Today, Hartford Books Examiner welcomes Caroline Linden.
Linden’s newest, One Night in London (Avon, $7.99), was released on Tuesday and is one of seven titles included in the K.I.S.S. and Teal campaign, which promotes ovarian cancer awareness. (See details below.)
Caroline Linden grew up inhabiting the fictitious worlds of Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden, though it wasn’t until years later that she thought to compose her own books. Rather, she earned a math degree from Harvard and then wrote software for a financial services firm. It was only after having children that she began to put her thoughts down on paper—a process that resulted in an entire novel. Ten years and nine books later, she has never looked back. Linden and her family live in New England, where she can fervently support the Red Sox.
One Night in London has already received critical acclaim. Publishers Weekly commended Linden for her “[V]ividly drawn characters, engaging plot and wonderful chemistry between the leads,” while Eye on Romance noted the book to be [S]eductive and compelling, with an air of mystery to round things out quite nicely…”
From the publisher:
A bargain that was all business . . . and pure passion.
Neither wealth nor beauty will help Lady Francesca Gordon win custody of her young niece Georgina, saving the girl from a cruel stepmother; she needs London’s top solicitor for that. But when Edward de Lacey, son of the powerful Duke of Durham, hires away the one man who can do the job, Francesca decides Edward himself must champion her case . . . if only she can melt the dashing lord’s stony heart.
Edward has reason to be guarded, though. London’s tabloids have just exposed a secret that could ruin his entire family. When Francesca offers a unique chance to undo the damage, Edward is forced to agree to a partnership . . . and now, each moment together feeds the flames of his scandalous longing for the passionate widow. But when Georgina disappears, fate will test them both . . . and leave their love hanging in the balance.
Now, Caroline Linden reveals her romance with writing…
1) ONE NIGHT IN LONDON is the first book in a new series. What are the joys and challenges of such an endeavor? Is it difficult to create a world that needs to conform to its historical setting?
This is my eighth book in the same general era, so creating the world is getting easier! I don’t think the rest of writing ever does. Beginning a series is always a challenge, if you do it right, planning out the arc of the whole series so you don’t find yourself written into a corner in Book #3 (I learned this the hard way). It was especially important in this case because I wanted to set up a pretty complex mystery to unravel over the three books, and some key points turned on historical fact. It’s always surprising what comes out during research; some things that seem perfectly reasonable turn out to be anachronistic for the time, and then other things you would never have expected to use turn out to be completely period-appropriate.
In my series, a man–a duke–confesses on his deathbed that he did something terrible as a reckless young man: he had a quickie, not-entirely-legal marriage to a very unsuitable girl. To make this all line up, I had to have his Vegas-style wedding take place before 1753 (when the Hardwicke Marriage Act outlawed such weddings). Divorce was really, really hard–and expensive–to obtain in the 18th century, so the wild young man didn’t get one when he and his unsuitable young wife split up. But sixty years later, after marrying again and having three sons, that rash first marriage comes back to haunt him when someone starts sending blackmail letters threatening to expose him as a bigamist. The trouble for the sons here is that illegitimate children couldn’t inherit the most valuable parts of the father’s estate, which had to go to the next duke. The series is built around how the sons each go about solving the problem, starting with the middle brother,
Then I added in a thorny problem for my heroine to conquer, involving custody of her niece. So after I read up on the marriage laws of 18th century England and the procedures for claiming a dukedom, I got into child custody law, all sorts of stuff about wills, and then threw in some art history for a very minor subplot. It’s always a lot harder than it seems, to make historical novels work out. Some people think I sit at my desk and make stuff up all day; actually…I make up less than they think.
2) You were a reader long before you became a writer. How did those early experiences influence your foray into fiction?
I learned a lot about what I didn’t like. Heroines who went out…unarmed…into the dark without a flashlight…when they know a serial killer is on the loose…not my favorite. I admired characters who were intelligent and practical, even if not always the nicest, purest people. I liked books where stuff happens; I liked some kind of suspense or mystery; and I liked some romance in the story. As my daughter once put it, “I like it when they kiss at the end.” I loved history as well, so when I decided to try writing something myself, all those things very naturally fell into the mix.
3) Seeing as you earned a math degree from Harvard, can you give us an equation for the successful completion of a manuscript? Also, do you find that there are similarities between the disciplines?
Absolutely. Here’s the general rule of thumb for writing a romance novel:
(Note: The equation can be viewed in the photo gallery.)
