Welcome back for our second day with Elizabeth Camden, whose latest novel Into the Whirlwind just released! You can learn more about Elizabeth and her books in several places online:
Historical fiction requires so much research. What’s the most interesting (or unusual, or funny) thing you’ve done in the name of research for a book?
I am in love with Google Books! Google has been scanning the full-text of pre-1923 books, and this has been a gold mine for me. One tip I’ll pass on to fellow writers: You can often find tourist guides to the major cities written in the 1880s through 1920. For example, here is a link to Boston of Today, written in 1892. http://books.google.com/books/about/Boston_of_To_day.html?id=WgRQa9f8MWgC
This sort of tourist guide provides great insight into popular hotels, places to eat, even the hours for museums and government offices. They usually have contemporary maps and streetcar information, with practical information like prices, travel times, and neighborhoods to avoid. These old tourist books have saved me countless hours trying to track down arcane trivia about the cities where I set my books.
We never know what we might find until we start digging! Some writers love plotting, some like writing that first draft, and others enjoying researching or digging into the revisions. What's your favorite part about writing a book, and why do you think it is?
I like everything about writing a novel! For me, it is the ultimate blend of research, artistic expression, the exploration of psychology, and even the business aspects of developing a marketable product. I have a love-hate relationship with getting the first draft on its feet, but everything else is a thrill.
When starting a new project, do you tend to begin with a time period or event and create the characters to live it, or do you start with characters and then find their story?
I always start with a profession for either my hero or heroine. Since all my books are set in the gilded age, I start researching that profession as it existed in the second half of the 19th century. I read biographies of people in the profession, business journals, and newspaper articles written during the time. At this point I have no idea what sort of characters or plot will emerge. As I read, ideas for the characters begin to emerge, but I always fight the impulse to go for the obvious.
For example, when I wrote The Rose of Winslow Street, I wanted my hero to be a perfume-maker. Rather than go for the obvious of a man who is elegant and refined, I deliberately forced myself to look in the opposite direction. This led me to a tough, rugged man who grew up on a massive estate in Romania that grew roses. Politics forced him to become a warrior, but love drew him home to his rose fields and his lifelong craving for a peaceful world where he could blend perfume. By forcing myself to pick an interesting profession I have been able to steer clear of overly-trodden storylines.
Authors seem to constantly find new ways to use social media. How do you use a site like Pinterest while you’re researching and writing, or to promote your books and reach readers?
I admit I’m not very good with social media. None of it comes naturally to me, and my deepest wish is that my readers will do the work for me! The best promotional tool is word of mouth, and the only way to really get that is to write books people care about. My preference is to direct my energies toward writing a powerfully emotional book, and then keep my fingers crossed that readers will take to twitter and facebook on my behalf!
I do maintain a blog at http://elizabethcamden.com/blog where I post about developments in the publishing and romance genre. This serves two purposes. I teach genre fiction at the college where I work, so it helps keep me informed about developments in the industry, but I also hope to attract curious readers who are passionate about the romance genre and might give my books a try someday.
What would you like readers to gain from reading your books?
Mostly I want readers to have a wonderful, exhilarating time as they watch a great, heroic people fall desperately in love and battle insurmountable odds. I hope my novels are hard to put down and sweep the reader away to another time and place. They always feature a love story that is front and center, which is my favorite thing to write.
I have found great comfort in reading novels. They give me examples of persevering through tragedy, overcoming the odds, learning to trust your instincts, and to never give up. My books usually feature characters who struggle to overcome lifetime challenges. They do so through faith, intelligence, perseverance, and common sense. I believe these qualities can help inspire people as they wrestle with their own problems.
Any final words?
Just that I am thankful for the chance to be in this business. Reading novels was a huge part of my life, and if I can give back just a tiny fraction of the joy I have had from reading, I will be very grateful indeed. Thank you for the opportunity to help me get the word out!
Thanks so much for spending time with us, Elizabeth – it’s been great to get a peek into your part of the writing world.
Visitors, Elizabeth has agreed to give a copy of Into the Whirlwind to one of our readers this week (a print copy if the winner is in the U.S., an electronic copy if the winner is outside the U.S.). Just answer her question in the comments for your chance to win (spelling out ‘at’ and ‘dot’ to help cut down on spam). Here’s the question again:
I’m dreaming up ideas for my next book, which will be set somewhere in gilded age America. Which topic sounds good to you?
- A reunion story of two people who once loved each other years ago
- Longtime friends who develop into a romantic relationship
- An across the tracks romance (rich boy, poor girl)
- A spooky and gothic romance…remote mansion, isolated heroine, all the classics of the genre.
The drawing will be held at 8 a.m. EST this Friday, August 30. Good luck!