This week on Author on the Couch,
I conduct a session with
GIVEAWAY! Caroline is giving away a Kindle version of either DANGEROUS WORKS or DANGEROUS SECRETS to a random person who comments on this blog.
Me: Tell me about an experience that had a profound impact on your life.
Caroline: Children change the direction of your life. My whole emotional focus shifted under their impact. When my first was born, and they handed her to me in the delivery room, I was shaken to the core by the realization that my life would never be the same. My entire identity shifted to mother irreversibly. Later arrivals simply upped the ante a bit, but the mega shift had already occurred.
At the risk of being negative, the greatest emotional upheaval in my life was the death of an infant son. It was a profound attack on my self-esteem and understanding of who I was. It took me years to process his death and its impact. It never goes away. What I learned is to let that experience become part of “the furniture of my life,” as a counselor helped me understand. One learns to work around it.
Folding traumatic and impactful life events into writing requires stark honesty and no end of courage, but if we want our characters to live we have to let them feel real emotion.
Me: Oh, Caroline. I can’t imagine the devastation of losing a child. And the fortitude it takes to just keep living after such a loss. I love that a therapist helped you see the experience as part of “the furniture of my life.”–I’m going to steal that concept and use it with my own clients. Thanks for sharing it.
What personality trait of yours helps you most as an author?
Caroline: Being goal oriented is helpful to some extent. Authors are essentially alone and have to create not only books, but their work life. The ability to structure time, balance marketing tasks with writing the next book, and plan long term is very helpful.
After that, I would say curiosity. I often approach new projects in the form of a question. “Could I set a regency historical romance in Rome rather than London?” resulted in Dangerous Secrets and a lot of information about the presence English people in Italy in 1820. I love history, geography, and culture.
Me: What personality trait of yours hinders you most as an author?
Caroline: The same traits! Creativity does not respect schedule, outline, or task list.
Me: Yes. Yes. And yes! Gospel truth.
Caroline: The girls in the basement do not like to be coerced. I try to negotiate with the girls. I keep to my goals for keeping my hands on the keyboard, but I allow them time on my treadmill, in the shower, and when driving so plot points, characters, and emotions can bubble up from the basement. If I don’t keep curiosity in check, especially during the “rough” phase, I wander away from the story. I have to remind myself whether a book is a historical romance or general historical fiction and keep to the story.
Me: What was your high point as a writer?
Caroline: Typing “The End” when the first draft of a story is finished is always a high. I’m embarrassed to admit, though, that what gives me the biggest lift is a positive review. A few kind words send me back to my keyboard and keep me going for weeks.
I would say that my biggest such high came the first time I got a formal review from a reviewing service. The Night Owl reviewer who said that she had “found someone to add to the top of my must-read list,” sent me into orbit. My reaction was, “OMG someone is actually reading what I write!”
Me: What was your low point as a writer?
Caroline: The downside of being sensitive to reviews is, of course, overreacting to negative reviews, and we all get them. It took me a very long time to publish because rejection letters took a terrible toll on me. If it weren’t for my friends in Central Ohio Fiction Writers I would have given up years ago.
I lacked confidence in myself as a result. This lack of confidence coupled with some hard math kept me from indie publication. I can’t and I won’t put out a work that isn’t professionally edited. The cost of a good editor and of a good cover loomed like a mountain in front of me. I didn’t have enough belief in my ability as a writer to earn my investment back. Luckily, Soul Mate Publishing has my back. I love my editor and my covers have been beautiful. My confidence grows with every book.
Me: If you could be any character in any book for a day who would you be? Why?
Caroline: Oh so trite but Elizabeth Bennett would be lovely, although I might rather choose Anne Elliot of Persuasion to insert myself in the Austen era. Who wouldn’t like that?
I would also like to be Hero, Sebastian St. Cyr’s intrepid wife in C.S. Harris’s mystery series. She has a strong moral compass, more courage than is always healthy, and complex family relationships. She also has a husband who is, well, you know…
Me: What book do you wish you’d written?
Caroline: When I read a book that a) has an emotionally satisfying grown-up romance, b) transports me right into a historical setting, and c) makes me wish it didn’t end, I am envious of the writing. Authors who do that for me are Grace Burrowes, C.S. Harris, Mary Balogh, Jude Knight, and Carla Kelly. They all write deeply emotional stories about complex characters.
Most recently I closed Her Hesitant Heart by Kelly and thought “Damn but I wish my writing could peel emotional layers away piece by piece like that!”
Me: If you could have dinner with any famous author who would it be?
