Interview With Carla Kelly


Carla Kelly has won two RITA awards from the Romance Writers of America and has published over a dozen Regency novels, contributed to anthologies, and published fiction outside of the genre, in particular a collection of short stories set in the American Frontier titled Here’s To The Ladies.

Beau Crusoe, her newest release, has just been released. Her last fictional foray (she edited On The Upper Missouri: The Journal Of Rudolph Friederich Kurz, 1851-1852) was in the anthology Wedding Belles, published in early 2004, so Kelly fans have been eagerly awaiting this book. She’s got a new publisher and Beau Crusoe, rumor has it, is a bit racier than her earlier traditional Regencies. Risky Regencies sat down for a virtual cup of tea with the amazingly talented Ms. Kelly.

(And remember, comments on this post will be entered into a contest to win one of two signed copies of Beau Crusoe).

Carla, thank you for being here.

Q. Readers frequently list your books as their favorites of all time; what do you think it is about your writing that readers respond to?

A. Gosh, start off with easy questions… I’m probably the wrong person to answer this. I just write the way I write. A friend of mine did tell me once that she liked my books because the main characters are ordinary, and prone to squaring their shoulders and solving their own problems – probably as most of us do in real life. Maybe we see ourselves in these practical people.

Q. How did you think of writing this particular book? Did it start as a character, a setting, or some other element?

A. It started as a setting, and then the “what if” took over. Several years ago, I read Tony Horwitz’s marvelous book, Blue Latitudes: (subtitled – I think – ‘Going boldly where Captain Cook has gone before.’) Horwitz followed Capt. James Cook’s first voyage in the Endeavor, as he went to Tahiti to observe the Transit of Venus. I was fascinated. Years earlier, I had seen an equally excellent mini-series of Cook and his voyages. And Thor Heyedahl’s Kon-Tiki was the first book I read all night, under the covers with a flashlight. And then there is the towering figure of Sir Joseph Banks, a scientist. There’s a theme here.

My current landlocked status in North Dakota in no way reflects my childhood as the daughter of a naval officer, living overseas or on one coast or the other. I love the ocean, and I know how terrible it can be.

I knew I would write another sea story, because I like writing them – such a C.S. Forester fan I am – and I duplicate no other writer when I do it. This matters to me.

Q. How long did it take? Was this an easy or difficult book to write?

A. It took too long. I was moving along on the Beau when Harlequin announced it was dropping its historical line. My agent and I decided it was best to stop, because the terms of my contract didn’t include the subscription-only idea Harlequin hatched. So I quit writing it.

The, when Harlequin announced it was starting the line again and all was forgiven, I was so irritated I didn’t feel like writing. Plus, since I had no prospects after the line was discontinued, I’d taken a job as staff writer for a small, understaffed daily newspaper in our town. This eventually meant I had to ask for two extensions on the deadline because – irony of ironies – I was too busy writing to write. I’m still working for the newspaper, but if Harlequin will agree to my next two proposals, the paper will get an instant two-week notice. I work too hard for too little pay there, but that’s North Dakota.

The story itself wasn’t difficult. I knew what I wanted to say. Yeah, well, it was 100 pages longer than the story you have, so I needed to trim.

Q. Tell me more about your characters. What or who inspired them?

A. The Beau is really an amalgam of naval officers who also were amateur scientists. He was not alone in his interests. The growth of England’s sea power, coupled with the happy era of interest in the natural world, gave the study of natural science a huge push. These amateur scientists fascinate me. I wanted the Beau to be among that august company. And there was Sir Joseph Banks. Oh, my. And Susanna was just trying to make the best of a bad situation, as we often have to do, even now.

Q. Did you run across anything new and unusual while researching this book?

A. I learned a great deal about fiddler crabs! I still have a small drawing of one perched at eye level above my computer. My husband enlarged the drawing, which I plan to frame, as my little gift to me for Beau Crusoe. I also learned more about the Royal Society, which still awards a Copley medal.

