INTERVIEW with SHERRY THOMAS, the author of PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS

SHERRY THOMAS's first book, PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS, has finally arrived in Italy thanks to LEGGERDITORE. The book will be out in Italy on 24 February 2011, under the title INTIME PROMESSE and what a gorgeous cover it has been given!
I'm quite delighted that Italian readers will be finally able to read this book. I just loved it. To celebrate the occasion  of its  release,I asked Sherry some questions about the book and the story of its making. Here's what she told me.
LMBR: Sherry, first of all, congratulations! Private Arrangements has made the magic  happen – you’ve been published in Italian at last! As a super fan of yours this piece of news makes me uber glad. You know I’ve been looking for it  for ages, and I’m estremely proud that the first Italian review of it was mine  . Now that your book is finally available for Italian readers, I think they are curious about you. Let’s start from the beginning . How would you sum up your career in the romance fiction biz up to now? When did you start writing stories? What made you think you could become a romance writer?
    SHERRY THOMAS : Ciao, Francy.  Thank you very much.  It is thrilling to be published in Italy at last as I’ve been hoping for this day for quite some time.  I am delighted that Leggereditore feels that Italian readers will enjoy my work.
    I’m not sure I’ve been in this business long enough to summarize my career yet, having only four books to my name.  What I can say is that romance readers are some of the most curious, passionate, intelligent, and devoted readers and it is a pleasure to write for them—and for myself, of course.
    The reason I started writing is quite funny.   In 1998 I was a young, stay-at-home mother who was just a little overwhelmed by motherhood.  One day, while my then one-and-half-year-old son took a nap, I read a new historical romance by an old favorite author and, alas, quite hated it.

    Suddenly I thought to myself, surely I cannot write a worse book than this.  I never had any training in creative writing, and never wrote anything other than school assignments.  So it was truly a moment of youthful hubris.  But that was how I started.
    It did not take me long to realize that even to write a bad book was not so easy, let alone a good one.  But by then I was addicted to the pleasures of storytelling and determined that this was what I wanted to do for the foreseeable future. 
    LMBR: Private Arrangements, published in 2008, was your very first book. It is now  an international success, but the path to its publication was not a piece of cake for you, was it?
    SHERRY THOMAS : Private Arrangements indeed traveled a long path to publication.  It was the first story I wrote.  I started in 1998 and finished the first version of the book in the summer of 2000.  Nobody wanted to publish it.  So the manuscript sat in a box in the corner of my house for five years while I wrote other stories, until I accidentally came upon it one day in 2005. 
    I sat down and read one page, then another, then another.  The quality of the writing rather embarrassed me, but I realized that I was still quite taken with the story, that of a terrible mistake committed in the name of love and the aftermath.
    So I threw out everything and, taking only the core story idea, started all over again.  This time, when I finished in 2006, I quickly found a literary agent who wanted to represent me and she quickly found me a publisher. 

    And so eight years after I first started writing, I had a publishing contract in hand.  And ten years after I wrote the first words in the story, Private Arrangements was published in the United States.

    LMBR: Leggereditore has given the book a great cover, have you seen it? Private Arrangements, entitled Intime Promesse ( Intimate promises) in Italian is the story of two people who could be perfect for each other but for a series of reasons and misunderstandings they  don’t realize it at first and waste a lot of time before reaching their happy ending together. It is a typical second-chance- at- love story , a kind of plot that you seem to be rather fond of -– your third book, Not Quite a Husband is about a troubled marriage too -- Why?

      SHERRY THOMAS : I believe that it is easy to fall in love—or in lust, rather.  Sexual attraction is a very powerful, very pleasurable force.  And in that first blind grip of attraction, the new lover looks and feels impossibly perfect.

      But such is the nature of infatuation that when it wears off, one begin to see the other person more in the cold light of reality.  He or she is not perfect.  He or she is not even close to perfect.  Now what does one do?

      I think for love to be lasting, it must go through this test.  We must see the beloved without the halo of that first attraction.  We must see this person at his or her worst, all flaws exposed.  This is where many relationships fall apart.  And this is where true, lasting relationships begin, when a man and a woman have witnessed each other at their worst, and still choose to forge ahead and brave the future  together—and still love passionately.
      That’s what I am drawn to, and so my stories will always explore, in some ways, this disillusionment that in the end, only make love stronger, because now our lovers are not in love with an idealized version of their imagination, but truly with each other.
      And yes, indeed.  What a great cover.  I adore it. 
      LMBR: I think Gigi is a wonderful heroine because she’s a multifaceted character. What inspired you this story and its characters?

        SHERRY THOMAS : I read many romances growing up and one plot device that was much used and abused in these older romances was the “Big Misunderstanding,” most often with the hero thinking the heroine is someone of rotten character and ill virtue. 
        And I always wondered what a book would read like if there was no misunderstanding.  What if the hero thinks the heroine is unworthy of love because she really did something unworthy?  I thought that would be much more interesting.
        Gigi is an unusual heroine in historical romance: She does not wait for things to happen, she makes them happen.  As a young girl, there is a streak of arrogance in her that propels her to this great mistake that destroys her marriage.  And as an older woman, she must come to terms with what she had done, and to learn and grow as a person all without sacrificing the strength that makes her who she is. 

