Day 4 of the A to Z Challenge brings us to my arts feature, Through the Opera Glasses.
Whom do I spy through the crush?
Why, I do believe it's a Harlequin Historicals author and my fellow Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada member.
Because today, D is for Deborah Hale.
Oh, there she is! *waving my fan* Ms. Hale! Oh, Ms. Hale! Fancy meeting up - let's get out of this press. The A to Z crowd - they're very keen!
*phew* That's better. Here - let's take a glass of punch and sit over here.
1 - Deb, I was thinking about your first published book being a direct result of your Golden Heart win. Looking back - after 25 books! - how did your contest experiences benefit you as an emerging writer?
Let me count the ways!
For one thing, it was great training for meeting deadlines. It gave me a goal to work toward and an objective measure of my progress.
It also helped me to network before I had a local RWA chapter and the Internet was in its infancy. Through the Golden Heart I was able to connect with some wonderful mentors who taught me so much about the craft and business of romance writing.
2 - Do you work with a critique partner?
I have worked with a number of critique partners over the years and found it a terrific experience.
More recently, however, I’ve gotten much more editorial feedback from both my editor and my agent. So they’re kind of like my critique partners, except I don’t have to critique their work!
*hiding behind my fan* I know - it's a time thing. As in, I have someone waiting patiently for me to return his critiqued manuscript and I don't know why he hasn't set the dogs on me.
I still have a couple of trusted writing friends I can swap material with when I’m trying something different or need fresh eyes.
3 - You know, you have a natural gift for breaking down something that's rather complex, and then switching on the mental lightbulbs.
Thank you so much – you made my week!
But it's true! Your craft-of-writing workshops are so popular with our own Romance Writer of Atlantic Canada members, and beyond.
Photo by Lori Robitaille of Deb's Relationship Dynamics workshop at the 2006 writers' retreat
I love being able to share some of my own hard-learned lessons with other writers.
Did you always consider yourself a teacher by nature, or did you discover this through your writing career?
In my pre-writing life I was a teacher, so giving workshops and writing craft articles provides my teaching-fix these days. Often when I stop to plan a presentation or article, it helps remind me that I know more than I sometimes think I do!
4 - Do you like to write to music, or do you crave silence?
When I’m working on new material, the right instrumental music really helps me get into my story world. I wrote my two Luna fantasy novels to the score of Lord of the Rings.
Oh, I love that soundtrack.
Since I’ve been concentrating on Regencies, my favorite writing music is the soundtrack from the movie Casanova and an album called Two Upon a Ground by Chevari Agreable. If I’m writing a scene that takes place at a ball or assembly, I have a CD of Regency dance music that provides great atmosphere.
Do you have food-pitfalls that silence your creativity?
As for food, I’m much more productive and creative when I can wean myself off sugar and refined carbs – but that’s easier said than done! A cup of coffee first thing in the morning can jump-start my writing but much more than that affects my concentration.
Any food 'tools' that entice your muse?
A glass of wine late in the evening can put me in the right mood for writing love scenes!
5 - Have you ever written a book as a response to reader demand? You know, 'Please give us So-and-so's story...'
I had reader requests for Con ap Ifan’s story after he was introduced in The Elusive Bride. But I was keen to write Border Bride, anyway. I’ve had other requests, sometimes for the stories of my villains. Maybe one of these days I’ll figure out a way to reform them!
6 - How did the Gentlemen of Fortune series come about?
It was rather by accident, but later felt as if it was meant to be.
I had a proposal rejected by Harlequin Historical because it wasn’t emotionally intense enough, so I sent my editor three story ideas that I hoped would be a better fit. She chose the one that eventually became Married: The Virgin Widow.
Since I needed the hero to have made a lot of money, legally, in a short time, I did some research and discovered that the trading port of Singapore had been founded during the Regency and vast fortunes made there. HH accepted that proposal, and offered me a three-book contract.
When my editor suggested the second two books might be connected in some way, I said I could connect all three by giving Ford Barrett a couple of business partners. After that a lot of things just fell into place as I wrote the first book that led into the others.
7 - Tell us about Ford Barret.
Ford is the hero of Married: The Virgin Widow. He believes he was used and betrayed by the woman he loved and now he’s in a position to get a bit of his own back. But revenge isn’t nearly as sweet a dish as he thinks it will be.
