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Thursday, June 13, 2019

Respect your Writing: An Interview with Roseanna M. White

What drew you to writing historical romance? I’ve always loved history—pretty much as long as I can remember, whenever I learned about historical facts, my mind started churning, trying to figure out how to tell a story around them. That’s what I did all through middle and high school, and the instinct never went away. I can’t read or hear about fascinating tidbits without wanting to work them into a novel!

Was there a specific author that you inspired you to try writing this genre?
I think one of the first authors who inspired me to write my own historical romance, however, was Lori Wick. Before I read her books, I was always writing stories for whatever age group I was in—but after I read her Kensington Chronicles at age 12, I knew I wanted to write the same sort of thing. Even when I was reading kids’ books, I always wanted to know if the characters got married when they grew up, LOL. Guess I’m hardwired that way.

What type of research do you do in writing a story with a historical base? Tell me about the process.
My research usually begins online. I’ll read what I can about a subject—enough to know if it’s worth pursuing—and then I’ll shift my focus to figuring out which books I need. I’ll generally request a slew of them through the library, and then I’ll purchase the most helpful ones so I can keep them on hand throughout the process. And then, of course, I’m back online as I write, looking up answers to specific questions.

How much “artistic license” do you use in creating locations for your stories?
When it comes to locations, I’ve found modern tech tools like Google Maps and Street View to be SO helpful! It’s allowed me to take virtual tours of towns I’ve never been to—and when I’ve done that, I’ve actually gotten notes from readers saying how well I captured the place! Of course, I have to fictionalize some parts—when a fictional character owns a business, for examples—but I try to stay as true as I can to at least the region or neighborhood.

How do you react when a reader complains that your descriptions of areas aren’t correct?
I’m sure I get things wrong…and all too often things have changed in the course of time, so what I see now isn’t what it was like 100+ years ago. But when a reader points out a flaw, I just thank them for the information and make a note. I want to be as accurate as I can be, but I know I’ve never learned everything, so I welcome all the new information!

Is there a specific time frame in history that you are drawn more to than others?
Honestly, I just love history. I can get caught up in pretty much any era. But I don’t at all mind that I’ve been focused on Edwardian/Great War England for the last few years—after era-bouncing for a long time, it’s been fun to really dig deep into one period and learn a lot about it.

How long does it take you now to write a book? How do you write?
My deadlines are usually about 6 months apart, but I never spend the whole time writing. Active writing usually takes me about 3 months. I’ve tried writing completely without an outline (so slow and scattered!) and completely by an outline (not exactly natural for me, though I write more quickly with one) and have decided I’m half-and-half on that score.

I like to write the first third or half of my book with only my synopsis to guide me (I have to turn those in for approval before I start writing, so I’m never writing without some direction), and then I’ll sit down and outline what remains so I can sure I’ll stay on course, on pace, and not forget any of the cool ideas I’ve come up with as I’m discovery-writing.

Do you do individual character development before doing the full plot?
Characters almost always come to me first—then I need to figure out the “plot stuff” that will best shape them. I never do character charts or interviews or journals like so many of my writing friends do…I just start writing them, and they inevitably show me their hearts within the first few chapters.

What are some of the more difficult aspects of writing historical novels? I think the biggest challenge is getting to the point where you are “expert” enough to write well about an era. I’m always keenly aware of how many little research holes I couldn’t find enough information about to fill in properly. And occasionally I have some serious back-and-forth in my head about whether I can change or create a “fact” to suit my story. I hate not staying true to history, but ultimately, I’m telling a story, writing a novel, not a history book.

Have other novels been started and stopped along the way?
As for unfinished novels—this one made me laugh! I think I have around 70 unfinished manuscripts in my computer. Maybe more. Most of them are from my pre-published days, but it’s quite a well to draw from when I need to a character or idea. I’m constantly “stealing” things from those ideas that didn’t go anywhere on their own and weaving them into a story I’m writing now. And I love that I get to give them new life!

What do you know about writing/publishing now that you wished you had known sooner?
Gracious, my writing journey has been such a long process! I started querying publishers when I was 14. So, there’s been a lot of learning for a loooooong time. I think the lesson that threw me for the biggest loop, though, was one I learned in my early twenties. I’d been writing for the joy of it all those years, but no one had ever told me there were “rules” to modern fiction. 

I remember learning them upon joining a writers association—things like not jumping point-of-view between characters in a single scene—and thinking, “If I’d just KNOWN this! I’d have been writing this way for years and wouldn’t have to redo everything now!”

What other books do you have in the works?
At the moment I’m working on the rest of the Codebreakers series. Book two, On Wings of Devotion, is in the editing process, and I’m writing the final book in the series. These take us through the end of WW1, following the cryptographers of England’s Room 40 through more adventures with spies, danger, and mayhem…some fictional, some real. Book 2 let me explore pilots and nurses of the age, and book 3 is inspired by the true story of a Russian codebreaker who had to flee Russia in the wake of the revolution in 1917 and came to England to continue working. So much fun!

What is the best advice you’ve been given about writing or that you’ve learned that you would like to pass along?

This insight comes from my best friend, Stephanie Morrill, who runs Go Teen Writers: Respect your dream.

If writing is what you love and want to do, then respect it enough to give it the time it deserves. Respect it enough to educate yourself on those rules of writing. Respect it enough to become great at it. Respect it enough to learn the industry.

If you were determined to be an engineer or a doctor or a teacher, you’d readily accept that it’s a long process to get from “I want to…” to actually doing it—but in writing, too often we want to take short cuts to publication before we’re actually ready. What we don’t always realize is that our stories deserve better than that.

Respect your dream and give it the time and attention it deserves.

Great points to live by in your writing. If you’d like to learn more about Roseanna’s books,  here are some links to get you started.

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