Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thursday Talk-Time :: Anne McAllister Talks with Anne Gracie

Anne McAllister is celebrating her book, The Virgin’s Proposition, making the USA Today best seller list (barely, but hey . . .) and working feverishly on her new book, due far too soon. So she conned, er, asked Anne Gracie to talk about her upcoming book, THE ACCIDENTAL WEDDING, and all the other wonderful books she' has written.

One of the greatest joys of being a writer is the people you get to meet. I can’t begin to tell you how many absolutely terrific human beings I’ve met in the course of the past 25 years. But I can tell you who one of my very favorites is – Anne Gracie.

I first met Anne on the Mills & Boon authors’ loop back in the late 1990s. I liked her sense of humor, her way with words (and her tales of HunkThighs and ShoulderMan weren’t too hard to take either!). And then I read her books and fell in love with her heroes.

So when I finally got to meet her in person at the RWA conference in Washington, DC in 2000, I was sure I was going to be meeting a kindred spirit. I wasn’t wrong.

Over the past ten years I have enjoyed Anne’s company in person on a couple of continents and via email and on the phone in the middle of the night.

One of the particularly lovely perks of being Anne’s friend is that she’s awake in Australia when the people on my side of the world are sound asleep. So if I am pulling an all-nighter with a bloody-minded hero, Anne is always willing to talk.

She sometimes knows my people better than I do. And sometimes I tell her I know hers better than she does. I don’t know if it’s true, but it allows me the opportunity to read about them before they get bound between covers. And, believe me, it is always a joy to get to read a bit of Anne’s WIP.

I’m dying for Rafe’s book to come out in early October because I read him in bits and pieces and I never got the full experience. Soon, I will. And you will, too.

Because I am eagerly awaiting it (and hoping I’ll have the current annoying hero packed off to the publisher in time for Anne’s book, THE ACCIDENTAL WEDDING, when it comes out), I asked Anne if she would come to the Pink Heart today and tell you a bit about her books.

If you haven’t read them, you’re in for a treat. If you have, I’m sure you’re as eager to read Rafe’s story as I am.

So without further ado, here’s Anne:

Tell me the names of all the books in this current series of yours, please. Does it have ‘name’ of its own?

The series is loosely called The Devil Riders Series, and the previous books are; THE STOLEN PRINCESS, HIS CAPTIVE LADY and TO CATCH A BRIDE. The fourth book (out on Oct. 5) is called THE ACCIDENTAL WEDDING.

What inspired you to write them?
Like many of my story ideas, the characters came first: four men, three of them with little family support. Their friendships were initially formed at school, then they were toughened and bonded forever by the crucible of war -- years of war. Heroes and horse-mad daredevils, they're now "surplus to requirements" and finding it difficult to settle to peacetime life. Of course the key for each of them is finding the right woman.

Are there more coming along?

Yes indeed — at least one more, hopefully two. The original proposal concerned four men — Gabe, Harry, Rafe and Luke. I haven't finished Luke's story — I'm writing it now — but the idea for another brother just popped up and when I mentioned it to my editor, she liked it, and that became THE ACCIDENTAL WEDDING.

So I still have to finish Luke's story, and I'm planning to propose a story for Marcus, Gabe and Nash's brother and Harry's half brother. He was intended to be a bit of a villain, but over the course of a few books he's made it clear that he's really a hero-in-waiting.

Do you have all the stories in mind when you start or do you wait to get to know the characters in their friends' books before you start looking for the right mate and the right story?

A bit of both. I have a general idea for some characters, and some of them have sprung to life in their friends' books, but the details of their story and their own particular heroine usually emerge in the writing. I'm not a big pre-plotter — I like to be surprised along the way. It keeps my writing energy high.

Do you have a favorite setting?

No. I like to explore different settings. I do enjoy the usual Regency settings like London and Bath and various country houses but I've also set books partly in France and Italy (TALLIE'S KNIGHT on the Grand Tour) also France and Spain (THE PERFECT STRANGER) and TO CATCH A BRIDE was partly set in Egypt. A lot of 19th century people traveled and I have a collection of old books, diaries and letters from the period. I hope my readers enjoy a bit of virtual traveling as much as I do.

Do you have any particularly tough parts of the book to write? Are some parts always easy?

There is always at least one part of a book where I'm in total despair and am certain I just can't make this story work and that I'm writing the worst book in the world and readers will hate it and my career will be over. (Drama queen? not me. LOL) I get very little sympathy from my friends, who just say "Anne you always say that and the book is always fine." But my anguish is genuine. I seem to need to go through it to find the solution to make the book work.

