Loretta Chase has written some of romance’s most favorite books, including Lord of Scoundrels and Mr. Impossible. She has won the RWA’s RITA award, and her new book, Not Quite A Lady, has just been released. Loretta lives in Massachusetts, worships Barbie, and took time out from her schedule to answer a few questions (Commenters on this interview can win a copy of Not Quite A Lady; refer to Bertie The Beau’s Official Risky Regencies Contest Rules for the rules).
Q. Readers frequently list your books as their favorite of all time; what do you think it is about your writing that readers respond to?
A. I think that most readers respond to the author’s voice. Starting a book is like meeting someone for the first time. The voice is the first impression–the personality and attitude of the story–and either it appeals to the reader or it doesn’t. How they respond to my voice will determine whether they can enjoy the dialogue, say, or the humor, or the way I develop characters. It’s a lot like dating, actually. How happy will the reader be, spending several hours with the personality of my book–or will she/he want to dump me for someone else?
Q. How has your writing changed since your first book?
A. Well, I’d hope it’s improved, what with all the practice.
Q. How did you think of writing this particular book? Did it start with a character, a setting, or some other element?
A. It always starts the same way: I need new clothes, so I’d better get to work. My most powerful source of inspiration is that line of retailers along Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue.Where the story itself started, I’m not quite sure. The process is a jumble of illogical happenings, like a dream. But here’s as much logic as I can apply to it:In some stories, I’m trying to right the wrongs of Victorian fiction, especially the way the female characters are treated. Say Character A comes to a bad or pitiful end or behaves foolishly or self-destructively. I say, “Grrrr,” and then set about reworking that character. For NOT QUITE A LADY, the trigger was Lady Dedlock of Dickens’s BLEAK HOUSE. I worship Dickens & BLEAK HOUSE is my favorite book & I watched the BBC adaptation several times, but that doesn’t mean I’m thrilled with the way he deals with women. I know this is where the spark for the story came from, and the spark led first to the heroine, Lady Charlotte Hayward. In other books the hero comes first, or the setting, and sometimes a lot of things seem to happen simultaneously.
Q. How long did it take? Was this an easy or difficult book to write?
A. Oh, they all seem to be difficult mostly and easy in just enough places to keep me from giving up completely. The main challenge of NOT QUITE A LADY was maintaining a balance between the humor that I hope is my trademark and the emotional aspects.
Q. Tell me more about your characters. What or who inspired them?
A. Lady Dedlock wasn’t the sole inspiration for Lady Charlotte Hayward, whose personality and social situation is quite different. She’s also drawn from the “good” women in 19th C fiction, and the “ladylike” women of our time. They’re apparently patient, gracious and even-tempered, and always do what’s expected of them. But inside may be a great deal of frustration, stifled anger and hurt. So the inner Charlotte is a seething cauldron, which the hero brings to a boil and explosion. Inspiration for the hero is harder to pin down, but I think my sexy scholar was inspired by Thomas Young, one of those brilliant polymaths of the late 18th-early 19th C, as well as all those aristocrats who studied and wrote papers about farming. The Don Juan side of his personality added a fun element for me to work with. He isn’t the classic bookworm but a rake who seduces women as methodically and detachedly as he carries out agricultural experiments.
Q. Did you run across anything new and unusual while researching this book?
A. My hero inherits a tumbledown estate that he’s expected to restore in short order. This plot element had me studying the less glamorous side of the English stately home, and discovering many interesting details about how laundry was done, for instance, and the design and functions of dairies (about which more appears in the Word Wenches blog archives and on my website)–and, basically, a lot more of the nuts and bolts of running those grand places than appears in the book. The most fun research, though, was meeting the pigs at Old Sturbridge Village http://www.osv.org/, a living history museum in Massachusetts (also on the blog).
Q. What do you think is the greatest creative risk you’ve taken in this book? How do you feel about it?
A. Writing feels to me like jumping off a cliff, again and again, day after day, sometimes hour after hour. It’s all risk to me, so if there are any significant creative breakthroughs in this or any other of my work, someone else will have to point them out to me.
Q. Is there anything you wanted to include in the book that you (or your CPs or editor) felt was too controversial and left out?
A. I can’t recall that ever happening to me, in any book. I’ve put in things that seemed controversial, and expected someone would ask me to cut them or reword them, but I don’t remember anyone ever doing so. That may change with the WIP.
