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Susan Mallery
With 96 books to her credit, Susan Mallery is a much-loved author among devoted romance readers. In February, she launches her four-book Buchanan Series about a family of Seattle restaurateurs with her delightfully charming DELICIOUS, which has earned a 4 1/2 - star Top Pick review from RT BOOKclub.

If food is love, prepare yourself for something DELICIOUS

Susan graciously agreed to let us explore what's cooking in her USA TODAY bestselling career.

What do you consider the overriding theme in your stories - in addition to romance, of course!

As in my new Buchanan Series, most of my books have a theme about finding family. Understanding the family you have, finding the family you want, realizing family isn't a traditional definition - all variations on a theme.

I come from a relatively small family, and I used to dream about being one of six, where there was always someone to play with and, more important, someone else to take the blame!

I can't change my personal history, but I can create wonderful families over and over again in my work - set them loose on each other and laugh at the chaos.

We found a delightful emphasis on food and wine as well.

You're right, and this is by design! Food is closely tied to the concept of family. The charming stereotypical mother who pleads "Eat, eat!" Culturally, nearly every celebration involves food.

For many of us, especially women, food is love. We make special meals for the people we love. We show our kids love with cookies and brownies. We celebrate traditions by preparing foods our grandmothers made. Celebration, food and love seem to be braided together.

And for me, food and wine go together.

Reviewers consistently say they love the humor in your stories. Where does this humor come from? Is it difficult to write, or does it come naturally?

I didn't set out to write funny. It just sort of happened, partially because I see life as filled with humor and irony, and romance. I mean, come on. Men and women living together? On purpose? Who thought that up?

While you now live in southern California, you're setting your four-book Buchanan Series about a family of restauranteurs in Seattle. How did you select this setting, and what special meaning does this city have for you?

In one of our many moves, my husband and I went from Los Angeles to a small town of 9000 in eastern Washington. For my big-city fix, I went to Seattle every couple of months, and I grew to love it. Sure the winter is dark and gloomy, but the summer is gorgeous. The city is an amazing contrast of urban and country, trees and high-rises. I love Mt. Rainier and the Sound, the downtown Nordstrom's, the ferry to anywhere, the wineries, the people, the bike paths. When I came up with the idea for the Buchanans, I knew I wanted to set the stories in Seattle. The combination of family and food made that a great location. Plus, I have an excuse to make a research trip whenever I want!

In DELICIOUS, you paint a hilarious picture of the dynamics in a restaurant's kitchen. What enabled you to put the reader into this "world" so convincingly?

Restaurants really are their own world, and sometimes it's a little scary. I got my information from doing research and talking to my ex-stepson, who has worked in restaurants for several years and has always told me fabulous stories. He was very patient with me when I asked off-the-wall questions like, "Could she really throw a knife at his head?"

What niche have your carved for yourself among the devoted romance readership?

I think of myself as writing books about real people. Okay - real heroines. My heroes tend to be larger than life. In the majority of my books my heroines could be someone you know. A best friend, a neighbor. I try to take ordinary women and give them an extraordinary adventure through a great (and sometimes challenging) love.

I tend to write funny and sexy, which I think readers like. I also focus on development of the characters as well as development of the plot, so not only are exciting things happening, but my characters grow and change and "earn" their happy ending. My niche would be funny, sexy, heartwarming stories that keep readers turning the pages.

How did you get your start as a romance author?

I'd always been a big reader. Romance was and is my favorite. Eighteen months from college graduation, I took my first "how to write a romance novel" class at a local adult education center. By week six of the eight-week class, I knew I'd found my calling. However, there was the matter of the pesky accounting degree I was pursuing.

Long story short, I wrote when I could, finished college (graduating at the top of my class), turned down a job with a big accounting firm to - ta da - write romances. I gave myself two years to sell before I had to go back into the real world. That was May of 1990, and I sold in August of that year.

Tell us something about future Buchanan books. To whose stories will the readers be treated in coming months?

All four of the Buchanan siblings will have a book. Cal (February's DELICIOUS), Walker (coming in July 2006's IRRESISTIBLE), (coming in February 2007's SIZZLING) and Dani (coming in July 2007's TEMPTING). It's been fun coming up with through-lines in the different books, to put something in book one, then imagine twisting it in book three. I like surprising my readers, and I hope I'm doing that over and over again in the series.

Are there comments from your reader mail you'd like to share with us - comments that show the impact you have on readers' lives?

I have amazing readers. They are kind and smart and caring, and I adore them all. I've had readers tell me they've saved my books to read during chemo, or that my books kept them sane while a husband was having heart surgery. One reader took my entire backlist to a nursing home where she read them one after the other to her mother who was dying.

I never forget that. I never forget that what I do on a daily basis will touch people in ways I can't imagine. So when I feel tired or crabby or not in the mood, I remember that someone out there might need my book to get through something horrible so I get in my characters' skin, and let the romance and humor roll.

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