Thursday, April 26, 2007

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sending out your Babies

I've been holidaying at the beach with my family, and an incident got me thinking about how I'll handle reviews and comments from strangers on Scandal's Daughter.

My 4 year old son adores the surf. If he's on a beach, he's in the water, regardless of the temperature or what he's wearing. This becomes problematic if we want to go for a walk and stay relatively dry. One of us has to wear a swim suit in case we have to fish a bedraggled rat out of the shallows.

So, for the first time since we began our stay, I had set aside writing time. My parents were staying with us overnight, which means my husband and I had a bit of freedom and while everyone else went to the beach, I was going to stay home and write. I made coffee, found a quiet place in the shade with my laptop and the paperbark trees and scarlet hibiscus to look at and dream and plot. It was quiet, the breeze rustled, the ocean pounded in the distance, but there was no crying baby, no stomping, tromping, singing at the top of his lungs four year old. I had one of the dogs, myself and...

"We're back." All of my family trouped back through the gate.

I won't go into the details, but suffice it to say, my mother, a very loving, protective parent had had a difference of opinion with my husband regarding my 4yo's safety, which had resulted in both her and the baby getting sopping wet. My husband's philosophy is to intervene only when absolutely necessary. In this circumstance, he had not seen the need.

I don't know the right and wrongs of it. There probably aren't any. I removed baby and harness from my mother, washed and dried and dressed baby, and closed my laptop with, I admit, rather bad grace. I didn't get another opportunity to write that day.

But the incident got me thinking, how will I react to criticism of Scandal's Daughter? On the one hand, I believe there is value in reviews, not to the author (definitely not to the author!!), but to readers and to the way the romance genre is discussed and shaped. OK, perhaps reviews benefit authors in terms of sales and creating a buzz but they mess with the creative process, which to most authors is more important than sales. But I digress.

Books are like an author's children, we've all heard that before. So, will I be like my husband and distance myself from the book, thereby giving the critics less power to hurt if they're so inclined? Will I, having dreamed and nurtured the story, honed it and passionately advocated its merits to agents and editors, then set it free? Perhaps avoid reading reviews altogether, as the wonderful author, Anne Gracie told me I should? Or will I clutch it to my chest and defend it (if only in my mind) against any whisper of negativity?

The truth is, I'm not sure. I think even if it were possible, it is not good to distance myself from something that is essentially a part of me. On the other hand, I cannot afford the time, much less the angst and energy wasted on what is really a bunch of subjective and, more often than not conflicting, opinions. Where to draw the line? I suppose I will know, or not, when the time comes.

What about you? How do you handle criticism of your babies?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Interview with Anna Campbell

Anna, it’s lovely to have you here at the Ink Spot. Congratulations on the release of Claiming the Courtesan!

Thank you, Christine. And thank you for asking me to be a guest on your blog. I'm a regular visitor, as you'd know from my copious comments about your words of wisdom. And speaking of your words, can't wait until your book is released. And that cover is to die for! Perhaps I should interview you one day here.

The cover is beautiful, isn't it? Thank you, I'd love you to interview me as long as you promise to be kind!

But let's concentrate on you and this brilliant book that is creating such a sensation. Can you tell us a bit about Claiming the Courtesan?

Claiming the Courtesan is a dark, intense Regency historical that describes the torrid, turbulent relationship between the Duke of Kylemore and his mistress Soraya, London’s most notorious courtesan. Stephanie Laurens called it Regency noir and I’ve got to say that’s the best summing up I can possibly give you.

Wow, I'd give Stephanie Laurens a Rita for that cover quote alone! It fits Claiming the Courtesan perfectly.

Anna, there has been a lot of discussion on the net already about this book and it has been out for less than a week. Would you like to talk about some of the things you’ve read?

It’s been interesting, the reaction to this book, Christine! It’s a lesson to me that when you write something and put it out there in the public domain, it develops an existence completely independent of you. Remember these words when Scandal’s Daughter hits the stands.

