‘As many beginner romance writers do, I decided category would be an easy way into the industry. Even though my heart has always been with long juicy historicals.’ Anna Campbell.
SHEY. ‘As many beginner romance writers do, I decided category would be an easy way into the industry. Even though my heart has always been with long juicy historicals.’ Thrilling words from a thrilling lady and author, Anna Campbell, our guest today. Anna, would you say that after a long journey to get into the industry, and a career there that has now spanned thirteen years, that your heart is where it wants to be?
ANNA. Hi Lady Shey! Hi Dudes! Thanks for having me to visit today. I love writing historical romance – I don’t think any genre sweeps you away into a larger-than-life world the way historical romance does. Having said that, I have a vague idea of writing a historical mystery series but I fear I’m never going to have the time when I’m so busy writing my Highlanders and my rakes and my smart-mouthed Regency ladies.
SHEY. Your first book, Claiming the Courtesan which has won numerous awards was ‘dark and sexy,’
and very different from a number of historicals out there at that time.
Ignoring the dudes please tell us what gave you the idea to go darker? Were there any true historical stories of dukes marrying their mistress that inspired you?
ANNA – When I wrote CTC, I had pretty much decided I was never going to be published. I’d written for most of my life without getting a contract – the publishing world was very different back in the early 2000s! So I just went where my heart took me – and that was to a very dark story about a tormented duke and the courtesan he loves. The fashion when I started Courtesan was very much romantic comedy, Julia Quinn and Amanda Quick and all those sparkling Regencies. But as I wasn’t writing for a market but to please myself, that didn’t much matter (so I thought!). Verity and Kylemore’s story came from my imagination but I had a marvellous moment after I’d written the first draft when I read Katy Hickman’s book Courtesans and came across the story of the courtesan Elizabeth Armitage and her aristocratic husband Charles James Fox. These two had a lot in common with my made-up characters. It felt like a sign from the universe that I was onto something.
SHEY –Both wonderful books for those who haven’t read them BTW. Claiming the Courtesan was the start of a rollercoaster ride where you released a number of books for many major publishers–again, all to tremendous acclaim–but for last few years you decided to go your own way, publishing your books yourself. What was your thinking behind that move? And how has it worked out for you?
ANNA -I love being an indie, although I’ll always be tremendously grateful for my career in traditional publishing. I learned so much and I picked up a large readership which stood me in good stead when I went out on my own. A few things pushed me down the independent route – I wanted to write stories in a variety of tones. While I’d started my career writing dark stories, at heart I’m actually quite a jolly soul and I wanted to write some romantic comedy. I also wanted more releases a year than a trad career allows.
SHEY– You’ve also gotten deeply into Scotland, especially the unspoiled island of Eigg.
Not that I noticed. Which of your ultra sexy heroes would you want to spend a day with there and what would you do ……. ?
And can you tell us why you find Eigg so bewitching?
ANNA — Ha, all of my heroes! Although perhaps not at the same time. That’s just too much like hard work! Just because he’s the most recent and also because I developed a major crush on him as I wrote the story, I’ll choose Brock Drummond, Earl of Bruard, who stars in The Highlander’s Forbidden Mistress, my latest release.
Brock is a wonderful mixture of heart and intellect and sexiness – so at least some of what I do with him on the Isle of Eigg will involve conversation! Really! I’ve included a picture of the view over to Rum from Laig Beach on Eigg.
It’s pretty obvious why I’m so in love with the place! I’ve always loved islands and this one has such a rich history and such glorious scenery. I also love that when I go there, I feel like the rest of the world is a million miles away (well, a couple of hours on a CalMac ferry, anyway!)
Shey–You know we were up for having our anniversary in Arisaig again, heading over to Eigg for a day to bag the Sgurr, before winding up in Glencoe. RIGHT NOW ACTUALLY. Oh well, the best laid plans of hamsters and women, but thank you for giving that wee flavour and here’s hoping for next year. Right now I gather they are asking tourists to stay away from Eigg before you dudes get any bright ideas here. Anna, you’ve also moved into Scotland as a setting for many of your books. Give us the low down, is it the men in kilts, or something else that has drawn you in that direction?
ANNA–Well, a man in a kilt is always welcome!
