Hello Lila Mina, it is so nice to have you here at my Creekside Café.
Lila: Its lovely to be here! I wish we could meet for real in a place like this.
Sherri: Oh, me too, if I ever win the lottery! Until then, I love meeting writers and readers here in my virtual café.
I love your name, Lila Mina. Where does it come from? Do you know what it means?
Lila: Thank you! I love the first name ‘Lila’, it reminds me of lily flowers. In Swedish, it means ‘purple’, and it’s a perfect match because it’s my favorite color. My logo is actually a purple lily. Mina is also a reference to Swedish, it means ‘mine’. Yes, I’ve got Swedish roots!
Sherri: Tell me a little about yourself, where are you from. Where do you call home?
Lila: I am from a French-speaking country in Europe, and live now in the south-western island of Kyushu, in Japan, where I moved with my family ten years ago.
Sherri: How interesting, then I’m sure you are a coffee and wine drinker, or do you go in for more Asian tastes?
Lila: Italian espresso, Japanese green tea and red wine, in no particular order of preference.
Sherri: One of my daughters-in-law is Asian, she is Cambodian. She has exposed me to so many other cultures from food and drink to customs and beliefs. I love herbal teas especially ginger tea and chai, but coffee, and especially espresso will always be a favorite.
Lila: Nothing beats espresso, that’s for sure. So nice to hear you’ve got ties with Asia, too!
Sherri: Do you speak Japanese or any other languages? I would love to learn other languages. I took high school French and learned Spanish while working in the crab house. I’ve picked up a few words of other languages from reading, movies and friends.
Lila: French, not English, is my mother tongue. I’ve got various levels of fluency in other languages. I grew up reading books in French, English and German, I love Japanese literature… but I read translations! I’m not fluent enough in Japanese to read whole books, I’m afraid.
Sherri: Do you travel much. I’ve only been to the United States and Mexico.
Have you ever been to North Carolina, or the East Coast?
Lila: No, never to North Carolina, unfortunately, but when I was a teenager, my parents took me and my brother to a couple of trips to the US, and we visited New York and Miami. Because our plane got grounded due to terrible weather in New York, we received free roundtrip tickets as compensation. This gave us the incredible chance to travel all the way from Europe to Hawaii!
Sherri: That was quite a compensation. I’m working on a historical novella that takes place during World War Two, the bombing of Pearl Harbor is what finally launched us into the war. I would love to visit Hawaii.
The novella will be my first published historical. Historicals are my first love but I started writing contemporary romance and then drifted into contemporary suspense.
What genre do you write?
Lila: Of the very sexy kind! I don’t write erotica per se (hmm well, ok, now and then I might indulge in a short PWP), but I believe in sex positivity and how intimate scenes help build characters and plot even in a thriller or horror story. I love pushing my characters’ limits, and it includes sending them on a path of self-discovery through mutual exploration. My Temper trilogy is a dark LGBTQ and interracial paranormal romance. I love blending genres and don’t believe much in categorizations.
Sherri: My own novels have been difficult to categorize. They don’t fit the traditional romance format yet there is a strong romantic element. Mine, fall somewhere between women’s fiction, suspense and fiction. I don’t know. It’s frustrating. It must be even more so for you, with English not your native language.
Lila: Japanese literature and reading books in French, English and German, all of this influenced my style and the way I tell my stories. I have also a strong dislike for the way the ‘market’ is supposed to dictate what people need to write and read. Writing is art and creation, and shouldn’t be reduced to a commodity. So categories and rules should be broken now and then. This is why I’m so glad self-publishing exists today!
On top of that, for the past five years or so, I’ve decided to write stories featuring only women my age and older, so in their late thirties and forties. Like the hit comedy ‘Grace and Frankie’ reminds us, women don’t turn into stone after they hit 35, so it’s important for me to show that we are still very much passionate – maybe even more than when we were younger, because we are more in tune with ourselves. But of course, this makes my stories harder to sell.
Sherri: There are people who need your stories told your way, don’t let the dictates of the marketing derail your goals. This is also what I tell myself.
I am reading more older-characters, characters of mixed race or of different races. I have discovered that a good story is a good story no matter if the characters are different than me, maybe better because they are different. It is one of the reasons I make my own characters biracial and with challenges different than my own. I like to explore those differences and similarities. My world, even in my tiny part of it, is filled with a variety of people in a rainbow of colors, religions and sexual preferences, so too should my stories.
Has your career influenced your stories?
Lila: I’ve got an extensive background in law (I’ve got a PhD in international law and passed the bar exam in my home country). This had a very bad impact on my creative writing. In fact, although I used to write hundreds of pages every year in my teens, my creative well dried up during my law years and ‘sterilized’ my thoughts. I became an entrepreneur when we moved to Japan and finally, my mojo came back. I still use what I learned in my stories, though, either for my plots or characters.
Sherri: Do you write full time now, or hold down another job as well as write?
Lila: I’ve got two business on top of writing, so no, unfortunately it’s not my full-time job!
Sherri: How long have you been writing?
Lila: Since I was ten, I think. Along with reading, it’s been my major emotional outlet all my life – that’s why I became nearly depressed when I couldn’t find the time or inspiration any more during my twenties and early thirties.
