Host Patricia McLinn talks with Regency historical romance author Anne Gracie about Anne’s writing process, characters, and love of her craft.
You can find Anne on:
Thanks to DialogMusik for the instrumentals that accompany this podcast.
Transcript: Authors Love Readers with Anne Gracie
Patricia McLinn [00:00] Hi, welcome to this week’s Authors Love Readers podcast, where we delve into the stories behind the stories. We’re asking authors questions. Some of them fun, some of them serious, and from their answers, you’re going to learn things you never knew about the people who write the stories you love. My name is Patricia McLinn. I’m your host and designated question asker.
Anne Gracie [00:23] I’m Ann Gracie, and I’m an author who loves readers.
Patricia McLinn [00:28] Now, Let’s start the show. Hi, welcome to this edition of Authors Love Readers podcast. Today we have Anne Gracie all the way from Australia by the wonders of technology. And I am delighted to have her here with me. Anne and I met— Do you realize I was thinking about this? It was ten years ago because it was the Novelists, Inc. conference in San Diego, the year that I was president of Novelists, Inc. So I remember that.
Anne Gracie [01:05] Oh, I do.
Patricia McLinn [01:06] Precisely.
Anne Gracie [01:07] Yes.
Australia, Enid Blyton, and Georgette Heyer
Patricia McLinn [01:08] And then in, um, August of 2015, I was in Australia and New Zealand and Anne was the best hostess and the best representative for Australia and Melbourne while I was there. And, uh, I will never forget you keeping me awake to fight the lag after the 30-hour trip.
Anne Gracie [01:31] It was actually the obligatory piece of torture.
Patricia McLinn [01:37] But it was all worth it, it was all worth it. So, Anne writes historicals and we will get more into that. But first I wanted you all to get, uh, get to know her a little bit, and I always find out interesting things from these, from these answers. So let’s start with. Did you have a childhood book that addicted you to stories?
Anne Gracie [01:58] I wouldn’t say that there was ever one childhood book, but, you know, I suspect it was probably A. A. Milne. My parents and my older brothers and sisters, uh, used to read Winnie the Pooh stories to me, uh, before, when I was about four. And the poems I can still recite all of A. A. Milne’s poems, uh, off my head. And then as soon as I learned to read, which was just before I went to school, I devoured my oldest sisters and brothers books.
Uh, and a lot of them were written by Enid Blyton. Who’s, who was an English author. And she wrote endless series. And, and with all kids having adventures, and I just devoured those books. And I think just about every English writer would, would be the same thinking about their childhood books. I think everybody read Enid Blyton in England and Australia, not so much as America because I don’t know that they were even published there.
Patricia McLinn [03:04] Yeah, I, um, I know her name, but I don’t think I ever read her books.
Anne Gracie [03:08] Yeah.
Patricia McLinn [03:09] I know I didn’t as a child.
Anne Gracie [03:10] We know The Famous Five and, and, uh, the adventure books and yeah. Yeah.
Patricia McLinn [03:13] Did you hear of the Bobbsey Twins?
Anne Gracie [03:16] Yeah.
Patricia McLinn [03:17] That was something I read.
Anne Gracie [03:18] Yeah, my eldest sister had those because, my sister used to read a book and that was it, but I, I had to always have a book on the go. So I read everything. I read my brothers, you know, stories, everything.
Patricia McLinn [03:31] Yeah, I read those, um, my, my older sister had them too.
Anne Gracie [03:35] Yes.
Patricia McLinn [03:36] And so I inherited those and The Borrower’s Afield. I love that story.
Anne Gracie [03:42] Yeah. Lovely. There’s actually a whole series, there’s about four books, I think.
Patricia McLinn [03:47] I know. I love those. And all The Wizard of Oz books. Not just The Wizard of Oz, but there was a whole series of books.
Anne Gracie [03:56] Oh, I knew nothing about those.
Patricia McLinn [03:59] So you should go back.
Anne Gracie [04:01] Yeah. Well, there are a number of, um, I think one of the reasons that I’m such a historical writer, when I was about eleven, I discovered Georgette Heyer. And you know, I never went back. You know, I still re-read her. I think that, and I read a lot of other historical novels. For me, historical novels weren’t about history, they were just stories in a different time and place. And that’s still how I think, I don’t understand it when people say, Oh, I don’t read historicals. I think, Oh, really? That’s odd.
Patricia McLinn [04:34] So I have to ask, which is your favorite from Georgette Heyer?
Anne Gracie [04:37] Oh.
Patricia McLinn [04:38] You say Higher or Hair?
Anne Gracie [04:40] I say Higher, like lots of people. She apparently at some stage said they called it Air. Um, but I think the original, her grandfather was German, I think, and there was an attempt to make it not sound so dramatic in World War I and II. So I don’t really know. But I say Higher, I’ve always said Higher. She’s not going to hurt me if it’s Higher. And as far as, uh, my favorites, I dunno, I have so many I love. The Unknown Ajax, which is just very funny and very clever plotting. Probably the most romantic is, uh, Damerel it’s call The Nation is the book and Venetia is the heroine and Damerel is the hero and he’s gorgeous. The Convenient Marriage, which is about a very young—
Patricia McLinn [05:30] Angsty.
Anne Gracie [05:31] Yeah. Yeah. Uh, Friday’s Child is another young bride, but some very funny minor character things. Oh, there’s just so many. A few of hers were not successful for me, but most of them they’re just fabulous.
Patricia McLinn [05:49] See I, my absolute favorite is The Talisman Ring.
Anne Gracie [05:52] Oh, really? Yeah. Yeah. I love that line—
Patricia McLinn [05:55] I love that one.
Anne Gracie [05:56] Yeah, yeah that line when she’s, the young girl who’s not the heroin, uh, is talking about, um, asking the very dour hero, wouldn’t he feel sorry for her to see a young girl go alone in a tumbril, going off to have her head chopped off, and he says, I’d be sorry for anyone. He’s completely failed to see that romantic in her. It’s lovely. There’s some lovely humor.
Patricia McLinn [06:20] Yes, it’s wonderful is that, see the, I love the humor.
Anne Gracie [06:24] Yeah.
Patricia McLinn [06:25] I also love her, um, mysteries—
Anne Gracie [06:27] Yeah.
Patricia McLinn [06:28] from the 1930s.
Anne Gracie [06:29] Yeah, yeah.
Patricia McLinn [06:30] Terrific.
Anne Gracie [06:31] Rather good, yeah.
Patricia McLinn [06:32] I enjoy those a lot. Well, we got way off. Okay. I’m going to ask you another question. What’s your favorite taste?
Anne Gracie [06:37] ah, oh, salty-sweet, maybe. But, ah, look, I’m more a savory than a sweet. One of my favorite indulgences, and it’s, people will probably yak at this, but anyway, it’s a, a French pasty sort of thing called Anchoïade and it’s anchovies and garlic and capers and you smear, and they’re all mashed up together and you smear it on hot toast. And I like just adore it. Okay. Um, but the other alternative is chocolate of course, chocolates.
Patricia McLinn [07:14] Oh no. I think, I think that may be one of the times I would pass up the chocolate.
Anne Gracie [07:20] Yeah. Yeah, not together, separately.
Patricia McLinn [07:24] Okay. Okay. So what’s your favorite color and why?
Anne Gracie [07:30] Probably blue. Blue’s the most, there’s so many beautiful variations of blue. Going from that they almost start at lilac down to sort of almost purple, like yeah, so many blues. Both of my parents had blue eyes, I’ve got blue eyes and my dad used to have, wear blue shirts and blue jumpers and stuff and it just, I just loved it. Yeah.
Patricia McLinn [07:55] Okay. Blue is for you.
Anne Gracie [07:59] Yes.
Patricia McLinn [08:00] Do you have anything that you remember your mom or dad saying at, at, you know, uh, saying that they had, and now you hear yourself?
