Interview with Candice Raquel Lee, author of The Innocent
What do you write about? Tell us a little about your previously published works.
I like to write about love, myth, and impossible creatures. I use monsters as symbols to talk about being human because we all have a little bit of monster in us.
My novel, The Innocent, is a modern day, paranormal love story and retelling of Beauty and the Beast. It is set in New York which means it’s hip, full of diversity, culture and style. The story is about a relationship developing between a prudish virgin, who loves old romantic poems and novels and an incubus who lives off sexual energy. It is an impossible romance between an immovable girl and an irresistible boy and how love transforms them both. The Innocent is about the destructive and transformative power of love, how it can be vehicle for self-acceptance, redemption and forgiveness.
My second book, Effed: An Abnormal Romance is just me making fun of the Paranormal Romance genre. There is so much to laugh at, a lot of the sex, description and action is so full of purple prose and over the top.
How do you handle bad reviews?
Me? Get a bad review? Never. Okay. . . I have. First, I get a picture of the reviewer, then I print it out and put it on one of the little voodoo dolls I have lying around just in case this happens, then I. . . just kidding. No. I get mad like everybody else, but if you read all the bad reviews best-selling authors get, it makes you feel a lot better. Some reviewers may even have a point. Authors aren’t perfect. I just wish folks would realize authors are people too and not write like you punched their grandma in the face. A little civility goes a long way.
Tell us a little about your work in progress.
I working on the book after The Innocent, Innocent No More. The main character, Alexa, is married to her dream guy, so in most stories that means happily ever after. Not in mine. I’m married. I know the first year is when it really hits the fan because two strangers are trying to figure out how to become a unit and remain individuals at the same time. Plus, my girl is supernatural, so it’s not which way the toilet roll goes, or you left the toilet seat up again, it’s also what’s that crawling under my skin, and who’s that trying to kill us? The romance is dead, it’s time for Alexa, Cristien and Lance to fight for their lives against a force that cannot be defeated.
Any advice for aspiring writers?
I will give them the advice I got. Write. Keep writing. Writing is a skill. They say you need ten thousand hours of doing a thing to master it, so start writing. Now. I’m not joking! Go! Wait one more thing. Read. Read good books from all genres. Then write more.
What is your personal writing process?
I pace. I write. I pace and think of a scene. I imagine it as great, sterling and perfect. I write it out. It is crap and not as good as it was in my head, but I get it out anyway. I even write out of chronological order if necessary just to finish the darn book! Then I revise, revise, revise until I have trimmed all the fat, then I edit. Also, it is a good idea to walk away if you can and come back later with clearer eyes. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it.
Who are a few authors you look up to?
Charlotte Bronte. Anne Radcliff. Patria Mckillip. Frank Herbert. Kurt Vonnegut.
What book are you reading now?
Andrew Lang’s Crimson fairy book.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I read a paranormal romance that had mythic themes and a cool quote from Cicero, and I thought, gee, if only the author took out some of the endless erections and concentrated on the story this would be a great book about some profound things. It could really say something important about life. I know many people would disagree with me, after all it was a romance and not a literary book, but I thought I could see something more past the penises.
What books have most influenced your life most?
Jane Eyre. Dune. Welcome to the Monkey House. The Mysteries of Udolpho. Dragon Riders of Pern. The Magical Beasts of Eld
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Sure. Everything except the Preface. No. Really we all want to change things, add things, make it perfect, but it will never be because nothing is. I had to learn that the hard way. We all have to learn to let go.
What do you find particularly challenging about writing?
Writing. You can make a hundred excuses a day and valid ones not to do it.
If there was one message you could send to everybody who reads your books, what would it be? Be gentle. Be kind. We all want the same things.
Have you ever used characteristics from someone you know in one of your books? Sure. Everybody. My husband. Myself. In reality writers only write about themselves. They can’t write about anybody else. They only know how they will respond.
What inspires you to write?
My dreams. My heart. My desire to be more than I am. Oh, yeah and music. Weird music and romantic movies.
What’s one writing quirk you have?
I pace. I pace circles in the floor. I imagine I look like a caged animal at the zoo.
Nothing is as it seems in The Innocent a modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast that takes the reader beyond the skin.
When Alexa meets Cristien on Valentine’s Day and they have a whirlwind romance, she never expects to discover that he isn’t human and, even worse, neither is she. Can true love survive lies, betrayal, monsters and even death itself?
Alexa Wyndham is a painfully sheltered girl from Brooklyn, an innocent in every sense of the word. Her views of the world formed from the romantic poetry and literary novels she reads. Now attending college in Manhattan, she finds the big, bad city is just waiting to devour her. A stunning kiss from a stranger is her introduction to this new and dangerous world. Her would be lover is after her flesh. In fact, the supernatural creatures of the city are willing to do anything for a taste.
Cristien LaRoche is an incubus, a medieval knight, and a man tormented by his murderous past. Alexa is everything he desires, but with a touch that can kill, he is just as likely to take her life as he is to save it. To protect her, to be near her, he must spin a web of lies that will ultimately test their new found love, bring Alexa face to face with the white light and himself with his darkest nightmare.
Can a girl who wants love and a creature who feeds off lust ever find true happiness? It’s Virgin vs. Incubus and Beauty versus the Beast in The Innocent, a tale that goes beyond appearances to the soul of the beast.
The Innocent is a story about love and enlightenment that takes the reader on a funny and profound adventure and teaches, as good fairy tales do, about the nature of suffering, the necessity of truth and the importance of knowing, forgiving and accepting ourselves and others.
About the Author
Candice Raquel Lee holds a BFA in Creative Writing. As a long time New Yorker who has studied myth, religion, poetry and philosophy from the Mahabharata to the Mabinogion, she has developed a healthy sense of the sublime and the ridiculous. She enjoys travelling with her husband through the Mediterranean where every street is an artifact and every sun-rise a poem. She is also a sculptor of mythic subjects.