With Anabelle Bryant
Tell me your story.
It could be that I had such a normal, happy childhood, I invented stories and characters in my head or that I spent too much time between the pages of a book, but I’ve always had a very active imagination. I began writing in journals while in elementary school. Stories and poems soon filled the pages. And even though I haven’t opened them in years, I have a trunk filled with journals from my childhood.
I enjoyed learning and went to college in pursuit of a teaching degree. I always wrote, but didn’t believe I could sustain a career as a writer. So, despite becoming an educator and pursuing first my Masters degree and then my doctorate, I’ve always kept my writing separate.
Then about four years ago, I decided it was “now or never” and began to submit to publishers. I joined the national organization for romance writers and attended meetings. Life’s tangents took me in many directions, but I submitted with determination. An abundance of rejection letters filled my mailbox until at last I signed with Harlequin Books.
Tell me about your latest book.
The Last Gamble, book 3 in the Bastards of London series, releases in August. This series is about three men, born on the wrong side of the blanket and otherwise forgotten by polite society, and their rise to successful businessmen as proprietors of an elite gaming hell, the Underworld. Each novel is a romance, so of course there is a smart, determined heroine to turn the hero’s world upside down.
Book 3 focuses on Luke Reese and the search for his missing son. The last thing Luke needs to complicate his life is a woman, but as in any good romance, love finds a way.
Where do you get your information and ideas for your books?
My first stories formed from my own frustration in the romance novels I was reading. I wanted a stronger heroine who proved intelligent and ambitious, willing to go out into the world and pursue her dream instead of waiting for the hero to rescue her.
I think one of the reasons I have so many ideas is that I truly become part of the stories I write and characters I create. I wish I could visit Regency England, but since there’s no time machine to transport me back, I imagine scenes in my mind and translate them into stories.
Do you have a specific process when writing a book?
I’m a pantser. I don’t plot or outline. I fly through the story by the seat of my pants and let the characters tell me what they wish to do. Many of my stories evolved around a scene or snippet of dialogue. Undone By His Kiss came from a kissing scene I wanted to write. I may only have a brief piece of dialogue to instigate the story and then it builds from that inspiration.
Do you have a writing/reading quirk or ritual?
I enjoy absolute quiet. It immerses me in my story and provides the ideal writing situation. Unfortunately, unless I go away on a retreat, my life rarely allows me the luxury of complete silence. I’ve learned to write and think through any kind of noise, even while commuting to work or multi-tasking.
Other than that, I write my story in order, even if the scene which inspired the novel will not happen until much later. And I need coffee and snacks to keep me happy.
What is something you’ve learned about yourself through the process of writing?
Resilience has been one of my biggest take-aways from the process. There have been times when I needed to revise, start over, delete – you name it – but I have managed to rework the story until I feel it’s ready. Resilience in marketing, publisher preferences, reviews too – I think resilience has helped me sustain my optimism about the difficult market and economy too.
What do you think makes a good story?
Conflict and passion. Almost any writing course will preach the importance of conflict, and it is true. But for me, and especially for romance, I think passion is equally as important to the story’s success. If I don’t connect with the characters and yearn for them to be together, I’m not invested enough in the story to care, no matter how much conflict the story includes.
My novels are character driven. I want the reader to be welcomed into the story by the personalities of the characters. Their actions and choices are a large part of the storyline, but more than anything else I want my readers to enjoy my hero and heroine, anxious for their happily ever after.
If you could only read one book over and over, which one would you pick and why?
What an intriguing and difficult question. I have so many favorites and rarely have the time to reread them. I think I’ll choose Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll. It’s a journey of imagination, well written with vivid imagery and delightful prose. It definitely offers many ways to inspire.
What books are currently on your night stand?
I’m anxious to read Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig. I haven’t had the chance yet, but it’s the next book on my TBR list. I’ve heard all good things.
How do you organize your books?
I have “sacred” books (about 10-12) which are kept in my bedroom. These are timeless romances which I consider my favorites, both authors and works. Other books are in my office as inspiration. My Knickerbocker collection of Shakespeare’s complete works from 1820 are behind glass. Then I have several shelves where I keep books I’ve enjoyed and aren’t ready to part with yet.
You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
Oh, this question is easy. Shakespeare, of course, for all the obvious reasons and more. Emily Dickinson, for her insightful and lovely poetry. And lastly, Lisa Kleypas. Although I admire many romance authors, Kleypas influenced me the most and allowed me the gift to dream of being a published author. Her romances are witty, passionate and fun to read.
I’m not sure how we would all get on at the party, but it would be fun to experience.
Thank you for joining me on OF QUILLS & VELLUM today, Anabelle! It was a pleasure talking with you.