Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Interview with Favorite Author Karen Robards

Today my guest is Karen Robards, author of more than a dozen historical romances and a a New York Times, USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestselling author whose fiftieth novel, the romantic thriller Darkness, was just published. The winner of six Silver Pen awards for favorite romance novelist, as well as numerous other awards, she lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with her husband, Doug, and their sons Peter, Christopher, and Jack. She says, "I read, I write, and I chase children. That's my life."

Karen is giving away to one lucky winner the ebook of Dark of the Moon (reviewed below this post), so be sure and comment!

Here’s a list of Karen's Historical Romances:

Pirates: Island Flame and the sequel, Sea Fire
Forbidden Love
Amanda Rose
Dark Torment
Loving Julia
Dark of the Moon
Desire in the Sun
Tiger's Eye
Morning Song
Green Eyes
This Side of Heaven
Nobody's Angel
Banning Sisters: Scandalous, Irresistible and Shameless

The Interview:

When and why did you start writing historical romance?

I was in my first year of law school when I decided to take a nighttime graduate level course in creative writing. The assignment for the class was to write fifty pages of something publishable. I thought, okay, what's publishable, exactly? I didn't know, so after class I went to my local bookstore to check out what was currently being published. What I saw were racks and racks of historical romances. I had never read a historical romance, because at the time many of them had titles like Evangeline's Ecstasy with lots of heaving bosoms on the covers and there was no way I was going to be seen in public carrying around something like that. But I bought some and read them, and was absolutely blown away by how good they were, covers notwithstanding. 
Then I thought, I can do this. So I tried. Over the course of that fall semester I wrote fifty pages of a historical romance I called The Pirate's Woman. I wanted a good grade in the course, so I crammed those fifty pages full of everything that, in my opinion, had made the historical romances I had read so entertaining: there was action, adventure, and sex. Actually, lots of sex. (Hey, I was twenty-one years old!) 
I finished the assignment up right after Thanksgiving, and was sitting in class feeling pretty smug when the professor said something like, "Oh, by the way, we're going to be reading these aloud in class." I nearly died! Believe me, if I'd known we'd be reading what we'd written aloud in class, I would have written something entirely different. But there was no help for it. It was too late to write anything else. As I listened to my classmates reading their magnum opuses, I realized that everyone else had been trying for the Great American Novel. They had subtext, images, meaning. 
And I -- I had Sex and the Pirate Ship. Finally it was my turn. I got up in front of the class and, with my best dramatic inflection, read my work aloud while my face turned tomato red and my eyes stayed glued to the pages. At last I was finished. I dared to look up -- and found my classmates staring at me. Google-eyed. Open-mouthed. Absolutely silent. For one wondrous moment I thought, I've wowed them. Then they started to laugh. They laughed so hard they practically fell out of their seats while I stood up there in front of them taking the color red to a whole new level. Finally my professor - oh, yes, he laughed too - stopped laughing long enough to say, 'Karen, you're a really good writer, but we're going to have to do something about your choice of reading material."
Do I have to tell you that I slunk out of that class? I did, absolutely mortified. But two years later, those fifty pages were the beginning chapters of the first book I ever had published. The Pirate's Woman became Island Flame, and was published by Leisure Books in 1981. Island Flame is still in print (and e-book) and those first fifty pages are the same ones I wrote in that never-to-be-forgotten writing class.
[Regan’s note: I loved Island Flame and Sea Fire, the sequel. Both were real sizzlers. I bet those people in the class aren't laughing now.]
Of those you have written, do you have a favorite and why?

I don't have a favorite. I love them all, for different reasons. Connor D'Arcy is such a hero in Dark of the Moon. Alec and Isabella have so much chemistry in Tiger's Eye. Preacher's daughter Susannah in Nobody's Angel is the kind of plain, no-nonsense, it-could-never-be-me heroine that a gorgeous hero and a hot romance is made for. Stuart/Clive in Morning Song as a gambler doing his best to be a bad guy who finds himself turning into a better man than he ever thought he could be because a lonely, love-starved girl hero-worships him won my heart right along with Jessie's. Then there is the Pygmalion story of Loving Julia, where cold, arrogant aristocrat Sebastian turns lovely, foul-mouthed guttersnipe Jewel Combs into Lady Julia and falls in love with her along the way. All these stories as well as the ones I didn't mention have a special place in my heart.

Some of your romances are bodice rippers, such as Forbidden Love and the duology, Island Flame and Sea Fire… all of which I loved. Did you find it easy or difficult to keep up that kind of sexual tension between a couple and still deliver the happy ending?

