I’ll be posting a poll soon to ask your opinion about some ideas we have for enhancing our event this year.
Caroline Linden is visiting today to talk about her new book, For Your Arms Only, writing, military heroes and cookies. Her wit and charm are reason enough to welcome her, but she comes bearing gifts as well. We’ll choose a random commenter to receive a copy of A View to a Kiss, plus a hard copy of the bonus companion story “Deeper than Desire”. (Winner to be chosen Friday, December 11). In addition, Caroline will be donating a copy of her book to the 2010 Unleash Your Story event. Thanks, Caroline and welcome!
TB: Please tell us something about For Your Arms Only.
CL: It’s the second book in my Regency spy series, although I don’t think you need to read the first book before this one. My hero, Alec Hayes, was a decorated army officer. He was severely wounded at Waterloo and went missing in the battle’s aftermath, and when he woke up from his wounds, being nursed by a local woman, he discovered he was suspected of treason and presumed dead. To clear his name, he elected to stay presumed dead, and ends up as a spy for the British Home Office. But after five years, his older brother dies; Alec is sent home with one last mission from the spymaster, to find a man who’s disappeared from his hometown. The heroine, Cressida Turner, isn’t sure she wants Alec’s help finding her missing father. Not only is everyone talking about the man come back from the dead, Alec definitely unsettles her world. As she reluctantly accepts his help, and they begin to work together to find her father, it becomes clear that her father has been keeping some dangerous secrets.
I think Alec and Cressida are well-matched characters, in that they both have a disaster in their past that they reacted very strongly to, and it’s marked them ever since. Only when they find each other are they able to get past those disasters and hurts.
AND as a special bonus for this book, I wrote a companion short story. It’s not independent, it’s meant to be read with the book, but it’s FREE. Everyone can read it here.
TB: One of the things I most enjoy about your books is the way you manage to bring settings to life. I feel as though I’m right there with your characters. How do you immerse yourself into this world?
CL: I’m so flattered whenever anyone says this. 🙂 I don’t know; my characters all have very real personalities in my mind, and often very strong ones. They often surprise me, but I don’t usually view that as a bad thing. To me a romance is really about the characters. If they seem alive and real, their world generally comes to life as well. I usually draw my scenes in pretty spare language, and trust the reader to fill in a lot of details, mostly because I personally skip over most descriptive scenes, no matter how beautifully they’re written. I can’t wait to get to the part where something actually happens.
TB: Alec is a great example of a tortured hero. It’s hard enough for a soldier to survive a bloody battle like Waterloo, knowing that many of his comrades lost their lives. To be accused of betraying those comrades to the enemy has to be the worst nightmare. How do you relate to a character who is going through such a horrible experience?
CL: Alec was hard to write. He’s my first military hero, and even though I’m from a family with plenty of military folks, I always shied away from them. Which is just wrong, for a writer whose books are set in the Regency era, when the British were fighting a war or two at all times for over a decade. I read quite a lot about the British army of the time, and it wasn’t what most people expect, given modern armies. Officers were in their posts usually because of money and/or influence, and they weren’t always very good tacticians (in fact, some were awful and would have been court-martialed by a modern army). Enlisted men had a rough time, and were regarded by superiors (like Wellington) as the scum of the earth. I was completely struck by how random things could be in battle, and used some anecdotes from Waterloo in my book. It was completely possible for a man to be injured in battle, picked clean of all identification by scavengers, and wind up able to start a new life, with everyone thinking he was dead.
I don’t think I could adequately feel what someone in the Regency army felt or experienced–just as I don’t think I could adequately feel what someone in today’s army would feel after a battle. As a writer, you just do your research and write it the best you can.
TB: What’s your favorite book? (And we are all readers here, so we understand if your answer to this question varies from day to day).
