Featured Romance Author
Where History and Romance meet
Robert L. Hall
Potter is a bestselling and award winning author of twenty-eight
currently available are the three books of her Star Trilogy: StarCatcher,
and StarKeeper -- and Chase
The Wind, a re-release of two of her Harlequin Historicals. In
addition to her present publisher, Berkley, she has been published by
Bantam, Harlequin Historicals, Silhouette, St. Martin's Press and Harper
Paperbacks. She has been published in fifteen countries and has frequently
been on the USA Today and Waldenbooks Bestseller list.
She was named
"Story Teller of the Year" in l993 by Romantic Times, and received the magazine's l995 Career Achievement
Award for Western Romances. She
has also won several Reviewer Choice Awards from Romantic Times and three Maggie Awards from the Georgia Romance
Writers. She is a three time
RITA finalist. Prior to writing fiction, she was a reporter with the Atlanta Journal, an editor with a suburban Atlanta newspaper and
president of an Atlanta public relations firm.
She serves as PAN Liaison to the national board of Romance Writers
of America and is a past member of that board. She has also served as
president of Georgia Romance Writers and board member of River City
Romance Writers in Memphis. She
has been a speaker at four RWA National Conferences, several Romantic
Times Conferences and at numerous regional conferences.
you write historical romances. What
is the difference between an historical romance and just a romance novel.
romance novel today usually encompasses history as a major part of the
book. It can be either
a backdrop or an essential part of the book.
Mine usually make it an essential part of the story and, as a
history minor in college, I try to be as accurate as possible.
For instance, one of my books -- Swampfire -- evolved around the real life character of Francis
Marion, the Swamp Fox, in South Carolina during the Revolutionary War.
My latest book has made Culloden, the last battle for Scottish
nationalism, the turning point in the plot.
I once wanted to be a history teacher, and now I think many of my
historical romances serves that function.
They teach history in an enjoyable way.
At least I hope so.
a former journalist, would you say that your work experience slants your
view of characters or plot in the manuscripts you produce?
My experience in
journalism has been invaluable in many ways.
One is meeting deadlines.
Another is tight writing.
Still a third is exposure to so many different people and
situations. Some have been
seeds for books, particularly now that I am branching out into romantic
Your book, The Black Knave, was on the USA Today Bestseller List for two weeks.
What do you believe was the attraction of that particular book?
It's not the first
to be on the USA Today List, but I was particularly pleased to see this
one make it. The Scarlet Pimpernel, one
of my favorite tales, was the inspiration. I think one of the major appeals of the book is its
Scottish background. The
second is a strong hero but equally strong heroine.
Black Knave has humor as well as adventure, and I think that
combination, as well as the Scarlet Pimpernel connection, made it
appealing to a reader.
an author of twenty-nine books, what type of characters and attitudes do
you like to portray in your work.
I like a strong,
independent heroine. I like a
hero who is compassionate, even though you may not see that quality in the
beginning of the book. I
also like heroes who appreciate intelligence in a woman.
I like people who grow throughout the book because of their
your women all "A Southern Belle" types, since you lived in
Atlanta or Memphis for some time?
Only if you think of
a southern belle as a steel magnolia.
As I said, I really like strong, intelligent and independent
heroines who take control of their own destiny.
you a member of the River City Romance Writers, or any local
association now and what do you get from meeting with other writers?
I have been very
active in writing groups. I
served as president of Georgia Romance Writers for two years, then served
on the board of River City Romance Writers.
For the past three years, I have been a member of the National
Board of Romance Writers of America.
I can't imagine
being a writer without being involved with other writers.
We are unique in
that we have all these fictional people running wild in our brains.
No one else quite understands that, nor do they understand the
pressures and agonies of the business side of writing.
Poor covers. Low print
Or the successes.
Bestseller lists, great cover, etc.
You need someone who understands - with whom to commiserate or
celebrate. The bond
between writers is perhaps the best thing about writing.
I have friends throughout the country, and it is really quite
you changed genres, which would you change to, and do you have other
projects than romance in the mill right now.
There are genres
within genres. I also
write romantic suspense as well as historical romances, and one, The
Perfect Family, will be out in January 2001.
I will probably always write romance, though.
I like focusing on the relationship of two people and I like a
happy ending. That's
what romance is all about.
us about The Perfect Family, the
romantic suspense book due out in January.
Perfect Family developed from an episode in my own life.
Because of a violent incident in my family many, many years ago,
several members of the family were lost for nearly fifty years.
We all came together in a family reunion some ten years ago and I
found relatives I never knew existed.
In the story, a young woman -- a bookseller -- discovers she has a
family she didn't know existed.
It seemed a dream come true for someone who thought she was an
orphan. But she soon discovers that some of these new family members
have agendas of their own, and her life is in danger.
you plot extensively, spinout character developments or what exactly?
I start with a
pretty basic plot, spend a lot of time developing the characters, then let
them take over. Consequently,
the plot changes as I go along.
I worry when it doesn't.
The greatest joy for a writer is when those characters do take over
and write the book themselves.
Often, I'll re-read one of my books and wonder how I ever wrote it.
The answer is that I didn't.
The characters did.
a writer you admire greatly and why.
What writer would you like to be like in some ways?
I have two and
probably there are no two less alike.
