Up Coming Books:
When I first met Anne Gracie she was entertaining a table of well-loved and well-established Australian romance writers at the RWAustralia conference.
The next time I saw her doing a workshop on Romantic Comedy, holding enthralled a room filled with unpublished writers and fans.
Both times she had me in giggles and awe. Here was a woman that had a strong and compelling voice and a sense of humor that had me rolling on the floor.
I set out to find her Harlequin titles, read them, loved them and was hooked.
Anne Gracie is a writer well deserving of an appreciative audience.
One thing always current in her stories, no matter if Regency, Historical or Contemporary is her comic timing, her sense of humor and the warmth of her personality.
I'm glad I met her and feel honored to introduce her to a wider readership.
Please read on and find yourself enchanted by the lovely Anne Gracie.
1. How did you get started as a writer, who and what influenced you in
taking up that profession?
I've always loved stories and because I lived a life that was often
isolated from other kids and also without TV, books (and animals) were
always my dearest companions. Plus, we moved often, so books were the
friends I could take with me.
I always wrote lots of letters, but wrote my first novel, (a young
adult story) when I was backpacking around the world. I never even
typed that story up, but still, the bug had well and truly bitten me.
2. Can you recall your first sale, first signing?
Oh yes, I sure can! My first sale was to Harlequin Mills and Boon in
London. They faxed my friends around the corner (I didn't have a fax
machine then) -- after midnight a few days before Christmas. I got a
phone call from a very cross and sleepy cross Doug, who said "You've
got a fax message, Anne. It woke us up. It's from London." And he hung up.
I had to wait until the next day to get the message.
My first ever signing was at the RWA conference in Washington, DC. I
sat in a huge room with a zillion authors signing their books. I wasn't
expecting a soul to come near me, because at that point my book, which
was a RITA finalist, hadn't even been released in the US -- only the UK
and Australia. So I felt pretty stupid sitting there... until a few
wonderful people came up and asked me to sign a book. I was soooo
grateful. A couple of them had even read my book -- I've no idea how. I
was too surprised to remember to ask. I'll never forget it. I was so
unprepared, I didn't even know to sign on the title page. I signed on
the first page just inside the cover.
3. Please describe to us the feeling of receiving your first reader's
response. How much do you still crave them?
My first reader's response was a letter from Ireland. It was on a
bit of paper torn from a notebook and she said "I just cried and cried
at the end, it was so lovely." I was thrilled, because she'd obviously
finished the book and grabbed the nearest piece of paper to write.
It's always lovely when someone is interested enough to write about
what they thought of a story I wrote.
4. What is the best/worst part of being a writer in the romance genre?
There are a few "best" parts. One is seeing stories take shape and
characters come alive. That's really exciting, when it's all firing
Another "best" is that I've made some really good friends along the
way, which I hadn't expected to happen, because writing is generally
pretty isolated. I've found that romance people can be pretty generous
to a newcomer. I know that sounds soppy, but it's true.
The worst thing about being a writer, in the romance genre or not, is
making yourself write when it's like trying to get blood out of a
You have to write, whether you're feeling inspired or not. Thank
goodness for the patron saint of romance writers, St Nora, who said
"You can fix a bad page, but you can't fix a blank one."
5. How do you think the business has changed over the last years?
I don't really know, as I'm a relative newbie. As a reader, I've
changes in trends but as for the business side of things -- I haven't a
6. Why write only historicals when you have an obvious talent for
contemporary romantic comedy? Is it the publisher's expectations or the
Well, thanks for the compliment. I started with historicals,
because it makes sense to write what you enjoy reading, so that's what I did. I
didn't even know there was a market for contemporary romantic comedy.
But then I got the idea for HOW THE SHERIFF WAS WON. I wrote a
chapter and entered it in a competition. It didn't final or anything,
but the judges wrote some really lovely comments, which was very
encouraging. In the meantime I'd sold my first few historicals and it
seemed foolish to abandon something that I enjoyed and which was
selling, in favor of a new venture. In the end, though, the Sheriff
book nagged at me until I wrote it and I had a lot of fun writing it, too.
I have a couple of ideas for more contemporary comedies, but at the
moment, I think I'll be sticking with the historicals. I can combine
comedy and drama more easily in historicals, and I enjoy that.
Not, that I want you to stop writing historicals .
