Welcome to Read-A-Romance Month!
While I read romance all year long, August is the month we celebrate romantic fiction! Come back every day to read the fun author Q&As – calendar here – and each weekday in August, we’ll also have an author guest hosting the Romance of Reading FB page. Today Vanessa Kelly is doing the Q&A and Nancy Herkness is doing the author takeover.
This year is significantly smaller in scale. If you’re interested, you can read about some of the reasons why here. It’s been a crazy year, and a complicated few months.
Happy August. Isn’t life better with #ATouchofRomance?! xo
2018 RARM Questions:
Why do you write books?
Because I’m a reader. Even as a child I was constantly rewriting books in my head, especially the endings (I wanted them to be happy). At a certain point, it just made sense to write the stories I wanted to read. It really made sense when I was going through a difficult period of my life, and writing romance felt like something positive and productive—something that would move me forward.
What do you consider to be the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?
Moving to Canada to go to grad school, away from my hometown where I’d spent most of my life. I only knew one person in Toronto, and the university I attended was huge and initially felt very impersonal (plus, I unfortunately moved into a house that had drug dealers living in the basement apartment. Fun—not!). I was lonely and didn’t have a CLUE what I was doing. But I had this innate sense that change was necessary in my life, so that was it.
Tell us why you write romances or include strong romantic elements in your books?
I blame it all on Thomas Hardy. Okay, not really, but I think my years studying English literature and reading a LOT of serious fiction had something to do with it. I loved immersing myself in those books, but I’m kind of relieved those years are behind me. A fair share of classic or literary fiction is pretty grim, and I’m done with grim. I also blame Georgette Heyer, who introduced me to Regency romance. I’ll never forget my first GH book, and how I fell in love with the world she created.
Tell us about a romantic moment in your life. (Either romantic love, or romantic sensibility.)
Years ago, I spent a summer doing research at Oxford University. I was on my own a lot, which didn’t really bother me because the town is so amazingly beautiful and cool. Most days, I would leave the library (the Bodleian!!) at lunchtime and grab something tasty from one of the local food stalls, then head out to the college gardens. My favorite was the garden behind Magdalen College, which was often deserted during the summer term. One day I found a stone bench in the middle of a small field of wildflowers. I was entirely surrounded by nature, and yet when I looked up I could see the spires and towers of the old churches and colleges. It was absolutely sublime, with a deep sense of history, and I felt the beauty of it right through to my soul. Part of me wished I could share it with someone, but I was also just happy to be there, graced by such beauty and peace.
Focus on those things you can control, and try to forget the rest.
Tell us something you uncovered in research that fascinated you.
In my next book, THE HIGHLANDER WHO PROTECTED ME, the heroine is pregnant, so I spent quite a bit of time researching pregnancy and childbirth. I stumbled across something called the groaning party. My hero gives the heroine, who’s never heard the expression, a brief explanation: “Och, it’s when the local women gather to help a mother in labor. They clean and cook and assist with the birth. They take care of anything that needs taking care of—including the men, who are regarded as entirely useless in these situations.” The history of childbirth during the Regency Era is fascinating, and sometimes downright terrifying! Groaning parties are a true glimpse into the kind of support working class or village women gave to each other in this period.
How do you handle the voices in your head competing for their story to be written? (Thanks Eileen!)
My voices are very disciplined and generally stick to one story at a time. Occasionally, a secondary character will pop up and say: “hey, my story is next, right?” I like my characters and stories to percolate a bit and wait their turn.
If you could live for a month somewhere (either in the present or past) where (and when, if applicable) would it be? Why?
A nice little cottage in a village in England, maybe outside Bath or perhaps in Kent or the Lake District. I love the English countryside, and how easy it is to walk or hike through splendid natural beauty and yet also find a local pub close by for a pint and a bit of lunch. And can we talk about visiting the old churches and cathedrals, the heritage estates and castles? That’s the sort of thing that really feeds my soul.
What is (one of) the most remarkable/inspiring things that has happened to you as a reader or writer?
Selling my first book was pretty remarkable—it felt like a miracle at the time, since it was the first book I ever wrote and the whole thing happened pretty quickly. Getting that initial contract was a great inspiration for writing more books. It all sounds rather mundane but I’m a pretty low-key person and not the sort who expects big light-bulb moments. But selling my first book to a New York publisher was truly life-changing, so I guess that would be it!
Kelly Hunter – for her warm, witty writing and her deep understanding of the human heart.
Anne Cleeland – for her amazing Doyle & Acton mystery series (my favorite literary couple), and for her adventurous historical romantic suspense books.
Karyn Gerrard – for her lovely and emotional historical romances.
Vanessa Kelly is the award winning, USA Today bestselling author of The Improper Princesses and The Renegade Royals Series.
Named by Booklist as one of the “New Stars of Historical Romance,” her books have been translated into nine languages. Vanessa specialized in the study of 18th century British fiction in graduate school, and is known for developing vibrant Regency settings, appealing characters, and witty storylines that captivate readers.
Learn more at vanessakellyauthor.com.
Buy Vanessa’s books:
Vanessa also publishes contemporary romances under the name V.K. Sykes.
Buy V.K Sykes’ books:
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