Once Upon A Romance Interview
Deborah Hale


April 2004

We recently had the opportunity to interview Deborah Hale. It was obvious how much she enjoys writing for the reading pleasure of others. It was great to have her here with us for a short time.

Tina and Connie: Deborah, welcome and thank you for being with us. Weíve been looking forward to talking with you. Before we start asking our questions would you take a few moments to tell us about yourself and what projects youíre working on now?

Deborah: Iíd be happy to! Thanks so much for doing this interview. I live in Nova Scotia, Canada and feel like Iím living a dream come true to be writing full time. I wrote my first manuscript a little over ten years ago, then rewrote it six times over the next few years between editor rejections and contest success. I entered it in the Golden Heart three times, and finally won, after which Harlequin Historical bought it. Since then Iíve written a dozen more books for them. Last year I branched out to write fantasy for LUNA as well. Currently Iím working on a sequel to The Wizardís Ward, titled The Destined Queen. After that Iíll be writing a historical Christmas novella, then a romance set in colonial Nova Scotia titled The Bride Ship.

Connie and Tina: To start off, weíd like to know a bit about Harlequins new LUNA line. Could you give us some info on it and on your current LUNA release The Wizardís Ward?

Deborah: LUNA is a new imprint of Harlequinís that launched in January with Mercedes Lackeyís The Fairy Godmother. At the moment, they publish one trade-sized paperback a month, but theyíre hoping to expand if sales are good. LUNA publishes fantasy where the heroine is the "hero" of the story, not just the heroís girlfriend. In the 2004 titles we have a terrific mix of historical fantasy, otherworld fantasy (like mine) and urban fantasy. Romance is often present in the stories as a subplot.

The Wizardís Ward probably has a higher romance quota that the others. Itís the story of a young enchantress who must find, waken and wed the "Waiting King" a legendary warrior destined to help her liberate their kingdom from its cruel conquerors. In the company of a magic-wary outlaw, she sets out on a quest to find the "Waiting King" by midsummer moon.

Connie and Tina: Ah! Then the LUNA line is for anyone who is a fan of fantasy, and also those who are fans of romance as there's often the romance as a "subplot."

And what about your upcoming Harlequin Historical, The Last Champion? Could you tell us about this book? And weíd like to acknowledge and thank Harlequin for giving us readersí plots and settings that are hard to find with other publishers!

Deborah: The Last Champion is set during Englandís 12th century civil war. Itís about a beleaguered maiden who must persuade a renowned warrior to take up his sword one last time in defense of the lands that were once his, but now belong to her. But who will defend Dominieís heart from her old feelings for Armand Flambard, the man to whom she was once betrothed before the war made them enemies?

Iím grateful to Harlequin Historical, too, for letting me write in a wide variety of time periods. Iíve done Regencies, medievals, post-Civil War, western and two stories set in my native Atlantic Canada. I love hop-scotching through history!

Connie: I'm sure all that hop-scotching keeps you fresh with ideas, scenes, and plots.

Deborah, with The Wizardís Ward, what type of research were you able to do? As itís a fantasy with magic, were you able to create the rules as to the setting and otherworldly dimensions, or was there a blending of the two?

Deborah: The magic in my story isnít particularly original or complicated. There are two kinds in Umbria Ė life magic or vitcraft and death magic or mortcraft. Life magic uses plant and animal matter to channel its power while death magic uses gems and metal. Life magic is limited to things like healing and defensive arts. Death magic is offensive and destructive in nature. For life magic, I did quite a bit of reading on medieval botany and the properties plants were believed to have. My main concern when developing the magic system and world building was to make it all serve the story.

Tina: I think I see; complement the story without overshadowing the characters or plot.

I know you have four children. How are you able to keep your train of thought when youíre interrupted? And with children, what type of atmosphere do you create for yourself to enable you to be your most productive?

Deborah: Well, I was raised in a family of five children and remember doing my homework at the kitchen table, so Iím able to tune out a lot of distractions. In university, I used to amaze people by writing essays in the social club while music was blaring and people talking. Still, I tend to do the bulk of my writing while my children are in school.

