Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Tuesday Special Author Interview: Loretta Chase

Author Name: Loretta Chase
Genre: Historical Romance
Latest book in shops now:
January 2006 THE LION’S DAUGHTER (reissue, March 2006 LORD PERFECT (third Carsington brothers book)

Before we begin this interview, I need to check that you’re still grounded and that your head isn’t swollen from all of your success, so with that in mind, what was the last thing you bought at Walmart, and do you know how much a loaf of bread costs? (grin)

Terry scuffs. Our various breads cost between $3 and $4 a loaf.

What were your favourite books as a child?

Alice in Wonderland, The Wind in the Willows, Little Women and other Louisa May Alcott books, Nancy Drew. The Anne of Green Gables series. And do comic books count? Because I was horribly addicted to them.

Oooh all my favourites!

What does a typical day as a writer consist of?

Gazing in desperation at a computer screen for as long as I can stand it. Some days are less desperate than others. Some days I have to review a copy edit or page proofs instead.

Some days are devoted to research. There’s no system. I just try to work things out so that the book is finished more or less on time.

Name your top five favourite books of all time.

I have a Top Two. After that, my list of favorites heads toward infinity. Here are the top five that come to mind today: Tomorrow could be very different--except for the top two:

Charles Dickens’s BLEAK HOUSE.

Which authors are you glomming at the moment? (reading a lot of?)

I read a lot of different authors. Just finished a Jennifer Crusie. Before that, Anne Perry. I’m a big mystery fan and recently became addicted to Victoria Thompson’s Gaslight series and Ashley Gardner’s Regency era series.

Last fall I discovered Margaret Maron. I’m also partial to Laurie R. King, Lindsey Davis, Caroline Graham, Ngaio Marsh, and Janet Evanovich, among other mystery writers I always enjoy. I love Terry Pratchett.

I’m still working on Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series. And George MacDonald Frasier’s Flashman books. The Rumpole series by John Mortimer. And since I love research, there are usually history or other non-fiction books in the TBR pile.

Do you have other close romance writer friends, and if so who are they?

Most of my friends are romance writers. Those of us who work in the Regency era tend to gravitate to one another. You’ll see us in clumps at conferences.

When did you realise that you wanted to write books, and who or what inspired you?

I started wanting to write books about age six or seven--about when I started reading them. I don’t know what the inspiration was. I loved stories, and that’s when I first remember making up stories with a beginning, middle, and end.

By age 8 I had written a play. It was a terrible play, rather in the style of the picaresque novel, with forty or fifty acts and nothing holding them together but the heroine--but hey, I was 8.

If you could have a one-to-one conversation with a famous historical figure, who would it be with and what would you talk about?

Charles Dickens. I would ask to borrow his brain for a few years or decades.

What is your ultimate goal when it comes to your writing?


OK, that makes sense *g*

How has the romance industry changed from when you first started writing, and which of these changes were you happiest/unhappiest with?

Everything’s changed since I first started writing my novels. Shoe styles, for instance. And didn’t there used to be a lot more publishers and distributors?

There were more than half a dozen publishers to whom I could send my first manuscript--a traditional Regency. There were more romance lines overall, which gave writers more choices and opportunities.

It seems much harder these days to get published and stay published. But the whole business world has changed. The same thing that’s happened in publishing has happened in other areas--advertising, for instance. So the world changes. That’s life. You adjust. I knew this was a risky profession when I got into it, and I’m happy to be still working.

In this day and age, do you think it’s possible for new romance writers to make it without having some kind of presence on the internet?

It’s hard for new writers to make it whatever they do. But no one can make it without writing a book people want to read. I think that’s where every writer, new and experienced, needs to focus 99% of his/her energy.

In your vast experience, what would you say was the most effective method of marketing a romance novel?

Publishers are the most effective, when they invest substantial resources (i.e., money) in promoting a book. They have much more clout and much more money than Average Author, whose efforts, by comparison, have a negligible impact on sales.

I think our time’s better invested in writing, which is something we can control.

With the alleged decline in historical romance, do you think there’s an element of risk in continuing with books set prior to the 20th Century?

Writing fiction is a risk, no matter what the genre. If you’re not a risk-taker, being an author might not be your best choice of career path.

This is not, for the majority, either a stable or lucrative profession. But it’s my profession and in many ways it’s who I am. If I couldn’t get published in historical romance, I would write something else.

While I can get published, I plan to work hard and enjoy living in the early 19th century England of my imagination.

Which of your books is dearest to your heart, and why?

The one I just finished--because it’s finished.. And really, I do love it. I can’t write a book I don’t love. Then I fall in love with the next book.

I’ve always wondered about this, but as an author, once your books are published, do you actually go back and read them yourself, and if so, are you able to enjoy them, or do you perhaps see things that make you want to chew your own arm off in frustration? (grin).

I can go back and read them…to a point. As the years pass, my interest wanes. Over time, I change; my writing changes. It’s hard to relate to books I wrote ten years ago. It’s hard to relate to the clothes I wore ten years ago.

