Writer's Corner

Julie Garwood

Julie Garwood is one of those writers who truly requires no introduction to readers of romance. An author of works considered classics in both historical romance and in romantic suspense, this bestselling author is the recipient of an incredible 13 AAR Ddesert Isle Keepers. With Shadow Dance, the long-awaited story of favorite Garwood character Noah Clayborne, in bookstores now, the author joined us for a brief chat.

Thanks to Kate Blum, Assistant Director of Publicity for Ballantine Books, for her assistance in securing the interview and a big thanks, as well, to all the AAR readers who submitted questions.

Special Note: We’re going to be especially busy in the Writers Corner this January. Later this month look for the first AAR interview since 2001 with Nora Roberts.

--Sandy Coleman

Julie, first of all, thank you for taking the time to chat with us. Having met you last summer at RWA, AAR broke the big news following the conference that you plan to return to historical romance with a new Medieval. Can you tell us a bit about it, including when it will be released and if it will feature any characters with whom your readers are familiar?

The idea for another historical came to me while I was writing my new book, Shadow Dance. I'm plotting it out right now, so it's a little early to tell much about it. What I can say for sure is that it will go back to the Highlands of Scotland and will introduce another generation of Buchanans, whom you met in Ransom and then later in the contemporaries. I don't know when it will be released yet – probably toward the end of next year.

Shadow Dance features – and this is very good news for readers – Noah Clayborne of Heartbreaker, Mercy, and Killjoy. I was lucky enough to get an advance copy and I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here to say that Noah’s fans won’t be disappointed. Is it especially challenging for an author when you’re writing a book featuring a – let’s face it – beloved secondary character?

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Not really. I feel like I'm visiting an old friend. In Noah's case, I always knew that he would someday end up with Jordan Buchanan, but I had to wait until just the right story came to me. I think they were meant for each other. He's carefree, and she's serious. His life is dangerous, and hers is safe and structured. So, putting them together was great fun.

You don’t worry that readers might have especially high hopes for characters they’ve grown to like enormously? I can think of instances where authors really delivered great books about characters I’ve loved, while I can also come up with more than a few books that disappointed me – and somehow they seem even more disappointing because I had such high hopes to begin with.

That’s always a risk. I knew going into this project that some readers would have a preconceived idea of what Noah’s story should be, and I really didn’t want to let them down. A couple of years ago I actually considered not telling it and simply letting him go on being the perpetual bachelor, but the requests to return to him kept coming, so I decided I should give it a try. I knew his character, and I had a strong idea of who Jordan was, but the conflict that would bring them together eluded me for a long time. Finally, as with all my books, a scene popped into my head. This one involved Jordan discovering a dead body, and suddenly the story began to take shape.

Julie, as someone who’s been around the romance world for a few years, you’ve seen more than a few trends come and go – today it’s paranormals, tomorrow, who knows? Do you ever feel pressured to follow them?

No. I learned early on to follow the story. I love all the genres, but I've never felt any pressure to go in one direction or another. I let my imagination lead the way, and if I come up with an idea that intrigues me, I'll explore it to see if there's a story that would be fun to tell.

I know from message board discussions at AAR that some of your long-time readers were disappointed in your last few romantic suspense releases. Although I didn't care for Murder List, I very much enjoyed Shadow Dance and hope they will change their minds after reading it. But for those who insist your voice works better in an historical context, how would you answer them?

I’m so sorry they’re disappointed. I think it’s natural for readers to get used to a certain type of book from an author. I had written so many historicals, so I understand their frustration when I went in another direction. But now it’s a bit of a two-edged sword. As I write my next historical, I face disappointment from the readers who have come to know my contemporary romantic suspense novels and expect me to write more of them. My goal is to find the time to write both, and I sincerely hope I won’t disappoint anyone.

Would you care to make any predictions about where you think romance might be going?

One thing I know for sure – romance is never going away. When times are stressful, I think people want to be transported to another world and to find happy endings. I receive so much e-mail from readers who tell me they want stories that are not only intriguing but that can also make them laugh. In the books that will be coming, I’ll be concentrating on the love story, and I'll still be inserting the mystery and suspense, but I'm going to make more of an effort to bring back the humor as well.

