AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: TERESA GRANT
Author Teresa Grant has agreed to spend a few moments with this bunny letting her interview the historical author.
Teresa’s latest novel Vienna Waltz is due out in April 2011, published by Kensington
Tell us a little about Vienna Waltz and what inspired you to write it.
Vienna Waltz is set at the glittering Congress of Vienna in 1814, where kings and princes negotiate the fate of the Continent by day and pursued pleasure by night. Princess Tatiana Kirsanova, who is having affairs with both Tsar Alexander of Russia and Prince Metternich, the Austrian foreign minister, is found murdered on the night she has summoned Metternich, Tsar Alexander, British attaché Malcolm Rannoch (who is possibly her lover as well) and his wife Suzanne to her rooms, all at the same time. The British foreign secretary, Lord Castlereagh, asks Malcolm to investigate. Despite the fact that they have a marriage of convenience and don’t quite trust each other, Malcolm and Suzanne find themselves working together to discover who killed Princess Tatiana. They uncover secrets that could shake more than one royal court and learn some surprising truths about each other that could pull them closer together or shatter everything between them.
I’ve been fascinated by the Congress of Vienna ever since I first read about it in Georgette Heyer’s The Grand Sophy when I was ten. A wonderful lecture about the Congress my freshman year at Stanford intrigued me still more. After Napoleon was exiled to Elba, representatives of countries across Europe gathered in Vienna to redraw the Continental map. There was a great deal of intriguing, both political and romantic. In the autumn of 1814, the Congress of Vienna was the place to be. Imagine a combination of a modern international political conference and the Cannes Film Festival. Some claimed the delegates spent as much time waltzing as negotiating. The Festivals Committee, appointed by Austrian Emperor Francis I, felt it their duty to keep the foreign delegations entertained with events each more lavish than the last. There were masquerade balls, balloon ascensions, sleigh rides, a recreation of a medieval tournament, and nights at the theatre and the opera. There’s a vogue now for including more real historical people in historical fiction, and the Congress seemed the perfect opportunity to write a novel of intrigue that combined real and fictional historical people and events.
When you start writing, do you already have the story plotted out or do you let the characters dictate what will happen?
I plot in advance in a fair amount of detail. I lay out scenes and plot points on index cards (now I use the corkboard in Scrivener) so I can move things about and see where I need to fill in. I’ll even jot down bits of dialogue and description that occur to me. I plot my books in three acts, so it’s important early on to figure out where each act ends. But as I write the book, I find I get new ideas or realize that a scene or an action by a character that seemed logical on a note card doesn’t make sense now that I’m in the midst of the book. So some things get tweaked and shifted. But the basic arc of the story stays the same.
What inspired you to write in your genre? Is this the genre you started writing in or have you morphed to this one?
I started out co-writing traditional Regencies with my mom as Anthea Malcolm. Our first book was a romantic comedy centered round the London season, with lots of Almack’s and shopping and balls and ices at Gunter’s. But it had a subplot involving blackmail over a Parliamentary vote, so even then we were including political intrigue. And even with the London season setting, it had some scenes set in the less savory side of Regency London.
Our books had more and more suspense and intrigue as we went on and the tone of the books got more serious (one was an actual murder mystery, one had tormented ex-lovers and intrigue over the East India Company’s charter). Eventually we wrote a historical romance (under the name Anna Grant), Dark Angel, set during the Peninsular War, with an intrigue and adventure driven plot. After my mom died, I wrote three more Regency-set historical romances on my own, under my own name. I put more and more intrigue and historical details and events into the books. Finally I realized what I really wanted to write was historical suspense fiction, still including love stories but with room for lots of political intrigue, espionage, suspense and historical detail and texture. That’s when I began my Charles and Mélanie Fraser series with Secrets of a Lady (originally Daughter of the Game) and then Beneath a Silent Moon. Vienna Waltz is in essence a prequel to that series, though my new publisher wanted the characters to have new names, so they’re called Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch.