Anne Gracie [08:10] Yes. And it’s so silly. Um, I hear it, when, when other people’s kids are talking to their mothers, and it’s what Dad used to say to me, Don’t talk to your mother like that. And I want to say then, Don’t talk to your mother like that. And then I laugh because it’s just so silly.
It’s like they’d say when particularly, you know, repetitious about things. There was a, a thing on the web, uh, on, on Facebook recently where someone said, You know, what did your parents often say, and I said, Clean up your room. I’m sorry, if you want something philosophical, Clean up your room. I think it’s still appropriate.
Patricia McLinn [08:55] Well, in a way that is philosophical.
Anne Gracie [09:00] Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Patricia McLinn [09:01] Stand in for many other things.
Anne Gracie [09:03] Absolutely. Yes. We’ll take it metaphorically as well as literally.
Patricia McLinn [09:08] Yeah, right. Do you have anything from, um, earlier in your life that you used to fret over that now you think **blows raspberry** who cares?
Anne Gracie [09:17] Yes, sort of what strangers think. When I was a kid, we moved a lot. And so I was very concerned about fitting in and not so much these days, you know, I’m quite happy for people to just take me as I am.
Patricia McLinn [09:38] That’s what, that’s a wonderful achievement.
Anne Gracie [09:40] Yes.
Patricia McLinn [09:41] That so many of us don’t achieve it.
Anne Gracie [09:43] Yeah. Well, you know, I, I suppose because I’ve left so many people behind in my life, I just realized that the important ones will stick.
Patricia McLinn [09:51] And you think that’s because of, because you said you moved?
Anne Gracie [09:55] Yeah. We moved a lot.
Patricia McLinn [09:57] A lot?
Anne Gracie [09:58] Yeah. Yeah we moved a lot. And, and, you know, in life you just realize that there are some people who are important. You know, I’ve got friends now that I made good friends with when we were 15. And, you know, and we’re still good friends. And I went to, uh, I’ve been to a couple of reunions lately. One was a school reunion, and one was kind of like a student house reunion. And in both instances, I just reconnected with those people so well, so easily. And it was lovely. So the important people will stick.
Patricia McLinn [10:35] Well, that’s a good approach. Okay. Shifting a little bit. Um, most writers have a bad habit word. And if you don’t, I don’t want to hear about it.
Anne Gracie [10:47] Okay. I surely do.
Patricia McLinn [10:51] Yeah, my list just and really. Oh, I use them all the time. So what, bare your soul here, Anne. What are your bad habit words?
Anne Gracie [11:01] Oh yeah. Well see, when you said your bad habit words. I thought Facebook.
Patricia McLinn [11:07] Oh.
Anne Gracie [11:08] But the word I overuse, yeah, I think, I think probably just and only, yeah, yeah. Uh, look, I’ve got lists of the rotten things, and I do, do a, a go through, and I think I, there are certain phrases that pop up every book and that’s a new phrase per book, almost.
Patricia McLinn [11:32] Yeah.
Anne Gracie [11:33] I had to weed out a few in the latest book that I’ve just sent in. Um, her eyes were quite often wide and fathomless, and, and I had to do a search for wide and fathomless and take some out. But, you know, it’s just, yeah, I just get little quirks that pop up in every book.
Patricia McLinn [11:52] I remember in one of my books, I had this poor woman smiling so much I thought her mouth is going to start, you know, just having cramps.
Anne Gracie [12:01] Yeah, yeah, yeah, ,yeah, that’s true. I do that too.
Patricia McLinn [12:09] Now, you’re left-handed or right-handed okay?
Anne Gracie [12:12] Right-handed.
Patricia McLinn [12:14] On that hand, which is longer, your index finger or your ring finger?
Anne Gracie [12:20] Index.
Patricia McLinn [12:21] By a lot?
Anne Gracie [12:23] Not a huge amount, but there’s no doubt. It’s probably maybe quarter of an inch.
Cary Grant, writing with eyes closed, The Autumn Bride, The Perfect Rake
Patricia McLinn [12:29] I, I just find that fascinating. There is no useful purpose for asking this question, I’m just interested. And here as a question that I think will let the readers get to know you better. What three movies would you take with you to my very strange desert Island that has a mechanism to play movies, but only three?
Anne Gracie [12:50] Desert Island with no running water, but, uh, movies.
Patricia McLinn [12:54] Right. None of that stuff, but you can watch three movies there forevermore.
Anne Gracie [13:00] Love Actually would have to be one of them. Uh, you know, I can watch that endlessly and still really enjoy it. And maybe While You Were Sleeping, that movie reminds me of what I’m doing when I’m writing. And I’ve possibly also because I’ve used it a fair few times, uh, as an example for when, uh, when I’m teaching writing. So, and so, and I’ve just written an article that, that refers to it, so that’s probably in my head.
Ah the third one. That’s very hard, I don’t know. Um, I’m going to, I’m always bad with favorites whenever I’m asked a favorite anything. I have a little baby meltdown and say, Oh, what about this? But it could be that. And then there’s the other, I’ll just pick one. I’ll pick one of Cary Grant’s, uh, the old, black and white ones. Um, well, maybe not black and white, they might’ve gone in color, but yeah, an old Cary Grant romantic comedy, I just adore Cary Grant. I think he’s a darling.
Patricia McLinn [14:02] I, that, one of my very favorites is His Girl Friday.
Anne Gracie [14:06] Yes. Yeah, that a beauty.
Patricia McLinn [14:08] The dialogue and that.
Anne Gracie [14:10] Yes, yes.
Patricia McLinn [14:11] Oh my gosh.
Anne Gracie [14:12] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s wonderful. Yeah.
Patricia McLinn [14:14] Yeah. Okay. So this question comes from a reader. And she asks, Where do your stories come from? I know one author who dreams her stories. Another has a character suddenly taking up residence in her head. So how are your beautiful stories born?
Anne Gracie [14:32] I often from most of my books and certainly for every one of the books that sparked the series, I, it’s not a dream, but it’s like a dream and it comes to me on the, when I’m about to fall asleep or when I’m just waking up and I’m in that dreamy state. And a scene will come to me and it starts rolling in my head like a movie. And I have learned to, this is a tragic admission, but I sleep with a notebook and pen next to me.
Um, and I can actually write whole pages with my eyes still closed, uh, and be able to read it in the morning. Um, and most—
Patricia McLinn [15:19] That’s a terrific skill.
Anne Gracie [15:22] —um, for example, in The Autumn Bride, which was the first book of my Chance Sisters series, there’s a scene where the heroine climbs through a window. She’s, she’s at an absolute desperation point and she’s climbed through a window of this house in order to steal something small to sell and pay for a doctor to see her very sick sister. And instead of finding something to steal, she finds an old lady in a terrible situation. Now that, that scene came to me in that exact sort of dream-like state. And I’ve got it, you know, it covers about four pages in, uh, in a notebook.
My first book for Berkley, which was The Perfect Rake, the scene where, where the hero and the heroine first meet, that’s another one that came and I have got their, their meeting, their whole conversation. That was about five or six pages. Uh, and it’s almost identical to what was in the book.
And then, when I get that sort of thing, I think, afterwards they stay with me for a while, cause usually it’s a scene that’s not related to the book that I’m writing at the time and, but it’ll stay in my head and that will take nagging at me to write until I know the longer it stays there, the more it, it impels me to, to write. And so then when I come to write it, I sort of think, Well, who are these people and how do they get in this situation? And where do I go from here?
Patricia McLinn [16:58] I have so many questions to ask you off of that. Are they always scenes at the beginning of books?
