interviews / Q&A's

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‘No matter where I lived, I read. I devoured whatever I could get my hands on,’ Anne Gracie says.

 

An award-winning historical-romance writer, Anne was born into a family of ‘chalkies’ (‘teachers’ in Aussie slang), who moved around a lot when Anne was a children. She spent a lot of time outside playing with her siblings and various pets. She also began what was to become a life-long love affair with books.

This love is reflected in Anne’s eclectic taste in literature by authors ranging from Enid Blyton, Rosemary Sutcliffe, Henry Treece, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf to Georgette Heyer, Mary Stewart, Dick Francis, PD James, Patrick White and Doris Lessing.

After university, Anne followed her parents into teaching and much of her career since then has been spent teaching EFL courses, promoting literacy and encouraging other people to write. Anne herself began her first attempt at a novel, a Young Adult (YA) story, scribbling in notebooks while she was backpacking around the world.

In 1999, Gallant Waif (1999; Harlequin/Mills and Boon), a historical romance, was published to both public and critical acclaim. The book was a RWA RITA finalist for best first book (2000) and won The National Readers’ Choice Award for best Regency novel (2001). Since then, Anne has written 15 best-selling books, predominantly Regencies, and has contributed to several anthologies and collections. She was also commissioned to novelise series one of the popular TV show The Tudors (The Tudors: The King, the Queen and the Mistress), which Anne discusses below.

The Autumn Bride (2013), Anne’s latest novel, introduces the Chance Sisters. It is listed on both Library Journal’s and NPR’s best books of 2013. The second book, The Winter Bride, is due to be published in April 2014 (see covers below).

Anne is a founding member of The Word Wenches, a group of eight leading romance writers, who have their own blog. Other members include Jo Beverley, Joanna Bourne, Nicola Cornick, Cara Elliott/Andrea Penrose, Susan King, Mary Jo Putney and Patricia Rice.

Anne very kindly agreed to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions for The LS.

 

Q&A – Anne Gracie

 

LS: Firstly, Anne, Thank you so much for agreeing to do this.

Anne: You’re very welcome.

 

Q: You have said how important reading is to you and often cite Georgette Heyer as one of your early inspirations. How much has she informed the kind of writer you have become?

Anne: I read very widely as a kid, and came across Heyer when I was about 11 and glommed everything she’d written, so when I first started writing romance, and I saw they were publishing Regencies, it was like coming home. That said, I don’t try to consciously model myself on any one writer, but I’m probably subconsciously influenced by a wide-range of wonderful writers. I think most writers are – we all start off as readers, after all.

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

Anne: I don’t really know. I was writing all kinds of things – exploring different kinds of writing. The first complete novel I wrote was a Young Adult (YA) novel, written by hand in a series of notebooks, when I was backpacking solo around the world. It’s not published – it’s not even typed up. My first historical romance, Gallant Waif, was my first published book.

 

Q: Do you ever look back on your early books and want to rewrite them?

Anne: I don’t ever reread my books once they’re published, because I know I’d want to re-edit them.

 

Q: Do you believe that the ability to write is a gift or do you think that writers can become more skilled through pure hard graft?

Anne: I’m not sure. As I said before, most writers were prolific readers first, and I think a lot of what we call ‘skill’ and ‘talent’ could well be a result of subconscious learning from reading all those wonderful writers. I do think some people are born storytellers, and I also believe that everyone can benefit from the study and practice of writing. And no matter who you are, no matter how talented or skilled, there will always be times when the writing is pure, hard graft. Interestingly, that doesn’t always show in the final result.

 

Q: Do you do all the research for your books yourself?

Anne: Yes, I do all my own research. I can’t visit every location I use – I’ve never ridden across the mountainous north of Spain for instance, or lived on the streets of Egypt, but I have been to Spain and Egypt, in both cases long before I was a writer and I have memories to draw on that fed my writing in those particular books. Most of my books are set in the UK and I have been there a number of times. I also use maps, photos, travellers’ diaries and letters from the time and place, as well as books and websites.

 

Q: How important is historical accuracy to you? Do you think plot is more important than historical context?

Anne: It’s always a balancing act. I think it’s important to get the feel of the times right, and not to have historical characters acting or speaking like modern people. That said, I’m writing for a modern audience, and many of the mores and attitudes of the time are foreign to modern readers. On the other hand some of the beliefs about historical accuracy are oversimplified and not always right —there have always been people who don’t fit the general pattern of society, so as long as the action or plot is plausible within the context of the time, I’m fine with that.

