Christy Carlyle is one of the amazing group of Romance writers who call the Pacific Northwest home. Her new series, The Duke’s Den, began publishing in November 2018 with book two coming in April 2019. She took some time away from working on book three to answer a few questions from nwbooklovers columnist and Third Street Books bookseller Billie Bloebaum.
Why Romance? What led you to writing in this particular genre?
I’ve been a romance reader for a long time. I like reading stories that explore relationships and give readers a satisfying happy ending, so it was a natural fit for me to write romance.
A Duke Changes Everything is the first book in your new series, The Duke’s Den. This is your fifth series, so you’ve been doing this for a while. How has your process changed over time. And, thinking back to your first published book, what was the path to publication like for you?
I learn something new with every book, and I do think, if anything, my process has become more streamlined over time. I start with characters, a conflict, and create a roadmap of where I think the story needs to go. I’m definitely a plotter, but each book is different. Each has its own challenges and surprises along the way.
I was very lucky in my path to publication. I submitted to Avon Impulse in 2015 and I was lucky enough to have an editor read my work and decide to take a chance on me. I was asked to revise and resubmit, which I did, and I received my first contract soon after.
Tell us a little about A Duke Changes Everything. And can you give us a hint about what you have in mind for the other books in the series?
It’s an exciting book for me because it kicks off a new series that was conceived as a Victorian version of the reality show Shark Tank. In my series, the entrepreneurs are a trio of men who own a gentleman’s club and yet also want to invest in the new inventions that were such a significant aspect of the Victorian era. The first book features Nicholas Lyon, the main owner of Lyon’s Gentleman’s Club. He’s a man with a painful past who wants nothing to do with the dukedom he unexpectedly inherits, and he finds the estate’s steward, Miss Mina Thorne, a particularly unique challenge.
The next book will feature another of the entrepreneurs, Aidan Iverson. He’s a self-made man who’s seeking a noblewoman bride to secure his social status. Unfortunately, the woman he’s most intrigued with is a lady inventor with very little interest in marriage.
The second book in the series Anything But a Duke is due in April, which is just six months after the first book. What are the advantages (and/or disadvantages) you have found to such a release schedule?
When a series is involved, as a reader and writer, I prefer a shorter time period between releases. Six months seems optimal for these first two books in the series. The only disadvantage is that a quicker release schedule may mean less writing time, but, for the most part, I’ve had sufficient time for every book.
This series is set in the Victorian Era, which seems to be growing in popularity. What drew you to this time period in particular?
As a teen, I was a big fan of English literature written during the period, especially the Brontes and Dickens. That carried over into a love of BBC costume dramas. When I studied history in college, I always gravitated toward the 19th century. When I started writing fiction, it was the place I most wanted to explore as a story setting. The latter part of the Victorian era interests me the most because of the ways changes in attitudes and technology affected society.
I read a lot of historical fiction, and I’m always curious about the research process. What was it like, in general? Did you get to do any travel as part of it? Were there things about the time and place you were writing about that you found fascinating, but couldn’t realistically fit into the books?
I have never traveled for research yet, but it’s definitely something I look forward to doing in the future. I have been to London a few times and lived there briefly, and those experiences inform some of my writing about certain places and landmarks.
Sometimes I do research during the story planning process, but often it happens on the fly. I will encounter an issue or question as I write. I try not to let those questions derail my productivity, but I set aside time to hunt down answers, either in the reference books I have at home or via online resources. I’ve reached out to museums on occasion, including a train museum in England, and have always received helpful responses.
There are always so many historical tidbits that I come across and can’t include in a story. I try to set a few aside, hoping I can use them in a future novel, but some details just remain interesting facts that make the era more colorful in my mind as I write. In that respect, I never consider any time spent reading history books or researching a topic to be wasted time.
Since this is going to be read by a number of booksellers, I have some bookstore-related questions for you. First, for a bookstore wanting to dip their toes into the Romance pool, which books and/or authors would you recommend?
There are so many fabulous authors writing romance right now. Lisa Kleypas and Lorraine Heath have long been and will always be among my favorite authors in historical romance, which is the subgenre I gravitate to as a reader. Lenora Bell and Cat Sebastian are great new voices in the genre. I don’t read a lot of contemporary romance, but my favorites in 2018 were by Alisha Rai and Alyssa Cole.
There has been a lot of conversation recently about Romance as feminist fiction, which I think has helped to re-position the genre in the minds of some of the more reluctant booksellers (and readers). In what ways do you see Romance as a literature of feminism?
I think it is, in the sense that most romance novels feature strong female protagonists and are often focused around the agency and proactive choices of those protagonists. Not all romance novels are written by women, of course, but I think it’s significant that it’s a genre that represents the voices of many female authors.
Do you have recommendations for bookstores with new (or newly revamped or revived) Romance sections as to how to reach out to readers?
One of my local brick and mortar stores seems to hide their romance section in the back. I’d definitely advise bookstores to put romance front and center, as any other popular genre would be. There’s one local-owned bookstore near me that puts out recommended reads from staff, and I’m always tempted to give those books a look. I suspect having a bookseller who is knowledgeable and ready to talk about and recommend romance would go a long way toward making romance readers feel welcome in their store.
What were some of your favorite books as a child? Have you revisited any of them lately? Do they hold up?
Pride and Prejudice and other Austen novels are the main books I return to that I first read when I was young. Part of the reason I love re-reading Austen is that her writing does hold up. Her wit and insight about human nature are timeless.
What are some of your current favorite books and authors, both in and out of the Romance genre?
I read a lot of crime fiction and mystery and my favorite authors include Anne Perry, Val McDermid, Anna Lee Huber, and Rhys Bowen. I’m also loving Joanna Shupe’s Gilded Age romances and Tessa Dare’s Girl Meets Duke historical romance series features two of my favorite romance novels of the last two years, The Duchess Deal and The Governess Game.
What do you have planned for after The Duke’s Den wraps up?
I still have a third book in the series that I’ve yet to finish, so I’m still very much thinking creatively about The Duke’s Den, but I do have a few ideas floating around about a new Victorian romance series.
And, finally, is there anything you wanted to share with our readers that we didn’t cover?
Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts about the romance genre.