Today I’m delighted to interview the author of “The Trouble with Seduction”, Victoria Hanlen. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for my author spotlight!
It’s great to be here, Leigh! And I really appreciate the opportunity to discuss my books!
Leigh: Tell us a little about yourself.
Okay. Where to start? There’s a lot of territory to cover here. 🙂
I grew up in a small town near San Francisco. We had Shetland ponies, Quarter horses, ducks, chickens, rabbits, miniature goats, sheep, cats and dogs. We also had scary King snakes, Tarantulas, lots of deer, bullfrogs, nasty yellow jackets, tics, and…the occasional well-fed flea.
When I was twelve I spent six weeks during the summer living with a family in Mexico. At fifteen I returned to attend the summer session at The University of Guadalajara. I was young enough that the other children in the family corrected my Spanish, and helped me pronounce the words with the right inflection and accent. They were very sweet and patient. I remember them demonstrating how to roll the ‘R’ in the word perro (dog), and then I’d try. We laughed a lot.
As an adult I’ve moved around a bit. I love to travel and enjoy road trips. My mom told me some of my first words were, “Go by by.” I was itching to hit the road even then.
Besides writing, I’ve painted, decorated cakes, love making pies, was a national finalist in the Singer Sewing Contest, acted in Regional Theater and Shakespeare, played instruments, danced, and sang. I sang with the Houston Grand Opera and San Francisco Opera where, at last count, I’ve sung in seven languages.
Leigh: What attracted you to the historical romance genre?
Probably what attracts me most to the genre is its poetic language and the historical worlds of the stories. It’s a treat to sit down and read plain old history books. They’re like a tray of tasty little morsels that I can mentally chew on. Put a romance in one, and I’m a very happy camper. I also like going to museums and visiting historical sites. Humans have been smart for a very long time. I enjoy discovering what people figured out hundreds, even thousands of years ago…like lead pipes in Pompeii—that a volcano buried in 79 A.D. Or a rifled canon that could be aimed and shot five miles…with accuracy…in 1864!
Leigh: Do you want each of your books to stand on their own or are you trying to build books with connections to each other?
Currently, my books have a similar title, and they’re set in the Victorian, mid—eighteen hundreds. They’re also loosely connected to one another in that the secondary characters in one book become the primary characters in the next. The reader will recognize the characters from one book to the other. But each book has its own story and can stand on its own.
Leigh: How did publishing your first book, “The Trouble with Misbehaving”, change your writing process?
Oh, my goodness, I could go on for days. Before I wrote Misbehaving I considered myself a pantser. When I realized the story is basically a journey, I discovered The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. In his book he lays out the journey plot structure, the kinds of characters needed to make it work and their jobs. It made writing the story so much easier. I think it came out well. The Trouble With Misbehaving was a finalist in eight RWA chapter contests.
The Trouble With Seduction is basically a mystery. I struggled for a while trying to make the story work with the journey plot structure, but some things about the story just didn’t a fit.
Mysteries (or at least the mystery I wrote) have somewhat different requirements. I took several plotting classes, read up on all sorts of plotting techniques, tried this and that, until I finally found How To Write A Damn Good Mystery by James N. Frey. His book was very helpful in finally making sense of my story and how to put it together. I especially like how he explained getting at the plot behind the plot and using a step sheet.
Seduction has a lot going on. Writing it was like fitting together a big puzzle with all sorts of pieces and parts to the story. The different clues and story lines had to be introduced at the correct time so as not to give away too much too soon, and build tension and romance. Frey’s step sheet really helped me line it all up and keep track of things.
So, long-story-short. I guess I’m now straddling the plotter-pantser line. I like the security of knowing where the story is going. But to capture all of the story, I still have to venture out into the great unknown to discover the gems and lessons my characters must learn.
Leigh: How do you select the names of your characters?
Since I write historical, I work to choose names that were used in the time period of my story. I find names for my characters in history books. Then I mix and match their first and last names. I research names on the internet. I read the obituaries for unusual names, and if I find one I like, I look it up to see if it was used in my novel’s time period. I have a great book called Names through the Ages by Teresa Norman. It gives male, female and surnames for different eras in Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, France and the US.
Some writers can’t begin their story until they’ve settled on names for their characters. I just begin, sometimes with the first name that I find in the era I’m writing. My characters’ names frequently change as I get to know them. I try to keep names from sounding too similar: ones that have the same number of syllables, same double letters or start with the same letter. I write the alphabet down the side column of a piece of binder paper and fill in the character names next to them to keep track of them.
Leigh: If a movie were being made of “The Trouble with Seduction”, which actors would you want to play Damen and Sarah?
Damen and Sarah had certain physical characteristics. As I wrote Seduction, I pictured characters who looked a lot like these two actors’ photographs, but dressed in Victorian period clothes. 🙂
DAMEN: Victor Webster
SARAH: Dianna Agron
Leigh: What are you currently working on?
I’m really excited about the three projects I have in the works. Two of them are set in the eighteen hundreds like Misbehaving and Seduction. Another is a time travel to the thirteen hundreds.
Leigh: How much research is involved in writing from a historical perspective?
Tons. But that’s me. I have to understand everything I can about the world where the story takes place. That being said, there are a number of things that I now know need to be investigated to fill out the world and characters.
Leigh: What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of being published traditionally against self-publishing?
I have enjoyed the fact that my publisher does all the up front work for cover art, editing, advising, placing the books on all the sales sites and much more. However, the author doesn’t have as much control over their book as in self-publishing. I was fortunate in that my publisher’s authors had already formed a Facebook group and were wonderful in helping and giving advice to a debut author.
I have not self-published, yet it seems more and more that writers who’ve been with traditional publishers are dipping their toe into that pool. Those who’ve already published traditionally usually have a name and a following. When they self-pub, usually their readers follow. They’ll have much more control over all the ingredients of making and marketing their book, and with higher royalties. But they also have to do everything themselves or pay others to do it for them.
Leigh: Do you have any advice for new romance writers just starting out?
If a writer wants to publish in the Romance genre, probably the quickest way to come up to speed is to join Romance Writers of America in the US and/or Romantic Novelists’ Association in the UK. They have the latest information on the industry and offer a wide variety of help to their members, from those just starting out to multi-published best selling authors.
Besides writing well enough to put together a good book, it helps if the writer can write fast. Additionally, these days an author needs to know how to market themselves and their books.
The above organizations have lots of classes, conferences and local chapters where you can learn the craft and get to know other writers. It may take a while to find critique partners, but they can be very helpful in developing and polishing your story. Plus, writing is a very solitary endeavor. It’s nice to have friends who are as dedicated and excited about writing as you are.
Leigh: How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Website: Victoria Hanlen
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Victoria-Hanlen/e/B01B22HUSO
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/victoria+hanlen?
Google Books: The Trouble with Seduction
Goodreads: Victoria Hanlen at Goodreads
Thank you very much, Victoria, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.
And thank you, Leigh, for having me on your blog! It’s been fun!! 🙂