Interview with Charlotte Hubbard

Jen: Readers, please help me welcome Charlotte Hubbard to Romancing the Book. Charlotte, will you please share a short bio with us?
Charlotte: After 10 years of being a school librarian/French teacher, I broke into print on the pulpy pages of TRUE LOVE magazine and never looked back! This was in the mid-80’s when Romance was just hitting its stride and booming, so my career has spanned a LOT of changes in books and the industry. I work from a home office, with my border collie, Ramona, as my office manager. Have been married to the same guy–Neal–going on 35 years now, and we recently celebrated that anniversary on a 15-day Panama Canal cruise! 21 single title books have seen print, along with many novellas, and more are now under contract! I intend to stay in this crazy, nerve-wracking, ever-changing business as long as I’m selling and having fun with it.

Jen: Tell us about Law of Attraction.
Charlotte: Law of Attraction is a new direction for me–sort of. Gets into New Age spirituality, as it’s set on the Oregon coast (we LOVE to vacation there and have considered buying a home there…when I win the lottery or get a six-figure advance!! ) The hero is a realtor who’s into numerology and can feel residual vibrations in homes, so he matches up prospective buyers that way–and it so happens our heroine has returned to Harmony Falls to lick her wounds after a NASTY divorce, basically with only the clothes on her back, and sees that the beach house she vacationed in as a kid is for sale… Also have a “wise woman” character who is psychic, very Earth Mother, and teaches Angie to read tarot cards. The housekeeper, Elena, loves to cook–so my newly designed website reflects a LOT of these various interests!

Jen: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
Charlotte: I was fascinated with writing (and reading) as a kid–first published in about 1984 when I sold a story to TRUE STORY magazine. Didn’t get a “call” for that–simply got the one-page contract in the mail. Sold my first book, COLORADO CAPTIVE in 1990 to Zebra Books, which at the time was big on publishing racy Western romances. The editor called in the afternoon, I jumped around a lot and talked about it with my agent–and then the NEXT day, the editor informed me I had to CUT 70 pages of the book because it was too long for the Heartfire line. Was my first taste of publishing reality. THEN–I was working part-time at Waldenbooks–she called a few weeks later to ask me, over the phone while I was working the cash register, to change my hero’s name! Like, right then and there, after I’d lived with Dee McClanahan for MONTHS while I wrote the book! Well, he became Matt, and was probably a manlier man for it…but it was another Reality Check, for sure!

Jen: Please tell us a little about your writing under the name of Melissa MacNeal.
Charlotte: Melissa came out in 2000 as a reinvention effort, after about 6 years of not being able to sell squat. You THINK you have a career path after you’ve sold 6 books in quick succession, but not so! Meanwhile, my then-agent had fritzed out on cocaine and we’d parted ways, so on my own I sold my first erotic novel to the Black Lace line of Virgin Publishing in London, Devil’s Fire. Wanted a pseudonym, obviously, so Melissa is my middle name, I write on a Mac, and I’m married to Neal–hence, Melissa MacNeal. After 4 books there, Melissa and I –and my new/present agent–started selling to the Aphrodisia line at Kensington. In general, Melissa has a lot more fun and raises a lot more eyebrows at social gatherings, but she’s woman enough to handle the notoriety!

Jen: How does your family feel about your career?
Charlotte: Mostly they’re PROUD of what I do! Mom died before Melissa came out of the closet, but I have cousins/sibs who LOVE the Melissa books–just as I have aunts and nieces and a mother-in-law who are SO happy I’ve sold this Amish series because they like Sweet Charlotte stories better than the hot sexy stuff. My husband is very supportive, so I’m really lucky that way. He’s never asked me to get a real job–even in those years when I couldn’t sell anything.

Jen: Do you have a writing routine?
Charlotte: Gee, what a novel idea! My days vary and my writing gets done in spite of water aerobics classes, church activities, and other Real Life events/activities. While my writing times may vary from one day to the next, I do have a weekly page quota, however: when I know a deadline for a book, I figure out how many weeks I have to actually WRITE it–allowing for conferences, vacations, visiting relatives, holidays, judging contests, etc. Then I divide the word count/pages by the weeks I have to work, and post that chart by my computer so I can mark out each week’s quota as I reach it. Sounds anal, but it keeps me on track.

