Monday, September 24, 2007

An Interview with Blythe Gifford

After many years in public relations, advertising, and marketing, Blythe Gifford stopped sublimating and returned to her first love, writing historical novels. Her latest release is THE HARLOT’S DAUGHTER. It was inspired by a real person, the illegitimate daughter of an English king and his notorious mistress. The book has garnered four stars from Romantic Times magazine and four and a half from, Romance Junkies, and
Her first novel, THE KNAVE AND THE MAIDEN, was a double finalist in First Coast Romance Writers’ Beacon Contest, taking second in the Best First Book category and third in Best Historical.
Past president of Chicago North Romance Writers of America, she lives and works near Chicago’s lakefront.

Although many writers know they want to be a writer from an early age, was there something in particular that made you decide to pursue your dream?

Absolutely. I was laid off. And during a “transition,” the advice books recommend you assess your entire life. Well, when I made a list of what I wanted to do before I died, “write a book” was still on the list. I decided now would be a good time.

How long after you first started submitting did it take for you to have your first book accepted?

Ah! Trick question. After I started writing seriously, it took me about ten years to sell, but I didn’t start submitting right away. I guess it was two full manuscripts and about four years of submissions. The real break came when my manuscript was a finalist in RWA’s Golden Heart contest. That became my first book, THE KNAVE AND THE MAIDEN.

What attracts you to your time period?

In junior high school, I read Katherine, by Anya Seton. It’s the story of a lifelong love affair between Prince John of Gaunt, a son of Edward III, and Katherine Swynford. They had four children together and in a happily ever after moment, they finally married late in life. Their children were legitimized and in just a few generations, their descendents sat on the English throne. It sparked my interest in fourteenth century England and the royal family, particularly the behind-the-throne stories. I subsequently put together my own royal family tree, complete with all the mistresses and bastards I could find. THE HARLOT’S DAUGHTER, carries a direct connection to that inspiration.

Beyond that, I like to write about turbulent times and the fourteenth century has it all: plagues, wars, political intrigue, religious and economic upheavals. My characters grapple with a changing world, just as we do. There’s always something coming to test their mettle.

When you are not writing what do you do?

I’m still juggling a consulting career, so a typical day is part writing (the morning) and part day job (afternoon) with exercise and errands thrown in the middle. In my day job, I work in a male dominated industry. Many times, I’ll be the only woman in the room with 20 men. It’s helped me to write men more realistically, I think. A few of them know I moonlight as a romance writer and they are fascinated.

What is the worst thing about being a writer?

So little is within your control. You have no influence over trends, editors, agents, or bookstores. But you do have one big power: to tell your own stories.

And the best thing?

Nothing, absolutely nothing, is better than a reader writing me that she loved the book. I sit in front of the computer and cry.

What is the biggest challenge you face when you are writing a book? The beginning, middle or end?

The biggest challenge is whatever part I am writing. Then, after it’s all done, I forget how hard it is and am foolishly optimistic enough to begin again thinking next time it will be easier. One of my biggest personal challenges is not to get distracted by the research. It is important to me to feel as if I can walk around in the skin of each character and that leads me to chase some down some interesting leads.

In THE HARLOT’S DAUGHTER, for example, my heroine wants to study astrology. I was so excited to find a picture and description of a fourteenth Kalendarium. It’s a beautiful, hand written list of all the positions of the planets, but the exciting thing for me was to discover that it was the size of a small table, not like the hardcover books of today. That detail made it very real to me.

What does your writing cave look like? (If you have a photo that would be great)

Oh, I wouldn’t dare share a photo! But I am fortunate to have a dedicated office with file cabinets and desk space and lots of bookshelves. (Lots of bookshelves, but not enough. I always end up with books on the floor.) One thing I do have near my computer a print illustrating a Paul McCartney quote: “It isn’t worth doing if you don’t’ have fun.” I believe that.

Where do you get your ideas?

I find history an endless source of inspiration. And whenever I’m stuck, I do some additional reading and I’m off again. I also have a file I call the “fish pond” where I stuff articles and odd ideas for someday. When I’m ready to start a new project, I can go fishing!

Can you tell us about your future books?