Do you research on the spot? Use books? Any particular favorites that you go back to?

I research before, during and after the writing. A lot of it isn't purposeful research — I like reading old books for fun and often they give me great story ideas. I research on-line, too, while I'm writing, particularly with maps and images of my locations. And when I'm writing I might often write something like, "She entered the room dressed in xxxx regency clothes 1816." And I'll work out exactly what she's wearing later.

I know you use collages to get into the books. Tell me more about this.
Making collages really helps me form the world of the book in my mind and sometimes throw up scene possibilities. I collect images of people, places, objects, sometimes not really knowing why I've included some pics, but trusting my subconscious. Then I arrange them on a background paper (about 20x30 inches) and pin it to a cork board at eye height to my computer chair. It really helps plunge me into the world of the story.

Here's the collage I made for THE PERFECT KISS:

Do you use other ways to get in? Sound tracks? Other sources of inspiration?
Yes, I nearly always have a sound track. Sometimes a song will inspire a scene, other times it becomes the soundtrack for a whole book. Singer songwriter Katie Melua has been the source for a lot of my inspirational songs. In my new book her song "When you taught me how to dance" inspired a scene where Maddy, the heroine, is running late for a lesson in waltzing. She arrives to find the hero teaching her three little sisters, partnering her four year old half-sister...

The song is here:

And a little bit of the scene is here:

She watched Nash Renfrew now, tall and elegant and as handsome a man as she’d ever dreamed of. He bowed gracefully to his very diminutive partner.

Lucy made a deep, wobbly curtsy, then bounced up in triumph. She gripped his hands and carefully climbed onto his feet, standing with one small foot on each large boot. Maddy swallowed.

“Ready?” Nash asked the little girl.

Lucy nodded. Tibby played the opening bars and off they danced, tall man and tiny girl standing on his feet, her little hands clinging to his in an excited death grip.

They circled, first in a very slow clump-clump-clump, clump-clump-clump, then faster and faster as Lucy became used to the rhythm and the movement. Soon they were stepping to the music, then twirling around the room.

Maddy’s eyes misted up. Lucy was so proud, so thrilled. Once, Nash swept her up in an arc through the air and she squealed with delight, then he settled her deftly back on his boots and they continued as before.

Lucy caught sight of her and shrieked gleefully, “Maddy, Maddy, look at me, I’m dancing!”

Maddy laughed and clapped and nodded, halfway to tears.

You've written several series now - do the worlds you've created mesh into one big Anne Gracie regency world? Might we meet one of your earlier series characters in these more recent books?
Maybe. I don't have anything against the idea, just that it's quite tricky to work out where various characters from different series are at the time of an event in the current book. I did have Great Uncle Oswald (from the "perfect" series) appear briefly at a ball in THE STOLEN PRINCESS.

What's next on Anne Gracie's list of books to write?

I'm writing Luke's story at the moment, and then I'll need to talk to my editor and see if she'll let me write Marcus's story. Or if they want a new series from me.

Thanks, Anne, for interviewing me.

And thank you, Anne Gracie, for sharing a bit of your writing world – and the soon-to-be-released, THE ACCIDENTAL WEDDING, with us.

Anne McAllister’s most recent title, The Virgin’s Propostion, the story of Demetrios Savas and the unlikely woman who propositions him, was a September Harlequin Presents. Her next book , Hired By Her Husband, is an October Harlequin Mills & Boon Modern. It will be out in 2011 in the US. It’s the story she finally wrote about physicist George Savas who seemed an unlikely hero – until he proved just how sexy and tough a physicist can be!


  1. I LOVE Katie Melua's songs, especially When You Taught Me How To Dance.
    She's beautiful, too.
    Can't wait to read your book, Anne.

  2. Thanks, Carol. Yes she's pretty gorgeouslooking, I agree. I think I've used a Katie Melua song for every one of the books in this series -- they're magic! There's something about the combination of her voice and the words that just kick starts my muse.

  3. I should add, I've read most of HIRED BY HER HUSBAND, Anne McA's new book in draft, and it's gorgeous. George is one sexy, determined man.

  4. I have only used a 'sound track' once or twice. Usually I like it quiet when I write. I don't demand it -- who could with 4 kids in the house -- but I don't use music very often. That said, I was pretty fond of some Jimmy Buffett when I was writing the Pelican Cay books.