Tina: Speaking of atmosphere, Deborah, what is your work area like? Does it have to be organized or cluttered, but you know where everything is in order for you to be able to function in your desired atmosphere?

Deborah: It starts out fairly organized when I begin a new book, but tends to get cluttered as I progress. I do have an office of my own on the main floor of our house. It has a huge three-sided desk with a hutch that I call Desk-zilla. I have one writing computer that is ancient but still works and a newer one for email and everything but actual manuscript production. I have four bookcases and some award certificates on the walls. When the weather gets nicer, I like to take my little Alphasmart out on our back deck beneath the trees and write there. I often play music while I write. My fantasies have both been written to the soundtracks of the Lord of the Rings movies.

Connie: I can certainly see where a specific sound track or album could put one in the mood for a particular scene or story.

Youíve got so many characters that are true to life. Do you have one in particular youíd most like to spend time with, get to know in person? Why?

Deborah: Iíd love to spend some time with any of my heroes! Itís hard to pick just one. My first hero, Sir Edmund Fitzhugh, perhaps. I spent over five years with him before I sold My Lord Protector and he continued to fascinate me!

Tina: Since weíre on the subject of characters for a few minutes, what kind of surprises do your characters throw your way? Do they take on a different personality than what youíd created in the beginning?

Deborah: Most behave pretty consistently with the way they present themselves to me at first, but sometimes I will discover hidden vulnerabilities later. Now and then, they will say or do something I really donít expect. When it happens, I always defer to them. My villains tend to surprise me more than my heroes. Two of my early villains, Vanessa in My Lord Protector and Cousin Neville in A Gentleman of Substance ended up redeeming themselves, which I loved.

Connie: Do any of your characters interests, such as Luciusí, in the Beauty and the Baron, interest in astronomy, become your interest or are they your interest becoming the characters interest?

Deborah: I certainly learn a lot about a number of interesting things. Astronomy was a major interest of my husbandís, so we had lots of books for me to consult and I could ask him questions. Iím more like Angela with the sweet tooth! Some of my characters have interests in common with me Ė music, for instance, or cooking or the theatre. One of the things I love about writing, is being able to dabble in my charactersí lives and interests.

Connie: And naming them? Do you have a special process you go through before deciding on a characters name?

Deborah: I take a lot of time with names and Iíve been known to flounder until I can get just the right name for a character. I try to make it appropriate to the time period and something not too over done. I often give my heroes surnames as first names Ė thatís where Drake, Harris, Manning and Morse came from. In my Greenwood stories, the sisters and brother all had plant names Ė Ivy, Rosemary and Hawthorn. I try to give my heroes short, strong sounding names, like Rath and heroines names I personally find pretty like Julianna, and Cecily. My villains have names like Fulk and Eudo that create an unpleasant mental image for me. My editor liked my hero names so much she had a number of them on her short list of baby names and ended up naming her youngest son Rowan, after my hero in The Elusive Bride.

Connie: BTW, in Beauty and the Baron, every time I read Luciusí name I read it as Luscious. I donít know how far I was into the book before I caught myself doing so. After that, no matter how hard I tried to read it right, it still came out as Luscious. I told my sister Iíd done that and she laughed, but we both did agree, he was pretty luscious.

Deborah: LOL! Thank you! I hadnít thought of that! I wanted to give Lucius a name that sounded close to Lucifer, since he was supposed to have a dangerous reputation. And of course Angela was supposed to be angelic.

Tina: They were a good complement to each other, Deborah.

Which comes first, the characters or plot? Do you usually create characters around the plot, or the plot around the characters? Is it different every time?

Deborah: Not exactly plot, but situation usually comes to me first and the situation almost immediately suggests characters. What kind of people would find themselves in this situation? What kinds of people would be most tested and changed by this situation? Then I try to make sure the hero and heroine have some fundamental differences Ė like Lucius and Angela being like day and night. In The Last Champion, Dominie is ruthlessly practical and Armand is an idealist. I love exploring the attraction of opposites and people finding a compromise and ways to compliment one another. I think it comes from being a Libra!

