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I grew up in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, then lived in Denmark and traveled throughout Europe before coming back to Colorado. I have two adult sons, whom I cherish. I started my writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor of two different papers. Along the way, my team and I won numerous state and several national awards, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, I was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism. Now I write historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.


Seductive Musings

Saturday, December 05, 2009

An interview with Anna Campbell

Today I get to put on my journalist hat and ask probing questions of an author who is a new discovery for me — the lovely and very kind Anna Campbell. As someone who got burnt out on Regency romance in the 1980s, I typically don't read them any longer. However, reviews of Tempt the Devil persuaded me to give Anna’s books a try. I’m so glad I did! She offers a fresh look at the Regency era, one that isn’t mired in cliches and which feels unique and real.

So far, I've read Tempt the Devil and Captive of Sin, with Claiming the Courtesan and Untouched waiting in my TBR. When I finished Captive of Sin, I knew I needed to get to know Anna better, so I suggested an interview.

Without further ado, here's what Anna had to say:

PC: First of all, can you tell us a bit about your background?

AC: Oh, goodness! How long have you got? All right, here’s the shortish version. I’m an Aussie, born in Queensland which is the state high up on the right-hand side, the state with Steve Irwin and the Barrier Reef! I’ve been in love with books as long as I can remember so the desire to be a writer was a natural follow-on to that. I did an arts degree at uni – hey, three years where someone actually wanted me to spend my days with my nose in a book? My idea of heaven! Then I worked at a variety of jobs, including a long stint captioning TV programs for the Deaf. Great training for a writer! I love to travel and as well as shorter trips, I had two years living in England in the mid-1980s and four months traveling the U.K. in 2004. That was great for a budding Regency romance writer — all those wonderful stately homes to check out! I now live on the Sunshine Coast about an hour north of Brisbane, Queensland’s capital. I’ve been writing full time since Avon bought Claiming the Courtesan in 2006 - a dream come true.

PC: What inspired you to write romantic fiction?

AC: My mother gave me my first romance novel when I was eight in an attempt to get some peace. It worked! Mind you, back in those days, you could give an 8-year-old a category romance without worrying about her reading inappropriate material! I’ve been addicted to romance fiction ever since and like lots of writers, I went from reader to writer. The next major leap for me was reading The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen Woodiwiss when I was in my early teens. I adored that book, the passion and sensuality and emotion of it, and suddenly I’d discovered exactly what I wanted to write. I decided then and there I wanted to grow up to write historical romance for Avon — it still blows my mind that that’s what ended up happening!

PC: That’s pretty cool that your dream came true in such a literal way. What is the attitude toward romance novels and romance novelists in Australia as compared to that in the U.S.?

AC: Romance is definitely a bigger force in the U.S. than it is in Australia, although having said that, Harlequin Mills & Boon is huge here. A lot of romance novels are sold here in other guises — for example, Nora Roberts is often shelved in either women’s fiction or crime. You can strike snobbish attitudes about romance but that’s something education from Romance Writers of Australia and our wonderful local authors is slowly changing.

PC: You’ve got four books in print right now — Claiming the Courtesan, Untouched, Tempt the Devil, and Captive of Sin. Was Claiming the Courtesan the first book you wrote? How long did it take you to cross that hallowed threshold and become a published author?

AC: Sorry, I’m laughing hollowly at Claiming the Courtesan being the first book I wrote! Not by a mile! I wrote a medieval in between high school and university and actually finished the manuscript so if I consider that the beginning of writing with the hope of publication, I needed another 27 years before I actually sold Claiming the Courtesan. I’d decided Harlequin would be the best way to develop a career and I wrote eight rejected manuscripts for them before I decided to go back to my first love, historical romance. Then I started a stack of stories, finished the occasional one, didn’t submit to anyone — yes, clearly, you have to submit your manuscripts if you want to be published! Two things brought a big change. One was that I gave up writing about seventeen years in because I decided I was never going to achieve my dream. I couldn’t bear not writing so I went back to it after about eighteen miserable months. And it was then that I joined Romance Writers of Australia. I started an enormously steep learning curve (and made a lot of wonderful friends on the way) and eventually sold Claiming the Courtesan to Avon at auction in 2006.

PC: What inspired you to write the period that you write?