Anne Gracie [17:05] No. No. My very, very first book, um, which was called Gallant Waif, and it was a RITA finalist for best first book, that has a scene almost at the end. It’s the ballroom scene, if anyone’s ever read it. And it’s the, it’s pretty much the heroin’s black moment where the thing that she sees most has come to pass. And that is right at the very end of the book. And again, that’s about five or six pages in a notebook that came to me in that way.
And when I came to decide what I was going to do with that, uh, I thought, hmm, this is not, you know, it’s quite an intense thing. It makes people cry a lot of readers say, and, and I had to get, work out who the characters were and how they got to that point, And it was quite a journey. To get to that point.
So, yeah, it’s not always the meeting of the all right. With the all lady, the, the girl climbing heavy, um, privately through the window and the old lady, that comes for about three or four chapters in, if they’re not all straight away, they’re not the opening scene necessarily. They’re just a crucial scene.
Patricia McLinn [18:20] So do you have some of them that you you’ve written down the scene, but you haven’t quite found the story that—
Anne Gracie [18:26] Oh, yeah.
Patricia McLinn [18:28] that. Okay. And you hold on to those then.
Anne Gracie [18:30] Yeah. Look, when, when, um, my one time, I know when my editor was saying, Well, you know, you’re finishing up this series, what’s going to be next? And I said, Oh, I don’t know. And, and because I didn’t have a particular one in mind. And so I went through my notebooks, I’ve got a stack of those notebooks that I’ve got so many story ideas, um, and half done stories and things there isn’t, you know, I could be going till I’m a hundred and eight. Um, probably won’t.
Patricia McLinn [19:02] From that initial story… How many of you books have come from, uh, from a scene like that? What percentage? Do you half of your books?
Anne Gracie [19:10] Yeah, no, I-I’ve never worked it out. I’ve, usually if a series starts with that, those books, those scenes are always the most powerful, whether they’re the most powerful in the book, but sometimes I’ll just have little, little scenes will come and, and bits of story or bits of scene.
You know, if I’m, if I’m immersed in the story and try to get to sleep or just waking up, sometimes the whole conversation between the hero and heroine will come and I’ll just go brum brum brum brum brum. And sometimes they’re, they’re the funniest or the best chit-chat, you know, better nosh. Um, uh, what do they call it? You know? Yeah. When, when it’s backwards and forwards and backwards and forwards and sometimes that’s just the best.
Patricia McLinn [19:59] Yeah, and it really catches, catches the core of their relationship.
Anne Gracie [20:03] Yeah, yeah. And it’s fun. Um, and, um, at that stage, my pen is absolutely flying to keep up with the conversation that’s happening in my head. So I couldn’t, I wouldn’t know how many, what percentage, but it’s a big part of my process. It’s much more a part of my process then logically sitting down and plotting out a plot.
Patricia McLinn [20:24] You know, the characters names at that point?
Anne Gracie [20:26] No, no I don’t.
Patricia McLinn [20:28] Okay.
Anne Gracie [20:29] Um, sometimes they declare themselves pretty quickly sometimes I think, Oh, I think she’s named so-and-so, and then she will refuse to answer to that name. Until I find the correct name. Yep, yep.
Patricia McLinn [20:39] Yeah. Early on in my books, there’s a lot of she and he, and it’s a good thing I know who they are because—
Anne Gracie [20:47] Yeah.
Patricia McLinn [20:48] —it can be a little confusing.
Anne Gracie [20:50] Yeah. I usually start with a name, but then it becomes pretty clear that they’re not going to work or then they don’t like it. Um, I’ve had a series of Adams as, as heroes and they’ve never, they’ve never lasted past about chapter three, Adam just is never going to be one of my heroes it seems. I keep trying because I quite like the name. But no, no, sorry I’m not Adam, go away. Go find out who I am.
Patricia McLinn [21:15] So when you have that idea and it’s time for that, to deal with that book, you know, you’ve, you’ve finished the other one because those things almost always come when you’re supposed to be doing something else, don’t they?
Anne Gracie [21:28] Oh, yep.
Patricia McLinn [21:29] So, but you’re, you’ve got that scene, you’re coming, you’re going to deal with that book. How do you then take it from that scene, to a complete story?
Anne Gracie [21:40] With great difficulty.
Patricia McLinn [21:44] And many months of agony.
Anne Gracie [21:47] Yeah, yeah, yeah. For me, it’s always how I have to cast around to find the starting point of the story and my stories don’t usually start out with a bang. Uh, I’d hope that I start with a whimper, but no. Um, they, it takes me a while to find the right thread and to start at the right angle so that you’d get to see the characters in the way that I want you to see them.
And then I do a lot of what ifs, and what’s next. And sometimes characters will come up with just something, you know, something will pop out of their mouth or they’ll say something and I’m thinking, Oh, this isn’t where I want it to go at all, but it’s right for the character, so I have to go there. So yeah, I push on and see, and I do a lot of rewriting, but yeah. Yeah.
Patricia McLinn [22:42] At what point in this process are you telling your editor what you’re going to write? Because it sounds like a synopsis would not be very, um, informative, for you.
Anne Gracie [22:54] No, well, it is and it isn’t because the synopsis is so, it’s reasonably general. I devoutly hope that my editor doesn’t sit there and compare the, the final story with the synopsis. And I definitely hope she’s not listening now.
Um, yeah, I’d look, my, I have to put in a synopsis for a proposal pretty early in the piece because they use that for the cover design and to start working out a back cover blurb. Um, it’s my best guess. And in, in general, there, there is some similarities. The act is kind of there. I know where they need to end up, but it’s how they get there, that’s the difficulty.
And you know, I’ve done, once I’ve got the synopsis in, done, I don’t actually worry about it until they stop doing the back cover blurb. And then I have to know a whole lot more. And usually I’m not even finished the story by the time they’ve got the cover and the back cover blue, it’s known as pressure.
Patricia McLinn [24:00] And, and that leads to a question from one of the readers who kindly volunteer questions. Um, and she asks when the cover image doesn’t match the character description, and she says that’s a pet peeve of hers, how does it feel for you? The author?
Anne Gracie [24:19] Okay. I’ve never had a character that looks completely wrong. Like I’ve, you know, I’ve had some of my friends have got redheaded heroines, who’ve got black hair or, you know, I’ve never had that. Uh, that said pretty much all of my cover people are not exactly how I’ve seen them. I was one of the earliest authors to have the headless heroines and heroes.
Patricia McLinn [24:47] Is that because you didn’t know what color hair they had yet?
Anne Gracie [24:51] No, no, no, no. It was just that it was just the time, you know, that was the new thing. Um, An Honorable Thief was the, was the book. Um, and then An Honorable Thief, you know, his and hers heads are chopped off. And that, a lot of people hated that. I didn’t mind because I thought it doesn’t matter, what the book is, the way I imagined the hero and the heroine and not even my books, any books, uh, they never are the person on the cover. So I’m very philosophical about the cover as long as it’s pretty and attractive and worth picking up, I’m happy.
Patricia McLinn [25:31] That’s very sane.
Anne Gracie [25:33] Yes. Well, you know, I’ve had to be. But a couple of times I’ve got the, the cover early enough to have, uh, cause often I’ll get brides on the covers and I’ve been able to incorporate the description of the bridal dress on the cover.
Patricia McLinn [25:47] Oh, nice.
Anne Gracie [25:49] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That’s been fun when I can do that.
Patricia McLinn [25:52] So as you’re, as you’re progressing through this book, you’ve, had, you’ve had this sort of waking dream scene and you’re trying to figure out what brought those people to that point and what, how they’re going to go on from there. I often liken that by the way, to eavesdropping on people in a restaurant that you see this vignette, and from that just that little bit, you can pick up a lot of what got them there.
Anne Gracie [26:20] Oh, yes.
Patricia McLinn [26:21] And you can speculate on what’s going to take them.
Anne Gracie [26:24] Yeah, yeah.