Q. How do you develop the humor in your books?
A. It isn’t conscious. It has to do with the way I see the world and interpret it and that comes mainly from my father. He had a wonderful sense of humor and a dry wit and a great store of awful jokes, which still crack me up. Some of his jokes, in fact, are themes or plot elements in my books. So it seems that genetics may explain why I spent a large part of my youth watching screwball comedies over and over. And why I gravitated toward comic writers rather than tragic ones.
Q. What else would you like people to know about you and/or your writing?
A. The easiest way to cover that question is to point readers to my website www.LorettaChase.com, for the essential info. But for writerly trials and tribulations, musings, informed and uninformed opinions, and bits of research that don’t make it into the books, readers might want to stop by www.WordWenches.com, where I blog with six other historical writers.
Thanks, Loretta! Comment for your chance to win Not Quite A Lady!
Very nice interview. I think it is interesting dealing with the details of running an estate. I wonder how well someone modern would do going back to that time period. Would you ever participate in a re-enactment similar to the PBS special about The Victorian House?
NQAL is sitting on my side table mocking me as I conduct a little spring cleaning. I think I may break down today if it hits 90 again and give in to the siren call of the book and the couch (where I live 90 is unbearably hot, and there’s no air conditioning, even at the office).
I live in the UK and your Carsington books here are being published with very different cameo-like covers. I was curious to know what do you think of them? I can’t wait for NQAL to come out here!
Also is there anything you can say about your WIP, particularly why you think it might be more controversial?
What I enjoy most about your books is that the hero and heroine are both strong, independent characters. Neither one seems to overshadow the other so when the book is done I have no trouble envisioning them being together twenty years from now.
I am an avid fan of everything Loretta Chase writes. LORD OF SCOUNDRELS has been No. 1 on my list of favorite historical romances ever since I read it. After her hiatus from writing a few years ago, I was thrilled beyond words to discover she had a new book coming out (which was MISS WONDERFUL). The combination of character development, humor, historical accuracy, plot interest, and overall excellent prose in her books make Loretta one of my Writing Idols, after whom I model my own (yet unpublished) fiction writing. Bravo, Loretta, and I can’t wait to start reading NOT QUITE A LADY.
I read NQAL which promptly sent me back to amazon.com to re-purchase the rest of the Carsington books, which I read well over a year ago when I was first exploring the historical romance genre. What I find now, after having read 100’s of books in the genre and after re-reading all the Carsington books, is how absolutely delightful it is to read Loretta’s books. I know when I pick up a Loretta Chase novel that I will find very well-developed characters, fabulous dialogue and plotlines that are original and not contrived or built on cliches. Loretta’s books are simply the gold standard for romance!
Enjoyed the interview today. As an avid reader of all genres I must admit to never reading anything by you. But with reading all the great comment s about your books I think I have to add them to my TBR pile. Continued success! Your new release sounds wonderful.
Worshipping at your altar. Well, it is Sunday. I hope you won’t be offended if I say that even an “off” Loretta Chase book would still be far superior to most everyone else’s (Wenches excluded). You have such a mastery of characterization and conversation. I remain in awe. I read NQAL in one sitting though I really wanted to stretch it out because an LC book should be savored. When’s the next one? JK. Are there any Carsingtons left? What’s next?
I don’t want to sound like a raving fangirl, so I will just say that I have read and reread all your books. The Carsington series has been a delight, and I hate to see it end. Do you have plans to write Olivia and Peregrine’s story/stories?
Wonderful interview! I have to admit I have never read one of your books but I am intrigued and have got to look for one next time I go to the bookstore. Which one would you recommend I start with?
I have to admit I haven’t read one of your books either. But I do have to agree with your assertion that readers respond to the author’s voice and that determines, in a large part, whether they enjoy the book or not. At least, that seems to be a big contributor in whether I enjoy a book. From reading this interview, I’d have to say that it sounds like I would definitely enjoy your books as I found your voice in this interview delightful.
Hi Loretta. Ive been a fan since reading your DEVIL’S DELILAH. I’ll always think of you as an Avon author because of your early historicals. How does it feel to be back at Avon again?
Thanks for stopping by, Loretta! I remember first hearing about your books when Romantic Times raved about Viscount Vagabond — I ran out and bought it and was delighted they’d clued me in to a great author!