Q. What is it about the Regency period that interests you as a writer?

A. In two words: Napoleonic Wars. Beyond that, I’m interested in an era where people knew their place and lived their lives within a narrow sphere. The Industrial Revolution was starting to make itself felt, too, when there would be many wrongs to right, and people wouldn’t know their place anymore.

Q. What do you think is the greatest creative risk you’ve taken in this book? How do you feel about it?

A. It’s sexier than my other books. I’m ambivalent, particularly since Beau’s encounter with Lady Audley is so blatant. I tried to make it ironic and ruefully witty, and hope I succeeded. Don’t think I’m going to send this one to my 85-year-old mum, though.

Q. Is there anything you wanted to include in the book that you (or your CPs or editor) felt was too controversial and left out?

A. Yes, actually. I wrote a “Dear Reader” after the final chapter, which was an epilog, of sorts, bringing the story all the way up to the present. My editor seemed to think this would confuse readers into thinking the novel was a true story, and asked not to include it. I disagreed with her, but went along. Perhaps, unlike her, I know and trust my readers’ intelligence and know they would not be confused.

HOWEVER, if, after reading the book, any readers are interested, I will happily e-mail that “Dear Reader,” and they can attach it to their copy of Beau Crusoe. I will e-mail it only after they have finished the book: ckelly@ daktel.com

Q. In Here’s to the Ladies, you wrote about Frontier America, and also wrote in the first person in at least one of the stories in the collection; what other time periods and/or writing styles have you, or would like to, try?

A. When I finished Beau Crusoe, I sent my editor at Harlequin a detailed outline for a novel set at Fort Laramie during the Great Sioux Wars. It’s a novel I really, really want to write, because I know this subject so well. I also sent a detailed outline for a novel set in 1701 at Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, which I really, really want to write. She could not have been less interested. She also broke the news gently to me that all Harlequin wants are more Regencies from me. Seems a shame. I decided not to write any more, but recently ate my words and sent her one detailed outline for another regency, and a sketch of a second. I’m doing this because a) I really am eager to stop writing for the newspaper b) I have two excellent ideas here. Maybe I’ll toss in a third and we can call it a Portsmouth Trilogy. But each book stands alone. I’m not a fan of spinning on more and more characters that appear everywhere, like Where’s Waldo.

As for other styles, I’m comfortable with the way I write, which I suspect is a little different than some.

Q. What are you working on next?

A. Depending on whether my editor likes my next two ideas, probably a Regency set in the grubby naval town of Portsmouth, during the darkest days of the Blockade brought on by Napoleon’s Berlin and Milan Decrees, and the British answer – Orders in Council. People are hungry, fortunes are few, and times are tough. (Aren’t people always more interesting when times are desperate?)

In the sketchy outline for the 2nd book, there’s nary an aristocrat in sight. I seem to be specializing in dukeless books, which I’m sure suits my readers, because I never seem to get those right, anyway. And if Harlequin isn’t interested in those, I’ll probably just go ahead and finish my Wyoming story set in 1910. Well, I’ll finish that, anyway, and then sell it to a publishing house in Utah, which is interested.

Q. Is there anything else you would like readers to know about you or your books?

A. I do so much more than write Regencies. I’m sure that’s true of all writers.

Thank you, Carla!

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41 Responses to Interview With Carla Kelly

  1. Theresa N. says:

    I like your Regency’s and am Happy to hear your ideas for more ARE NOT in short supply. Your supply of ideas for books Regency and otherwise sounds to be endles. So great. I don’t know where you find the time and energy to work for a newspaper.

  2. RevMelinda says:

    What a wonderful interview. . .Carla, I must tell you that your books are among the most prized and most-read on my bookshelf (if only my Bible looked so worn and well-thumbed, LOL!). Your “non-dukes” are unforgettable heroes (well, your dukes are, too, come to that) and Beau Crusoe is no exception. I was transfixed by it and it went by much too soon (maybe you could do a “collectors edition” someday with the extra 100 pages? . . .)

