Today I have the pleasure of hosting longtime Word Wench reader and now multi-published author Ella Quinn. (Four books out in eight months—she’s making me feel like a slug!) For those of you who haven’t had the fun of meeting Ella at one of the various writer conferences around the country, she is a font of interesting information, no doubt in part because of her “backstory”—here’s just one of the facts from her official bio: After living in the South Pacific, Central America, North Africa, England and Europe, she and her husband decided to make St. Thomas, VI home.
I always love hearing how authors made the journey to becoming a writer, so I asked Ella to talk a little about what inspired her to pick up the proverbial pen, so, without further ado . . .
Thanks for visiting with us today, Ella. And congratulations on your recent move up to PAN (Published Author Network) at RWA. That’s always quite a thrill. Here at the Wenches, we’re always interested in hearing about the journey of becoming a writer, so . . . when did you first decide “I am a writer!”
Ella: When finished my first book. I’ve never believed in being an “aspiring” anything.
What drew you to the Regency as a genre?
Ella: My muse. I’d been wanting to write something, but I kept hearing, “Write what you know.” Unfortunately for me, I have no desire to write about what I’ve already done. Then I read an author interview where the author said, “Write what you read.” The next thing I knew, I had a mental video of an angry Regency lady.
If you’re like me, you love researching all the fascinating aspects of the era. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve discovered—and did you weave it into one of your stories?
Ella: I do love research. I thing the most interesting discoveries were the ones I suspected, but didn’t know for sure. The fact that over 50% of births in the upper class took place in less than nine months of marriage was fascinating. Also, that almost everything was custom made. That gave me a great ideas for everything from carriages to tea.
You’ve lived all over the world, and are currently residing in the Caribbean. (Lucky you!) In your first book, The Seduction of Lady Phoebe, your hero had spent time in the West Indies, and your latest book, Desiring Lady Caro, which came out this month, is set in Venice—so I’m guessing you use “local knowledge” in your books? Do you like to do “boots—or sandals—on the ground” exploring?
Ella: I do use a lot of local knowledge, but I have to be careful; many things have changed in two hundred years. I love going exploring. Although, when I rope my husband into it, he’s not so pleased. A couple of years ago, when I was writing Desiring Lady Caro, I made him go back from our ski vacation in Salzburgerland by way of Tirol and through the Fernpass just so I could refresh my memory of the old inns and road. For the next book, Enticing Miss Eugénie Villaret, I had to rely on Alison Stuart’s trip to Martinique for information, but I did go to Tortola to talk with the historian and find a church I needed.
Please tell us a little about Desiring Lady Caro.
Ella: Caro was injured by her then betrothed when she tried to break it off with him. Her mother quickly sent her to Venice to her godmother, Horatia, where Caro carved out a new life but shunned men.
Huntley is coming under pressure to marry, but decided to take a sort of Grand Tour before he did. In the process, he decides to visit his aunt, Horatia. He’s interested in Caro from the beginning. When a Venetian marquis starts harassing Caro they have to flee Venice to protect her, then circumstance force them into marriage, and he knows he has to find a way to make their marriage work.
Sounds wonderful! How about sharing a short excerpt?
Ella: My pleasure.
Caro tossed and turned before finally slipping into a restless sleep.
Hands grabbed her roughly and soft, wet lips pressed hard to her face. Her stomach revolted and she thought she’d be sick. She moved her head from side to side in a fruitless attempt to avoid the wetness. She tried to push him off, but he grabbed the bodice and ripped her gown, shoving her against the wall. Biting down hard on his lips, she tasted the sharp tang of blood. He muffled an oath, and his fist came at her. When she fell, her head hit the floor. She tasted more blood—hers. He got between her legs and she was still struggling when there was a sharp pain. She screamed, and screamed, and screamed.
Caro bolted up and cried out as Nugent reached her. “There, there, my little lady. It’s not but a bad dream. He can’t hurt you anymore.”
Her maid cradled Caro and rocked her back and forth, as she’d done all Caro’s life. Sobs mingled with mewing sounds. “Nugent, when will it stop?”
She gently stroked Caro’s head. “I don’t know, my lady, but the dreams will go away in time.”
Finally, Caro’s heart stopped beating so quickly and she was able to calm herself. A knock came on the door, and Maufe said, “I have warm milk for her ladyship.”
“I’m coming.” Nugent tucked Caro back under the cover called a feather bed. “I’m just going to the door, and I’ll be right back.”
Caro nodded and lay staring up at the overhead bed hangings.
Her dresser returned and handed her the milk. “From his lordship. It has honey and cinnamon, like he used to have.”
“Please thank him for me.”
Nugent looked as if she would say something, and then shook her head. “I will.”
When Caro was finished, her dresser took the empty cup and set it on the small table by the bed. “You sleep now.”
She did. And this time, she dreamt of a kind man with brown hair, who made her laugh and fed her chocolate.
Now, let’s switch hats for a moment, as all writers must do these days. Even the most experienced authors can often feel daunted by the demands of promoting their books, but you’ve been very savvy at marketing, even before your first release came out. I know a number of our readers would love to hear what you think are the key things for a new author to do to establish a “name?”
Ella: I’d had a business before, so I knew marketing was going to be part of being a writer. The first year I was writing, I also did a great deal of research into the marketing aspect, and picked the things that seemed to be the most important. For example, one author I spoke with said her agent told her an author should have at least 2000 Twitter followers, and an active blog or website. I focused on getting the Twitter followers, I now have over 10,000 and setting up a blog with interesting posts. Because I didn’t want to blog every day, I frequently reblog from other peoples posts. That’s a win-win for both of us. I honestly wasn’t keeping track of how many people were following my blog until one of my guest authors asked how I’d gotten 7,000 followers. I also became active on Facebook. So, by the time my first book released, I had a fairly large media platform. Around a month before the release, I hired a media savvy assistant who was able to get me on several large reader blogs.
What’s the best advice you ever got about writing?
Ella: Treat it as a business, and don’t take rejection personally.
What do you like least about being an author?
Ella: At the beginning, the glacial pace. Although, to be honest I had an agent eight months after I started writing and my publishing contract eight months after that. Now, there really isn’t anything I don’t like about it. I even like the social media aspect because I enjoy interacting with other authors and readers.
So, Ella's question for all of you is, Do you like to interact with your favorite authors on social media, and what types of things do you like authors to do? One lucky reader who leaves a comment here between today and Tuesday evening will be chosen at random to win a copy of Ella's laatest release, Desiring Lady Caro.