Jen: What is it about the romance genre that appeals to you?
Charlotte: Truth be told, I have trouble writing romance…always trying to work in a mystery, or a secret that tends to overshadow the love story, or some other angle that seems fascinating to me but other folks (my agent, for instance) consider a little quirky or over the top. I like the idea of everyone finding somebody to love, though! Even when my stories don’t come out as the usual “romance” they have a lot of love in them. Sometimes it’s wild, wacky hot-sex love, and sometimes it’s deep, emotionally satisfying love, but it draws the characters together in ways they need, so they can be whole and live out worthwhile lives.

Jen: How do you pick the character’s names?
Charlotte: Because I’ve written historicals, contemporaries, erotica, inspirational–you name it–characters take on the life and times they live in, which often determines a certain slate of names you use. Melissa’s recent characters in Victorian London have vastly different names than, say, these Amish characters I’m writing now. I also like to have names that SOUND like they belong to the characters, and sometimes I choose names I can use as the basis of puns or plays on words later in the story.

Jen: Do you have a favorite character or one you most identify with?
Charlotte: Oh, I like ‘em all–but I LOVE the ones that seem to take on life without me having to prod them and analyze them! Thank goodness I don’t much identify with Angie, the heroine of Law of Attraction, because she’s a compilation of a LOT of crap that happens to married women around 40ish who find out too late that their “bad boy” lover really is…rotten. Ross, the hero in that book, plays trumpet in a ragtime/jazz band and is SO cool in a lot of ways! But his ex is still in town, causing a lot of trouble for him and Angie, of course. That’s what exes do best, isn’t it?!

Jen: Is there a genre that you’d like to write? Is there a genre you’ll probably stay away from and why?
Charlotte: I tried my hand at lots of different genres when I was trying to publish again after that first wild rush of 6 Westerns led to a dry spell. Tried mysteries–and my stories often have an element of mystery in them. Tried Christian romance, but I realize most of the CBA-related publishers won’t touch my stuff because of my checkered career path writing as Melissa MacNeal. And that’s OK! I am who I am, and I have a lot of stories to tell for a lot of different audiences! My flexibility is exactly what has kept me published all these years. I have no qualms at all about writing whatever genre I can sell at the time–and over this many years, that covers a lot of territory! And even though I was once a children’s/school librarian, writing for kids is a whole nuther realm and I don’t want to go there. Sci-Fi/Fantasy isn’t my gig, either, although I wrote a couple of erotic serialized novels online, which were paranormals.

Jen: If you could travel back in time for one year, what time and place would you choose? And if you could only take 3 things with you, what would they be?
Charlotte: Back in time for a year? Sounds like what I did when I wrote my first historical romance! And, (this question made me think the hardest…) I think I would go back into the late 1800’s in the American West. After all the settings and situations I’ve written–even though my research points up how we have romanticized that period of our history, it still pulls on me. I would definitely take my border collie, Ramona. The reading glasses would be good to have … and if I could remain relatively sane and keep my skills–like writing and sewing and cooking and musical ability–enough to earn my keep that year, I’d be set! (And if I could honest-to-God pack that light for a year, wouldn’t THAT be a miracle! A book in itself!)

Jen: What did you do to celebrate your first book?
Charlotte: Jumped up and down for a while…dared to believe it when that editor proclaimed “we’re going to make you a STAR!” and we popped open a bottle of cheap champagne.

Jen: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?
Charlotte: I was sitting at an autograph table in a bookstore, signing Devil’s Fire(has a great, typical clinch-type cover) and a lady came up, SLAPPED her hand on my stack of books, and proclaimed, “THIS is what’s wrong with the world today!” I wasn’t sure how to take that, but I knew better than to try to make her see my side! The bookstore manager’s mouth dropped open, I can tell you!

Jen: Who are some of your favorite authors and books? What are you reading now?
Charlotte: I love Barbara Samuels–who now writes as Barbara O’Neal. Recently, as research for an upcoming series, I’ve been reading a LOT of Amish series, especially Beverly Lewis and Cindy Woodsmall. Because—

Jen: What’s next for you?
Charlotte: I have recently sold a new Amish series to the editor I used to write for at Dorchester! She’s at Kensington now (Alicia Condon, who filled the gap after Kate Duffy’s death) and is really excited about these books. I wrote my Angels of Mercy series for her, so she knew I was a perfect writer to take on the faith-and-family stories about Old Order Amish that are selling so well right now.

Jen: Where can you be found on the web?
Charlotte: www.charlottehubbard.com and my Melissa stuff is at www.melissamacneal.com

Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Charlotte: How will e-books and online buying affect your reading habits? Do you LIKE e-readers, or do you still prefer the book in your hand? And if you don’t browse in physical bookstores anymore, how do you see yourself discovering new favorite authors?