Patricia McLinn [26:25] Yeah. But yeah, if, as you’re going on with the process, which parts do you love of the process and which parts do you hate?
Anne Gracie [26:32] Easy. I love the bits where it’s going well, and I hate the bits where I’m struggling. Really that’s true. That’s, that’s it, you know, when it’s going well, I’m really happy when it’s not going well, I’m miserable. Um, and I’m all, but I always get to a point three-quarters of the way through the book where I’m certain I’m never going to make it work. And my writing friends are really, really helpful on this. I go to them, and I say, Oh, this book is going to be terrible, and people are going to hide it. I’m never going to win. And they say this really helpful advice. And you always say that, shut up.
Patricia McLinn [27:10] So much sympathy.
Anne Gracie [27:14] Yeah, that’s right. And you know, but I still firmly believe that, that, that struggle at that point makes me go deeper into the story and work harder at it and, and fix the things that my instinct tells me are not working and that everyone else says is okay. Um, and, and I think it makes it more biddable. So I think angst and me in the writing process are a partnership.
Patricia McLinn [27:44] Sounds like almost every book surprises you.
Anne Gracie [27:48] Um, yeah, look, I don’t think I’ve never found in a book. I’ve never just thought, Ah, look, just get it finished. Get it gone. I try, I, yeah, I’ve really worked at it. I love, I love the books. If all in love with the characters and I want, I want it to be right. I want it to be like they’re stuck in Vegas. So, yeah.
Single books into a trilogy, a trilogy into a quartet, the Chance Sisters series
Patricia McLinn [28:08] And that leads to another reader question who asked if, um, you as an author, do you think about the characters after the book is done? Do you wonder, you know, how they’re doing or do you know how they’re doing, and has it ever led to another, you writing a sequel, another book?
Anne Gracie [28:27] Yep. Look, my first books for Berkley. I wrote four books for Harlequin, and my editor did not want me to do any series at that point. And so the book that I sold to Berkley, I actually started with the intentions, sending it to Harlequin. Uh, but as always, my books were too long and I had to cut them, and I was another book that I was going to have to cut 40,000 words off to fit the Harlequin links, and I just thought, I don’t want to do that.
And I wasn’t, it wasn’t contracted. And so I ended up selling that book to Berkley. And the first thing my editor said when I talked to her about it, she said, which girl’s next? Because I had the, the heroine for that was the oldest sister, the plain sister in a family of, of pretty girls. And, and so it was about her, and I hadn’t even thought about the sisters at all.
Anne Gracie [29:23] And so, Oh, okay. Well, we’ll do something about the sisters. And so that was the editor sort of asking me, and that was contracted as a three-book series. And then there was a young, the youngest sister who was just a child in that first book and readers kept writing to me about it.
And, and I had so many letters, I mentioned it to my editor. And she said, go ahead, write Grace’s story. So that was a four-book trilogy. And then the next series that I had was to be a four-book series and it was a five-book quartet. With the—
Patricia McLinn [30:04] Math challenged, Anne.
Anne Gracie [30:05] Yep. Ah, with the Chance Sisters series that I achieved a full book quartet. Um, that’s only because I reckon it was, each one was a seasonal bride. So I had autumn, winter, spring, blah, blah. So there’s not that many extra series. So, ah, that restricted me. Seasons, sorry, extra seasons. Yes, they do, they do haunt me and, and these days, um, I’ve got a whole lot of half-started shorts, other stories that were not contracted.
One of them in particular, Marcus’s story, I get reader letters for him all the time. When are you going to write Marcus’s story? And I promise I’m going to write it, but it’s just fitting it in between the other things. And, and at some stage I’m going to write it and I’ve got the story in my head and bits of it on paper.
But yeah. Yeah. I just haven’t had the time to sort of put it together because, my head space is weird and I can only write one book at a time. So yeah. And I have to do the contracted ones. Some people will do several books at a time, and, but I’m not like that.
Patricia McLinn [31:12] Yeah. I’m one of those. But then, now when you, when you have these, you haven’t named the characters yet and say you, you name a secondary character and then subsequently realize, Oh, that person is going to be hero or heroine of another book. Have you ever gotten yourself in trouble with naming them or giving them a foible or, you know, creating the, the secondary character who you think, Oh, they’re just sort of a walk-on. And then they won’t let, walk off.
Anne Gracie [31:44] Oh, yeah.
Patricia McLinn [31:46] your own book.
Anne Gracie [31:47] Yes.
Patricia McLinn [31:48] And then you think, Why oh why did I do this with them? Have you ever had that?
Anne Gracie [31:52] Yes. And, and I have it all the time. I have to prune back minor characters all the time. And in one of my books, the Honor— Honorable, was it the Honorable Thief? No, it was The Perfect Waltz. Uh, in The Perfect Waltz, I had a secondary romance with the, uh, the hero, the hero’s best friend and his original intended heroine.
And, uh, and it was just a little bit of fun on the side and so many people said, We want their story. So, yeah, these days I think with independent publishing becoming a reality, if I can get my act together, I can write some of those stories and make them a bit shorter.
Patricia McLinn [32:33] Oh, yes.
Anne Gracie [32:34] And still publish them. Um, but you know, at the moment, it’s a theory rather than a practice.
Patricia McLinn [32:42] Well, that leads me to actually kind of two questions. One comes from a reader, and she asked, What is your favorite place to write and why? And does it have an inspirational view? And, and then from that, I want to ask if you have a writing routine.
Anne Gracie [32:59] It changes, my favorite place changes. Um, I, currently I write on a laptop on my bed and I’m looking out the front window of my house, which is a lovely bay, big bay window. And my dog sits in the end, on the end of the bed, on her corner and watches for, um, enemies like cats and people and warns me of their imminence.
Patricia McLinn [33:30] Yes.
Anne Gracie [33:31] Um, another favorite place to write is my local library, which has nice comfy chairs and small desks. And I, and I go there when, particularly I go there when I’m stuck. Um, and I hand write, I don’t take my laptop. I don’t play on Facebook or Twitter or anything like that. I just hand write, and my rule is that I’m not allowed to leave the library until I’ve got three pages. And this is, this is a large sort of spiral back notebook, and three pages nearly always turns out to be a thousand words or more. And often I’ll do a lot more than three pages. Once I start, I just, I’m off and running.
Another place, favorite place to write, I’m very lucky and I go away on a writer’s retreat with a small group of friends with, we’ve been doing it for ten years. We had our 10th anniversary in March and that’s how I knew it was ten years since we met, Pat, because after the very first one, I went to San Diego and to NInc. So, yeah, so we’re coming up to our 11th.
Anne Gracie [34:38] And, uh, and we go to the, we go up to the Gold Coast in Queensland. It’s, we have an apartment building right on the beach. We each have our own apartment. A couple of them share a two-bedroom apartment with a larger sitting room. And we all go there for meetings at lunchtime and night. And that’s a pretty or just some spectacular place.
But to be honest, once I start, I could, I could be living in a cave. In fact, I often say to people, I’m in the cave. Um, if the view doesn’t matter, the, the place doesn’t matter. It’s by a once I get started, the hardest thing is to get started. Once I get started, whoa, I’m off and running.
Patricia McLinn [35:21] I noticed you slid right by that retreat, cause I’ve been, oh, so strategically hinting that I be invited to that at some point.
Anne Gracie [35:36] But it’s a, it’s a closed group, these days.
Patricia McLinn [35:38] Um, yeah. No. These days? You closed it after I asked.
Anne Gracie [35:42] No, no, no, no, no, it’s been like that for, I dunno, about six or seven years, we kind of realized that it’s the same group all the time. And we kind of realize that so much has been shared, that it’s kind of difficult for, you, you know, other people to fit in. So, yeah. Um, that said, I am thinking of, of, uh, a couple of friends and I are thinking of organizing a different kind of retreat, uh, with a completely different group. So you’re still in with a chance.
