Twilight Times Special Feature: Interview with Rosemary Edghill
by Kate Strong
Kate: "You're published in several different genres, tell me about that and tell me why you decided to write romance? What do you think of the romance genre?"
Rosemary: "I actually started out with Regency Romances back in the eighties; I had four hardcover regencies published by St. Martin's Press: Turkish Delight, The Ill-Bred Bride, Two of a Kind, and Fleeting Fancy. I'd planned to go on writing them, but the Regency market crashed at about the same time my SF career was taking off, so I sort of got pulled in that direction for several years. When I finally came back to writing Romance, it seemed natural to write in the FFP (Futuristic/Fantasy/Paranormal) genre -- though Met By Moonlight (Pinnacle 3/98) is marketed as a straight time-travel romance, there are a lot of supernatural elements in it. I tend to write Romance naturally, no matter what genre I'm in; a lot of Romance readers have told me how much they've enjoyed my Hellflower and Twelve Treasures series, and the fantasy novel I'm posting on my homepage, The Vengeance of Masks is essentially a love story, though at nine hundred pages, my readers are going to have to trust me for a while on that, though those who have read the whole thing say it's worth it.
I love the romance genre -- the books, the readers, the writers -- and I get really irritated sometimes to see them dismissed as beneath contempt by people who have never read them. Sometimes when I have my feminist hat on, I wonder if that isn't because Romance novels celebrate women's values and women's culture? Romance novels are life-affirming celebrations of human values -- and somebody out there must like us; almost 50% of every dollar spent on fiction in the US is spent on Romance novels."
Kate: "What kind of reactions do people have to your writing? From friends and family to your readers?"
Rosemary: "Most of my friends write themselves, so they aren't that impressed with me. I find that the real dividing line here isn't between Published and Unpublished, but between those who write and those who don't. If you aren't used to expressing yourself in writing, from a personal letter to a trilogy, you'll tend to find the whole process a lot more mysterious than it actually is. Having trained as an artist, I find that the process of writing has a lot in common with painting: first you look at what you're going to portray, then you decide which elements to depict first, and so on.
I've gotten a lot of reader response to my books, and it's almost always positive. The only mild exception is my mystery series featuring Bast, a Wiccan amateur detective who lives in New York. I don't see all of it, but I hear there's a lot of discussion at conferences and on the Internet about whether I'm "giving away Craft secrets" (the other main complaint is that I don't portray enough "real Craft".) For the record, I'm very careful not to portray in detail the actual practices specific to any real tradition. While Bast is an initiate member of the Gardnerian Tradition (named for Gerald Gardner, the man who "took Wicca public" in 1947 with his book Witchcraft Today), I'm never specific about her purely religious activities. But in general I love to get fan mail, though I'm really rotten about answering it."
Kate: "You lead workshops for writers; what are the biggest mistakes new writers make in your opinion?"
Rosemary: "Talking instead of writing. Writing is not a communal profession involving a lot of chat. It's sitting alone in a room for hours writing when you'd rather be doing almost anything else (in fact, I'm doing this while I'm supposed to be working on the first chapter of a new book). If you focus on showing off bits of what you've written instead of finishing the book (and I hate to say it, but that's still a strong temptation for me, even after ten years and twenty books), you're just going to have a bunch of unfinished bits. Worse, you're going to be pulled every which-way by readers' opinions. Now, I believe that critical review and feedback is a good thing, but just as you can't dig up a young plant to see how it's growing and have it continue to grow, too much poking at a book can kill the idea. It's better to work alone and build confidence in your own instincts before you seek the opinions of others."
Kate: "What do you think are the strong points in your writing? Do you find anything hard in the writing process, if you so, what?"
Rosemary: "I think my strong points are structure and action; I have a pretty good sense of what needs to happen in a story and I'm pretty ruthless about getting there. The hardest thing for any writer is to get started, of course. For me, I'd have to say that the hardest part is finishing; I tend to stop dead just before the last fifty pages and sit about. It's all part of not being willing to let go of the characters, I guess: even though I haven't written a book in the Twelve Treasures series for quite some time, I know where all the characters from the first three books are and what they're doing, I know where Bast is in her life . . . I even know what Diana and Shadow are up to, and what's going to happen to their son (for some reason, Kensington didn't want me to mention that she's pregnant at the end of Met By Moonlight, but she is. Just so you know). Even minor characters, like Lace and Frank Catalpano and Daniel Merriam (the third judge in MBM), take on rich full lives of their own in my subconscious. Lace is going to get custody of her kids, Daniel's going to find an angel tangled up in one of his apple trees, things like that."
Kate: "What is your favourite heroine character type, and your least favourite? And the hero, what about him?"
Rosemary: "My favorite heroines are the very take-charge competent types who face and take on the same kinds of problems that men do, and those are what I try to write. I think my least favorite kind of heroine is the one who feels she's entitled to spend her time "acting-out" because of her great inner pain or something. I get really tired of them. For heroes, I like them dark, dangerous, and damaged, and willing to accept the heroine as a equal and a partner in their lives. Willie Garvin (from Peter O'Donnell's Modesty Blaise series) is my idea of a perfect hero."
Kate: "What has been your most successful book? On a personal level and for book sales?"
Rosemary: "That's a really tough one, since publishers like to keep authors in the dark about how well their books do. The one that's had the highest number of copies printed has definitely been my X-Men book, Smoke and Mirrors, but then, I get the most mail about Bast, so that might be the answer there. I'm never satisfied with how my books turn out really, since the one I see in my head is always infinitely better than the one I get down on paper, so as for my most personally successful book, I'd probably have to say "the next one", whichever it turns out to be."
Kate: "Is there anything else you'd like to add?"
Rosemary: "Buy books! Buy more books! Buy my books, my friends' books, anybody's books. Make furniture out of them, insulate your basement, give them to a friend . . . just support your local writer."
Kate Strong, Twilight Times