So thanks for so many great reads!
Q. How did you think of writing this particular book? Did it start with a character, a setting, or some other element?
A. It always starts the same way: I need new clothes, so I’d better get to work.
I heard a story–the accuracy of which I will not guarantee–that when the Beatles were starting to make it big, Lennon and McCartney would sit down to write a song and say, “All right, time to write a new swimming pool.”
Great interview. I love reading your books. I agree with you about why readers respond to your books. As soon as I read the first one(The Mad Earl’s Bride) I have been hooked ever since. Even tho Lord of Scoundrel’s was my fave. I can’t wait to read Not Quite a lady. Do you visit historical places to help with your books? I love reading about the places you write about. It makes you want to go back into time yourself.
very good interview and answered questions. Usually I ask an author if he/she considers themself a ‘cup half full or ‘cup half empty’ type of person in their personal life and writing life. I got the answer in the interview:Q. How do you develop the humor…..
I love some humor in books where it is okay to have it because any time I can laugh is a good time.
Thanks for being here.
I am very impressed with this novel and it has received accolades. Will read this wonderful story. Fascinating interview which I enjoyed greatly.
I enjoyed reading all your answers to the interview questions and the description of the characters. I want to read it. He sounds like my kind of hero. Great cover!
Loretta, I just had to say that after reading all the excerpts from your books over at the Word Wenches, I now have a bloated wish list full of LCs that I haven’t read yet!
Your characters are so three dimensional and real. You are the queen of depicting wrenching emotions with an admirable economy of words. You can depict vulnerability in such an achingly poignant way that I want to jump into the book and squeeze the character.
I hope you have a lifelong obsession for new clothing so that you’ll continue to write wonderful books into your dotage. Or mine.
Chiming in rather later here, but just as enthusiastically: Loretta, you are one of the bestest best! Thank you for the books you write.
Could your readers tempt you with new shoes, too, in addition to new clothes? Oh, and what about RWA? You absolutely need new togs for that. 🙂
I’m new to your books. The Mad Earl’s Bride is the only story I’ve read so far but I absolutely loved it 🙂
Lord of Scoundrels is at the top of my TBR pile. Can’t wait to read it!!!!
Lord of Scoundrels is my top favorite book of all time. Dain. Sigh!
Wow, what a wonderful interview!! I’m so glad this blog is doing such great things…I’m learning about new authors I haven’t read before (and Loretta Chase sounds like a wonderful one!!).
Thanks for a great interview — and wonderful books. I just finished Not Quite a Lady and thought it was marvelous. Not only was Charlotte a wonderfully complex character, but so was Darius, and I found him completely charming (especially when he was trying his best to remain detached and logical!).
I’ve read lots of your books, but somehow I’ve missed the Mad Earl. Must go track him down!
Hi Loretta, I read Mr Impossible recently and enjoyed the unique characters and setting thoroughly. Will be looking for more of your books in future!
My first LC book was Miss Wonderful and it was enough for me to want to read every LC books since (well those that are on the shelves).
When you mentioned about every story is a risk, I think to myself that the risk is indeed well worth it. I liked the fact that all your books have a distinctive LC voice coming through yet interestingly, each book has its own personality.
Apart from questions by others like what’s WIP and any updates around your plans for Olivia and Peregrine’s story, my questions are:
(1) Do you plan to write a prequel on the Carsington parents? They sound interesting!
(2)I like Percival from TLD too – I know its a nuisance to the writer sometimes when readers wish a story could go on and on.. but will you consider writing a story for Percival?
(3) Do you re-read the stories that you wrote after they are printed? if so, what are some of your thoughts?
(4) When you just start out as a writer, who were some of the authors that you read and enjoyed and like, perhaps enough to emulate?
Great interview, Loretta.
“In some stories, I’m trying to right the wrongs of Victorian fiction, especially the way the female characters are treated. Say Character A comes to a bad or pitiful end or behaves foolishly or self-destructively. I say, “Grrrr,” and then set about reworking that character. For NOT QUITE A LADY, the trigger was Lady Dedlock of Dickens’s BLEAK HOUSE. “
Very interesting! I’d love to know which of your other characters are reworkings.
I have e-mailed you Kate re: contest 1. Thanks.
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