AC: I’d always read Regency-set romance, going back to Georgette Heyer and Pride and Prejudice as a kid. But for some reason, I resisted writing in the period and tried every setting except Regency England. Then I finaled in the first romance writing contest I ever entered (with a manuscript set in 18th-century Hungary, I’m not exaggerating about my exotic settings!) and suddenly thought maybe I had a shot at taking this further. If that was the case, I clearly needed to think of a more commercial setting than the obscure ones I was exploring, much as I happened to love them. I started writing a Regency comedy and it was like coming home — my voice really belonged and through reading thousands of Regency historicals, I already had an extensive knowledge of the world my characters inhabited. I haven’t looked back since. I write late Regencies (really reign of George IV) set in the 1820s. I love the decadence of that period just before Queen Victoria came to the throne.

PC: Your books have been — very accurately, I think — described as “Regency noir.” I’ve read Tempt the Devil and Captive of Sin and enjoyed that darker element very much. Where does that come from for you?

AC: Thank you, Pamela! It’s odd – if you met me, I don’t think you’d consider me a dark person. Or at least that’s the feedback I’ve had! I was an avid gothic reader, though, and I had a huge crush on Heathcliff and Mr. Rochester when I was a teenager so clearly something in me responded to the darker side of romance.

PC: Do you do research first and let your characters develop out of that, or do you get to know your characters first and then do the research to match their story?

AC: Luckily because I’ve now written five Regency noirs (My Reckless Surrender is out in June, 2010), I’ve got a pretty good handle on the period I’m writing about. So I have a good idea of what stories will work in that setting and what won’t. Before I start writing, I always have a hero and a heroine, a problem, occasionally a villain, and always the opening. Then I write organically, letting each scene grow out of the one before. Having said that, I usually have a few high points in mind and I know what the ending will be. Those characters often present something I need to research in depth. Which is great as I love research. With Claiming the Courtesan, I did a lot of research on courtesans and I found so many amazing stories in that research, Tempt the Devil grew out of the same body of research. Untouched meant researching the treatment of mental illness in the 19th century – scarier than most horror movies! Captive of Sin required a lot of research on the legalities of marriage and also on my hero’s backstory with the East India Company.

PC: What’s your writing process? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

AC: Definitely a pantser! I wish I was a plotter. It would save me a lot of rewriting but I find if I’ve already told myself the story, I lose interest in it so I guess I’m stuck with my messy process.

PC: Hurray! Another pantser! I’ve tried to change my process also, and I find that I cannot. What's an author to do? I always feel that I truly know my characters when I understand where their deepest fear and pain comes from. What has to click for you to feel like you truly know your characters?

AC: I think you’ve got a great point there. What amazes me about the writing process is that I THINK I know these people when I start writing the story as they’ve lived in the back of my brain for a long time by then. I put pen to paper (or hand to keyboard!) and they emerge with traits and behavior that completely astonish me. I truly know my characters once I’ve come to the end of what is always a really difficult first draft process. Then the editing is refining and clarifying and strengthening what I’ve learned about them in writing their stories. And yes, inevitably the painful stuff comes out in that process! I think that’s how you get the power into your stories, making these characters confront the things they really don’t want to confront.

PC: Gideon from Captive of Sin was a tortured, sympathetic and delectable hero. What inspired him?

AC: Thank you so much. I must admit I had quite a crush on him when I wrote him. He’s such a knight in shining armor, isn’t he? Actually the idea for Gideon came during that trip to the U.K. in 2004. I picked up a book called The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia by Peter Hopkirk in a bookshop in Oban on the west coast of Scotland. This was much more exciting than it sounds and was full of Indiana Jones-style spies and soldiers as the Russians and the British vied for control of Central Asia in the mid-19th century. One story in particular struck a chord with me – these two amazing warrior scholars called Arthur Conolly and Arthur Stoddart who were beheaded in Bukhara in 1842 after being kept in a pit in the central marketplace. Anyone who has read Captive of Sin won’t have to think too hard about the links with what happens to Gideon in India. I’m fascinated by Central Asia but sadly, writing in the 1820s, this imperial rivalry between Russia and England was a little too late to fit my period. So I started researching the British conquest of India and came up with plenty of options that allowed me to torture poor Gideon in an appropriately Conolly and Stoddart way! On a serious note, I find the warrior scholar archetype terrifically compelling and Gideon’s definitely an example!

PC: How wonderful to give Stoddart and Conolly that tribute. Your books are fairly gritty, and the characters have an intensity of emotion that I enjoy. Does that come at a cost to you as a writer?