CL: I cannot begin to answer that question. I will say that I just finished reading Lord of the Fading Lands by C. L. Wilson (and can’t wait to go get the next book), and just started Eve Silver’s upcoming book Sins of the Heart (coming out next fall–oh, the perks of being friends with authors!)
TB: All of your published books are historical romances. Do you have any other types of books you’d like to write? Any secret passions yearning to be set free?
CL: I have some paranormal and contemporary ideas, but not many. Can you write just one paranormal romance? I would really really like to write an American historical, too. I could never give up historicals.
TB: What’s your favorite movie?
CL: Well, this also changes, but one of my favorites is Shakespeare in Love. Oh, that Joseph Fiennes… <sigh>
TB: Besides reading and writing, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?
CL: What, there is time to do things in life aside from reading and writing? Do tell…
I always have plenty of things around the house to do after finishing a book (mostly because I completely ignore them while writing). I cook (decently), play tennis (very badly, but with spirit), and am constantly dreaming up ways to fix up our house (which my husband gently shoots down, until we win the Powerball lottery).
TB: Your first book, What a Woman Needs, came out in 2005. Do you still remember the first time you held that book in your hands? What was that moment like?
CL: Absolutely. It’s very exciting to hold your own book. It’s also very exciting to see it on the shelf in the bookstore, and to hear from people who read it and liked it. THAT is the best part of being an author: when someone tells you your work made her day better.
TB: If you were stuck on a desert island, what five items would you most want to have with you?
CL: A comfy hammock; a thousand good books; a well-stocked minibar; my iPod; and a satellite phone with GPS so I could get off the island when hurricane season began.
TB: In the process of writing a book most authors must read the story over and over again. Once the book actually reaches store shelves, are you tired of it? Or do you crack it open and read it one more time?
CL: I do, sometimes! Sometimes I get to the end of the book and just feel drained, and have had enough of it. But there’s so much time between when you finish a book and when it actually comes out in stores, that I sometimes want to go see how it turned out, and if my feelings changed about it. I don’t read it all, just a few pages here and there. And sometimes I have to go back and see what I did in a previous book, if it’s part of a series.
TB: Do you listen to music when you write, or do you prefer silence?
CL: I like movie background music. If there are words, I start listening too much to the music and get no writing done. My top writing album right now is the soundtrack from the recent Pride & Prejudice movie.
TB: Authors are often asked where they find the inspiration for their books. I recently read a response to this question from Douglas Adams in The Salmon of Doubt. He said, “I tell myself I can’t have another cup of coffee until I’ve thought of an idea.” Is there anything special you reward yourself with when you complete a book (or chapter, page, paragraph or sentence)?
CL: Yeah, I get to read a book! Sometimes I reward myself too liberally, though. Mostly, the sheer joy of finishing is enough. I don’t feel any special relief in completing a page or a chapter, until there are no more pages and chapters left to write. THEN I break out the bubbly and chocolate.
TB: Do you get to know your characters as you write, or do you have a pretty good idea who they are before you start writing the novel? Do your characters ever surprise you as you’re writing?
CL: They always change, even if I think I know exactly who they are and what they’ll do. And usually they change without advance warning, the story just suddenly veers off in a new direction.
TB: You’ve been a big supporter of Unleash Your Story from the start. Most people don’t know it, but you designed our logo. Besides writing fiction and doing computer graphics, do you have any other secret talents you’d like to reveal to our readers?
CL: I make wicked awesome cookies. I lurve cookies. They are my can’t-resist dessert, the one thing I cannot pass by, not even just plain sugar cookies from the supermarket. My graphics skilz, such as they are, do not compare to my passion and talent with butter and sugar and chocolate.
TB: In your bio you make a pretty convincing case for how a woman with an interest in mathematics and science might end up writing romance novels. Do you ever find your knowledge of math and science help you in writing fiction?
