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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Q&A Interview with Shana Galen, Author of Lord and Lady Spy

Today I welcome Author Shana Galen, Author of Lord and Lady Spy, for Q&A Interview at Reviews by Martha's Bookshelf:

First let me say thank you for this very fun read! I have read some of your backlist books too and I enjoy your writing style.
1.     What makes a romance novel a great love story?

SG: Thank you so much for having me here today, Martha!

A great love story is all about the characters, in my opinion. Rhett and Scarlett, Jamie and Claire, Han and Leia. These characters have personalities that jump off the page (or screen). I have a little note on my desk that says, “It’s the characters, stupid!” Plot is all well and good—and kind of essential—but a great plot populated by flat characters does not make for a good or even a great book.

I guess I can agree as I have read good plots where the characters were flat and didn’t make it work as well as it could have.
2.     Who are some of your favorite authors to read and did any of them inspire your writing?

SG: There are so many authors I love to read. I enjoy historicals by Julie Garwood, Marsha Canham, Julia Quinn, Sophie Jordan, Ashley March, Robyn DeHart, and Sarah MacLean to name a few. I like contemporaries by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Nora Roberts, Janet Evanovich, and many more. Julie Garwood and Marsha Canham are definitely my biggest inspirations. I love Garwood’s humor, and no one does historical adventure romance like Marsha Canham.

I love Garwood too and several others you mention.  I will have to try Marsha Canhan.
3.     Do you have any hobbies or live interests that influence your writing?

SG: No, but I have a few that take away from it! I have a toddler, and she’s pretty much my full time job outside of writing. I also enjoy reading and being part of a book club, singing with the band at church, and I just started a fitness boot camp. But that’s more torture than hobby.

Ah yes - other real life activities, especially a toddler, can certainly take time away from writing.
4.     How do you find/develop your characters and their personalities?

SG: I’m not a writer who does a lot of agonizing and soul searching at the beginning of a manuscript. I have an idea, and I have two characters I sort of know, and I just start writing. I find it stifles me if I think too much about a story when I begin. There’s time for analysis later. The main thing is to get some words on paper.

As I write, I come to know my characters. Writing their words and their thoughts as part of the story helps me discover who they are, what’s important to them, and what they want and need. At a certain point in the manuscript I feel like the characters are friends and can go back and refine the beginning of the book and layer in more character development. Sometimes I have a good sense of character early on. And sometimes it takes longer. I was 45K words in to my current book before I realized it was the hero’s book and what he needed. Let me tell you, once I figured that out, the writing wasn’t such a struggle. Until then I just kept on going, hoping it would eventually come to me.

Lord and Lady Spy was that kind of book as well. I wrote 50 pages, and then I didn’t know what to do. The book wasn’t working. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I realized the deep underlying issue keeping these two apart. That’s when I finished the book.

That sounds like a system that would work - defining the character and building from there.
5.     I have to ask: Was this story influenced by a certain movie?

SG: Why, yes! Yes, it was. Mr. and Mrs. Smith was the catalyst for Lord and Lady Spy. I was watching the movie and started thinking, what if the year wasn’t 2005 but 1815? And what if the characters weren’t assassins, but spies? And I went from there. I was so intrigued by the idea of a married couple not knowing the other spouse’s real identity. I had to write it. It took me years, but here it is! And the book really isn’t much like the move.

You are right that Lord and Lady Spy is deferent than the movie. I enjoyed the comradrie and team work of the book much better than the antagonism of the movie.
6.     What is something your heroine would never be caught dead doing/saying?

SG: Oh, Sophia would never say, “I give up.” She would never admit defeat. Personally and professionally, she is determined and relentless. She will complete her mission at almost any cost.

Yes - that determination is clear in Sophia’s personality!
7.     Which scene do you like most and would never cut?

SG: My favorite scene in Lord and Lady Spy is the scene in Adrian’s brother’s garden where he and Sophia compare battle wounds. I knew I would have to have a scene like that, if I wanted to have some fun with the Mr. and Mrs. Smith connection. That scene, when I finally got to write it, was so such a joy to work on! It’s funny, poignant, and sexy.

That is a fun scene and turns even sexier. J
8.     Is there an ancillary character you had the most fun with?

SG: I had a lot of fun with Blue, who is another agent both Adrian and Sophia have worked with in the Barbican group. I have a whole back story for him in my head. He’s led a very interesting life! I’d love to write another book and feature him more prominently. He’s not a hero, but he’s a fun secondary character.

Blue was an intriguing secondary character and I would like to read more about him. This book seemed like it ended at a good spot for a sequel and I hope there will be one.
9.     Do you have any strange habits when you write?

SG: Not really. As I said, I have a toddler, so I can’t afford to make sure I have the right drink or candle or music. I just have to write when I can. In fact, I’m writing this at 6:15 a.m. because this is when I have time today! I will say that far too often I’ll get stuck on a page and click over to the internet to check Facebook or Twitter. That’s a really bad habit.

We can spend way too much time on the social networks if we aren’t careful but for an author today it is a necessary promotional tool.
10.  What do you hope your readers get out of your books?

SG: I want people to enjoy them. Sometimes I get letters from people who have read my books when they’re in the hospital with a sick relative or when their husband is overseas with the military, and they say they laughed or forgot their troubles for a little while. That’s what I hope readers take away from my books—laughter, adventure, and romance.

Wonderful objectives and you succeed at them.
11.  If you could have readers finish a sentence what would it be.

SG: I know why I read historical romance. I love the escape and the past seems like such a glamorous time—the ball gowns, the carriages, the dances and dinner parties. I always wonder what readers enjoy the most. So I would ask readers to finish this sentence: My favorite thing about historical romance is*******

Great question!
Thank you for sharing with me and my blog readers.

Lord and Lady Spy

No man can outsmart him...
Lord Adrian Smythe may appear a perfectly boring gentleman, but he leads a thrilling life as one of England’s most preeminent spies, an identity so clandestine even his wife is unaware of it. But he isn’t the only one with secrets...

She’s been outsmarting him for years...
Now that the Napoleonic wars have come to an end, daring secret agent Lady Sophia Smythe can hardly bear the thought of returning home to her tedious husband. Until she discovers in the dark of night that he’s not who she thinks he is after all...

Shana Galen is the author of numerous fast-paced adventurous Regency historical romances, including the Rita-nominated Blackthorne’s Bride. Her books have been sold worldwide, including Japan, Brazil, Russia, Spain, Turkey, and the Netherlands, and have been featured in the Rhapsody and Doubleday Book Clubs. A former English teacher in Houston’s inner city, Shana now writes full time. She’s a wife, a mother, and an expert multi-tasker. She loves to hear from readers: visit her website at or see what she’s up to daily on Facebook and Twitter.

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