Jen: This week we welcome Laura Navarre to Romancing the Book. Laura, will you please share a short bio with us?
Laura: I’m a former diplomat who lived in Russia for five years, and I still get to work on weapons of mass destruction. In the line of duty, I’ve been trapped in an elevator in a nuclear power plant after an earthquake, and I’ve stalked the corridors of facilities churning out nerve agent and other apocalyptic weapons. In this capacity, I meet many of the world’s most dangerous men.
When I’m not absorbed in the sinister realities of my real life, I write dark medieval and Renaissance romance with (unsurprisingly) a strong dash of political intrigue. I have an M.A. in National Security Policy from George Washington University and a B.A. in International Relations from Michigan State. In January 2011, I’ll be graduating with an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from the University of Southern Maine. I’m a member of Romance Writers of America and a 2009 Golden Heart finalist.
These days, I live in Seattle in a quirky 60s-era home overlooking Mt. Rainier, with my Siberian cats Pandora and Delilah and the love of my life, screenwriter and memoirist Steven Denlinger. I divide my time between my writing career and other adventures for government clients.
Jen: Tell us about your books and where they are available.
Laura: I’m excited to have two releases coming out within two months of each other, and they’re both available right now for pre-order on Amazon, B&N, and all the good places. The Devil’s Mistress (out in print March 2011) is a dark Tudor romance about a reluctant lady assassin who’s blackmailed to poison Anne Boleyn. The story’s already available as an e-book. And The Devil’s Temptress (January 2011) is a sexy Crusader romance about a disgraced Muslim knight called the Devil of Damascus and an ardent Christian lady at Eleanor of Aquitaine’s court.
Jen: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
Laura: I’ve been writing romance since fifth grade, when I attempted to write a steamy Harlequin Presents with Anne of Green Gables as the heroine. (The two genres did not blend well.) My call story came in two stages, because I was fortunate to sell my first two books within a very short period of each other. I connected with Deb Nemeth, who was then at Samhain, when she judged The Devil’s Mistress in the River City Romance Writers Duel on the Delta contest, and she thrilled me utterly when she acquired the book.
Then my amazing agent JD DeWitt pitched The Devil’s Temptress to Leah Hultenschmidt at Dorchester, and called to tell me she’d said yes! I was in the grocery store near the rice cakes when the call happened, and my fellow shoppers must have thought I was purely insane. As I clutched the phone to my disbelieving ear and jumped around the store, I had to keep stopping to tell people, “I’m ok, I’m ok!”
Of course when the editor herself actually called me, I was in an airport bathroom. I spent the entire call with my hand plastered over the receiver, praying the vigorous roar of flushing toilets wasn’t audible at the other end…
Jen: Are there any other writers, published or not, in your family?
Laura: My amazing fiancé, who’s also my critique partner and the real life inspiration for all my heroes, is published in short memoir and other non-fiction.
Jen: How do you approach your writing? Do you plot or go with the flow?
Laura: I’m told I’m a plotter who pretends to be a pantser (seat-of-the-pants writer). But I resist the notion fiercely! I could never outline a story to save my life, but I do TONS of historical research, character sketches, and other “pre-writing” before I actually start working on the draft. I can never “see” farther ahead than the first 25% of the book when I start Chapter One.
Jen: What kind of research did you do for your books?
Laura: I’m an old-fashioned researcher. I like to have a stack of books at my elbows with maps, genealogies, and a five-subject binder festooned with sticky notes. I also like to immerse myself creatively in the period. I read every period novel I can find and watch every movie. For The Devil’s Mistress, I watched The Tudors on Showtime straight through, and read lots of Philippa Gregory. For The Devil’s Temptress, I watched Kingdom of Heaven and read Sharon Kaye Penman.
Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest?
Laura: For me, the blank page is a terrifying thing. So I’m definitely a revision person. As soon as I have the first draft written, I heave a sigh of relief. I’m also a bit of a perfectionist, perhaps to my detriment; I tend to revise several times and have the story workshopped and critiqued before I send anything to my agent. This means the story is usually picture-perfect when she sees it, but it takes me a long time to write. A novel per year is about the best pace I can manage right now. I envy the authors out there who manage to keep three series going at once!
Jen: What’s the most rewarding aspect?
Laura: I love hearing feedback from readers and reviewers. If I were a dog, praise from readers would made me roll over and show my tummy.
Jen: Is there a genre that you’d like to write? Is there a genre you’ll probably stay away from and why?
Laura: Thanks to my “other life” which I spoke about earlier, I’d really like to write a sexy political thriller set in Moscow. I have a manuscript called The Russian Seduction, but it still needs honing. Unfortunately, some of the most interesting experiences I’ve had are things I’m not allowed to write about. 😉
Jen: Who has inspired you as an author?
Laura: My tastes are pretty eclectic. In addition to all genres of romance, I read lots of epic fantasy, science fiction, and historical fiction. Some of my favorite authors are Philippa Gregory (The Other Boleyn Girl), Marion Zimmer Bradley (The Mists of Avalon), Jacqueline Carey (Kushiel’s Dart), and Robin Maxwell (The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn). If you know these books, you’ll notice that I have a penchant for the dark side. Dark heroes and heroines are my weakness!
Jen: Do you do anything special to celebrate a sale, new contract, or release?
Laura: I always promise myself I’m going to take a week off. Someday it may actually happen.
Jen: What do you do in your free time?
Laura: Between a full-time career that requires international travel, a full-time course load as an MFA student, and a full-time writing career that demands research and marketing as well as writing, it’s been ages since I’ve had a vacation. I basically work and sleep! But I have the life I always wanted, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Laura: I’ve just finished a dark Anglo-Saxon romance called The Devil’s Bargain. My heroine is an exiled royal who must choose between the devil’s minion and a charismatic would-be bishop to save the English throne. And I’m starting a new project that utterly thrills me: a Tudor romance with a paranormal twist.
Jen: Where can you be found on the web?
Laura: You can find more about my books at www.LauraNavarre.com, and the best way to keep up with my globe-trotting adventures is at www.facebook.com/LauraNavarreAuthor.
Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Laura: What would you like to see in a romance that you’ve never seen before? I really want to know!
Jen: Laura, thank you for stopping by for a visit. Readers, Laura is giving away a $15 gift certificate from Amazon to one lucky commenter. To enter the contest, you need to leave a question or comment for Laura. Then to finish your entry, you must leave your email address in your comment. The winner will be chosen around Sunday, November 21.