CL: Higher level math (which I only got close to, by the way–someone called me a mathematician somewhere, and that is totally untrue) is not just about computation but is about proof, starting at one statement and logically proving, step by step, your way to the conclusion. I tend to think of my plots the same way: what must come next, to get where I want to go? Of course, you also have to throw in some human overreaction and the random wrong turn to keep it from being predictable, but I do think of my plots as solving a problem. The only difference (and the best part) is that I get to choose the solution as well as the problem. After lab reports and problem sets, getting to make up both question and answer is quite a thrill.
Questions–What’s your favorite kind of hero? And what’s your favorite kind of cookie?
Caroline Linden knew from an early age she was a reader, but not a writer. Despite an addiction to Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew, she studied physics and dreamed of being an astronaut. She earned a math degree from Harvard College and then wrote software for a financial services firm, all the while reading everything in sight, but especially romance. Only after she had children, and found herself with only picture books to read, did she begin to make up a story of her own. To her immense surprise, it turned out to be an entire novel—and it was much more fun than writing computer code. She lives with her family in New England.
We will have a book give-away at least once a month, so be sure to stop by regularly. Our next scheduled event is next week, Tuesday December 8. Our guest will be Caroline Linden, author of , For Your Arms Only.
Caroline writes terrific Regency set, sensual romances. For Your Arms Only is a RT Book Reviews Top Pick!
Read an excerpt at Caroline’s website, here.
Come back in on the 12th of January when I’ll be giving away a Trade Paperback copy of the anthology, My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys. The anthology will be released in mass market paperback in February 2010.
Read an excerpt of Hester.
We’re looking forward to more great book talk and book give-aways throughout 2010 as we gear up for our next Read/Write-a-thon in September. Best of all, each guest author is giving away 2 copies of her book. One copy will go to a random commenter. The second copy will be added to our $100 books for the 2010 event.
Please join me in welcoming Jackie Ivie, author of romance novels featuring hunky Highland heroes as bold and rugged as the Scottish highlands. Her books include: Tender is the Knight, The Knight Before Christmas and Heat of the Knight.
Jackie’s here today to talk about her preferences in a hero and to challenge readers to defend their favorite type of hero. Jackie is giving away two copies of her latest book, Once Upon a Knight. One copy will be donated as a prize for our 2010 UYS event and the other copy will go to one lucky reader of this post. To enter, simply leave a comment. Let us know if you agree with Jackie about Highland heroes and what you think of the other hero types she mentions. (Are Regency heroes really a bunch of wusses?)
Hi. Jackie Ivie here. Talking about my favorite topic: heroes. (Sigh). I just love a brawny, stirring, achingly gorgeous man – wearing as little as possible of course – going up against all odds and somehow winning, because his heart is as big as the rest of him.
My editor has one request of me: Keep those Highland heroes coming. And there is nothing better… even if I have to face the fact that they all look alike. I hear that all the time and…it’s true. They have the same physical traits. They’re all big men. Brawny. Hulky. Hunky. Hot. Weapon-brandishing, kilt-wearing Highlanders. It’s in the mind. I have this 6-foot-3-inch to 6-foot-6-inch hunk firmly set in my mind. He’ll weigh about 235 to 265 lbs. depending on his height. He’s got a full head of shoulder-length hair (or longer), feminine-looking lips, firm jaw, high cheekbones, jaw-dropping handsomeness that gets him more embarrassment than anything else. Women literally fawn on him. Sometimes he takes their offers. Sometimes he barely avoids it.
That’s my hero. I can’t escape it, either. He’s on every cover. My heroes are not stout men. Oh no. They’re rippling with muscle. Easily capable of taking a 9 lb. claymore in each hand and working them against the enemy. Capable of winning a battle against tremendous odds, crossing leagues of country in little more than a hank of cloth, surviving any weather condition, any trauma…winning the heroine’s heart.
And all on an empty stomach.
