DUCK CHAT: Schmoozing with Grace BurrowesTuesday, November 15, 2011 10:00
We have a special treat for you today – Grace Burrowes is here!
If you’ve not read any of Grace’s Windham family series yet, you really are missing some fun, emotional, and romantic reads. Her newest book in the series is The Virtuoso, and this is her most emotional book yet. These Windham brothers are very special, indeed.
Grace is a practicing attorney specializing in family law and lives in a restored log cabin in western Maryland without a TV, DVD or radio because she’s too busy working on her next books. Thank goodness, say her readers!
Two copies of The Virtuoso are being given away today, so be sure to leave a meaningful comment or question for Grace. US and Canada only, please.
Now let’s chat!
GRACE BURROWES: Thanks for inviting me! I’m always happy to talk about my books. As a kid I was afraid of nightcrawlers—hysterically, lock myself in the bathroom, afraid. My four brothers will note I use the past tense.
DC: If you could retire any interview question and never, ever have it asked again, what would it be? Feel free to answer it.
GB: “Where do you get your ideas?” is a tough one, because I don’t know the answer. Stuff occurs to me, usually three months after I needed it or three months before I realize what I ought to do with it. I read as widely as I can in the time periods I write about, and I’ve traveled to the UK when budget permits. Long drives (DC to San Diego and back) are good for pondering material in a sort of “screen saver” mode, and short walks help occasionally too.
DC: I’ve heard writers often say their stories take them in surprising directions, or dialogue flows from some unknown place. Is it the same with you? Do your characters surprise you sometimes?
GB: Every time I pull up my WIP and set my fingers to the keyboard, I’m hoping to be surprised. If I’m surprised, the reader might be as well, and that helps keep the pages turning.
DC: What is it that initially drew you to write historical romance?
GB: I’ve been reading romance, mostly historical romance, for almost forty years. It has been my guilty pleasure, my greatest consolation, my refuge. Historical romance has made me happy as a reader. It makes sense it would make me happy as a writer too—and it has!
DC: In moseying around your website, I discovered you went to law school and opened your own office for a while. What type of law did you go into? Do you still practice?
GB: I am in private practice in rural Maryland. While I do some family mediation, and the occasional custody case, the bulk of my practice is representing children in abuse and neglect proceedings, and indigent adults in public guardianship proceedings. It’s a wonderful way to be a lawyer, since much of the work is “problem-solving law.”
DC: Do you ever argue with your characters while you’re writing? Who usually wins?
GB: I would not dare argue with them. I’m usually too busy begging them to tell me what their almighty external conflicts are, and why those conflicts are supposed to be ideal for getting us to the Happily Ever After. One of the Windham sisters has been holding out on me now for six months.
DC: What is sure to distract you from sitting down and working/writing?
GB: I blush to admit it, but the day job can feel like a distraction. I’ll spend most of the weekend, from sometime Friday until Monday mid-morning writing, writing, writing, and I would be happy to stay at it. Once I get to work I’m okay, but changing gears from Regency England or the Victorian Highlands to child welfare proceedings is hard.
DC: How do you feel your male or female characters have evolved over the course of your series so far? Do you think you write them differently now than you did when you first started?
GB: When I first started writing, my editor told me I was a hero-centric writer. This struck me as dead on, to the point that when it came time to write about the Windham sisters, I was a little daunted. If I’m less interested in the heroine’s journey, how can I be sure my readers won’t find the results boring?
But then I started on the sisters’ books, and they turned out to be more personal to me than the brothers’. The sisters’ issues resonate very strongly with me, and their books are turning out to be very sound efforts as a result.
DC: Would you tell our readers about your series, The Duke’s Obsession, and the Windham family in general and also let us know about how the series began, if it’s evolved as you originally envisioned, have there been any major changes along the way?
GB: When I started writing, I just started writing, no thought to whether I’d finish a book, a series, or ever get published. A few years later I had a personal slush pile of about twenty manuscripts, all of them related, like shoots from a common spider plant. My dear editor, Deb Werksman at Sourcebooks, had the challenge of selecting where to start and how to position the books. The Windham brothers (The Heir, The Soldier, The Virtuoso) had done well in contests, and The Heir read fairly well in draft, so we started there. Deb gave me the choice of trying to finish the family series by writing the sisters’ books or moving on to some of the prequels and spinoffs. We came up with Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish (Deb gets big props for shaping the plot and for having faith in me), and that went well enough that we steered in the direction of completing the family series.
DC: Is there a genre you haven’t tackled but would like to try?
GB: I’ve never done anything paranormal, though I’m a die-hard JR Ward fan, and I’ve never done an inspirational. All romance ought to be inspiring, but that’s not the same thing, is it?
DC: Which fictional character would you like to hang out with?