Not to mention that wonderful accent. Sigh. Actually I’ve been in love with Scotland
since my very first visit back in the mid-1980s. I’ve been back numerous times since and the love affair has only intensified. I think it’s the most beautiful country on earth and the history is full of soul-stirring stories. Not to mention the music. That goes straight to the heart. When I first visited, I wondered if there was something in the idea of the blood calling me home. I am, after all, a Campbell, even if one raised on the other side of the world.
SHEY —How do you do your research for your novels?
ANNA– These days because I know the period I’m working in so well, I mostly do book-specific stuff. For example, with The Highlander’s Lost Lady, a lot of the plot hinged on issues like the age of consent in Scotland in the 1820s so I had a wonderful dive into marital law in the Regency period.
SHEY —What would you say has changed most about the writing industry since you first started subbing your work?
ANNA — Ha, do you want a 10-page answer?
When I started writing, the only way to get published and find an audience was to get a contract with a traditional publisher, and books were available in print format only. Digital technology has created so many more ways for people to read and to publish. There’s a freedom now that there wasn’t back when I started writing as a teen.
Shey —Returning to that, you’ve written– in the hope of getting published– since 3rd Grade, getting to the stage where ‘under the bed was more crowded than the centre of Hong Kong at Chinese New Year,’ with manuscripts, finished, unfinished or rejected, you set yourself targets, goals, often doing mundane jobs, did you ever think of giving up?
ANNA–I did! When I was in my late 30s, I was working in a dead-end job and nothing was happening with my writing career. I decided that wanting to be published was like wanting to dance for the Bolshoi (also a girlish dream for the young Anna!). It was time to put aside these silly fantasies of being a writer and start trying to build a proper life for myself. I lasted about 18 months and I was absolutely miserable. So when I went back to writing, I decided I needed to be a bit smarter about what I was doing. So I joined Romance Writers of Australia, and I started to write something that had a bit of commercial appeal. It still took a couple of years, but the decisions I made after giving up started me on the road to publication.
SHEY — Would you say that keeping your eye on markets and looking for the way in, with work that is marketable played its part and what tips would you give aspiring writers out there? I’d mention the worthy master here but as Bobby Bub ses, he can’t actually write. He can’t spell neither.
ANNA–The weird thing is I ended up getting published with a book I didn’t think any publisher would ever touch with a barge pole. At the time, the idea of a heroine who sleeps with men for money seemed very out there. I’d also advise against chasing trends. These days, trends come and go faster than a speeding bullet. My tip for aspiring writers is to read a lot in what’s being published now and take note of popular tropes (not trends). Marriage of convenience is a trope; hockey playing heroes is a trend. Also if you start a book, fight through the sagging middle to finish it.
Partly because there’s nothing you can do with the start of a book, but also because finishing a book will teach you more about writing than a million writing courses.
SHEY —What’s next for Anna Campbell?
ANNA–Lockdown has done wonders for the appearance of new Anna Campbell books! There are three more this year to finish up the Lairds Most Likely series. The Highlander’s Rescued Maiden is out at the end of September and as those who have followed me for a while know, I always do a Christmas story. The Highlander’s Christmas Countess should be out end of October. I’m also contributing a story to a Christmas historical romance anthology, but details of that are under wraps right now.
Next year I’m very excited because I’m starting a new series based back in Regency London, stories full of glamour and passion. Stay tuned for the announcement of details, but if you enjoyed my Dashing Widows series, I think you’ll be very pleased with this new direction.
Australian Anna Campbell has written 11 multi award-winning historical romances for Avon HarperCollins and Grand Central Publishing. As an independently published author, she’s released 25 bestselling stories, including seven in her latest series, The Lairds Most Likely. Anna has won numerous awards for her Regency-set stories, including RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice, the Booksellers Best, the Golden Quill (three times), the Heart of Excellence (twice), the Write Touch, the Aspen Gold (twice), and the Australian Romance Readers’ favorite historical romance (five times).
Blurb for The Highlander’s Forbidden Mistress:
A week to be wicked…
Widowed Selina Martin faces another marriage founded on duty, not love. When notorious libertine Lord Bruard invites her to his isolated hunting lodge, he promises discretion – and seven days of hedonistic pleasure before she weds her boorish fiancé. All her life, Selina has done the right thing, but this no-strings-attached chance to discover the handsome rake’s sensual secrets is irresistible. She’ll surrender to her wicked fantasies, seize some brief happiness, then knuckle down to a loveless union. What could possibly go wrong?
