Kristal: Hello Anne! I’d like to welcome you to b2b and thank you very much for taking time out of your busy day to visit with us! Feel free to chatter as little or as much as you would like with our readers throughout the day!
Anne Gracie: Thanks so much for inviting me, Kristal. I’m so pleased to be here. Hi Everyone!
K: So, I’ve been digging around a little on your website being nosey and I am truly in awe of your childhood! All the places you traveled, all the experiences you must have had, all the ANIMALS! What was that like for you, having such a full childhood? Did you have a favorite place? How about a favorite animal?
AG: Well, it was great for me — I don’t know how it was for my parents with all those animals. <g> But I kept adding to the menagerie. I used to bring them home just on dusk, knowing my parents wouldn’t make me go out in the dark to return them. And my mother would carry on, “You’re taking that creature back first thing in the morning, missie. I’m not having another animal in the house. It’s always me who has to feed them and clean up after them and — oh, look at that poor little creature, it’s starving, poor little mite.” And she’d be feeding the kitten or whatever it was, and all the time raving on about how it was going back and she wasn’t having another animal in the house… and by evening, she’d be sitting down after dinner, trying to knit with a kitten purring on her lap or fighting with her wool, and muttering about too many animals… And they always stayed. I even brought home a white cockatoo once that I found down the swamp — a tamed bird who wouldn’t have survived in the wild. He was a beautiful, cunning bird with an evil sense of humor.
As for a favorite place — we lived in so many places, I have favorite places everywhere. In one town I used to love going down with my dog to what we called the swamp — a big lake, surrounded by grass and reeds taller than me. I’d spend all day there sometimes. And when we lived in Scotland I used to wander along the ‘burn’ — a little stream that ran through the woods.
Also in Scotland we had an attic, which I thought was very romantic. I’d read about them in books all the time, but we generally don’t have attics in Australia. I loved looking out of the sloping window set into the roof of the attic, gazing out over the rooftops of the village where we lived. From that window I could see the ancient Pictish tower, one of only three remaining in Scotland. I’ve been thinking about that attic a lot lately, as the heroine in my current story was looking out of an attic window when she got a bold idea that changed her life. She’s in London, though, not Scotland.
K: I love the premise for ‘Bride by Mistake’. I am all about a war-torn hero and I certainly worship at the altar of Isabella’s pluckiness. Was it difficult to write such intense characters with the amount of depth they both brought to the story? Did they kind of lead you along and write their own story or was it one that you had decided upon without their help?
AG: Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed it. My characters always lead me along, though normally it’s a bit of a wrestling match and involved a lot of rewriting. It might sound a bit weird, but for me, as if my characters actually exist and discovering them is a kind of archaeology — I have to dig around to find out what makes them tick, and they’ll often surprise me. To mix my metaphors, it’s a bit like tuning a musical instrument — you know when you’ve hit a wrong note, and have to rewrite and rewrite until it rings true to the character.
K: I truly felt the emotions, the love, the transformation of these characters over the length of the book. Along similar lines to my last questions, what was that writing experience like for you? I know how it felt as a reader but I can’t even imagine as an author what it is like writing these characters as they change and evolve into the characters that they are meant to be.
AG: Thank you. For me, digging deep into a character’s past and psyche is what stories are all about. I take a while to get started on a book, fiddling and writing and rewriting, trying to get the right angle to start the book. Once I do, I’m off and running, but all the way through I’m asking myself, why did he do that, why did she think that? What does she really want? etc. And that involved going deep.
By about half way in, I’m obsessed by the story and it’s quite hard to pull my head out of that time and place and those characters. I’ll even wake up with a scene rolling in my head like a movie, and I have to write it down by hand before I get up, otherwise I’ll forget it.
My friends know now that when I’m in the zone I’m no fun and won’t come out to play until the book is done.
K: Your history, education and professional endeavors certainly lend themselves nicely to your career choice as an author. Was it always that way? Did you always want to be an author?
AG: No, it always amazes me that with parents who were teachers, nobody ever suggested to me I should write stories – not even when I was a kid and made up stories to tell the pets. Not even when I drove people crazy whining about having nothing to read. I was a huge bookworm and read constantly, and my best presents were always books, but I don’t remember ever thinking of being a writer. I think I imagined that writers were special people, far beyond my reach.
I remember saying once to a friend in high school that I could write a book, but it wasn’t a serious thing. You know how you say stuff at that age? Writing fiction wasn’t even an option at high school or university, though we did do creative writing sometimes, but I never understood what that was. We did all these weird writing exercises. If someone had ever said, “write a story” I would have loved it.
Writing a book only became a real possibility in my mind when a couple of people I knew got published, and I thought, “I want to do that.” And then, when I was overseas, traveling on my own, I had the time to think and to write — I wrote a whole novel by hand in exercise books. And that’s when the possibility became a plan.
K: Is there any one heroine or hero who is reminiscent of your own character? Is there one that you found to have traits similar to your own as you write? Or maybe one that you relate to more than the others?
AG: No, not really. I suppose the admirable things in my heroes and heroines are things I value in people — kindness, honor, loyalty, sense of humor, etc. but if I even suspected I was writing someone like me, or even like a friend of mine, I think I’d freeze. My characters have to be free to be themselves.
I’m fond of all my characters, maybe some more than others. For instance, Harry, in HIS CAPTIVE LADY is a hero I’m very fond of — he’s not a man for speeches, Harry. He’s the quiet, deep kind of hero, and when he committed himself to the heroine, he gave himself wholly. Bella in BRIDE BY MISTAKE was a heroine I was fond of, too — she was gutsy and loving and led with her heart. Ayisha in TO CATCH A BRIDE was also a heroine I loved — a little spitfire, but she was justified. But I pretty much love them all — I couldn’t write them if I didn’t love them.
K: So, you’ve written many books and received many wonderful awards for your talent! What wonderful accomplishments you have made in your career this far! What are your plans? What happens next? What can ours readers expect from you in the coming year or two?
AG: Thanks, Kristal, I feel pretty fortunate to be able to continue writing. It’s a magic job, to be allowed to spin stories and to have other people read them — it’s the kind of thing I used to get into trouble for in school — daydreaming. <g>
I’ve just signed a contract for a new series, about four “sisters” in London — a Bride series — though only one of the four girls expects to be a bride. I’m working on the first of them now and I have to say, I’m enjoying the sparks that fly between the hero and the heroine. And I’ve just written a scene where some of the characters from my first Berkley book, THE PERFECT RAKE, appear, which was fun.
K: Anne, thank you so much for stopping by and sharing a little of yourself with b2b and our readers. We are simply tickled to have you here with us!
AG: And I’m delighted to be here, too, Kristal and the other b2bers. Thanks so much for inviting me.
Kristal here- Anne has graciously agreed to give away a copy of one of her books to one very lucky commenter!!!