Thanks. I won't
7. When writing historicals, what comes first: the specific period in
history, the plot, the location or the characters?
It depends. Usually it's the characters. I'll get a scene in my
head which starts me off and the plot arises out of the characters, then
comes the location and time.
But with TALLIE'S KNIGHT the location came first. I'd seen an old
engraving of people in the 18th century crossing the Alps in baskets,
carried by the locals. From then on, I decided I wanted to do a Grand
Tour story. But it wasn't all that usual for ladies to go on the Grand
Tour, so I came up with a marriage of convenience plot in which part of
the bride's condition for marriage was to go on the Tour for her
honeymoon. Even then, I didn't have the characters set; in fact, Tallie
started off being an older woman called Serena. And Magnus began as an
attempt to write Francis's story (from Gallant Waif). But those
characters refused to gel, and I tried changing them...and suddenly
Tallie and Magnus arrived on the page and it took off.
8. What is your favorite storyline/theme to read and write about?
Oh, I like most of them. I'm a sucker for a convenient marriage/ mail
order bride story. I also love the cowboy/ outback thing. I adore Anne
McAllister's cowboy series, for instance. I love amnesia stories (am
writing one now), and even the secret baby line, if it's done well.
9. How much research do you do for your books? How much do you rely on
information gathered over the Internet?
I do a lot of research. When I'm reading a story which has serious
historical inaccuracies in it, I get thrown out of the story, so I take
the history in my own books seriously. There is some excellent
information on the internet, and I do use it a lot, but I also use
books for most of the details I use. If I can, I get original sources, though
I'm not a fanatic about it. For instance for TALLIE'S KNIGHT, I used a
collection of letters written by a lady on the Grand Tour in 1803, and
there were details there which aren't on any website. On the other
hand, a lot of websites contain lots of excellent original material, so I'd
use them, for sure.
10. You have seemed to be pigeonholed as a Regency writer despite
admissions as not seeing yourself as such. Are you afraid it might be
getting difficult to break out and be accepted for other works? Are any
more breakout novels planned such as the recent Harlequin Duets story?
Maybe set in a different period in history?
I'm not going to worry about what people decide to pigeonhole me
as. That's out of my control. I'm not worried about being accepted for
other works, as I think the publishers will decide that on the merit of the
work. If it's good they'll want it, if it's no good, I'll get another
rejection letter to add to my pile.
I don't have any other "breakout" books planned as such, but one
day I'll write a medieval and one day I'll write a historical set in the
Australian bush. (That'll be a real breakout! I'm not sure anyone wants
to read Australian bush historicals, except my mother.) I have both of
those stories in my head nagging at me, but at the moment, my editor
wants historicals set in the regency, and since I have several stories
of that era in my head I'm happy to keep writing them.
11. Your stories seemed to be rather long, so long that the recent
Harlequin Duets story was in a smaller print than usual to fit the
required number of pages. Are you considering branching out to single
Actually that Duets story was dead on 55,000 words (by the publisher's
count, not just mine), which is the standard length for Duets, so I
don't know why they used a smaller font. If you look, you'll see that
my story was 10 pages shorter than the first story as a result,
presumably, of that smaller font. I do tend to write long, but then I chop back the manuscript to
meet the publisher's word count. I find it makes my writing tighter. And I
have a terrible fear that if I go over the word count, the editor will
do the chopping that I should have done!
As for single titles, they're "bigger" stories in more than just
length, and I don't know if I have the right "size" story in my head,
yet. One day I'll have a go at a single title, but in the meantime I'm
busy enough, thanks.
12. Would you consider writing under the same name or change the name?
What might be the complications? How do you feel about authors writing
under different names for different publishers? How much is it forced
upon the writer?
I haven't really thought about changing my name. It hasn't arisen,
as I'm in the lucky position of having a publisher who wants to publish
what I want to write. In any case, my name belongs to me, not my
Some people choose to write under a different name, to distinguish the
different style of book. But, you're right, some people have had to
write under a different name, and I think that's unfair. I also don't
see the point. I mean if someone writes in another genre or for another
publisher, their new fans will want to read their earlier works. I know
I do. If I discover an author I like, I devour their backlist. By
forcing people to change their names, publishers lose this opportunity.
13. How did you come to your name?
It came to me.
14. If you were allowed to choose your collaborators for an anthology,
who would you choose and why?
