Welcome to Christina Courtenay, whose novel, Highland Storms, was the winner of the Historical Romantic Novel award of 2012.
Christina, tell us a little about Highland Storms and what made it special for you and your readers. Highland Storms was special for me because I’d wanted to write a book set in Scotland for quite some time, but couldn’t think of a good enough plot. Then when I’d finished writing Trade Winds, I realised the hero’s son Brice would inherit his father’s estates in Scotland as well as in Sweden (their adopted country) and this seemed like a really good opening to a story. The fact that Brice would come of age not too long after the Jacobite uprising made it even better, because I’d been reading a lot about the terrible way the Highlanders were treated after their defeat and I wanted to write about that too. So here was my chance to kill two birds with one stone! I’m really pleased the readers seem to have liked this story.
How many other novels have you written and did it take long for you to find a publisher?
I have written about thirteen novels and three have been published so far. But I don’t consider it wasted time as you learn from your mistakes and stories can always be reworked, edited and hopefully improved. It took me over 20 years from my first attempts to finally finding a publisher for my full-length novels, but I was well and truly bitten by the writing bug, so giving up wasn’t really an option (even if I did consider it at times!)
Do you support yourself by your writing or do you have a day job, too?
No, I’m lucky enough to write full time now because I have a very supportive husband. I did try to work at the same time (I’m a secretary by profession), but I was very happy to give it up. I’m very grateful for my secretarial training though as touch-typing is the most useful skill I’ve ever learned I think!
What is a typical writing day for you? Do you have any particular rituals that put you in the mood for writing?
I don’t really have a typical writing day as I work whenever I feel inspired. I can’t do a set word count each day, that doesn’t work for me. If I’m really into a story, I work on it all day, if not then I might not write anything at all. I have tried to be a bit more disciplined lately and if inspiration won’t strike, I find that it helps to read through what I’ve written before – usually that pulls me into the story and I want to carry on. No rituals, I just try to keep away from Twitter and Facebook and actually start! (A couple of pieces of chocolate can help as an incentive though!)
The Silent Touch of Shadows is to be released in July 2012. This is set partly in the present and partly in mediaeval England, which is a little different from your previous novels. Do you think you will always write romantic fiction or do you have a yen to try a different genre?
No, I’m a true romantic and there’s never been another genre for me. Ever since I first read (or was told) a fairy tale, I’ve only wanted the ‘happy ever after’ stories and I can’t ever see myself writing anything else. I would like to try my hand at Young Adult stories, but they would still be romantic. And although The Silent Touch of Shadows is a time slip, it’s definitely romance as the heroine in the present uncovers a 600-year old love story.
I understand that you are half Swedish and that you also spent some of your earlier years in Japan. How has this influenced your writing?
Being half Swedish provided me with the setting and plot for my first published novel Trade Winds, and I suppose it also helps me to see things from the point of view of different cultures. Although I grew up in Sweden, I always knew I wasn’t quite like the other children because I had an English father and later when I moved to Japan, I was even more of an outsider. It made me try harder to understand how other people think. I often have heroes and heroines from different countries or cultures and although they struggle to compromise, I can empathise with both of them because I’ve been there.
What are you writing now?
At the moment I’m doing the final edits for The Silent Touch of Shadows and also researching the next novel in the Kinross series, that of Brice’s brother Jamie. In Highland Storms it is implied that he’s behaved very badly towards Brice, and I wanted to tell his side of the story, it seemed only fair!
Christina, thank you so much for being my guest author and telling me a little about your writing life. I particularly envy you your skill with touch typing. There are an awful lot of words in a novel when you can only type with two fingers!
Thank you so much for having me as your guest!