Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Leslie Morris Noyes Interview - Willing

Photo Content from Leslie Noyes 

LESLIE MORRIS NOYES is art director and writer living in Southern Vermont. Her writing is inspired by her adventures in love. She currently shares her home with a small inherited dog, who may be a Poodle and Cairn Terrier mix, or something else entirely. When she isn’t designing magazines, Leslie is texting with her daughters, sending overlong emails to friends, or plotting her next novel while also fighting a loosing battle against the clutter on her desk.


Where were you born and where do you call home?
I was born in Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York. We moved a lot when I was a child—four states in three years—before we settled in Bennington, Vermont, when I was six. Except for a stint in college, first to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and then to New York City, where I finished college and worked for ten years, I’ve lived in Vermont all my life and still do.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
I love it when readers enjoy what I’ve written. My purpose is to tell a story that women will enjoy. A few guys have enjoyed Willing, too, which is delightful.

What inspired you to pen your first novel?
As I passed my 45th birthday, I began to notice that romance novels were predominantly about women in their 20s and 30s. Women in their 40s and beyond were hard to find in romance, but fairly easy to find in women’s fiction. So why not in romance?

By the time we get labeled “mature,” we have enough experience not to sweat the small stuff. We’ve probably experienced the loss of a parent or friend, and lost more than one love.

I noticed that in fiction, TV, and movies, mature women are often portrayed as technologically challenged or inept in other ways, or they are cougars—a term I find derogatory. Is there a similar term for men with younger lovers, other than lucky?

I like stories with the depth I encounter in women’s fiction, yet I also want that story to be sexy. Being 40+ doesn’t mean you are not attractive, or have lost interest in sex. Or are no longer interested in reading about women like yourself. So, since there is no hot romance women’s fiction genre, I decided to start writing exactly that.

Tell us your latest news.
Willing is being released on March 23rd, and I’m doing interviews in support of it, as well as getting to know readers through my website. I’m also starting work on my next novel, tentatively titled Valentine. The heroine, Arielle, is the best friend of Liz, the heroine in Willing, so each book will form part of a suite of hot romance women’s fiction.

Can you tell us when you started WILLING, how that came about?
I had a friend with benefits who loved fantasies, so I wrote him one about an older woman and younger man. Writing the ingenue as a young man rather than a young woman seemed like a fun twist. At the time, I was trying to write a historical romance and it wasn’t working. I showed my writer friends the sexy short story. They loved it and encouraged me to keep going. Willing started with that short story about 45-year-old Liz and “C.,” the young man, it became the launch point for Liz’s deeper journey to self-fulfillment and true love with a man her own age.

What do you hope readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I want to entertain women like me, who, as it happens, buy the most books of any cohort. I hope my readers see themselves in the novel and have moments where they can relate to Liz’s issues and think, “Yes, that’s how life is now, it’s exactly like that!” I also hope they have a great time reading the sex scenes. I worked to give each man Liz sleeps with his own style of lovemaking, which helps her along her journey.

What part of Liz did you enjoy writing the most?
Even when she is having sex, Liz has trouble turning off her thoughts—although turning them off and experiencing sublime physical moments is her goal. Sometimes, when I wrote what Liz was thinking about men and sex, I would think, holy cow, did that just come out of my brain? Discovering what is in my own head has turned out to be the best part of the writing process.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Even though Liz believes she is done with love, she adores men. She would probably enjoy flirting with any of the heroes in Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s novels, because Ms. Phillips writes strong men with good senses of humor who gravitate toward strong women.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
My day job! I am a graphic designer with my own business, specializing in websites and magazines. The problem is that writing novels is like potato chips for me—I can’t stop. I would plan to write for an hour before moving on to my scheduled work, but then I’d write all day. A lot of midnight oil was burned to get my clients’ work finished on days like that. At other times I’d be frustrated by work and family commitments, and weeks would go by before I could get back to Willing.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Travel somewhere and stay long enough to understand the culture of the place. Traveling made me realize that my everyday reality is not the only possibility. I could choose a different one—maybe the locale I was visiting, maybe somewhere else. For instance, the little town where I live in Vermont is only three hours from New York City. Yet New York is an entirely different world: more people, trendier fashion, different food, and so much noise and traffic. Even the way people move around and connect—or don’t connect—is different. Traveling has expanded my knowledge of the world and allowed me to see my own life with a bigger sense of possibility.

