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Cassia Leo on true love, happy endings + Friends

New York Times bestselling author Cassia Leo (Pieces of You and Black Box, among other titles) loves her coffee, chocolate, and margaritas with salt. When she’s not writing, she spends way too much time watching old reruns of Friends and Sex and the City. When she’s not watching reruns, she’s usually enjoying the California sunshine or reading.

Cassia believes in true love and happy endings, and that the most palpable regrets come from watching those two things slip away. Her favorite books and movies are the ones that challenge her mentally and leave her emotionally scarred. Her family has declared her a “method writer” because she gets “in character” while writing. She believes becoming the character is the only way to truly understand him or her. Her dream is to one day score a record deal based on her awesome shower singing skills.

Loren Kleinman (LK): Your bio mentions that you “believe in true love and happy endings, and that the most palpable regrets come from watching those two things slip away.” Do you really believe in true love and how did these two things slip away?

Cassia Leo (CL): Here’s where I’m going to sound like a kook. But, yes, I do believe in true love. I wouldn’t call it soul mates, but I do believe that some people are almost fated for each other because they work so perfectly together. I also don’t believe that sometimes we never find that person, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I just think it’s part of life. You win some, you lose some. Oh, now that sounds depressing.

LK: Your favorite shows are Friends and Sex in the City. Which character in Sex in the City do you most resemble and why?

CL: That’s probably pretty obvious, but I always fancied myself a Carrie. Obviously, I’m a writer. I did used to blog about my love life, but I haven’t done that in years. I’ve also kissed a lot of frogs. Of course, there are many more similarities, but I won’t bore you with those. Ultimately, I think Carrie was a very interesting, complex character. I’d love to write such a dynamic MC.

LK: Talk about “becoming the character,” which you write is the only real way to write about him/her. How do you get into character? Talk about this process?

CL: This is another weird thing. Actually, this interview is making me realize just how weird I am. But, yes, I do try to get “in character” when I’m writing. It’s pretty automatic at this point. I also do it when I’m reading. I take on the character’s mannerisms and emotions. Their problems and feelings become my own. It’s a bit unhealthy because I write very emotional books. But I can’t seem to connect with the character and know their true motivations and reactions unless I force myself to fully experience their fictional world.

LK: A friend of mine once said that as soon as the book is published it dies. Do you feel that way about your books once they’re released? Do they die a little each day? How do you keep them alive?

CL: I feel that more about some books than others. I think it depends on how much I connected with the characters. Some characters more closely reflect my personality than others. Those are the ones that make the book more difficult to forget.

LK: Talk about any negative book reviews you’ve gotten. Do they affect you?

CL: I don’t read reviews. Unless it’s someone I’m close to, I just don’t read them. I’m an analytical, self-critical person and I’ve never read a single criticism in a review that I haven’t already lobbed at myself during the writing and editing process. I’m never going to write a book that everyone is going to like. I’ve learned to accept that. I’ve also learned that reading negative reviews saps my motivation, so it’s counterproductive when I’m on deadline, which is always.

LK: Tell us about how you write a dramatic scene. What are the components of writing dialogue that you employ to build a successful scene?

CL: I don’t really have a “technique” for writing a dramatic scene. The basic rules I stick to are to make sure the character’s goal is stated early in the scene and that the goal is either reached or a plan is made for how the character will reach that goal. As for dialogue, I leave out boring, unnecessary dialogue while also keep it natural and full of tension. Everything a character says and does must move the scene and the story forward.

LK: Do you believe in writer’s block? Why? Why not?

CL: No. I don’t believe in writer’s block at all. I used to believe in it, back when it took me six years to write a 100,000-word book. But now I know that inspiration very rarely strikes when writing. But the more you write, the more inspired you become. It’s a law of averages.

LK: Do you think that literature today is standardized? What’s your definition of originality?

CL: I do think that each genre has their own formula and standards that readers have come to expect. That’s a good thing, to a certain extent. Readers should know that if they buy a romance novel, they’re going to get a happy ending. I think originality comes into play when you put a new spin on something familiar. There are no new stories, just new storytellers.

LK: The song you sing most in the shower is…

CL: Of course, that is “Colors of the Wind.”

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