Writer's Corner for July, 2005

Tracy Grant, Carla Kelly, & Laura Kinsale

With the summer heat at full blast and, sad to say, the hot weather doldrums also blooming here in the Writer's Corner, I thought I'd try something a bit different this month. Instead of a single interview, I checked in with three authors about whom there has been much speculation around the AAR corral (there's that Deadwood influence again) over the past few months.

Regretfully, in at least one case, the news isn't what you want to hear, but, at least you'll know the latest and greatest.

--Sandy Coleman

 

Tracy Grant

Though Tracy Grant is admired as an accomplished author of historical romance, she is revered as the author of 2002's riveting Daughter of the Game. Since it's been an eon since the March 2003 publication of Beneath a Silent Moon, the prequel to Daughter, I asked Tracy for the scoop.

Tracy, for those of us who loved Daughter of the Game and Beneath a Silent Moon, the wait for the next book has been a painful one. Is there any news on the publication front?

Unfortunately, nothing definite. All I can say is that neither my agent (whose support is absolutely wonderful) nor I have given up, and we're still exploring options. I'm very committed to these characters and their stories.

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Well, as I'm sure you know, that's news that won't be welcome for many AAR readers. When there is so much same-old, same-old being published today, Daughter of the Game and Beneath a Silent Moon were anything but. In fact, I think there's an argument to be made that Mélanie is the most complex and intriguing heroine to be found in fiction anywhere in many a year. I'm sure readers would love to know - as would I - if you've completed any further books in the series and, too, if the next would take place before or after Daughter of the Game.

Thanks, Sandy. I find Mélanie intriguing as well-it's one of the reasons she's so much fun to write about. I'm constantly discovering new sides to her and being surprised by what she'd do in different situations. I'm in the process of a revising a draft of the next book in the series. It's set in January of 1820, a couple of months after the end of Daughter of the Game. It begins with a mysterious man found floating stabbed to death in a fountain during a masquerade ball. Charles gets pulled into the investigation which gets complicated when Mélanie turns out to have a past connection to the dead man. Roth (the Bow Street runner from Daughter) is back, as are David and Simon (Charles and Mélanie's friends from Beneath a Silent Moon). The story deals with Charles and Mélanie trying to work together in light of the events of Daughterand picks up on plot elements from both Daughter and Silent Moon.

I know this is a loaded question, but do you have any theories as to why your universally acclaimed books are currently without a publisher?

I'm not sure the author has the best perspective to answer such a question. The books cross genres, with elements of romance, mystery, and historical novel, which I think makes them interesting, but also can make it difficult for publishers to know how to market them.

Tracy, I have to admit that I felt at the time I read Beneath a Silent Moon that you took a chance by choosing to focus on Charles and Mélanie before the events in Daughter of the Game since readers were so very anxious to see where you would take the couple after the events in the latter. (I'm being very careful here not to give anything away!) Any thoughts?

Well, at the time I thought the third book in the series would be published fairly soon, so I didn't think there'd be this wait to see what happened to the characters after Daughter of the Game. <g> There were things I wanted to explore in the earlier years of Charles and Mélanie's marriage, and plot and character elements (Charles's father and sister, Tommy, the Elsinore League) that I needed to go back in time to set up for later books in the series. The positive side is that I've heard from readers who read Beneath a Silent Moon first, enjoyed it, and then read Daughter of the Game. I really wanted it to work that way, so the first two books in the series could be read in either order without spoiling each other.

Tracy, are you working on anything else we can expect to see soon?

At the moment, the Charles and Mélanie stories are the stories I want to tell. So for better or worse that's what I'm working on.

And, I for one, am keeping my fingers crossed that you and your agent are successful in soon finding a publisher. Since all authors are readers, too, do you have any books you've especially enjoyed over the past few years that you'd like to recommend to readers who've enjoyed your books?

One of my all time favorite books is Freedom & Necessity by Stephen Brust and Emma Bull. It's set in England in 1849 with lots of intrigue and adventure and an absolutely wonderful love story. Another favorite is Possession by A.S. Byatt-amazing characters, a fascinating literary mystery, and an incredibly rich world (including the poetry written by the two fictional Victorian poets). I recently found out that Barbara Hambly had written two more books in her Darwath Trilogy, a fantasy series I had loved as a teenager. I read the new books, got hooked all over again, went back to the original trilogy and then read her Windrose Chronicles. Again, a great blend of characters, adventure, and powerful, touching love stories. I love Laurie King's Mary Russell series, and I particularly enjoyed the latest, Locked Rooms. Elizabeth George is another of my favorite mystery writers (the latest, With No One as Witness, was riveting though harrowing) as is Deborah Crombie, who also writes a series set in modern day England, with a great pair of detectives (who have a developing relationship). Finally, I love Penelope Williamson's books, particularly her two mysteries (Mortal Sins and Wages of Sin) set in 1920s New Orleans. In the interest of full disclosure, I should say Penny's my close friend and critique partner, but the books are so rich and layered and have such fascinating, complex characters that I'd love them anyway.

Carla Kelly

What can I say about Carla Kelly? That her fans are legion? That she is one of the most beloved authors ever to turn her hand to the Regency genre and historical fiction? All of the above? As her readers know, Carla's misadventures in publishing-land have lead to a significant delay since the publication of her last book and the day still in the future when we'll see the next. Here's how Carla tells it.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Where to begin? Last summer, I was merrily plugging ahead with Beau Crusoe, when Harlequin dropped its little cow pie [they were eliminating retail sales in the U.S. of the Harlequin Historicals line] - whereupon I promptly stopped writing. I had some other things I worked on that haven't panned out. The upshot was, I was left without a book to finish, and no money from that. The editor at Harlequin (and in fairness, I don't think she knew about the decision to stop the historicals, either) when I signed originally, had said some rosy things about a future with Harlequin, etc.

