Friday, August 12, 2011

Q & A with Gayle Wilson

When I found out Gayle Wilson had an Intrigue coming out this year, I was thrilled. And then I thought, "Wow, I should interview her for a blog post!" Gayle graciously agreed to answer some questions, and I'm going to share them with you.

But first, let's take a look at Gayle's August Intrigue, Flashback:

Jake Underwood has recovered from the terrible injuries he suffered in Iraq—except for the haunting flashbacks of the attack that decimated his unit. Then suddenly, in the middle of one of those, he sees not the familiar desert landscape of his nightmares, but a terrified and missing little girl.

Chief of Police Eden Reddick knows that with each passing hour, her chances of finding kidnap victim Raine Nolan alive decrease. That terrifying countdown resonates more strongly with Eden because her own sister was taken under similar circumstances and never seen again.

Despite being willing to pursue every lead, Eden can’t explain how or why Raine could appear in Major Underwood’s flashback. She is, however, impressed with the ex-soldier’s determination to find the child and bring her home. As they work desperately to rescue Raine, Eden begins to feel more than admiration for Jake, but can she keep her town’s anger and suspicions of him from compounding the tragedy they already face?

And now... the interview:

1. You spent some time away from writing recently before your recent return. What made you take some time off and what made you decide to come back?

Life changes necessitated some time away from writing—although I had only one year when I didn’t have a new release. First, I had some health issues and a couple of surgeries. Then, In the midst of the real estate meltdown, my husband and I moved from the house we’d built and lived in for 30 years to be closer to my son and his family. That involved staging the old house (and keeping it spotless for potential buyers!) while house-hunting for something close to the kids and perfect for the needs of our many pets and the two of us. After that, I spent a year being caregiver to my new grandbaby. I did some writing during those months, but certainly not as much as I had in the past, but of course, I don’t regret one minute I spend taking care of that sweet little boy.

2. You've accomplished a pretty significant feat--having loyal followings in two very different subgenres of romance, historical and romantic suspense. Is there a difference in the way you approach working on a historical romance versus a romantic suspense?

Although a few of my historicals have had some element of mystery or suspense, there is no doubt these subgenres are two very different animals. My suspense, even the category/series ones, tends to be pretty dark. Actually, now that I say that, I have to admit the historicals are dark as well, but emotionally dark as opposed to the sometimes chilling and more violent darkness of the contemporary stuff.

I think making a successful shift between the two—for me, at least—has to do more with “voice” than with anything else. I have a historical voice, which I hope is 19th century-appropriate, and then a modern voice for the suspense. To me, voice has to do with vocabulary, sentence structure, slang—all those nuances of language—as well as, perhaps most importantly, with adhering to the sensibilities of the era. When I sit down to write a Regency-set novel, I try to think like a woman of the early 19th century and attempt to keep my own more modern beliefs and feeling out of the picture. How would a woman of that time feel about divorce, abuse, male authority, for example? Are my heroine’s reactions to her world appropriate to the time and to her position in that society? I believe the women I write about in both genres are strong and brave, but I also want them to be a reflection their period. I’ve been criticized on occasion for not allowing my historical heroines to have 20th century values, but I’m willing to accept that criticism in the name of historical reality.

3. I've always admired the authenticity of your settings, how they suck me in and really ground me in a sense of place and time. What kind of research do you do to bring the places you write about to life?

What a lovely compliment! Thank you. I’m Southern, born and bred. I’m much more comfortable writing about the South—about the people, the customs, the weather, and its sometimes peculiar social mores. That doesn’t mean I don’t research individual settings there, but it does mean that I, too, feel very grounded in that region and with its people. I also lived for a while in the desert Southwest, which I loved with a passion, so when I write about that area of the country, it’s from personal experience as well. Maybe being very familiar with the area I’m writing about makes it feel more authentic to the reader. I always hope that’s the case.

4. This is for the Intrigue fans: your Phoenix Brotherhood series was brilliant and well-loved. Now that you have a new Intrigue coming out, is it connected in any way to the Phoenix Brotherhood stories? And as a follow-up, if it's not connected, would you consider doing more in that series? Or are you working up something new?

