In this week’s AuthorView, the very delightful Anne Gracie lauds the merit of men with strong hands, does some ‘new math’ for trilogies, and reveals the best (and worst) parts of the writing life.
MB: What or who inspired your novel?
AG: My heroine, Grace, started off as a minor character in my book ‘The Perfect Rake.’ She was the heroine’s little sister, and though she had a very small role, she was the sort of character that you notice — spunky, likable and mischievous, without being bratty. And readers liked her as well. I had a lot of letters asking me for Grace’s story. So my publisher was very kind and allowed me to write a fourth book for my trilogy.
So I started with Grace’s personality, filled in some of the gaps in her life since the last book, and explored story possibilities. A reader wrote to me recently and said, “It was so wonderful to see that Grace may have matured, but she hadn’t changed.” I was really pleased with that.
I planned quite a different hero, but as soon as Dominic met Grace on the page, he started doing and saying things I hadn’t expected him to say and do… and soon I realized he was a baaad boy, a terrible flirt — well actually a really excellent flirt… But he also has a tragic past, and I knew that he and Grace would bring out the best in each other — eventually. I love a redemption story.
And then, finally there was the setting — I’m quite a visual writer — location is important to me, so I usually search until I find a place/setting that feels right. As soon as I came across Stokesay Castle, I instantly knew this was the place to set my story. You can see some of the places that influenced the book here and at the bottom of that page is the story collage I made. I’ve recently got right into collage as a preparatory aid to writing.
MB: What do you like most about your novel?
AG: I think it’s a fun book to read – well, that’s what people tell me. I haven’t read it since it was published. I like some of the interactions between Grace and Dominic — some are funny, others sizzle.
I always enjoy my minor characters, and in this one there’s a gutsy little boy, a smart old granny with a way with herbs, an eccentric Turk with an eye for the girls, and more. And there’s odd, fun elements, like a harem bath scene…
But most of all I like the way that it ends — where justice is done, and evil punished, where love triumphs and the good are rewarded!
MB: Who is the most heroic person you know?
AG: I know lots of heroic people. Life can throw ghastly challenges at people and I find it extraordinary and wonderful when ordinary-seeming people rise to face the challenge and reveal heroic qualities. Whether it’s battling illness, injustice, an enemy or just the travails of life, most heroes aren’t all that noticeable — they just quietly battle against the odds and persist and persist. For instance here where I live, we’ve had a very severe drought and months of terrible bushfires. Ordinary men and women battle on, day after day after day, exhausted, uncomplaining and determined to survive. That’s real heroism, I think.
MB: Who’s your romance hero: dark brooding bad boy or white knight in shining armor?
AG: I don’t have one romance hero — mine are all a bit different from each other. I suppose you could say they’re bad boys, with a lurking core of white knight. I like the idea of the warrior poet — a tough exterior and a beautiful soul. My guys tend to be strong, protective, tough and deep down honorable. They often shield their heart under a gruff or lighthearted exterior. They are flawed, and often wounded, and when they fall, they fall really hard for the heroine.
In real life I find a wicked sense of humor utterly irresistible, but I also want someone who can listen as well as talk. A kind heart is a must. Broad shoulders and strong hands are very sexy. As is a certain kind of crooked smile. Add in a preference for doing all the housework and you’d have the perfect man.
MB: Answer the question you wish an interviewer would ask.
AG: Q: What do you like best about being a writer? What’s the worst?
A: I love it when a character leaps onto the page as if they are alive, or a scene just flows. I love it when I’m in a pit of despair and suddenly I see how it will all work, and it all starts to come together, and it works.
I love it when readers write and tell me my book made them laugh or cry (it’s often both.) And when they ask for more details or a story for another character, because then I know the world of that book is as real for them as it was for me.
I love the friends I’ve made. Writing is a solitary occupation, but the community of romance writers is very strong and very supportive. I could live in the middle of nowhere and not see anyone for months, but I would never feel alone.
The worst thing?
It never stops. I never have a day completely off, because even if I’m not working on a book, an idea will come, or I’ll see something that intrigues me, or hear a snatch of dialogue and I have to write it down.
And it can ruin your reading. It’s much harder to simply get swept away by a book these days. I read like a writer, not a reader.
But I love this work and feel privileged to be able to do it.