Jen: Today we are excited to welcome Cara Elliott to Romancing the Book. Cara, will you share a short bio with us?
Cara: Cara Elliott wrote her first book at age five, a lavishly illustrated Western featuring a cowboy and his horse. She has since moved on from Westerns to writing about Regency England, a time and place that has captured her imagination ever since she opened the covers of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. (She’s decided she must have a thing for Men In Boots!) When not writing, Cara loves exploring the funky antique markets and small museums of London, where she finds all sorts of inspiration for her stories.
A three-time RITA finalist, she has won numerous awards for her writing, including the Golden Leaf Award, two Daphne Du Maurier Awards and a Lifetime Achievement Award in Regency Romance from RT magazine.
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Cara: Watching Sleepless in Seattle for the umpteenth time sparked a key plot element in Scandalously Yours. In one of those wonderful “ah-hah” moments, the sacks of mail suddenly got me to thinking about how important letter writing was in the Regency, which then led to the idea of a young boy putting an ad in the newspaper for a new mother when his widowed father starts courting a very uptight lady. And when a tongue-in-cheek reply to the ad gets mailed . . . well, unexpected complications arise and lead to series of madcap adventures! You can read more about it here:
Out of the corner of his eye, John saw Olivia take leave of her sister and head back for the colonnaded alcove. Veering sharply, he caught up with her just as she circled around one of the decorative flower urns.
“A moment, Miss Sloane.”
She stumbled. Clearly he had caught her off-guard.
Good—it was time to take the offensive for a change.
“Allow me to correct your earlier misassumptions,” he said softly. “For a skilled chess player, you seem a little quick to jump to conclusions.”
Olivia drew in a sharp breath. “So, you did recognize me after all.”
“Your face was mostly hidden in shadow during our previous encounter, but nighttime reconnaissance missions teach a soldier to have a sixth sense about that sort of thing.”
“Ah. I see.”
“Be that as it may,” went on John, “It is this evening’s exchange that I wish to speak about.”
Her silence seemed a signal to continue.
“First of all, I have absolutely no interest in discussing the weather. Second of all, I have no preconceived prejudices about the powers of the female mind.” He paused. “But then again, after your display of haughty high-mindedness, perhaps I ought to reconsider.”
A momentary flare of outrage lit in her eyes. She scowled—and then curled a wry smile. “Touché, sir. Most gentlemen aren’t willing to listen to a lady’s opinion.”
“Most ladies aren’t willing to offer one.”
“Can’t you blame us?” asked Olivia. “Society doesn’t exactly encourage creative thinking in the fairer sex. We are meant to be seen and not heard.”
“Um, yes, well, I…” John flushed, realizing that his gaze had slid down to her bodice. Beneath the overblown ruffles, it appeared that she had a shapely swell of bosom. “I—I also wanted to apologize for trampling on your toes.”
Her laugh, like her voice, was very intriguing. Low, lush, and a little rough around the edges, it reminded him of an evening breeze ruffling through shadowed leaves.
“Good heavens, don’t look so stricken, sir,” she said. “The fault was all mine, I’m afraid. I can never seem to keep the dance steps straight.” Another laugh. “What a pity we can’t just ignore the rigid patterns and simply follow the rhythm of the music.”
“Like wild savages, dancing around a bonfire to the sound of a beating drum?” he said slowly.
“Haven’t you ever lifted your face to moonlight and spun in circles to the dusky song of the nightingales and—” Olivia shook her head. “No, of course not. What a ridiculous question to ask.” The errant curl had come loose again and was inching close to her nose.
“Your hair, Miss Sloane,” he murmured.
“Has decided to dance to its own tune tonight,” she said tartly, brushing it back with impatient fingers. “As you see, I seem to have no control over my body’s primitive urges.”
John almost let loose a very unlordly chortle. But quickly recalling his glittering surroundings, he managed to smother it in a cough. A peer of the realm did not chortle in public.
“Perhaps…” A dangerous glint lit in her eyes. “Perhaps I should give in to impulse, strip off my clothing, and waltz naked across the dance floor.”
He tried not to picture her lithe body without a stitch on. Discipline, discipline. A gentleman must be ruled by reason, not primal urges.
Clearing his mind with another cough, he quickly changed the subject . . .
Jen: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Cara: Oh, a total pantser! I wish I weren’t, but sadly my brain doesn’t seem to function in that nice, neat linear progression which plotters do so well. It’s only happy when at the end of a writing day, I push back from the computer and say. “Hey, I didn’t know Wrexham and Olivia were going to do THAT!”
Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest? Most rewarding?
Cara: The most challenging thing is to keep The Muse from demanding too much dark chocolate in return for words—it’s not easy because she sometimes gets very cranky without chocolate! As for easiest . . . well, for me, coming up with the story idea is always a very magical moment, but there’s no really easy part of writing. However, all the angst and solitary hours spent in the writing chair feel well worth it when I hear from readers that my stories have made them smile.
Jen: Do you have a writing routine?
Cara: To make up for my undisciplined plotting habits, I’m actually very good about sitting down to work every morning. I get up pretty early, brew two cups of fresh-ground coffee, skim through my morning e-mails, then click open the WIP file. All the alerts are turned off on my computer—I really try to write uninterrupted by distractions until around noon. After a short break and maybe a few errands, it’s back to my chair for the rest of the workday. I would like to say that Johnny Depp comes and serves tea at 4 pm, but alas, the life of a romance writer is not quite so glamorous. (But hey, a girl can fantasize, right?)
Jen: How do you remember ideas that come to you at odd times?
Cara: After a day of writing, I often take a long walk, especially in summer, as I find that doing something active often unknots the plot twists that can happen on the page. But I’ve learned to put a small pad and pencil in my pocket, because if I don’t write down the brilliant solution right then, it always seems to flit away quicker than a mote of sunlight!
Jen: If this book was made into a movie, who do you see playing the main characters?
Cara: I’d choose Keira Knightley for Olivia, because she has just the right sass and rebellious streak to her persona. And Benedict Cumberbatch would make a great Wrexham. He has that aura of cool reserve, and yet there is a devilish glint in his eyes that hints at some inner fire.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Cara: I’m working on a new series idea that I think adds a really fun twist to Regency romance—but you’ll have to wait for a little longer for the announcement!