In a lifetime of seduction, Brock Drummond, the dashing Earl of Bruard, has never wanted a woman the way he wants demure widow Selina Martin. When Selina agrees to become his temporary lover, he soon falls captive to an enchantment unlike any other. He sets out to slake his white hot desire until only ashes remain, but as each day of forbidden delight passes, the idea of saying goodbye to his ardent mistress becomes more and more unbearable.
When scandal explodes around them and threatens to destroy Selina, Brock is the only person she can turn to. After so short a time, can she trust a man whose name is a byword for depravity?
Will this sizzling liaison prove a mere affair to remember? Or will their week of passion spark a lifetime of happiness for the widow and her dissolute Scottish earl?
Excerpt from THE HIGHLANDER’S FORBIDDEN MISTRESS: THE LAIRDS MOST LIKELY BOOK 7
Derwent Hall, Essex, December 1823
Selina was too aware that it was late and that she was alone with a man whose reputation was bad enough to send respectable virgins shrieking for their mammas. Lord Bruard’s company was the closest thing to satanic temptation that she was ever likely to experience.
She swallowed to moisten a dry throat and set the book on the mantel. “I must go,” she said, and cursed the squeak in her voice.
“Must you?” Bruard didn’t sound as if he cared whether she stayed or went. He continued as if they were in the middle of a friendly conversation. “You shouldn’t let Canley-Smythe bully you, you know. If he bullies you now, before he gets his ring on your finger, he’ll turn into a domestic tyrant when you marry.”
She paused in the act of turning away toward the door. “This is none of your business, sir.”
Unfortunately, it was also a perfectly accurate assessment of her future. Selina was no fool, and she had few illusions about what life with Cecil was going to be. But what choice did she have?
With a leisurely grace that made Selina’s foolish heart skip around inside her tight chest, Bruard sat up. She thought she’d committed her whole self to marrying Cecil, but now it turned out that her heart hadn’t signed up to the arrangement. Her heart cried out that she was still young and at last she had the chance to flirt with an attractive man. It insisted that if she ran away now, she was a filthy coward.
“Oh, that’s true.” Again no shame. “But I’m telling you this out of pure altruism. Stand up for yourself now, or he’ll crush every ounce of spirit out of you.”
“Pure altruism?” She gave a snort of amusement that would have shocked Cecil. “It seems the world is completely wrong about you, Lord Bruard.”
The half-smile reappeared, deepening the creases around Bruard’s deep-set eyes. The breath jammed in her lungs. Dear God, no wonder the ladies went insane for him. He truly was extraordinarily attractive. He should have warning signs posted all over him.
Because he was right about her avoiding him, this was closer than she’d ever ventured to the wicked Lord Bruard. This was certainly the longest she’d spent talking to him.
And danger bristled in the air.
So remaining in this room made no sense. Yet remain Selina did.
His gaze fixed on her. “No, my lovely little ghost, the world isn’t wrong about me.”
The power of his attraction made her stomach cramp with nerves, as she remembered all those depraved fantasies that wore Lord Bruard’s intense dark face. Did he know she’d thought of him in the privacy of the night? She had a sick feeling that he must.
“G-ghost?” she stammered.
He shrugged. How could such a prosaic movement make her heart somersault? Except his shoulders were broad and hard, and she ached to run her hands along them and down those strong arms, displayed to advantage in the best of London tailoring.
He wore black. But then didn’t the devil always come in black?
“That’s how I think of you. With your neat little gray frocks, and the way you watch everything you say, and never miss anything that goes on around you.”
This time, genuine fear spurred the unsteady beat of the heart. She hadn’t thought she’d be of the slightest interest to such a famous libertine. It turned out she was wrong. Just as she’d watched him, he’d watched her.
She gulped for air to clear a swimming head and raised a shaking hand to her bosom, before she realized how revealing the gesture was. “You shouldn’t think of me at all.”
His expression grew more intent, and she faltered back a step. She should flee, pride or no pride, but it was as if her feet were tacked to the parquetry floor.
“Nor should you think of me, when you’re marrying that ponderous oaf in a fortnight, and you’re obviously a woman who guards her chastity the way a miser guards his gold.”
Heat blazed in her cheeks, and she avoided his eyes. How could he make her virtue sound like the worst of sins? “I don’t think of you. I…”
Oh, what was the use? Coyness suddenly seemed too shabby to countenance. As he uncoiled and rose to his feet, she made a helpless gesture. “I don’t want to think of you,” she mumbled.