Oh, difficult question. I am currently doing a Christmas anthology
with Lyn Stone and Miranda Jarrett for Harlequin Historicals for Xmas 2002
and I'm very excited by that and very flattered to be included. I'm
also loving writing the shorter length, though I've still had to chop it
But as for theoretical prospects... there are so many wonderful
authors I'd love to be in a book with. If we're talking historicals,
there's Jo Beverley, MaryJo Putney, Amanda Quick , Elizabeth Lowell,
Patricia Potter...yeah, dream on, Anne!
I'd love to do a historical anthology with my friends Stephanie
Laurens and Julia Byrne. We all live in the same city and meet
regularly for lunch. But TALLIE'S KNIGHT came out in Australia as a 3-in-one
anthology with them both, so I suppose I've sort of done that. (Yeah,
I've shared a cover with Stephanie Laurens! 2, in fact!)
I'd love to do a cowboy book with Anne McAllister but I don't know
enough about cowboys, so it's never going to happen.
Dream on, dream on.....
15. Had you been friends with fellow writers before you were published?
How did it help in getting your books published?
No, I didn't know a soul. I didn't even know about romance writers
organizations until after I'd had a full manuscript of GALLANT WAIF
requested. Then I did a writing course, and I met a few people then
who steered me in the right direction.
16. What were the mistakes you have made on your journey towards being
I've probably made every mistake in the book! I called GALLANT WAIF a
regency when it was really a historical set in the regency, so all the
publishers I wrote to about it said, no thanks, we don't want
So having written it as a single title (not that I knew what a single
title was then) I had to chop more than 40,000 words out of it. That
was a very painful lesson!
I listened to ill-informed advice from other wannabes so when I
wrote HOW THE SHERIFF WAS WON, I set it in the USA, believing wrongly
that Harlequin wouldn't accept Australian settings. And it's not easy
to set a book in another country. I wouldn't have tried if I hadn't spent
time in the US and had friends in Montana. And I went back to Montana
again to double check everything before the book was sold. That was a
very expensive lesson!
17. How much do you think can the craft of writing be learned and how
much is born-with talent?
I couldn't put a figure on it. We are all born with varying degrees
of talent, but I know I learned a *heap* when I did a novel writing
course. And I'm still learning all the time. Every time I pick up a
good book or a well written how-to article I learn something.
18. What was the best advice you were given as an unpublished author?
Show, don't tell. I still keep having to relearn it and rewrite to
show instead of telling.
Also I have Scottish blood and was raised on the story of Robert the
Bruce and the Spider, which is a true story about the importance of not
Plus there's that Nora Roberts quote about bad pages and blank pages
19. Do you have writers you have always admired and then met after you
have been successfully published? What was it like?
I've been to several Australian conferences and two US romance
conferences and each time I've met writers I've admired. I'm either
tongue-tied or I babble! Usually I put my foot in my mouth.
20. How did it feel to be nominated for the RITA awards with so many
other renowned writers? Was it reassuring to know that another
Australian debut writer, Isolde Martyn, had been nominated, too?
I was just stunned at first -- I had to keep reading and re-reading
the letter. And then it finally sank in and I got on the phone.....Yes,
it was really exciting.
I don't think I'd say I was *reassured* that Isolde was nominated
. She'd just won the Australian Romance Book of the Year with that
book, and I'd read it and knew it was a wonderful book. So I knew my
book didn't have a hope! But that meant I could relax and enjoy myself,
so maybe reassured was the right word, after all. It was fantastic,
though, because Isolde is a friend of mine and when she won the RITA I
was so proud -- for her and for Australia.
21. How much support do you try to give to fellow Australian writers
and how much do you gain in return?
The romance community in Australia is small and everyone pitches in
to help each other. Like many other authors and unpublished writers I
judge competition entries, write articles and give talks and
I'm also taking a course in Romance Writing. I participate in on-line
writers' communities, I'm a mentor for an isolated writer and I try to
encourage people all the time.
What do I get in return? Friendship and satisfaction.
22. Is there anyone out there you would like to promote to a wider
audience? Who and why?
Well, she's heaps more well known than I am, so it's a bit of a cheek
saying I'm promoting her, but my friend MARION LENNOX is a wonderful
writer and whenever I want a guaranteed feel-good romance I pick up one
of her HM&B Romances. I always feel wonderful afterwards. She's also
written as Trisha David, but now she just writes under Marion Lennox.