Best date you've ever had?
The best date is always the same: when I’m falling in love, it doesn’t matter what is going on or where I am. What matters are those intoxicating feelings that I’m sharing with the man at my side.

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?
I’m not the least interested in going back in time unless I can take my current knowledge with me. As a younger person I doubted myself and didn’t have a clue how to make choices or stand up for what I needed. As wrong as it may be to say, the truth is that beauty and youth— whether male or female—bestows a certain kind of power. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to use mine or that I even had any.

Can we reverse this question, so I can be who I am now, but with the supple body of my 25-year-old self?

Have you ever stood up for someone you hardly knew?
Yes. I believe we change the world one person at a time, so it is important to help others, even if all I’m doing is letting the person behind me in the grocery line move ahead of my full cart.

First Heartbreak?
That would be my ex-husband—and before we married. This is exactly what I’m talking about when I say my 25-year-old self was clueless. I should have had enough sense to know he would end up breaking my heart gain.

What is your most memorable travel experience?
I was in my late twenties and skiing in the French Alps. We’d planned to spend a week skiing and another week in Paris. But after we’d been in Monterey for a few days, it began snowing and didn’t stop for seven days. By the time the sun came out, we had seven feet of snow and no time for Paris. Finally back on the slopes, I was waiting in line for a chairlift halfway up the mountain (it had many, many chairlifts and more trails than could be skied in a day), when I turned around and did a double take. I said, “Marion?” Standing behind me was a woman I’d last seen at our high school graduation!

That sighting ties for the other, not as fun surprise on that trip. There was a controlled avalanche to safely bring down what could have become a dangerous slide. Only there was a slight miscalculation. The rumble was frightening, and watching the snow rush toward us was a wild and scary sight. In the end, we raced ahead of the slide and the snow rolling past our skis wasn’t enough to knock us over. Still, it was unnerving.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before? Whether it works out or not doesn’t change how sublime it is to be in love. Losing it doesn’t change the experience, it just makes it shorter.

Where can readers find you?
Find me on Facebook and Instagram at LeslieNoyesAuthor. To learn more about my books, visit LeslieNoyesAuthor.com, where I also post “musings” about my life and the locales featured in Willing.

