I'm delighted to welcome multiple RITA finalist, multiple award-winner, esteemed President of Romance Writers of Australia and all-round mover and groover Anne Gracie to the lair! Anne writes wonderful luscious, emotional Regency historicals and if you haven't read them, you're missing out on a treat. Anne, lovely to see you here.
First up, thanks for inviting me, Anna and Banditas -- you seem like a fun crowd to hang with, and I've read so many of your books, I feel as though I know some of you. And I do know some of you ;) waves.
Congratulations on the release of The Stolen Princess, the first book in a new series, The Devil Riders. Can you tell us a little bit about the series and what inspired you to write it?
Thanks. I needed to come up with a new series, as I'd run out of sisters in my previous one. ;) and I had these guys in my head -- guys who'd been at war for years and now they were back in peacetime England, but no way were they settled down. Also I wanted to do a "friends" story rather than another family one. My editor suggested I make them all second or third sons, so they have to make their own way in life, as well, and that's been interesting. So, there are four ex-soldiers, all gorgeous, all horse-mad and still a little bit haunted by their years at war: Gabe Renfrew, his half brother Harry Morant, the elegant Rafe Ramsey, and Luke Ripton, the fallen angel of the group.
Can you tell us about The Stolen Princess?
It's about Callie, a princess whose child is in mortal danger, and Gabe, a man who makes it his purpose in life to protect them. He comes into the story as a protective warrior (and something of a flirt) and discovers he has much more to offer than he believed. And both Callie and Gabe learn that unconditional love transforms life. It's a convenient marriage story -- one of my favorite story hooks -- and the Princess isn't happy about it. She'd planned never to be under any man's thumb again... but as Gabriel pointed out, it's not his thumb she should worry about... ;) There's an extract here: http://www.annegracie.com/books/Princess.html
What's next in the series?
The book I'm finishing up now is about Harry Morant, Gabe's half- brother, the result of an affair between the earl and a maidservant. Harry and Gabe were raised separately from the rest of the family (long story). Harry is building a horse racing stud, and plans a convenient, bloodless, unemotional marriage with a woman of unimpeachable virtue. He meets Lady Helen Freymore, Nell, destitute daughter of the late Earl of Denton, a woman who wants nothing to do with him. Harry won't accept that, and in the end, his actions force them to get married. But Nell is on a secret, heartbreaking quest. Of course, Harry, being a hero, joins her on the quest and they both discover love on the way.
You're a writer whose work breathes Regency atmosphere. Can you tell us what attracted you to this period?
Thanks, Anna, she says cautiously, hoping that "Regency Atmosphere" doesn't mean BO overlaid with perfume. Please note, my characters wash, often. There are bath scenes to prove it. ;)
What attracted me? For a start, I've been reading and rereading Georgette Heyer since I was 11, so the Regency (or Heyer's regency) is a place I'm both familiar with and fond of. When I started writing romance I had no idea it was a popular period -- I had very little idea of anything then. LOL
There are heaps of things I like about the period - there's glamour, and exclusivity, and ritual, and there's also hardship, and poverty lurking very close by. There's foreign travel, there's a war, there's an industrial revolution, there's societal change where people are moving up--and down-- in the world. Women were married for property, for bloodlines, for connections, and occasionally for love.
Do you have any hints on research? Are there any books or resources you find particularly helpful when you're writing?
I have a pretty good feel for the era, I think, but I have to research particular things for different books in the same way a contemporary writer has to. I have stacks of books -- my local library used to have a fabulous research section, but they had an appalling clear out a few years back and a lot of my favorite references disappeared. I've had to chase them up on bookfinder.com I often chase up footnotes and, where possible, get my trusty research librarian to help me find a copy of the original source -- a diary or book of letters. Librarians are wonderful people. I also use the web a lot -- and I bookmark all useful sites while I'm using them. Afterward I'll put them onto the links page on my site. I have a stack of good reference links there, though it probably needs a clean up. Soon, I promise.
Can you give us an insight into Anne Gracie's working day? Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you have a set routine or do you move as the muse moves you?
I *never* use the word pantser. The word gives me a vision of my grandma's bloomers flapping in the wind, and no way do I want to be associated with them! shuddershuddershudder! I am an organic writer. That's a term that the fabulous Robyn Donald taught me. In my case it means I generally don't have a clue what I'm doing until I'm nearly half way through a book. By then the plot is firmly in the grip of the characters, and I have a deadline looming and am in a panic.
And I plot obsessively, sometimes right up until final revisions.
So that's me, calm, organized, totally in control of my process... Organic and bloomer-free.
My day: I usually start off the day with email. I used to fight this, but I have no will power, and besides, my editor or agent might have contacted me in the night and it would be rude to ignore them. The only times I don't do this is when I'm in a Dorothea Brande phase, where the first thing I do every morning is write for fifteen minutes by hand, but after a few weeks the creativity is flowing and I forget why I'm doing Dorothea and email sneaks back in. I work every day, but as soon as I've finished this current book, I plan to structure my working week so I have more structured time off. Refill the well. I try to write a thousand words a day or three handwritten pages, but towards the end of the book when it's all flowing (and a deadline is looming) I write a lot more.
I've gone back to doing bits in handwriting - I think it frees up my writing. If I'm not sure what to write next or how to approach whatever scene I'm on, I go and lie on my bed and dream it up. When it's good, it's like tapping into a continuously rolling movie in my head. So I write scenes and notes and snatches of conversations or thoughts by hand and then go and type them up.
If I've had an unproductive day, I'll take the dog for a late walk and come back and write again. When I was working full time I used to write a lot at night, starting around , and that's what I pretend to my brain I'm doing.
You're a master at writing emotion. I rarely finish one of your books where I haven't both laughed and cried. Do you have any specific techniques to help you achieve this depth of emotion in your writing?
Thanks, Anna. I dunno about being a master, (scuffs foot in pleasure at the compliment) but I do try. Actually it's Charles Dickens's fault. When I first started writing, the only piece of writing advice that I'd heard of was "Make them laugh, make them cry, make them wait." I hope you waited, too. ;)
I think to achieve emotion in your writing you have to try to climb into your character's head and heart and the deep dark places in their souls. Work out where they're coming from, what they're feeling, what they fear, what they secretly dream of... and when you go there, go deep and let it unfold in detail, don't rush it, take the reader through it with the character. I figure if the scene touches me, it will touch readers.
What do you hope 2008 will bring?
A holiday. I'm really hoping to go to the
Anne has brought booty to the lair! She will pick one commenter at random to win a signed copy of her wonderful new release The Stolen Princess. She wants to know your favorite story hook: eg convenient marriage, Cinderella story, bad boy/spinster, etc, and what do you love about it?