Anne Gracie here, delighted to be kicking off the first part of the Catherine Gaskin #RomanceRelay author interviews. I was particularly thrilled to be asked, as I grew up reading —and loving— the novels of Catherine Gaskin.
I think the first book of hers I read was Fiona. I was about thirteen, and devoured books like the very hungry caterpillar. My oldest sister, who was a librarian in a large central library, kept me fed by bringing home their discards, and Fiona was one. I still have that book, and gradually collected the rest. I loved the range of Catherine Gaskin’s books — Fiona, set in the islands — I could feel those balmy tropical breezes and the sand beneath my toes. Sara Dane, the story of a gutsy woman who started as a convict banished to the antipodes where she became a force to be reckoned with, Blake’s Reach with its tale of Romney Marsh and smugglers. . . and more. There’s a reason why I became a writer of historical romance, and Catherine Gaskin is a big part of it.
Now on to the first of the Catherine Gaskin #RomanceRelay interviews in which we meet wonderful historical romance novelist Christina Courtenay. Christina is a multi-award-winning author who writes historical romance and time-slip novels. Like Catherine Gaskin, her books sweep you to different parts of the world, from the Scottish highlands, to the exotic realms of the far east, and places in between. And also like Catherine Gaskin, you can’t just stop at one.
Christina, reading your bio, it sounds like you grew up as a citizen of the world. How has that influenced your writing?
It’s influenced my writing in several ways – I have used various foreign settings for my stories, drawing on my own experiences of those countries and cultures. And I often come back to the theme of ‘fitting in’ or ‘feeling different/being an outsider’, as well as accepting those who are not exactly the same as ourselves culturally. I had an English father and a Swedish mother, so never quite knew where I belonged, and then when we moved to Japan (when I was a teenager) I was at a school with kids of 138 other nationalities, so we all had to learn to get along. It was a great lesson in compromise and diplomacy!
You’ve said you’re a lover of fairy tales. What are some of your favorites?
Rapunzel is my all-time favourite – I love long hair! The Princess and the Pea and The Frog Prince are also great, but I like most fairy tales as long as they feature a handsome prince and have a happy ending 🙂
Were you drawn to historical novels as a child, or did that come later?
I’ve loved history ever since my very first lesson in that subject at school, and when my dad noticed that he pointed me in the direction of books like The Three Musketeers and The Odyssey. Once I’d read those, I was hooked and later, in the school library, I discovered Georgette Heyer – what bliss!
What prompted you to become a writer?
A need to earn money while wanting to stay at home with my first daughter. I thought it would be easy to write a romantic novel (I’d read enough of them!), but of course I was completely wrong. I didn’t give up though, as I discovered the joy of writing for its own sake, and eventually got published when said daughter had just left home, aged 21!
Have your studies in genealogy inspired any of your books?
Yes, the heroine of my novel The Silent Touch of Shadows is a genealogist who starts to research her family tree (and that of the hero) in order to solve the mystery of a ghost who is haunting her. And genealogy also features in some of my other books – I just find it fascinating and very addictive!
You’ve written Regencies, ‘world stage’ historicals, YA and time slip novels — which do you enjoy writing most?
I love writing time slip novels, because I like reading them myself and it’s fun to try and puzzle together the events in the present and the past. However, the YA novels are the most relaxing ones to write as they don’t involve as much research – I just let my imagination have free rein and it’s a bit like being on holiday.
You’re written several linked series — what do you think the appeal of a linked series is for the writer? For the reader?
For the writer it’s a chance to develop the stories of some of the secondary characters, who may have been interesting but who had to take a back-seat in the original book. For readers, I think it’s the fact that you get to catch up with characters from previous books in the series and find out a little bit about how they are getting on. And also, if you’ve enjoyed spending time with certain characters and in a particular place, it’s a bit like returning to a familiar holiday destination – comfortable, but exciting at the same time.
Who are the writers you take to bed on a cold winter’s night?
For comfort reading, Georgette Heyer – always! Other than that, whatever is next on my TBR pile, depending on what mood I’m in – I tend to alternate between reading historicals/Regencies, YA, contemporary romance and historical thrillers (like Steve Berry for example).
You were chair of the RNA for two years — a big job! Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Yes, it was a big job but enjoyable and it allowed me to meet and get to know so many lovely people – I would really recommend that any aspiring writer should try to get involved in a writing organisation or group of one sort or another. And the best thing for an aspiring writer is to have a writing buddy, someone with whom they can exchange critiques, share the ups and downs of writing, brainstorm with and generally support each other. I find mine invaluable!
What book are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a time slip partly set during the English Civil War in a castle on the Welsh border. I love the Cavaliers (I’m afraid I’m rather biased in their favour, although I did manage to write a book from the Parliamentarian point of view too, The Gilded Fan) and find that period of history extremely interesting!
Christina Courtenay writes historical romance, time slip and YA contemporary romance, all published by independent publisher Choc Lit. She is half Swedish and was brought up in Sweden. In her teens, she moved to Japan where she had the opportunity to travel extensively in the Far East. Christina is a former chairman of the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association. Her novels Highland Storms and The Gilded Fan have both won the Romantic Novel Award (RoNA) for Best Historical Romantic Novel of the year (in 2012 and 2014 respectively). Her latest novels are Monsoon Mists (historical), The Soft Whisper of Dreams (contemporary suspense) and New England TLC (YA contemporary romance).
Can an impossible love become possible?
Can an impossible love become possible? Temperance Marston accompanies her cousin to the exotic empire of Japan, where she meets Kazuo, a ronin who’s fascinated by her foreign looks. He has a mission to complete to restore his family’s honour, but when Temperance is kidnapped and sold as a concubine he has to decide – can he save her and keep the promise he made to his father?
Read Anne Gracie being interviewed by Kerry Fisher from Friday 31st July.