Patricia McLinn [36:12] Okay.
Anne Gracie [36:13] If you still wanted to come.
Patricia McLinn [36:15] This one is going to be like, in a prison or something like that.
Anne Gracie [36:20] No, no, no, no, we’ll have a gorgeous spot. We’ll have a gorgeous spot and my rule is if it’s going to be retreat, it needs to be near the beach because I think water is very inspiring. You don’t have to swim, but yeah, you know, just looking at the beach and just looking out in the ever-changing water and the sea and the sky is just gorgeous and walking along the beach has just, you know, brainstorming with a friend is just brilliant, you know?
Patricia McLinn [36:45] It is. It is.
Anne Gracie [36:46] So, it won’t ever be in a hall or a prison or anything like that.
Patricia McLinn [36:51] Okay. I’ve got you recorded now, promising I’d be considered.
Anne Gracie [36:55] Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Patricia McLinn [36:57] So how do you think you’ve changed and evolved as a writer since you were first published?
Anne Gracie [37:02] Oh, hope I’ve got better. I cut more than I used to. I think, I think look, um, I tend to overwrite. I tend to override in general and I have got better at cutting back and pruning back a lot of the extraneous stuff. Otherwise, I don’t know. I, I, I don’t, because I don’t re-read my old books because I heard someone say once at a writer’s conference that a book, as far as he was concerned, that a book is never finished. It’s just that someone takes it off him. And that’s exactly how I feel. Once it’s gone, the editors got and it’s published, I can’t change it. I’m not even going to look at it because I will want to change it. Yeah.
Patricia McLinn [37:46] Yeah. Well, it’s been an interesting process with having the rights back to some of my books and putting them out because a number of them, I have felt that way, and I’ve changed some of them quite a bit. One of them, I really, in essence, I rewrote it.
Anne Gracie [38:01] Yeah.
Patricia McLinn [38:02] Um, and then, and yet some of them, it feels like, Yes, I could go in and I could change things, and I’m a better writer than I am now, but they, uh, it’s uh, there’s a completeness to what it is.
Anne Gracie [38:14] Yeah.
Patricia McLinn [38:15] As that finished book.
Anne Gracie [38:17] Yes. Yeah. Look, um, not so long ago, well, a while ago, Mary Jo Putney got my very first book, Gallant Waif, to read cause they put it on Kindle. And, and she said, Oh, I’ve just bought, got your first book, Gallant Waif, and I’m about to read it. And I went, Oh don’t, it’s terrible. And she read it, and she got back, and she said, You know, don’t worry. It’s lovely. It’s a book of its time. It’s, the storytelling is lovely. You know, don’t worry about it. You know, anyone will enjoy it.
And you know, she’s right. It’s a book of its time. Yeah. And the storytelling still works.
Patricia McLinn [38:55] Yes.
Anne Gracie [38:56] And the characters work and I don’t know, I’ve found it hopeless talking about my own writing, but you know, she reassured me that, yeah, it’s fine.
Patricia McLinn [39:02] Well, and as readers, we love to go back to those books written in other times, written in other, um, manners and styles—
Anne Gracie [39:10] Yes.
Patricia McLinn [39:11] —because they were the style of that time. So, um…
Anne Gracie [39:15] Yes.
Patricia McLinn [39:16] It’s just a little closer in time.
Anne Gracie [39:19] Yes, and I think, you know, something has been lost in this drive to eliminate adverbs and adjectives and, and all of that sort of stuff. I think there’s a lushness in some of those older books. I recently, re-read a bunch of Jayne Anne Krantz-Amanda Quick books, uh, from, uh, and also, uh, Elizabeth Lowell’s medieval, she did a medieval trilogy that has always been a favorite and the books are practically falling apart, and I bought them again on Kindle. And, you know, there’s a lushness about those books that’s just so, you just don’t get these days.
Patricia McLinn [39:57] I think what, one of the things I like in some of the older books is a different tempo. And I don’t want to say they’re necessarily slower, but they let characters develop over the course, and you don’t have, the course of the book and you don’t necessarily have to, to know, there’s a tendency to, especially with contemporaries, to throw author, characters into danger right away.
Anne Gracie [40:29] Yeah.
Patricia McLinn [40:30] And maybe, maybe this is only me, but I think, I don’t care. I don’t know who this is. I need to know who they are before they’re in danger.
Anne Gracie [40:37] Yeah. Yeah, yeah. I completely agree. It, yeah, there’s characters opening in danger. Some people can do it really well. Dick Francis does it particularly well. Uh, there’s one of his and I can’t think of the story. Um, but it opens with a scene where the character is, uh, in a, handcuffed to the wheel of a car in the desert, sweating, um, you know, about to die first on the scene. And, but the character thoughts really intrigue you. And there’s another one. Um—
Patricia McLinn [41:12] So then you do care.
Anne Gracie [41:15] So you do care, that’s right. The character, you get to know the character by his responses. And I think that in the ones that you’re talking to… Lee Child did that with his first book, Killing Floor. Where he, you know, his character is sitting there, uh, in, in a diner, he’s just arrived, and he’s having, uh, his breakfast and, and the police cars are coming for him with guns and things. And, you know, he knows perfectly well he’s in danger, but he’s fought and he’s analyzing what’s about to happen and, and how it’s working.
You think this guy’s smart. He’s, he’s really clever and you’re with him, you know, whereas a lot of the times people are just reacting and you don’t actually get to know them.
Patricia McLinn [41:57] You have to feel the character.
Anne Gracie [41:59] Yeah. And, and I look, I did it in my Autumn Bride. Um, it was the first book of the series, and I was so worried about how readers would like that book, because as I said to friends all the time, uh, this book, isn’t really a love story between a man and a woman. It’s a love story between a group of girls, four girls and an old lady. And it kind of was. Because the hero—
I have a friend of mine, who’s an editor and a reviewer, and she said to me, came up to me at a conference later, and she said something like page 198. And I went, what, what are you talking about? And she said, When the hero arrived. And she was right. But, people really liked it.
People really liked that, you know, readers love to sort of, the relationship developing between the old lady and the girls. So they forgave the fact that it wasn’t instant love straight up. And, you know, I don’t do instant love anymore. You know, I don’t, I didn’t really ever, but you know, there was always the pressure to get them together pretty quickly. I’ll let the characters tell me now and hope that readers will follow.
Patricia McLinn [43:12] Now, are all of your books set in the Regency period?
Anne Gracie [43:15] Yeah, all my historicals are. I wrote one romantic comedy for Harlequin years ago, but didn’t continue that. That was contemporary. Um, I would love to write contemporary, romantic comedy, but I’m not a fast writer, so maybe not. Yeah. And I think it’s Georgette Heyer that, that, uh, you know, I kind of feel as though I grew up in Georgette Heyer’s Regency, so that’s, you know, it feels natural to me.
Researching, Tallie’s Knight, Grand Tour, and Egypt
Patricia McLinn [43:40] How, what’s your feeling about the research, and how do you approach that?
Anne Gracie [43:43] Okay, the research depends entirely on the book and the characters. Some, sometimes, if it’s only about the characters, you know, it’s the story is mainly about the characters and pretty much set in London, there’s not a lot of research to do because a lot of stuff that I already know. When it’s been set in wartime, I have had to do quite a bit of research and, and, and work out where people were one time and dates and battles and all that.
I set a book in Regency age, era, Egypt, uh, and that was a laugh. The research for that, it was fantastic. I used a lot of travelers, um, traveling in Egypt at that time, these days, it’s, the first one, the first book I ever had to do huge amounts of research for was, uh, my second book called Tallie’s Knight, which was set, pretty much set, most of it was on the Grand, taking the Grand Tour.
