A true daughter of the San Gabriel Valley, Trish Albright grew up in Pasadena’s Hastings Ranch, escaping her hilly suburban neighborhood to romp in the wilds of Eaton Canyon and catch polliwogs in the streams of Sierra Madre. Her mother says, “Her nose was always in a book,” and Trish used to teased her friends for reading romance novels — yet she grew up to publish two rollicking, romantic, swashbuckling adventures, last year’s Siren’s Song and the new Siren’s Secret, which features a spunky, titled English Egyptologist who tussles (in more ways than one) with an enigmatic American sailor. And there are more romantic adventure novels to come.
Trish spent her elementary-school years at Blessed Assumption; the family later moved to Orange County. (“It was so flat!” laments our flame-haired hometown heroine.) She went to UCSD, worked as a freelance interactive media producer and writer, and is now Playa del Rey resident and a Disney Imagineer who has never lost the urge to tell stories. We caught up with her at a recent book-signing party in Old Pasadena’s Villa Sorriso, where the crowd was as rambunctious as a crew of pirates in the presence of luscious ladies. There was even an appearance by Mr. Romance 2008 — the sensitive-yet-hunky cover model who wins top honor at the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention.
Why romance novels? Or are they adventure novels? What’s the difference?
I write adventure romance novels, where there is a lot of action; romance novels have many sub-genres, like mystery or paranormal romances. All romances are centered on the relationship between the hero and heroine, and have an HEA (happily ever after). My stories have a lot of plot-driven action, either forced by the goals of the heroine or her response to the “baddies.” I think romance novels appeal to women because we are naturally drawn to relationships and our discoveries tend to be internal. Emotion is also key. I always tell myself that if I don’t cry when I write it, I’m not going to make anybody else cry.
Can you boil down your pot-boilers in a couple of sentences?
Siren’s Song: A fearless female shipping captain, involved in a mysterious ancient prophecy, helps save the world. Siren’s Secret: A spunky English Egyptologist sets out to save her father; she and a handsome shipping captain (the brother of the heroine of Siren Song) bump against the ancient prophecy and keep the world safe yet again. And the plot thickens with my next work in progress.
Siren’s Secret is a very visual, cinematic page-turner with a predicament — or a clinch — every few pages. What are your influences?
I loved Nancy Drew — I figured I’d be a detective! And as a girl I liked mind puzzles — I still buy little puzzle games. My work life has been about storytelling; I got my start writing comprehension tests for kids, so I learned to be direct, concise and entertaining.
I also loved the Indiana Jones movies, and Romancing the Stone — it was one of the first films I saw where a woman was the heroine, not the sidekick, and of course she was a romance novelist.I’m always adventuring. My first trip was to Philippines for a few months when I was 18. I went to college in Australia for a year and would spend weeks scuba diving and in the rainforest. A few years ago, I took a year off and went around the world. I climbed a mountain in Borneo, met headhunters and went hostelling in Europe. Yep, those were the good ol’ days, before jobs and contracts.
What kind of research of you do?
It’s not always possible, but travelling is wonderful to get an authentic feel for a place; smells are really hard to describe unless you’ve been there! I also rummage around old libraries when I travel. For Siren’s Secret I was inspired by the British Museum and the Greenwich Maritime Museum. For the catacombs in Alexandria I had to rely on research and imagination. And for the rotting human flesh… that also required research, which included going to the Huntington Gardens to take a whiff of the Corpse Flower, the incredibly rare bloom that’s really smelly.
Did anything about growing up in Pasadena inspire you?
My friends and I used to go up the wash, hop the fence and wander around Eaton Canyon, going off the path like true explorers. My brother’s friend got bitten by a rattlesnake in what we called “the water cave.” I have a favorite memory of being out in the rain, somewhere in a canyon, knee-deep in mud, crawling up a hill, sliding backward with each step — anything could have happened! That sense of freedom and adventure, with just a bit of danger, was one of the best parts of my childhood. I don’t think kids get much of that anymore, and of course had my mother known what we were up to….
I write under a nom de plume, and I considered calling myself Trish Hastings, after Hastings Ranch, but I ended up choosing Albright instead.
How many more in the Siren series?
Two more at least; I’m trying to write a book a year. I’ll take a week of vacation here and there to write, and I write on the weekend and at night. I’m hoping to build a brand, the Trish Albright Adventure Novel, so with a little luck and a few more hours a day, there will be many more stories to come.
— Mel Malmberg
For more about Albright and her books, go to trishalbright.com.