Connie: Deborah, youíre able to convey through your characters the whys of their actions or words without necessarily revealing it to the other characters. Itís like itís for the readerís benefit, which makes them extremely likeable even when theyíre not so nice to the other characters. Do you do this consciously? If so, why? (Not that Iím complaining mind you)

Deborah: What a lovely compliment Ė thank you! I do try to let readers in on the vulnerability of characters who may not seem so nice. I donít want readers to hate the hero for instance and wonder why the heroine bothers with him. I think thatís often the way it is in real life Ė people who may not seem so nice may be nursing wounds they canít show the world. I try to lure the wounded character into letting down those defenses as the story progresses and allowing themselves to be restored by the power of love.

Tina: Are you ever been approached to do a particular story or plotline? What did you do to get yourself motivated to write something thatís not of your own conception?

Deborah: Just once for a Montana Mavericks continuity series. It scared me to pieces since Iíd never done a western before. It was a challenge to take those characters and make them mine. Fortunately the editors had drawn them in really broad strokes, so I had a lot of room to work. John Whitefeather was the ranch foreman, but I came up with the idea of making him a "horse whisperer." In the end, it was one of the best writing experiences Iíve had and Iím very proud of that book.

Connie: Writing with other authors for the series sounds like it could become complicated. How is this done so that the series mesh together? Does someone brainstorm the series, creates the town and setting for example, then contact certain authors to contract them to write books for this series? Did you each get a notebook that lists things such as, oh, letís see, town characters that will never have a front burner part in the plot?

Deborah: That series worked very well because there were only the three of us and we were already good friends. Cheryl St. John, Carolyn Davidson and I emailed back and forth to populate the town and use each others characters as secondary characters in our stories. The editors usually come up with the premise for the series and for each book. For Montana Mavericks, I got a paragraph character sketch of John Whitefeather and Jane Harris, as well as a couple of paragraphs about the story and which pieces of information I needed to incorporate. I got the same thing for the other stories in the series. But for things like the names of saloons and churches and the various townsfolk Ė that was up to us to brainstorm. I really enjoyed that!

Connie: We're glad you were a part of it.

When writing of a city or village outside of a major city such as London or Richmond, are those places from your imagination, the estates and plantations, or are they a blend of actual places from research and your imagination?

Deborah: I almost always make up the places, but I often base them on real places. I try to do my research to make sure the plant life and so on are true to the area. Itís been an education setting books in different places in England. Iím amazed at the wide variety of territory from the Lake District of A Gentleman of Substance to the fens of East Anglia for The Last Champion.

Connie: Iíve read where you said your faith is one of the things that inspire you. That you say a quick little prayer along the lines of, "Iím here if thereís anything you want to say to people." You also said you sometimes feel as if youíre taken up on that offer. Iím sure there are many readers out there who appreciate the fact that youíre willing to offer encouragement and a sense of positive ness along with you entertaining them. Could you respond to these thoughts?

Deborah: It wasnít something I did consciously at first, but my books are a part of me, so my faith would creep in here and there Ė like a willingness to let villains redeem themselves. Often that is the one part I donít plan in my story and when a character learns something of a spiritual nature that I had never realized until that moment, I get chills and often tears. In The Last Champion, Armand Flambard learns something special about forgiveness Ė that it may not be like a great cascade, washing away all guilt and bitterness, but more like a slow steady trickle gradually eroding it. If someone whoís struggling with feelings of guilt could come to that realization along with Armand and begin to heal spiritually, I would feel enormously privileged that my story was a medium for that message.

Connie: I imagine the messages, or realizations you're able to covey through your books touch many who read them, in different ways and at different times.

Tina: Weíll head to some lighter questions now, Deborah, kind of get to know you a bit. What are some of your favorite genres to read and what books would we find on your bookshelf right now?

Deborah: Historical romance and fantasy are two of my favorites and I almost always have several Harlequin Historicals in my TBR pile. Now that my friend, former HH author Julianne MacLean, has moved to Avon, her American Heiress books always jump to the top of the pile. Currently Iím reading Sarah Zettelís Luna book, In Camelotís Shadow. I also enjoy mysteries, especially those of Ellis Peters and Colin Dexter Ė unfortunately both passed away recently.

Tina: So sorry to hear that, but their fans will be able to continue to read and re-read their work. In that way they'll live on.

