Interview with Sandra Lee


Isolde: "Love at First Sight" was your first published book and it got excellent reviews. Did you ever wanted to write historical romance?

Sandra Lee: (Thanks for your kind comment about reviews. I had an excellent editor, Stephanie Kipp, and a great publisher, Bantam, which helped a lot.)

I cut my teeth on things romantic before I could read or write, and long before historical romance hit big as a genre. As a small child, I lived in
Tampa, Florida. Tampa sponsors an event called "Gasparilla" every year. The celebration honors a pirate, Jose Gaspar, who captured the city of Tampa in the 1800s. Parades, floats, a pirate ship that sails into port firing cannons. The pirates dressed in full costume and sported big hoop earrings, black patches, and cutlasses. Meanwhile, the ladies on the parade floats were gorgeous in their colorful dresses and black lace. You can imagine how a little girl would fall in love with all of this. I'm very lucky that a genre evolved that allows me to express the romantic atmoshphere of my childhood.

Isolde: How long did it take you to write the book? And how did you got the idea for it?

Sandra Lee: It took me about six months to write the book, and another year to revise it. I'd been working on a book in which Golde was a minor character. Very minor. She was a young bit player, definitely too creepy to be heroine material, but Golde didn't care. She first started taking over scenes, then entire chapters. She wouldn't leave me alone until she had her own book. So I temporarily shelved the other book and wrote LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT.

Isolde: Your books is full of humor. Was it normal for you to write such a funny book? Are you a humorous person too?

Sandra Lee: My husband and I just celebrated our silver anniversay. Believe me, after 25 years of marriage, the only way to view romance is with humor. But I'm not the funny person. It's men. They do funny things. I don't mean that in a negative way. I adored my father, and I love my husband heart and soul. But having lived with both men, it's a miracle I'm capable of writing my own name.

I remember my father trying to catch a lizard on our seawall when we lived on a canal. Use it for bait to catch fish. He was well into his 40s at the time. Crouched over, he backed into a Spanish Bayonet, a plant with needle-spikes. You can imagine where he got stabbed. Hysterical. He fell off the seawall, sliced his feet to ribbons on oysters, and had to have a zillion stitches. More hysterical? Six months later, he did the same thing trying to catch a grasshopper. Most hysterical? He huffed and puffed for two days digging up the Spanish Bayonet, doused it in lighter fluid and burned it.

My husband? A golfer. While driving a golf cart, he routinely sticks his left foot out and bounces it along the ground. I know of at least three instances where he's run over his own foot and either sprained or broken his ankle or toes. It's a good thing someone invented those new spikeless golf shoes.

See what I mean? Men are funny.

Isolde: The hero in "Love at First Sight" is blind and has scares in his face. Why did you let him be "not perfect" at all?

Sandra Lee: I had no choice. The heroine, Golde, was such an odd person. A handsome man would not appeal to her. She would feel far too self-conscious, and she's the type who masks her lack of self-esteem with sarcasm. Her mean-streak would have made it impossible for a handsome man to love her, and she'd have come across as bitter to readers.

I needed a man Golde could relate to, a man who was just as tough and angry at the world as her, yet a man with a "crack", a vulnerabiltiy that would charm Golde and make her suspend her defensiveness. 

Isolde: The story takes place on Isle Wynt. Have you visited the South of England yourself?

Sandra Lee: I have never been to England. Researched enough that I feel like I live there. Is it obvious that the Isle of Wynt was supposed to be the Isle of Wight? Mid-way through the book, I was researching some minor point, don't recall what. To my chagrin, I discovered that the Isle of Wight was not a part of England that was conquered by William at the Battle of Hastings. So I "went" with "Wynt".

Isolde: How did you do your research for "Love at First Sight"?

Sandra Lee: I'd already done tons of research for the book in which Golde was a minor character. Did my best to comprehend the Anglo Saxon Chronicles. Biographies of William the Conqueror and any other person I could find who was a contemporary of William's. The Catholic Encyclopedia was a great help. Back then, almost all writing was done by the Church. I studied old maps and hunted down topographical and climatological maps that reflected the time period. The global climate was milder back then, a lot of land exists now that was once ocean and vice versa. What is now cultivated rolling farmland was almost all forest. Medievalist writers and lecturers, PhD's on the time period, archeologists, society for creative anachronism. Animal husbandry. Spells and withcraft. Motte and bailey castles.

I never realized how dumb I was until I started learning all this nifty stuff.

Isolde: Then did you decided that the secondary characters Varin and Rocelyn should get their own story? Can you tell us a little bit about your second book?

Sandra Lee: Other way around. It was Varin's and Roscelyn's story that got temporarily shelved so I could write Golde's story. It was the second book that was published first, and the first book that was published second.

I could tell you a lot about Varin and Roscelyn, but will try to keep it short.

Poor Varin. Years of battle in the service of his Norman king cannot compare to the complete chaos one little Saxon lady instigates. When Roscelyn's not accidentally falling through roofs and setting buildings on fire, she delights in pointing out his ignorance.

It's not Varin's fault he knows nothing of running estates. He's a warrior, not a steward. And no little slip of woman is going to get the best of him.

But Lady Roscelyn is ever so appealing when he teases her. She may be brilliant where matters of estate are concerned, but she's so vulnerable in all other things.

Poor Roscelyn. Varin is not the hated enemy she imagined. He's more considerate of her people than were her own father or brothers. Indeed, he works hard to earn her people's respect. His outrageous, sexy remarks make her blush and cause her blood to run hot with unwholesome thoughts. 

But Roscelyn is determined to rid England of the hated Normans, and she possesses a secret scroll that will do just that. So why does her heart ache at the thought of losing Varin?

Isolde: Are you already working on a new story? What will it be about? 

Sandra Lee: BLESSING IN DISGUISE. That's my working title. It's about Wulfwyn and Trefor. Wulfwyn is Roscelyn's little sister, now grown. Wulfwyn is a forgeress. She also has a bit of a gambling problem. She's in Wales to forge a papal document for a nunnery.

Trefor is an impoverished Welsh prince. Until he can destroy the earl responsible for stealing his family lands, he must find ways to support his
band of outlaws. He's wrestling in a tournament to make money when Wulfwyn interferes. She's bet on Trefor's opponent, and when it looks like Trefor will win the match, she cheats. Using her silver cross, she reflects sunlight into Trefor's eyes and blinds him.

That's the beginning. Lots more to come. Like life, I never know exactly what's going to happen.

© Moments - Höhepunkte der romantischen Literatur und Die romantische Bücherecke, Isolde Wehr, Dezember 2001

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Dieses Interview entstand im Dezember 2001 zwischen Isolde W. und Sandra Lee für:

Moments - Höhepunkte der romantischen Literatur Moments - Höhepunkte der romantischen Literatur

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