty of time.

And then I’ll jump into Stack’s story. He should be ready by then – which means I’ll also be ready. Luckily the characters keep me writing. In fact, if there were more hours in the day, I’m not sure they’d ever let me stop!

Thanks so much to Lori Foster for stopping by and giving us a glimpse into her latest release and her writing process!  I have to say that, despite being a huge Lori Foster fan, I was a little afraid that the MMA setting for this series would put me off, but I love how balanced this book was, and where the MMA threads interwove into the story, it was truly seamless and, while I'm still not an MMA fan, I can see where the rest of this series is going and I'm going to love it too!  I totally recommend picking up Cannon's story and watching out for the rest of the series!