    After I finished it, I jumped up and my fingers actually itched to write a paper about it–it’s so beautifully crafted and you have woven so many intriguing themes into its texture (hunger, appetite, redemption, just to name a few). Your books are always fun, delightful, witty–but they’re always About Something, too (probably why I like them so much).

    I think it’s a shame that your “non-Regency” ideas can’t find a publisher. This is one devoted reader who would follow you to whatever genre you chose to embrace.

  3. Abby says:

    Yay, Carla Kelly is back!

    I’d read work of yours in any historical setting you wanted, but that’s just me. Too bad Harlequin isn’t interested. And I love the dukeless quality of your work.

    Thanks for creating Mrs. Drew. I think she’s one of my favourite characters ever.

  4. You actually have a thread on the Eloisa James BB, which I’m sure you know. Big fans over there!

    I hang my head in shame since I’ve not read you before (I don’t think—I’ve only been reading romances again for about three years and was a Harlequin snot for awhile until I realized they’d improved enormously since my youth). So you’re at the top of my TBB list.

    I hope you find a home for the books of your heart.

  5. That was a really great interview. I would love to know why you chose to write in this genre? What is it about regency that appeals to you?

  6. AP says:

    I can not wait to read your new book. I especially enjoy the fact that your characters are real and are not perfect.

  7. Carla, I’m anxiously awaiting my copy of Beau Crusoe! (I pre-ordered it along with a couple other books being released last week, but it hasn’t shipped yet–I think Amazon punishes you a little for using their free shipping option by delaying your order an extra few days.)

    I’m a bit surprised and disappointed that Harlequin isn’t interested in your non-Regency ideas, since they are one of the few publishers regularly releasing Westerns these days. So frustrating, the way publishers insist on their pigeonholes! Here’s the the Ladies was my favorite of your books, even though I’m not normally a fan of Westerns or even short stories/novellas. I think it was because it seemed like such a good fit for your voice, and also because they were army stories–I’ve never been all that into the usual Western hero types like cowboys, lawmen, and ranchers, but I’m a big military history geek.

  8. jackietoo says:

    I will read anything you write! You can tell Harlequin that, too 😀

    Thank you so much for continuing your thoughtful, uplifting stories about “real” people.

    My favorites so far are “Miss Chartley’s Guided Tour” and “The Wedding Journey”.

  9. Cara King says:

    Thanks so much for being here, Carla, and for that delightful interview! I now understand many things, such as why all your books set at sea and/or involving the navy have always seemed so powerful and “real” to me!

    I’ve been a big fan since Marian’s Christmas Wish came out — it stunned me (in a good way), and I immediately went back and found your previous two books, and have followed your books ever since. (I even have Here’s to the Ladies in my TBR pile, though I confess I haven’t yet read it…)

    So here’s my question: how could you bear to cut that 100 pages? 🙂 (I, like RevMelinda, would love a special edition one day with those pages added back!)

    Cara

  10. Todd says:

    When my now-wife first introduced me to Regency romances–at gunpoint–she explained to me that there were a few godlike figures in the genre, of which select list you were one. Since then, I’ve been working my way through them all. Of the ones I’ve read by you so far, my favorites are Libby’s London Merchant and Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand.

    Your heroes and heroines may be ordinary people doing their best to solve their problems, but I’ve noticed that they often suffer a great deal along the way. I think this gives your books a more serious tone than many traditional Regencies. I love funny books, but I love your books, too. It’s nice that there is so much variety within the genre.

    I’m a big buff both of military history and naval historical fiction; and I’m also a scientist, so figures like Captain Cook and Joseph Banks are very interesting and appealing to me. I can hardly wait to read your new book (and then email you for your “Dear Reader” section)! I hope that one day publishers will wake up and let authors branch out into other interesting parts of history.