Caroline: I would love to have dinner with the late Dorothy Dunnett. I would thank her for the generous, gently worded, and amusing letter she wrote to my friend and I when we were sixteen. She encouraged us to visit Scotland and see for ourselves which of the castles in her books were real. We made a pact to do that before we were thirty. We kept it but we were a few—well, several—ok, actually many years late. I still have questions about plot and motivation in her Lymond Chronicles and I want to ask her if Neidpath Castle was the inspiration for Midculter (especially as it appears in opening squences to The Game of Kings) as I suspect. Besides, her books cover such a wide and deep swath of European history and culture we would never run out of topics to discuss.
Me: What’s your life motto? Why does that motto speak to you?
Caroline: Sumus Quid Sumus. I borrowed it from Lake Woebegon. It means, “We are what we are.” We do a lot better when we don’t try to be what we are not. Besides, in my house the women really are strong and the men good looking.
Me: Your cover for DANGEROUS WEAKNESS is lovely. Can you tell us a bit about your novel?
If women were as easily managed as the affairs of state—or the recalcitrant Ottoman Empire—Richard Hayden, Marquess of Glenaire, would be a happier man. As it was the creatures—one woman in particular—made hash of his well-laid plans and bedeviled him on all sides.
Lily Thornton came home from Saint Petersburg in pursuit of marriage. She wants a husband and a partner, not an overbearing, managing man. She may be “the least likely candidate to be Marchioness of Glenaire,” but her problems are her own to fix, even if those problems include both a Russian villain and an interfering Ottoman official.
Given enough facts, Richard can fix anything. But protecting that impossible woman is proving almost as hard as protecting his heart, especially when Lily’s problems bring her dangerously close to an Ottoman revolution. As Lily’s personal problems entangle with Richard’s professional ones, and she pits her will against his, he chases her across the pirate-infested Mediterranean. Will she discover surrender isn’t defeat? That might even have its own sweet reward.
Me: Share with us a favorite paragraph or two from DANGEROUS WEAKNESS.
Caroline: The hero of Dangerous Weakness appears in all my other books as an interfering friend and managing brother. He is always right even though his loved ones don’t always thank him for it. In this book, I wanted him to get his hair mussed and his suit torn. Above all, I wanted him to have to beg his friends for help. As Night Owl Reviews said about his book, “There is nothing so entertaining as watching a man who is always in control lose that control.”
In this excerpt Richard and his love are prisoners of Barbary corsairs. This scene, in which his friends not only come to his aid, but also miraculously manage to get there on time, is my favorite scene because I know them all so well.
Richard’s captors dropped his arms. His first instinct consisted of a murderous need to push Scarface into the sand. Only one thought held him back. If I jump him the gun may go off. The man’s knowing smirk almost broke his resolve, but he forced his feet forward toward two of the men he respected most in the world.
“You’re a pair of fools,” he murmured. “But I’ve never been more glad to see anyone than the two of you.” He took them both into a two-armed embrace. The three stood facing one another in a tight circle, heads in.
“Where is our friend the major?” he asked.
“Jamie disappeared before you left London. He never turned up.”
No time, Richard thought. No time to worry about Jamie Heyworth now.
“Ransom?” he asked. He pitched his voice low.
Andrew’s eyes flickered behind his gold-rimmed glasses. “Of course.” Richard started to ask them how they did it so fast, but he had no time for explanations. “Most of it,” Andrew went on in a whisper. “They’ll have to count fast or look carefully to find the lack.”
“On the Boreas,” Will added. “Did you really promise them safety?”
Richard nodded. “Most of these people are just going about their miserable lives. Hamidou and his crew—”
“Hamidou is dead!” Andrew snapped.
“This man begs to differ. He commands in that name, have no doubt of that. Leave the islanders alone. Let him and his crew leave this place. What happens on the high sea in a fair fight is up to His Majesty’s Navy.”
“Good luck convincing the captain of that ship.” Will indicated the Boreas with a shrug of his shoulder.
“Tell him the Marquess of Glenaire commands it,” Richard said. Damn but it felt good to command something!
“That should work,” Will said with a grin.
“What next, Richard? How do you want us to play this?” Andrew asked.
“You two go back to fetch the gold. Demand to take Lily with you. He won’t let us both go without payment, but he might send her.”
A slight smile played on his brother-in-law’s mouth. “Your wife, Richard? And from appearances, in an interesting condition.”
“As good as, Andrew, and don’t say differently. She’s about to birth that baby any day now. I need to get her out of here.”
Will looked over Richard’s shoulder. “Our host looks impatient. Let’s get this over with.” The three men turned back to Hamidou.
“Nice suit, by the way,” Will put in, looking at Richard’s tattered robe.
“Get us out of here and you may tease me the rest of your days.”
“I plan to.” Will’s grin passed quickly. He approached Hamidou. “I am satisfied,” he said.
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