Generally there seem to be two camps. People who love it passionately and people who hate it passionately (fortunately definitely in the minority, but quite vocal). All the reviews, though, comment on the fact that it pushes strong buttons emotionally. I know I found it a wrenching book to write so I’m really pleased that some of that powerful emotion I felt telling the story emerged in the final product. A lot of the discussion so far (not that I’ve seen all of it!) focuses on whether one or more of the love scenes count as either forced seduction or rape or neither. Obviously, I’ve got my opinion about that but it’s something people have to make their own minds about.

When you first wrote Claiming the Courtesan, it was uncommon to read about sexually experienced heroines in historical romance and even less common to have a hero and heroine who were thoroughly and intimately acquainted at the beginning of the book. To me, a typical Avon historical romance focuses on the growing awareness and sexual tension between the couple. Yours had already ‘been there, done that’, yet the book is terrifically sexy. What is the romantic journey this couple undertake?

Yes, the goalposts in romance have definitely shifted. I believe it’s the influence of the upsurge in erotica within the mainstream market. When I started writing this book five years ago, I thought a book about a woman who sleeps with men for money would never have a chance of selling. But as you know, I’d completed my first manuscript over twenty years earlier and never published so selling wasn’t really my biggest worry! And these characters were so vivid in my mind that I just couldn’t let them go, difficult and contradictory and damaged and wrong-headed as they were. Probably that’s why they were so vivid! They really were like real people to me, with all the complexity of real people. Strangely by the time I had a polished version of CTC to send off, the heroine’s profession had become a real drawcard both for the agent I sent it to and for the editors who offered to buy it.

I wanted to write a story about two people who were sexually intimate and yet emotional strangers and I wanted to put them in a situation where emotional intimacy was inevitable. And all the deep emotion that they’ve bottled up ignites and threatens to immolate them. Love is risky and dangerous and carries the threat of complete destruction for people like Verity and Kylemore with their tragic histories.

Why are Kylemore and Verity perfect for one another? When the dust settles and they have their Happily Ever After, what qualities will they most enjoy about one another into old age?

Hey, what a fantastic question! This relationship has been tempered in fire like the best steel so I imagine them as a really strong unit with a love that endures any troubles life throws at them. They’ve suffered and fought and faced peril and tragedy together. I think they trust each other totally by the end. And they’re complex enough to keep one another interested, that’s for sure! I also think the fact that they have goals outside their relationship will only draw them closer together. Sadly, Verity will never be accepted in society because of her former profession but she’ll find rewards beyond the value the outside world places on her. She strikes me as a woman who draws satisfaction from a few particularly close relationships rather than a woman with ambitions to be queen of the ton anyway.

I think that's one of the things I admire most about your novel. The circumstances are so extreme, yet it actually could have happened in that era. What is next for you?

My second book Untouched is coming out as an Avon Romantic Treasure in December this year. I describe it as a dark fairy tale and elements of it will surprise people who have read Claiming the Courtesan although it’s still got that sensual, dark atmosphere, I’m glad to say. I think of it as a mixture of Beauty and the Beast and The Sleeping Beauty. But at heart, all my stories are Beauty and the Beast. Funny how those themes just keep cropping up, isn’t it?

I’m currently writing the first draft of my third book, another Regency noir.

Will we see another Kylemoresque hero in Untouched?

Aha, you’ll just have to wait and see! Is he big and gorgeous and moody and passionate like Kylemore? Or is he someone else equally delicious? And yes, I am being annoyingly mysterious. There’s a short introduction to him here: I’ll be putting an excerpt and the back cover blurb on my site at the beginning of May.

I can't wait until December for your next fabulous book. Anna, thank you for a fascinating interview. Best of luck with Claiming the Courtesan!

Thanks, Christine! It’s been fun talking about my books! And best of luck to you with your writing! I’ve read Scandal’s Daughter and it’s amazing.

Aren't you lovely? You can definitely visit here again, Anna! In fact, Anna will be around for the next few days to chat. It promises to be a lively discussion!