GB: WHAT a hard question! Do I want the pleasure of some pulchritudinous, gallant masculine company when I know his deepest affections are elsewhere engaged (because I wrote him an HEA), or should I go for some girl bonding, because those Windham sisters are such first rate ladies? Or maybe tea with Their Graces, just to bask in the presence of a true love that has matured for more than thirty years?
I’d choose to spend time with Lady Genevieve Windham. She’s the last Windham sibling to marry, the one everybody calls “sweet,” and she’s hiding some enormous problem from me that I must know if I’m to write her the happy ending she deserves with her artistic swain.
GB: Suzanne Brockmann, among many others (my editor), advises that the way to a wonderful book is to torture the hero without mercy. I knew Valentine Windham had found consolation, purpose and identity in his music. He believed it was the best of him, the thing that gave him value in the eyes of others…. So I took it from him. That was hard for me.
Ellen absolutely broke my heart, though. She sought solitude because it was the only way she could regain her sanity, and her courage was tremendous. I wasn’t sure where this book would go, but it ended up being a very satisfying story to write.
DC: What advice would you give to your younger self?
GB: Hooboy! Cherish yourself.
DC: What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever learned by Googling your name?
GB: I don’t google myself. The internet is real, but it isn’t reality. It can become like Harry Potter’s mirror, an endlessly fascinating obsession, and I don’t need or want that.
DC: What book would you like to read again for the first time?
GB: The one I have in revisions right now: Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight. It’s hard to see with a fresh eye something that absorbed me for weeks on end.
DC: If you were a book, what would your blurb be?
GB: I dunno…. A cross between Great Expectations and Warrior Sheep.
DC: What would your “voice’s” tagline be?
GB: Beautiful love stores, beautifully written.
DC: We’ve been mentioning the ladies of this series, The Duke’s Daughters. Can you give us a look into this series and its characters and what readers can expect over the next year or so?
GB: These are the five daughters of Their Graces, the Duke and Duchess of Moreland. Their tales start with Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish, which is on shelves now. In May, we have Lady Maggie’s Secret Scandal, and for next year’s holiday season, we’ll have, Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight. Stories for Lady Eve and Lady Jenny are slated to come out in 2013… assuming Jenny will tell me what her perishing benighted problem is.
GB: If you can wait until November first, and you’ve already ordered your copy of The Virtuoso, pick up a copy of Joanna Bourne’s The Black Hawk. ANYTHING she writes is pure, sparkling gold. While you’re there pick up Kieran Kramer’s If You Give a Girl a Viscount. It’s a wonderful Regency read that will make you smile and reach for the tissues.
DC: If you had never become an author, what do you think you would be doing right now?
GB: Reading If You Give a Girl a Viscount, or heckling Julie Ann Long, Meredith Duran, Loretta Chase, Mary Balogh and Jennifer Ashley (among others) to write faster. I can’t pick on Carolyn Jewel because she’s pretty quick for a single mom with a full time job.
DC: What’s on the horizon for Grace Burrowes?
GB: We’ll launch a trilogy of Scottish Victorians next summer, and oh, the pleasure of researching those books! If readers enjoy reading them half as much as I enjoy writing them, they will be quite, quite well received.
- dark or milk chocolate? - dark
- smooth or chunky peanut butter? – depends
- heels or flats? – barefeet or my fave thick organic wool Maggie Moo socks
- coffee or tea? - Jasmine green tea with cream and agave nectar
- summer or winter? – fall
- mountains or beach? - mountains
- mustard or mayonnaise? – mustard (and butter)
- flowers or candy? - flowers… unless there’s really good German dark chocolate marzipan involved
- pockets or purse? – pockets and um, décolletage
- Pepsi or Coke? – can’t do the ‘feine so I’m stuck with weasel pee aka caffeine free diet colas
- ebook or print? – both
And because we still enjoy the answers we get:
1. What is your favorite word? – today my favorite word is parlous, which means perilous. One can have a financially parlous existence (according to the Earl of Westhaven) if the ducal finances remain in the ducal mitts.
2. What is your least favorite word? – whatever
3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – love and solitude, which ought not to make sense, but to me it does, abundant thinking
4. What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – spending too much time around people, even people I love; close mindedness; scarcity thinking
5. What sound or noise do you love? – So many… the stream by my house on a summer night, crickets, the wind in the pines, horses chewing hay on a winter night, my bull mastiff drinking out of the potty, men singing in close harmony unaccompanied, Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini,” my family and friends calling to say hi…
6. What sound or noise do you hate? – The silence of those entitled to cry their hearts out
7. What is your favorite curse word? - I’m in a “perishing bloody benighted” phase at present.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? – I’d like to work for Penhaligon’s making scents in the UK.
9. What profession would you not like to do? – Accounting. Just do not have the gene for it!
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “Welcome home, and congratulations on a long life honorably lived. Your family is waiting to greet you, but first, may I introduce you to Their Graces, the Duke and Duchess of Moreland, and their entire family?”
DC: Thank you so much for being with us today, Grace! It was an absolute pleasure.