AC: Oh, absolutely! I’m like a wrung-out rag when I finish a book. You have to live through these experiences with the characters and sometimes it’s tough.

PC: What do you do to refill your creative well?

AC: I love to look at water. I walk by the sea or swim. I’ve always felt I should have been a water sign (for the record I’m an earth sign!). I watch TV. I read – not as much I used to, sadly. I find a really good book gets my subconscious firing in the way nothing else does. I catch up with my friends. I listen to music. A break away really freshens up the brain too.

PC: Your next book, My Reckless Surrender, comes out on May 25, 2010. Can you tell us a bit about that?

AC: It’s about a dangerous seduction in Regency London. Here’s the blurb:

Headlong into sin...

A well-practiced rake, weary of easy conquests and empty pleasures, Tarquin Vale, Earl of Ashcroft, knows women—and his every instinct warns him to beware of this one. Diana Carrick’s brazen overtures have thrown the haunted, sinfully handsome lord completely off his guard. Why, the exquisite temptress stated outright that she wishes to be his lover! But it is neither Diana’s boldness nor her beauty that intrigues him so—it is the innocence he senses behind her worldly mask.

Intent upon the seduction that will finally free her, Diana has set her sights on the notorious Ashcroft—never dreaming that there is much more to the enigmatic rogue than sin and deviltry. His kiss is bewitching, his caress intoxicating—and even the dangerous secret Diana must protect cannot shield her from Ashcroft’s dark allure.

Unwittingly yet most willingly, they are playing with fire. Now the fuse has been lit and there is no escape…except surrender.

PC: That sounds luscious! What are you working on now, besides cleaning your house for the holidays?

AC: Ha ha! Someone’s been reading my Facebook posts complaining about having to do so much housework! I’ve just started my sixth historical romance for Avon. I’m still at that lovely stage when everything’s fresh and exciting. This book will probably be out some time in 2011. I’m also writing a mini-novella (13,000 words) for an anthology — it’s my first reunion story so I’m looking forward to seeing how that develops. The Australian edition of Captive of Sin is just about to hit the stands (mid-December) so I’m also gearing up for local promotion.

PC: Good luck with your Australian release, and congrats on starting your sixth book. And thanks for taking time to chat with me. Your stories have touched me, and it's nice to get to know you better.


Does anyone have questions for Anna? If so, fire away and she'll answer as she’s able to.


Helen said...

Hi Anna and Pamela

What an awesome interview Ladies. I love your books Anna and Pamela I have read some of yours and loved them as well I am in the process of getting as many of them as I can to read,

I am so looking forward to your next release Anna where did you get the idea for My Reckless Surrender I love the blurb. I will be at the shops this week buying the Australian release of Captive Of Sin for my collection.

Have Fun

Helen, Pamela's books are awesome, aren't they? I've only recently discovered them as well. I've promised myself a reading binge between Christmas and New Year and there will definitely be some PCs involved in that. Can't wait.

Hey, cool about picking up the Aussie COS. Isn't that a gorgeous cover? I just love it. Not sure of the actual release date. I've got my author copies so it can't be far away.

Actually I got the idea for MY RECKLESS SURRENDER when I was in England in 2004 - or at least the seed of an idea that turned into the story. I was talking to some family retainers at the Duke of Northumberland's family house in London and I thought, "It's like they own the place - they and their family have had as long an association with the estate as the dukes. And yet, they don't have any real rights to this place they've dedicated their lives to." It really struck me as a powerful irony. Won't say more but you'll see where that comes in when you read the book in June!

Linda A. said...

Hello, Anna, thanks to you and Pamela for a fun interview! Anna, don't you know too much housework is bad for your health?

Congratulations on your Australian release. 'll definitely be looking for the next one, and for your backlist as well.

Jennie Marsland

Linda, believe me, if housework is dangerous, I'm at no risk here! It's actually good to get visitors - gets me to drag the vacuum cleaner out from the mothballs ;-) Thanks for swinging by!!! Didn't Pamela ask some interesting questions?

Hi, Helen — Thanks so much for your kind words about the interview. I'm so glad you feel the same way about Anna's books that I do. And I'll admit I'm happy you've read and enjoyed some of mine, as well. :-)

Enjoy the warm weather Down Under. It's f-f-freezing (or below, actually) here right now with snow forecast for the next several days.

