Interview with Geneva Lee, author of Blacklist

11 Aug 2020

What can you tell us about your new release, Blacklist?

Blacklist was inspired by my love of classic romances like The Great Gatsby and Pride and Prejudice. I actually came up with the idea when I was thinking about planning a roaring twenties NYE party and thought Gatbsy should have come back to get revenge on Daisy for giving up on him. So that’s where the whole idea started and then it snowballed from there. There’s quite a few hidden references to classic novels and then both the main characters are readers, which is how they connect in the first place. It’s really an epic love story with two really stubborn protagonists. Sterling grew up poor and becomes wealthy through less-than-legal means to get back at Adair who was born rich and privileged. Of course, neither of their lives are that simple and they continually discover there is more that is pulling them toward one another than pushing them away.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

I’ve always loved to read. When I was a kid, I would devour a novel or two a day. Authors were basically my rockstars. I never thought I would have the patience to write an entire book, so I got a Masters in British Literature instead. Turns out there aren’t a lot of jobs for English majors, so I decided to stay home with my babies. After my second baby was born, my mother-in-law challenged me to write a book. I’m so competitive that I did. I read the bios of all my favorite authors during that time and it really inspired me to keep pushing my writing. But really the credit goes to my mother-in-law for goading me and to my husband who is super supportive of my career.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

That’s so hard! One of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read in terms of writing is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I was so awed by how it came together. I had a similar reaction to White Teeth by Zadie Smith. But, honestly, I love book series, so I go back to them over and over. I particularly love The All Souls Series, A Court of Thorn and Roses, and Harry Potter. I’m just a book junkie in general!

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

It would probably be Deborah Harkness, who wrote All Souls. She’s an author that I really admire and I love her work. I’m also impressed that she’s managed to write, help produce the television version of her series, and teaches as a college professor. I’d love to ask her about how she balances all of that and what her process is like each day. I adore hearing about other author’s work days and writing processes. There’s always some genius nugget of insight I can apply to my own work.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

Honestly, I rarely (if ever) tell anyone the twist in my books. There’s often more than one and I enjoy torturing my first readers by not giving any secrets away. I love that part and I won’t spoil it for anyone! My husband reads everything I write first and not even he gets to know, because I enjoy his reaction to reading it so much.

What is a typical day like for you?

It’s definitely changed a lot in the last few months! Not only due to the pandemic but also because we welcomed a surprise baby in January! Usually I get up and putter around with some coffee and check in with the older kids and my husband, play with the baby, etc. Then I head to my studio. Thankfully, my husband talked me into the house with a separate writing studio a few years back. I spent the first part of the day in my writing office where I write and plan and just focus on stories. I stop for a long lunch with the baby and my husband and then come back and hang on the couch in my business office reading and editing. After that I handle business, check in with friends/social media. and chat with my sister about the bookstore we own together. I have so much going on that I’ve learned to be more strict with my spaces and schedule. Before baby I would write at all hours. Now I’m striving for a more healthy balance between home, work, and creative life.

What scene in Blacklist was your favorite to write?

There’s a charity auction in the book that involves a lot of banter and subtle digs but also a ton of heart. I loved writing it, especially because it introduces my first canine character Zeus!

Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?

I have strongly embraced the myth of the phoenix as a personal philosophy. I look at challenges as opportunities for growth and I truly believe sometime when it feels like all is lost, we have an opportunity to be reborn from the ashes. Nothing is constant in life, especially failure or pain. We can also rise again.

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