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Monday, March 21, 2016

Interview with Lynne Connolly

  From now until the end of the month, enter the March Mayhem contest sponsored by Joanne Renaud, Kat Laurange, Donna Thorland, Lynne Connelly and Kat Parrish. Details and entry form here.

Lynne Connolly writes historical romance, paranormal romance and contemporary romance. She loves the conflicts and complications that come about if someone lives their life to the full.
She has her own blog, but she also blogs for The Good, The Bad and The Unread, the UK Regency/Georgian writers' blog and The Raven Happy Hour.

She lives in the UK with her family and her mews, a cat called Jack. She also enjoys making and decorating dolls' houses. She visits the US at least once a year, attends conferences and has a great time.
Did you read historical novels as a child? If so, do you remember any favorites?

        Yes, I loved them! I loved, and still do, Elizabeth Goudge’s “The Dean’s Watch.” All her historicals are marvellous, but that one especially. I devoured all the books by Georgette Heyer, Norah Lofts, Jean Plaidy, Phillip Lindsay and others. Everything I could get my hands on.

You’ve said you love all eras of history—particularly Tudor and Georgian England. If you could live during any era in any place, where would it be, and what is it about that time/place that attracts you?

1754 London. I’m in love with that era. Really, it’s pure love. The liveliness of the people, the developments in the law and policing, the beautiful houses, the sumptuous clothes, the fact that men still wore swords every day, and weren’t afraid of their feminine sides, the literature - the 18th century was bursting with life.

You’ve mentioned your love of research. I’ve heard hard-core readers of historical novels are BRUTAL when it comes to a mistake. Woe betide the author who describes a furbelow on a dress six months before they were fashionable. What’s the worst historic mistake you’ve ever seen in a historical novel?

The worst? That’s hard. I’ve read a few. How about a couple discussing Faberge eggs in the Regency? Probably one of the worst is title errors. Addressing a duke as “my lord,” using his surname instead of his title, calling the daughter of a baron “Lady,” all that stuff.

These people would be brought up knowing the right way of doing things, and how they should address people. They simply wouldn’t make that kind of mistake. Addressing a Scottish laird as “Laird” so and so, too. It wasn’t a title, not in those terms. A laird could be a simple mister. It indicates that whoever is doing it doesn’t understand the era or the people who lived there and it drags me right out of the book. It’s one of the worst because you can’t get away from it - it’s repeated through the whole book.

That goes with stupid first names. Shirley, Vivian and Beverley were all men’s names until recently. If you can find it, you can use it, but if you can’t, it’s best avoided. But I can change the character’s name if I edit the file, so I can get away from that one if the book is really good.

Did you originally intend Rogue in Red Velvet as a one-off or did you plan the “Emperors of London” series from the beginning? And is it an open-ended series or do you already know the story you’ll use to tie everything off?

Rogue in Red Velvet was originally intended as a spin-off from my Richard and Rose series. But the character I wanted to use didn’t work. I had to invent a whole new character, and with him, a whole new series. I did have the basic idea, about the children of the Old Pretender from the start, but the rest grew organically.

You write both historical romance and steamy paranormal romance (as L.M. Connolly). Since you don’t make a “secret” of your writing alter-ego, why use a pen name? Just to keep your niches clear to your readers?
Yes, and to give a distinct identity to each writing name. My approach is different as LM. At the moment, it’s mostly self-published work, backlists from publishers I’m no longer with, but there are some new titles, and the list is growing.

How is Lynne’s writing different from L.M.’s?

Lynne’s style is more lush and descriptive. That’s necessary, because I’m trying to get the reader back to a time she might not be familiar with. As Lynne, I also follow the syntax of the time and I’m very careful to ensure I don’t use wildly anachronistic language or attitudes. I can’t use words like “bloody hell,” “paranoid,” “terrorism” as Lynne, for instance, because the words didn’t exist back then.
L.M. also writes books about American characters. For me, a Brit, that means a different kind of study. I want to get the idiom right, and sometimes it’s a lot trickier than you’d imagine.

By the way, the cover of War Chest cracked me up (in a good way). I like inside puns And the playful use of the “naked torso man” cover. It looks like L.M. Connolly publishes as an indie author. How involved are you in designing “her” covers?

There are also Easter eggs on the covers. The heroine of Forged By Love is Venus the goddess, whose symbol is a rose. Can you see the rose on the cover?

I design the covers for L.M. They are mostly backlist from ex-publishers, but they are also lightly rewritten, to take them from erotic to steamy. I love playing in Photoshop and discovering new ways to use it.

You’re published by Penguin/Random House. Did you have an agent for the submission process or did you do it yourself?

People keep telling me that! But I’m not, not directly. I am published by Kensington, and I don’t have an agent right now, although I’ve had three over the years. My last agent, lovely Isabel White, retired, and I haven’t had one since.

You’ve been published, according to your author’s page, for five years. Were you writing before that? Had you collected a lot of rejection slips?

