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Author Name: Gaelen Foley
Genre: Regency Historical Romance
Latest book in shops now: In the US it’s
One Night of Sin (June 2005) – but in the UK it’s Lord of Ice, on sale March 2006

Before we begin this interview, I need to check that you’re still grounded and that your head isn’t swollen from all of your success, so with that in mind, when was the last time you did the ironing in your house? *g*

Ironing?? Oh, is that what that pile of clothes in the corner is all about? LOL. I try to avoid it all costs. But I don’t mind telling you I’m a fine hand with a Swiffer.

I don’t do ironing either, too much like hard work *g*

I’ve just finished reading Prince Charming (you know for research purposes and all *g*) and I have to say, I loved the fact that Masked Rider was a female, in an age, historically speaking, when females were treated with little respect, and had few rights, was it a risk creating a heroine as daring as Lady Daniela was?

In fiction it’s generally a matter of whatever you can get away with. It helped that I found a few historical precedents for lady bandits, believe it or not. The fairytale elements are quite pronounced in the
Ascension Trilogy, so a wild, high-concept premise like that fit with the swashbuckling tone.

In The Duke, the heroine, Belinda Hamilton, was a London courtesan. How risky was it to create a heroine who broke a lot of the traditional historical romance rules regarding female sexuality?

The truth is I really don’t think about my projects in terms of risk. If I have a story that I need to tell, I go forward with it. Thankfully, my editor was all for it.

What are your thoughts on writing love scenes? Do they present any particular challenges? Do you let anyone else read them before they are published?

Ah—amore! Sometimes even a romance writer has to tell her characters: “Sorry, I have a headache.” But in general, for me, love scenes are one of the easiest parts to write. On that note, to answer the other part of your question, my husband, Eric, is my first reader.

When you develop your characters, do you model them on people you know in your life, or do they all come from inside your head?

Inside my head.

Do you ever get compared to other historical romance writers, e.g. Mary Jo Putney? If so, how does that make you feel?

Not that I know of. I find it best for my creative process not to listen on what people say about me for good or ill. Though I’m sure if anyone ever compared me to MJP I’d be wildly complimented. Here’s a funny incident—with my first book, RT said I was “like a young Catherine Coulter.” And I thought, “But Catherine Coulter IS young!” Which she is! But anyway, it was a huge compliment to be compared to such a dynamic writer and all-around fabulous woman.

Do any of members of your family read your books, and if so, what kind of feedback do you get from them?

They’ve all read them! At least two or three titles each. Even my retired police officer uncle. I usually tell my dad what pages he is to skip, if you know what I mean, which he’s happy to do! LOL. All of their feedback has been positive and supportive. My mom and my mother in law in particular are great about spreading the word about my books (their paper grand-babies).

That’s just so cute! *g*

What were your favourite books as a child?

I read Lloyd Alexander’s Taran of Caer Dallben series (of medieval fantasy adventures) so many times that I practically had them memorized. I used to actually PLAY Taran of Caer Dallben and once made my little sister scream when I told her “the Cauldron Born” were coming to get us. They were kind of zombie warriors that the villain had been creating.

I also loooved the Black Stallion books. (Like many little girls, I was addicted to horses. I even won a few blue ribbons in my riding days.) Topping out my list of favourites was Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, which I still find profound.

What does a typical day as a writer consist of?

Wake up, have coffee with Eric, give him a kiss goodbye before he goes off for work, then dash up to the computer and lock myself in my office for about 6 hours. The whole day and night, as well, if I’m on a hard deadline. Later in the day, I try to work in a bit of research and reading and brainstorming future book ideas, and of course the business stuff.

If you only got 5 books to keep for the rest of your life (the horror!) which would they be?

These are my touchstone books that I read regularly and couldn’t live without: The Riverside Shakespeare, the Norton Anthology of English Literature, vol 2 (with Wordsworth and the Romantics, and my favourite Victorian writers, especially Oscar Wilde, with his delicious Prologue to the Picture of Dorian Gray)—ok, that’s two, I’m totally cheating by choosing collections, aren’t I? {K:Yes you are, but we wont hold it against you}
Round out the top five with: The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain, a collection of short stories by Edgar Allen Poe, and finally, Seize the Fire by Laura Kinsale.

