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Monday, June 15, 2009

A Candid Chat With Emily Bryan

We have the lovely Emily Bryan with us this week and I'm so pleased today to bring you our very first author interview. After feelings of slight trepidation, I must say it has been great fun chatting with Emily. Not only is she a talented writer but she is also a delight to correspond with and a very humble lady. My sincere thanks to Emily for her time, her generosity, for sharing so freely, and for the laughs.

Empress: Do you have a favourite book from childhood?

Emily: This is a great question because the things we read as kids become such a part of us. I loved Louisa May Alcott’s LITTLE WOMEN. Jo had 3 sisters. I have 3 sisters. I was so her!
I also loved an old 1897 first edition copy of a book that had belonged to my great-grandfather. It was Bulfinch’s AGE OF FABLE or the BEAUTIES OF MYTHOLOGY. I was enthralled by it—and not just for the half-naked statuary they used for illustrations! The tales of gods and goddesses was my first introduction to some of the universal themes that would find their way into my own stories. I still have the book.

Empress: Did you write as a child or is writing a passion that developed later in life?

Emily: I didn’t start writing till 2001, but I’ve always been devoted to reading. The elements of storytelling fascinate me. I was a music major in college and later sang professional opera. For each of my roles, I’d devise elaborate backstories—you know, the whole actor’s “What’s my motivation?” thing. If I knew what had happened in my character’s life before the opera began, I could make sense of my actions on stage. The habit of making things up has served me well!

Empress: You were first published under your real name Diana Groe with Maidensong. Is there more to come from (you) Diana or will you continue to write as Emily Bryan?

Emily: I actually had three novels published as Diana Groe, MAIDENSONG, ERINSONG and SILK DREAMS, which are all still in print. These angsty, dramatic tales set in the Dark Ages are rather like grand opera for the romance reader.

My Emily Bryan books are more like Gilbert & Sullivan . . . with sex! I added a little humor and a higher sensuality level, along with placing these stories in the more popular Georgian—Victorian England setting. I really love writing both type stories and in fact, I married the two styles in my latest release—VEXING THE VISCOUNT. The main love story, between Daisy and Lucian, is in a lighter vein, but the secondary darker tale woven into their story is set in Roman Britain. That part of the novel is pure Diana Groe.

I love writing both kinds of stories. As to what I do in the future, that depends on my readers. Whether you realize it or not, you hold a lot of influence over what gets published. If you buy a certain type book in the first week of its release, you improve the chances that there will be more of that author or subgenre or time period stories published.

Empress: Are you a plan-the-whole-book-out person or a write-as-it-comes person?

Emily: Yes and no. Usually, I sell on “a partial,” which is three chapters and a detailed synopsis. For STROKE OF GENIUS (due out in summer 2010), my editor decided to buy on the basis of the title and a two paragraph blurb. So now, I have to figure out the rest of the story!
I’m very much a character-driven writer. If I’m true to my character’s goals and personality, the plot will unfold naturally. If I try to force them into a pre-conceived story line, I run the risk of becoming a puppet master.

Empress: Do you write every day?

Emily: Absolutely! Do I write on my novel every day? No. I take weekends off to catch up on emails and promos like this.
Writing is much like singing. You must do it often to do it well. When I was singing, I had to practice everyday. I could tell if I skipped a day. My vocal coach could tell if I skipped two. And I’m sure the audience would have been able to tell if I was ever so foolish as to skip practice for three days.

Empress: Is there anything you find particularly challenging when you’re writing?

Emily: Ploughing the virgin page. Re-writing is playtime, but pushing the story forward is work. To overcome this “story constipation,” I use a couple tricks. Sometimes, I set a timer for no more than 20 minutes. During that time, I CANNOT go back. Not even to fix a typo. I’m forced to go forward. Other times, I’ll decide to write only dialogue for two pages. By the time I go back and add action and tags, I have 4 pages.

I also fight the pull of the internet while I write. Sometimes it’s for a legitimate purpose—I need a bit of research verified or something—and other times it’s a serious time suck. To combat this, I write on a little laptop which I never connect to the internet. I have to switch computers to pull myself out of the story.

Empress: Do you have a favourite out of all your characters?

Emily: That is like asking a mother to choose a favorite child. I have some favorites characters, but I’d hate to hurt the others’ feelings. Suffice it to say, I love them all in my way.

