15 December 2013

Author Interview: Blythe Gifford

Today, we welcome Blythe Gifford, a long time contributor to the Unusual Historicals blog.  After eight novels with the Harlequin Historical line, Blythe has just self-published for the first time.  She’s going to talk about this book’s long, unusual road to publication.  She’s offering a free, Kindle version to one commenter, so leave a note at the end for a chance to win.
First, here’s a bit about the book.
Scotland, 1661
He's a haunted man.
Alexander Kincaid watched his mother die, the victim, they said, of a witch's curse. So he has dedicated his life to battling evil. But in this small, Scottish village, he confronts a woman who challenges everything he believes. She may be more dangerous than a witch, because she's a woman who threatens his heart.
She's a hunted woman.
They called her mother a witch, but she was only a woman made mad by witch hunters like Alexander Kincaid. Having escaped to the Border hills, Margret Reid is seeking a safe haven and a place to hide. But when the witch hunter arrives, not only is her heart in danger.
So is her life.
**Author Interview with Blythe Gifford**
How did you come to write the book?
Sandra Brown has famously been quoted on the subject of conflict in a romance:  “If your heroine is an arsonist, your hero better be a fire fighter.  I could think of no conflict stronger than that of a suspected witch and a man whose mission was to stamp out what he perceived as evil.  I started noodling around with the concept before I was even published and was still thinking of it ten years later, so it had enormous power for me.  I shared the idea with my editor at Harlequin and she encouraged me to go ahead.
But you are self-publishing it instead.  Why?
For the simplest of reasons.  After I had completed the manuscript, Harlequin rejected it. 
That must have been a jolt.
It was, particularly since the proposal had been approved.  But I don’t fault my editor.  The book is very dark and very historical and I think she believed that it would not meet the expectations of the typical Harlequin Historical reader, despite the happy ending.  But I still loved the story, so I got my rights back from Harlequin and went on to write the Brunson Trilogy instead.  When I had a little breathing room, I pulled the story out again and readied it for publication in print and e-versions myself.
First and foremost, because I think it’s some of the best work I’ve done.  Second, as a learning experience in the brave new publishing world we live in.  And finally, as a sort of marketing experiment.  I’m interested to see whether there’s a market for a book that treats the history and the romance as equally important.
How was self-publishing compared to traditional publishing?
Harder than I expected.  And I was well prepared.  But I hired professional editors, a professional cover designer, and an expert in formatting…and there are still venues that I plan to make the book available and haven’t yet.  Now comes the challenge of marketing!  But I’m still glad I did it.  And I especially enjoyed being able to select my own cover design.  And Kim Killion did a wonderful job.  It really expresses the feel of the book.
So, what makes it unusual?
Subject, character, and setting.  It’s a book about witches that is not a paranormal, though the hero actually does believe witches exist, as even the most educated people did at that time.  The 17th century was on the cusp of our modern era and pre-Enlightenment superstition and modern logic often existed side by side.
Talk about an unusual time period!
I had not written a story set in the 17th century before.  As I got into it, I understood why you seldom read romance set in that era.  England and Scotland were torn apart by complex civil and religious wars.  Even keeping track of the backstory and the players made my head spin.  Finding a happy ending amidst all the chaos was a challenge.
This is your fifth book set in Scotland.
It surprises me, too!  I’ve now written Scottish Border books set in the 14th, 16th, and 17th centuries.  I came to Scotland as a setting with some reluctance, originally.  And when I started thinking about where to set this book, I researched the medieval and Inquisition time periods first.  Then, I thought I would set it in England, where the most famous witch finder of them all, Matthew Hopkins, lived.  But I discovered that the witch hunts in Scotland were among the most virulent anywhere.  And by then, I was familiar with the geography and history, so it was easier to do.
What’s been the reaction so far?
Well worth my doing it!  I’ve been so gratified by four and five star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.  They are saying things like “amazing…couldn’t put it down…does the near impossible.”  So glad readers are taking it to heart.
What’s next?  Self-publishing or traditional?
At the moment, I’m happily “hybrid,” which is the new term for those who do both.  I’m still under contract with Harlequin.  My next two books, royal wedding stories, take me back to 14th century England and the court of Edward III.  SECRETS AT COURT will be out March 2014 and WHISPERS AT COURT later in the year.  Both are tied to real historical events, as all my books seem to be.
Leave a comment below for a chance to win a Kindle version of THE WITCH FINDER.   

After many years in public relations, advertising and marketing, Blythe Gifford started writing seriously after a corporate layoff. Ten years and one layoff later, she became an overnight success when she sold her first book to the Harlequin Historical line.  Since then, she has published eight romances set in England and on the Scottish Borders.  The Chicago Tribune has called her work "the perfect balance between history and romance."  For more information, visit www.blythegifford.com or www.facebook.com/BlytheGifford.