Which authors are you glomming at the moment? (reading a lot of?)

Luanne Rice. Love her!

Do you have other close romance writer friends, and if so who are they? Becky’s Question

Hey, Becky! 😉 Two of my best pals are Tina St. John and Jessica Bird aka JR Ward. We all started out at Ballantine together. When something upsets me, it’s one of these two that I call, and when they’re upset, they call me. I am also good friends with a newer author by the name of Sandra Schwab. She’s a great writer and a lovely person. You should check out her debut novel, The Lily Brand.

When did you realise that you wanted to write books, and who or what inspired you?

There was actually a distinct life changing moment for me when I knew that this was what I was going to do with my life. I was in eleventh grade, in advanced placement English class, when we were studying James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

I was already favourably inclined toward Joyce because I am from a family that is feverishly proud of its Irish heritage. And then there was the writing. I had never seen such poetry turned into prose before. But it was the teenage hero’s climactic epiphany at the end that spoke to me. The way I understood it was that Joyce was saying, yes, life’s a piece of shit, more or less, an experience of almost constant pain, disappointment, and confusion, but there are these glorious moments of luminous beauty that somehow make it all worthwhile.

If I can create a few such moments for other people then I will consider my time on this earth well spent.

If you could have a one-to-one conversation with a famous historical figure, who would it be with and what would you talk about?

Oh, easy! I would buy Mozart lunch and ask him how he did it—how he succeeded in channelling such pure beauty into art.

What is the greatest challenge facing women in today’s world? Have women’s issues been given short shrift by the mainstream media and/or politicians?

Women have no time to take care of themselves and just enjoy life—kick back, relax and do nothing. The pace of life is insane. It’s run here, run there, work, work, work, take care of the kids, the husband, the parents, the boss, the clients, be there for friends, help out the neighbors, etc etc etc. It never ends. Maybe that’s why we love our Regencies so much! Plenty of time then to stop and smell the roses.

How many times did you get rejected (if indeed you did) before you got published?


Really? Wow…

What is your ultimate goal when it comes to your writing?

A whole shelf of my books in every bookstore!

Oh it’ll happen soon I’m sure!

How has the romance industry changed from when you first started writing, and which of these changes were you happiest/unhappiest with?

There were more historicals in other settings besides the Regency when I first got published. Chick lit was not yet invented. Erotica was very much still on the fringe. You couldn’t give a paranormal away. Mainstream women’s fiction was only open to the top, top stars of romance. Research is easier because so much more information is available right at our fingertips over the internet. The internet has also made the genre much more interactive—readers can make their voices heard much more easily. Certainly, review sites have proliferated.

When I started, there was really only Romantic Times, Rendevous, and Affaire de Couer.
I am happiest, I suppose, with the fact that the Regency setting continues to flourish. To me, it’s the quintessential romance setting. Of course, I’m biased.

The thing I am least happy about is the number of bookstore closings and distributors that have disappeared.

In your vast experience, what would you say was the most effective method of marketing a romance novel?

My vast experience on this topic could fit into a thimble, actually. I would say having a good website is probably the wisest investment of money and time. Marketing is really my least favourite duty in regards to my job. I’d rather be writing. Sounds like a bumper sticker…

With the alleged decline in historical romance, do you think there’s an element of risk in continuing with books set prior to the 20th Century?

Who cares?? 😛 {K:Good answer!}
Of course it’s risky, but so’s everything in this life. Fortune favors the bold, baby. *g* Sure, the market could tank OR you could walk out the door and get hit by a bus tomorrow, so carpe diem.

Writing historicals is what I love to do, so that’s how I choose to spend my time on earth, at least for now, and let the chips fall where they may. I think it’s a good policy to live your life as though you’ve only got six months to live because it forces you to do what really matters to your soul, you know?
At any rate, a terrified writer in panic over her career survival is not going to contribute something to enrich and inspire the reader.
Besides, in a business where there are absolutely no guarantees, you’ve got to take it one day at a time or you’ll drive yourself nuts (not to mention kill your creativity).

