When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I loved reading as a child. The first story I wrote was in the sixth grade and from then on I wanted to be a writer, though I wanted to be other things as well, an actress, an artist...
How long does it take you to write a book?
I'm a snail. Two years would be the shortest amount of time it would take me.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I have a paranormal thread in Floats the Dark Shadow. I made certain that the murders could be solved by the detective, but added the paranormal element for those who enjoy it. Since the killer believes he's the reincarnation of Gilles de Rais, that all worked. I thought I'd have to abandon that thread in Bitter Draughts, because it's set against the backdrop of the Dreyfus Affair and its theme of prejudice, but then I discovered that the first clues to the Dreyfus case were given to his brother by a psychic, so I got to weave in my Tarot readings and characters involved in the occult world in Paris. It was a surprise because she's usually written out of the history books.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
They love losing themselves in the world.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Exhausts me when it's going slowly. Energizes me when it's going well.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
I wish I knew. Sometimes things that have been dragging on suddenly come to life and I plunge in.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I do attempt a balance, but I try to write the book that I want to read.
What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
Dorothy Dunnett. I began her Lymond Chronicles and gave up after a hundred pages because there were so many characters (I didn't dislike her, but felt overwhelmed). But I couldn't stop thinking about Lymond and the story so I went back to it. I found that I had everyone on stage and got swept away through all six monster novels, and I still reread them.
At what point do you think someone should call themselves a writer?
I think you need to finish something and not just dream about it. But you can have a couple of poems in a drawer you never show anyone and be a writer. It's giving birth to the story onto the page.
What do the words “writer’s block” mean to you?
They mean watching too much television and playing too many stupid games to avoid facing the blank page or the page of trite garbage.
Are there therapeutic benefits to modeling a character after someone you know?
I seldom do that. I've never killed off a villain who was someone I hated in real life. I did put in a couple I was found of in one of my historical romances, but then I had to torture one of them and immediately recast them both. In Floats the Dark Shadow, Carmine is very loosely based on an old friend. She has some of the snarky humor and looks a bit like her but is also different.
What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?
At least one character. Then the place most likely. Then I look for historical events. In Floats the Dark Shadow it was actually the villain I got first. I spent MONTHS (arrgh) trying to write about a different heroine. I told her she was an artist. She told me she was a journalist. The characters almost always win these fights. I was despairing, trying to think of another story I could write about Paris, when I remembered Gilles de Rais. Within a week I had my main characters and my plot.
How would you describe your book’s ideal reader?
I write for someone who loves reading - who loves interesting characters in a good story, but also loves language, a touch of the poetic.
How much research did you need to do for your book?
The research is one of the fun things. Reading about France and about Paris specifically. Visiting Paris. I did tons and loved it all.
Tell us more about your book/s?
The Paris Trilogy is dark but not dismal - brooding. I switched to mystery because my romances tended to be very dark for the genre and I liked to break rules and romance readers don't like having the rules broken. These novels are dark but highly romantic. I like larger than life characters - not unbelievable, but heroic and deeply involved in their world. Floats the Dark Shadow is quite Gothic, Bitter Draughts is leaner and more political. The last of the trilogy will again have a more poetic, Gothic aura.