One is Glenn Meade who writes suspense.
I loved his Snow Wolf as well as his later books. One reason is extraordinary characterization.
He makes you care deeply about the protagonists, even when they are
on different sides. No one does characterization better, particularly in
The second is
Deborah Smith, who writes something else altogether.
But the link is, again, characterization. She writes Southern growing of age books, witty,
humorous, and caring. Both
authors make you care deeply about their characters, something that I
continue to strive toward.
us what you can comfortably about your agenting, publishing, and editing
wars in your career. Share
those really significant events in your writing timeline, and maybe any
humorous sidelines that happened to you.
The most important
thing to know about agenting is that not all agents are created equal.
I personally feel it is easier to get published than it is to find
a good agent. They are
few and far between. One
of the big problems in this business is that anyone can hang up a shingle
and say, I'm an agent. No
experience. No sales.
No credentials. And yet they can advertise and often lure hopeful
writers into paying reading fees, etc.
I would advise any
writer thinking about hiring an agent to check with the Association of
Authors Representatives in New York.
Members have to abide by a Code of Ethics and writers have some
protection. Or they can
join a writers group such as Romance Writers of America (you do not have
to be a romance writer and we have excellent information) and ask members
One of the main
warnings is to be very, very wary of paying reading fees.
Agents should make
money by selling your books, not by collecting reading and editing fees.
As for editing wars,
I've had approximately five different editors and have been happy with all
of them. On the most
part, their suggestions have been excellent and resulted in better books.
In the few instances in which I've disagreed with editorial
suggestions, we've been able to compromise.
I've never been forced to do anything I thought detrimental to a
book. The key is to be
reasonable, to understand the editor's viewpoint and to make your own
points in a professional manner.
They mostly involve people who think writing a book is easy.
I was doing a book signing once when a minister approached and
wanted to know how much I made. Since
that is akin to asking ANYONE how much he or she earns, I declined to
answer. He then said he
really wanted to get out of the ministry and thought he had enough
experience to write a romance.
I invited him to a
conference. He came,
discovered how difficult it really was, and disappeared never to be heard
from again. I don't
know if he returned to the ministry or not.
Writing a book is a
huge commitment, emotionally as well as in time. It takes real courage to write because then you are sharing a
part of yourself. I
have the utmost respect for anyone who completes a book whether they are
published or not. They
have done something so many people say they want to do but never have the
courage or commitment to complete.
Scribe is a site for Southern writers to share writing research and tips
for both fictional and nonfiction books.
What would you like to share with other writers on line in the way
My first advice to
writers, particularly fiction, is to write the book all the way through
rather than perfecting as you proceed.
I've seen many
writers rewrite and try to perfect the first two or three chapters so long
that they get sick of their own book and never finish it. Write the whole book while it is fresh and exciting and
flowing. Things are going to
change as you go along and your characters take over, so you will probably
have to do some re-writing anyway.
Write the book through, then go back and perfect.
Second piece of
advice: I try to write everyday.
I set a goal (eight pages a day) and reward myself for meeting that
goal (I can read a book). If
I write more than eight pages, I still have to do eight pages the next
day. Discipline is essential to writing.
As far as research .
. .I have a large library (accumulated mostly through library sales or
discounted books) on periods I enjoy using: the West, Colonial America,
England, Scotland. I
have some basic overall books on weaponry, costumes, carriages, ships, and
now I really use the Internet. It's
a fabulous tool for writers.
But the secret in
historicals is to not overuse history.
No one wants to know the intricacies of a sugar mill, but you can
use the intricacies of loading a musket if a character is teaching his son
its use, and there is some purpose to the scene
(the boy then shoots someone which ignites a major conflict).
History in a romance should be correct but not overpowering.
us some stories about how some of your books came into being.
They all came, I
think, from intellectual curiosity and looking at a person, a place, a
paragraph in a magazine or newspaper and saying "what if."
is the writer's greatest friend.
My first book came
from a snippet in a history publication, which told of a race across New
Mexico during the Civil War. A
rebel general was charged with reaching the Colorado gold fields; the
Union colonel sent to stop him was his brother-in-law.
Every bell in my head started ringing.
developed from places I love. A
suspense novel came from Jekyll Island on the coast of Florida and rumors
of German submarines during World War II.
Another came to life when I stopped at a place called the Cimarron
Valley in the Black Mountains.
Some develop from
people I know. Truman Capote
once said that everyone who survives puberty has a story to tell.
I love hearing those stories, and the stories of the people who
went before them. Fact
has always been more fascinating than anything an author can imagine.
So I listen and watch and read, then wonder, what if. . .
would you like to be doing a year from now?
Exactly what I'm
This article is by Robert L. Hall - raised in and currently living outside Memphis, TN., writes crime mysteries and tales of a youth with adventures in horsemanship. His books are Mid-South based. Mr. Hall also is a contributing writer for the on-line journal,When Falls the Coliseum , a self-described “Journal of American Culture(or the lack thereof)”at www.wfthecoliseum.com.
A trained musician with
a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Memphis and Master of
Music degree from Florida State University, he is staff pianist at Trinity
Baptist Church in West Memphis and has taught music courses at three
institutions of higher learning.
© 2000 Robert L. Hall, All Rights Reserved