How do you feel when inevitable comparisons are made between
Lord Of Scoundrels and your later works? Would you prefer your other books to be judged on their own merit?

I get all cranky when someone compares Book A to Book B--whether the comparison book is mine or someone else’s.

It’s the artist attitude or a maternal attitude, or maybe it’s both. I feel protective of this thing--this world and its people--that I’ve created out of nothing.

What mother wants to hear one of her kids described as inferior to another? That’s the emotional reaction, the artist’s reaction.

The reality is, everyone compares. So getting cranky and wanting each book to be judged on its own merits is perhaps unreasonable. After all, people compare Jane Austen’s books. Charles Dickens’s books. They compare works by Shakespeare.

And then, for me,
Lord Of Scoundrels is a special case. I have trouble getting seriously upset about the comparisons, because I’m too aware that readers are still discussing a book that came out more than ten years ago.

For me that’s a taste of immortality. Those “inevitable comparisons” tell me that people have found the book memorable. It’s struck a chord. It was something special. It seems slightly insane to get cranky about that.

Has anything a reviewer or reader said or written about you changed the way you write?

No. I can barely influence my writing. It comes out the way it comes out. You may not be surprised to learn that the majority of efforts to influence me are along the lines of “Write faster.” How I wish that one worked.

Earlier this year, RWA attempted to try to define romance, and it caused a bit of a furore round the blogosphere, due to the limitations of the definitions. What were your thoughts on this at the time, and do you think it’s possible/necessary to define romance in a way that doesn’t exclude other sub-genres?

I couldn’t see any reason to make a rule about what is or isn’t romance. We’ve done fine all these years without a formal definition. Besides, creative people mostly don’t like rules and will break them anyway.

When was the last time you went overseas and where did you go?

Where we always go: England. We spent a week in London and a week touring Derbyshire. I always want to stay longer, never go often enough. It was way too long ago: six years.

I had a feeling you’d say England. I can’t think why *g*

Who are your favourite romance hero and heroine of all time?

Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy.

What kind of characters would you say you typically wrote?

The kind who are wittier and much more articulate than I am.

If only one person could read your book, who would that be? (as in the person who you would want most to read your book)

But I want everyone to read my book. I hear from so many different readers with so many different points of view, and it is amazing the insights they have. I can’t bear to choose just one kind of reader. And you can’t expect me to. I’m a Gemini.

If you had to pick, who would you say has been most influential within the romance genre?

I have no idea. In the Regency era stories, the two big names are Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. As to the romance genre as a whole, I’m neither widely nor deeply read enough to say who the major influence is/was. I’m familiar with any number of authors who innovate, inspire, raise the standards, who make me think, “I wish I’d written that.” But their name is Legion.

What was the last movie you saw?

The Wedding Date.

Ooh loved that film!

Name your top five favourite romantic films.

Of contemporary films: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Under the Sun, Bread and Tulips, Monsoon Wedding. There’s also a long list of movies from the 1930s and 1940s with Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, etc.

What was the last book you read?

Jennifer Crusie’s WELCOME TO TEMPTATION. I’ve actually read her more recent ones, but my TBR pile is not only a mile high but out of order.

Heheheh, I so know the feeling.

Have you ever written a book that you didn’t particularly care for, and do you cringe if you see people picking it up to read it?

Not over a book. I cringe over mistakes in the books. Historical errors make me wild--but for an American writer especially, Regency era England is a minefield, and there’s always something to trip over.

Infelicities of phrasing trouble me. Some terrible copy edits--which I fought in vain--make me grind my teeth. But the books as a whole don’t worry me. Though I like to believe my work’s evolved and improved over the years, I’m also sure that each book was the very best I could do at the time. There isn’t one I’m sorry I wrote or feel ashamed of.

What do you enjoy most about being a writer?

I just enjoy writing. Or just have to do it whether I enjoy it or not. Then there’s the not having to get up and dressed for work part, which is terrific. And living in my own special private world in my head.

What do you least enjoy about being a writer?

Facing the blank screen.

As you’ve been there, done it, and have the badge to prove it, what is the number one advice that would you give to aspiring writers out there?

My standard answer is practice. Write a lot. I always recommend taking college courses that demand lots of writing (not necessarily creative writing courses, which I scrupulously avoided) and/or getting a job that involves lots of writing. In these situations, you have to write more or less intelligibly whether or not you feel like it, and you have to meet deadlines. This is great training for writers of genre fiction.

Finally, when’s your next book due out, and what’s it about?

The third book in my Carsington brothers series,
Lord Perfect, is out in March 2006. The hero lives strictly by the rules; the heroine is completely beyond the pale. The back cover copy posted on my website offers a vaguely coherent summary of the story.

Thanks so much for taking the time out to answer these very nosy questions!

Thank you for inviting me. It was fun.

Coming up next week, it’ll either be
Catherine Anderson, or Sharon Sala, but for now, that’s all folks!