|Samantha James: Romancing the Odds|
Who says you can't have your knight in shining armor and your Regency rake too? New York Times bestselling author Samantha James specializes in delivering both, plus the occasional gypsy, to an ever-increasing number of devoted readers. James considers overcoming insurmountable odds and making the impossible come true all part of a day's work -- her favorite part.
James writes what she likes to read, intense "three-hanky" stories which take advantage of their historical setting to create and sustain the conflict between hero and heroine. Fans compare her characters to the tormented heroes and heroines of the Bronte sisters, which puts an entirely different spin on the notion of making the impossible come true. What does it take to give Heathcliff a happy ending?
Crescent Blues: Most of your historical romances take place in the Regency period or in medieval British locations. What allows you to bridge the gap between two such disparate periods?
Samantha James: Simply put, what allows me to bridge the gap is a love of history -- but mostly a love of historical romance. As a romance writer, my aim is not to give a history lesson, but to involve my audience so that the reader feels the ups and downs of falling in love.
It's my job as a writer to see that a sense of time and place is present; I particularly enjoy using the history of a period to set up the conflict between my hero and heroine. I did this in A Promise Given, where the backdrop is the struggle for the Scottish throne in the early 1300s, and My Lord Conqueror, which is played out after the Norman invasion of England.
My emphasis though, is on my hero and heroine, their motivations, making the sparks fly between them and maintaining the conflict, and getting them together for the final, inevitable conclusion -- the happy ending.
What do you enjoy most about working in the two periods?
Samantha James: I'm
the first to admit that towering stone castles and knights in shining
armor have always held a certain fascination for me, and I think they
always will. But I also love being able to see my heroine dress up in
a glittering ball gown and go to a London gala on the arm of a dashing
Samantha James: Ahem -- I'm chuckling here. To be honest, my publicist stuck my foot in the door and wouldn't let it close! Seriously, though, I view myself as an entertainer. In order to get my books into the hands of my audience, not only do I have to sell my books to a publisher, I also need to continuously put my stories into the hands of new readers. By speaking publicly, by sharing my enthusiasm for what I do and what I write, I can interest new readers in my stories.
Do the experiences of friends and family ever come into play in the creation
of a book? (For example, didn't the inspiration for the "Gypsy Lord" of
One Moonlit Night arise from hearing about a friend's Gypsy grandmother?)
Samantha James: You know, it really depends on the book. For a long time I knew I wanted to have a book begin with the line "Be not afraid. " I'd also wanted to write a book about a woman who harbored a fear of men, and the two fit together perfectly for His Wicked Ways. Meredith's character was born from there.
I've also gained inspiration from movies, in particular Braveheart and Rob Roy. Both made me long to set a book in Scotland. Braveheart is one of my favorite movies. I especially loved the drama and conflict depicted in the movie -- not to mention the fact that Mel Gibson is pretty easy on the eye! One of the things I love about medievals is being able to drop characters into the midst of turmoil and letting them grow and the plot develop from there.
How does the book grow from there? Do you write "in a straight line" or
do you skip around and restring the scenes later?
James: Without a doubt, "Cinderella" was always my favorite -- in fact,
it still is. I like to think of romances as adult fairy tales… or women's
adventure stories. I love the tried 'n true, classic plot lines, and I've
never grown tired of the rags-to-riches theme. In my opinion, the Cinderella
theme is one that lends itself very well to historical romance. I used
it in Gabriel's Bride, which still remains a reader favorite.
Samantha James: Good question! Actually I just finished writing a spin-off to His Wicked Ways; it features two secondary characters introduced in His Wicked Ways, Egan and Glenda. It wasn't something I'd planned, but during the course of writing His Wicked Ways, there was something compelling about Egan. And poor Glenda… she tugged at my heartstrings! I knew Egan had to have his own book, just as I knew Glenda would be his perfect soulmate. I'll be putting the finishing touches on soon, and the book should be released in the late summer/early fall of 2000.
I have done one other set of "connecting" characters. There was a lame
little girl named Heather who appeared near the end of my novella "Scandal's
Bride" (in the anthology Married at Midnight). Heather has
her own story in Every Wish Fulfilled.
Samantha James: Because
one never knows when the muse will strike, I certainly wouldn't rule out
either genre. I love reading westerns, and I also enjoy reading contemporary
stories. At the present, though, I'm perfectly content writing historicals
set primarily in England.
My very first book
was a Bantam Loveswept, so I used my own name for this book. My next sale
was to Silhouette Desire, and again I used my real name. About the same
time, however, I sold to Harlequin Superromance, and we decided to use
the pseudonym Sandra James. When I made the switch to historical romance,
I wanted to use something similar to "Sandra James" in order to alert
the readers I'd already garnered in the contemporary market. The name
we came up with was Samantha James.
Samantha James: My
goal remains the same -- to write the best book possible. Making a list
isn't going to change that -- it hasn't changed that. Being a sentimental
person, my goal is to write books with feeling, books with heart and soul,
to elicit emotion from my readers, the same emotions my characters experience,
whether it's laughter or tears. But I guarantee there will always be a
happy ending. Above all, it's my goal to generate hope and joy and faith
in the power of love and family.
Jean Marie Ward
Click here to learn more about Samantha James
Click here to read a review of His Wicked Ways.