Interview with Loretta Chase, best selling author (part 2)

Q.  When did you begin to write seriously? LC & Puccini May 2011

A.  As soon as I learned to write.  As a small child, I used to tell stories.  Some people called these lies.  Truth—lies—all the same to me.  But I remember I couldn’t wait to learn to read & write.  As soon as I had the alphabet and some vocabulary under my belt—Look!  See!  Go!—I was writing.  It did not stop.  Journals, letters, poetry, and interminable Great American Novel.  But the GAN never got finished, probably because I did not know how to write a story.  I didn’t get my head wrapped around story structure until I started writing scripts for corporate video.  One of my producers(the man I eventually married) got me to admit I wanted to become a novelist (like Charles Dickens!).  As part of his cunning Get Rich Slow Scheme, he persuaded or tricked or taunted me—I’m still not quite sure what happened—to work up the nerve to write a book for publication.

Q. How long after that were you published?

A. Contrary to all the laws of publishing, the first novel I wrote from beginning to end was accepted by the first publisher I sent it to.  Un-agented.  Over the transom.  Those were the days.

Q. What makes a writer great?

A. Writers are not all the same, so what makes Writer A great might not be the same in Writer B’s case.  But I do think the work has to stand the test of time to be called great.  If a book still resonates with readers a generation or more down the road, then it’s something above the common run.Loretta.MG_0728

Q.  and the all important:  What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like? 

A. It starts with little or no clue what the story will be.  Then there’s brainstorming with my husband and/or sister and/or agent/and or one of my other personalities.  Originally I didn’t outline, but that soon changed.  I need a general road map.  There will be detours, but I need the overall route.  Then it’s a matter of plugging away, sentence by sentence, scene by scene, chapter by chapter, trying to keep the pace right, develop characters, stay interesting, be funny.  All this in between a lot of research, because I need a clear sense of the world my people live in:  Is the language right?  What can I do to enhance the reader’s sense of historical authenticity or at least plausibility?

By the last quarter, the characters have turned into real people in my head, which makes the ending less of a stumbling-in-the-dark process than the beginning.  Like so many other writers of commercial fiction, I have a contract with my publisher for so many books in such and such a time.  It’s usually a year to write a book, though my most recent one took two.
[Note to Trisha:  I wasn’t sure which aspect of the beginning to end process you wanted, so I’ve given both.  Please feel free to dump one.]
No way! My readers who are writers will find this very informative!

Looking at the book process from the business angle, it happens like this:  I write a manuscript and turn it in, hopefully somewhere in the vicinity of the deadline, or at least in the same decade.  My editor reads it and calls me with her notes as well as sending me a formal revision letter.  She focuses on the big picture, making sure the story’s coherent, enjoyable, etc.  I revise as advised.  She reviews my revised version, and if all is well, sends it on to a copy editor, who focuses on technical matters—spelling, punctuation, usage, consistency—and formats the book for publication.  I review the copy edited manuscript and answer the queries, review the corrections and accept or reject them, and fix whatever else needs fixing (copy editors are no more infallible than anybody else, and not being historians, they’re unlikely to catch my historical errors or blatant Americanisms).  I don’t see the book again until it’s in page proofs or galleys—when it no longer looks like a manuscript but like the pages of a book.  Another review to look for printer errors and try to catch any of my own mistakes all of us missed in previous go-rounds.  Finally it’s a book, and goes on sale.

Q.  Where/when do you first discover your characters?

Loretta writing in another life time

Loretta writing in another life time

A. Sometimes a characters springs from my brain like Athena emerging full grown and fully armed from Zeus’s forehead.  Sometimes a movie character sets things off. Sometimes, it’s a woman character in a Victorian novel who meets a bad end, compelling me to rewrite her story to make it come out right.  Sometimes real historical characters trigger fiction ideas.  But these are only sparks.  Not until I’m writing the book—and sometime not until near the end—do I truly understand what makes the characters tick.  I often use the revision phase to go back and smooth over any rough spots in character development.

Q. What inspired  your story/stories? 

A. Love of 19th and early 20th century English novels drove me to study English social history.  This made Regency-era romance a natural fit at the start of my career, though I’ve since advanced into the Romantic Era (before Queen Victoria).  My latest series, about three slightly French dressmaker sisters in 1835 London, arose out of a fascination with historic dress and ladies’ magazines of the time.  Vixen in Velvet specifically had a conglomeration of inspirations: the need to complete the Dressmakers series with the third sister’s story (Leonie, the businesslike one); the Botticelli Venus and Mars that I saw years ago in London’s National Gallery; and the bad poetry in 19th century magazines.

Q. Have you? Or do you want to write in another genre`?  

A.  While I like reading other genres—for brain refreshment and entertainment free of envy or the harsh criticism I apply to my own work—I do feel that my voice and interests belong in historical romance.

The closest I've come to having a pet!

The closest I’ve come to having a pet!

Q. Do you have any snaps with your pets? A parrot, a monkey perhaps?  An iguana? Buster, the Crab.
A. My last pet was a plastic bag named Vera Irregular.

Q.  Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?

A. One outlet for my historical research addiction is the blog I share with like-minded author Isabella Bradford.  Two Nerdy History Girls— http://twonerdyhistorygirls.blogspot.com/— gives us a way to share all the fascinating stuff that doesn’t always fit into our books.  I blog regularly at Two Nerdy History Girls and irregularly at the blog on my website, www.lorettachase.com.  There’s more on a wide variety of topics at both places—more about history at the former and more about my writing life at the latter.

    Thanks for having me!

Click here to read Part I
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One Response
  1. sarahbutland says:

    Amazing to have your first book accepted for publication! These stories are gems, thanks for sharing and inspiring.

    And, of course, thanks for reading,

    Sarah Butland

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