Laura is giving away a copy of the boxed set of The Rose Trilogy to one luckier commenter.
1. What led you to write romance?
I ran out of something to read. I had just finished The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss. I had three small children, two in diapers and one in kindergarten, so I couldn’t just run out and get a new book or order online, as you can now. I sat down and began playing with an idea. The hero annoyed me in that last book. Every time his temper flared, the heroine wilted like a flower. I thought, “Why doesn’t she just pick a saber up and run him through?” I wrote that scene! Little did I know it would be the first chapter of a book. Or, that I was starting a career as a writer. The book became Silks and Sabers. I had extraordinary good luck in that I sold it to the first publisher I sent it to, Dell Books. No rejection letter, or I would probably be a microbiologist in a lab somewhere.
2. How many historical romances have you written and what is your favorite time period in which to set a story?
I’ve written 21 Historical Romances plus 4 other historicals: two westerns, an Australian saga, and a Victorian historical novel.
My favorite time period would be what I loosely call the Napoleonic Era. It covers the end of the French Revolution right through the Regency Period. It was a period of great social upheaval. For the first time men could rise, even if it was horribly difficult, in station in life. Women’s rights were beginning. Social outlets, balls, pleasure gardens and travel were all coming within reach of men and women who were adventurous enough to do those things. Struggling against the rules is usually at the heart of my romances.
I enjoyed most the research that went into writing The Rose Trilogy. I wrote a book in the 1560s, one in the first decade of the 1700s, and finally one set in Australia in the 1859. This required me to do lots of research. I learned a huge amount of history, social and political, and mores. I came to appreciate such how much the world had changed from book to book. I took my mother on my first trip to Ireland – research! – and we talked so much about how wonderful Ireland was that my husband and children decide a second trip was in order, with them. We rented a castle tower, restored, and lived there on our own for a week. My sons thought they were in a medieval movie.
3. What are you working on now? And will there be another historical romance in your future writing? (Your fans want to know)
I’m writing in another genre at the moment: Romantic Suspense as D. D. Ayres. But, I am reissuing my historical romances, available in all ebook platforms. In addition to The Rose Trilogy: Rose of the Mists, A Rose in Splendor and The Secret Rose, I have another loosely connected series called The Masqueraders available. These are five novels in which one or more of the main characters is in disguise or pretending to be someone else for part of the story. They are: Caprice, Mischief, Beguiled, The Gamble, and Emerald and Sapphire. I didn’t realize I had written so many books with people hiding who they really were until I was looking to reissue them. A fun surprise for me, as the writer. They are every different stories yet share a theme. So, that’s eight books available as ebooks with more on the way next year!
4. Do you plot?
Yes and no. I usually have a deep back story for my characters in my mind. Knowing who they are helps me shape their story. I may have a few big plot points to start, or I know what the main conflict is. But, generally, I like to plot as I go. I’d rather write fifty pages than an outline. I’m a character-oriented storyteller. The characters lead. When the writing is going well they often do and say things I didn’t have in mind when I sat down to work. They sort of take over. I’ve discovered that too tight a plot inhibits my creativity. “What next?” gets me up and going in the morning.
5. Did you plan the Rose trilogy from the beginning...that is all 3 books?
Yes, I was asked to develop a trilogy with a list of ‘don’ts’ instead of ‘dos’ as guidelines from my editor. When I was contracted to write my first historical romance trilogy most historical romance series were about the adventures of a couple, played out over three or four books. My editor asked me for a fresh approach to the trilogy. She guidelines were: Don’t use same couple in each book. Don’t set the books in the Caribbean, England, Scotland, France, the U. S., or the American Colonial period. Don’t use exotic locales that readers wouldn’t be familiar with. BUT, the books must all be connected in some significant way.
I do what I always do when I’m stuck for an idea. I went to the library and roamed the 900s history section until a book caught my eye titled The Twilight Lords. The title alone was enough to intrigue me. It turned out to be about the fifty-year series of wars between the Irish clans and Elizabethan England during the 1500s. England was a “modern” country by some standards but also a brutal and intolerant society, burning so called heretics and witches. Ireland was still a land where clans and families held sway. To be a member of a great clan was to have a family ready to fight and support you. The lowliest member was entitled to the same protection as the Irish chieftains. The Irish might be afraid of the “little people” but they didn’t kill them, only shunned them for fear of bringing bad luck upon themselves. This clash of cultures gave me the beginning of my story.