    Todd-who-remains-a-big-fan

  11. Carla, I love the fact that your characters have such vibrant minds and strong beliefs — for me, at least, this sexier new novel will certainly be enriched by all that. Inspired by the wonderful Blue Latitudes, too — what a treat. Congratulations, and thanks for the interview and your writing.

  12. Hi, Carla,
    I’m your “release mate” at Harlequin with my March release Innocence and Impropriety.

    I am halfway through Beau Crusoe and am fascinated and enjoying it very much. I’ve read and admired One Good Turn and The Wedding Journey and am delighted with this new one as well. Your heroes are always such decent, likable men. I was surprised when you said this book was sexier, and realized that I didn’t even THINK of the Mrs. Audley parts as being sexy bits!!Duh.

    Readers, the Harlequin Carla is dealing with is really Mills & Boon. Instead of killing off the Historical line, Harlequin decided to transfer it to the UK office, Mills & Boon, who within just two years has doubled the numbers of Historicals released in both the UK and North America.

    Your loyal fans will follow you anywhere, Carla, but with Harlequin, there is a whole world of new fans to conquer! I’m sure Harlequin Mills and Boon is ecstatic that you are writing more Regencies for them!

    So glad you could visit us here at Risky Regencies and I hope you come back for the next book or even sooner.

    Cheers,
    Diane

  13. traveler says:

    Interesting and informative interview which I loved. Your noels and characters are realistic and enthralling. Enjoyable novels.

  14. ellie says:

    Wonderful interview! Your novels have always provided me with hours of endless enjoyment and memories.

  15. alissa says:

    Thanks you for this great interview. Your novels sound so appealing and unique.

  16. pearl says:

    Excellent interview which has been so enlightening. I will definitely be reading your new book and enjoying it immensely.

  17. sharon says:

    Your Regency’s are wonderful! This interview has been so interesting and lovely. I will be reading more of your books.

  18. joelle says:

    Your characters and novels are so exceptional. Love them. Interview was a delight. Thanks.

  19. robynl says:

    that was a great interview and told me a lot about you, a new-to-me author. Thanks for that and the readers replies were also helpful.

  20. principessa says:

    Wow! I enjoyed this extremely interesting interview. All of your novels look so interesting and the era is so appealing. Thanks for this great introduction.

  21. Teresa says:

    Hey Carla was very well informed by reading your interview today. The new book sounds great and I can’t believe Harlequin is taking a pass on the other books. Wish you luck on the release and hope one day you can continue writing full time!

  22. Jennie says:

    Carla, I’m so glad you have another book out! I have been discovering your backlist recently, so I’m excited to read Beau Crusoe hot off the presses. 🙂

    I hope you find a home for your non-Regencies, as they sound fascinating. And I would certainly buy them!

  23. I’ve got Beau Crusoe on order (along with I&I, Diane), and am very excited to read it (of course I ganged the order with some stuff that comes out later in the month, hence why I haven’t gotten it yet).

    I also have one of your books I haven’t read yet–Summer Campaign–that I am saving to read when I’ve been stranded on a poorly-equipped library desert island.

    My library has Daughter of Fortune, and I take it out every quarter or so, too.

    Thanks again for the interview, Carla.

  24. Elena Greene says:

    Carla,
    Thanks for the interview, and I’m so delighted you have a new book out!

  25. from Carla, whom Blogger is hating right now

    Thanks to everyone for all the lovely comments–please send any questions directly to ckelly@daktel.net.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Wow! After reading this interview and all the glowing fan comments, I’m determined to read some Carla Kelly. Thanks for the introduction.

    ~Bridgett

  27. Jane George says:

    Dear Carla,

    Here’s wishing your imminent freedom from slave-driving newspapers. 🙂

  28. Carla, I’ve loved your books since I heard you speak at a workshop I attended in the landlocked Midwest (growing up near Ft. Lauderdale, can understand the feeling you have about being away from the ocean). I reread your books often — can’t pick a favorite! — and kept all of them even when downsizing to a smaller study. So glad to hear you’re back to writing Regencies and can’t wait to read your latest. . . and your next and your next!