Empress: Do you ever find yourself becoming your character?

Emily: Psychologically speaking, I AM all my characters. They all spring from my subconscious. Sometimes from the darkest part!
But I don’t think I’m like any of them. The truth is—I lead a fairly uneventful life, emotionally speaking. I have a very stable, loving relationship with my DH and two daughters who have given us little grief and much joy. If I were a reality TV show, I would be cancelled inside a week for sheer boredom.
I wouldn’t want to trade places with any of my characters. Their lives make for good drama and uproarious comedy, but it’d be hard to ride that emotional roller coaster all the time.

Empress: This probably isn’t one of the questions you ask in polite society but does writing steamy bedroom scenes have any rub-on benefits in your own life? What reader hasn’t got all hot and flustered reading romance and then jumped DH bones (I will try and word this with a bit more class LOL) ... hmm Emily didn't mind, so no change.

Emily: Ok, now the reality TV cameras would have to go off. Jumping the DH’s bones is just fine. Don’t change that wording on my account. When we got married, we agreed to take care of each other in every way and that includes bone-jumping whenever we’ve a mind to.
Yes, there are definite side benefits to writing romance. My DH is always threatening to have a t-shirt made that reads:


Of course, he always diplomatically adds, “What a way to go!”

Empress: LOL thanks for that, ok serious now - If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your last book?

Emily: There are always things a writer could do differently, better, more convincingly. At some point, you have to fling the story to the public and hope for a kind reception.
If I tell a possible plot change, I might be committing a “spoiler” so I’ll just let the matter lie.

Empress: Have you ever had a bad book review & how did you cope?

Emily: Of course, I’ve had bad reviews (in fact, I just got one this week, though I was more upset about the way she gave away several major plot points than I was about her critique). And yes, bad reviews sting. Writing is intensely personal because authors have to throw so much of our hearts onto the page and rejection feels personal as well. But I never confront or argue with a reviewer. They are merely sharing their opinion so there is no right or wrong. (Except when they give away plot points! GRRRR!)

Reading is a subjective activity and much of our enjoyment depends on what we bring to experience. Perhaps the reviewer had a bad day. Maybe someone with the same name as my hero broke their heart once. Maybe my writing style/ word choices/ genre/ fill in the blank/ just doesn’t resonate with them.
That’s ok. I always say it’s a good thing we don’t all like the same things. Otherwise, you’d all be after my husband!
I try not to obsess over bad reviews. I’ve been blessed with many more stellar ones than not. A couple months ago, I noticed that some of my fans came to my defense on message boards and such over a negative review, and that felt wonderful. Thank you all!

Empress: How much research goes into your novels?

Emily: Tons. I read non-fiction reference books to gather background info into the way people thought, behaved, lived during the time in which my story is set. I visit art museums to study portraiture for costume ideas. I use places I’ve visited personally as settings. I listen to the music of the period.
I love the research!

Empress: A Christmas Ball by Jennifer Ashley, Alissa Johnson and yourself is due out when?

Emily: September 29th is the official release date, but I’ve found that if you pre-order at Amazon, the book is usually available a week or two earlier than the official release.
As usual, I’ve done something a little different for my part of this anthology. My novella MY LADY BELOW STAIRS features a heroine who’s a born-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-blanket scullery maid, but Jane is a dead ringer for her well-born half-sister. When Lady Sybil goes missing before the ball at which she’s supposed to accept a proposal of marriage, Jane is called in to pose as Sybil until she can be found.

Empress: How did the above writing trio come about?

Emily: A CHRISTMAS BALL was my editor Leah Hultenschmidt’s brain child. As such, it was a serendipitous “by invitation” sort of contract that fell into my lap.
This was such a fun anthology to be part of. All our characters are attending Lord and Lady Hartwell’s fabulous Christmas ball. Beyond that, there is no connection between our stories. But since the major part of the action takes place at Hartwell House, we had to agree on the floorplan of the mansion, the d├ęcor, refreshments, music etc. It was almost as if we were planning to give the ball ourselves, which I guess in a sense, we did.

Empress: What’s next on the table for Emily Bryan?

