17 June 2007

A busy life and an interview with Lyn Randal

My life has gone crazy in the last month. July sees the publication of The Roman's Virgin Mistress and so I have been busy arranging PR for that. This includes a news feature on the local TV programme, so I spent most of Friday engaged in Roman cooking and doing drop spindle spinning as the rain pelted down. Over three hours of filming/set up for a three minute feature. It should go out at the end of next week.

I have also been going to book launches, writers' weekends, editorial lunches -- the glam stuff of being an author as well as trying to get my current book finished (it is due next week). It is the second book in my new four book contract. (One Viking, one North East Victorian, and a duo 1820s North East England).

Anyway, I thought readers might be more interested in learning more about another Harlequin Historical author -- Lyn Randal than me going on and on about tv etc. Lyn also writes unusual historicals. And this is my sneaky way of hopefully getting her over here!

Lyn Randal grew up on a farm in the Deep South, where storytelling was part of the daily life of the community. Somewhat isolated from friends in her rural setting, she spent long summers with books that fueled her vivid imagination. Love of reading soon became love of writing, and by the time she finished high school, she'd become published in poetry, short stories, and essays. Although she later received degrees in English Literature and School Administration, and then went onto challenging work as a full-time educator, she never quite lost her dream to write. Today she's happily writing "unusual" time periods for Harlequin Mills and Boon.

Lyn is taking sometime out of her busy schedule to speak with me.

What attracts you to your chosen time period?

I'm writing in several time periods and hope to write in quite a few more before I'm done. I placed TEMPTED BY INNOCENCE in Renaissance Spain because the plot needed a virtuous priest as a hero, and since I'm also a Spanish teacher, I immediately thought of Spain and of the penchant Spaniards have toward piety and reverence. Plus, the early 1500's was such a fascinating time in their history -- I wanted to learn all I could about it. The Roman stories, too, come out of my insatiable curiosity. I've been intrigued with all things Greek and Roman ever since I had my first World History class at age 13. The book I'm writing now will mix the culture of Celtic Britain with that of the Romans who conquered it -- and so I'm learning more and still fascinated by all I'm reading.

What is about the heroes from that time period that excites you?

That they're MEN! Okay, seriously now... what is more wonderful than a strong, sexy male who faces the challenges of his day and time (which are always unique!) with courage and faith? One of the best things about writing historicals is that the time periods themselves often impose more "honor" on men, and perhaps more spirituality as well. And since I'm fond of incorporating deep moral themes into my work, these wonderful historical heroes fit in nicely.

What is the worst thing about being a writer?

The anxiety, frustration, and despair that is inherent to the task. I think this is probably true of all creative endeavors, but most writers never feel they've quite captured the vision that was in the mind, and that's almost painful to consider. No matter how well the work is received, no matter how many readers enjoyed it, there's always that nagging voice that whispers "Yeah, but ..." I can only acknowledge that I'll NEVER reach the perfection I'm seeking and tell myself it's okay to have a good time trying. I focus instead on what WAS achieved, rather than what wasn't and try to stay as sane as possible.

Although many writers know they want to be a writer from an early age, was there something in particular that made you decide to pursue your dream?

I was one of those "writer from childhood" types, but my early adulthood was so busy with my family and job responsibilities, that I put writing aside for a really loooong time. I came back to the dream about six years ago and yes, there was a moment of serendipity. For me it was the realization, when my eldest child was nearing his high school graduation, that I would soon have an "empty nest" and would be getting my life back, complete with free time to pursue my personal interests. So I began to mull over what it was that I wanted to be and do in the next phase of my life. And one day, as I was browsing in a bookstore, I passed by one of those IDIOT'S GUIDE books and realized that I really, really, really wanted to write a romance novel.

How long after you first started submitting, did it take for you to have your first book accepted?

It was about four years.

What is the biggest challenge you face when you are writing a book? The beginning, middle or end?

It's the middle, always the middle. Usually somewhere around the 30,000 word mark I feel like my story just runs out of steam, that all my characters are flat and uninteresting, that I have no idea where the plot is going, that the whole premise is hopeless, hopeless, hopeless. I call this THE WALL, and I'm told that many other writers experience this. I've learned to write on through it, to do SOMETHING, ANYTHING to get the story moving again. Kill somebody or have somebody do something completely unexpected. That usually helps get things moving again, and once I get a few thousand more words down, the feeling of utter disgust I felt at the story usually goes away.

When you are not writing, what do you do?

Well, I'm not a full-time writer yet, so a lot of my waking hours are spent at my day job, teaching high-school Spanish. I also have a long list of hobbies -- playing violin, quilting, gardening,cooking. And there's always reading, which is my absolute favorite recreational activity and always has been.

What are some of your favourite movies?

I prefer comedies, but find I'm having less and less time to watch them. I haven't any particular favorites, though. I enjoy anything that's cleverly done.

Who are some of your favourite romance authors?

Oh, no. This is a toughie because there are SO many that I like, all for different reasons. It's like asking a mom which is her favorite child... hmmm. But okay, let's see... I like Laura Kinsale for her complexity and skill with words. Finishing one of her stories is like waking from a dream. I like Mary Balogh for the sensitivity and depth of her characters-- and her prose is also very beautiful. I just finished her newest, SIMPLY LOVE -- and cried three times while reading it, which is NOT like me. It was wrenching and uplifting, all at the same time. LOVELY! When I want something lighter, I go for Julia Quinn. Again, I like her craftsmanship, and the quirky humor. But the list of my favorites is growing all the time, especially since I'm becoming familiar with a whole host of Harlequin Historical writers. They're an awesome bunch! (See me waving to all the Harlequin Historical "Hussies"!)

What does your writing cave look like? A picture would be great!

Oooh, you won't get a picture of this one. Sorry, but it's a mess. An organized mess, but still... a mess. I always clean it up the day after I type "THE END" on a new manuscript. It stays clean for awhile, but slides more and more into abysmal disorganization as I get deeper and deeper into the next story. Right now, I'm about halfway through the Roman Britain story and there are books EVERYWHERE -- books on Celtic culture and Celtic magic, books on the Roman army and Roman medicine. You can tell I really love the research aspect of writing -- but sorry, no picture of my office. Wait until I meet deadline and have a chance to reorganize, okay?

Can you tell us about your future books?

I'm really quite excited about TEMPTED BY INNOCENCE, due out in June. It's my personal favorite of all the stories I've done so far. It's set in Spain and the Caribbean during the Age of Spanish Conquest and my hero is a Spaniard and a Catholic priest. Diego Castillo is absolutely wonderful, a man of true integrity, and trust me -- I do NOT corrupt this honorable man. I walked a very fine line, and there were moments when I wasn't sure I could pull off this story -- but when it was done, I was so proud of it! Also during the month of May on the Harlequin website, there's THE PIRATE, a free read for those who'd like to sample my work. It's the "prequel" to TEMPTED BY INNOCENCE, as it tells the story of the tempestuous romance of Diego's parents. And like I said, I'm currently at work on another Roman story, this one set in Celtic Britain during the Boudiccan revolt. I should have it to my editor, Maddie Rowe, sometime this summer.

Many thanks to Lyn for allowing me to interview her. I am hoping to get interviews from other Harlequin Historical authors who write in unusual time periods.