  29. Carla, what a fabulous interview! In the summer of 2002, when we visited Norway, we made it a point to visit the Kon-Tiki museum in Oslo. Seeing that flimsy raft, it was impossible to believe that Thor Heyerdahl made it 10 miles beyond the coastline, forget about great ocean voyages he did make.

    Now, I’m really, really looking forward to reading your Beau Crusoe. Thank you for the grittiness and riskiness of your novels, and also for always pushing the envelope just a little bit with each book.

    It’s a shame when a publisher punishes an author for being superb at what she writes. I hope you will have the opportunity of writing and publishing your American frontier novels. And it will be Harlequin’s loss, mind you.

    For your legion of Regency fans, it’s most welcome news indeed that you will be writing more in the genre.

    All the best to you, and do continue to write fiction.

  30. KimW says:

    Nice to see you back, Carla!Fingers crossed for you (and for me, too) that you sell more stories and can leave the newspaper.

  31. As a Regency fan, all I hear from fellow readers is how much they love Carla Kelly Regencies. Is there any chance that now that you’re publishing in the time period again that some of your older books might get rereleased? I would love to read them!

  32. Cherie says:

    Great interview! Beau Crusoe sounds like a great read. Sounds like you had to do a bit of research for this book. I love it when a regency author tries to go for accuracy as much as possible.

    Cherie Japp

  33. Maureen says:

    You are one of my favorite authors and Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand is my favorite of your books. However, I have just started reading this book (so please don’t enter me in the drawing) and I think it might be just as wonderful.

  34. Lois says:

    Well, I’m a day late, but I did find the book! I still have to read it though, but I thought it was a great idea, and I can’t wait to get to it. 🙂 And thanks for stopping by here at RR! 🙂

    Lois

  35. Ms. Kelly, I have not read _Beau Crusoe_ yet (no time to get to a bookstore), but I was so excited to find out last month that you had a new book forthcoming.

    _Libby’s London Merchant_ is one of my favourite Regency books of all time. I was so in love with Dr. Cook by the end of the book. (I had checked out a copy from the library, and as soon as I finished I had to go find a copy on Ebay.)

    I am looking forward to reading your newest book when I finally get time to run out and get a copy.

  36. robynl says:

    How great that you have a new book out. Congrats!!!

  37. Lis says:

    Great interview! The book sounds great, will have to pick it up 🙂

  38. Heather says:

    I just got home last night from a day business trip to find a box of books had arrived, include my copy of Beau Crusoe! I’m so excited. I can’t decide if I should read it right away or save it for a special occasion 🙂

    Carla, I’ve loved all of your books (well, I still need to read Daughter of Fortune, but I know I’ll love it when I do) — count me in as someone who would by any book you wrote in any format. Heck, if you take advance orders for your next book, I’ll order right now . . .

  39. Joyce Y. says:

    Hi Carla,

    Okay, I feel like so many other readers of your books – I too have well worn copies of your regencies, and adore all of them. Anyway, I just read your newest, Beau Crusoe, and enjoyed it a lot too.
    I also really appreciate the quality of all the characters in your stories, even the “secondary” ones have a lot of life to them. Just wonder if you have considered writing stories set in America, especially during the Revolutionary era, when so many families were separated by some who supported the “Rebels” and some who supported Britain.
    Wishing you well, in getting your two ideas published sometime soon, and whatever else you care to write!
    Joyce Y.

  40. kris says:

    Oh Carla, love this story, Beau Crusoe, Finished it and went right back to the beginning and read it again. I live in Australia so Cook & Banks hold a special place in our history and hearts. I was driven to the Web to learn more about Banks, Kew, fiddler crabs, well, every other fact in this book.It appealed to me because of it’s touch of historical fact.I found the characters believable.I didn’t dislike Loisa. It made me want to go back to that time and share part of their lives.

  41. Carla, I Love your books…but would greatly appreciate you on Facebook..with all my other beloved authors. Are you coming to Facebook?

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