Although they account for more than half of all books purchased in the U.S., with over 51 million romance readers in the United States, the genre has not always received the respect it deserves in the literary world. Why do you think that is? Could the scorn be based on the fact that 90% of the readers are female? Is this merely sexism in the form of literary snobbery?

Karen, I could write a tome on this question, but I’ll spare you all.

The short version is this: male writers in olden times (even Byron, alas) alarmed by women with brains have denigrated all literary efforts by females for hundreds of years. You see, we can parse it out as a Logic algorithm where P implies Q: If written by female = then silly, trivial, immature OR dangerous, dirty, and wicked.

This is especially true of a genre that studies and analyzes men as love- and lust- objects. We average women don’t particularly like how it feels to be compared to Playboy bunnies in men’s eyes, and men don’t like how it feels being compared to Lord Gorgeous-Rich-Gallant-Courageous in women’s eyes. (Did you ever notice how terrified the average male is of poor Fabio, for God’s sake?) They are a competitive breed. If a woman holds up an ideal of masculinity and Joe Shmoe feels he doesn’t measure up, then his ego compels him to mock her work and shove it off to the side, trivializing it.

Anyway, this pattern was only just beginning to fade away when the small extremist fringe of radical feminists in academia and other places took up their anti-marriage, anti-love crusade and targeted the romance genre for destruction as a “tool of the patriarchy.” Which is funny because that’s the very opposite of what the men felt about it! The men made fun of it because they found it as threatening as hell.

I can see that this is a subject that’s close to your heart (grin) and I totally agree with you!

Which of your books is dearest to your heart, and why?

Right now I’m totally in love with His Wicked Kiss. The way it turned out exceeded my expectations and I would go so far as to say it’s my best book to date. I know I amazed my editor with this one, and I think I even amazed myself.
I can’t wait for everyone to read it. Come see the excerpt on my website. 🙂

Sounds fabulous, I can’t wait to read it!

I’ve always wondered about this, but as an author, once your books are published, do you actually go back and read them yourself, and if so, are you able to enjoy them, or do you perhaps see things that make you want to chew your own arm off in frustration? (grin).

By the time it comes out, I am usually so sick of it, having revised it so many times that I’ve practically got it memorized, so by that time, I could care less about reading it again. Whenever I need to reference a fact from some previous book in the series, I usually find myself getting caught up in re-reading different passages again and thinking, Hey, this is pretty darn good! You see, even though I give every book I write my all, I tend to be extremely self-critical.

Just recently, it was suggested that reader reviews aren’t as credible as reviews by your peers, and that only writers/authors should be able to review books in the first place, what are your thoughts on this?

Wow, I didn’t hear that one. That sounds plum crazy to me. Everybody’s got a right to their opinion. The credibility of a review or lack thereof is usually obvious at first glance, so why would people get worked up about this? I mean, it’s hard to take someone’s rant on a full-length novel seriously if they can’t even spell or punctuate a few paragraphs properly, or if they get simple facts like the protagonists’ names wrong. Still, publishing is a business and in business they say the customer is always right. Readers are the audience, and that means readers get the last word.

Has anything a reviewer or reader said or written about you changed the way you write? Rosie’s Question

No. I don’t mean that disrespectfully, if they start telling me how to write, I tune them out. I have to do that because my books are published for a mass market audience, and that means hundreds of thousands of people who may all have totally different ideas about what I should do or write or be. If I listen to one, then it’s only fair that I listen to the others. And if I start doing that, there will very quickly be nothing left of me or my original voice!

One has to accept it that nobody can be all things to all people. No matter what any of us do, there will always be people who don’t like it. I wish it didn’t have to be that way, but once you’re published, it goes with the territory.

Last year, RWA attempted to try to define romance, and it caused a bit of a furore round the blogosphere, due to the limitations of the definitions. What were your thoughts on this at the time, and do you think it’s possible/necessary to define romance in a way that doesn’t exclude other sub-genres?

Well, I don’t know what was said on the blogs because I don’t spend much time on the internet. But I will say that I never turned in that ballot because I find the whole question an invasion of privacy.

Which of your books do you feel you’re best known for?

