History Hoydens

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Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

03 April 2007

Welcome, Anna Campbell!

Claiming the Courtesan

by Anna Campbell

Avon—Available Now!

He would marry her, and possess her in every way possible.

The Duke of Kylemore knows her as Soraya, London’s most celebrated courtesan. Men fight duels to spend an hour in her company. And only he comes close to taming her. Flying in the face of society, he decides to make her his bride; then, she vanishes, seemingly into thin air.

Dire circumstances have forced Verity Ashton to barter her innocence and change her name for the sake of her family. But Kylemore destroys her plans for a respectable life when he discovers her safe haven. He kidnaps her, sweeping her away to his isolated hunting lodge in Scotland, where he vows to bend her to his will.

There he seduces her anew. Verity spends night after night in his bed… and though she still plans her escape, she knows she can never flee the unexpected, unwelcome love for the proud, powerful lover who claims her both body and soul.

Hey, Hoydens, thank you so much for inviting me. I love your site - it's one of my failproof escapes from the horrors of the work in progress. Pam, congratulations on the RITA nomination!

Claiming the Courtesan is set in Regency/Georgian England. How did you become interested in this time period? What you love about it?

I bet I give the same answer 90% of people give you. Like most girls of my era growing up in Australia, I read Georgette Heyer and just loved her. The sparkle and the romance and the wit and the emotion. Then I discovered Jane Austen and fell madly in love with Mr. Darcy.

Having said that, I set out to write any period BUT the Regency. I started my romance reading back in the days when they used a wide variety of settings. To give you an example, one of my all-time favorites is called The Flesh and the Devil by Teresa Denys. A really compelling bodice ripper (no getting around that one) set in the backwaters of 17th century Spain. They don't write 'em like that any more!

So I became a bit of a setting tart (why does that make me think of wiggly custard in pastry?). I started and occasionally finished books set in the Hundred Years War, the Italian Renaissance, Elizabethan England, 19th century Australia - oh, and the one I did before I started my first Regency was a terrifically commercial proposition set in 18th-century Hungary. Hmm, publishers would line up for that manuscript, I'm sure!

Then I screwed up courage to enter my first writing contest through Romance Writers of Australia with the first kiss scene from Goulash Guy. To my utter astonishment, I placed and got incredibly encouraging feedback. By this stage, it was over twenty years since I'd finished my first manuscript and I'd given up any hope of ever being published. But I suddenly wondered if sitting in my garret writing these stories I loved but nobody else ever saw was selling myself short and maybe I should try and write something commercial. Which at that stage was Regency historical romantic comedy. To give my Regency credentials, though, I have to say I read a lot of nonfiction about the Regency and I'd read literally thousands of Regency-set novels.

The strange thing is the minute I wrote the first words of that comedy (which ended up finaling in the Golden Heart in 2006), I felt like I’d come home. My voice was so suited to this setting. And I knew enough about the Regency through all the reading and traveling I’d done, that anything I didn’t know, I knew where to find, if you know what I mean.

So now I’m a Regency girl! Although to be completely accurate, my current books are reign of George IV and set in the 1820s. There was a decadent edge to that era before Victoria took the throne that fits the darker, more sensual stories I’m now writing.

What do you like least about this period? Anything that constrained you or that you had to plot carefully around?

One of the things I love about writing historicals is that you DO have to deal with the restrictions of the times. I like watching people navigate their society to find happiness. Having said that, though, I think all that historical reading has given me a picture of the past that doesn’t necessarily chime with what a modern romance reader will accept. You’re constantly walking that fine line between historical accuracy and telling a story people find compelling and believable now.

What sparked this book? Was it a character? An historical event? A scene you just couldn’t get out of your head?

I actually think what sparks a book is EVERYTHING! You know, something will go to the back of your mind and then something else and eventually you have characters who won’t leave you alone until you write their stories.

Claiming the Courtesan came from a couple of places. I live near Sydney’s red light district, or at least I need to go through Kings Cross to reach my local train station. So for years, I walked past prostitutes waiting for clients. And given my historical bias, I started to think about what you’d do in the Regency if you were poor and unprotected by family or friends and you had responsibilities that meant you had to earn a living. You’d do your best to tread the straight and narrow – or at least my heroine does. And about the only work available for a poor girl was domestic service which put her at the mercy of her employers. Throw in the fact that Soraya/Verity is beautiful enough to stop traffic and she’s soon in a situation where she either accepts money for what men want from her or they just take it by force. The streets of every major town were thronging with women who had been domestic servants and had lost their reputation and therefore any chance of finding work. Prostitution was the only way they could feed themselves and their dependents. I’d much rather live now than in the Regency!

