Sharon and Tom Curtis. The husband-and-wife team started writing in the 70s and stopped writing in the 90s, and since then some of their books – especially the pirate romance The Windflower - have entered into legend. Hyperbole from a fan? Well, if you haven’t yet read the Curtises, who publish as Laura London, you’ve got your chance. Grand Central is reissuing all but two of their stories, which includes tomorrow’s release of The Windflower. To celebrate, we have an interview with the authors, and we have three (3) Advanced Reader Copies of The Windflower to give away. To put your name in the draw, just comment below before 11:59PM EST, Wednesday April 30, 2014, and we’ll pick three winners. (Unfortunately, because of the cost of postage, this contest is only open to those in Canada and the USA.)
And now without further ado, Sharon and Tom Curtis. – Jean AAR
You’re a writing duo! I know of a few others in the business (fantasy author Ilona Andrews immediately comes to mind, although I know there are other collaborations), but there aren’t that many because, I imagine, it must be difficult finding someone whose style meshes with yours, much less turn into something even semi-coherent. And your books are more than coherent – they’re magical. How did you decide to start writing together, and why romance novels?
Tom and I were married in our teens, and we were both huge Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer fans. In our midtwenties, I started telling Tom that I wanted to write a regency romance. I wanted to live in that world in my imagination. One afternoon, I sat down at the typewriter and wrote the first page and a half of A Heart Too Proud. When Tom came home from work, he was excited to read it, and said “Hey, it sounds like a real book.” Tom wanted to join the fun, and so that evening, we began to write as a team. We can’t thank you enough for calling our books magical. What a wonderful compliment! Good feelings.
I would love to see a short film of your writing process, as the two of you work out plot direction, character, prose, etc., but since I can’t, I’ll just have to ask: how do you decide character development, plot direction, and the rest of the nitty gritty that a lone author just decides on automatically? And what happens when you disagree?
One of the ways we keep our books coherent is that we have only one pair of hands on the keyboard at once, to keep our voice consistent. Tom is usually the keyboard guy.
We write together in a conversational style. A book usually starts with a character. We name our character and work out the details of their personality. We think about their family and what influences would have created their character. The Windflower was a little different because it began with a concept: pirate ship.The plot evolves after we have our main character or concept. We talk about who the characters are, where they live, what they might be exposed to, who they might meet, who will help them, who might try to do them harm, what challenges they will face, and who will they love.
The style of our prose must serve the characters, time period and the needs of the story. Thrashing out characters and plot can take us several weeks, and by then, we have a pretty good idea of the tone of the dialogue and narration.
When we disagree, it becomes part of the general discussion of “what comes next”. There’s a real feeling of security about having a second opinion when you’re not sure of something, or when you’re wondering what should come next. I think it works because we have so much trust built up in our marriage that we can speak frankly with each other.Sometimes our discussions can get spirited; sometimes we are laughing hysterically. The unpredictable quality is always a surprise.
Your response is so interesting, and in many ways characteristic of your books, which are very thoughtful. One of my favourites is actually a short story you wrote for the anthology When You Wish, “A Natural Child”, and I couldn’t believe you’d thoughtfully, and convincingly, written a romance about a completely naive 17-year-old and a jaded 22-year-old. But you did, which goes back to your point about prose serving the needs of the story’s elements, and not the other way around.
I noticed this especially in your last book, The Testimony [about a married couple reunited after the husband is released from prison]. I remember reading it and thinking it felt quite different from your other books, almost a bit like a farewell. Did you know then that you were going to stop writing?
Testimony wasn’t meant to be our last book. We had started on a book set during the Spanish Civil War, which we partially completed. But then life intervened, with a succession of family needs and our time became so limited that we were never able to complete the book. We have recently started writing again though, an urban fantasy. It’s great fun.
I’m not certain why the tone of Testimony was different. Perhaps it was because we were a married couple writing about a married couple. We were writing about the recovery from a painful separation, and while that has never happened in our own marriage, I think the images were haunting for us in a personal way.
And your return to print started with Lightning that Lingers, published by Loveswept a few years ago, and now all your other books are being reissued in print, audio, and eBook by Grand Central. What brought you back to reissue your books? And will Lightning that Lingers appear at Grand Central in print and audio format as well in the future?
Jean, I was thrilled to hear you like “Natural Child”. It is one of our little known works and has always been one of my favorites. Bantam still owns the rights, as well as the rights to Lightning That Lingers so Grand Central was not able to acquire them with the rest. The books reissued by Grand Central are also being published in an equivalent format by Grand Central’s UK partner so they will be available there as well. Strangely enough, Windflower is in print in Indonesia.
I’m not entirely sure why we have been so lucky as to have our books reissued by Grand Central. Our agent and Grand Central made a contract and we were just the guys in the background going “This is wonderful! Thank you! Thank you!”
Now, a lot of our readers here at AAR are audiobook readers, and I know they’re excited that Windflower will be available to them, narrated by Christa Lewis and unabridged! Did you have any input in the narration process, or was that completely up to the publisher? And will your other books be available on audio in the future?
We had no input in the to audiobook of The Windflower at all. In fact, we didn’t know the narrator until you told us! But then I checked out her website and there is a sample of Windflower on it. It is surreal to hear it read in some one else’s voice. I’ve never heard it read aloud as a story. We don’t know if there will be further audiobooks available.That would be exciting. Our daughter wants to see Windflower on the big screen with Chris Hemsworth as Devon.
Our giveaway today are some ARCs of The Windflower. I remember when I first started reading romance and haunting romance boards that I’d see Windflower crop up consistently from a vocal and loyal minority, and over the years it would just convert more and more people. The fact too that your books were so long out of print helped put it in the Romance Pantheon. Did you know when you wrote it then that it would become so popular?
When we write, we are involved with character arcs, plotlines and process. We couldn’t write if we had to think about whether our books will be popular. It would be too inhibiting. We are immensely indebted to readers who take the time and effort to support us on romance boards. Like Blanche Dubois, we have always been grateful for the kindness of strangers.
And finally, I have to ask: Are you going to write a new book? And if so, pleeeeease can it be Cat’s?
We would love to write Cat’s story and hope that it is in our future.
Thank you so much to Sharon and Tom Curtis for talking to us, and don’t forget to enter the contest below!