Message From The Author
LORI FOSTER GOES BACK TO ROMANCE BASICS WITH
BACK IN BLACK
By Lauren Spielberg
Ultimate fighting. Romance novels. Some might say the two endeavors have as much in common as yin and yang. It wasn't until author Lori Foster came along with her SBC (Supreme Battle Challenge) Fighter series that the two worlds became intertwined. With New York Times bestselling nods and a controversial genre
shift in the previous SBC Fighter book (more on that later), Foster isn't pulling any punches with Back in Black
(Feb. '10, Berkley), her latest, and perhaps final, novel
in this high-octane series.
In Back on Black, Foster thrusts SBC president Drew Black into the ultimate fighting arena. Abrasive and domineering, Drew is no stranger to fans of the series, having appeared in some of Foster's prior fighter books: Causing Havoc (Feb. '07), Simon Says (July '07), Hard to Handle (Feb. '08) and
My Man Michael (Feb. '09). This time around, "readers get
to see Drew more in depth, to learn that there are layers to him," says Foster. The woman responsible for coaxing Drew away from his alpha sensibilities is public relations pro
"Gillian has been hired by the owners of the [ultimate
fighting] organization to change Drew's public image, to make him 'nicer,' so that the sport can go more mainstream. They butt heads in a big way," the author hints. Though he's more intense and complicated than her other clients, Gillian soon finds herself responding to Drew's charms.
Foster explains why Gillian's attracted to bad boy Drew: "So often, people liken alphas to jerks, and I don't see it that way. A real man who is confident and capable is never a bully and never abusive to anyone. Alphas are leaders. They're the ones who take charge in difficult situations when others -- like me! -- would be waiting to see what should be done. Their instinct is to protect anyone smaller or weaker than them, and their pride dictates that they be independent. So what's not to love? I never say never, but I can't imagine me writing a book that didn't include an alpha male -- at least to some degree."
Foster, an Ultimate Fighting Championship devotee from its inception, thoroughly enjoyed researching these books. Not only did she attend several live events, she interviewed fighters both in person and over the phone.
"It's always fascinated me, because so many of the
fighters were Olympic contenders or placers, collegiate wrestlers and others from highly trained levels of athleticism," says Foster."Sure, way back it included a lot of 'barroom brawler' types, but watching it grow and change has been a
real education in men. Now it's by far my favorite sport. So often you see a fighter in an interview and he's a real family guy, committed to his wife and kids, responsible and oh-so-dedicated to his sport. The contrast is what made me want to write the fighters into romances. The sport takes up so much time in intense training, and these men are so disciplined,
that fitting in a real romance intrigued me.
"As for reader reaction ... you know, I love the sport so much that I guess I just na•vely assumed readers would too. Luckily I was mostly right. The books have done great things for my career, but it wasn't until after they routinely hit the New York Times that publishers began putting fighters on the cover," she laughs. "Until then, the covers, which were terrific, were more generic. I do receive an occasional chastising note from a reader who thinks I promote brutality -- to which I
usually apologize for her disappointment. Fact is, MMA,
mixed martial arts, has never had a serious injury or death.
An occasional dislocated joint or broken bone, but even that
is rare. And now it's so tightly regulated that the fighters probably get more tests for steroids than athletes from more traditional sports."
With her SBC Fighter series, Foster converted many of her romance fans into fans of ultimate fighting as well. However,
the series did lose steam when the now infamous My Man Michael was released. While much of the series has been straightforward contemporary romance, Foster, according
to fans, jumped the shark when the title character was suddenly able to travel through time. Readers expecting to revisit the world created in the previous Fighter novels were disappointed -- and not shy about vocalizing their discontent.
"Yeah. My Man Michael. What was I thinking?" Foster chuckles good-naturedly. "Never before has one of my
books generated so much hate mail. I mean, really, really angry mail. Readers would write and threaten me. One person wanted to 'beat me up.' I got notes and e-mails that said, 'The next book better be straight contemporary!' and I wanted to ask, 'Or what?' There were also a lot of readers who were nice about it, just saying that they were horribly disappointed by the differences in the series.
"Truth is, I don't think in terms of series or anticipate reader reaction. I'm such a basic writing animal that whatever comes to me is what I write," she explains. "If the storyline excites me, then I write it. From the day Michael showed up in the books, I knew his would be a futuristic plot. Not once did it occur to me that many readers would be disappointed. Sad but true. I have
a shirt that says, 'Blame it on the muse.' That
is so appropriate for me. I'm not a writer who plans ahead. That said, I totally get where the upset readers are coming from. They expected one thing, based on what I'd given them so far, and I gave them something totally different.
"Would I do it again? I'm afraid so. If that's how the book wanted to be written, that's how I'd write it. The difference is that now I know to put something concrete on the front cover that lets readers know that the book will be a departure. Just having it on my website wasn't good enough, because not everyone sees my site, or is part of
my social networking sites or my newsletter. Readers buy books, so the info should be on the book for them to see.
I get it ... now."
Never fear. With Back in Black, readers can expect a return to the contemporary romance storytelling they first fell in love with. And in the spirit of goodwill, in June, Foster is contributing a novella to The Gift of Love (Berkley ), an anthology whose proceeds will be donated to the Conductive Learning Center, a school for children with spina bifida and cerebral palsy.
Calling 2010 a "lean year" in terms of new releases, Foster says she'll continue to stay connected by personally answering fan e-mail, visiting her own message board at LoriFoster.com and RT's at RTBookReviews.com and blogging with fellow authors such as Jayne Ann Krentz, Elizabeth Lowell, Stella Cameron and others, at RunningWithQuills.com.
And she's in no way ready to say au revoir to her
alpha male heroes! The first of three single-title, back-to-
back novels for HQN is currently slated for June 2011.
"I'm very excited about the first story -- super alpha male,
but not a fighter -- that is tentatively titled If You Dare," Foster says. "I know that the first three will be related
by characters -- but plotwise ... don't know yet how
Blame it on the muse.
BACK IN BLACK
Gillian Noode stood against the back wall of Roger's Rodeo, the popular bar where many fighters hung out. She was close enough to observe him, but not close enough to get noticed. Yet. At least, not by him. Plenty of other men had already given her the once-over, showing appreciation for her trim black skirt, her low-scooped white blouse, and strappy sandals. A few had even tried to strike up a conversation. Though tempted, she'd politely declined.
She'd come here for a reason, and Drew Black was it.
Dressed in well-worn jeans and a
comfortable black T-shirt bearing the logo
of the SBC fight organization, the president of the extreme sport sat at the polished bar. Currently he held close conversation with two long-haired lovelies whose bloated busts defied believability. No woman that slender had breasts that large.
But Drew showed no signs of disbelief. Like a king of his own making, he openly ogled their bounty. Thrilled with his appreciation, the girls played with their long hair, flirted, and giggled.
Gillian fought a gag.
From the many interviews and television spots she'd watched, as well as her current scrutiny, Gillian surmised that Drew Black had a fighter-type physique, scripted with honest muscle rather than the steroid-induced kind. He wasn't quite as shredded as the actual fighters, who made workouts and healthy diet a regular part of their routine, but
he looked strong and capable.
Obviously his ego demanded that he stay in shape. After all, he was often surrounded by younger men in their prime, elite fighters with rock-hard bodies and astounding ability.
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