When the picture changed, I realized I didn't have a future with Harlequin, or anyone, for that matter. When my agent called in November to announce that the book was back on again, I really wasn't in an accommodating mood. I'm having a few trust issues with Harlequin, I suppose.

I started again on the novel, after reacquainting myself with the plot. Meanwhile, though, I was in need of a job. In February, I signed on as a staff writer for our local weekly newspaper, the Valley City Times-Record. We're highly underpaid and understaffed, so I am really busy.

The cool thing? I'm really enjoying newspaper writing. I do a weekly column on Thursdays, and a lot of features, so it's right up my alley. The paper's on line at www.times-online.com.

So I work on Beau Crusoe when I have time. It should be done by late September or mid-October. I'm still wanting to sell my Border Patrol series, but so far no editors seem to be particularly interested in homeland security or a branch of law enforcement that is fascinating and not done before. I also have a WWII story outlined, and a historical set in Spanish St. Augustine outlined.

So it goes. I'm still doing writing projects for the National Park Service, but I'm not rangering this summer. Life's good and I'm having fun writing what I'm writing.

So, Beau Crusoe will be published by Harlequin? If so, do you have a tentative date?

Not sure. Probably by November 2006.

Carla, it seems that life has been busy and productive, even if your publishing path hasn't been quite as smooth. Since so many of our readers are very much enamored with your unique voice, have there been any books you've especially enjoyed over the past year or so that you might want to recommend to them?

How fun to be unique! Personal favorite reads have been any and all of Peter Robinson's Inspector Alan Banks British police procedurals. Start at the bottom and read to the top, because his life changes, as all good characters' lives should.

Former LA Times crime writer Michael Connelly is another winner. His Harry Bosch books are great. Just finished reading his latest, The Closers. Quite good, as was his book before that, The Narrows. Also just finished McCullough's 1776. Masterful.

The year before, I enjoyed Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees (recommended to us, BTW, by a beekeeper).

One author whose books I keep? John Harvey's.

Laura Kinsale

The big news broke a few months ago on her Web site: Laura Kinsale had just finished her next book! Now that the dust has settled a bit, I asked Laura for the latest.

Laura, the big news for those of us who've been waiting is that you've finished the manuscript for your next book. Can you tell us a bit about it and when readers will finally be able to get their hands on it?

Since I didn't want to write under a deadline for this book, I completed it without a contract. The process of finding a publisher is now underway, so I can't really say when it will be published yet.

After spending a long time on a very intense book, Shadowheart, I wanted to give myself a break from that and revisit some of the lighter styles I've used in the past - what I think of as hedgehog humor: a whimsical sort of story where any absurd thing can happen. So this book, tentatively titled The Lucky One, is a bit of Regency froth in honor of all the enjoyment I've gotten over the years from Georgette Heyer's wonderful novels.

Lady Callista is a painfully shy but wealthy wallflower who's been jilted three times. Her greatest desire is to win the silver cup at the agricultural fair with her gigantic prize bull, Hubert. But when Callie's only old flame returns from his long and mysterious absence, her quiet spinster life turns upside down. Hubert vanishes, one of her former jilts comes back to woo her, she must disguise herself as a sophisticated Belgian lady, and.as they say, chaos ensues.

It sounds like a lot of fun, Laura. Midsummer Moon has been on my keeper shelf for years, so I'll admit that I'm really looking forward to it - especially since I also love Heyer, Every so often a thread pops up on one of our message boards in which readers ask for Heyer recommendations. I always cast my vote for Frederica, Devil's Cub, and Sylvester, but I'd love to know your favorites.

Sylvester is also my favorite, along with The Grand Sophy.

Laura, in a lot of ways, you represent exactly what isn't the norm in historical romance today. Shadowheart was a book that demanded a lot from readers and thousands of readers stepped up to the plate and embraced it. What would you say to publishers who seem to believe that "light and fluffy" historical romance is the only type of book that readers want to buy?

About all I can say to anyone is that I write what I write, and I don't seem to have much choice about it. In a purely business sense, I don't write to the heart of the romance genre market, certainly, but I've always felt that was already well-served by the many books available. I began by writing the kind of books I'd personally like to read, and have continued that way.

Writing The Lucky One without a contract did, as you say, allow you not to have to worry about a deadline. Was it also the only way to make certain you were able to write what you were interested in writing?

No, I always write what I'm interested in writing, because otherwise I can't write at all.

This question is probably quite premature, but I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't ask about any ideas about where your next book will take you?

I'm still toying with several ideas, so no, I can't really say yet what my next book will be.

Finally, Laura, have there been any books over the past year or so that you'd like to recommend to our readers?

Heh, well, all the books I've been reading over the past year or so have to do with dogs and developing computer games, so unless people are interested in chapters with titles like "Hang Ten: A Ride through the Rendering Pipeline," I can't really suggest anything. For many years since I became a writer I've been unable to read much fiction, because I become too analytical and don't give the book a fair chance. So my lack of recommendation is a lack of reading, not any comment on the books available!

So, there you have it. Some good news, some hopeful news, and some guaranteed to cause significant teeth gnashing from admirers of Tracy Grant.

My thanks to Tracy Grant, Carla Kelly, and Laura Kinsale for braving my questions and answering them so honestly. Your generosity is much appreciated.

And before anybody asks, yes, I did attempt to contact Judith Ivory and, no, I'm deeply sorry to say that I don't have any late-breaking news.

2003 Tracy Grant interview
1998 Carla Kelly interview
2003 Laura Kinsale interview

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