Interview with Eloisa James

Eloisa James

Eloisa, thank you so much for taking time to talk with us. Lets get started…..

First of all, what inspired you to become a writer?

Oh dear. This one is so dreadfully revealing. I would love to say that I was struck by a bolt of creative energy and toiled late into the night, working from my heart and tearing at my hair as inspiration struck.... yep.

And then there's the truth. I wanted a second baby. And my husband didn't. His excuse: my student loans. I needed to make money, and I couldn't think of another way of doing it.

Of course, the full truth of the matter isn't so simple. Once I started writing, if for money, I found it a gloriously wonderful thing to be doing, and quite addictive. My first contract paid my student loans, and after that the financial need was gone. Now that longed-for second child is going into kindergarten! But I can't imagine not writing. Some of us find that second world, that imaginary world, by necessity or foolishness, rather than by inspiration.

In your biography, you said that you attended Oxford University. What was that experience like, being an American and attending that 'sainted' University?

It was hallucinatory, in many ways. I have clear memories of walking into the evening meal, going through the ancient courtyard of my Oxford College, and seeing students emerging from their rooms, their black capes blowing in the wind as crows swirled around the battlements. You had to wear a black academic robe to enter the dining hall, which hasn't changed appearance since the 1300s, I would guess. There were many beautiful things about going to Oxford, and there were also a lot of things I had to get used to: English students - and instructors - are inclined to think that Americans are poorly educated, for instance. They are a great deal sharper in their comments than we are. They are not as quickly sociable, although once you are friends with an Englishman or woman, he or she is your friend for life. They don't do things casually.

Did living in England have anything to do with your decision to write Regencies?

I suppose it gave me a sense of the rhythm of speech. One of my recent fan letters, of which I am most proud, came from a retired Englishman who had happened to pick up one of my books on a trip to Florida. He told me that barring misspellings (from his point of view), my dialogue sounded absolutely English.

After writing your first book, how long did it actually take to sell it to a publishing house?

I actually hadn't finished the book when an agent expressed interest in reading the complete manuscript (I had sent out a cover letter and a chapter to several agencies). So once I had that phone call, I had to sit down and write an end very quickly - too quickly. Later the agent pointed out that a young woman fell down the stairs, broke her arm, and was never heard from again. I fixed that problem and it was sent to publishers. It was probably under contract within nine months to a year after beginning.

Do you feel that there are any differences in writing regency as compared to writing, say a contemporary? Which do you think is more difficult?

For me, a contemporary would be far more difficult. I have tried, and I simply couldn't make the voices authentic. I hear historical voices in my head all the time, partly because my day job is teaching Shakespeare. So I teach historical voices - plays - all day long, and it's quite easy to stay in those cadences when I'm writing my own books. When I tried a contemporary, I gained a huge appreciation for contemporary authors. I simply could not recreate an authentic African-American male voice, for instance.

Every writer has their own 'steps' in processing a plot for a new story. Can you tell us what your thought processes are? Do you do a lot of research for your books?

I don't do huge amounts of research; I hire a research assistant to help me with questions. She does the basic research and I do the imagining (it's simply impossible to have a full-time job and a writing job and small children and do my own research). I start dreaming about characters in a book or series about a year or two, or sometimes even longer, before I'll ever put pen to paper. They have desultory conversations, a snippet of sex, an argument. I don't even write them down, just let it all mix together and clarify until I'm ready to write.

I've heard told, that historical romance is a dying industry? Historicals are much harder to sell to the publishers than a contemporary or a suspense thriller. What is your feeling on that subject?

I utterly disagree. Bantam (not my publisher) just made 2003 a year of historical romance, for instance, bringing out a Mary Balogh series month after month in rapid order. Every single book in that series made the Publishers' Weekly bestseller list, and the last few were solidly on the New York Times top 15, and stayed there for three weeks! My sense is that it might be easier to get published in contemporary, but it's harder to make it really big - in other words, onto the New York Times Bestseller List.

On average, how long does it take for you to complete a book?

Six to nine months.

Your Regencies are fun and fast paced. Do you have any particular favorite character that you have written? Did you mold that character around anyone that you know?

Some characters I seem to tell over and over: Sophie (Midnight Pleasures) has similarities to Esme (the Duchess books) and now has similarities to a character I'm writing in my new trilogy, called Annabel. I guess I write "bad girls" with pleasure! I am very fond of Rees, the hero of YOUR WICKED WAYS (pubbing March 30th). In fact, that book is my current favorite. My first two heroes (twins) were modeled on my husband: same hair, same eyes, same moody temperament. After that, I had to get creative.

Eloisa, do you have any hobbies that you are interested in?

I just started Ashtanga Yoga (also called Power Yoga). I'm not sure this is a hobby, but my whole body aches from it, so it's definitely taking up my time. I guess my main hobby is organization. I adore my label maker and my PDA. They keep my world sane.

When you find the time to read, what type of genre' do you like to read? Any favorite authors?

I read all the time: fantasy, romance, mysteries, travel narratives, cook books, you name it. Lots of children's books, with my children. I don't watch TV, because I don't have any time left after bending myself into strange Yoga-ish positions, and reading Susan Elizabeth Phillips's novels in bed. My favorite novelists are SEP, Jenny Crusie and Liz Bevarly for contemps. In historicals I read Jessica Benson (my critique partner and a gloriously funny writer!), Connie Brockway, Lisa Kleypas, Christina Dodd, and Loretta Chase. Loretta Chase has a new book coming out, after a few years of not publishing - I am enormously psyched.

Can you tell us about the article about you in Lifetime Magazine? How did that all come about?

I did a piece for a National Public Radio program called The Next Big Thing. They were fascinated by the fact that I essentially lead a double life. During the day, I am a respected academic, more or less anyway, tenured in a university. Then other times, and summers, I'm a bestselling romance author. And no one at my university knows. An editor at Lifetime heard the NPR piece and contacted me about doing an article in her magazine. These things gain a life of their own: this morning I did a phone interview with someone from Parenting Magazine, who learned of me through the Lifetime Magazine article!

How does your family feel about you writing romance? What was your husband's reaction when you told him that you sold your first book?

He was hilarious and happy. Of course, he really didn't want that baby (see question #1 above) but he was very, very happy for me.

How can your readers get in touch with you?

I answer every letter, although sometimes it can take me quite a while because of my family responsibilities.

Thank you so much for visiting with ARR and we wish you much success in your future writing.

Interviewed by Debbie

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