Anna Campbell Interview: “I love to play with the tropes of historical romance”

Anna Campbell 43970009
Anna Campbell 

Today I’m pleased to share my interview with historical author Anna Campbell, who creates delightful novels and brings the past back to life. 

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards historical fiction??

Hi Hannah! Thanks so much for having me as your guest today. What an interesting question. I think I write intelligent historical romance that’s heavy on dialogue, usually incorporates an element of steam, and often includes a wry sense of humour. I like to think I go deeply into my characters emotions, too. I started writing the sort of historical romance I enjoyed reading – something that reflected the period and place of the setting while still telling a full-blooded love story. I’ve always loved history, right from when I was a little girl oohing and aahing at the illustrations in my books of fairy tales and watching Errol Flynn movies on black and white TV. The Adventures of Robin Hood has much to answer for!

What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally? How do you draw on your past experiences when writing fiction?

I always wanted to be a writer. I started my first novel in grade 3 although I didn’t actually slog through to finish a book until I was 17. In my working life, I had a variety of jobs, all of which were a great way to learn about human nature, and I travelled to many places, which have since appeared, in my stories. I sold my manuscript, No Ordinary Duchess, to Avon in New York at auction in 2006 and I’ve been a full-time writer ever since. Including Claiming the Courtesan, which is what NOD became, I’ve published 11 books with traditional publishers, but I reached a point where I found that I wanted a little more flexibility in schedules and pricing and tone. I’ve been an indie writer since 2015.

Talk to me about your books. What do you think it is that makes readers enjoy them?

I mainly write books set in the first 30 years of the 19th century, although over the last 12 months I’ve stretched my range to cover 18th century Scotland. I love to play with the tropes of historical romance like marriage of convenience or feuding families, but I use a richly imagined period background to give the stories a feeling of being grounded in real life, however larger-than-life the plots and characters might be. I love writing sparky dialogue – my women are always strong and smart. In fact, I’d say my heroes are too! I love giving exceptional people a happily ever after. There’s always quite a lot of passion in my books and I think readers enjoy watching simmering sexual attraction ripen into lasting love.

What books do you like reading yourself and how do they influence your writing?

I’ve always been a voracious reader. My mother gave me my first Mills and Boon when I was eight and I’ve read romance pretty much ever since. These days, though, my choices would probably lean more towards crime or nonfiction. Nonfiction in particular is a wonderful source of ideas for stories. I ask myself how a particular scenario might play out if it was set in the Regency (for example, with Captive of Sin, I’d been reading a lot of books about Russian/British rivalry in the mid-19th century in Central Asia and that sparked my hero’s background in the 1820s). In terms of fiction, I really like Elly Griffiths and Nicola Cornick and Mick Herron right now.

Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?

I’m not sure I believe in writer’s block. Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block after all! I’ve certainly had days when I can’t write and there are things that have happened in my life that have stopped me writing for a while (a death in the family, for instance). But I think that’s just normal. Sometimes if the pages aren’t happening, I just need a break (reading a good book or a swim in the summer always help!). Or I need to take some time to think a bit more about the scene I’m about to do. If I’m really stuck, I have a couple of trusted writer friends who are always ready to have a natter about plot issues.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

A writer I admire tremendously is the late, great Dorothy Dunnett who wrote two wonderful series set in the late middle ages and the renaissance. If you’ve never read her Lymond Chronicles, rush to your nearest library or bookshop and buy them. They’re unlike anything else. I’d love to be her assistant – I doubt I’d rise to being a genuine collaborator but it would be a privilege to be there to watch how her mind works.

Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

I’m currently in the throes of finishing a long series of 10 books set in the Highlands of Scotland called The Lairds Most Likely (The Highlander’s Forbidden Mistress came out at the end of June). I’ve had plans to write a series set around the season in Regency London for a long time, but other projects have got in the way. Now I’m finally ready to start these new stories which are going to be sparkling and glamorous and sexy. The first books should be out first half of next year so watch this space.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to checking out in the future?

I recently read The Dutch House by Anne Patchett and very much enjoyed it. I’d read her nonfiction before (it’s great!) but now I’m looking forward to exploring her fiction. I’m also gradually making my way through a re-read of Georgette Heyer’s sparkling historical romances. Most recently, I enjoyed The Corinthian. Next stop might be The Toll-Gate, I think.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Keep on reading!

I’d like to say thanks to Anna for answering my questions- it’s been amazing.

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