I honestly haven’t a clue, but as we speak, I have been informed that All About Romance is running a poll that will decide the matter by March 19 under their Favorite Books by Favorite Authors page. Readers are invited to vote for which of my books are their favourites. They can vote for more than one, but they have to number them in order of preference.

When was the last time you went overseas and where did you go?

I went to England in 2003 and spent time in London, Brighton, and Bath. Hope to visit again soon, btw!

Bath is absolutely beautiful isn’t it?

Who are your favourite romance hero and heroine of all time?

My all-time favourite hero is Jervaulx from Laura Kinsale’s Flowers From The Storm and my all-time favourite heroine is Scarlett O’Hara.

If only one person could read your book, who would that be? (as in the person who you would want most to read your book) Rosie’s Question

Mick Jagger. *g* (Hey, why not? LOL. I’ve loved his music for years, it’d be great if I got the chance to entertain him for once instead. All-time favourite song: “Beast of Burden.”)

Lol, now that’s an original answer!

If you had to pick, who would you say has been most influential within the romance genre? Kendall’s question

Hi Kendall! 🙂 I would have to say Judith McNaught.

What was the last movie you saw?

On video, I just watched that Terry Gilliam movie with Matt Damon about the Brothers Grimm. I loved it. (I don’t get out to the movies much.)

Name your top five favourite romantic films.

Much Ado About Nothing – (with Emma T and Kenneth B)
Sense & Sensibility – Emma T again

That’s all I can think of… Romance is notoriously difficult to translate onto the big screen, and then whenever Hollywood gets a truly emotional love story going, they unfailingly kill off one of the protagonists in the end. It’s dreadful!

Oh I know, dontcha just hate that? BTW, I love Emma Thompson in all her movies too, such a great actress!

What was the last book you read, and did you enjoy it?

The last book I read was Luanne Rice’s Dream Country and I enjoyed it very much.

Have you ever written a book that you didn’t particularly care for, and do you cringe if you see people picking it up to read it? Jennifer’s question

Oh, God, no! I would never send in a book that I didn’t think was my personal best at the time. In this market, anything less would be career suicide. I can also say my editor would never let a writer get away with that, anyway. LOL. She’s tough. Thanks for the question, Jennifer.

What do you enjoy the most and least about being a writer?

Most—I really appreciate it when readers write to me and tell me that my work resonated with them in a very personal way. It’s really a privilege to be able to connect with people like that.

Least—I least enjoy having to defend the genre to people who look down on it when they’ve never read one and know absolutely nothing about it. I’m afraid I don’t suffer fools very well.

Neither do I so I can empathise…

Have you got any words of wisdom for the aspiring writers out there? Any good research sources?

Write from the heart and don’t give up. That’s not just a platitude, it’s a career plan! Literally. As for research sources, a great general resource on all things Regency is The Regency Reference Book by Emily Hendrickson (available only through her website www.emilyhendrickson.com as either a book or a searchable CD-ROM) or Our Tempestuous Age by Carrolly Erikson. Also read The Age of Napoleon by Will and Ariel Durant, and The Prince of Pleasure by J.B. Priestley. These are fine, broad overviews of the period. On my website, I have a large collection of links to some wonderful Regency/research websites as well. You’re welcome to them.

Wow, thanks for sharing all that info Gaelen!

Finally, when’s your next book due out, and what’s it about?

My next book (in the U.S.) is called His Wicked Kiss and goes on sale on April 25, 2006! It’s Book Seven of the Knight Miscellany, featuring the return of the ‘black sheep’ of the family, Lord Jack Knight. He’s sailing for England to carry out a vital secret mission, only to discover that there’s a lovely red-haired stowaway hiding out in the cargo hold!

Oooh goody, not too long to wait then!

To read an excerpt, please visit my completely-new, revamped, overhauled website at www.gaelenfoley.com

Loving the new look, the photo isn’t too shabby either *g*

Thanks so much for taking the time out to answer these very nosy questions!

Pleasure! Thanks for inviting me.

That’s all for this week, next week, I’ll have Mary Jo Putney in the hotseat! (Erm… I think)

Ciao for now!