Christine Wells is an author to watch closely. Her credentials include winning a Golden Heart, the Emily, and the “Best of the Best” in the Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest. This former lawyer has taken the historical genre by storm, securing praise from such greats as Mary Balogh, Kathryn Smith, Kathryn Caskie, Anna Campbell, and Sophia Nash. In her debut novel, Scandal’s Daughter, Christine brings Sebastian and Gemma to life, two characters whose spark is so powerful they set the society crowd and each other on fire. Released in September by Berkley, Scandal’s Daughter is a must read. After a sleepless night devouring the novel from cover to cover, I had a few questions that had me burning with curiosity. She was kind enough to answer them below:
Scandal, disrepute, illicit love. Scandal’s Daughter has them all! The story made it sound like having your reputation tarnished was almost as horrifying as being lead to guillotine during the 1800s. Just how important was it to maintain an air of propriety? In your research, did you discover certain women who broke the rules but maintained their reputation because of their impressive discretionary tactics?
KJ, that’s right. For a single woman in the Regency era, reputation was everything. It’s more to do with the way men saw women as breeding vehicles for the son and heir than anything else. They wanted to be certain the lady they married was a virgin so that the heir to their estate would be of their own blood. After the heir was born, the rules became more flexible, but the appearance of propriety still had to be maintained. Even if everyone was pretty certain that Mrs Y was having an affair with Lord X, they didn’t say it openly and everyone was happy. A supremely hypocritical way of life.
After reading Scandal’s Daughter, I picked up on several themes: don’t judge a book by its cover, appearances can be deceiving, what is most important is often not said. Tying all the knots together, I noticed a trend that spoke of illusion. Do you consciously thread themes into your novels or do they evolve on their own?
That’s very perceptive of you, KJ. It was a trend I noticed myself only after the book was finished so it was unconscious at first. Society’s perception is often founded on very little and it rarely matches a person’s idea of themselves. I’m interested in identity and the way we can only find peace when we act to please ourselves and our loved ones instead of worrying all the time what ‘people’ will think.
Your background as a corporate lawyer is a far cry from the escape of historical romance. What experiences as a lawyer helped your writing and what aspects of being a lawyer might have been an impediment to writing romance?
My legal training made me acutely aware of the way words can evoke a reaction in the reader. There’s a real art to writing threats that seem ever so polite on the surface! And there’s the experience of the way business works and legal knowledge which has been helpful here and there.
However, being a lawyer probably hindered me, too, because when writing as a lawyer you have to be precise and succinct. As a fiction writer, I had to learn to be more expansive, though hopefully not verbose.
The ending was very satisfying as you tied all the loose ends together. Are you a plotter or a pantser and how did that affect the writing process of Scandal’s Daughter?
Thank you! I don’t plan what I’m going to write in detail before I start. It makes it terribly difficult to write a synopsis for my editor! But I usually know the premise or the hook and I can visualize a few key scenes. I’ve learned that my characters often won’t cooperate if I present them with a carefully constructed plot, so I try to go with the flow and let them dictate what happens next.
I usually find a way to make the resolution work even though I haven’t planned how it will pan out. Sometimes, small details I’ve added throughout the novel, not knowing why, suddenly become important when I need to tie up loose ends. The subconscious is remarkable that way. I’ve always felt that the story is happening on some other plane and my job is to watch and listen and translate it to the page as best I can.
What would be the one piece of advice that would you give unpublished writers to help them break through?
Can I give two? The first—write what you love to read, or what you would love to read but haven’t found yet. The second—you can take all the courses and read all the ‘how-to’ books you like, but the only way to learn how to write well is to write.
Fans love learning about the personal lives of their favorite writers. Can you share something about yourself that might surprise us?
My father, Ian Diehm, is a published author of books on the history of Rugby Union and cricket. Seeing him achieve such success in his field inspired me to strive for publication myself.
Could you please tell us about your next project AND how long we’ll have to wait for the next Christine Wells blockbuster?
The Dangerous Duke is scheduled for September 2008. It’s a Regency historical about a duke who accidentally steals a lady's erotic diary. The book is set against a background of political upheaval, when Liverpool declared a state of emergency and people were locked up without trial for sedition. My heroine's brother is a country vicar thrown in jail for aiding suspected arsonists. She threatens to expose government secrets by publishing her political diary if the authorities don't release him. My hero steals what he thinks is that diary, only it turns out to contain the heroine's secret erotic fantasies. I had a lot of fun with that one!
Christine, thanks for taking the time to chat with me today and for sharing your expertise. I look forward to following your career!
Thank you, KJ. It’s been a pleasure.
Anyone who is interested in learning more about debut author Christine Wells, please visit her website at http://www.christine-wells.com/
KJ Howe, a double Daphne du Maurier winner and triple Golden Heart finalist, writes international romantic suspense. A graduate of the Master’s in Writing Popular Fiction program at Seton Hill University, KJ enjoys interviewing other authors when she isn’t researching or writing. Visit her at http://www.kjhowe.com/
Now, let me ask the bandit readers a question. If you were a Regency lady and knew you'd get away with it, with absolutely no consequences, what would you take the opportunity to do? One reader who comments will win a signed copy of Scandal's Daughter.