I have another medieval completed and am working on yet another, but until we are set and titled, I’m superstitious about saying too much more. Both are fourteenth century settings and, yes, revolve around royal bastards. I’d love to set some books in the United States in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s. I have several stories ready for that “someday.”

Can you share a special recipe? Either one that your characters make in your latest book, or one you often make?

I’m not much of a cook. (Some famous writer once said he thought writers should eat the same thing every day.) I haven’t attempted medieval cuisine, but here’s my favorite recipe for salad dressing. I no longer buy bottled because this is so easy and good!

Basil Vinaigrette

Six Tablespoons of Basil Extra Virgin Olive Oil (you can use non-flavored, too.)
Two Tablespoons of Tarragon White Vinegan
1-2 cloves of garlic
1 Teaspoon of Dijon Mustard
A handful of fresh basil leaves
Salt, pepper, if you like

Frappe in the blender. A mini-size jar is perfect.
Makes ¾ cup. Serves about 6-8 side salads. Takes five minutes! It’s even better the second day, when the flavors have a chance to meld.

<Who are some of your favourite romance authors?

Most romance writers trace their roots either Jane Austen or Charlotte and Emily Bronte. I’m an Emily and Charlotte kinda girl, drawn to stories of deep passion and high drama. I read broadly, both within my genre and outside it, but these days, just keeping up with my friends’ books is a challenge. One romance I’ve read and loved this year is Crossroads Café, by Deborah Smith. Laura Kinsale, Penelope Williamson, Madeline Hunter and Megan Chance are among those on my keeper shelf.

I love to hear from readers! Visit my website at
Blythe's book The Harlot's Daughter is available to buy on eharlequin in both ebook and print editions.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

An Interview with...Elizabeth Rolls

Elizabeth Rolls lives in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia, in a beautiful lush valley full of apple, pear and cherry orchards. She moved there a couple of years back, escaping from the city and it’s just gorgeous. The property is small, only five acres, but has room for two small noisy boys, three dogs, two cats and several woolly things masquerading a environmently friendly lawnmowers.
Before thatshe lived in Melbourne, which was fun, but she and her husband always wanted to live in the country and now they do.
She has been married to an ex-nuclear physicist – don’t ask! for the last 17 years and they have two rowdy little boys, commonly described as “feral”.
Most of her friends think they have far too many animals, and everyone knows they have far too many books.
She grew up moving around a fair bit. Elizabeth's father was in the army and every few years the family had to up sticks and move on. She was born in England, expelled from kindergarten in Melbourne, started school in Papua New Guinea and finished school in Melbourne.
After taking a degree in Music Education she taught music for several years while her husband finished his Ph.D.

Although many writers know they want to be a writer from an
early age, was there something in particular that made you decide to
pursue your dream?
A job that was driving me insane. I missed my Masters thesis. A friend who read the first draft of my first book and persuaded me to submit it. But I’d always loved writing and I always had stories unfolding in my head. Ever since I was little. I didn’t write them down much after I left school, but they were still there and eventually it just got to the point where one of them had to come out.
How long after you first started submitting did it take for
you to have your first book accepted?
You really don’t want to hear the answer to that, do you? Just give me a moment to get under cover . . . I sold my first book. But before people start lobbing hand-grenades, can I point out that selling your first book is not all roses. You don’t know a blessed thing about the industry. You have no idea about the editing process and you certainly have no idea just HOW you managed to write a book. And you have a husband who thinks that writing books must be easy! Along with all these authors who want to kill you. Added to that all your mistakes are out there. In public. Mind you, plenty of people love that book so it’s not all bad. I did the best I could with it at the time, so I refuse to feel bad about it.
Can you share a special recipe? Either one that your characters
make in your latest book, or one you often make?
Richard and Thea don’t really get anywhere near a kitchen in this book. Although, no, Richard does. But he only heats up milk. A special recipe .. . . okay, my family really likes this one. My sister-in-law gave it to me.
Elizabeth’s Choc Chip Cookies
1 cup of sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon of milk
drop of vanilla essence
4 oz melted butter
Beat well with a fork and add;
2 cups self raising flour
1 cup of choc chip bits
Mix together. Roll into little balls and place on prepared baking tray. Flatten slightly with a fork. Bake at 350-375F for about 10-15 minutes. Let harden for a few minutes on the baking tray and then transfer to wire racks to cool. If you eat them too soon you burn your mouth on the choc chips – or so my sons tell me.