Follow that and your troubles are over…
I absolutely think there are similarities between fiction and math. In math, you are presented with a puzzle to solve. Each step needs to make sense, so that at the end everyone agrees you got The Right Answer. In writing a novel, it’s somewhat backward. You construct the puzzle, and then break it up and scatter the pieces around. Chapter by chapter, your characters put them back together again in a way that is entertaining, intelligent, and intriguing. You, as the author, are both puzzle master and puzzle solver; your duty is to make sure the puzzle and its solution are interesting. I think more people would study math if problem sets were more entertaining, and possibly involved a mysterious, sexy spy and ended with a kiss.
4) What considerations do you make when writing a series book vs. a stand-alone novel? Do you have a preference between the two?
As with most ambitious projects, a series is a double-edged sword. It’s appealing because you don’t start from zero with each new book; you’ve already got a world and a cast. A character or plot point can remain mysterious and intriguing for a long time in a series, where a stand-alone novel generally requires the author to wrap things up. And–perhaps best of all in my personal opinion–you can show so many different sides of a character over a series. In the first book, the protagonist is the focus of the story: what he thinks, what he feels, what he wants. The reader is treated to his point of view to the exclusion of most others, and rightly so, because he’s the hero of his story and the reader should understand and sympathize with him. But in the second book, he might be the new protagonist’s younger brother. Now you can show how other people view him, how his actions come across to his family, what consequences his actions (in the first book) have wrought.
A stand-alone book, on the other hand, doesn’t offer that breadth of scale, but when the book is done, it’s O-V-A over. You don’t have to remember the hair color and eye color and random personality quirks of ten characters to make the next book consistent. Which do I prefer? To alternate between the two!
5) You are also a wife, mother, and avid Red Sox supporter. What have you found to be the key(s) to balancing professional obligations with domestic responsibilities and baseball fandom?
First rule: real life comes first. Only in the deepest, darkest of deadline panic do I put my family aside for anything related to writing (and by “put aside” I mean let my kids watch TV all day because I stayed up all night writing and have no will to protest). My husband, in addition to being the most wonderful guy ever, is very supportive, and this has been the most important key to my career. We both work to make the writer’s life fit into our real life. When the annual RWA conference was in San Francisco, we made a family trip out of it, spending a week on the West Coast (AT&T Park: much ritzier than Fenway, who even needs to watch the game?). My children are supportive, too, and think it’s very cool their mom writes books, but I really don’t know how I would have made it without my husband.
The Red Sox, fortunately, get along just fine when I can’t pay close attention to them. I can love them from afar, and even work while the game is on in the background. Although I stop to watch when Jacoby Ellsbury comes to the plate.
6) What does the “K.I.S.S. and Teal” campaign mean to you personally?
When I was in college, a dear friend was diagnosed with an ovarian cyst. It wasn’t cancerous, but it weighted almost sixteen pounds by the time anyone noticed it; who knows how long it was growing, silently, inside her? At the time, we all heaved a sigh of relief when she was given a clean bill of health and went on with life, but just this year someone in my family was diagnosed with breast cancer–which has much more research funding and public awareness about early detection–and seeing the ravages it’s wrought on her life and her family’s life has been heart-rending. All cancer is horrible, but ovarian is particularly deadly. Less than half of all women diagnosed with ovarian cancer survive five years. And much like my friend’s cyst, the symptoms are so subtle, most women don’t notice them until the cancer is far advanced. If my friend’s cyst had been a malignant tumor, she probably wouldn’t have noticed it any sooner, and she’d probably be dead now. I’m so proud of Avon Books for this campaign to spread awareness about the symptoms so more women will be alert earlier, and for funding both research and support for patients. I hope every woman who reads one of the K.I.S.S. and Teal books will take note of the symptoms listed in the back of each book, and shares them with every girlfriend, sister, aunt, mother, and daughter she’s got. Notice that formula for fiction goes on to “ever after”; real life ought to as well.
With thanks to Caroline Linden for sharing her time and thoughts and Jessie Edwards, Assistant Publicist at Avon/Harper Voyager/HarperCollins Publishers, for facilitating this interview.
September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and Avon Books (an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers) has made a commitment to its authors and readers to help spread the word by unveiling its “K.I.S.S. and Teal” campaign, which advocates learning the symptoms of the disease.
Avon Books has already made an initial donation of $25,000 to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, and, with the support of readers, will continue to provide aid in the months ahead. Between August 30th and February 28, 2012, the publisher has committed to donating 25 cents from the sale of each book and eBook in the “K.I.S.S. and Teal” promotion—up to an additional $25,000—towards programs that support ovarian cancer patients and their families.
For more information on the disease, visit the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.
For more information on the “K.I.S.S. and Teal” promotion, visit Avon Romance.