Both cultures were deeply superstitious. So the idea of using a symbol to represent the unknown came to me after reading several Irish fairy tales. A blood red mark on fair skin was considered a symbol for the Irish that a baby had been “kissed” by the fairies (made one of them) or had been outright stolen and replaced by a fairy child. The Irish avoided anyone with such a mark. But the English, fearing the “mark of the devil” would burn such a person at the stake.
The blood red rose birthmark became my link in the stories and also the symbol of difference, specialty and family lineage. It shows up every one hundred and fifty years in my trilogy, with different effect on the people of the time. It had to be obvious in book one, at a time when people were most superstitious. So the heroine bears the mark on her face. We would call it a port wine birthmark today. In subsequent books, it moved to her shoulder where only those close to the heroine would know about it. By the time of the third book I’d hidden the mark in a very personal place, and moved my Irish heroine to Australia, again part of the Irish experience.
I should add that I was told not to write about Ireland – before Nora Roberts did – that people thought of Ireland only in terms of hardship and famine and death. But I’ve always been a maverick writer. Tell me what to write, and I’ll turn it on its head to make it unique and something that stimulates my Muse. Tell me what not to write, and I’ll find a way to make it work. These books are among my favorites ever to write!
[Note from Regan: I have a “best list” of Irish historical romances and I loved reading them. Of course your Rose trilogy is on that list!]
6. How did you learn to write emotion so well?
Ah, that’s a very good question. I try to imagine how I’d feel in a particular situation. Or, what would have to happen to make me feel the way I need a character to feel. And then I describe what those emotions feel like. I read constantly, mostly non romance authors in order to stay fresh. I think the best writers write great emotion. Even if the emotions are about simple, or some would say unimportant, things. What wouldn’t upset one character is just what’s needed to send another character over the edge. That’s why I like to write from character. And why I like to have a deep back story to pull from for my character’s inner life. What has happened before the reader meets them on the page motivates them as the story moves forward. My stories are about personal journeys. In this case of writing romance, I ask the question: What is required to fulfill for the hero and the heroine the very human need to love and be loved. The answer is different for different people.
7. Why did you pick Irish heroes and heroines? (Which I love, by the way!)
I fell in love with Ireland by association. My mother went to Catholic elementary school and was taught by Irish nuns who told her stories of the ‘old country.’ She was captivated and I got caught up by hearing her stories of them. Ireland is the perfect place for a writer to set a story. It’s the land of fairies and great storytellers, of beauty both physical and emotional. Mists and moors and druids and priests, places holy and unholy. Mystery and pragmatism go hand in hand. The Irish have a great sense of humor, believe in the possibility of magic and omens, bad luck as well as good and do everything with passion. In the Irish character – writ large – there’s no middle ground. It’s all or nothing. They love and hate with equal conviction. Big emotions and big dreams. Failure can become as much the stuff of legion as victory. That’s a unique and captivating vision of the world
8. And tell me how you perfected your Irish accent for the hero?
I did a lot of reading. I read Irish joke books and Irish short stories and jotted down phrasing. After a while you will begin to phrase things automatically. Like talking like Yoda. My editor only let me get away with it because she said the reader would get the gist of the meaning in the sentence itself. I tried not to use too many odd spellings, though I did use some Irish words because it gave the reader the flavor of the period. I bought a book of Irish curses and Irish phrases. These things would be easy to find now, because of online buying. I had to have friends send me stuff I couldn't find. I even had a pen pal in Australia send me book on historical housing, furnishings and clothing. And maps. I couldn't find maps of specific areas in Australia. The maps I could find were like looking for Dime Box, TX on a map of the entire state. Not going to be there. Too small. Back in the day when the copy editor would question everything, including which direction the castle doors opened (Kilkenny castle changed from south to north in the 18th century. Stuff nobody cares about but me), I had to verify every town, castle, and river. Of course, every book spelled the Irish words differently. I had to pick and stay with those spellings. Och and nae are freebies.
Thanks so much for joining me and answering my questions, Laura. I loved the Rose trilogy and can’t wait to read more of your wonderful historical romances!