Thank you for joining us at Scribbler’s today Anna.
To begin, tell us a bit about yourself.
This is the hardest question to answer. Do I go with the personal stuff – wife, housemate, cat auntie, laundry slave, chattery friend- or the professional stuff – that I write historical romance novels and blog for Heroes and Heartbreakers, where I yap about romance novels and tell people who kissed on TV? Maybe that I’ve, recently moved to Albany, NY, can never have enough nail polish and always watch The Walking Dead with the lights off? I’ll put them all there, so take what you like.
Please tell us about your book, Orphans In The Storm.
I’ve always loved the blurb for Orphans in the Storm, so I’ll start with that.
The Hidden Countess:
A black robe brought Jonnet Killey to the Isle of Man and a black robe would take her away to the noble English family she has never known.
The King’s Man:
All Simon Burke wants is to carry out his mission to return Jonnet to her birth mother and secure the funds to help finance Charles Stuart’s return to British soil.
An Adventure in Exile:
A new life awaits Jonnet, with a mother on the brink of madness and a treacherous uncle who will stop at nothing to keep Jonnet’s inheritance to himself. While the end of exile nears, danger mounts. Can Simon and Jonnet depend on their new found love to sustain them while the storm of treachery rages?
Where do you get your idea for the stories you write?
My first instinct is to say that they find me, or maybe that we find each other. How that happens, I’m not entirely sure. It’s different every time. Orphans in the Storm came about because of a roleplaying game that fizzled. I’d been asked to create a character who was born after the end of the Tudor era , in the British Isles, but not England, Scotland or Ireland. That left Wales or the Isle of Man. I picked the Isle of Man because I knew next to nothing about it, but once I read about the thick yellow fog called Mananan’s Cloak, Jonnet and Simon’s meeting came to me fully formed. The game didn’t work out, but by that time, Jonnet and Simon had taken up permanent residence in my head and I knew they had to have their happily ever after.
When brainstorming a story idea, do you begin with character or plot?
Definitely character. Character, for me, is the backbone of romance, because the romance is all about these two specific individuals finding their own happily ever after. For me, the story doesn’t start until I know whose story it is. The best ones are when the character walks into my head and introduces him/herself, but sometimes they make me work for it.
Do you figure out deep backstory for each or your character’s before beginning or do you invent their stories on the fly as you write?
It’s more like getting them to trust me enough to tell me their backstories, Sometimes they’ll be very forthcoming, and other times I have to do a lot of digging or piecing together different pieces of their personalities. It depends on the individual. Sometimes I don’t know an essential piece of a character until well into the story, but I do like to get to the core of the character to say I truly know them and can tell their story.
Do you have a minor character you’ve written into one of your stories that you would like to turn into a protagonist for a future book?
I can’t say that’s happened with any of my published works yet, but there is a dashing Restoration-era highwayman named Ned Flash, from a scrapped manuscript, who probably isn’t done with me yet. Probably also Master Blakemore (no first name in that draft) who falls for a lady of ill repute and brings her home to his father, the vicar. Now you’ve got me thinking about them again. May have to do something about that.
Can we have an excerpt from Orphans in the Storm?
Certainly. This scene with Simon and Jonnet, in their last moments alone together before joining the other British exiles in Breda, has always been one of my favorites.
Simon advanced on the plaid-swathed bundle of woman that stood at the rail, still and stalwart. “We have a cloak for you below.” He bit back the rest. Jacoba Albyn had sent a fine cloak, a lady’s cloak, but Jonnet never wore it. Dark brown woolen with enough fur trim that it might belong to a respectable merchant’s wife. There were dozens, hundreds of such cloaks in Breda, or England, or all the world. It was a world in which a blanket of bright yellows and blues was a good as a bonfire. Yet no seamstress or furrier could dress Jonnet in something as fine as that blanket looked now.
“I know.” The wind tugged stray wisps of reddish gold about her face. Her knuckles grew white where she clutched the edges of her wrap together. “I wanted to be Jonnet one more time.”
“You will always be Jonnet.”
The eyes she turned on him were wide and mournful as a scolded dog. “No. It is Easter Hastings who must step off this ship. Easter Hastings who will be welcomed with open arms. Easter Hastings who will fetch a fine purse from Englishmen loyal and true. God bless Easter Hastings, for I do not know who she is.”
Simon folded her into his arms and felt her tremble. Her whole body shook as she fit her head into the space between his shoulder and chin. “You will always be Jonnet to me.” In that moment, he knew it to be true. “As generous as your,” he could no longer say mother, “Lady Albyn has been, no matter how good a teacher Eben may be, nobody can change the way God made you.” Nor would I wish it. The shaking lessened as he spoke, so he continued. “My wild Manx Jonnet, tart-tongued and stubborn and strong.” And beautiful. So very beautiful.