Perhaps I should point out that this recipe is NOT for anyone on a diet. Kids love them, not to mention husbands. Also they are dead easy for children to make. You just have to help with the melted butter. You can add nuts as well as the choc chips if you like. Macadamia is gorgeous.
What attracts you to your time period? I love the sense of a society about to change. Change is already happening in the form of the Industrial Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, but more change is on the way politically and with the coming of the railways in 1825.
Writers often use photos of movie or tv stars for inspiration,
who has been the inspiration for some of your heroes?
I must be a bit odd. I don’t actually use photos in that way. Not of people anyway. I’m more likely to see a picture of a place or house and start imagining who lived there. Or I read some odd snippet of information and stories start to form around it. I know many readers don’t like blow by blow descriptions of the characters – they find it constraining. I seem to be the same way with photographs of potential heroes. And heroines for that matter. If I find one that reminds me of them, that’s another matter. My characters tend to walk into my head fully formed physically. Reading about someone is far more likely to inspire me than a visual image.
Who are some of your favourite romance authors? Jo Beverley, Anne Stuart, Nicola Cornick, Joanna Maitland, Helen Kirkman – this is in no particular order, and the list is by no means complete – Anne Gracie, Elizabeth Lowell, Jennifer Crusie, Linda Howard. I have many favourites and I seem to be adding to that list all the time.
When you are not writing what do you do? Try to get to three exercise classes a week to counteract all that sitting on my backside. Read. Drive my sons to and from various after-school activities – I usually write while I’m sitting in the car. I’m on a couple of local committees too. It’s much harder to remain anonymous in the country. I really love to spend time enjoying our garden.
What are some of your favourite movies? An Affair to Remember, The Philadelphia Story, Notorious, Charade – yes all right; I love Cary Grant. To Kill a Mockingbird – we watched that the other night and I sat there during the courtroon scene getting weepier and weepier. Gregory Peck can always get my heart rate up. To Catch a Thief – Cary Grant again, and I just love it when my husband gets antsy about Grace Kelly swinging around the cliff tops in that car. It’s quite an experience to hear him yelling “Slow down! Slow down! You’ll miss one!” Loved Lord of the Rings to bits. My sons love them too, so every holidays we have a Viewing. The Shrek movies. Wallace and Grommit – The Curse of the Were Rabbit . . .
Can you tell us about your future books? I’m just finishing up the story of one of the secondary characters from A Compromised Lady. I started thinking about Julian quite a while back, possibly because he became important in ACL. He’s been quite an interesting character, because perhaps more clearly than any of my other heroes, he is full of the prejudices of his time. Especially the ones pertaining to breeding. He likes well-bred dogs, well-bred horses and has been taking it rather for granted that his so-far-hypothetical bride will be equally well-bred . . . After that I have a few murders planned and I would love to write another novella. I like writing novellas. They are a lovely change of weight and pace.
What does your writing cave look like? A total mess. I clean up at the end of each book and in between if I get really badly stuck. That’s usually the point where I decide my editor needs a synopsis and I tidy up my mind, plot and the mess at the same time. I have a desk for the computer and one for old-fashioned scribbling which works really well for me. Large parts of my recent books exist in literal manuscript. I will admit that if scribbling is involved I work in the garden, weather permitting.
What is about the heroes from that time period that excites
My aunt thinks it’s because of the skin tight pants the men wear – she says you can see what they’re thinking. I love the fact that in those days a man could still – just – get away with fighting a duel. It lends a certain edge to any argument over a woman!

What is the worst thing about being a writer? Sitting on my behind all day! I am very aware that having such a sedentary job is having an appalling effect on my jeans size. I’ve found a local exercise group and started working out.
What is the biggest challenge you face when you are writing a
book? The beginning, middle or end?
Yes! It depends on the book. The middle, let’s face, it always sags. Usually I need to take it apart and do something drastic to it. Like cut half of it out. The beginning is rarely the same beginning that I started with. Sometimes the original opening ends up as backstory. Or sometimes it gets axed completely. For A Compromised Lady I tried about half a dozen openings. I feel that I’m in good company though, since I read that JK Rowling did the same with the first Harry Potter book. I need to write myself into it and find out about my characters that way. As for the end, it can take me ages to figure out exactly HOW to end it, but once I’ve worked it out the writing generally happens fast. It’s often a minor plot point that will hold me up, something I have to work out how to make it happen physically. With A Compromised Lady the main difficulty was working out why and when certain things had to be revealed to Thea, and/or Richard, and the reader. At one stage just about everything was revealed to Richard right near the end. That just wasn’t working, and when my editor read the draft, she said that I needed to work that out. Space the revelations better. A very helpful comment, because it also helped with the structure, driving the plot from one stage to the next. I have a really good editor.
The bit I love the most is the final polish, pulling it all together and, hopefully, knowing that you’ve got it as right as you can.

