A prolific and bestselling author of ManLove romance, Siren-exclusive Lynn Hagen has written a wide range of romances, from the fantastical worlds of paranormal and science fiction to the familiar struggles of contemporary lovers. She loves creating happy endings for flawed but lovable guys, believing that everyone deserves to be loved in spite of (and because of) their imperfections. We had the chance to talk to Lynn about romance, writing, and her upcoming series, Rise of the Changelings, which will mark the debut of Siren Publishing’s newest imprint, the Siren Epic Romance, to be released midnight CST, Jan. 7, 2013.
Q: Rise of the Changelings is the first series in the Siren Epic Romance collection. Can you say a little about the series and what makes it epic?
A: Rise of the Changelings is set in a world that has just found out about paranormal creatures, and a lot of people react with fear. So these changelings, who are just trying to live their lives, to find their mates and fulfill their role in their pack or pride, suddenly find themselves faced with people who want to wipe them out altogether on account of who they are. I think that’s what makes the series epic–the fact that the books are following people who are not only noble and likeable in the way they handle their love lives, but are also so strong and so willing to fight for and protect other changelings not only in this generation but also in the next several generations. The heroes are up against a big challenge and find themselves in some tough situations. Some of the themes are dark, but the romances are always uplifting because these situations force the heroes to trust and depend on each other completely, which makes for such an enduring bond between people.
Q: What was your vision for the world of this saga, and what were some of the joys of creating it?
A: What I loved most about creating this series is that even though there is a war going on between the changelings and the humans, it allows a space for these enduring romances to blossom in the midst of difficult or even dark circumstances. So the war provides a way to test these relationships and show how much these characters are willing to go through for the people they love, and how well they care for and protect each other. They face a lot of adversity, but overcoming it always makes them stronger and more heroic characters. There are some characters who struggle or even die along the way (don’t worry, none of the heroes and heroines will be killed off!), and I liked knowing that even though things would always end happily for each romantic pair or trio, my readers would still have these moments of suspense and anxiety where they were kept guessing and wondering what would happen next.
Q: It sounds like Enrique Marcelo, the leader of the changelings, will have his work cut out for him. What is it about Rick that makes him such a good leader?
A: Oh, I just love Rick! He goes through this amazing challenge of taking on so much responsibility. When the series begins, he’s already a leader, but in a different way. He’s the district manager of a chain of supermarkets and a pack leader, but it’s nothing like what he’s about to go through. When he steps up as the leader of the Rebellion groups, fighting for the freedom and lives of the changelings, he has some very serious doubts about the whole thing. In fact, there are times when he’s scared shitless. I liked writing those fears into his character because I feel like even though he’s this powerful guy, he’s also human. With everything he’s going through, his biggest fear is that Dorian is going to die.
Q: Readers will be able to see Dorian and Rick’s romance grow over time, with a romance that spans several books and into the next generation. Can you tell us a bit about their romance, and what elements help to make it so long-lasting?
A: Rick and Dorian really go through a lot throughout the seven books in the first part of the series, which is funny to me when I consider how resistant they were to mating in the first book, Rise to Love. Dorian, especially, was just this deli clerk with a mundane life, and suddenly he finds himself dropped into this world with werewolves and daily life-and-death struggles. Before he meets Rick, he’d never even picked up a gun. He knows people are depending on him, though, so he learns to shoot one because even if that isn’t who he is, it’s what he has to do. That’s what made him the perfect mate for Rick, because Rick really needed someone with a steel spine.
Q: What other characters were memorable for you to write?
A: My favorite character in the whole series is Nate, one of the heroes in the fifth book, Rise to Seduction. The big, bad werewolf enforcer is really just a teddy bear of a guy. He’ll go to any lengths to protect his friends, but he also has no qualms about putting a bullet in your head. I also had a lot of fun with all the different types of changelings in the world. There are a variety of animals, from rats to coyotes to leopards, and they all take on different traits as a result of their animal nature. In fact, Sasha, the alpha of the wereleopards and one of Nate’s partners, is a great example of this. He’s so provocative and playful because he’s a cat. With all that sex appeal, he’s also the quickest and most lethal changeling around. He’s really a fascinating guy. Selene, the third in the Rise to Seduction ménage, has her hands full with the two of them. Luckily, she’s tough enough to handle those dominant men!
Q: You mentioned Selene, the heroine from Rise to Seduction. Who are some of the other heroines in the Rise series? As a master of ManLove romance, what inspired these female characters?
