Laurel Kristoff, the main character in Lisa Brown Roberts‘ Spies, Lies, and Allies, thought she’d spend the summer basking in the sun and enjoying a little rest and relaxation. Boy, was she wrong!
Instead, her father has roped her into a summer job at his company working with his interns, who are in fierce competition for a college scholarship. Laurel’s supposed to choose the overall winner, but her decision-making skills are being clouded by a couple things. First, super cute intern Carlos may just lose his scholarship opportunity if Laurel finally gives into the tension between them. Second, someone with insider knowledge is trying to bring the company down via social media, and Laurel is eager to suss them out.
We exclusively chatted with author Lisa Brown Roberts about Laurel’s love of fandom, character chemistry, creating an office competition frenzy, and more. Check it out below!
Laurel’s story starts with an unwanted summer job. Did you work any rough summer jobs as a teen?
My least favorite summer job as a teen was filing for an insurance company. I moved papers from one folder to another and then re-shelved them – hundreds and hundreds of files. I spent all summer in a hot storeroom, and the worst part was I had to dress up! Come to think of it, this might have subconsciously influenced the filing scene in this book.
I also spent one day working as a flower arranger at a florist, then was let go because of straight-up incompetence. I still don’t know how to make flowers look pretty in a vase.
My favorite job was working in a candy store in a huge mall. One of my best friends worked next door in a competing snack store, and the highlight of our summer was when the band INXS came into the mall and bought snacks from her. Additionally, she was the inspiration for Trish’s character in this book.
What was your favorite part of mapping out the big college scholarship competition that Laurel has to judge?
One- making up all of Mr. Mantoni’s ridiculous rules, and Laurel’s funny commentary in her notebook. I especially had fun writing the scene in which Carlos tells Laurel he’s about to break one of the rules…with her.
Two- figuring out who the scholarship winner was. I struggled with how to solve that thorny issue, but Laurel solved it for me. In every book I write, my characters come to life and figure out solutions that I swear I never would’ve thought of myself.
How does Laurel’s addiction to fandom, particularly Star Wars, shape her character?
Laurel loves sci-fi, especially Star Wars. Bonding over Star Wars with her dad as a child adds a layer of depth to her addiction to this particular fandom. Also, she’s always wanted to be as fierce and brave as Princess (now General) Leia, but she doesn’t think she’ll ever be brave.
In this book, Laurel calls on her inner Leia and Rey to empower her when she has to stand up to the adults on the job, and some of the interns. When she’s feeling insecure about herself compared to the interns, she’s challenged by fellow nerd- intern Elijah- to stop (literally) hiding her fandom, and he tells her not to worry about what other people think. She knows this, of course, but support from a fellow fandom geek always helps.
There are plenty of great characters in this novel, but of course, we love Carlos! What do you think makes the chemistry between Laurel and Carlos work so well?
I’m so glad you liked him, and them as a couple! I had a lot of fun developing their relationship. I think their chemistry works because it’s a slow burn. They become friends first, though there’s an undercurrent of attraction from the beginning. He likes her for who she is, which she can’t believe at first. She’s used to being the nerdy girl with dorky hobbies that guys like him make fun of. Also, as her confidence grows on the job, she’s not afraid to challenge him, in more ways than one. Also, he admits when he’s wrong, always an admirable quality in a partner.
Laurel also finds herself trying to uncover a corporate saboteur! Was it always your intention to add some mystery with the competitive office romance or did that grow in as you wrote?
Adding the corporate sabotage came after I’d written the first draft of the book, suggested by my agent to amp up the tension. When I revised the story to weave in the mystery, the villain was different than who it is in the published version. Some of my books, including this one, change considerably during the revision process, while others only require minor revisions.
What’s your writing process like?
My stories always start from characters. Often it starts with dialog I hear in my head, which I transcribe however I can – on my phone, on a napkin, whatever is handy. It feels like dictation when I write a scene just in dialog, but I quickly see exactly who these characters are by hearing them talk.
Other times books start with an image. For instance, for PLAYING THE PLAYER, one day this image just dropped into my brain: two teens at the Denver Museum of Natural History laden with kid stuff: backpacks, lunch boxes, and stuffed animals. The guy looked amused while the girl looked frazzled. Two little kids (a girl and a boy) danced around them, completely out of control. I knew instantly the teens were babysitting these kids, and they were stuck working together for the summer. I also knew the guy would end up being better with kids than the girl, who considered herself far superior when it came to babysitting. The scenario I conjured just from that image was bursting with opportunities for conflict, humor, and enemies-to-lovers romance.
Honestly, that book practically wrote itself, like a gift from the universe. That doesn’t happen often. Most times I have a great handle on the characters, but I have to dig deep to figure out which of their flaws are going to drive the plot, and how. I’d be happy to write teasing banter and kissing scenes all day long, but other stuff has to happen, too. A few of my favorite plotting tools are Romancing the Reader by Gwen Hayes, Rock Your Plot by Cathy Yardley, and Jami Gold’s beat sheets (you can find them at jamigold.com). Also, my editor Liz Pelletier is brilliant at solving plot issues, thank goodness.
I write my first drafts quickly and then do a fair amount of revising. That’s what works for me- some authors revise as they go and by the time they finish their first draft, it’s almost ready to go. That doesn’t work for me. I encourage aspiring writers to try different approaches. Some of my friends write incredibly detailed outlines, some “pants” the whole book, and others are somewhere in the middle. There’s no “right way” to do this writing gig. Try different approaches and eventually you’ll figure out what works best for you.
Spies, Lies, and Allies is out now! You can order it now via…
Amazon | B&N | iBooks | IndieBound | Kobo | Entangled Publishing
ABOUT THE BOOK
Summers are supposed to be fun, right? Not mine. I’ve got a job at my dad’s company, which is sponsoring a college scholarship competition. I just found out that, in addition to my job assisting the competing interns, I’m supposed to vote for the winner. Totally not what I signed up for.
My boss is running the competition like it’s an episode of Survivor. Then there’s Carlos, who is, well, very distracting––in a good way. But I can’t even think about him like that because fraternizing on the job means instant disqualification for the intern involved.
Much as I’d love to quit, I can’t. Kristoffs Never Quit is our family motto. I just hope there’s more than one survivor by the end of this summer.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Award-winning romance author Lisa Brown Roberts still hasn’t recovered from the teenage catastrophes of tweezing off both eyebrows, or that time she crashed her car into a tree while trying to impress a guy. It’s no wonder she loves to write romantic comedies.
Lisa’s books have earned praise from Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and the School Library Journal. She lives in Colorado with her family, in which pets outnumber people.