23. Do you think there is a difference in romance novel markets? You
have been published in the United States, Australia, England and some
other European countries. How do they differ? Is it only the publisher,
the marketing campaigns and possibilities or also the readers'
responses? How does it feel to know your work has been translated and
read all over the world?
I *love* being published in other languages -- it's such a thrill. I
was also really delighted when GALLANT WAIF came out in Italian -- I have a
group of gorgeous older Italian ladies who I'm teaching to read and
write English, so it was great to be able to lend them the book in
I don't know enough about how the various countries differ, yet. I only
discover I have been published in another country when a foreign
edition arrives in my post box, and even so, it doesn't always happen. As for
feedback, I do know I got a *lot* more feedback from the US once my
books came out there.
24. Do you think that as a published romance author you have to project
a certain image to be respected and recognized by?
I hope not! (panic, panic!) No, I think the books are more
important than the writer. The books should speak for themselves. I have dozens
of books that mean so much to me, and I have no idea of what the authors
look like or anything. I don't love the books because of the image of
the writer -- it's what's between the covers than counts.
Otherwise I'm in trouble!
25. How do you feel about how romance writers and their readers are
perceived by the rest of the public and the media? What stereotypes
have you have been confronted with? Any ideas how or what could be done
to change it? Do you want it changed or do you receive an amount of
pleasure from writing "bodice rippers"? Does it bring out the rebel in
There is a lot of ignorance in the wider community about romance
writing, especially in the writing community and the press, and I do
my best to enlighten people without getting too defensive.
What sometimes annoys me is the smug assumption there is a "Formula" to
romance and that the writers simply "join the dots". It's tiresome when
people know so little. Jennifer Crusie has a gem on her website (I
think) about Shakespeare discussing The Formula for a sonnet with a
money hungry courtier.
The other thing is that people simply assume romance must be
rubbish, so I get comments like 'when are you going to write a real
book?' My books are real enough, thanks. The friends who have read my
books don't say these things -- they can see for themselves.
By the way, I *hate* the term "bodice rippers"! "Bodice rippers" are
books about rape or pretty close to it -- forced seduction -- and I
reject that totally and utterly. I write historical romance.
26. With having a job other than writing romance novels and several
hobbies that require a fair amount of attention how much time do you
get to spend writing? How do you make it count? How do you ease yourself into the writing mode? Any tips, secrets you would like to share with
unpublished writers out there?
I don't "ease myself into the writing mode", Kris. I *force*
myself! There is no "ease" about it.
One day, I want to be able to support myself by my writing, but in the
meantime my day job is what pays my bills. But if I'm serious about my
dream, I have to make the time. I remember reading once that PDJames
was her family's breadwinner -- her husband was an invalid -- and she
decided if she ever wanted to write, she'd just have to get up early to
do it -- she got up at 4 or 5am every morning and wrote for a couple of
hours before getting the kids off to school and herself off to work.
She really deserves her success.
I don't think there is any trick to it -- you have to write every day,
or you lose the habit. It's like fitness -- if you don't use it, you
I keep a daily tally of words on the door of my study. Sometimes I
write 5000 words (rare!) sometimes it's 200, and the empty days sit there on
the tally sheet and embarrass me.
I'd like to be able to cut back on my day job so that I could spend
more time writing. I'd really like to increase my output. But it's a
catch-22 -- I need to write more to earn more, but I can't write more
until I earn more.
As for the hobbies, I keep bees and also I have a dollshouse
'habit'. The bees are a family tradition -- my dad and my grandfather
kept bees and when Dad got sick, I decided to keep the tradition going.
And bees are fascinating. The dollshouse thing is the result of my
favorite small girl in all the world, Zoe, who insists I keep making
stuff for our dollshouses. And fiddling around making tiny things is
27. What can you tell us about your upcoming releases?
I have a book called AN HONOURABLE THIEF, which is out in the UK now,
and is scheduled for July 2002 in the USA. Not sure when it's coming
out in Australia.
I have another regency-era historical coming out next year, but I don't
know dates and the title is not finalized. I also have a regency-era
historical novella coming out in an anthology for Harlequin Historicals
for Christmas 2002.
THANKS SO MUCH FOR ANSWERING MY QUESTIONS!
It's a real pleasure, Kris.
A Romance Review
Copyright @ 2001-2012 A Romance Review All Rights Reserved.