Actually, that’s a bit out of date. My first book was published in 2002. I wrote all my life, but when my health took a turn for the worse (I’m much better now!) I started thinking about publication. So my first book that I sent out was accepted, but that’s cheating, in a way, because writing was a serious hobby for many years before that.

Who are your favorite writers?

Above all others, Dickens. The audacity and sheer invention takes the breath away. There are hundreds of characters and about a dozen different narrators in Bleak House and yet the reader is never confused, and never less than absorbed in the story. His visuals are astonishing.

I love Dorothy Dunnett, especially her Lymond Chronicles. I re-read them about once a year. Dunnett had a style that is simply uncopyable. The books are a sheer roller-coaster, although you do have to work at the first book in the series, before you’re properly with it. It’s so worth it!
Georgette Heyer of course, so elegant and witty. Jo Beverley is consistently good. Nalini Singh just keeps getting better.

Do you have a process for writing? So many pages a day, X number of words?

Yes and no. I have to know where I’m going before I start, so I always do a synopsis to start with. When the book is going well, I’d expect to get 5000 words done, but not every day is a writing day.

Do you listen to music as you work and if so, what was in your playlist for this book?

 I used to do playlists, and I’d exchange mine with my friend who writes as Elizabeth Chadwick. I love Radiohead’s music. They write such different and exciting music that I can always find something to love. The playlist for Reckless In Pink had a bit of Radiohead, mainly from Hail to the Thief and In Rainbows, some Chemical Brothers tracks, a lot of the classical countertenor Andreas Scholl, particularly his baroque music, and Led Zeppelin. Whatever evokes the mood, rather than strictly time-specific. I always have some tracks on every playlist, like Seal’s “Kiss From A Rose.”

How long does it usually take you to finish a first draft? At what point do your editors at Kensington join the process and have you had the same editor for all four books?

First drafts vary wildly. Sometimes months, sometimes weeks. My main editors will discuss the way the series is going, but they usually don’t get involved until after the book is written and polished.

What blogs/sites do you regularly read?

Tech blogs. I love tech and how easy it’s made things! All About Romance is a great blog. And, I have to confess, Go Fug Yourself. I avoid anything with Kardashians in it, though. I don’t hate them, I just don’t care, and I can’t see the point of them.

Do you attend conventions? Book signings? Host Google hangouts or FB chats?

I go to two conferences regularly - RT Booklovers’ in the US and the RNA conference in the UK. Occasionally I’ll attend the London Book Fair or the HNS conference.

Dog or cat? Coffee or tea? Wine or Beer or spirits?

Cat, although I do love dogs. But a house isn’t a home without a cat in it. Tea, always, preferably Yorkshire Tea brand. When I go to the States I take my own tea and kettle! Wine, beer and spirits, occasionally, especially a good single malt.

If you weren’t a writer, is there anything else that would draw your interest? Any other career you might have followed?

I was a market research manager for years, and I have an MBA. I also worked as a consultant. I do love playing and making things for my dolls’ houses, but that’s just creating worlds, isn’t it? There are some pictures on my web page.

Some readers have a passionate relationship with the POV of the novels they devour and some have made it clear in reviews that they would have given book X more stars if it had been in first or third person instead. Do you write third person or first person exclusively, or do you change it up?

I’ve written one series in the first person, but I found it very restricting, so I haven’t done it again. Third person is much freer, although it does demand a higher degree of skill. POV switches drive me nuts.

Do you ever write in present tense?

No, never. I don’t read books written that way, too. It seems so artificial, I can’t get into it.

Optimist or pessimist?

Both. Usually pessimist.

Have you ever written a story from a male point of view, or from the point of view of a character who is of a different race/culture/religion?

Yes, but only the ones I know. I’ve written mfm and I always make the male in my stories a major character with his own development. Race and culture, well, I grew up in a multi-cultural society, so I’m comfortable writing about Hindus, Sikhs (my cousin married a Sikh), Afro-Caribbean, and Chinese. I often use that. My paranormals are mainly shape-shifters, and I make them the subject of other people’s bigotry and hate in some stories. Doing that gives me the freedom I wouldn’t have in writing about real-life issues.

What was the first piece of writing you ever sold?

Yorkshire, the first Richard and Rose book.

What’s the last good book you read?

This is disappointing. I can’t remember. I’ve had a bad run of reading recently.

Do you ever sing in the shower? If so, what’s your song?

According to my family, the song is “What’s that noise?” And “Shut up, they can hear you down the street!” But on karaoke nights, I pick Freda Payne’s Band of Gold because it packs a wallop and people join in!

What’s your favorite constellation?

Well, I know what The Plough and Orion look like, so I suppose it’s those!

What’s next for you?

Honestly, I’m not sure. I’m at an exciting crossroads in my career. I’ve finished the Even Gods Fall In Love series, at least for now, and the Emperors of London have reached a pause. I’m waiting to hear from the senior editor at Kensington about a new series, or more Emperor books, and I’m creating two new historical series.

I’m writing a romantic suspense for a Kindle Worlds series that I’m excited about. And I have a dozen backlist books sitting on my computer to deal with!

Follow Lynne everywhere:
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