Flashback is not connected to the Phoenix books. I would dearly love to write another story about those guys, and I hope to be able to do that in the future. I miss them, too!

5. Have there ever been any character traits or actions that you personally considered off limits in a hero or heroine? For example, unfaithful heroes/heroines. To clarify--I'm not asking if it's wrong for authors in general to include those elements--I'm asking if there are things that you personally can't bring yourself to write.

I don’t think I could write about characters who were moral cowards. Everyone is afraid at times—it would be insane not to be afraid in truly dangerous situations. However, I couldn’t write a hero or heroine who, despite their own fear, didn’t make the honorable choice, such as being willing to sacrifice their lives for those they love or for someone vulnerable, like a child, or for the greater good. The person who chose not to make that sacrifice would no longer fit my own “heroic” ideals.

6. What authors most influenced your writing?

In all honesty, I’ve probably been influenced by all the books I’ve ever read—and I’ve read a ton. Growing up, I loved the gothics of Daphne du Maurier, Helen MacInnes, Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt and others. I also read a lot of “guy stuff” like Frank Yerby, Frank Slaughter, and all of Zane Grey. At some point I discovered Ian Fleming and John McDonald and Dorothy Sayers. I came to romance much later, beginning with the Regencies of Georgette Heyer and the medievals of Roberta Gellis and then moving on to most of the Harlequin/Mills & Boon authors. I think the person who most influenced my own writing—or perhaps that’s wishful thinking on my part and she’s simply my favorite author--would have to be the incomparable Dorothy Dunnett, both for her historicals and her very British mysteries.

7. Is there a moment in your writing career that strikes you as the most memorable?

Am I allowed several moments? (And yes, I know I’ve been very fortunate to be able to request that.)

To list a few:

• winning two RWA RITA Awards—one for romantic suspense (with an Intrigue which was up against single titles by some very well-known writers) and the second for a Regency-set novella
• winning the overall Daphne du Maurier Award, which is named, of course, for the queen of romantic suspense, and knowing that, as a result, my book would be sent to the trustees of her estate
• having the honor and privilege of serving as President of Romance Writers of America
• being afforded the opportunity to speak about romance fiction to so many people during my term in that office, including speaking at the famous Colony Club, a New York women’s club so prestigious it once kicked Caroline Kennedy out for non-payment of dues
• doing a book signing with idol Roberta Gellis and having her ask me to personalize one of my books to her.

When I look back on those moments, I know how very blessed I have been not only to be able to tell the stories I love, but to meet and get to know people whose books I’ve savored and whose art I’ve learned from, and to have the opportunity to talk about romance to those who didn’t know the pleasures to be found in this powerfully redemptive genre that I adore.

* * * * *

So there you have it. Welcome back to Intrigue, Gayle Wilson! And now, a question for y'all: Do you have a favorite Gayle Wilson book? Are you hoping for more Phoenix Brotherhood books the way I am?


Heather said...

Fantastic interview! I can't wait to read Flashback.

Paula said...

I have Flashback downloaded to my Nook. I'm currently reading two Dick Francis books (one on Nook, on on PB, and yes, at the same time. I'm starting to get confused!)

But after that, I'm reading Flashback!

Heather said...

Flashback will be next on my list after I finish a certain Paul Graves book I am devouring:)

Louisa Cornell said...

My favorite Gayle Wilson will probably always be His Secret Duchess. I just LOVE everything about that book!

And I really liked Bogeyman. Scared me, but I liked it!

And I am so excited to know there are more Gayle Wilson books on the way!

Chris Bailey said...

Thank you, Paula and Gayle! I'm newly inspired.

Carla Swafford said...

No way can I pick one. A novella titled ECHOES IN THE DARK. A romance suspense, ONLY A WHISPER (masterfully written - the heroine doesn't see the hero for a good portion of the book...time for me to read it again). And a historical, LADY SARAH'S SON. I kept that near me for a couple years. You know, when you want to read something that moves you and gives you happy thoughts before you go to bed.

Lisa Dunick said...

Great interview!

Gayle Wilson said...

Thanks, all, for the kind comments. And thanks, Paula, for sharing the interview here. You're the best!