We root for the Kansas City Chiefs. Are you or your husband fans of a particular sport or team?

Deborah: I donít get time to watch much television at all, let alone sports. We used to be great basketball fans, though. The Philadelphia 76ers were our team. My Mom and sisters are big Toronto Blue Jays fans.

Connie: Deborah, if you were rich, what would you do for yourself that you donít do now? (Iíd buy new socks all the time Ė I love socks when theyíre new and soft and cushy)

Deborah: Iíd travel more. Take the kids to Disney World. Go down to the Caribbean in the winter and take a nice long holiday in the British Isles. Otherwise, I donít think my life would change drastically. Right now we make enough money that we donít have to worry about it. Iím so grateful for that and wouldnít really want a whole lot more.

Tina: I have to hurry and ask this before Connie starts talking aobut Disney.

Connie: Ha ha ha...

Tina: Anyway, have some fun with this one. Youíre stranded on a deserted island; would you choose books by your favorite author or TV? Movie star or husband? What couldnít you live without?

Deborah: Definitely books since I donít watch that much TV now. Iíd take my husband over any movie star. Iím sure those guys would be fun for a little while, but my hubby is the most fascinating man Iíve ever met. Heís also got a broad range of abilities, so weíd probably have a lovely hut with all the modern conveniences like on Gilliganís Island and all the fish we could eat! If I couldnít pick my hubby, Viggo Mortenson would be next on my list.

Tina: Sounds great!

What is on your to-do list? Is there anything you havenít done that youíd like to do?

Deborah: My to-do list is a lot shorter than it was a couple of months ago Ė it was scary then! I still have to do my taxes. Fortunately we have a little longer here in Canada and self-employed people have a further extension. Still Ė Iím not looking forward to it! I have to finish the sequel to The Wizardís Ward by the first July, then start on a Christmas novella. Thatís something I always wanted to doÖand now Iíll get to!

Tina: Deborah, what is romance to you?

Deborah: I think it was Jeremy Irons who said, "Love is friendship on fire." Thatís how I think of romance. Itís love with an extra spark and sizzle and perhaps whetted with a touch of the unattainable.

Connie: One thing I can think of that would make an ideal fictional hero would be that he would think me beautiful even if I was dirty, dripping with sweat and smelly (even downwind) from working in the yard...which I did and was on Saturday (of course, not the smelly part :-). Your ideal fictional hero would think you gorgeous if you...what?

Deborah: If I was going gray, getting the odd wrinkle and carrying a few extra pounds. Yikes! I am! Ahhh! My real life hero still does make me feel beautiful!

Tina and Connie: Before we wind this up, would you tell us about your online serials?

Deborah: Iíd love to! Starting April 19th, Iíll have a weekly serial running on www.eharlequin.com. Sorshaís Secret will be a prequel to The Wizardís Ward, about Mauraís best friend, who finds more romance and adventure than she bargained for when she discovers a fugitive from the Blood Moon mines hiding in her auntís barn. I also have two previous serials still available for reading in the On-line Read Library at Eharlequin. Mistress of His Heart is a companion story to my novella Cupid Goes to Gretna and my novel Lady Lyteís Little Secret. Midsummer Masque is connected to Beauty and the Baron. I really enjoyed writing these short romances that give people a taste of my storytellingÖfor free!

Connie and Tina: Wonderful writing and free, too! Thanks for filling us in.

Weíve had a great time, Deborah, thanks so much. One last thing before we let you go, is there anything we didnít ask that youíd like the readers and fans to know?

Deborah: Well, I love hearing from readers! My email address is deborah@deborahhale.com and my snail mail is P.O. Box 829, Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia, Canada, B4E 2R0. Readers can also visit my website www.deborahhale.com. There I have my latest cover art, excerpts, news, a contest and writing tips for aspiring authors. I also have a quarterly e-newsletter Love and Magic, that people can sign up for on the contest page of my website.

We appreciate Deborah taking the time to visit with us. It was great fun to be able to get to know her.

The Wizard's Ward is an April 2004 release, and The Last Champion is a May 2004, release.

For those of you who would like more information about Deborah Hale, please take a moment to visit her Website.

Comment or respond to Deborah's interview and we'll post your comments below!

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