Sherri: People who are not creative do not understand what it is like to not be able to create. Like you, I started writing at around ten years old. Different tragedies in life have staunched my creative flow, losing our home to a fire is another reason I write a darker, contemporary suspense. I believe it is my way of working through the trauma.
Lila: Oh wow, yes, I can entirely relate to that. We were in Tokyo in 2011 when the huge earthquake struck the northern region of Japan. In a blink, our lives changed and we had to start again everything, in another city. Writing clearly helped process my emotions and fears.
Sherri: What new project do you have going on?
Lila: This year, I published my Temper saga (three books, about 240k total), and I am currently working on the sequel, called Vindicta. Temper introduces my three heroes: Lana, 37, an Italian businesswoman, Honda, 57, her martial arts instructor and Yuki, 42, Honda’s wife. It’s set in Japan.
When Lana accepts the Hondas’ red-hot proposal in Tokyo, she stumbles into a dark rabbit hole. The Veil of Reality crumbles under her eyes. To her horror, she realizes she is the solution to Honda’s spiraling madness, but the enemy within has awaken and is slowly burning her alive, too. Vindicta takes place in Italy a few years later, where Lana and her family go back to find answers (and much more) after the tragic events of Temper.
I also plan to release a novella (40k), Platinum Nights, in early 2020. It’s a contemporary and interracial romance set between LA and Japan. I’ve got a few other novella-length stories (some contemporary, some paranormal) that I want to flesh out.
Sherri: You sound busy. I like to juggle multiple projects but sometimes it can also be overwhelming.
What do you love about writing?
Lila: Seeing my characters come to life, listening to them whisper their story in my ear, rousing powerful emotions in my readers, introducing people to other places and cultures. Exploring my own fears and aspirations, too!
Sherri: I can relate about exploring my own fears and issues, I think writing and reading are forms of therapy. My friend and the former leader of the Pamlico Writers’ Group once said all artists, including writers, are broken. It is through that broken part that we view the world and give it light.
What is your least favorite thing about writing?
Lila: The long days where nothing works, the hours spent staring at a blank page when everything seemed so clear under the shower. Editing and formatting kill me! Maybe one day I’ll be able to hire someone for doing all of the dirty work, ahahaha.
Sherri: With all that you have going on do you have any hobbies or interests besides writing? Do these show up in your writing?
Lila: Martial arts, in particular aikido, are the way I release my tension and stress. And yes, most of my characters (men and women) practice one!
Sherri: What do you feel are your writing strengths and weaknesses? What comes easily for you, and what do you have to work harder to get?
Lila: My readers enjoy my descriptive and immersive style, the way I make them experience so many feelings, how I spirit them away to Japan and lead them to more tolerance and open-mindedness. They also praise the quality of the steamy scenes I write, how mutual respect and consent are always keys, even in some very scorching and disturbing moments, and this is important to me. Bestsellers like 50 Shades of Grey have done a lot of damage with readers, beyond the world of BDSM, and it’s crucial that romance stops glorifying abuse, in my opinion.
My weakness is that as a non-native English speaker, aside from language mistakes now and then, I cannot pass for an American writer, either in style or the way my characters act. This is off-putting to some. I’m also a pantser, not an outliner, so sometimes I get stuck – chapters 1, 13 and 22 are done, and I wonder how to connect all of this!
Sherri: I’m southern so there are those who would swear English is not my native language either, it’s the accent. It does make looking up words difficult and using proper language more time consuming, but I believe who we are and where we are from can also be an asset to our writing. It gives a unique voice.
I sympathize with being a pantser, I don’t outline either. I have learned to make note of things I want to go into the story. My first draft is rather lean and I go back and fill in, flesh out and tie everything together during the rewrite.
Well, it seems our time is running out. I have enjoyed visiting with you today. I hope someday we can meet in person.
If you have enjoyed my chat with Lila Mina, please check out her links below. Visit her social media and follow the links to her books. I know I will.
Have a great day. Y’all come back to Creekside Café and set a spell, we’ll talk about books, life and the sexy new waiter. Shh, don’t tell my husband.
Lila Mina’s bio:
Readers will find behind the pen name Lila Mina a European woman in her early forties who has been living in Japan for a decade with her husband and son. After nearly twenty years of using her writing skills for drafting legal briefs and business reports, she went back to her first love: fiction. These days, when she is not running behind deadlines or wrapping tea for overseas customers, you can find her practicing aikido, writing or editing her manuscripts while sipping delicious green tea.
Inspired by the rich and complex Japanese culture and folklore, her stories feature strong and mature female protagonists facing their inner demons or ruthless enemies, and who are never shy to embrace their desires.
The Temper trilogy is her first major published work of fiction. Made of Deference, Dread and Deliverance, Temper is a dark and interracial LGBTQ paranormal romance featuring a seasoned trio of heroes: two bisexual ladies (37 and 42) and their pan partner (57).
Readers’ group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/LilaMinaReaders
Eden Books: https://edenbooks.org/members/lila-mina/
Books Main + Bites: https://bookandmainbites.com/LilaMina