A: My first heroine, Isabelle, is Rick’s sister, and as his only family, she’s his go-to person who he can trust and confide in at the start of the series. They have a very strong connection as siblings, so when Edward, the rat king, begins to develop feelings of animosity toward Rick and plot against him, he knows that capturing Isabelle is a way that he can really get to Rick. I didn’t want Edward’s story to end with this dark moment, however, because he isn’t a bad guy, even after having a pretty difficult childhood. He’s been hurt, and that’s what leads him to capture Isabelle, but Isabelle is such a big-hearted, compassionate woman that her presence in the story became an opportunity to redeem him and give him a chance to find happiness and love in his life. She’s a great match for Edward because she’s a tough heroine, too, someone who can understand his past but also help him to overcome it.
And for ManLove fans, rest assured that Dorian and Rick play a prominent part in all the books. Their romance continues to develop throughout the series, and you will see their bond deepen with each book, in and out of the bedroom. Rick goes through so much as the leader of the Rebellions that he really needs those intimate moments with Dorian to give him the strength to keep fighting.
Q: In Rise to Submit, the heroes engage in a BDSM relationship. Can you tell us about Ian and Mason’s relationship, and why this lifestyle is right for them?
A: Mason and Ian are so sweet together. Ian is Dorian’s brother, and at the start of the series, he’s just so lost and searching for something that he desperately needs, but he just isn’t sure what it is yet. That lost feeling makes him vulnerable to a pretty nasty group of vampires, but luckily Mason is there to rescue him and help him find his way and give him the type of love that he’s always needed. There’s no one way to love someone or be loved, but Ian doesn’t realize that at the start of the book and as a result, he struggles with being himself and figuring out where he belongs. I love it when characters are able to gain acceptance of themselves through loving each other, and that’s what this book is about.
Q: Speaking of different types of romance, you mentioned that Edward, the hero of Rise to Trust, begins the book as Isabelle’s captor who intended to kill her. How did you deal with the challenge of a hero who meets his mate in such unusual circumstances? Do you prefer heroes who have dark or difficult pasts to overcome to lighthearted romances?
A: I absolutely love tortured heroes! Even though Edward and Isabelle’s romance begins unusually, I think it’s not so much a dark story as a story about finding the light in that darkness. I felt compelled to bring them together because I wanted to redeem Edward and show his ability to grow and change the chance to show that dramatic arc, where Edward learns to trust someone for the first time. He still doesn’t trust anyone except Isabelle, and that’s part of what makes their relationship so special.
Q: There are so many great plot twists and surprises in store for readers in this series. Do you plot your books out ahead of time, or do you like to be surprised by where your stories take you?
A: I’ve tried to plot books out before, but I always end up trashing the outline and going the opposite way. Mostly, I just write and find out what happens for myself while I’m writing it. And I definitely surprise myself a lot, with both the stories I’m telling and who gets to play a part in them. Willow, the heroine in Rise to Embrace, was a big surprise for me! I didn’t see her coming at all, but once she appeared, I knew I had to tell her story.
Q: The idea of mates, or lovers who are fated to be, arises in many of your books. Do you believe in destiny and love at first sight?
A: I definitely believe in karma, and I feel like fate plays a role in that. So I have some allegiances to the idea of fate, but I also like the idea that love is a choice, which is something I was able to express in one of my other series, Shifters of Mystery. In Rise of the Changelings, the changelings have a choice of mates, but vampires are bound to fate. For me, it’s about two different and equally appealing kinds of romance. In fated romances, you can skip all the will-they-won’t-they and get right to the can-they-get-along-or-can’t-they, which I’ve always enjoyed writing. On the other hand, when characters have that free will to choose who they’re with, you get to develop their romance and watch their love blossom.
Q: You have such a large catalog of work, and many of your series have crossover characters. What are some methods you use to keep all the details included in your various books consistent?
A: I have my sister beta read and catch loopholes and mistakes as best she can. She’s great at pointing out when I’ve made a choice that’s not right for a particular story or character. My niece is also a big help. She’s the one who keeps track of all my character charts and traces what happens through each book. When I’m done with a book, she always goes through and points out what loose threads are left hanging and what in the external plot will need to be carried on and addressed in the next book. I’ll even have a checklist by my side when I’m writing to make sure that all the various plotlines are getting resolved.
Q: What is your writing schedule like?
A: I write fifteen hours a day. It’s an obsession! There are days when my daughter has to pull me out of my office so I can have dinner, and there are days when I’m reluctant to leave my work for anything. You could definitely say that I’m addicted to writing.
Q: With all the genres you’ve written in, it seems you have fairly varied tastes. Is there a particular type of romance you like to write about most?
A: I have always loved sci-fi, and Lady Blue Crew was such a blast to write because you can create the universe your characters are living in and it can be anything you want it to be.
Q: As an experienced and bestselling author, do you have any advice for new writers?
A: Starting out, and especially with a first book, I would advise writers to take their time. Really develop your characters and get to know them. Don’t just tell me about what this gorgeous man looks like, figure out who he is, what his likes and dislikes are, and pull me into his story.