Today we’re joined by Anne Gracie, an Australian writer of Regency historicals. (Visit her site at http://www.annegracie.com/ ) Her latest Regency historical, The Stolen Princess, was a January release.
Anne's humor, innovative plot twists, and characters have made her a reader favorite. She has been a Rita finalist and has won numerous awards in both the U. S. and Australia. Anne has done all kinds of interesting things, and she’s going to share some of them with us now.
From Anne Gracie: Mary Jo and Wenches, thanks so much for inviting me. I'm delighted to be here.
MJP: How did you start writing? Were you making up stories in kindergarten with a pencil clutched in one chubby fist, or did you come to the trade later?
Anne Gracie: As a toddler I told our animals stories -- the poor creatures had to pay attention. I can't remember if I wrote stories or not: we moved all the time and a lot of stuff was tossed out with each move, so I have very little from my childhood, just my old teddy and a few beloved books.
In high school, I remember thinking I was hopeless at "creative writing" as they gave us strange literary exercises that had nothing to do with stories. I don't remember ever being asked to write a story. Essays, yes, by the hundreds.
I've always had stories in my head, though. I started writing them down when I took a year off work and went backpacking around the world on my own. Travel gives you lots of alone time, so as well as writing in my travel journal, I wrote the stories down -- and was hooked.
(Note from MJP: On my first trip to Europe, when I stayed in hostels, I met any number of young women from Australia and New Zealand who were hitching their way around the world. Intrepid Antipodeans!)
MJP: What was the biggest mistake you made when you first began writing?
AG: I think I made every mistake in the book. ;) One was writing to US publishers offering them "my regency novel, Gallant Waif," and they all turned it down unseen, assuming it was a traditional regency. In Australia "a regency" is any book set in that period, so I didn't know to call mine a regency historical. I cut 40,000 words off it and sold it to Mills and Boon. And though M&B were wonderful to me, the sad fact is that my books with them were pulped after a month on the shelves, and I wish they'd lived a bit longer
MJP: You’re our first Australian guest. Why do you think we independent, republican colonials, whether Australian, Canadian, or Americans, love Regency historicals so much? Despite the glut of Regencies, predictions of the death of historicals, and now an expanding range of settings, the Regency historical subgenre is still doing just fine. Do you think this will continue?
AG: I think "our" Regency era is, in a way, a fictional world loosely created from history by a whole body of marvelous fiction. And the more good books and movies set in that era are published, the more that world becomes real and beloved and familiar to more people, so it's very easy to step into it.
I suspect the subgenre faltered when that world became too rigid and limited, but once people stepped outside of Almacks etc, it got a whole new lease of life. The actual Regency era has everything any novelist could want - glamour, war, lords and ladies, rituals, poverty, social climbing, great art and architecture, exclusivity, technological innovation, revolutions -- there's no end to the fodder --and we can approach it as an insular society or in the wider world context. I believe that as long as people bring their own unique take on it and write fabulous new stories, the subgenre will continue to flourish. I certainly hope so.
MJP: Your January novel, the delicious THE STOLEN PRINCESS, is the first of your new Devil Riders series. Why a princess?
AG: The princess was actually my editor's idea. I wanted to start with a story she thought was a bit "gritty" so she asked for something a little more glamorous for the first story -- I so often stick my hero and heroine in some run-down castle or country house with almost no staff.
So I took a princess ... and stuck her in a run down country house with almost no staff. She does have a tiara, though. ;)
MJP: Some authors find that collaging is a creative aid when developing a new story. Despite my years as a professional designer, the idea sooo doesn’t work for me, but you’re an advocate. How does the process work for you?
AG: Partly it's that I enjoy the process (legitimate procrastination) and partly it's inspiration. I only have to look at the collage and I'm plunged into the world and the mood of my book. It also helps keep my initial excitement about the story alive. That's really important to me -- I often hit the doldrums and wonder why I ever thought this idea would fly.
MJP: Media tie-in books that are connected to movies or tv shows are common in science fiction and fantasy, but rare in romance. You’re one of the few who has done this, with your novelization of THE TUDORS, which came out in the U. S. this past November. How did you get the job, and what was the process like? What was it like to follow a screenplay where the emphasis was more on drama than historical accuracy?
AG: I got into it simply because my agent asked me if I'd like to do it. My initial reaction was to say no -- I've always written my own stuff -- but it was an opportunity to expand my skills, so I agreed. I was given the scripts, and that was it. The series was still in production so I couldn't see the show. After I'd sent in the book, they sent me DVDs of the first 6 episodes. I still haven't seen the whole show.
I found it much more difficult than I'd first imagined, partly because of the departures the script writer had made from history. I could see why he'd done that -- it made for a smoother, more dramatic story that would be easier for a TV audience to follow -- but it made the research a bit tricky. But it was his story, not mine, and that's how I approached it.
I learned a lot from the novelization process, and ended up enjoying it, but decided I prefer writing my own stories.
MJP: My mother was a teacher and a literacy volunteer. So are you. As a writer, I think that giving someone the gift of reading is one of the best things anyone can do. Do you care to expand on that?
AG: Reading has been a huge joy to me and I love to share that. I try to show my students the fun of reading, as well as the practical use of it. We did read-along plays and simplified novels and my "book club" used to be standing room only -- anyone could come, even if they could only read three words, and the women sobbed for Jane Eyre and the men yo-ho-hoed for a bottle of rum, and they all adored A Christmas Carol. The joy and the power of stories. I love it.
I also write little beginner literacy books for adults, with very simple stories and funny cartoons. They've been amazingly successful, I guess because they're fun and also because there's so few absolute beginner level books around. They're in every public library in Canada, I believe. (Above, an illustration from Mizuri the Cat, by Anne.)
Many, many thanks for joining us. Anne has generously agreed to donate a copy of The Stolen Princess to someone who leaves a comment here between now and Sunday night.
Thank you, Mary Jo and wenches. It's been wonderful.
Anne is giving us a special Valentine's image of her dog!