Author Christine Elaine Black discusses her creative process

When I heard about Christine Elaine Black’s novel “A Rose for Lancaster” from our mutual acquaintance, author Cara Bristol, I had to read it. Set in the 15th century, the romance between Blanche and Giles takes place after the defeat of King Richard III, who is the hero of my novel “Rings of Passage.” Based on our novels, Christine and I are on opposite sides of the Wars of the Roses! When I read “A Rose for Lancaster,” I was immediately charmed by the story. Blanche is a Yorkist and Giles a Lancastrian. They rise above their political loyalties to be together. In this interview, Christine discusses her writing life and her love of history.

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Christine Elaine Black’s links:

A Rose for Lancaster

“A Rose for Lancaster”

Author Biography
Blog
On Twitter

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Christine Elaine Black interview

Karla: At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer? Was there an event, or a comment someone made to you, or an experience that made you think, “Hey, I’d like to write.”

Christine Elaine: I started writing to encourage my daughter’s foray into the storytelling world. I intended to write for her (which I did) but then I enjoyed it so much I kept writing and delved into the romantic historical genre.

Karla: Do you have a very early work that you would like to reinvent or get into shape to share with the world? What is it?

Christine Elaine: I have quite a few projects that are finished but ‘rough,’ and that means finding time to re-read, edit, re-shape and publish. If I had unlimited time I’d likely have it done by now but life in the real world calls to me. It’s a constant give and take to be an author.

Karla: When you write novels, do you use an outline, or are you a pantser (flying by the seat of your pants)?

Christine Elaine: I start with an idea. I love ancient Rome and found it difficult to source a romance book in that time period. The idea for Maximus sprang into my head and I started writing the story without much plotting. The characters took over and the story fell into place. Although I write ‘romance’ which is typically as story dealing with the relationship of a couple central to the plot, I like to add many other characters to embellish the plot. Since trying out the self-publishing market I write slightly outside the romance box to include a few of my favourtie secondary characters. It’s fun!

Karla: What is the MOST important to you? Plot? Character? Setting?

Christine Elaine: A really great story is the most important to me. The characters add to that of course and I love them all, even the mean ones in a strange way, but story is important. The characters need angst and conflict to make us care.

Karla: How scheduled are you when writing?

Christine Elaine: For a number of years I wrote late at night. Parents will understand the reason for that! It was my time to relax and spend in a constructive, creative way. Lately, I’m learning a whole new world of blogging, tweeting and Facebooking and that’s eating away at my writing time.

Karla: Where do you write? Is there certain music you have playing in the background? A favorite room, desk or chair? Are you like J.K. Rowling, and write in a coffee shop?

Christine Elaine: I use the Mac (family room) or the PC (home office) and prefer silence if I can get it. I’ve never written when I’m out and about in the real world. Too many distractions for me.

Karla: Are the stories that you write different from those that you read? For instance, romance versus humor.

Christine Elaine: I’ve read a lot of historical fiction. If I could write like the authors I idolize that would be a dream come true. Let me give you a few examples:

Colleen McCullough’s Roman series (a tour de force)
Jack Whyte’s Camelot series (incredible)
Bernard Cornwell’s Viking series (amazing)
Pauline Gedge’s Egyptian works (mesmerising)
Jo Graham’s Numinous World series (fantastic)

As you can see, I read a list of heavy hitters in the literary world! I couldn’t begin to compare myself to career authors.

Karla: Is your creative process something you sweat over? Or is it something you trust to “kick in” as soon as you get started.

Christine Elaine: I don’t have any issues with the creative process. If I need to take a break from a particular scene, character or book, then I switch to something different or go for a walk. Often I write prolific amounts and edit or switch things around as new and improved ideas come to me. It’s hard to hit the delete key on work but in the end it can be for the best.

Karla: If you have a troublesome plot issue, how do you solve it? Is there a method or a meditation you turn to solve the problem?