And Laura Penrose?
Laura has been through a lot since her courtship with Ford fell apart. She’s coped with it all by numbing her heart. When Ford returns, that isn’t an option any more.
8 - What is Hadrian Northmore really like?
Hadrian is one of my favorite heroes from all my books. He has literally fought his way to the top from the lowest depths by refusing to let anyone stand in his way. He has a boulder-sized chip on his shoulder about social class, so Lady Artemis Dearing represents everything he despises. Yet he can’t resist his feelings for her.
What about Artemis Dearing?
Artemis comes from a prominent family that has lost everything but its pride. She resents upstarts like the Northmores…until she gets to know Hadrian and discovers how much alike they are beneath all their superficial differences.
9 - Would you enjoy meeting Simon Grimshaw in real life?
I would definitely want Simon to have my back in a tight spot, as happens to Bethan when they first meet. Like her, I would admire the way he uses his wits to defuse a volatile situation.
And Bethan Conway?
I would love to spend time with Bethan! She’s such a refreshingly direct country girl, but with a secret or two to make her intriguing.
10 - Deb, you've had quite a few books adapted into manga format. Who approached you about embarking in this new direction?
Actually, I didn’t know anything about it until they popped up on the Japan Harlequin website. When I sell my rights to Harlequin they want everything. That means if some cool new format for story delivery comes along – audio, e-books, book-based games, etc. they have the worldwide marketing muscle to run with it!
What was your initial response?
I love the fantastic job the Japanese illustrators have done with The Wizard’s Ward and Beauty and the Baron. I’ve heard they may be coming out in manga format in English, which I would love to see!
As a special treat for A Piece of My Mind readers, Deb is insisting we give away a copy of Married: The Virgin Widow to one lucky commenter. Contest closes at midnight Atlantic Standard Time, Tuesday, Apr. 5th.
Deb will draw the name and the winner will be announced here. Please leave us a way to find you in your comment, either a link to your blog or your email address.
Here's an exclusive excerpt from Bought: The Penniless Lady. Enjoy!
'Hadrian stretched out on the bed with a drowsy sigh. Artemis covered him with a light blanket. As she drew it up under his chin, a bewildering impulse compelled her to raise her hand and smooth a stray lock of dark hair back from his forehead.
"It feels quite pleasant, being tucked in like a wee lad. I’d almost forgotten." One corner of his mouth curled into a crooked smile that was dangerously endearing. “Do I get a kiss to sweeten my dreams?”
The word kiss caused Artemis a spasm of alarm mixed with a searing flare of desire. He did not mean that kind of kiss, she chided herself. All he wanted was the sort of innocent peck on the cheek or forehead she gave Lee when she put him to bed at night. Having caught a heartbreaking glimpse of Hadrian’s nightmares, she knew he needed something to sweeten his dreams, if anyone did.
“If you like.” The words came out in a tremulous whisper as she bent over him.
Her lips grazed over his brow, relishing the warm smoothness of his skin. She inhaled a deep draft of his spicy, smoky scent. Her well-honed sense of discretion warned her that she should not linger so close to Hadrian, but her body was slow to respond. After a brief struggle with herself, she tried to pull away, only to feel the hot mist of his breath and the velvet caress of his lips upon her throat. The unexpected thrill of those sensations held her captive there, hovering over him.
Though she could not break away, she was not entirely paralyzed either. His overture called forth an answer from her. Before caution had a chance to intervene, her lips grazed the outer corner of one devilish dark brow then trailed down to the crest of his high cheekbone. As she moved, his kisses swept along the sensitive flesh just below her jaw, moving over her chin and finally upward to meet her approaching lips.
She’d received enough kisses from Hadrian by now that this one had a deliciously familiar feel. But it held a subtle thrill of novelty, too. She sensed a tender restraint on his part, which appealed not only to her physical desires but also to her wary heart.
Her heart had good reason to be wary, painful memories reminded her – all the more because she had allowed herself to feel something for her husband. It was only a compound of compassion, curiosity and admiration, spiced with reluctant desire. But that could be more than enough to scorch her if she risked playing with fire.'
- Deborah Hale, 2011