The sexual tension arises naturally out of the interplay of the characters, and the happy ending occurs because in the end the hero and heroine realize they are made for each other. If you start with the right characters, the kind of characters who strike sparks when they come together, keeping up the sexual tension and giving them a happy ending is easy.

How much history do you include in your historical romances? Is the research fun for you or a drudge?

I include what I think is the right amount of history to tell the story. As a writer, I never want to bog the story down with historical details that are irrelevant but I do want to put the characters, the social mores under which they lived, and the setting in context. And I love doing research!

You have wonderful characters in your novels. Is there a secret to how you develop them?

There's no secret. I make them people. I don't do any kind of charts or background sheets. I just sit down and write the story, and as I do the characters come alive in my mind.

When you read, do you read romance? If so, what genre? Can you give us a list of your favorite historical romances?

I read everything, including just about every genre of romance. I love Regencies. I love historicals. I love contemporaries, with and without suspense. Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Gone With the Wind, Mary Stewart, and everything Georgette Heyer wrote are among my favorites.

What is your favorite location and era for setting an historical romance? If you could time travel, would you want to go there?

I like just about every era and setting. For me, the characters are what make a story work. And if I could time travel, I'd like to go everywhere. (Just as long as I could get safely back.)

When you are not writing, what do you do for fun? Relaxation?

I read. I paint. I hang with my children. I walk the dogs and dangle feathery toys for the cats.

Karen wants to know what is your favorite historical setting for a novel? Be sure and leave your contact info as you might win her book!

Keep up with Karen on her Website and on Amazon.


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  2. I like most historical settings including medieval but my favourite is probably the Western. The rugged landscapes, hostile (usually!) Indians, wagon trains and of course the way that a good woman can civilise the toughest characters.

    I would really like to see some Karen Robards historicals as audios on Audible UK. Of the e-books my favourites to date are 'Tiger's Eye' and 'Dark of the Moon' (exclude me from the give away!). Though I still have a great many to read ... Thank goodness!

    Thanks for the great insightful interview .... Wished I could have been a fly on the wall in that school room .... I'm now dashing off to download (the adult version?) 'Island Flame' :)

    1. So glad you enjoyed the interview, Quantum! And I know Karen appreciates your enjoying her books... me, too!

    2. I love Westerns, too! Thank you for reading my books.

  3. Welcome to Historical Romance Review, Karen! Loved your answers!

  4. So wonderful to hear from one of the true grande dames of the genre.

    My happy place for reading romance is anywhere between the end of the Wars of the Roses and the end of the American Revolution, though I do have a soft spot for the Edwardian era as well. For writing, my default seems to be the eighteenth century. That always struck the right balance for me between being far enough back in time to be removed from the modern age, but still relatable. If I had to pick a favorite-favorite setting, though, I'd say between Elizabethan and Restoration eras, which is basically only trimming down my previous range. Guess I'm a historical nomad, and I am okay with that.

  5. I have been stuck in a rut reading Regency era books for the past two year or so. That's typically what happens with me. Before that it was true crime books, then contemporary romance. If I try to mix my genres, I don't seem to enjoy reading as much.

    1. That's interesting, Elaine. I began as a Regency author and had 6 books under my belt when I began to write medievals and I have found the same thing. I need to keep my head in a certain era until that series is done.

  6. Sadly, I have not been able to read much lately, my neuropathy is getting painful and my eyesight is worsening. Fortunately, I can listen to my stories and with that my imagination takes me to Scotland via ships to and fro to China and Japan.

    1. Good morning, Karen and Regan...a wonderful interview, thank you.

    2. Thanks so much for stopping by, Juanita! I am sorry to hear about your neuropathy. It makes me want to get my books into audio just so people like you can listen to them read!

  7. Thanks for this post, Regan! And hello, Karen! I'm an avid reader/lover of historical romances...started many years ago with Kathleen Winsor and Catherine Cookson from my mother's stash. I was tickled to read about your reading-aloud class assignment and your choice of stories. Good for you that you stuck to your guns and wrote what you loved. The laugh is on those who laughed at you! I am the only one in my entire family (immediate, extended and siblings) that reads romances (esp. historical) and they scoff at my reading choices. However, I continue reading what I love and enjoy myself immensely...phooey on them! :-) I appreciate the interview you granted Regan and your sharing with readers.

    1. Thanks so much for coming to see Karen's post, Janice. I'm proud of you that you stick to your guns. I didn't discover historical romance until 7 years ago but I've made up for lost time, both in reading a writing. Karen is one of my favorite authors and I am honored she is my guest today.