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carolinelindenWriting is a skill as well as a talent,’ says Caroline Linden, award-winning author of 12 novels, 2 short stories and 2 novellas. ‘Anyone can get better.’

Certainly if one were to pick up Linden’s CV and review her credentials, writing probably wouldn’t be the career that would immediately spring to mind … academic or astronaut, possibly.

After graduating with a maths degree from Harvard, Linden moved to Florida with her husband and began working as a software programmer. Several years, two children and a move back to the north-east later, she decided, while bored one evening, to make up her own stories, having ‘nothing to read and a brand new iMac’.*

In 2005 What a Woman Needs was picked up by Zebra – and the rest, as they say, is history.

Given Linden’s self-proclaimed love of mysteries, the crime-fiction genre may seem a more obvious match for her talents. Instead, Linden’s novels are, for the most part, love stories entrenched firmly in the upper echelons of Regency society (1811–20), although it’s true that many have an intriguing mystery or two thrown into the mix.

Most of Linden’s books fall into series and the author works hard to rigorously and meticulously construct credible worlds for her characters to inhabit, be it the early 19th-century salons of literary London or the society of more provincial Regency Bath.

One Night in London; Blame it on Bath and The Way to a Duke’s Heart (2011–12), ‘The Truth about the Duke’ trilogy, featuring brothers Edward, Gerard and Charles de Lacey, are among our favourites. They follow the brothers in their quest to prove their legitmacy, following the death of their father, the Duke of Durham, and the shocking discovery that he may have been married bigamously to their late mother.

More recently, Linden has published a digital first, a short story called ‘Written in the Heart’ (2013) and also embarked on a new series, ’50 ways to sin’, featuring Love and Other Scandals (2013) and It Takes a Scandal (published in April 2014). ’50 ways…’ is a scandalous pamphlet detailing the erotic adventures of the mysterious Lady Constance. Avon are offering readers the opportunity to read the three issues mentioned in the first two ’50 ways’ novels.

Here, Caroline Linden takes time out of her busy pre-publication schedule to talk about her influences, writing and the publishing world.

 

Q&A – Caroline Linden

 

LS: Firstly Caroline, welcome to The Literary Lounge at The Literary Shed. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions.

 

Q: Do you think writing is a gift or can writers become more skilled through pure hard graft?

CL: I think writing is a skill as well as a talent, and anyone can get better. I learn something from everything I write: sometimes from getting something wrong, sometimes from getting something right. If writing was a pure gift that one was either born with or without, I would not be writing books today.

 

Q: Where do you usually write? In a study? Shed? Café?

CL: It depends! I finally have an office (in my home), but more often than not I settle on my sofa and put my feet up on the coffee table. For some reason that makes me more productive.

 

Q: What’s your tool of choice? Pen, laptop, iPad, etc?

CL: Definitely a laptop.

 

Q: You’ve said that you like crime fiction and often read it before you started writing romances. Who are your favourite authors? Have you ever tried to write a thriller?

CL: My first thought of writing a book was that it would be a mystery. However, it kept turning back toward the characters and their feelings for each other, so I gave in and made it a romance with some mystery. I love to read mysteries still, and recently discovered Dorothy L. Sayers [who we love as well!].

 

Q: Many romantic fiction authors cite Georgette Heyer and Mary Stewart as early influences. Are there any authors who or books that have proved particularly influential to you?

Calico Captive hardcoverCL: I only recently discovered Georgette Heyer, and I must confess I’ve never read Mary Stewart. When I was younger, I read a lot of great classics, although I often thought the endings left much to be desired. The books I loved when I was young were mostly mysteries, such as Agatha Christie, Gothic stories by Daphne du Maurier, and more romantic stories by authors like Eva Ibbotsen.

One of my childhood favorite books was Calico Captive [Elizabeth George Spears; 1957], about a young woman kidnapped by the Abenaki in 1754 [based on the true story of Susanna Willard Johnson], sold to the French, and finally ransomed back by her sweetheart. A historical story of adventure, danger, and romance! …Also, my copy of ‘Bridget Jones’ is well-worn; it makes me laugh every time.

…Sometimes [however], I think it’s best not to read too much of what you write! Inevitably when I read a historical romance, I see similarities between that book and my plot or characters, which always freaks me out a bit. After so much time devoted to writing, when most of my reading is research materials, I generally opt to read something very different from what I write.

 

Q: I believe you also like action films, such as the Bourne films. Have you based any of your protagonists (or supporting characters) on action film heroes or heroines?

CL: No, not based on a particular character, but I have certainly drawn on characteristics of action heroes; the thing I love about action movie is that they keep you guessing and paying close attention. I wrote three spy novels and for those I looked at Jason Bourne and James Bond (see below), as well as a number of real spies (famous and otherwise) for inspiration.

 

jamesbourne_l

My spymaster, for instance, was based on an entirely real person, John Stafford [1766–1837], who really did run a ring of spies and agents provocateur under the [British] government’s approving eye during the 1810s.

 

Q: How long did it take you to write your first novel? Has it been published?

CL: My very first novel took the better part of a year to write. My children were very young, and I didn’t even know if I could write an entire book. I didn’t know any other authors, and I’d never written anything longer than a term paper. While I managed to produce a complete manuscript, it really wasn’t terribly good, and I think it’s better off as a ‘Valuable Learning Experience’.

