Loretta Chase is one of romance’s best-loved authors. Her sensuous, brilliantly researched historical romance novels have earned her dozens of accolades—including New York Times and USA Today bestselling author and RITA winner. She’s one of my all-time favorite authors and I’m beyond pleased to welcome her here today. Welcome, Loretta!
LC: Thank you! I’m delighted to be here.
1. On your website, you mention that your husband encouraged you to start writing novels. Could you tell us a bit more about what made you switch from writing corporate video scripts to romance novels? Even though they’re both forms of writing, it seems like a big shift and a big risk to take.
LC: I’d always wanted to write a book and had attempted to, but it was like On the Road, in the sense that it spooled on endlessly and should have been written on a big roll of paper, too. This was because, despite all the mountains of books I’d read and courses in English literature I’d taken, I didn’t know how to structure a story.
But a few years’ writing video scripts gave me useful skills, like how to tell a story within given boundaries, how to find the message and stay focused on it, and so on. I had to make boring topics (diamond drill bits, safety-equipment fit testing) interesting. Dialogue I already had a handle on, but video challenged me to pack a lot into a few words. Finally, working for corporate clients gave me a sense of how a company operates, which cured my “I’m an artiste” mind set. In a nutshell, I learned professionalism.
So the dream was always there, but video provided experience and discipline and confidence—and my husband, who had more faith in me than I had in myself, urged me to follow my dream.
2. That’s so sweet—and I know we’re all glad he did that! In 1995, your novel Lord of Scoundrels was published, and it’s regularly topped lists of best-loved romance novels ever since. It’s one of the books I recommend to people who are curious about romance. Could you tell that it would be a special book as you were writing it? How do you feel about it now?
LC: I knew it was a strong book when I wrote it. Both Dain and Jessica took hold of my imagination with extreme ferocity, and that made it feel as though the story was there—in my brain and my heart—just needing to be written. It was a rare situation, for me, of seeing the movie running in my head, every single day as I sat down to work. Every book is a different experience, and some flow more smoothly or swiftly than others, but that one had an unusually powerful engine. I still think it’s a strong book and I’m proud of it. But I will admit, I never expected it to last so long and continue to be received with so much affection.
3. Several of your early novels are now out of print. Are there any plans to reissue them?
LC: Right now, my first traditional Regency, Isabella, and my second historical romance, Captives of the Night, are available as eBooks. We’ve been working on digitizing the other out-of-print books, and expect to have all of them out by late summer/early fall. We’re still working on the UK and Australia eBook licensing—which has been driving everybody crazy—but I’m optimistic we’ll have that sorted out before the end of the year.
4. That’s great news! Well—not that it’s been driving you crazy. I love your characters—they always feel very real to me. Is there one character with whom you most identify? How about any you wish you were more like?
LC: I identify with all of them: heroes, heroines, major and minor characters, villains, children, dogs, mongoose. I have to get under their skin in order to write them. And basically, I wish I were like all of my heroines. They’re much braver, quicker-witted, and generally cooler than I am.
5. You and the historical novelist Susan Holloway Scott write the fascinating blog Two Nerdy History Girls, where you share tidbits that you learn through your research. What’s one piece of information you’ve learned that’s surprised or delighted you the most?
LC: Oh, I’m shallow, and I love the gossip and the fashion. History is bursting with surprises, but one good one is corsets: In the early 19th century they weren’t the torture devices people assume they were. At Colonial Williamsburg, I got to examine one while talking to the experts who’d made it, based on their meticulous research. (For more, see http://www.history.org/history/clothing/intro/index.cfm)
I give them a great deal of credit—for opening my eyes to their wondrous craftsmanship, and for getting me so excited and inspired. I’ve never done much sewing beyond the basic (and fairly incompetent) level, so I was in awe of women who cut expensive silk without a pattern and constructed beautiful gowns, all with amazing detail work, every tiny stitch done by hand. Same awe for the tailors. And they all have a true passion for what they do. That experience was a revelation, and it fired me up for more research.
That’s just one example. Historical research is constantly springing surprises and delights. The joy of the blog is sharing these discoveries with like-minded readers.
6. As someone who gets tired of reading about Duchesses finding happily ever after, I love that dressmakers get to find love in your latest series. Was there anything in particular that sparked the idea for this series?
LC: Colonial Williamsburg’s tailors and mantua makers inspired me, definitely. But my agent gets credit for the series’ concept. We were talking about what I might do after the Carsington brothers series, and she, aware of my fixation on historical dress, said, “What about dressmakers?” I didn’t even have to think about it. I was thrilled.
By then I’d been studying 19th century women’s magazines for a good while and watched documentaries about haute couture. I was amazed at the similarities, how little things have changed, especially the passion for fashion and the rivalries. In 1830s London, the models and celebrities were the members of the beau monde. Their red carpet was Court and Almack’s and the nightly parties.
The documentary Valentino, the Last Emperor, offered inspiration, too: His passion for his work and unshakeable belief in what he was doing—and the fanatical zeal of the people on his team—all that fed my imagination. The result was three extremely ambitious, slightly French dressmakers and their far from puritanical take on work and life. Right now, I’m working on Leonie’s story—the youngest sister—and it looks as though Lady Clara is going to have her own story, too.
Thank you so much for your time and wonderful answers, Loretta!
Everyone, Loretta’s giving away a copy of Scandal Wears Satin to one person who comments here. I’ll randomly draw a winner on Tuesday August 28th. Good luck!
If you subscribe to my blog and comment on this post by August 31st, you’ll also be entered in my Bookstravaganza! giveaway.
A dress is a weapon. It must dazzle his eye, raise his temperature…and empty his purse.
A blue-eyed innocent on the outside and a shark on the inside, dressmaker Sophy Noirot could sell sand to Bedouins. Selling Maison Noirot’s beautiful designs to aristocratic ladies is a little harder, especially since a recent family scandal has made an enemy of one of society’s fashion leaders. Turning scandal to the shop’s advantage requires every iota of Sophy’s manipulative skills, leaving her little patience for a big, reckless rakes like the Earl of Longmore. The gorgeous lummox can’t keep more than one idea in his head at a time, and his idea is taking off all of Sophy’s clothes.
But when Longmore’s sister, Noirot’s wealthiest, favorite customer, runs away, Sophy can’t let him bumble after her on his own. In hot pursuit with the one man who tempts her beyond reason, she finds desire has never slipped on so smoothly…