So my books have always contained the same elements–romance, espionage, suspense, a glimpse into the more shadowy side of the Regency. But the balance of the elements has shifted.
Do you have a favorite character you have written?
Charles and Mélanie Fraser/Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch. I love writing about them and their evolving marriage (inspired to a large degree by The Scarlet Pimpernel). They’re like old friends, and yet I’m constantly learning new things about them. Even though Vienna Waltz is a prequel, when I was plotting it I discovered some things about Malcolm’s past that surprised even me. I’ve also just released another Charles and Mélanie book, The Mask of Night, as a Kindle e-book. It’s set just after Secrets of a Lady and involves a conspiracy that leads back to the Empress Josephine.
Do you have a character that you look back on now and don’t like?
Hmm… Not particularly. I think I’m too fond of all my characters.
Do you draw inspiration for your characters from real life? Any fun stories you could share?
When my mom and I first started writing, our family would ask with mingled nervousness and fascination if we based our characters on people we knew. We never did consciously, though I think the people one spends time with can’t help but have an effect on the characters one creates.
What do you find the hardest part of writing?
Getting the first draft down. I have to force myself to push through and not try to make it perfect. Once I have a draft, I love tweaking and revising. I usually do three or four drafts before I turn the book in to my editor.
Name one thing that your readers would be surprised to know about you.
I was very serious about acting in high school and college and spent a summer as an apprentice at the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
What do you need before you start writing? Anything that is just a must have or the creative juice don’t flow?
I can write pretty much anywhere (now that I have an iPad, I’ve been known to work standing in line), but I like to have a cup of coffee (in the morning) or tea (in the afternoon) and music playing.
Does music influence your writing? If so, do any of your stories have a theme song?
Definitely. I often pick a composer who to me captures the mood and tone of a book. For Vienna Waltz it was Schubert (who is a character in the book) and Beethoven (a Beethoven concert is the scene of the denouement), but I also listened to a lot of Viennese operetta. It’s later than the time Vienna Waltz is set, but it was a lush, yearning quality that fit many scenes.
If your story was optioned for a movie, who would play your characters?
When I first created Malcolm/Charles and Mélanie/Suzanne, I had a young David Duchovny and a young Elizabeth Hurley in mind. Now I might cast Matthew Macfadyen and Eva Green. I love it when readers make casting suggestions. It lets me see my characters through fresh eyes.
Where were you when you got your first contract? Who did you tell first?
At home. My mom and I were in different rooms. We both got on the phone with our agent. Then we ran out and hugged each other. The first person we told was my dad, who was away on a business trip.
How old were you when you read your first romance book?
Ten. My mom read Georgette Heyer’s The Grand Sophy to me. Then that Christmas a family friend gave me Mary Stewart’s This Rough Magic.
If you still have one of those pesky day jobs what is it?
I do some nonprofit development and marketing consulting.
What are you currently working on, and what else is in the wings?
I just turned in the sequel to Vienna Waltz, set in June 1815. Napoleon has escaped from Elba and returned to power in France. Malcolm and Suzanne have gone to Brussels with the Duke of Wellington. The book begins a few days before the battle of Waterloo, with Malcolm slipping away from a ball to go to a rendezvous with an agent which turns into an ambush. A decorous young British wife is killed accidentally in the crossfire. Or perhaps, Malcolm and Suzanne discover as they investigate, it wasn’t so accidental. Malcolm and Suzanne’s relationship continues to evolve and there’s also a romance between a military intelligence officer and his estranged, scandalous wife.
I’m now starting the third book in the series, set in Paris after Waterloo. A setting of glamour and elegance but also the time of the White Terror, when the Ultra Royalists turned on Bonapartists.
What is your reaction to people who say one of the following…”Oh you write romance, I thought you were a real writer”, “Romance isn’t a real writing career” or the ever popular “Oh, one of those books”.
I smile sweetly and talk about my research.
And for the silly side – What is your favorite type of chocolate?