Anyway, one day I was lying in the bath (all my best ideas come in the bath) and these characters started to nag me. Verity who surrendered what she believed in for the sake of the people she loved and the Duke of Kylemore, a man who had everything and yet had nothing. A man totally unacquainted with love who was suddenly in the grip of a grand passion. How would he cope? And of course the answer is he wouldn’t – and everything he did to keep this one glimmer of light in his life just drove Verity further away.

I told these characters in no uncertain terms to leave me alone. I wrote comedies, not dark, dramatic stories full of emotion. I didn’t even think I could write emotion, let alone the intense sex scenes that such a story would require.

But these two wouldn’t go away. So one day just to shut them up (um, is it just me or am I starting to sound slightly unhinged here? I swear this was what it was like and I lead a perfectly functional life nonetheless!), I wrote the first chapter. Then somehow a second. And I ended up with Claiming the Courtesan which was unlike anything I’d ever written and which has become my debut romance for Avon. Life is very odd sometimes!

Did you have to do any major research for his book? Did you stumble across anything really interesting that you didn’t already know?

I do a lot of reading, as you’ll gather, and courtesans are such an interesting part of high society (well, the fringes of high society) that I’d soaked up a lot of information without actually meaning to. When I realised that I was going to have a crack at telling this story, I started reading specifically about the demimonde. To my relief and delight, I found out that my idea wasn’t off the planet. There was a book by Katie Hickson called Courtesans that described the story of Elizabeth Armistead and Charles James Fox and honestly, EA was my Verity come to life in many ways. And I read a book called Amazing Grace about dukes and was astonished to discover quite how many did marry their mistresses, although usually after they’d had a family with a previous wife or two.

What/who do you like to read?

Dorothy Dunnett is probably the writer (outside classics like the Brontes and Jane Austen and Tolstoy) who I admire most. In romance, I have so many favorites. A few include Loretta Chase, Laura Kinsale, Anne Stuart, Connie Brockway, Judith Ivory, Nicola Cornick, Anne Gracie. I’ve recently discovered J.R. Ward and Nalini Singh who write paranormals - I love the emotional intensity they convey. Dorothy L. Sayers. Barbara Samuel, who writes moments that just cut to your heart. So many wonderful writers, so little time! I could go on forever but I’ll stop there.

Care to share a bit about your writing process? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you write multiple drafts or clean up as you go?

I’m most definitely a pantser. Plotting is by far more efficient but the problem is my characters guide the events and the story emerges organically. Which means I write first drafts that should be shot to put them out of their misery. Then second drafts which might be worth triage. Then third drafts… You get the idea. It’s painfully slow and awfully scary as I’m never sure if I’ll be able to do it. But unfortunately the process is the process, insane as it drives me!

What are you planning to work on next?

My second book for Avon, Untouched, comes out in December. It’s another Regency noir. I’m currently in that awful first draft stage of book three which is also a courtesan story.

20 Comments:

Anonymous Gillian said...

Wonderful to see you here, Anna!

My CP's are buzzing madly about the Courtesan--and it's all super good! One poor lady said she even stayed up until 3 am to finish it, and she's got children at home. ;)

I'm drowning in work deadlines (reality-- it's a drag) so your title will be my weekend treat.

Again, congratulations!

8:12 AM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

I'm so glad to have Anna here! She and I share and agent, so we're kind of like book sisters. LOL!

8:17 AM  
Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Gillian, thanks for those lovely words (readers still awake at 3am - sweeter than Mozart to a writer's ears!). Hope you enjoy my book when you get to it!

Kalen, thank you so much for inviting me to be part of History Hoydens for the day. I remember the first time I met you, we started talking about the intricacies of Regency underwear. I've always thought of that as a bonding experience (snort!).

11:08 AM  
Blogger Cherie said...

Welcome Anna! I enjoyed the interview and learning more about your creative writing process.

Cherie Japp

11:18 AM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

I love the story premise, Anna. And I love that you have grounded the heroine's plight in a real-world delima, one faced by so many women of the Regency period.

Best of luck with Courtesan!

11:36 AM  
Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Thanks, Cherie. I love hearing about writers' processes - and where their inspiration comes from. The strange thing, I find, is that often the beginning of my ideas is completely mysterious to me until much, much later. The Kings Cross connection, for example, only recently came to me.

Kathrynn, thank you for those kind words! It's important for me to believe that my story is grounded in the reality of the period or I lose any connection with my characters as real people as I'm writing it. Of course, I'm sure there are details I got wrong but to the best of my ability, I really tried to be true to history as I interpreted it.