Anne Gracie [44:41] And so I had to do a lot of research for that, but what I found was a, um, uh, uh, uh, published, it was in the rare book collections of my state library, and it, it was a whole series of letters from a young woman doing the Grand Tour with a bunch of friends, writing back about the experience to her brother who was, uh, uh, apparently in Ireland.
Patricia McLinn [45:05] Oh, how wonderful.
Anne Gracie [45:06] And, ah, so yeah. And then, and that was fantastic. I ended up being able to buy that book. I bought it online from an Irish bookseller in the rare book library, but these days with, uh, the so many of those books and journals and collections of letters that are on, um, online and you can just get them. And so I had the most wonderful, you know, you can glean so much gorgeous data from those witnesses.
You know, people, if, you know, some people write really boring letters home, and others write really fascinating ones and, you know, that’s, that’s really good. So when I do do the research, it’s fun. It’s not a chore. And you know, I think people who write contemporaries have to do research too.
Patricia McLinn [45:51] Oh, yes. Yes.
Anne Gracie [45:53] Yeah. It’s a rumor that you don’t have to do as much research for contemporaries.
Patricia McLinn [45:59] Oh, no, you definitely have to do research.
Anne Gracie [46:02] Yeah.
Patricia McLinn [46:03] I, I, I refer, I always have a moment in my books I refer to my granite steps moment in my books. My first book was set in Wisconsin, and I had this, it just, it’s an offhand line about them walking up granite steps to a, um, a courthouse, I think, but, uh, you know, a public building, I had the sudden fear as I’m reading over the, I think it was the page proofs at that point. Oh my God, what if for some reason they don’t have granite steps in Wisconsin.
Anne Gracie [46:37] Yep, yep.
Patricia McLinn [46:38] I don’t know why. I couldn’t think of any reasonable reason they wouldn’t. But so I’m on the phone calling, I called courthouses. Most of whom thought I was nuts. Didn’t want it. And then I had a, I had a court clerk whose son, um, studied rocks. All right. And she said, absolutely. They are granite steps. Ah, okay.
Anne Gracie [47:01] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Patricia McLinn [47:05] So, there is always something that you fret about, but the flip, the other side of that though, is that the, um, Regency readers are famed… Sorry for that background noise. That was my dog dropping her 18-inch long chew on the heat register.
Anne Gracie [47:30] My Milly dog is jealous of that.
Patricia McLinn [47:32] So, what I was saying is that Regency—
Anne Gracie [47:34] Yeah, the Regency readers.
Patricia McLinn [47:37] —readers are famed for knowing all of the ins and outs and the details. And have you ever been called to account by, by any of the readers?
Anne Gracie [47:47] Well, yeah, I have. Generally I get it right. Um, because, you know, having been brought up in, in with Georgette Heyer, you know, um, sort of mostly I’m right. The, there’s one in particular where I got things spectacularly wrong. And it’s the reg— It’s the research that you think you know, that you then don’t look up—
Patricia McLinn [48:10] Yep.
Anne Gracie [48:11] —that gets him into trouble. And, um, there were two things. One is I had a lemon tree growing in Shropshire, and I had a lovely English lady write and say, Look, by the way, our climate wouldn’t, would kill a lemon tree. There’s no way. You’ve got lemon trees growing, but see, the American writers did not pick that up. The American readers didn’t pick that up, it was just a local lady.
Um, my worst one was, uh, when I had my heroine’s mother, um, take a pilgrimage to Lourdes to pray for her son, she was a French woman, 70 years before St. Bernadette had her vision. And that’s because—
Patricia McLinn [48:51] Ooops.
Anne Gracie [48:52] —Anne thought she knew the dates and didn’t look it up, did she? And I had Catholics from all over the world, because I have a lot of foreign translations, I had Catholics from all over the world writing and saying, Uh umm. And I had to say mea culpa, I’m sorry.
Patricia McLinn [49:09] Mea culpa.Very appropriate.
Anne Gracie [49:15] So, yes. Um, but you know, it’s the things that you think you know and don’t look up that are most likely to get me at any rate into trouble.
Patricia McLinn [49:24] Absolutely, absolutely. To share some of your research on a blog with, um, multiple other authors, the Writing Wenches, um, how have, have you found that blogging has had any impact on your writing of novels?
Anne Gracie [49:42] Um, I don’t really think the blogging has, but for me, the, knowing the Word Wenches has been a huge thing in my writing career because in Australia, when I first got published, there were two other writers published in romance in Australia. One of them was Stephanie Laurens, who I know very well, she’s a good friend, but she was already out of my league. And the other was, lived far distance.
And I just didn’t know anyone else published in New York. Um, you know, to talk to. And so I actually met Mary Jo Putney and Jo Beverley and Pat Rice at that very same NInc conference in San Diego, where I met you. Um, and, uh, and, and, and I met, you said it was quite a small conference. And for me, that was brilliant because I came knowing nobody and, oh, no, sorry, I already knew Jane Porter. She came. Um, but yeah, I came knowing virtually nobody and I left there having made a bunch of friends, and then I went to the second NInc conference, my second NInc conference, which was in New York. And I remember you took me, you took me for a drink at the end of that, and I still owe you a cocktail, I’m sure.
Patricia McLinn [51:09] I’ll meet you back at NInc.
Anne Gracie [51:11] I’ve only fed you wine when you’re in Australia or whatever you do when you don’t feed. Um, but um, you know, being with those, that group of people talking, we talk a lot offline, online, sort of, you know, a little email group and yeah, they, I get some really good advice there. So it’s not so much that it’s affected my writing, um, but it is, it’s definitely affected my sense of my career, or yeah. Something like that.
Patricia McLinn [51:48] So more of the conversation is about career or is there also conversation about craft and getting—?
Anne Gracie [51:55] Oh, everything, everything.
Patricia McLinn [51:56] Oh, good.
Anne Gracie [51:57] Everything. You know, we’ll talk about craft, we’ll talk about dogs. We’ll talk about cats. We’ll talk about, you know, covers, we’ll talk about edits. We’ll talk about anything.
Patricia McLinn [52:07] I knew, I knew cats had to work in there with Mary Jo.
Anne Gracie [52:11] Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. And I like cats. I’m just allergic to them. Yeah. It’s all sorts of stuff. And sometimes we, I’ll talk with one or two of them off, you know, in just a private email saying, you know, I’m not sure what do you think, blah, blah. Um, it’s great. You know, and, and I’m very lucky in that I get to read some of their stories before they hit the, uh, hit the stands, so that’s a little perk that we have. Um, so yeah, it’s great.
Patricia McLinn [52:38] And that for, for readers who might not be familiar, um, Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley, and Patricia Rice have all also written, um, many historicals, wonderful historicals.
Anne Gracie [52:50] Yeah. Yeah. We’re, we’re actually, there’s, there’s eight of us. Um, uh, there’s Joanna Bourne as well. There’s Nicola Cornick from England. Um, there’s Susanna Kinsley, who, um, writes fantastic kind of time sleep stuff, she’s Canadian. Uh, Andrea Pickens, who also writes as Andrea Penrose and Sarah, not Sarah. What’s the, oh God, Cara Elliott.
We all, what links us all is the historical aspect of our writing. Susan King, sorry, is another one. She writes historicals, but not so much, not so much historical romance, but historical novels. So, but yeah, basically the Word Wenches are, um, historical and, uh, that’s, that’s what links us all.
Patricia McLinn [53:40] Well, as long as we’re talking about other writers, this is a good opportunity to ask a really interesting question from a reader. She says, If you could write a book with any author, alive or dead, who would you want to work with and why?
Anne Gracie [53:56] Oh, look, I don’t know. I couldn’t, you know, take me back five years and I would have been happy to say, Oh, this person, that person, the other person. Um, but now I’ve done, I have actually written linked books. We did last a couple of years ago, the Word Wenches did a linked series of Christmas novellas.
