With Anna Campbell
Tell me your story.
Hi Meghan! Thanks for having me as your guest today. I’ve always been book mad, right from when my parents read me my first fairytale as a little ‘un. It seemed natural to transition from being a consumer to a producer – although I’m still a massive consumer. I spent many years as an unpublished writer, experimenting in various genres, mostly romantic, and finally published in 2006 with Avon HarperCollins. Since then I’ve been a full-time writer and it’s a dream come true. It’s much nicer wandering down the corridor in my PJs than it was to stand at 6am on a cold Sydney morning waiting for the bus to work! Since selling Claiming the Courtesan, I’ve had ten full-length historical romances published, and we’re heading for 15 novellas.
Tell me about your latest book.
I’m currently writing the 5th Dashing Widow novella, Charming Sir Charles. It’s Sally’s story – sometimes a character comes to you really strongly and Sally Cowan, Lady Norwood, was one of those. She’s convinced at the ripe old age of 31 that romance has passed her by – in fact, after her stultifying marriage, she’s not even sure she wants to find romance although the thought of a lover is appealing. Because of this, she’s blind to the fact that the man she thinks wants to marry her niece Meg is actually doing his best to court her. Sir Charles Kinglake is going to have to pull out all the stops to gain her attention and convince her that he’s the man for her, despite being a couple of years younger than she is. It’s a bit of a comedy of errors and I’m having fun with it – Charles is about to make his big move and Sally’s got a few surprises ahead of her before she gets her happy ending. It should be up for pre-order at all the usual e-tailers within the next few weeks, with a release date of 28th February.
Where do you get your information and ideas for your books?
Luckily ideas are everywhere – the world isn’t short of plots for love stories! If I lived to 103, I wouldn’t have time to tell all the stories clamoring for space in my head. Once I’ve decided on which story I intend to write next, I do any research I need. Because the novellas are fairly light and set in the same world, lately that hasn’t been a lot, but something full-length and complicated like Captive of Sin or Untouched required a lot of research in areas like the East India Company and the treatment of mental illness in the early 19th century (that stuff would make your hair stand on end!).
Do you have a specific process when writing a book?
I write a first draft in longhand from beginning to end with no pauses for editing. If time permits, and often it doesn’t, I’ll then let the story sit to cook a little before I start editing it. Then I read through the whole lot to see the shape of the entire book and do a minor edit (obvious stuff to save me typing up mistakes). Then I type it up and do an intensive edit on the computer chapter by chapter. This usually means at least three read-throughs of each chapter and lots of changes. Then I do another couple of full-length reads, one at least in hard copy. Then I send it to my brilliant critique partner Annie West and when I get it back, I make any amendments that are needed. Then I do another computer and another hard copy read through. After that, I usually get someone to read the manuscript with an eye to typos and other glitches. I send it to my formatter and she sends me back the files to check one last time. At this stage, I should only be picking up minor stuff – the occasional typo or repetition, or sentences that aren’t as elegant as they should be. Then I release the book out into the wild!
Do you have a writing/reading quirk or ritual?
I drink a lot of tea. Buy shares in Liptons!
What is something you’ve learned about yourself through the process of writing?
What a great question! I’ve learned that I can trust my subconscious mind. It always knows the story better than my busy daily brain. So when things veer off plan or characters start to misbehave, I know I’m still in safe hands.
What do you think makes a good story?
Emotion, change, incident, great characters, that indefinable page-turning quality. Actually I think at heart it’s the characters – if I close a book and it feels like I’m saying goodbye to my best friends, that’s been a good story!
If you could only read one book over and over, which one would you pick and why?
Oh, goodness, that’s a cruel idea! I actually think I’d pick some poetry – I love T.S. Eliot and the romantics and John Donne. So maybe a HUGE anthology of English poetry? On the other hand, I think I’d miss my genre fiction then. Sigh. Too hard!
What books are currently on your night stand?
This will make you laugh – I do like a good ghost story so I’ve currently got Gathering the Bones, an anthology of horror stories, on my bedside table. I’ve also got The Rules of Backyard Cricket, a great new Australian thriller by Jock Serong, The Sheikh’s Inconvenient Bride by Liz Fielding, The Holy Thief by Ellis Peters, and an Agatha Christie threefer with Endless Night, By the Pricking of my Thumbs, and The Mysterious Mr. Quinn. These days I probably read more mysteries than romances. No idea why.
How do you organize your books?
Ha. What is this organization of which you speak?
You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
I’ve only just discovered Agatha Christie and I think she’d be terrifically interesting to meet in person. I’d throw in a favorite travel writer, maybe Simon Winchester, and then because she’d be great fun, I’d invite the late Elizabeth Peters who wrote the wonderful Amelia Peabody mysteries. So we’d have two Brits, an Aussie (me!) and an American. I think that would be a nice mixture and I’d love to hear the tales my guests told. EP was an Egyptologist so she and Dame Agatha would have plenty in common (Agatha Christie married an archeologist). And I’ve briefly met Simon Winchester, and not only does he know absolutely everything, he’s very charming besides.
Thank you for joining me on Of Quills & Vellum today, Anna! It was a pleasure talking with you.