Christine Elaine: I sleep on it. Often I go to bed thinking about my characters and imagine them in situations, working through problems or having conversations. I don’t dream about them as some of my fellow writers have said they do, but I run scenarios in my head.

Karla: What advice would you give to new authors who are trying to find their voice and their stride?

Christine Elaine: The best advice I can give is network with other writers and look for feedback from trusted or well-meaning friends (including virtual friends). I posted some work on a few writer sites before publishing and it helped to chat with others in the same boat and exchange views on each other’s work. Ultimately, though it’s a growth process and some find it easier than others.

Karla: I couldn’t agree more! And I want to thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your insights with us. _____________________________________________________

Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage is now in paperback!

In other news… “Rings of Passage” is now available in paperback through Amazon! It would make a great Christmas gift for the bookworm in your life.

Finding gold in a conversation

 

Tropico Gold Mine

Inside Tropico Gold Mine, Rosamond, California.

The other day I had the weirdest experience: a newspaper reporter interviewed me. No mistake: he interviewed me, and not the other way ’round.

For years, I was the reporter at the “great suburban newspaper.” And I had interviewed all sorts: old timers, rock stars, museum curators, historians, gold miners, artists and even writers like me, who’d just had their first novel published.

In “News Writing I” at Kent State University’s School of Journalism, the professor tried to teach us how to interview. We were given an assignment to interview each other. Most of us felt intrusive asking questions of someone we barely knew, even if it was as innocuous as, “Where’d you grow up?”

When presented with such a question, the interviewee often replied without elaboration, as if answering a question on an admissions form. The “share all” mindset of the 21st century was still decades away.

Evidently, there was more to this interviewing business than just questions and answers.

I can’t say that class assignment did me much good. Interviewing is a technique I developed over time, as I conducted interview after interview, learning what kinds of questions touched people where they lived, allowing me to draw from them the quotable quotes.

The interviewer has to be a listener. At one time, journalists excelled at listening. I don’t know if that’s still true, in this age of navel-gazing and blogging (irony duly noted).

In the midst of listening, you discern a path through the interviewee’s psyche and follow it, formulating new questions along the way, based on what he says – and not asking everything you had prepared in advance. All this has to be done while scribbling (or typing) frantically (which is why I recommend recording interviews, so you can worry about that later).

Throughout the conversation, the interviewer must hone in on the one thing the interviewee is most passionate about. That thing might not have anything to do with the music she just released, or the tour she is doing, or the exhibit she curated.

It might be totally unrelated – but no less important. Whatever that topic is, the interviewer must shift directions, and push forward into that strange land that had not been mapped via website or biography, nor researched ahead of time.

For it is from that wilderness place the best quotes are mined. The gold of the interview is found in the cache held dearest to the interviewee’s heart.

That is also when it becomes a true conversation between two people, a spontaneous human interaction, a meeting of the minds, memorable for both participants. And when the article based on this interview is written, the authenticity of that miraculous communication shines through.

The young reporter who interviewed me by phone is writing his article for that same college newspaper I wrote for so many years ago.

It was a very educational 20 minutes – for both of us. He had never interviewed an author before, and I had never been interviewed (in “real time,” not via email) as an author before.

The reporter had very well-thought-out questions – about me, about my writing process, about “Rings of Passage” and its main character, Richard III – an unlikely romantic hero.

After all the preparation I had done over the years to interview people –  now that same thing had been done for me. It was not unpleasant. It felt like admiration, in a way. My background as a reporter helped me not to be nervous beforehand. Regardless, it was still a heady experience, exhilarating, yet daunting.

And so unexpected – to be suddenly the person on this side of the phone interview.

To answer the begging question –  yes, the college reporter followed where I inadvertently led, excavating at least one golden topic held close to my heart. I’m sure he could hear the excitement in my voice when we talked about it. I look forward to seeing it in print.

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“Rings of Passage” is a time travel romance set during the reign of Richard III, who is the romantic hero. It is available in e-formats at the following links:

For Kindle:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EOA6BP0

For Nook (ePub and PDF):
https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-ringsofpassage-1271207-143.html