With Cora Lee
Tell me your story.
The short version is that I used to be a high school math teacher and got burned out (for a variety of reasons). I still have a Day Job, but it’s a nice, quiet office now instead of a chaotic classroom. And my health has improved immensely—I have a couple of chronic illnesses that were exacerbated by everything teaching encompasses—which means I have more time and energy to write 🙂
Tell me about your latest book.
I’ve got a short story that just came out (No Rest for the Wicked) and a novel coming out in a couple of weeks (The Good, The Bad, And The Scandalous). They’re both part of a multi-author Regency-set romance series I participated in this summer, where each hero is inspired by a modern superhero. But instead of Nick Fury getting the Avengers together, we have the Duke of Wellington recruiting spies 🙂 Wicked is the prequel that introduces all the heroes and ties the books in the series together. Scandalous is the story of a playboy earl who intervenes when an acquaintance receives a death threat. He accidentally compromises the poor lady in the process, then spends the rest of the book keeping her safe…and falling head over ears in love with her, of course!
Where do you get your information and ideas for your books?
Ideas come from all over the place! My favorite thing to do lately, though, has been to take a common trope and figure out a way to flip it—the first book I published was a novella where the hero was a wallflower, rather than the heroine. And information comes from research, lots and lots of it 🙂
Do you have a specific process when writing a book?
I make a detailed outline before I start writing. I don’t always stick to it word for word, but I don’t usually make any major changes either. After that, it’s just getting the words on the page. I have also noticed that music helps me a lot. I can’t write with music playing, but I can often find a theme song for the main characters (either individually or as a couple) and that helps me get inside their heads.
Do you have a writing/reading quirk or ritual?
Not really, though I did learn that I write better at a desk than I do in my living room recliner 😉
What is something you’ve learned about yourself through the process of writing?
That I write fiction the same way I used to write lesson plans as a teacher. I’ve taken to calling myself a flexible plotter—there is always a definite plan, often with lots of detail, but the plan may change depending on the circumstances. When I was teaching it was fire drills, kids learning at a different pace than I expected, or illnesses. Now it’s notes from my critique partner or beta reader telling me I need to add something in or move something around.
What do you think makes a good story?
The characters are it for me. I can (and have) read through mediocre stories because the characters were compelling, and I had to know what happened to them. I’ve also dragged myself through great plots with characters I didn’t care about.
If you could only read one book over and over, which one would you pick and why?
I tend to bend the rules anytime I’m asked a question like this, lol, so I’d probably pick a boxed set or anthology so I’d have more than one story to read. My Anne of Green Gables boxed set comes to mind or the Historical Whodunits anthology that I’m currently reading. Lots of good stories to keep me entertained in both options!
What books are currently on your night stand?
I’m halfway through The Hanover Square Affair by Jennifer Ashley and an anthology called Historical Whodunits. I also am most of the way through a book about steel making (something I needed to research a bit to write The Good, The Bad, And The Scandalous)–I got everything I needed from it to write Scandalous, I just have to finish reading the rest.
How do you organize your books?
By time period, actually. Most of what I read is a subset of historical fiction, so grouping books by time and place is easier for me than grouping them by subgenre. Even the contemporaries I have sit together on my e-reader or my shelf, though I do have a separate folder on my e-reader for mysteries of all time periods.
You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
I’d have to be predictable with one and invite Jane Austen—I am a Regency romance writer, after all. I’d also choose Carolyn Keene, author of the Nancy Drew mysteries I loved when I was a kid (though that’s a pseudonym for a collection of ghostwriters, so perhaps that’s cheating), and Madeleine L’Engle, who wrote A Wrinkle In Time (among other books). That was my first taste of science fiction in book form, and it was a completely different experience than watching Star Wars or Superman.
Thank you for joining me on OF QUILLS & VELLUM today, Cora! It was a pleasure talking with you.