None. Okay, so I didn’t contact an agent the way aspiring writers were supposed to. Found one I thought would be a good match, was working for the phoneco part-time in PR back in 1980, had already been calling back and forth with AT&T in NYC that day and thought what the heck--why not make another 212 call to see if this agency is legit--maybe they'd like to represent our annual report, if not my ms. Given that most people didn’t call long distance a lot in those days, my agent's assistant (now my agent after over 30 years) was so startled that she said Yes, send it (my ms., not the annual report). My historical novel, The Royal Mile, then turned into a Bodice Ripper called Love's Pirate. What the heck--it sold 300,000 copies.
--> Have you ever thrown away a book that you just couldn't make work?
No, but I've thrown out some other people's books out because they didn’t work for me.
--> Is it still exciting to publish a new book even after all this time?
After about 70 books (never could do math), "exciting" probably isn’t the right word. But it sure is satisfying.
--> Do you get ideas for new books all the time and you keep them written down, or does one come to mind when you need one?
I do get ideas sometimes. Once in a while I write them down. But then I forget where I put them. I usually have no idea what I'm going to write about it until my editors need to know when they have an upcoming catalogue to put out and often that means I only have about five minutes' notice.
--> Do you have entire story arcs mapped out when you begin a trilogy or a series of related books?
Ha-ha-ha. You’re kidding, right? My editors get a one-paragraph summation. Which is all I know. Where's the fun in planning a book? I want to be surprised. If I'm not surprised, why should the readers be?
--> Do you know how a book/series is going to end when you begin it?
Not a clue--to coin a phrase.
--> Would life be easier if you published under just one name?(Ignore if you never wrote under a nom de plume!)
I've always written under my own name except once when I was in between books and was asked to write two novels based on TV scripts for the Dallas series. Never having watched the show, it was a bit of a challenge, but it turned out I had to follow the script in the most slavish manner, so it didn’t really matter. Oscar could probably have written that one.
--> Do you have to enter a different mind-set to write different stories for different names/characters?
I let my characters talk to me. Once created--as many authors will attest--characters take on a will of their own. This is especially true with Emma Lord in the Alpine series because I gave her a first person narrative. My books are basically character-driven, so they drive the storyline. I just sit back and let them do their thing. Yes, I do try to make sure the mystery makes sense and that the reader can probably figure it out if he/she pays close attention. For me, the great joy of writing is the actual doing of it. I'm always puzzled by writers who complain about how hard it is to write a book, even how agonizing it can be. I always think that maybe they should stop reading what they just wrote and then they wouldn’t feel so miserable.
--> Is there any kind of book you would like to write but haven't?
People keep telling me I should write a book about my family history. By incorporating many of my relatives into the B&B books and using the actual ancestors in anecdotes and a back story in the Alpines, I figure I've already done a lot of that. But there is much more to tell, especially on my maternal side and maybe someday I'll do that. Sounds a bit daunting, though, given that those ancestors go back to the Domesday Book, which means we've been paying taxes on both sides of the Atlantic for almost 1,000 years. Isn't there some sort of statue of limitations on that sort of thing? Paternal side only goes back to the late 16th century. Whew!
--> If you could change anything about your writing career, what would it be?
I'd probably try to get published sooner. Only finally got around to it because that first ms. had been sitting on top of the fridge for a couple of years and my husband, Dave, told me to move it, dust it or sell it. I chose selling it to get it out of the house and make him shut up and stop nagging.
--> What's the most interesting question you've ever been asked about your writings, and what was your answer?
Don’t know if it was the most interesting, but it was the most candid, and probably the one every reader would like to know. It came from a 4th grader at St. Anne's Parochial School several years ago. The question was, "How much money do you make?" I told the kid, "Not enough." Cheeky little guy...
--> If you could have written any single work - novel, screenplay, stage play, poem, history, biography - that you most admire and adore, what would it be?
Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited. Only book I re-read periodically. Also wish I could have done the script for the BBC/PBS series as it was so faithful to the book. Second choice, anything by Ross MacDonald. He taught me so much about writing.
-> Anything you've always wanted to be asked about your writing but no one ever has?
Yes--"Why are you the best writer who ever lived?" Don’t think that's going to happen. If someone out there wants to know, that person is probably safely ensconced in an asylum somewhere.