This such a difficult choice! Since you can read about aspects of Willing on my website, I’m going with ten of my favorite reads.
  • 1. 9 Magic Wishes, by Shirley Jackson. Who knew the writer of The Lottery also wrote a wonderfully strange children’s picture book? A new edition illustrated by her son is now available.
  • 2. Green Darkness, by Anya Seton. The first romance novel I ever read. It was a gothic and it hooked me on romances for life.
  • 3. Feast of Love, by Charles Baxter. This novel has so much soul. Mr. Baxter explores the ways we love, romantic and otherwise.
  • 4. Shadowheart, by Laura Kinsale. An assassin kidnaps a young woman, then attempts to rape her. She fights back, and they discover a mutual desire for rough sex where he is not the dominant partner. Bondage and pain are not new to romance, but setting it the Renaissance of city-states is.
  • 5. Pretty much anything by Loretta Chase, but if I have to pick a favorite, I’ll go with Mr. Impossible.
  • 6. Delicious, by Sherry Thomas. A brilliant cook is hired to feed a man intent on denying all pleasures.
  • 7. Part of the Furniture, by Mary Wesley. Ms. Wesley didn’t publish her first novel until she was 70. This one is about the cruelty of some men and the loveliness of others, with one of the best endings ever.
  • 8. Single & Single, by John le CarrĂ©. A young man who seems to be a complete innocent gets taken on a scary adventure in international money laundering, but this guy has a few surprises up his sleeves for the people who think they are controlling him.
  • 9. Seventh Heaven, by Alice Hoffman. An early work about how a divorced woman, moving into a straight-laced suburb in the 1960s, changes everything and everyone.
  • 10. Frost the Fiddler, by Janice Weber. Ms. Weber was a pianist and then a novelist. Leslie Frost is the last of a U.S. female spy ring who hasn’t been killed. It’s a classic trope, of finding the killer before being killed off, but this one doesn’t go to the usual places.
Meet the Characters
1. The fiction Liz tells herself about her perfect life takes a hit after her interlude with C. in the first chapter. Liz is acerbic, confident, and hiding the full extent of her grief from herself. The main tool she uses to keep her heart from being broken again are some rules she consults before choosing to sleep with a man. Liz’s Rules are nothing like the infamous dating book published in the 90s. There are 10 rules that she references at various points in the novel. Thank goodness she figures out they need updating! Here’s the first of those rules:
  • Rule No. 1: I sleep only with men who are FATALLY FLAWED. It doesn’t matter if he can’t hold down a job or he doesn’t always show up when he tells me he will. So what if he’s out of touch with his feelings and that if they exist at all, they’re orbiting Saturn. I don’t need the man in my bed to be good with words as long as he’s good with his mouth—and other body parts. None of this matters because I’m not planning to keep anyone around for more than a few months. Sleeping with fatally flawed men means never becoming so enamored of one that I won’t quickly overcome the attraction once I’ve waved goodbye to John or Dave or Robert or whomever.
2. My own daughter and I sometimes had a hard time drawing the line between parent and child and friend when she was younger, because it was just the two of us from the time she was five. I modeled Liz’s relationship with her daughter Diana, on mine with my daughter, who is 33 now and I love to pieces. At one point 19-year old Diana and Liz have a spat about Liz’s interest in never having a real relationship again. The first comment is from Liz, criticizing Diana’s attitude about a boy at college who is interested in her.
  • “I hope you aren’t as jaded as you sound.”
  • “Says the Jade Queen herself.”
  • “Oh, come on. I haven’t given up on men.” At least, I haven’t given up on sleeping with them. This is what my mother would call a “Philadelphia lawyer” defense.
  • “Yeah, right. Just because you sleep around—and around and around,” my daughter pronounces, “doesn’t mean you haven’t given up on them.” Diana has some lawyerly tendencies herself.
  • “Really. You make it sound like I keep the male version of a harem.” Once again, I’m thrown off balance by how astute my daughter is about my inner workings.
  • “It’s not a harem, it is a revolving door,” she retorts.
3. Liz is very imaginative. One of her imaginings is a giant sock monkey that leers at her whenever she begins to believe in love.

4. Some readers found it perplexing that Liz calls her young lover C. and not by his real name. But C. turns up again much later in the story and at that time, asks Liz why she doesn’t use his name anymore. I’ve been told this is the cutest scene in the book and that waiting to find out this riddle is worth the wait. ( I think the ending is the cutest scene.)

