Message From The Author
Lessons in Longevity
LAURA KINSALE EMBRACES A NEW PUBLISHER WITH HER HISTORICAL RETURN
By Carrie Lofty
Few names in historical romance elicit as much
discussion and adoration as Laura Kinsale, the author of classics such as Flowers From the Storm
and Seize the Fire. Her novels are replete with potent emotion, notoriously tortured heroes, imperfect heroines and even the occasional hedgehog sidekick. Following a five-year hiatus, Kinsale's back this month with a new historical romance, Lessons in French, from Source-
books. Humorous and touching, the novel tells the story of thrice-jilted Callie, a dark and elegant French emigre from her past and a prize bull named Hubert.
You have a history of creating memorable tortured heroes. Will Lessons in French offer readers another dark and brooding man for their keeper shelves, or have you ventured into different waters for Trev? I love to hear that readers have found my characters memorable! I think Trev is a man for the keeper shelves, but he has too much of a sense of humor to be brooding -- at least in an ominous way. He's a fiercely independent spirit. Brought up in England as the son of aristocratic French emigres, he's got a few things to torture him, from his conflicting loyalties to the misdeeds and secrets in his past that have kept him from the people he loves. (But just because he's French, let me assure readers that there's not a spy to be found in this book.)
While Lessons in French is light in comparison to some of
my other stories, in terms of the plot and style, I think readers
will find it a deeply emotional book. Deb Werksman, my editor
at Sourcebooks, called it "poignant and funny," a description
that I love, because that's exactly what I wanted it to be.
Tell us a little about your newest heroine, Callie. She seems self-deprecating and very funny. What was your experience in bringing her to life? If you are looking for a kick-ass and take-no-names heroine, Callie is definitely not your girl. She's a bit of a Walter Mitty type, indulging in daydreams. She and Trev are opposites that attract -- he's the wild, adventurous type, always pulling her into things that challenge her. But she has her own kind of quiet courage and never lets him down. Truthfully, Callie probably has more of me in her than some of my other heroines. I'm the classic introvert in person, at least with people I don't know well, so it wasn't hard to write her. A few years ago, when I went on the "Get Caught
Reading at Sea" cruise as an author, I had to take my outgoing cousin with me as a sort of security blanket. It worked out great!
She ended up with more fans than I did. She was giving out autographs when we left the ship.
Callie's love and appreciation for her farmyard animals comes from me too. Hubert the bull is very much a personification of the real bulls that used to graze and laze outside my window when I lived near my grandmother's farm. And really, don't you love the stories where the plain wallflower gets the hot guy in the end?
Your last release was Shadowheart in 2004, for which you were awarded the 2005 RITA for best long historical. What brought about this five-year delay? Why release Lessons in French at this point in your writing career? And how are you
coping with the weight of fan expectations after such a wait? Strange how time flies, isn't
it? When people began saying it had been five years since Shadowheart was released, I had to go back and check to make sure they were right. I'd like to say I have a clever career plan in which all this makes sense, but what actually happened is that Shadowheart was the last book on a four-book contract. After
I finished it, I decided to do a lighter book, without a contract, because I wanted to write without a deadline. (As with most authors, deadlines and I have a love/hate relationship.)
After I finished, several publishers wanted to make the new book part of another multibook contract, which, of course, makes
a great deal of sense and is quite typical in publishing, but which
I didn't want to do at that time. Additionally, I felt that Lessons in French deserved to be more than just the one that got published while they were waiting for another "big, dark" book. I also needed to fix what I felt was an unsatisfactory ending, so
I decided to hold onto it for the time being. And then what did
I do, you ask? I don't know! Life! That thing where you get up every day and do all that stuff you do. I do a lot of stuff: ride my horse, walk my dog. Well, actually I might have been doing a lot of online gaming. It's a vice, OK?
Earlier in my career, I worried about expectations. But perhaps because my books have often been controversial and elicited widely varied reactions, I don't really get concerned about that sort of thing anymore. I have a lot of confidence that this is a book that many readers will enjoy. It's been fun, also, to reconnect with my fans on places like Twitter.
Sourcebooks is your publisher for Lessons in French. What prompted your decision to contract with an up-and-coming independent romance
publisher, rather than one of the more established houses? Sourcebooks is my publisher because of their enthusiasm for the book. It's been a long time since I've seen a company that is so vividly in love with what they do. In an industry that is full of gloom and doom these days, Sourcebooks is quite a lively beacon of light. I have a hard time keeping up, in fact, but I'm trying!
Deb Werksman gets the credit for persuading me to pull Lessons in French back out of the drawer and read
it again, several years after I wrote it. So it was like reading the book for the first time. And if I say so myself, I loved it. Apparently, somewhere along the way, I had fixed that unsatisfactory ending -- I kinda remember doing that -- and I even surprised myself with how it turned out.
You have been published since The Hidden Heart's debut in 1986 --
that's nearly 25 years in this industry. What have been the most significant changes in publishing since your debut and since your last release? One amusing thing is how much it is the same. I wish I had a nickel (or a nice review, maybe) for every time in the past several decades that I've read that the publishing industry is now on its last legs, getting worse every minute and probably won't exist this time next year. In recent times, there have been fundamental structural changes, starting with the buyouts of publishers by media conglomerates, and huge changes in book
distribution and wholesalers. But most of that is the sort of change that is constantly happening in every kind of industry.
That said, obviously the greatest changes in book publishing are happening right now. No one yet knows how they will play out. Copyright, digital distribution, publicity, social networking -- the whole shebang is up for grabs. It's not clear even at the most basic level what patterns will prevail out of the current turmoil,
in spite of the confidence with which predictions are being made.
I'm a writer. So I'll just write, and see
Your novels are known for the intensity of their characters and attention to historical detail. What is your writing process with regard to research? Do you spend hours in the library first, or hit the books for more detail after an initial draft? And what sources have been most rewarding?
I love historical research. I particularly enjoy reading novels, diaries and letters written during the time period I'm working in. I use the Internet, of course, though one has to be confident in the particular site. I take Wikipedia with a grain of salt, but it's convenient for looking up dates quickly. I've bought a lot of obscure books at university press sales. I'm one of those writers who can't just put in a blank and come back later with the name of that item on the dressing table -- I have to go look for it, and while looking for it I get distracted by all the other cool stuff I come across. This does not make me a fast or efficient writer. But it's part of the fun for me. I also use research to help my plots along. Right now I'm deep into the history of the Bank of England -- it's more dramatic than you'd guess, though some pretty heavy reading.
Creating novels that fans adore isn't always enough to save authors from publishing obscurity. Many in our genre come and go. What can you offer by way of explanation for your continued, even growing, popularity among readers? I feel lucky that the Internet was there for more reader communication. People had a place to talk with a wider audience about books. That sort of communication is only growing as time goes along. There's no question that it helps when readers who aren't familiar with my books see them mentioned in blogs and comments. I've always tried to write the best book that I could. My heroes in some have been pretty unique, which likely helps. Not hard to remember a guy who's had a stroke and can't talk.
Finally, what's next for you? Will readers be
able to look to the horizon and find another new release there? Yes, I am writing. My redesigned website, LauraKinsale.com, will be online in January, and readers can check there on my plans and progress, sign up for my e-mail
list, read an excerpt from Lessons in French and get a glimpse
of what it's like when Laura Kinsale tries to plot a book (with some help from my friends!).
Read Book Review ›