Take my newest hero, Vincent Danzel from ONCE UPON A KNIGHT. Vincent’s of Viking descent, has shoulder-length blond hair, dark eyes, jaw-dropping looks, wench-stealing ways, and a frame to make certain of it. He also has a very dark life-defining secret in his past. It’s so bad that he’s set his lack of worth on it. He’s a lying low-life wretch and lives down to that. There isn’t a task too low for him. He figures he’s already destined for Hell, so what does anything matter? He’s got the size, looks and intelligence to make every wench’s heart beat faster just before he takes it, and that’s just what he’s tasked with. Unfortunately, his cousin knows exactly what Vincent needs to alter everything and bring out the hero in him: the perfect lass. Sybil’s quick-tongued, manipulative, self-assured and stunningly smart. Capable of taking down any man with a well-chosen word, or gesture, or potion. Vincent is like child’s play to her…until her heart tells her different.
That Vincent. Here’s a small excerpt from ONCE UPON A KNIGHT showing just one description of him:
The blond fellow from the marsh was moving from an indolent position leaning against a bit of rock wall to ask it. He was more massive than she remembered. With hands upon his hips and his legs apart, he was effectively spanning the width of her tower hall. He’d also found a way to a bath and laundry, if what she smelled and observed was accurate, since he was splendidly attired in little more than a kilt of blue and black, while the open sides of his doublet were leaving none of his brawn disguised. He probably should have donned a shirt as well, she decided, eyeing him with what she hoped was disinterest.
“Well…what?” she replied, since he did nothing more than block her hall while he waited.
“I’ve bathed,” he replied. And then he grinned.
Sybil had to look down as the strangest shiver ran over her frame the moment she glimpsed teeth and what promised to be actual dimples as well. Her own body’s response was unfamiliar, unwarranted, and not going unnoticed. At least by her. She could only hope her voice had the same disinterested, modulated tone as always when she needed to use it.
She looked back up. One of his eyebrows was cocked up now and his head was slanted slightly. There was a visual array of rope-like tendons pounding from the belly he was displaying as well. It was very practiced, very posed, and very unnecessary. It was also stupid.
“So?” she replied, finally.
His eyebrow fell, as did his smile. He had wickedly dark eyes, and with them dark lashes, both of which were incongruous and superficial-looking with his coloring. He knew it and was used to wielding it, which made the reaction her body was giving even worse. He’d lowered his chin, made a knot bulge out on side of his jaw, and favored her with a stern look, but since it was being shadowed by his lashes, it didn’t do much. It was just as theatrical as the rest of him.
Sybil’s lips quirked despite her effort.
Sound familiar? (another sigh) I’m going to guess I write a typical alpha-male Highland hero – but I’m just going on covers and reading some of them. Let’s face it, brawn and lots of it define a Highlander.
What about a Regency hero? These are rather effeminate guys in my book (and if I put one in, he’s going to look plenty silly). They look fantastic in evening wear, including champagne-shined Hessian boots, they have an arrogance few can crack, they deliver perfect lines with stunning wit. Most are tallish, slender, and look like they spend hours in the saddle. These fellows are born to speak the innuendo and rarely if ever get embarrassed.
What about a Gothic hero? He’ll probably be pale slender, secretive, ultra-intelligent. Western hero? Reticent, slender. Modest. There are more. I’m certain of it. I’m guessing a hero can be pegged to his genre by a description of him. Any dissenters out there?
For a chance to win a copy of Jackie Ivie’s book, Once Upon a Knight, leave a comment to this post by Friday November 6 at 5 p.m. Eastern. We will pick a winner Friday Knight, er night!
The money has been rolling and in and we are finished counting. Our grand total for the 2009 UYS event is $7,535. It’s a bit disappointing that we weren’t able to top last year’s numbers, but we gave it a good effort. Thanks so much to everyone who participated and donated prizes.
In our first two years we’ve raised close to $19,000. That’s a lot of money for a great cause. We’ll be back next year with a bigger and better event.
We’re in the process of awarding our final prizes. Watch here for an announcement soon.