5. Liz is petite and curvy. There are not enough short curvy women in fiction! And although Liz knows men are attracted to her, she is 45, she’s had a child; there are stretch marks. It was important to me to have Liz make my case for beauty that isn’t tall, slender, and gym hardened. I wanted C. and Kit, men who are attacted to her, to be more beautiful than she considers herself to be. Like most of us, Liz is somewhat comfortable with her body, but not completely comfortable. The first time she and Kit make love, she expresses that dual sense of herself:
  • I’m not as beautiful or finally sculpted as Kit. I do, however, possess curves where a woman should have them; my waist is trim enough, even if my hips flare in a way that twenty-first-century fashion appreciates less than it should—although the Kardashians are doing their best to return hourglass shapes to fashion. Luckily, Kit seems to be a traditionalist, or to have broad tastes. Finished with his perusal, he offers a sexy curl of his lip in pure animal approval.
6. Her best friend is nothing like her, and yet they see the world the same way. Here’s an observation Liz makes about their differences, having already noted that she is too impetuous while Arielle overthinks decisions:
  • Arielle camps alone in isolated places, for God’s sake. As for me, I don’t sleep anywhere I need to cross a field in the dead of night to use the facilities. Since her forays into the deep woods have yielded hair-raising stories of encounters with moose and bear, encounters that demanded quick, life-preserving decision-making, I reason that Arielle can make instant choices, but they tend to happen when I’m not around.
7. An Uncle told Kit that he needed to get out of his own backyard for college. Kit agreed and left Savannah for Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. He met his wife, Eleanor, there.

8. Kit is a guy who never rebelled, while at 45, Liz is still rebelling against her mother.

9. As sometimes happens with couples, Kit’s relationship with Eleanor became so airtight that they didn’t welcome outsiders, including their birth families. This made Kit’s mother resent Eleanor, which plays an important part in what happens between Kit and Liz. As we all know, family dynamics can make for trouble decades after an issue should have been forgiven.

10. Kit led a life of ease—he grew up well to do, went to good schools, and is smart, charming, and good looking. But because of what happened with Eleanor, by the time Liz meets him, his life is mostly about grief and trying to chase it away. Liz doesn’t know anything about what he’s been through when she meets her 49 year-old landlord and is immediately attracted:
  • Christopher Aiken Couper is not what I expected. I had envisioned one of those men who looks like a boy forever—Johnny Carson gone slightly to seed. But Kit is neither beefy nor blond. His hair is wavy salt and pepper, his facial features angular. There are laugh lines at the corners of his brown eyes, and nothing about his body is past its prime. The man is tall and slim with wide shoulders and the privileged athletic carriage I associate with the Kennedys and their ilk.
11. Kit and his family history were inspired by a family and their property, now a historic site, called Hofwyl-Broadfield, in Brunswick, Georgia. A fast five minutes off of I95, this former rice plantation is well worth a visit. If you search for it in Google Maps, you will be able to see rice fields that are still clearly delineated, over 150 years after being abandoned.

12. Hofwyl-Broadfield, is no Tara, although its history is no less appalling for the slavery practiced there than at larger more well-known plantations. One unusual thing about this one is that Margret Mitchell, the writer of Gone With the Wind, often visited. Coastal Georgia has inspired many writers including Ms. Mitchell, Eugenia Price and now, me. In Mitchell’s case, her inspiration was just up the road from Hofwyl at Rhett Island and the Butler Plantation. Writers often pick out pieces of reality and stir it into fiction, which is how Rhett Butler got his name!

Liz Silver loves her life. She loves her daughter, whom she’s just sent off to college, she loves her work photographing weddings and the optimism it inspires, and she loves her adventurous and carefree dating life. Then, at 45, she loses the creative spark that is the driving force in all these beloved areas of her life. She’s in a rut, a funk that many readers will relate to when disruptions to our normal way of life have left us cut off from many of the pursuits that give our lives meaning.

On a winter sabbatical to beautiful coastal Georgia, Liz finds inspiration in more than just the scenery. She meets an attractive, far-too-compelling man who has experienced his share of heartbreak. As for Liz, with her own history of heartbreak she prefers to maintain emotional distance from her romantic partners, but her typical modus operandi goes out the window when love casts a spell over them both. Each of them is forced to decide whether one last all-or-nothing gamble on intimacy is worth the risk.

You can purchase Willing at the following link below. 

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you LESLIE MORRIS NOYES for making this giveaway possible.
Winner will receive a Copy of Willing by Leslie Morris Noyes.