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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Author Interview: Carrie Lofty

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Carrie Lofty, whose latest book Scoundrel's Kiss was recently released by Kensington. It's the stand-alone sequel to Carrie's Robin Hood-themed debut, What a Scoundrel Wants.

"When last we saw Ada of Keyworth, she'd just been rescued from the Sheriff of Nottingham and had seriously burnt bridges with her family," Carrie said. "She and a young admirer, Jacob ben Asher, head off to Spain together. But she's haunted by the unlawful and sickening torture she endured and turns to opium for relief…

"Gavriel de Marqueda is a warrior on the verge of taking his vows with the Order of Santiago. Before he can do so, he must pass one final test: save Ada from herself. He's vowed obedience, nonviolence, and chastity, but Ada refuses to be held against her will, even for her own good, and vows to use every possible resource to thwart Gavriel's offer of aid."

Carrie learned that the 13th century was a strange time in the history of the Church in Spain. The Church was so desperate to recruit active, skilled young warriors in the fight against the Moors that men were accepted to religious orders like the Order of Santiago without having to give up their property or live inside a monastery.

"They could even get married!" she told me. "Conjugal chastity was the way to go! In addition, because the powers-that-be wanted to civilize the frontier area between Spanish and Moorish strongholds, they did everything they could to encourage families and settlements. Men and women could marry each other without witnesses and without posting banns, as long as they both agreed to be married and were both Christian. My imagination took flight when I read that little piece of historical trivia, and I incorporated it into Scoundrel's Kiss."

Neither plot nor characters come first with Carrie in her writing.

She said, "I'll be stubborn and say that setting comes first. For What a Scoundrel Wants, my debut, I knew I wanted to do a Robin Hood-themed romance. For Scoundrel's Kiss, I knew I wanted to set it in Spain. Then I hit the books and learn what type of person could've existed in those places and times. From there comes the plot, which is always last and subject to change. I'm a very character and research oriented pantser!"

It's important to Carrie that she knows who her characters are—to the extent that she will take a Myer-Briggs personality test on behalf of her hero and heroine.

"Once my husband was reading over my shoulder as I took the test," she told me, "and said, 'That's not you!' I can really relate to the show Castle because I know the premise is sound. Authors can be very perceptive when it comes to human nature."

Carrie told me she's been writing "since I could string words into half-baked sentences." She started reading romance when she was 13 and became seriously interested in the history of the Old West about the same time. "Writing historical romance was a perfect fit! But I floundered for years and years. I didn't have it in me to take my ambitions seriously," she admitted. "Then my husband went to graduate school, a degree program that sent him to Virginia for a summer internship. I stayed behind in Wisconsin with our two daughters. I realized that if I wanted to get back out in the world and have my place in the sun, I needed to become dedicated. I finished my first manuscript that summer, then sold the following year."

She loves lush, beautiful writing, and her favorite romance authors are Candice Proctor, Penelope Wilson, Laura Kinsale, and Patricia Gaffney.

"They all craft such amazing stories, not simply packed with emotion and fascinating characters, but with poetic language to describe every aspect of the hero and heroine's lives," she said. "I read those books and knew that's what I wanted to write. Those are the kinds of stories I love to read, so why not give them a try in my own style with my own unique voice?"

Carrie's official "office" is a computer desk in the bedroom she shares with her husband, but often –especially if one of her daughters wants to play games on her computer—she uses her husband's laptop. However, for serious writing, she takes her Alphasmart somewhere quiet, like the local library.

"I rarely accomplish anything if I'm too near to the internet," she confessed.

Regular days, when both her kids are in school, Carrie gets up, checks her email, puts out any fires, then she takes the kids to school. She'll work on her Alphamart to hit her word count for the day, generally averaging 3,000 words. Then, after lunch, she takes care of social networking, promotions, blog stuff, etc. until it's time to pick up the girls.

"Evenings are spent watching television, doing critiques for my writing partners, goofing around on Twitter, or revising that day's work," she shared.

On a personal note, I asked Carrie about her heritage.

"Um, I think the last time my dad worked on this, he figured that I'm Welsh and English on his side, and that I'm Swiss and Dutch on my mom's side. But all of my ancestors have been in the US so long that it gets muddled. I'm generally a pale mutt American. My husband, however, is English. His mum can trace the name 'Lofty' back several hundred years. At least our daughters will have half of their family tree well stocked with facts!"

She also admitted to crying "All. The. Time." during movies.

"I'm such a sap," she said. "It doesn't matter how often I've seen The English Patient, or Atonement, or The Joy Luck Club, or It's a Wonderful Life…I blubber like a baby."

Carrie told me that growing up in the Midwest, like she did, you have to at least tolerate thunderstorms, but she really enjoys writing when it's storming outside and she has the house to herself for a few hours.

"That's a very productive time for me," she told me. "Or else I nap. Either way…win!"

Something you may not know about Carrie: She's a Coke girl.

"Pepsi is too sweet for me," she explained. "I like the biting fizziness of Coke."

Finally, I asked, " What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?"

"Read. Join a local chapter of RWA. Study as much as you can about craft and the business of publishing," she replied. "Then treat your writing like a night-time degree program or a start-up business. Those things take patience, dedication and sacrifice. They don't earn you money up front, but they can be very rewarding in the long term!"

You can keep up with Carrie on her blog, http://lovelysalome.blogspot.com

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