The Romance Reader Interviews Cecilia Grant

  The Interviews
New Faces 221
Cecilia Grant
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by Cathy Sova

Welcome to our New Faces column, where you can meet debut romance authors and discover their books. This time we are visiting with Cecilia Grant, whose first book was A LADY AWAKENED from Bantam. Letís meet her.

Cecilia, welcome to TRR! Tell us about yourself.

I grew up on the west coast, went to college in the midwest (degrees in English and Theatre), and spent an excellently aimless few years in the northeast, living with a couple of friends and supporting myself through office-temp jobs and waiting tables.

Eventually I came back to the Pacific Northwest, where I got married, bought a house, had a family, and settled into a more-or-less grownup existence.

Are you coming to romance writing from another job? Do you still have a day job?

I do have a day job. Despite my ostensibly unrelated education and work experience, I managed some years ago to snare a position in the information-technology field. It definitely limits my writing output, but the benefits are good and I'm kind of a compulsive breadwinner, so I'm not likely to give it up any time soon.

What led you to write romance?

I didn't grow up reading romance. In all honesty, I first decided to try writing one because a friend was doing it and it sounded kind of fun, and I was frankly delusional about how easy it would be.

It wasn't easy, and it took me years to get even halfway decent at it. (There are days I still think I haven't gotten to the halfway-decent point.) But my perceptions about the genre, and my reasons for writing in it, did a lot of evolving during that time. If you ask me now why I write romance, I'll probably say something about the dignity of individual emotional lives, or the opportunity to explore notions of gender and power, or the significance of a genre that's written chiefly by women for women.

Tell us about your road to publication.

I started writing my first romance in 1995, and I made my first sale in late 2009. That sounds like a long, dedicated slog, but there was a lot of time in there when I was writing only intermittently, and a period of a few years where I'd thrown in the towel altogether. I'd say it wasn't until about 2007 that I really got serious about being published, after finaling in a contest.

I didn't do a lot of querying (none at all before 2007), and my queries were uniformly unsuccessful. But when the manuscript that would become A Lady Awakened won a contest in 2009, I met my agent at that same conference and within a month of offering me representation, she'd gotten me a two-book deal at Bantam.

What kind of research was involved for your first book?

Because A Lady Awakened is set among rural landed gentry, as opposed to the world of the aristocracy in London or Bath, a lot of research had to do with getting that milieu right. There were macro-scale questions to answer (What were the implications of Enclosure Acts for the various classes of people within a community?) as well as micro (Where would an aspiring dairy farmer in Sussex buy cows? What novel might a serious-minded woman be reading in the summer of 1814?).

Thank goodness for the internet. For the micro-questions, especially, I don't know how writers did this in the era before Google Books.

Tell us about your debut book.

Newly widowed and desperate to protect her estate—and housemaids—from a predatory br brother-in-law, Martha Russell conceives a daring plan. Or rather, a daring plan to conceive. After all, if she has an heir on the way, her future will be secured. Forsaking all she knows of propriety, Martha approaches her neighbor, a London exile with a wicked reputation, and offers a strictly business proposition: a month of illicit interludes . . . for a fee.

Theophilus Mirkwood ought to be insulted. Should be appalled. But how can he resist this siren in widow's weeds, whose offer is simply too outrageously tempting to decline? Determined she'll get her money's worth, Theo endeavors to awaken this shamefully neglected beauty to the pleasures of the flesh—only to find her dead set against taking any enjoyment in the sscandalous bargain. Surely she can't resist him forever. But could a lady's sweet surrender open their hearts to the most unexpected arrival of all . . . love?

Who are some of your influences as a writer?

I'm constantly struggling to not be influenced by other writers. It's all too easy for me to start inadvertently copying someone else's voice, or worse. I'm afraid one of these days I'll discover I've lifted an entire phrase from some book I've read a gazillion times - Middlemarch is the likeliest candidate - without even meaning to.

Influence aside, there are a lot of really talented writers in romance right now. My most recent happy discoveries have been Tamara Allen, Susanna Fraser, Bettie Sharpe, and Ruthie Knox.

What does your family think of having a published romance author in their midst?

"Bemused, but proud" is probably a good way to put it. There are no romance readers among my immediate relations, but everyone understands what an accomplishment it is to get published, and everyone's pleased when I tell them about foreign-rights sales or good reviews. There was a Fabio joke or two in the beginning, but we seem to have gotten past that.

Tell us about plans for future books.

My second book, A Gentleman Undone, came out May 29. It tells the story of Waterloo veteran Will Blackshear (brother of A Lady Awakened's heroine), who ventures into London's gaming clubs and clashes with cold-blooded cardsharp Lydia Slaughter. It got a starred review in the May Booklist, praising its "refreshingly unconventional, multilayered characters and richly emotional storytelling style.”

Then next spring comes A Woman Entangled, the story of Martha's and Will's brother Nick, an earnest, ambitious barrister who finds himself running interference in the social-climbing schemes of his mentor's beautiful daughter.

How can readers get in touch with you?

They can email me (cecilia@ceciliagrant.com), talk to me on Twitter (@Cecilia_Grant), or leave comments on my blog (ceciliagrant.wordpress.com) or Facebook page (facebook.com/CeciliaGrantAuthor). Hearing from individual readers is hands-down the best part of being a published author.

Cecilia, thanks for joining us, and best of luck with A LADY AWAKENED and A GENTLEMAN UNDONE!

May 31, 2012

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