Emily: I’m working on STROKE OF GENIUS (due out summer 2010) right now. Grace Makepeace, a Bostonian heiress is trying to snag a titled husband and failing abysmally. Crispin Hawke, the brilliant artist who’s been commissioned to “do” her hands in marble, enjoys making fun of the ton, who reveres his talent, and agrees to help her. Trouble comes when he realizes he wishes he were the object of her affection.

I’m running a contest this month that will enable a reader to help me name an important secondary character in STROKE OF GENIUS. The winner will receive signed copies of my backlist and a special “thank you” in the acknowledgment page of STROKE OF GENIUS. Please visit my website to enter today!

Empress: Favourite authors?

Emily: How many stars are in the heavens? MM Kaye, Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, Diana Gabaldon, Jo Beverley, Madeline Hunter, Eloisa James, Neil Gaiman, CS Lewis, Tolkein, Dostoyevsky, Toni Morrison—somebody stop me!

Empress: Bookmark or Dog ear? (oh I’ll be shot for that one)

Emily: I confess I’m a dog ear-er. Librarians, I sincerely apologize, but I’m unlikely to change.

Empress: If you could be any character from a novel who would you be and why?

Emily: I really like living in my own skin, but if I had to choose, I’d pick Daisy Drake, my heroine from VEXING THE VISCOUNT. She’s smart, curious, and willing to do whatever it takes to reach her goals. Besides, don’t you think it would be delicious fun to masquerade as a French courtesan at least once in your life?

Here's Emily as Rosalinde in Strauss' DIE FLEDERMAUS -

Empress: Do you have a Guilty pleasure?

Emily: Um . . . masquerading as a French courtesan?

Empress: If you could go anywhere for a holiday, where would you go and why?

Emily: Ok, this is going to sound like a total suck-up, but I’d really love to visit Australia. You have so many interesting animals that are found nowhere else in the world. I’d love to hear a performance at the Sydney Opera house and view the Great Barrier Reef (from the comfort and safety of a glass bottom boat, please. I have no wish to meet one of your sharks!) Plus there’s an Australian version of the RT convention I’d love to make it down for someday.
Gotta save my pennies.

Empress: When you were little what did you want to grow up to be?

Emily: I never really knew for sure. My school guidance counselor assured me I had the aptitude for almost anything but brick-laying. I switched majors a couple times in college. Since I graduated I’ve been (hold on!) a professional singer, choir director, teacher, home-schooling mom, realtor, and banker. Now, (thank you God!) I’m a full-time writer.
I finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up!

Empress: 3 must have items if you were stranded on a tropical island?

Emily: 1. Buckets of sunscreen. I burn like crazy.
2. A monthly airdrop of romance novels. No cable on the island, you know.
3. My DH. After all those romance novels, I’ll need some relief!

and now a question from The Queen of Happy Endings & The Fussy Princess

Queen: What makes your historical romances different from others?

Emily: Some historical romances are adventurous. Some witty. Some dramatic and some comedic. My historical romances are not strictly one thing. I try to incorporate all those elements in my stories. If I can give my reader a laugh or two, maybe a tear, and a chance to fall in love while sharing an adventure with a gorgeous hunk, then I’ve done my job.

Princess: What are you reading now?

Emily: I always have a couple books going. Right now I'm reading Tamera Alexander's BEYOND THIS MOMENT, Judith Flanders' INSIDE THE VICTORIAN HOME (research, you know!) and Eloisa James' AN AFFAIR BEFORE CHRISTMAS.

Empress: Thanks so much Emily for chatting with me today and sharing so generously with our readers.

For the latest on Emily's novels visit her website, it's also a treasure trove of information for aspiring writers. Visit Emily Bryan's blog for news on her latest work, up and coming releases, interesting tidbits, blog tours, contests, author interviews & just plain fun posts, sure to give you a giggle.

Emily: Thanks so much for having me on Royal Reviews. This was great fun

Leave a comment, ask a question, you'll be entered in today's draw for one of Emily's novels.

Day 2 winner - I Heart Book Gossip

Empress Signature


Kate said...

Wicked interview :)
I really enjoyed reading it.

housemouse88 said...

I've enjoyed getting to know you better as an author. I like the fact you try to incorporate several elements in your books not just one. Sorry to hear about the bad review. Personally, I don't read reviews on authors. I want to make up my own mind on what they have to offer. Have a great day.

EmilyBryan said...

Thanks, Kate!