Anna, I'd love to hear more about your experience talking to the Duke of Northumberland's retainers. How did you manage to gain access to them? And please feel free to share photos of that trip!

Jennie, you're welcome! And congrats on your upcoming release!

Pamela, I'm gradually doing pieces on that trip for My Favorite Things on my website. I have an old-fashioned film camera - yeah, I know, get with the times, Campbell! I think I'll have to - last time I got film developed, it cost me a fortune.

At Syon House just outside London, I think I caught them on a good day. One guy in particular basically gave me the inside goss on the family history for the last 100 years (fairly tragic actually - there's a sad family tradition of the heir dying and the second in line inheriting). He'd had a day of school groups in, it was a quiet, cold, rainy afternoon in late March before the busy season started, and I think my complete fascination was obvious. I'm so grateful to the people who took the time to talk to me when I visited stately homes. It makes everything much more vivid than just reading the guidebooks.

Actually Syon is an amazing place to visit and pretty accessible from central London. Here's the website:

Kaye Manro said...

Wonderful interview Pamela! (You know I love your books!) And Anna-- what's not to love about your books? How different they are from the norm in that time period. Keep on writing! We all love your work.

What a great interview with the lovely and charming Anna. Thanks so much and happy holidays to you both.

Amanda said...

Hi Pamela and Anna!

Great interview Pamela.

Anna I'm new to your books after reading Pamela's facebook post about Captive in Sin and how great she said it was I went out and ordered it! And I loved it! Can't wait to read more of your books over the Christmas break!

Hi, Kaye — Thanks so much. Sorry to have vanished. My sister is visiting, and I'm still working (we've got a special edition this week), so I haven't had much web time. And you're so right about Anna's books — they are not the norm.

You know, one thing I didn't mention that I ought to have included was the fact that, as an Aussie, Anna includes more authentic “British-isms” than most American authors would be able to include. I actually learn new words. LOL!

Hi, Marilyn — You're welcome, and happy holidays to you, too!

Hi, Amanda — I'm so glad you enjoyed CAPTIVE OF SIN. I just loved Gideon. :-)

We've got a lot of snow here. And it keeps falling. It's pretty, but not so fun to drive in.

Lucy said...

Great interview girls. Good luck with the Oz edition of COS, Anna.
If you haven't read Pam's historicals, they are a MUST. Just like your books, they are original, very well written and so enjoyable! Oh and her contemporaries are freaking great!
I'm re-reading Julian's story yet again (I was in a lousy mood last night and really needed my comfort read (g)) and then it's Hunter's turn. Well, there is only a few month's til NE is released so I'm getting prepared :)

Hope you're feeling better, Pam.

JennJ said...

Hi Anna and Pamela!!! Great interview ladies! Anna your wonderful and I can't wait for your next book to come out. And you are in for a big treat with Pamela's novels once you read one you won't be able to stop believe me. Take it from a fellow PC addict. :) Best of luck with your Aussie version of COS hon and keep those great books coming! *and that goes for you too Pamela ;)*

BIG HUGS to you both!

Sorry I've been MIA. I was away for a couple of days and didn't have much computer access. Now I'm home to recover from all the high life ;-)

Thank you, Kaye! That was a lovely comment! And I love Pamela's books too!

Marilyn, thank you so much for checking out the interview. I thought Pamela asked some great questions! Happy Holidays to you too.

Amanda, thank you so much. And thank you to the lovely Pamela for giving me such a wonderful wrap. I think Pamela and I are interested in similar themes even if our books are quite different in the execution. I'm so glad you enjoyed COS! Good luck with the other stories!

Pamela, I know we've talked about this privately but there's still a strong English influence here (and Scottish and Irish). We still get a lot of British TV and books and of course, all our systems are based on the British models. And the Queen is still our head of state.

Hi Lucy! I've just started exploring Pam's wonderful books. I've read a couple (I think Ride the Fire is a masterpiece!) and hope to read some more over my Christmas/New Year break when I have some serious reading plans. Thanks for swinging by!

Hi Jenn! Lovely to see you and so glad you enjoy the books. One of the lovely things about discovering what a great writer Pamela is is that she's got a backlist. I love it when I discover a great new writer and I can really get my teeth into a body of work. Looking forward to reading more of Pamela's! Thanks for the good wishes for the Aussie edition of COS. Went chasing around the shops yesterday in the hope I'd see it but it's not out here yet.

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