INTERVIEW with SHERRY THOMAS



THE ORIGINAL INTERVIEW

1. Sherry, how did you start writing romance books? Why historicals?

I began to write for money. I know, shocking. J But I wasn’t greedy. I just wanted to have a little income, so I could work at home while looking after my very young—at the time—baby. (By the time I sold my first book the baby was almost 10 years old, and did not need so much looking after any more!)
I wrote historicals because I’d read so many historicals during my adolescence and thought I understood both the conventions of the genre and what the reader, i.e. me, wanted in a historical romance. It turned out that while I did understand what I wanted as a reader, I really didn’t comprehend all that well the conventions of the genre, since Private Arrangements is thought by many to break various rules.
2. Your two novels (Private Arrangements and Delicious) are set during the second half of the 19th century. Is there a reason why you chose to have the Victorian Age as historical backdrop for your stories? I think of my settings more as fin-de-siècle (turn of the century). I became aware of this era from reading some of my favorite books (Laura Kinsale’s The Shadow and the Star, Judith Ivory’s Beast and Bliss) and just fell in love with it. There is such a dynamic quality to this time period, things are changing so rapidly, both science and technology progressed by leaps and bounds. Also, women lived much freer lives than they did before. They could obtain higher education, hold a profession, and still be respectable. And that is important to me, because I like my heroines to have their own lives and their own identities.
3. I've read that writing Private Arrangements (your debut novel) was everything but easy for you. Nevertheless, the result of your efforts is wonderful. What was the genesis of the novel? What inspired you the story of Gigi and Camden? Did you expect such a success ? Thank you. When I was growing up, I’d read a lot of historical romances in which the hero believes the heroine to have done something awful when she is innocent as a lamb. I am a bit of a rebel. So I thought, hmm, what if we have this girl who really did do something beyond the pale, then what would happen? That was the original idea, which never changed, though everything else about the story changed during the writing of it. I expected that there’d be other readers who would like it—since my tastes in most things are fairly mainstream. But truly, I have been most astonished by the reception to Private Arrangements. I guess I was not alone in wanting something different from my historical romances. J