Housemouse: It's ok that not everyone likes everything I write. We all have our preferences and as an American I defend every reader's right to voice their opinion. (Just please don't give away any of the plot points!)

Blodeuedd said...

Hi Emily :)
Great long interview there, and a yay for liking Gaiman. I discovered him with Stardust, funny and sweet.

I am already very much intrigued by My lady below the stairs. And I love that you bring in all elements, I need funny, sweet, a hunk, oh yes I like the works

EmilyBryan said...

I got started on Neil Gaiman when my daughter gave me his ANANSI BOYS. I found it funny, entertaining, terrifying and disturbing. But the story had such great bones! He pulled in African folk lore of a "spider hero" as the glue to hold his narrative together. Really fresh.

Now I ready anything with his name on it.

host said...

Hi Emily! Like the interview and getting to know you better. I'm also one of those people who don't like to read reviews but like to make up my mind on my one. The bad review ruins my enjoyment because I over think every situation in the book, or good review gets my hopes too high so I'm often disappointed. So please, don’t worry about reviews they are important but to I think that readers recognize good stuff anyway. :)

Cheryl (B)S said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this interview. I love to read about author's lives, writing habits, inspirations, etc. Then, I think I appreciate their work much more.


Sharon said...

This was a fun interview. The jumping of bones part of the discussion made me laugh! It was nice getting to know you a little.

EmilyBryan said...

Host--I think we writers stress about reviews because they are one way readers find us (or not!) Come to think of it, I too have never bought a book on the word of a reviewer I didn't know. But I've bought plenty recommended to me by a friend. I think review sites on the internet hold that same sort of sway because if you follow a particular site or reviewer, you come to trust their judgement. It's like the word of a friend.

Cheryl--Thanks so much for stopping by! We writers are very much like everyone else. We just like to make things up.

Sharon--I thought it was funny when the Empress suggested wording that differently. I thought it was good writing on her part. Direct, colorful and succinct!

Teddyree said...

Blodeuedd ~ you will hear more about My Lady Below Stairs on Thursday so be sure to come back.

Em ~ I finished The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman not so long ago and absolutely adored it, loved Stardust too. I'm definitely going to add Anansi Boys to my wishlist. Still have American Gods to read.

Glad you all enjoyed the interview - I could have bantered back and forward with Emily, she is so down to earth but then the chat would have gone for days LOL

etirv said...

I enjoyed reading this interview, especially Emily's naughty responses. Thanks, Royal Reviews and Emily!

I've found reviews to be hits and misses but I rely on them mainly because there really are so many books and so little time to read. I also don't have friends who read historical romances who can refer books to me. By the way, I wasn't aware of Royal Reviews until Emily mentioned it on her blog... and it's now bookmarked as one of my favorites.

Emily, is that really you as Rosalinde in the beautiful portrait? Do you still take voice lessons?

During those times when you get stuck writing, which part is the hardest? The beginning, the end, the sensuous parts?

EmilyBryan said...

Teddy--I feel like we just sat down with our coffee for a nice, friendly chat! Thanks for making me so welcome!

Yes, Etriv, that's really me as Rosalinde. Just a really younger me. I don't take singing lessons any more, but I do still sing. My DH (he's a wonderful baritone!) and I are both in a terrific choir and get a chance to sing music that challenges and inspires us.

I think all phases of a novel hold some levels of difficulty. The beginning is a very delicate time. You have to introduce your characters, initiate the conflict and hit the ground running. The middle is tricky because you have to sustain and escalate the tension without letting the action run away or sag. In the end, you have unravel all the knots and tie up the loose ends.

When I get stuck, I push away from the computer and do a little housecleaning. That helps remind me that writing is lots more fun and I buckle back down to finishing what I was stuck on!

booklover1335 said...

Hi Emily,
I have never read one of your romances, but I recently read a review that gave your latest release 5 stars, and they could not say enough good things about your work, so I promptly checked you out.

I found you on the web and was intrigued by your Name a character contest, and loved all of your insight on how you go about choosing a name. I honestly never thought about all of those things, but when I applied them they made so much sense and subconsiously I think I apply a lot of those rules when reading about characters.

I haven't been to the store yet to see if I can pick up one of your books, but I am planning a trip soon. I love historical romances that combine humor, drama, and love (and sometimes a few tears) those are the best types of read, so I am so excited to find a new author (to me at least) that could become a fav.

