We had the chance to sit down and talk to USA Today Bestselling author Gayle Callen who writes historical romances for Avon Books , in this exclusive interview.
Gayle’s novels have won the Holt Medallion and the Laurel Wreath Award, and finaled in the National Readers Choice Awards. Her books have been translated into over eight different languages. She also writes medievals as Julia Latham for Avon Books.
Gayle resides in central New York, with her husband and three children. Besides writing, she loves to read, sing, and delve too deeply into historical research. Visit her website at www.gaylecallen.com
We spoke to Gayle about her latest work: Surrender the Earl
Here is what she had to say:
Why did you choose this time period in particular, and is there something especially romantic about it to you?
SURRENDER TO THE EARL is set during the early Victorian period, the 1840s, which was really a time of change for England. I like the industrial revolution, where being a self-made man started to become important. Trains and industry changed so many things that even the nobility had to pay attention or be left behind (which did happen to so many of them). I think the era is romantic because it changed the way people thought about themselves, opened women up to the idea that maybe they had a few more choices about the kind of men they might choose, and gave them some conflict when they made a non-traditional choice.
How did you think up the characters and plot for this particular story?
I start with the idea for the whole trilogy, which I’ve called the “Brides of Redemption.” I wanted to do a story of men as close as brothers, who made a terrible mistake in the military that cost the lives of soldiers; they returned to England to make it up to the families left behind. I wanted to put each book’s heroine in a different situation: hence, one is a daughter of a dead soldier (RETURN OF THE VISCOUNT, August 2012), another a sister (REDEEMING THE DUKE, June 2014), and in SURRENDER TO THE EARL, Audrey is the widow. Since my hero, Robert, Earl of Knightsbridge, wants to help in some way to make up for what he’s done, I tried to come up with a unique situation for Audrey to be in—and I thought of blindness. I’d done a blind hero before, Simon, from THE VISCOUNT IN HER BEDROOM, but it seems to me it was easier for a lord to blind, since he has secretaries and servants to help him be independent. A blind woman is at the mercy of her family, and Audrey’s family treats her as many did, like an invalid they keep housebound out of embarrassment. That promised a unique challenge I was excited to figure out. I wanted to make Audrey a strong woman, even though she’s at the mercy of her family. I hope I succeeded! When Robert offers his help, Audrey is ready to risk everything if he’ll help her escape.
What or who was the inspiration for the independent Audrey Blake?
I guess I answered this in the previous question. 😉
What are your favorite romantic dimensions of the book?
What an interesting question! I think I like the fact that although Audrey needs Robert’s help, she’s up front about what she wants, and it isn’t a husband. After her first husband betrayed her by absconding with her dowry to buy a military commission the day after their wedding, she just wants help escaping, but doesn’t want a man’s pity. Honorable Robert can’t imagine dragging her across the countryside in the middle of the night without ruining her reputation, so he proposes the one thing that makes Audrey nervous: an engagement—a fake one to be sure, he assures her. But oh, that can lead to so many romantic moments, as they have to pretend to be engaged, pretend to be in love!
What are some of your favorite aspects of writing historical romances? What are some of the challenges you often face?
I love the fact that a woman’s reputation is so important in historical romances—one mistake, and she might be a poor relation for the rest of her life, if not kicked out into the streets. It lends such an element of danger to any romantic encounter, and gives “scandal” plotlines a jolt of importance. I also love the world of the nobility, where men were usually more powerful. It makes their eventual surrender to love so much more satisfying. As for the challenges, the biggest one in historicals is finding a plotline that keeps the hero and heroine together a lot—without a chaperone! The other challenge is finding a unique twist in the plot, to make it different. We’ve all read a lot of nineteenth century historical romances, so a writer always wants to give the reader a special idea, hopefully something done in a way the reader hasn’t imagined.
Who are some of your inspirations and favorite authors?
Oh, there are so many! I read my first historical romance back in the seventies, Kathleen Woodiwiss’s SHANNA, and in some ways it changed my life! I found what I wanted to do with my life, although it took me a few years to figure it out. In historical romance, I love reading Julia Quinn, Laura Lee Guhrke, Laura Kinsale, and Loretta Chase, whose novel, LORD OF SCOUNDRELS, might be my favorite of all time. Since I write contemporaries as Emma Cane (my latest Valentine Valley novel, TRUE LOVE AT SILVER CREEK RANCH, came out in February) I read a lot of contemporaries, too, especially Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Nora Roberts, and Debbie Macomber. All of these authors’ books have one major things in common: two people overcoming the odds to fall in love.
To find out more about Gayle Callen’s Surrender the Earl CLICK HERE