Many thanks to Elizabeth Rolls for chatting with the Harlequin Historical Authors.

A Compromised Lady

also available as an e-book.

Monday, September 03, 2007

PHS HughJackman Tour 2007

The Pink Heart Society is having its 2nd annual Hugh Jackman appreciation day. The Harlequin Historical authors decided to join in. With Hugh in historical mode.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

HH September Release: A Compromised Lady by Elizabeth Rolls

A Compromised Lady
As a girl she had been bubbling over with mischief.
As a woman she seemed half lost in shadow. But Richard Blakehurst couldn't miss the flash of connection between them when his hand touched hers. It was as if he had awakened something deep inside her.
Seeing Richard again brought back the taunting memory of their dance at her come-out ball. She must tame her wayward thoughts, because Thea doubted even her considerable fortune could buy Richard's good opinion of her if ever he learnt the truth....

Read the excerpt

A Compromised Lady

HH September Release: A Practical Mistress by Mary Brendan

A Practical Mistress
Sir Jason Hunter could not let a young widow fall into ruin when he could so easily help. His intentions were purely honorable, but then the lady herself surprised him with an offer of a carte blanche!
Helen Marlowe's despicable brother had left her nearly penniless, and she knew that becoming Jason's mistress was the only practical solution. She told herself the decision was made with her head, not her heart, and had nothing to do with the way this notorious rake made her feel—or the look in his eyes that promised such heady delights....

Read the excerpt

A Practical Mistress

Hh September Release: A Trace of Memory by Elizabeth Bailey

A Trace of Memory
When a bedraggled woman accosts Charles Clevedon, Earl of Wytham, in his woods, claiming to have lost her memory, his first cynical thought is that it's yet another ingenious matrimonial ploy.
While he remains suspicious of her, he is safe. But her beauty and her vulnerability are a heady mix. Yet how can they be ruled by their desire when each unfolding memory seems to suggest that she could belong to another man?

Read the excerpt

A Trace of Memory

HH September Release: Her Gentleman Protector by Meg Alexander

Her Gentleman Protector
Miss Emma Lynton was stranded in France, in the middle of a revolution, totally alone! Handsome aristocrat Simon Avedon came to her rescue and vowed to escort her home. But Emma began to find Simon's orders rather irksome—until she was told of his past.
How could a man who had never been shown love understand how to win her heart? Emma was brave in helping others, and now she would have to be brave for herself—for the prize of Simon's love was worth any risk!

Read the excerpt

Her Gentleman Protector

HH September Release: Klondike Wedding by Kate Bridges

Klondike Wedding
All Genevieve Summerville wants is a good life for herself in the wild Klondike. She agrees to take handsome Canadian Mountie Luke Hunter as a stand-in groom while her fiancé satisfies his gold-fever. But the best-laid plans go awry—and Genevieve and Luke find themselves legally bound together!
Living in close quarters, Genevieve is surprised by Luke's gentleness. And as his kisses awaken her most secret desires, Genevieve must choose between the life she wanted and the longings of her heart....

Read the excerpt

Klondike Wedding

HH September Release: The Warrior's Touch by Michelle Willingham

The Warrior's Touch
Connor MacEgan is a fighter; it's in his blood. But when his hands are crushed in a brutal attack, he finds he may never wield a sword, or touch a woman, ever again.
He becomes reliant on Aileen Ó Duinne, whose determination matches his, for Aileen can no more ignore a person in pain than Connor can stop being a warrior.
But she also holds a secret, one of passion and deception that could break their hearts, long after she has mended his hands....

Read the excerpt

The Warrior's Touch