Q: What was it like to get your first book published?
A: TRUE PRETENSES was one of three finalists (out of approximately 200 entries) in the 2002 New Historical Voice Contest co-sponsored by Dorchester Publishing and Romantic Times magazine. It's the only Regency ever to final in that contest. Though I didn't win, I'm still stunned I got that far.
Once the contest ended, I didn't know what would become of the manuscript. Should I consider it rejected, and shop it around elsewhere? Was the editor still interested in acquiring it? All she would tell me was that she'd get back to me, and five months later she did. It was a tough wait, but worth it, because Kate Seaver's timing was so superb: She called two days before my birthday, and the next day, my husband (who's in the Air Force), came home after spending the previous 8 months overseas. That was a good week.
Getting “The Call” was a lot like receiving a marriage proposal—both left me full of giddy, incredulous joy.
Q: Any advice for aspiring writers?
A: Write the book. Write the whole book, not just the first few chapters. Send it out, and while you're waiting to hear something on it, start writing another. Repeat. I did it eight times before I finally hit the bell.
If you haven't done so already, join RWA and the nearest local chapter, and attend meetings regularly. Listen to everything the published authors say, because it's true. Some of it, in fact, is so intimidating you'll think you don't stand a chance of ever getting published, so why even bother? That's exactly what I thought after attending a few meetings, but because I love to write and wanted to get published, I kept going back and learning more—and in the process became even more determined to reach my goal.
Don't be afraid to take chances, because you never know, and if you don't, you could spend the rest of your life wondering, “What if . . . ?” What if I hadn't entered the New Historical Voice Contest?
The path to publication is a lot like Indiana Jones going after a priceless relic—it's full of pitfalls that can easily discourage you from reaching your goal, but if you want it bad enough, you'll learn how to avoid them instead of letting them stop you. Indy didn't rush headlong into those cobwebs to grab the Grail—he'd already learned of the dangers, but he wanted the prize bad enough that instead of letting those dangers stop him, he figured out how to get around them—and he succeeded.
OK, I know that was a lot of yammering, but you did ask,
Q: I couldn't help but notice a remarkable resemblance of TRUE PRETENSES to Amanda Quick's DECEPTION. There is an opening scene as well as the main plot device of a Duke as a coachman. In DECEPTION the hero was a tutor. Was this intentional? Maybe a homage to Quick?
A: The answer is no, but this question really surprised me, because Quick was the first Regency author I ever read, so I excavated DECEPTION from my keeper shelf. (Some shelf! Remove all the books and you'd have space to park a Buick.) While I concede there are similarities, there are also many differences.
How many romances have you read where the hero and heroine meet over a card game, with one of them (usually the heroine) trying to swindle the other players? How many where they meet while one is dressed as a bandit and is holding up the carriage in which the other is a passenger? How many that open with the heroine finding the hero injured and unconscious in the middle of the road?
The hero's first glimpse of the heroine perched on a library ladder with some scoundrel peering up her skirt apparently happens so rarely, that when it does, readers notice. But I don't think it's far-fetched. I wanted a scenario that hook and hold the reader. TRUE PRETENSES was actually inspired by those old Rock Hudson/Doris Day movies (Pillow Talk, Lover Come Back), where Rock pretends to be someone he isn't to make Doris fall for him, and heaven help him when she finds out the truth. I've always loved those charade-type romantic comedies, and started thinking of how I could transfer the premise to Regency England—the perfect setting for this kind of story.
BTW, have you noticed the explosion of this premise in Regency historicals lately? There's Celeste Bradley's delightful Liar's Club series, Victoria Alexander's latest (the hero posing as the heroine's butler), and Mia Ryan's current release also features an English lord acting as a coachman. Masquerade romances are fun to write and fun to read—and fun is something we need a lot of more of in today's world.
Q: Those books are fun, and so was TRUE PRETENSES! As you can see I really enjoyed your first novel. What do you have planned for the future?
A: I'm very happy you enjoyed TRUE PRETENSES, and there's more where it came from. My contract, however, was only for one book, so I don't know when you'll see the next one, though it's sitting somewhere on the editor's desk awaiting judgment. It's another Regency, set in Derbyshire, titled BRIDE IN HIDING. Here's a brief blurb:
Your odious stepfather, who's been waiting for the perfect opportunity to get you off his hands, has just betrothed you to your neighbor's grandson. You've never met this person, since he prefers to spend most of his time in London, but if your stepfather chose him, then he has to be a complete wastrel. So you flee and take refuge in the last place anyone would think to look for you—at the wastrel's nearby ancestral home, where his reclusive grandmother takes you on as a companion. But when your presumed betrothed shows up, not only do you realize he's not what he seems—but he suspects the same of you!
I've also written another Regency about Nicholas Maxwell, Duke of Colfax, who was a secondary character in TRUE PRETENSES. Remember the references to his American fiancée who's separated from him because of the war? Seems he only invented her to keep the matchmaking mamas and their silly daughters at bay. But no one is more surprised than he—or in bigger trouble--when the war ends, and an American woman comes to London in the guise of his fictitious fiancée.
Q: Did you always want to write Regency historicals?
A: Not always, but I'm very happy to have found the niche. All of the books I wrote prior to TRUE PRETENSES were set mainly on the European continent, but I kept hearing that no one (i.e., publishers) wanted to buy books set outside the United States or British Isles. So I started writing “to market.” I chose Regency England simply because that's my second favorite setting after continental Europe. Check out my keeper shelf, and for every medieval or Western/Americana romance, you'll find at least 10 Regencies.
Q: What is your #1 research source?
A: God bless the Internet!
Besides that, there's no way I could ever have written a Regency without first having read tons of Regencies over many years. In fact, the very first Regency historical I ever read was SURRENDER by none other than Amanda Quick. It was one of five Quick books my husband brought home to me one evening, because he saw them and somehow got it into his head that I might enjoy them.
And look at what happened!
Q: Thanks Karen. I hope another book gets picked up soon because TRUE PRETENSES was an excellent start to a wonderful career!