 

Q: As an Australian author, when you write a book do you have a particular market in mind? North American, British or Australian?

Anne: I think I write for all three – and for readers in other parts of the world, too, not just the English-speaking countries. I’m not sure there is a huge difference – no matter where you go, some people love the history and others only care about the story, some people enjoy my humor and others completely miss it – that’s not confined to any country. I do write for an American editor, though, so in that sense, I’m writing for her.

 

Q: If you were starting out now, as a native Australian, would you approach an Australian publisher first? Do Australian publishers take romance/historical writing more seriously today?

Anne: I do think they’re starting to realize romance sells — whether or not that’s taking it more seriously, I’m not sure. If I was starting out now, I’d still aim for the US market, simply because it’s still the biggest.

 

Q: Even though you write Regency titles, you were approached to write the TV tie-in Tudor book? Did you find the series’ various historical inaccuracies problematic?

Anne: When I first read the scripts and realized how much of the history had been changed, I admit, I did have a slight rush of blood to the head. But then I realized that whoever was going to read my novelization would expect to read the story they saw in the TV series, so I used the scripts are my ‘bible’ and was as historically accurate as I could be. And I really enjoyed writing it.

The TudorsThe more I wrote, the more I came to appreciate the cleverness of those historical inaccuracies and the reason why the script-writer made them — no TV viewer could possibly have managed to keep up with the coming and going of so many characters — many of whom had the same names — and keeping up with the myriad of plots going on. What the writer, Michael Hirst, did was to adjust historical events to make the story make sense in the time he had available to tell it — and though there were plenty of factual departures, I felt he was still, in a way, true to much of what happened.

 

Q: Would you consider setting future books in Tudor or Elizabethan England?

Anne: No. It’s not my period of choice.

 

Q: What about other genres? Writers like Lisa Kleypas produce contemporary romances, for example. If you were starting over again, would you still write in the historical-romance genre?

Anne: I would because I love this genre. But I’ve always been a big crime and also fantasy reader and I’ve always wanted to write both of those, too.… I wrote one contemporary romantic comedy for Harlequin and loved doing it, and one day I’d love to do more. But I’m not a fast enough writer to do both, and I’m not ready to give up the historicals yet.

 

Q: Many romance/historical romance authors are writing books specifically for the ebook/digital market. What are your thoughts on this?

Anne: …I’ve considered it, of course. I have a short story I have my rights back for and intend to e-publish that, mainly as an experiment. And I plan to write one more book (Marcus’s story) for my last series and might self-e-publish that one day. But at the moment my publisher, who pays me in advance, keeps me very busy, too busy to do anything but write to my contract.

 

Q: You do a lot of work to help improve adult literacy, including writing beginner literacy titles. Do you think this is a growing problem in the western world?

Anne: Actually, if you look at in context, more people now can read than ever before in history. However it is a problem if you live in a highly literate society and are disempowered because you can’t read and write. I don’t think the solution lies only with governments — I think it’s something everyone needs to address.

 

Q: As we’re The Literary Shed, of course we’re obsessed by where authors work. Where do you write? Do you have a shed?

Anne: I wish I had a writing shed — I used to have a shed but it got pulled down. I write in a variety of places — in recent years I’ve returned to handwriting first, so sometimes I’ll write in bed of a morning before I get up, because I often wake with a scene in my head and I want to get it down immediately. I write in the local library, too, on a regular basis, and have found I can work in hotels and cafes if I need to. But most of the time I work in my study, a small room that contains a couple of computers and is lined on 3 walls with bookshelves. The fourth wall contains my filing cabinets and the window.

 

LS: Thank you so much, Anne. It’s been an absolute pleasure. We wish you all the very best with your next books.

Anne: Thanks. All the best.

 

The Autumn Bride, Abby’s story, is the first book in the ‘Chance Sisters’ series and is reviewed on the site (2013; Australian edition (below left) shown with photography by Richard Jenkins). The Winter Bride, Damaris’s story, is published in April 2014 (Australian (centre) and US edition covers (right) below).

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Photographs in article: Image of Anne Gracie/Australian and US covers for The Winter Bride (kindly supplied by author); Mills & Boon edition cover, Gallant Waif; promotional material for TV series, The Tudors.

Notice: Please note the above images and quotations other than those in the Q&A are intended to be for promotional purposes only. In no way, have we have intentionally breached anyone’s copyright.

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