Jonnet braced both hands on the front of his coat before she pulled back. “But that is not what she will pay for. If I could talk to her the way I talk to you, I could bear that. I fear we will have nothing in common. Mother Mawd and I knew,” small white teeth bit down into her lower lip. “Know each other. We have a history. With Lady Albyn,” she sounded out the name as she often did, as though making sure she had it right. “All I have is this.” She drew the small leather volume from the folds of her blanket.
“You’ve read more.” The ribbon marker was nearly at the end now. She held it like an offering he was loathe to take, and yet he did. His hand brushed against hers, fingertips on knuckle for a heartbeat longer than needed. Her hand was as chilled as the air, but the pulse beneath the skin was steady. “Worry solves nothing.”
“Action. I know. What action do I take next? What if she turns me away because I am not what she wanted? My feet are hard and my skin is brown and I would not know her if I passed her on the street. I would go home if I could, now, today.” Jonnet shut her eyes, lashes wet against her cheeks.
Simon swallowed. She could, if she wanted. What man could refuse a request from those eyes, that lilt of her voice? As for coin, she had a name to barter now, and enough of noble ways to give at least an illusion of means. “Will you?” Father God, make her say no.
She took in a ragged breath and met his gaze. “I cannot. Something in me has changed. I have to do this. She is in here. The woman who bore me is in here, and whatever else she may be, she is a mother. If I had a chance,” she broke off, took in a sharp breath. “A chance to bring one of Mother Mawd’s babes back to her for one day, for her to hold them one more time, I could not deny her that.”
“And so you will give that to Lady Albyn?”
Her nod was his only answer.
He looked over her head at the line of tall, slender houses coming into view. “We have a few days before that. You’ll meet my sisters first, and my mother.” And father, but she would not be there for that. Nor would he be there for what followed. A month ago, even a week, the thought would not have troubled him, and now would it not be the same as leaving one of his own hands? He shut off the thought. Any more down that road, and he would not sleep a minute until well into summer.
The mission was still the same, deliver the woman, collect the money, bring it to Charles Stuart. Only the man to carry it out had changed. I will be back as soon as I can, he wanted to tell her, but he could not give a word that might be broken before it even left his tongue. This was for England, and none of their lives were their own to give. “You will be all anyone could ask for,” he managed instead.
Jonnet rewarded him with a tremulous smile. She dashed the back of her hand across her eyes that were now rimmed with red. “Will you promise to remind me who I am if I start to forget? If Easter Hastings must live, will you help me make sure Jonnet Killey doesn’t fade away?”
The answer sprang so readily that it was a mere breath before Simon covered Jonnet’s mouth with his own. “Always.”
Do you have a particular daily writing schedule or process you stick to?
I’ve recently found that writing longhand for new pages works very well for me these days. Maybe the hypercritical gremlins who like to plague writers can’t read my handwriting, or maybe it’s the opportunity for me to concentrate on telling the story. Schedule-wise, I find my best and most productive times are early mornings, when nobody else is up yet and then early afternoon, when I usually move to a local coffee shop for a couple of hours.
Process-wise, I do like to work from an outline, but getting to that outline is often a very intuitive process. Assembling soundtracks, collages, and inspiration boards serves as a touchstone to the heart of each story. When I see or hear the images and sounds that go with each story, that’s even more grounding in that story world.
Do you always write in the same place?
I have an office with an antique secretary desk I’ve loved since I was a kid, but I like to stay mobile. I get some of my best writing done in the laundromat, and also write in a local coffee shop, the comfy chair in the living room and other places. I’m a writing nomad.
Is there a genre you haven’t tried writing, you’d like to attempt?
I’m currently working on a postapocalyptic medieval romance, so I can’t say I haven’t tried postapocalyptic; it’s really fun. Maybe steampunk, because the aesthetic is gorgeous and it’s ripe for grand adventures.
How do you balance the need for self promotion vs your writing time?
I’m still figuring that one out, since there are so many avenues open for writers. I don’t think it’s possible to explore all of them, but finding the ways that work best for the individual is the key.
If you could become one fictional character for a week, whom would it be?
I’m going to say Carolina Lightfoot from Valerie Sherwood’s Lovesong trilogy of historical romances, published back in the 1980s. Carolina had brains, guts and a fabulous wardrobe, as well as amazing adventures in colonial Virginia, the streets of London as well as the high seas. Any heroine who can toss her hero a sword in the middle of a fight and tell him to make a run for it because she can take care of herself is okay by me.
What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
Tell your story, the way it comes to you, and tell it until it’s told.
What do you do to relax when not writing?
I play the Sims 3, which isn’t that different from writing when I think of it – creating pixel people, their pets and homes, and then attempting to control their lives while the unexpected goes on around them. Other than that, I make mixed media art, which mostly consists of smearing paint on paper or canvas and then sticking interesting looking things to it until my brain says “okay, that’s right.” Spending time with my real life hero, discovering fun stuff about our new neighborhood is a real treat, and of course, curling up with a good book can’t be beat.
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