What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for a book?
I can’t think of anything that would qualify as really strange. However, I should mention that for many years after I began writing (in 1983) there was no internet. It’s hard to imagine now when it is so easy to check details and even whole topics. Research then meant hunting down books and making annual trips to Britain to see things in person. Often it was not easy. Historical facts (like wars and treaties) were no problem, but social facts were more difficult to find. What did people eat at their banquets, for example? What did they wear? Talk about? How long did a journey from Point A to Point B take? We couldn’t just google the answer in those days.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I wouldn’t be telling you anything you don’t already know if I said that men and women are totally different in the way they think, speak, act, and emote. Writing from a man’s point of view is a challenge. It has to be credible. I can remember the first time I knew of a man (a British medical doctor) reading one of my books. I wanted to bury my head in a deep hole and keep it there. It was a huge relief when he commented without any prodding that I got the guy’s point of view exactly right. As a writer one always has to apply the believability test. The hero can’t think or say or do something just because it is convenient to the plot. It must all be consistent with his masculinity.
What special challenges did you face making your story stand out from others in the genre?
I don’t think I ever thought of my writing in those terms. I have never felt I was in competition with anyone else. I can remember a friend telling me when I was first published that I might be the second Danielle Steele. I told her I didn’t want to be the second anybody. I wanted to be the one and only Mary Balogh. I have always aimed for consistently excellent prose and love stories that combine an intensity of emotion and passion with realism and an aura of wonderful romance. I have always aimed for characters I (and therefore the reader) know soul-deep. I have always wanted my books to stand out from one another. I would hate to discover that readers were coming to find the same old same old in my plots or characters. It is difficult to be fresh and new after you have written more than a hundred novels and novellas. It takes constant hard work.
If you could have been the author of any book ever written, which book would you choose?
That is a fascinating and fun question. I have to be consistent with what I said above, though. Although I have some firm favorites among the many books I have loved and admired, I have never wanted to be the author of any books but my own. As writers we all have our own vision and values and–most important–our unique voice. I am very happy to be the author of my body of work. No one else could have written those books–just as I could not have written anyone else’s book, much as I might (and do!) love what certain other authors have produced.
What is the biggest surprise that you experienced after becoming a writer?
That’s an easy one. The biggest surprise was discovering when a New York publisher decided to buy my first book (A Masked Deception) that they were offering me a two-book contract. “What?” I thought. “Now I have to do it all over again?” Another surprise followed that. I did it! And then I did it again and again and… One does not, it seems, run out of ideas after a certain number of books. The more I write, the more I know I can write. Surprise, surprise!
What’s next for you? Are you working on a new project? If so, can you give us a teaser and/or an expected release date?
I most recently published Someone to Cherish in June. It is the final book in the Westcott series–Harry’s story. Then there will be an add-on book in November, Someone Perfect, the story of Lady Estelle Lamarr, a character in the Westcott books but not strictly a member of the family. Both those books are written. I am about to start a wholly new series, the Wares of Ravenwood Hall. I plan seven stories–for a mother, her three sons, her two daughters, and her late husband’s illegitimate son. I can’t give any more detail than that. I will be starting next week (on March 1). My stories take shape as I write. I am not a planner!