4. How do you plan your books? What is your writing routine, now?
Ha!. I am still learning how to plan my books. My usual way of writing has been to just have an idea, sit down with it, and see where it goes. It really is a very inefficient way of writing, especially from a professional point of view. I discard huge number ofwords, entire drafts, before I discover where the heart of the story lies. So I am trying to change that. Since I seem to write subpar first drafts, my plan for the next book is to come up with a first draft as fast as I can, with little regard to prose and whatnot, and just make sure that the structure of the story, character motivation, and the pacing are sound, before I go in to make it pretty. In other words, to finish building the house before I decorate. So far I have been decorating the interior while the roof still leaked! I write during the time my children are in school. Then I write some more late in the evening, when my younger son is in bed, and the elder one is reading his Harry Potter books or watching Japanese anime. Then I try to see my husband a bit in between.(J)
5. Where do you usually get inspiration for your books? I write what I want to read. And what I want to read typically is something that I have not read, or something that I have read that makes me go “what if.”For example, my fourth book, which I have just started—a complete rewrite of a story I first wrote in 2001—has at its core a what-if idea. I read Loretta Chase’s fabulous Lord of Scoundrels and thought to myself, what if instead of becoming a complete scoundrel, a boy who goes through a psychologically scarring childhood grows up into, on the outside at least, a perfect gentleman? The working title for the book is The Ideal Gentleman and I’m always intrigued about characters who are what they seem.For Not Quite a Husband, my upcoming release, I got the idea after I saw The Painted Veil, a movie based on a W. Somerset Maugham novel of the same name, starring Edward Norton and Naomi Watts. It was a gorgeous film with beautiful performances, a wonderful story of reconciliation—and alas, an ending that saddened and flabbergasted me as I had no idea it was not going to be a happily-ever-after.So I decided to write a book with a similar marital reconciliation theme, and set it somewhere far away and dangerous. Only in my book both the hero and the heroine are still alive at the end.(J)
6. In both your novels the main characters are rather mature people- at least for the time they lived in -- who have a second chance at love. Do you like this sort of stories or is it just a coincidence? I love second-chance stories. In a way, I think nothing illustrates love—romantic or any other kind--better than forgiveness and reconciliation. As for the age of the main characters, I feel people who have lived and have some regrets make for more interesting characters to write. But age and interestingness are by no means directly proportional. One of my favorite characters in all of romance is Louise Vandermeer from Judith Ivory’s Beast, only 18, but complicated and extraordinary.I suppose what I really want in the end is maturity from my characters. It is my deep belief that love alone is not enough for happiness. Love needs to be accompanied by wisdom, courage, kindness, generosity, patience, commitment—various manifestations of maturity, if you will.
7. Private Arrangements has a secondary plot -- Gigi's mother's -- that is as lovely as the main one. Do you like adding secondary love plots to your books? This is going to come as a surprise. I used to be against secondary romances—at least in my own books that is. I felt that most of the secondary romances I’d read had a tendency to become more memorable than the primary romance, as characters are more intriguing when they are on the page less often. Then my first agent submitted a book of mine to many New York publishing houses. No one bought it and two different editors, in their rejection letters, used the word “slight” to describe the story. Now “slight” could have meant a number of different things. Perhaps the conflict was not strong enough. Perhaps the scope of the story was too small. Or perhaps the characters were too self-involved. But I decided to interpret it as there simply wasn’t enough going on. And for solution, a secondary romance. (J) It worked out so well in Private Arrangements that I put one in Delicious too. There would have been one in Not Quite a Husband as well, but I came up against my deadline and there was only enough time to fix the primary romance, so we dropped the secondary romance altogether. I would say that yes, so far I have enjoyed writing secondary romances. My primary romances tend to be rather dark and angsty, so the secondary romances give me a chance to take a break from the angst and do something more light-hearted.
8. The first thing that caught my attention when I read Private Arrangements was the quality of your writing. It's one of a kind. And I'm not the only one who noticed it. Everybody has praised your prose in the reviews I've read so far. What's behind such quite unique writing style? Is it just a gift from above or the result of your studies and readings? Oh goodness, you’ve made me blush. Thank you. I will tell you this, until we sold the book and people started remarking to me about my prose, I never knew there was anything particularly notable about it. I enjoy good prose while I read. So when I write, I simply write as it would please me to read. Like a cook would taste her dish and add various spices, I would read my words and feel that okay, here I need a metaphor with a bit of savor to it. Or there I need my sentences to have some more bite.
9. What sort of books do you like reading when you're not writing your own stories? I will read anything that pull me in. Whether it is a taut plot, or great world-building, or intriguing characters. Of course, preferably a book would have everything, along with fabulous prose. One of my favorite books that I read in 2008 was Ariana Franklin’s City of Shadows. It’s a novel of suspense set in Germany, between the wars. I didn’t think I’d like setting, so I delayed reading City of Shadow again and again even though I quite enjoyed Mistress of the Art of Death (a book which features an Italian heroine, for people who are unfamiliar with it). But once I started, I could not put it down, because the characters were so compelling and the situation so desperate, I just had to keep reading.
10. Your new novel, Not Quite a Husband will be out in May. Can you tell us something about it? Not Quite a Husband is my first “exotic location” story. Half of the book is set in England, and the other half in what used to be the Northwest Frontier of British India (current day Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan). In my mind, the distant location is a metaphor, because the heroine is in flight from herself. And the hero, her former husband (she had their marriage annulled) is trying to bring her back to London because her father is ill. What should be a seven-day trip keeps getting longer as they run into all kinds of troubles. And they must not only deal with the dangers they encounter on the road, but also grapple with their difficult past, with the events that caused their marriage to fail in the first place.
11. Along with the release of Not Quite A Husband -- that has been given quite an effective cover art -- Private Arrangements and Delicious will be reissued with brand new covers. (I liked Private Arrangements original cover quite a lot ). Romance cover arts are very often a matter of discussion on our blog. What role does the cover play in the success of a book? Do you think your books with new covers will sell better? Covers are definitely among the top three most important aspects in a book’s success, especially for a newer author like myself, whose name is not yet enough to move hundreds of thousands of books. Covers are what entice a reader to pick up a book to find out more about it. I think it is certainly my publisher’s opinion that the new covers will sell better and I place my trust in their judgment. For one, the new covers are a more accurate reflection of the heat level of my books, which would be described as hot. Usually, books with a single lady on the cover tend to denote books that one’d call warm, but not hot. Also, single-lady covers, like I’ve had, are more ambiguous. They could denote historical fiction as well as historical romance. But a couple in an embrace on the cover is unmistakably historical romance.
12. What about introducing an Italian character in one of your future books? Lol, I haven’t thought of an Italian character yet—though why not, Camden from Private Arrangements is half-German—but I do have every plan to use Italy as a locale in a future book.For Italian readers looking for Italian characters, may I heartily recommend Laura Kinsale’s Shadow Heart, one of my favorite books. Allegreto, the hero, is an unforgettable character. And the book is set in medieval Italy too.
Sherry, I thank you very nuch for this very interesting first interview in Italy. I hope we'll be able to celebrate other sucesses of yours in the future and above all , that we 'll be able to read your beautiful books in Italian very soon.
Thank you, Francy, so very much for your support and plaudits. It has been a pleasure.

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