Candice Hern is the author whose books were among the ones that made me fall in love with the historical romance genre. I was thus very excited when she agreed to do an interview with me. I checked my email everyday and when I finally received her answers, I confess to have done a little jig around my room! Alright now, without further ado, it is my pleasure to share with all the readers and writers out there my interview with this most talented author:
• Could you tell us a bit about your newest book, It Happened One Night?
It’s an anthology in which four authors — Stephanie Laurens, Mary Balogh, Jacquie D’Alessandro, and me — each wrote a novella using the same plot premise. It was Mary’s idea. She wanted to prove that regardless of how similar plots might be, that no two (or four) writers will ever produce the same story. There will always be differences in voice, in perspective, in style, etc. We came up with a simple premise: a man and woman who know each other but haven’t seen each other for ten years, find themselves stranded for a night at the same inn. Mary was right. All four stories are VERY different. It was a fun experiment.
My novella is about a woman who was introduced in my Merry Widows series. She was the oldest of the widows and I never intended to give her a book of her own. But I received so much mail about her that I thought the anthology was a great opportunity to give her a happy ending. Both she and the hero are in their 40s. I’ve had so much mail thanking me for writing about “older” protagonists!
Your award-winning Merry Widows Trilogy was super fun to read! Where did you get your idea to write about widows?
I actually came up with the idea for the first book, IN THE THRILL OF THE NIGHT, as a standalone book. But knowing publishers love connected books, I toyed around with ideas for a trilogy. At first I considered a connection through the hero, ie brothers or friends, etc. Then I decided I wanted to do something different. There were lots series and trilogies connected through the heroes — brothers, fellow soldiers, secret society members, etc. Series tied to the heroines were less common, though certainly they were out there. Lots of sister series, for example. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to connect the heroine of my first book to other women but I knew I wanted to focus on the heroines. Then I was watching “Sex and the City” one night, and it all clicked. The heroine of my first book wanted to have a love affair. After watching “Sex and the City” I decided I would create a group of Regency girl friends who had affairs and talked together about sex. : -) I pitched the series as “Sex and the City meets Jane Austen.”
• How many books have you published to this day?
Fourteen novels and one novella.
• I have visited your discussion board several times to ask questions about the Regency era and you have always answered them so thoroughly. How did you gain so much knowledge of this period? And what made you love the Regency era in the first place?
I’m glad you find the discussion board helpful. I’ve created an entire Regency World on my website where I’ve gathered up lots of info on the period for both readers and writers, including in illustrated glossary, a detailed timeline, an illustrated digest of Regency people and places, links to research sites, etc.
I’ve always been a history buff, with certain specific pockets of history as favorites, eg 18th dynasty Egypt, Tudor England, Revolutionary France, gold rush California, etc. My bookshelves are filled with books about those eras. I’ve also always been drawn to the late 18th century and Regency England, primarily from the perspective of an antique collector. That’s the period I tend to collect most. (You can see some of my collections on my website, here. Like any serious collector, I study the social and political history of the period so I understand the context of the items I collect. So I have a pretty substantial library of books on the period — general history, fashion, accessories, design, art, architecture, decorative arts, literature, poetry, social movements, the Peninsular Wars, Nelson and the Royal Navy, royalty, and on and on. When people ask research questions on my discussion board, I can generally hunt down the answer in my library.
I believe, though, that it was the fashion that first drew me to the period. I have always loved it. I am fascinated by the short period — 25 to 30 years — of high-waisted dresses with narrow skirts sandwiched between two periods of huge skirts. Of all the historical fashion eras, it’s my favorite style.
• Do you remember how you felt when you published your first book?
Oh yes! It was such a thrill. I even used my real name, deciding against a pseudonym. In case I only ever published one book, I wanted my own name on it! I was still working at my day job at the time, and my work colleagues through a big booksigning for me in one of the conference rooms. It was great fun.
• Do you ever reread your published books? How do you feel when you do?
I don’t really re-read them. I spend so much time writing a book that I have pretty much had my fill of it by the time I’m done. Besides, if it doesn’t hold up in a later reading, it does me no good to know that as it’s too late to fix it. I’m afraid I will too often think of things I should have done and cringe at what I did do. Sometimes, when I am doing a workshop on some aspect of writing and I want to pull an example from one of my books, I’ll start flipping through and often end up reading a whole section. If it’s good, I’ll think, “Did I really write that?”
• What was the toughest experience you had with publishing?
Not being able to find a publisher after 14 books.
• What was the best experience you had with publishing?
Meeting other writers and making some of the best friends I’ll ever have.
• What do you believe is required to make a great romance novel?
A good love story that sweeps you away. It’s not about the history being accurate or the mechanics of writing being perfect. It’s all about the story.
• Do you have any last words for aspiring writers?
Keep writing! When you finish a project, don’t spend years tweaking it. Yes, you should polish it until it publish-worthy, but don’t overwork it. Package it for submission and start the next project. Keep moving forward. And get connected with other writers. Not just for sharing ideas and critiquing, but for industry networking. Genre fiction is so competitive that you need to keep your eye on what’s happening in the industry and the market, join professional writers’ groups likes RWA, network with industry professionals at conferences, etc. Write the best book you can, but be smart and informed when you’re ready to sell it.
Thank you so much Candice for this interview!