BTW I am cheering for "Nash Rowley" in the name contest (that's the name I submitted so I may be just a tad bit biased) Can't wait for Stroke of Genius, I think your contest to pick a name is truly a stroke of genius to get people talking and excited about your future release.

EmilyBryan said...

Hey Booklover! I'm so glad you entered my contest. I love to have my readers involved and since STROKE OF GENIUS is still very much in process, this contest really gives them a shot at helping me define a character.

PS. I like Nash Rowley too!

The Book Resort said...

Congrats to I Heart Book Gossip!

The Book Resort said...

Thanks for the awesome interview, Emily.
Interesting, Empress, thanks for the fun.

throuthehaze said...

great interview!

RachieG said...

:) YEA!! Emily Bryan!

I was so excited to read this interview..I wrote it on the calenar!

Didn' disappoint. Mss Bryan is one of my fav's!

Kytaira said...

I had just taken a drink of my soda when I read the t-shirt your husband may/should get. Thankfully I managed to not spit it all over my keyboard but it was a close thing! Thanks for another wonderful interview!

Anonymous said...

I really think your should put that T-shirt into production. I can think of a few people who would love to give on to their DH. Great interview.

LuAnn said...

Little Women ... what a great book to remember from when you were a child! I loved reading it again as an adult. It had a completely new perspective!

Jane said...

"A Christmas Ball" sounds great. Are there any plans for another anthology?

EmilyBryan said...

Just getting up here in Boston! How nice to wake to so many lovely comments.

BookResort-I'm assuming the Empress has chosen a winner for yesterday. But take heart! There's a winner everyday of EB Week.

Throughthehaze--Thanks for coming by!

Rachie--Bless your heart! You're one of my favs too!

Kytaira--I'll tell the DH. He'll be pleased.

LibraryPat--We've thought about it. He could set up shop at RT and sell them as souvenirs. Beats "My wife went to a writing convention and all I got was this lousy T-shirt!"

LuAnn--I also remember the summer I stayed up with a flashlight and read the complete works of Mark Twain. Sigh! The summer of Huck and Tom and the Connecticut Yankee . . .

Hi Jane! No plans for another anthology at present, but the last one was fun. Writing a novella is very different from a novel. Everything is condensed. It was good practice for me to write short.

EmilyBryan said...

Hey Everybody! Today at my blog I'm hosting Colleen Thompson, RITA nominee, fab romantic suspsense writer and a good friend! Please drop by for a chance to win her RITA nominated TRIPLE EXPOSURE.

Alaine - Queen of Happy Endings said...

Good morning Emily, as you are rising we are all bedding down for the night! Good night! Hope you have a great day. Will pop over and check out your blog in the morning.

Teddyree said...

Hi Em, just visited your blog, haven't read anything by Colleen Thompson but I will certainly check out Beneath Bone Lake and Triple Exposure

EmilyBryan said...

Colleen is a terrific writer (she's been compared to Tess Gerritsen and Tami Hoag!) as well as being a wonderfully supportive friend of mine!

I'm off to work with my critique partner for a few hours. Will check back in this afternoon! Which will be. . . tomorrow your time? My goodness, isn't it grand that the internet can bridge all those hours and miles?

CheekyGirl said...

Great Interview! What a fun way to start the day. Thanks for the insight into your writing habits. I'm trying to get going on my very first manuscript and it's so helpful to hear how authors I admire go about crafting their stories.


penney said...

Hi Emily, how long does it take you to write a romance book? And how do you get your ideas?
I loved your VEXING THE VISCOUNT book,
Thanks for being here today
penneyw AT sbcglobal DOT net

Eva S said...

Thanks for a wonderful interview! I really enjoy to know more about you and I'm looking forward to reading more this week!

EmilyBryan said...

Cheeky--Just keep adding one word at a time. That's how we all do it!

Penney--If I really put on the afterburners, I can write 400 pages in 2 months. But that assumes I've done my research. I know my characters deeply and I have a killer synopsis all mapped out. Ideas are everywhere! Just pluck them out of the air. I've written more dialogue while folding laundry than I can say!

Eva--Thanks! You visited me on my VEXING THE VISCOUNT blog tour, didn't you? Good to see you again!