11:47 AM  
Blogger Lois said...

hi! :) Hope to pick it up incredibly soon! :) And I guess I'm the only one that started with Regencies not with Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen. LOL They came much later for me, but I already loved the time period before then. However, I fight you for Mr. Darcy! :)

Lois

12:03 PM  
Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Lois, I'd WIN!!! For Mr Darcy, I'd cheat! Personally, I think it's the boots that makes the Regency so popular. Hmm, shallow? Moi??!!!

12:06 PM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

Ah, the bond of historical underwear. LOL! No pun intended.

12:57 PM  
Blogger Anna Campbell said...

What actually made me laugh after I posted that and re-read it, Kalen, is that Australia's most popular underwear brand is BONDS!!!

1:15 PM  
Blogger Margaret Evans Porter said...

Anna, I love that you were inspired by King's Cross! I remember the area well from our stay in Sydney.

I look forward to reading your story.

2:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was great to read Anna although I live in the suburbs of Sydney I haven't been to the cross for years I am awaiting CTC to arrive hopefully by tomorrow from Melbourne so as I can read it over Easter from all accounts it will probably only take me a day at the most because I am sure i am not going to be able to put it down
Have Fun
Helen

3:31 PM  
Blogger Annie West said...

Anna,

Enjoyed your comments enormously.

However, I have a bone to pick with you. How dare you call your gorgeous Hungarian hunk 'goulash guy'? I've read that contest kiss scene and he deserves so much better.

Just to add my two bobs worth (as someone who started reading historicals with Georgette Heyer, too) it's great to read a story that is so grounded in the reality of the time. It's such a strong, vivid, passionate book - so real. Congratulations.

Annie

3:36 PM  
Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Margaret, how nice to meet someone who's been to Oz. I hope you enjoyed your visit. You'd know where I live then - just past the fountain towards the naval base where it all becomes quite classy (my flat is the size of a cupboard so don't imagine anything too glam!). It's an odd area that I actually think has a lot in common with Regency London where the seediest places and the classiest places were so cheek by jowl, certainly within walking distance. Just down the road from me is the most expensive house in Sydney which Russell Crowe nearly bought (man, was I sorry when that fell through!) and walking in the other way is this area that really is devoted to vice and offers a lot of really very sad sights.

Helen, the Cross is a lot less seedy than it used to be when I first moved into the area about 12 or so years ago. You'd probably be interested in the changes. But then, I'd much rather you read my book than checked out Sydney, thank you!

Annie, that was lovely! Thank you. You're right, Prince Christian deserves much more respect than to be called Goulash Guy. I still think he's my favorite hero. What a pity he lives in an unmarketable period! I still live in hope that there will be a sudden fashion for books set in the Habsburg Empire!

3:51 PM  
Blogger Annie West said...

Anna,

Well, if a trend for the Hapsburgs comes into fashion I'll be there. I have a great (I think - I haven't read it yet) book waiting to be read about the end of empire: 'A Nervous Splendour'. If only I could get to it. It's a long way down my reading pile.

Hope we get to see more of Christian one day!

Annie

4:01 PM  
Blogger Christine Wells said...

Wonderful interview, Anna! Interesting your ideas come to you in the bath. Mine come to me in the shower, which is a bit unfortunate, what with the drought going on here.

Congratulations on your success with Claiming the Courtesan. I'm sure there'll be more than one poor soul up all night desperate to see Kylemore and Verity have their HEA. And I love the sound of Goulash Guy!

3:11 AM  
Blogger jennybrat said...

Hi Anna, would love to see the comedy published one day and all the best with the WIP.

9:36 AM  
Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Christine, in all seriousness, I find water (the sea, the pool, the bath) really does help with my creative processes. Mind you, I've always been a bit of a waterbabe. Well, perhaps, waterbeast! I think because I tend to relax when I'm in the water, my subconscious can make itself heard above all the noise that usually goes on in our heads during the day. Thanks for the congratulations!

Jennybrat, I haven't given up on the comedy! I'd love to think of you snickering your way through it one day in the distant future. Thanks for your comment!

10:53 AM  
Blogger Angie-la said...

Kalen, thanks for telling us about the interview, I'm glad I didn't miss it. And a very nice interview, it is!
I have to say, all the buzz about CTC has been very positive. I am going to have to obtain it soon.
I almost bought it today, but I felt guilty and put it back, because I had already spent waaay too much on stuff for my son's birthday. *sigh*
That's me...always thinking of others.
hahahahahaha. I almost got that out with a straight face...
:0)

2:01 PM  
Blogger Anna Campbell said...

What, Angie? Your son's birthday was more important than buying MY book? Wash your mouth out with soap! AC tosses wheat-colored blonde tresses over her slender shoulder and stamps delicate foot! Oh, sorry, channelling a certain breed of romance heroine there. Or perhaps Miss Piggy!

2:46 PM  

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