 

Q: Your books are set predominantly in the Regency period (1811–20) – would you use another period in history?

CL: I don’t have any plans to change periods right now. As I learned from writing my novella, which was set in 1771, instead of the 1810–20 period I usually deal with, it takes a considerable amount of research and work to learn a new time period! [I Love the Earl; 2011. Prequel to ‘The Truth about the Duke’ series.]

 

Q: Do you do all the research for your books yourself? How important is historical accuracy to you? Do you think plot is more important than historical context?

CL: I do the vast majority of my own research, because I often don’t even know exactly what I’m looking for! I start with a vague idea, like needing a speculative financial scheme, and end up learning far too much about coal canals. Historical accuracy is quite important for setting the right mood in the book (whatever the author wants that mood to be), but in the end the story is what’s most important. I don’t think anyone is reading my books to learn history, they are reading for a good tale. So while I try to make my story fit the historical record as much as possible, obviously I’m also making stuff up; these are novels, and if a date has to be tweaked to make the story better, I’m OK with that.

 

Q: We’ve asked a few authors this now as it’s a question of particular interest to us: Do you think the publishing world has changed significantly since you published your first book?

CL: It has changed enormously, and most ways are for the better. Since I first started writing, about 12 years ago, an author’s options for publishing her work have multiplied. The rise of e-readers has increased options for both authors and readers. For just one example, it used to be terribly difficult to publish novellas. Publishers usually handpicked the authors they would put together into anthologies, and even then they always said the anthologies generally didn’t sell very well (perhaps not surprising, since a reader would have to pay for a full book when she might only want the stories from one or two authors in the collection). And almost all of the money would go to the lead author, the headline name in big letters whose fans were supposed to drive sales of the whole book. Lesser known authors freely admitted that doing a novella was almost like writing for free, for the publicity of being linked to that headline author. But now, thanks to digital publishing, authors can publish novellas and short stories between novels, fleshing out a series or a world they’ve created, lessening the wait between novels, or simply writing shorter stories that aren’t long enough for a book but would still appeal to readers.

LS comment: That’s an interesting point re: print anthologies – and from that point of view digital publishing does seem more fair. However, playing devil’s advocate, authors may also find themselves under pressure from their publishers to write digital first short fiction when they don’t necessarily want to and this may impact negatively on the quality of their lead titles.

 

Q: Do you find it more challenging to write stand-alone titles or books in series, such as those featuring the de Laceys?

CL: Writing a series of books is definitely harder. With a stand-alone book, I can write whatever I want, because I started fresh and when it ends, I’m done with those characters and settings. With a series… inevitably I regret something in book one or two by the time I get to the third book, but by then of course it’s too late and I have to adjust the third book.

 

Q: Many authors are writing books specifically for the ebook/digital market. You’ve also just done this. What are the main benefits of digital firsts?

CL: I’ve already written two novellas (one part of a connected anthology with three other authors) and two short stories that are mainly digital. I also have some short stories that I plan to finish up and publish. I like writing shorter pieces from time to time; I like reading them, too, when I don’t have a lot of reading time and want to have a complete story. The benefits are that I can tell another character’s story, but without committing a whole book to her, and I can publish it fairly quickly. It takes a month or so to turn around a novella-length story, which means I can write it over the next two months and then easily put it on sale soon after my next book comes out.

 

Q: Many romance writers (for example, Lisa Kleypas) write contemporary fiction as well. If you did this, would you try another genre, such as crime fiction?

CL: I do have a couple of ideas for contemporary stories. One of them is definitely still a romance, but the other is not – not that I have time to work on these right now…

 

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring authors, what would it be?

CL: Write a story you love, regardless of what you think will sell. If you don’t love it, how can you expect anyone else to?

 

LS: Great advice – and also a good place to end.

Thank you so much, Caroline. It’s been an absolute pleasure.

Good luck with your future projects, particularly It Takes a Scandal.

 

Caroline’s new book It Takes a Scandal is published in late April 2014 (US cover below). It is the second book in the ’50 Ways to Sin’ series. See review: ‘Caroline Linden’s It Takes a Scandal – exploring 50 ways to sin’

ittakesascandalindexGREAT AVON READER OFFER: Anyone who submits proof of purchase by 5/6/14 will receive 3 issues of ’50 Ways to Sin’, the scandalous pamphlet that Regency ladies Joan, Abigail and Penelope want so desperately to read – that’s the very ‘first’ issue and the two other that feature in Love and Other Scandals. To take up the offer go to:

http://avonromance.hc.com/takesascandal

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love and Other Scandals (Book 1 in the ’50 ways to sin’ series), published 2013; also a RITA 2014 finalist in the ‘historical romance’ category. Congratulations to Caroline Linden.

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Photographs in article: Image of Caroline Linden and US covers, It Takes a Scandal and Love and Other Scandals (from the author’s website); cover, Calico Captive by Elizabeth George Speare (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1957; HB); photograph of Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) and James Bond (in his incarnation as the actor formerly known as Daniel Craig).

Notice: Please note the above images are intended to be for promotional purposes only. In no way, have we have intentionally breached anyone’s copyright.

This article has been published with the approval of the author. The article text is ©The Literary Shed, 2014. It can only be reproduced with our permission. Please contact us if you wish to do so. The site must be fully credited.