Interview: Anna Harrington

Jen:  Today we welcome Anna Harrington to Romancing the Book.  Anna, will you share a short bio with us?
Anna:  Humanities professor by day and smexy Regency romance writer by night, I have traveled and lived all over the world, doing volunteer work with children’s charities. I am a coffee and chocolate fanatic, a pilot, a would-be Nat Geo photographer, and a murderer of innocent rose bushes in my garden.

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Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Anna:  My latest release is HOW I MARRIED A MARQUESS, the final book in the Secret Life of Scoundrels series. It follows Thomas Matteson, former army captain and marquess-turned-spy, as he tries to recapture his old life before he was shot and left for dead. The problem: the one person standing between him and his goal is the woman he’s fallen in love with. The idea came from reading a typical highwayman hold-up scene in another Regency romance. As I read, I thought, “If I wrote this scene, how could I turn it on its head and come up with a new twist? Something completely unexpected?” And that was how I thought of sending Thomas after the highwayman. The rest fell into place from there.

Jen: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Anna:  Definitely a plotter—to the extreme! When I write, I always sketch out the overall plot first, detailing the conflict in each scene and POV, then I go back and put in as much information as possible for each scene, sometimes including entire conversations if inspiration strikes while I’m there. This is where I work out any potential plot or motivation problems. That document becomes the “outline,” which is about 20K words long, then I fill in all the descriptions and two months later have a 95K word novel. I’m not someone who can “pants it” when I write. I have to know what’s going to happen or I’m too nervous to write! I will sometimes just let a scene play out, writing down something like, “Chapter Ten – SEX ENSUES.” But I always know exactly what scenes will be included and how they propel the plot along before I start writing.

Jen:  How do you remember ideas that come to you at odd times?
Anna:  I carry a pen and journal with me EVERYWHERE. When other people are on their mobile phones, I’m scribbling in my journal. When an idea strikes during the day, I write it there. But I also keep a spiral notebook beside my bed where I dash down ideas which strike at midnight or when I’m reading before going to sleep. Sometimes I leave myself notes *in* my sleep! Not surprisingly, those never make sense the next morning when I try to decipher the best-selling idea that struck mid-dream.

Jen: Who are some of your favorite authors? What are you reading now?
Anna:  My favorite Regency romance writers are Suzanne Enoch, Sabrina Jeffries, and Judith McNaught, and my all-time fav historial romance is Hoyt’s Duke of Midnight. My all-time favorite writers, however, are the magical realists—Kafka, Marques, Borges—for their courage to break boundaries, Fitzgerald’s Gatsby for the description, and Heller’s Catch-22 for its black comedy. I’m currently in the middle of reading my way through all of Sabrina Jeffries’s books in order and Jen Doyle’s debut contemporary romance, Calling It.

Jen: How do you come up with characters names?
Anna:  I keep a running list of male and female names that were popular in England from 1800 – 1850 (thank you, Google!). When I come up with a new plot and character, I get a certain “vibe” about that character, then I go through the list of names one by one until I find the name which fits. It’s amazing how important the right name is. I tried to write a book with a hero named Phineas, and it just didn’t work—I couldn’t get the right feel for him. So I changed his name to Nate, and the character just took off. He was simply not a Phin, which is ironic because I named his brother Phin in the next book, and the name fit like a charm!

Jen: What’s the most interesting comment you’ve received about your books?
Anna:  A blogger wrote that she liked my name and thought Anna Harrington was a great choice for the author of the book. When I read that, I laughed…It’s my real name!!

Jen: What’s next for you?
Anna: This book ends the Secret Life of Scoundrels series, but I’m working on two projects which kind of continue the series…a novella and a new 5-book series. The novella, due out this fall, is set in 1842 and is about the romance between Faith Westover, daughter of Kate and Edward in DUKES ARE FOREVER, and Stephen Crenshaw, the baby from ALONG CAME A ROGUE. Twenty-five years have passed, and Stephen has set his bad-boy sights on the one thing he cannot have—Faith. The new series, Capturing the Carlisles, follows the romantic exploits of the Carlisle brothers from HOW I MARRIED A MARQUESS. As the “scourge of Mayfair,” the three rogues have finally met their matches—in more ways than one.