        LMBR: The setting of the story is somehow refreshing, not the over-used and abused Regency period but the late Victorian era, at the turn of the nineteenth century ( 1893). Why did you decide to set your story (and your following stories) in that time?

          SHERRY THOMAS : Mainly because several of my favorite stories by Laura Kinsale and Judith Ivory (the romance writers I admire most) are set in that era. 

          And because I like that at the turn-of-the-century one already enjoyed telegraph, electricity, fast trains, fast ocean liners, and even automobiles. 

          Also, many of my plots wouldn’t be possible without the greater freedom women enjoyed in late Victorian times.  Private Arrangements begins when Gigi petitions for a divorce from her husband.  Divorces in earlier eras were all but impossible.  It was still terribly scandalous and unpleasant in 1893, but at least it could be done.
           LMBR: What made me fall for Private Arrangements the first time I read it, apart the second chance at love plot that I always enjoy in romance, was your writing style. It’s amazing and one of a kind. Where does your lovely style come from? I mean, is it something you’ve achieved through learning and trying  or does it come to you naturally? Is it true that you started learning English with romance books?

            SHERRY THOMAS :I did. Romance and science fiction were my main reads during my adolescence. 

            And thank you for your lovely compliment on my prose.  I am not sure where it came from. All I know is that suddenly, after I’d been writing six or seven years, it was there, this wry, slightly arch voice.  One of my friends told me it was the “million words rule”, i.e., you find your true voice after you have written a million words. 

            In my case, that was exactly what happened.  A million words and voila, a recognizable prose style.  
            LMBR: Much to my delight, your third book, Not Quite a Husband , won the RITA Award for best historical book in 2010. I guess Rita Awards are for romance writers what Oscars are for actors --- the ultimate goal. What does winning a RITA mean to a romance writer?

              SHERRY THOMAS : The RITA, as much as we all hope otherwise, actually does not have much of a commercial impact.  It is not something the rank-and-file romance reader knows about and therefore does not really suddenly make anyone into a bestseller when one hasn’t been before.
              All the same, it is no less heady to win one.  The occasion is big—two thousand published and aspiring romance writers in attendance, all dressed to the nines.  Your name
              Sherry con Laura Griffin ai RITA
              gets called and you get to go on stage and stand before your peers to accept this quite heavy statuette. 

              It is absolutely a wonderful sensation and makes all the hard work and uncertainties of the business worthwhile.  And to win it for a book that I deeply love—Not Quite a Husband is my favorite of my own books—makes it that much sweeter. 
              LMBR:As some of our readers would like to become romance writers, we usually ask the authors we interview about their writing routines. What’s yours? Now that you’ve made it – you are a star in the romance fiction biz – what would you recommend to do to fellow writers who would like to do the same?  I know the situation of romance publishig in the USA is very different from that of Italy, but I’m sure  there are some hints you can give to would-be writers. 
              SHERRY THOMAS : LOL, I’m not sure I’d call myself a star in the romance fiction biz, but I always recommend to aspiring writers to read the very best books they can find. 

              To succeed in this business, you need luck, talent, and hard work.  Luck, no one can control.  Talent, I assume the aspiring writer already possess.  Hard work is the only thing to which a writer can commit and a very important part of hard work is to know how far you are from what you consider to be the pinnacle of achievement in your genre.

              I might never write as well as Laura Kinsale and Judith Ivory, but if I don’t aim for their level of storytelling genius and beauty of prose, how will I ever come close?
              So my advice is to find a book you consider impossibly good and reach for that level of excellence. 

              LMBR:Leggereditore is going to publish your second book, Delicious, in the near future.  Another beautiful story I’m sure Italian romance readers will love.  What are you writing at the moment? When will we be able to read your next book? Is it the contemporary you told me about some time ago? Why have you decided to switch to contemporary, by the way?

              SHERRY THOMAS :  I have not switched to contemporaries; I wrote one to refresh myself.  I am not a fast writer and writing under deadlines sometimes has me pulling my hair out.  So working on a story that I do not have to submit in a fixed amount of time is very relaxing and reminds me how much I love writing and how much I love writing romances.
              Currently I am working on three historical romances that will be released in 2012.  It will be my first time writing a trilogy. I am very excited and pleased with my progress so far.
              And may I just say, what a pleasure it has been talking to you, Francy.  Thank you for having me and thank you for all the wonderful work you do!

              AND WE THANK YOU SHERRY FOR BEING WITH US. WE WISH  PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS WOULD HAVE IN ITALY THE SAME HUGE SUCCESS IT HAS HAD IN THE OTHER COUNTRIES.

              VISIT SHERRY THOMAS'S SITE: http://www.sherrythomas.com/index.php

              SHERRY THOMAS'S LATEST BOOK :

              Visit Sherry's site and find out more 
              about this new book. 

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