As an author who first achieved success in historical romance, what prompted you to move into romantic suspense and mystery? And, as a follow-up, what would you say to romance readers who feel as if some authors leaving romance have done so in an effort to write for a more “respectable” audience?

I don't see any difference in the two as far as respectability goes. A great story is a great story. I wrote my first contemporary romantic suspense novel because the plot I had come up with simply wouldn't fit into any other setting. I really enjoyed the change of pace and was asked to do more, so I continued in that vein for a while. I love writing both historicals and contemporaries, and I’m committed to writing both in the future.

Julie, I honestly don’t think many readers (or writers) would agree with you that there is no difference in “respectability” (quotes intended) between mainstream romantic suspense and historical or other romance. What do you think has made your experience different from that of others?

It’s a shame when arbitrary labels affect how people view things, and I guess I just refuse to accept them. If someone looks down his or her nose at romance, I point to a number of “classics”. I remember reading once that Gone With the Wind was considered the great American novel – and it is a marvelous novel – but what is it if not a historical romance? With millions of readers making romance the number one selling genre, I think it deserves some “respectability”.

Well, I certainly agree with that statement! On a related note, one of our AAR readers reports that you’ve said that you don’t read romance. Is this true (first of all) and if so, could you tell us why?

That's not true at all. Of course I read romance. I've often said I don't have the time to read as much as I'd like. With the number of great writers out there now, I'm constantly impressed by what I read. I feel the future of romantic fiction is stronger than ever.

Julie, my apologies here for not appropriately citing my source in the first round of interview questions, but in the wonderful interview you gave to AAR’s publisher in 1998, you were quite firm about not reading romance. What’s changed in the intervening years? And would you care to recommend some of your favorite romance authors?

When I was writing one historical after another, I usually didn’t read historical romance, and there were two reasons for that. One, I needed to focus on my own plot and not be distracted by another story. And two, I was usually reading so much nonfiction in my research, I simply didn’t have the time. There are many authors today whom I enjoy. Nora Roberts immediately comes to mind. She’s not only prolific, but she continues to inspire and entertain. I also like Tess Gerritsen and Janet Evanovich, and I just finished a book by Maeve Binchy that was great. Many of her novels lean toward romance, and she’s one of my favorites.

Julie, as someone who’s written wonderful books in a variety of genres, what is the core of a good romance – any romance?

At the core of any great romance is emotion. I think the reader has to identify with the characters – to root for them. My goal is to make the reader feel what the character is feeling—to fall in love, to be afraid, to be angry, to laugh.

Easier said than done! What’s your take on the consistent reader complaints that much of the historical romance novels being published today seem to be largely prefabricated – by that I mean they all seem to feature standard-issue nobleman spies and generic wallpaper history? I can’t even recall the last time I read an historical romance that featured Beau Brummel, a character who livened up Rebellious Desire so very nicely!

I’m always looking for a new twist to a plot or a unique trait that will set a character apart, but it becomes a monumental challenge when you consider the many thousands of stories that have already been written. I understand the complaint though, especially from those who voraciously read every novel that comes out. But as a writer, all I can do is keep looking for that something extra.

As a writer who’s created so many fabulous characters, both in your romantic suspense and historical romance novels, do you have any personal favorites? If so, why?

My favorites are always the ones I'm writing about at the time. I guess that's because I'm spending so many hours with them and I'm caught up in their story.

What about your favorite novel of those you’ve written?

It's so difficult for me to pick a favorite. I feel like a mother who is asked to pick her favorite child. They're all special for different reasons. But again, I tend to focus on the one I'm currently writing. In this case, it would be my new historical. I'm spending my days with three Medieval clans right now, and they're proving to be outrageous and quarrelsome but lots of fun.

Since your return to Medieval historical romance has made many AAR readers very happy, do you ever envision writing another Regency-set historical, such as the incredible Castles or The Lion’s Lady?

Regency novels are like hot fudge sundaes. They're so delicious, and sometimes you feel like you just have to have one. I haven't thought of a story for that time period recently, but I never say never. If one grabs hold of my imagination and won't let go, I'll certainly write it.

As someone who loves your Regencies, I’ll keep my fingers crossed. Thanks, again, Julie, for taking the time to chat with us.

 

Julie Garwood interview - 1998
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