Yeah. And, and it was really tricky as we, you know, we, it was all based around a particular event or a Christmas ball. And so just, just getting that in, I figured, Oh, it just became a nightmare at times, and it was fun, but it was tricky. And I realized how much of a control freak I am about my books. Um, and, and I think, I think everybody is. I think all writers are
Patricia McLinn [54:48] Yes.
Anne Gracie [54:49] With my friend Sarah Mayberry just wrote, co-wrote a book with, um, Sarina Bowen. And I’m a huge fan of both of them. They write contemporary romance. And I’m a huge fan of both of them. And I had dinner with, um, uh, lunch with, with, uh, Sarah recently and, and I was grilling her about how it went, and she, you know, she loved it.
She said it was wonderful and they, you know, they, it was just describing getting her to describe the process was fascinating. So yeah, I would, you know, I think I would like to, but it would just depend on who and their writing process, not so much the writing that they’ve produced—
Patricia McLinn [55:29] Oh, interesting.
Anne Gracie [55:31] —but their writing process. You know what I mean? Because, because I’m a huge fan of so many different people. And I read, I don’t just read romance. I read, uh, fantasy and crime and paranormal and all sorts. So, you know, any of those would be fantastic, but it’s, you know, I’m a huge fan of people’s writing, but I don’t know whether I would be able to work with them because it takes a certain amount of give and take.
Patricia McLinn [56:00] True. So how would you, would you, would you entertain, since this is fantasy, would you entertain, um, working with Georgette Heyer?
Anne Gracie [56:09] Having read her biography by Jennifer Kloester. Probably not. Look, I’ll tell you what, I’d probably be able to write with some and enjoy writing with someone like Mary Jo. Um, I would love to write with, I’ve got a couple of friends who write, um, contemporaries, uh, and I would love to write contemporary with some of my friends. Georgette Heyer didn’t even allow her editor to edit. Any suggestion from me, I think would come with a verbal slap.
Patricia McLinn [56:44] It would be interesting to be part of the process, you know, to watch the process.
Anne Gracie [56:50] Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Patricia McLinn [56:54] Yeah. Yeah. We may not have much input, but you wish you could. I think it would be a real interesting, um, learning experience.
Anne Gracie [57:01] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. No, it would be. Um, and I think there’s nothing I enjoy, look one of the things that I most enjoy when I go on my writers’ retreat is, um, I always get together with a couple of, couple of the friends there, and we brainstorm. And I love brainstorming. And, um, I do a lot of brainstorming with friends on the phone, not just about my books, their books, too.
You know, it’s, it’s very mutual on, I do what you, you know, if I say it once, I’ve probably said it a million times to a couple of, you know, various of my friends, I’m just throwing spaghetti at the wall here, but what about, and I’ll just throw suggestions and I’m not tied to those suggestions. I’m not hooked to those suggestions. I don’t care if they say, No that’s rubbish. Um, I just love spinning possibilities. So, you know, yeah. I could work with somebody, but it would depend. Yeah.
Patricia McLinn [57:59] Yeah, I, I’m probably better at brainstorming other people’s stories than having, um, brainstorming done for mine, unless it’s very specific because I have these, I have certain things that are so sharp and so clear and I can’t budge those and they could be idiotic. It doesn’t matter. I cannot budge those without losing the whole story without losing the feel of who those people are.
Anne Gracie [58:25] Yep. Yeah.
Patricia McLinn [58:26] And, um, that can be difficult for other people to work on because they never know where these mines are going to be and going, Nope, he’s got to where, you know, he’s got to have a dog that has three legs, you know, that’s all there is to it.
Anne Gracie [58:41] Yeah, yeah, but that’s important, though, you know, you’ve got to, I hate doing the kind of brainstorming where you say to somebody, What about this? They’re like, Oh yeah, that’ll work. Thanks. You know, it never happens like that. With my writer friends, they say, No, that can’t work because of this. Um, and now, now I’ve done a lot of that yeah, but, no, it’s a great idea, but not for this story that, that’s not going to work. That’s not going to work with my hero. No, my hero is nothing like that. You know, it’s, it’s, that’s how it works. We all have, we’ve got to be the boss of this story because we, it’s, it’s all kinds of weird little intangible themes that make it a story and not an idea.
Patricia McLinn [59:23] That’s a great way of saying it, Anne, and yeah, I like that. So we’ve gotten all writerly here. Let’s take it back and talk some more about a little bit more about the readers. You said you have, you have letters from readers about what they, what stories they want to hear from you. Do you have, have you had other, do you have a lot of other contact with readers or, um, do you have great stories about what they’ve written to you or.
Anne Gracie [59:48] Yes. I have one in particular that was pretty funny. Um, uh, yeah, look, I, I, I interact mostly on Facebook with readers. Um, there’s a lot of lovely people who write to me and tell me stuff. And lots of people write emails, send me email cause they, they go to my website and, um, you know, firstname.lastname@example.org and it comes up, it comes up, um, emails. I get, I’ve got lots of emails and I try and reply to everything. Not always immediately, but yeah.
Funny email, best work behind her
Patricia McLinn [1:00:19] Any funny ones?
Anne Gracie [1:00:20] Probably, yeah. The funniest one was, this was, uh, from a, uh, professor in the U S, who wrote, I wish I could quote it, but I haven’t got it here. Uh, wrote me this fabulous letter. He just read, um, The Perfect Rake. Uh, he said, he thought I was the best writer since Jane Austin.
Patricia McLinn [1:00:47] Oh, my goodness.
Anne Gracie [1:00:48] Yes, and then he went on to say, And what must it feel like to have your best work behind you? Because he didn’t like the following book. He didn’t like the rest of the series. He didn’t like the heroes in the rest of the series. So, yes.
Patricia McLinn [1:01:07] Your best work behind you.
Anne Gracie [1:01:09] Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. But you know what? He and I had a, an ongoing correspondence that lasted for quite a long time. And, uh, yeah, it’s an interesting bloke and, um, yeah, but, uh, it’s it, uh, that very first one where, you know, what must it feel like to have your best work behind you.
Patricia McLinn [1:01:29] And that is, that is, that’s so indicative of you, Anne, that you did have an ongoing conversation with him rather than just blasting him back or ignoring him.
Anne Gracie [1:01:39] Ah, look, I, you know, yeah. I look, he was fascinating. Um, and, I’m, I just I find people really interesting. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve never had nasty stuff, so, you know, I’ve never felt the need to be angry at anyone. You know, I think it’s fair enough if people don’t like some of my books, you know, there’s, there’s not a, there’s not a, an author alive that I’ve got. And I live in a house that’s absolutely drowning in books. Um, but not every, not every author hits the exact spot every time. And I just, yeah, if you don’t like it, fair enough. That’s okay. But he was, he was interesting. Yeah.
Patricia McLinn [1:02:20] And I think, I think there may be an element of that for a lot of us who are writing that if we could find the perfect books, um, for what we wanted to read at the time we wanted to read it. We, I probably wouldn’t write as much. I’m often writing what I want to read.
Anne Gracie [1:02:37] That’s exactly how I started, you know, because that first book, Gallant Waif, I had a ,it’s about a girl who followed her father and brothers to war. Uh, or accompanied them into war and, and, you know, followed the army and, uh, ended up in a mess, as you do.
And I had read a book, I had read a book with a heroine who had kind of done the same thing, uh, but had waltzed through behind enemy lines, no problems at all.
Patricia McLinn [1:03:09] Oh.
Anne Gracie [1:03:10] Met nice people along the way, sort of did the whole journey in a red silk dress in boots with eyelets. And I just thought, you know, I don’t believe that. Uh, I think it would have been grimmer, and so my heroine didn’t have, you know, a blessed, easy time of things, and it made her a stronger and more interesting person.
Patricia McLinn [1:03:34] So you were writing what you wanted to read. Yeah.
