Who Knew? Sleepy La Verne Suddenly a Hot Bed of Romance!

March 3, 2011
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leveque1Could history repeat itself?

New York Times Best-Selling Author Clive Cussler, writer of such action adventures as Valhalla Rising, Sahara and Raise the Titanic! grew up in Alhambra and attended Pasadena City College.

Meanwhile, Kathryn Le Veque, a La Verne-based writer of historical romances, grew up in nearby Pasadena and also attended Pasadena City College. While she is as prolific as Cussler – she has written six-full length novels in the last six months alone and 21 in her still budding career — she’s not quite a household name yet.

But give her time.

Blond and vivacious like some of her characters, she wrote her first novel – all 200 pages in loving longhand — when she was just 13. It was inspired by the movie “Star Wars.”

Now her muses or sources of inspiration can come from anywhere. For Lady of Heaven, which she just completed in December, she began weaving her tale based on a large orange journal she received as a gift one Christmas. “Man, how cool would it be,” she started wondering, “if a girl while cleaning out the family manor discovered her great-grandmother’s journal from her trip to Egypt back in the 1920s!”

Seven weeks later, her original concept had been transformed into a finished novel, complete with an “extraordinarily handsome” hero “that reeked of comeliness, intelligence and intimidation,” and a heroine, Morgan Sherburn, “a strikingly beautiful blond … petite, no more than an inch or two over five feet, dressed in a clinging gray sweater, slender blue jeans and flat black slippers.”

The sparks start to fly, and the pair set off for Egypt – the land of pharaohs and pyramids — to solve a mystery involving the long-ago disappearance of her great-grandmother.

“Here’s the rule of thumb,” Le Veque said, disclosing just one of her sure-fire formulas for writing historical romances. “The characters have to meet within the first five pages of the book and they have to be madly in love within the first four chapters. Whatever happens has to happen fast. People don’t want to wait long for that. They want to jump right into a real hot romance.”

The only person moving faster than her lead characters was Le Veque herself, writing her story almost as quickly as her 85-words-per-minute-trained fingers could fly across the keyboard. “It just spilled out, Le Veque said. “I couldn’t write fast enough to get it on the page.”

She has to write rapidly because her time is precious. She works full time as an office manager in Colton, and until just this year, she was the president of the La Verne Band Boosters Association for five years, her way of giving back and remembering her days when she was band geek playing flute, piccolo, viola and bassoon. Despite, all that, including raising two children, James, who is now a student at PCC and her daughter, Molly, an art history major at the University of La Verne, she still manages to knock out about 25 pages a night.leveque4

Clamor for her books is growing because she is at a point in her life where she and her editors feel she really has honed and polished her craft to a fine brilliance. She is probably best known for her lavish detail, exhaustive research and characterizations.

“I can see my characters so plainly,” Le Veque said. “I can see the color of their hair, I can see the pores on the skin. I can hear the dialogue between the characters. It’s so strong and real.

“When I walk into a room, I’m thinking, ‘What do I see first, what do I smell first, what am I looking at, what am I touching?’ You have to be there for the reader.”

Every book she has ever completed starts with an outline. She knows the beginning, middle and end to her stories before she ever makes her first keystroke. Amazingly, she may have half a dozen novels going at any time, switching to one or another as her “muse” moves her. Currently, her outlines fill nine spiral notebooks.

“If the house burns down, I don’t care what else gets out of the house, but those notebooks better get out,” she said, playfully.

Exactly where her vivid imagination comes from is still a bit of a mystery. She credits a grandmother who passed on her joy of reading to her. But many of her novels are set in old Medieval England between the reigns of William the Conqueror and Richard the III, arcane historical periods usually best left to scholars working in leafy or ivory towers. In college, she first majored in dental science before switching over to business administration – not your usual prerequisites for historical romance.

leveque3“I’m a voracious reader,” Le Veque said, rattling off a number of historical dates, like the Battle of Lewes (1264) and the Battle of Bosworth Field (1485), as if they were as fresh as today’s headlines about Egypt and Libya.  “And thank God for the Internet. They say, ‘write what you know, but I obviously don’t know everything about Medieval England, but I can sure read about it. I can put myself in that period and setting and understand what these people went through in their daily lives – how they lived, how they looked and how they fought.”

Now relieved of her band duties and forever racing off to PTA meetings, she only seems to have grown more prolific and passionate about her craft. “I remember my husband saying, ‘You’re just obsessed with this.’ It wasn’t an obsession, however, as much as it was just something that made me really happy.”

And that’s really her goal now – to produce really good novels that other people will enjoy and appreciate. “I always write with the intention of people reading and loving it. It’s never been about the money. It’s about someone picking up your book and really loving it.”

One of her editors, Andrew Bufalo at S&B Publishing ( www.allamericanbooks.com) loves her work and is expanding the company’s category of genres to include her novels.

Fans can also find her work in paperback or downloadable to their Kindles via purchase through Amazon.com, Borders.com and Booksamillion.com. She will also market her novels herself through independent book sellers and perhaps even through specialty chains like Medieval Times where her world of dukes, barons and earls perfectly complements the chivalric and romantic spirit of those entertainment-style restaurants.

She also plans to have a booth at the upcoming Renaissance Faire in the San Gabriel Valley. For the sake of promotion, might she also consider doing a stint as Lady Godiva, the Anglo-Saxon noblewoman who according to legend rode naked through the streets of Coventry to protest the high taxes her countrymen were facing.

“I thought about it,” Le Veque said. “I just wonder if my parents would bail me out of jail.”

Her work ethic is good and her talent shines through, so she shouldn’t have to resort to extreme acts of self-promotion to expand her audience of readers. She has a growing fan base the world over, including a pocket of passionate readers in Argentina, for some inexplicable reason.

“My dream at this point is to write stuff that people really want to read and hopefully that alone will cause my books to really take off,” Le Veque said. “In five years, I’d love to be writing full time and selling screenplays (many of her novels would be easily adaptable to be made into major motion pictures).leveque5

“I don’t have to have the biggest house in La Verne,” she said, “but if I make a lot of money, I will build it.”

Did she say a house? If Le Veque’s building it, better make that a castle with a moat and a tower and a great dining hall and at least one private chamber perfect for sizzling romance and a touch of scandal.  

For more on historical romance writer Kathryn Le Veque, visit her Web site at www.kathrynleveque.com. You can also access her novels via Amazon.com, Borders.com, and Booksamillion.com, as well as AllAmericanBooks.com.

By Peter Bennett

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