Meet Caroline Linden
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.