Anne Gracie [1:03:38] Exactly. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. I think we do.
Patricia McLinn [1:03:42] So, in, of your books, a reader who’s new to you, where would you recommend that they start? Where’s a good entry point to your books.
Anne Gracie [1:03:52] Okay. Oh, I can never, I can never recommend my books. Um, look, a lot of people, the favorite hero is Gideon in The Perfect Rake. Um, a lot of new to me writers, readers, uh, picked up, oh, forgotten the book, forgotten the title. Um, a lot of new to me being read is also picked up The Autumn Bride and follow that series through. Yeah.
People… I had a bunch of not very good covers, and then I had a fabulous cover for, I think it might’ve been The Accidental Wedding. It’s got, it’s got a really beautiful passible, um, bride dress on the cover. And because, purely because of that fantastic cover, a lot of people picked up that book and really liked it, and then went back and read, you know, the backlist. So I’ve been lucky in that all my backlist with Berkeley is still in print. Um, so I think it’s kept alive because people pick up something and they like it, and they go back and read the backlist.
Patricia McLinn [1:05:13] Even with that, with people coming back into your, discovering all of your backlist like that, do you have any books that you think have, have not been read as much as perhaps they deserve and that even your, your loyal readers may have overlooked it?
Anne Gracie [1:05:20] Sure. Two books that I think, you know, the, my second book Tallie’s Knight, it was used in the UK as a giveaway, always too green to know what I was agreeing to. And, it was used in the US, uh, as an experiment to start a new possible line. Uh, and, and it was shelved in the bookstores away from romance.
Patricia McLinn [1:05:50] Oh, dear.
Anne Gracie [1:05:51] And so a lot of people never discovered it, and it’s, it’s a nice book. It’s my, that’s my Grand Tour book. Um, the other one is probably my worst cover ever, which is a baby poo brown background with a bunch of red roses and a white rose in the middle. And that’s my chicken pants, Regency England, uh, the Regency Egypt story. And you know, it, it, it won a few Best of the Year’s in the US and, and, you know, I’ve got some lovely reviews, but just because the cover told you nothing, it was, it nearly killed my career, um, that cover.
And then the following, then I decided to sort of have a look at what was happening. Cause my, my title had died and it was a good book. Um, and that’s when I got the beautiful book with a gorgeous, um, cover. And that, and that just bounced my career back up into living again. So, yeah.
Patricia McLinn [1:06:53] Well those are great recommendations for, for readers. And—
Anne Gracie [1:06:57] Yeah. And look, even though I write series, all my books are standalone as well as being a part of a series. So you can pick up anyone at any time.
Patricia McLinn [1:07:05] And you’ve, you’ve mentioned your, your website, but mention it again.
Anne Gracie [1:07:09] Okay. It’s www.annegracie.com and it’s Anne with an E and Gracie with an I E. Um, I’m on Facebook it’s just Anne Gracie, just, yeah, just do a Google search, it’ll pop up.
Patricia McLinn [1:07:25] And the, and the, um, give them the wenches.
Anne Gracie [1:07:29] Wordwenches.com, I think. I don’t know.
Patricia McLinn [1:07:36] We’ll have the URLs written for the people, and so much easier to click from that than it is from it… I’ve been known to try to write down URLs while people were talking, that’s very difficult. Um, Is there anything I should have asked you that I haven’t, or that you would like to answer that you haven’t been asked?
Anne Gracie [1:08:00] No. No, it’s been lovely.
Patricia McLinn [1:08:07] Well, we’re not done yet. I consider this the epilogue. It might be my favorite part at a rapid-fire either or questions. You can only pick one. I’ve had trouble with, with some other authors about that. So let’s go, um, binge watch or make the watching last as long as possible?
Anne Gracie [1:08:30] Make the watching last.
Patricia McLinn [1:08:32] Cowboy boots or hiking boots?
Anne Gracie [1:08:34] Cowboy.
Patricia McLinn [1:08:35] Tea—
Anne Gracie [1:08:36] I have red cowboy boots.
Patricia McLinn [1:08:38] Oh, Ooh. How high up are they? Are they, you know, just midcalf?
Anne Gracie [1:08:44] Just above midcalf, yeah.
Patricia McLinn [1:08:47] Um, tea or coffee?
Anne Gracie [1:08:50] Coffee.
Patricia McLinn [1:08:52] Really? Okay. That’s surprised me. Um, cake or ice cream?
Anne Gracie [1:08:55] Ice cream.
Patricia McLinn [1:08:56] Day or night?
Anne Gracie [1:08:58] Both.
Patricia McLinn [1:08:59] I knew you were going to be trouble. Um—
Anne Gracie [1:09:02] Yeah, I told you I was going to be trouble.
Patricia McLinn [1:09:05] Well, okay. I was going to ask you mountains or beach, but I think I know that one. So let’s, well, this is still—
Anne Gracie [1:09:10] Both. Both.
Patricia McLinn [1:09:11] Okay. Mountains or beach?
Anne Gracie [1:09:13]. One of my favorite, both, one of my favorite places is Lowland in, in Victoria, where there, there are hills in the background going into it, a little low mountain range, and it goes right down to the beach. That’s a bit of a perfect combination. But, otherwise beach. Otherwise, beach.
Patricia McLinn [1:09:30] So sailboat or motorboat?
Anne Gracie [1:09:32] Motor.
Patricia McLinn [1:09:34] Gardening or house decorating?
Anne Gracie [1:09:37] Gardening.
Patricia McLinn [1:09:38] Okay, then I can’t ask you this other one. Let’s see, uh, toenail polish or bare toenails?
Anne Gracie [1:09:46] Bare. I do wear toenail, oh sorry, I’m going to annoy you again. I do wear, in the summer I have toenail polish. In winter and the rest of the time, I have bare.
Patricia McLinn [1:09:57] Definitely more during the summer. Appetizer or dessert?
Anne Gracie [1:10:02] Appetizer.
Patricia McLinn [1:10:03] Let’s see, what else should I, oh, which is eerier to you, an owl hooting or coyotes howling?
Anne Gracie [1:10:10] I love them both. I’ve never heard coyotes howling and I have… No, we don’t have them. And I, and I only ever go to cities usually. So yeah, I don’t, I’ve never heard coyotes. Uh, I would love to hear coyotes. We have, uh, dingoes, but it’s not the same thing.
Patricia McLinn [1:10:28] You’ll have to come and stay with me because I have both. And especially if they have, um, like fireworks, it sets the coyotes out. And then, um, I will, I will try to get my dog to go out and she looks at me like, Are you crazy lady? I’m not going out there.
Anne Gracie [1:10:48] I do have a dog that sings along to Ella Fitzgerald. Only Ella Fitzgerald, uh, she won’t sing to anything else, but put Ella Fitzgerald on and she howls like crazy. But, yes.
Patricia McLinn [1:10:59] And what is her name?
Anne Gracie [1:11:01] That’s the closest I can get. Milly.
Patricia McLinn [1:11:05] Well, that’s wonderful. On that note, I think we’ll say, Thank you so much, Anne Gracie, for coming all the way from Australia by the, the wonders of technology. It’s been wonderful as it always is when we have a chance to talk. And I hope the rest of you—
Anne Gracie [1:11:20] Yeah, really enjoyed it
Patricia McLinn [1:11:21] Great. I hope the rest of you will come back next week for another author. We can try to find out more about the stories behind the stories.
Anne Gracie [1:11:31] Yep. I will certainly be here listening to that.
Patricia McLinn [1:11:34] That’s the show for this week. Hope you enjoyed it. And thank you for joining Authors Love Readers podcast. Remember, you can always find out more about our guest authors in the show notes, and you can find out more about me at www.patriciamclinn.com. You can also send in questions to be asked of future authors at email@example.com
Until next week. Wishing you lots of happy reading. Bye.