Today, historical romance author Stephanie James pays me a visit! Read on to learn about her recently released novel, Love Grows In Winter. Here is an overview:
Lord Philip Ravenshaw is through with love. He has spent the better part of his youth as a hopeless romantic, only to be met with heartbreak again and again. Refusing to wallow in self-pity this time, Lord Philip decides to move deep into the Dorset countryside to breed horses in business with a local tradesman. When Miss Olivia Winter learns that her father’s new business partner is a lord from London, she is less than thrilled. Her one and only disastrous Season in London has left her with the bitter opinion that aristocrats are the most unpleasant sort of people one could ever have the misfortune to meet. For the sake of her father’s business, Olivia decides to pack away her hatred of nobility and greet Lord Philip with as much grace as she can muster. But once Lord Philip mistakes Olivia’s fumbled attempts at hospitality as shameless flirting, and accuses her of social climbing, tempers begin to flare-until one day, their temper turns to passion. Though he tries to fight it, Philip’s love for Olivia begins to grow, but Olivia has her doubts, especially when a jealous debutant threatens to ruin Olivia’s reputation and her chances with Philip . . . forever.
Stephanie, what drew you to writing romance? Are you a long-time reader?
I was introduced to romance novels several years ago by a friend. She gave me two novels. I dragged my feet about reading them, but once I did, I was hooked. I do not know exactly how many romance novels I’ve read since then, but I can say that the owner of the used book store in my city knows me by name.
After a while of reading romance novels, I started reading the stories and thinking things like, “hmm, I would have written this scene a bit differently.” Then one day I started writing my own scenes and I haven’t stopped since!
When you begin writing a book, do you have the story all outlined in your mind or do you wait and see where the characters take you?
Storylines for me appear in the form of a single scene, mainly a character’s backstory. I’ll imagine all the facets of their past and day-to-day lives, how all of that affects their personalities, and then devise a way in which they’ll meet the hero, or the heroin. During this process more scenes start to pop into my head. I typically try arranging these ideas into a bubble map, and then write an outline for the story that strings together all the scenes I’ve imagined.
The notion that characters can “take me” anywhere is a bit tricky. Personalities are key for me. I feel I have to devise to the last letter a character’s personality—how they will react in a situation, the things they’ll say and the reasons behind it all. Perhaps they were wounded in the past, have a good memory of this, or never experienced that. I’m not going to lie, it is a very frustrating process, and I think I spend more time planning the characters and the storyline than I do actually writing the story. But when I finally reach the point where I can sit down and write, I feel like I have a few new close friends. So in a sense, yes, I do feel like my characters tell me how they want the story to go…but sometimes I have to tell them why that won’t work.
After a long day of writing, how do you indulge yourself?
I’ve never thought about this one. A day of writing for me is indulgence, though admittedly some days I do walk away from my computer feeling more accomplished than others. Nevertheless, I don’t really reward myself for a good day’s writing. The fact that I was able to be productive is reward enough, and does wonders for my mood. But this indulgence thing sounds like a good idea. Maybe I’ll start keeping a stash of expensive chocolate somewhere in the house. So long, diet plan…
Tell us about your research for the book.
Are you sure you want me to do that? Because I’ve done a lot of research….like, A LOT of research. I have notes and internet bookmarks, books, magazines, highlighted parts of other romance novels, and a well-worn collection of movies and documentaries set in historical England. I’ve read so much historical information that sometimes I’d have to take a break and remind myself what year it is. I tried to remain as historically accurate as possible. I paid close attention to things like language and etiquette, but I did choose to ignore some things in the end to fit the story.
What are you planning next for your readers? What’s next?
Planning isn’t the issue at this point! It’s decided which plan to write. I have so many planned ideas lined up at the moment. I’m trying to decide between writing the sequel to Love Grows in Winter and beginning a new series. I feel a loyalty to the Ravenshaw clan, but something inside me wants to spend time with my new characters.
What advice can you give writers who are getting started?
Hmm…this is a tricky one. I don’t feel seasoned enough as a writer to dispense advice. I think I still need advice most of the time. However, I will say do not underestimate the power of organization. At one point while writing Love Grows in Winter, I struggled tremendously with writing a love scene. It took me far too long to figure out how it would unfold, and in the end, I wasn’t happy with what I had written. A few hours later, while cleaning out my purse, I found a forgotten, crumpled old napkin with the entire love scene planned out. I then deleted everything I had struggled to write, used my napkin notes and invested in a three-ring binder and a few writing apps.
Love Grows In Winter is available in ebook and paperback format: