Thursday, 24 November 2011

CEDAR FORT BOOK TOUR STOP: Marian's Christmas Wish by Carla Kelly

Hey very excited to host my first tour for a regency romance genre. A book that I instantly fell in love with. I would definitely suggest you all read Marian's Christmas Wish by Carla Kelly because its lovable and so surreal. Go for it you all!


Miss Marian Wynswich is a rather unconventional young lady. She plays chess, reads Greek, and is as educated as any young man. And she s certain falling in love is a ridiculous endeavor and vows never to do such a thing. But everything changes when she receives a Christmas visit from someone unexpected--- a young and handsome English lord.


Although Carla Kelly is well known among her readers as a writer of Regency romance, her main interest (and first writing success) is Western American fiction—more specifically, writing about America's Indian Wars. Although she had sold some of her work before, it was not until Carla began work in the National Park Service as a ranger/historian at Fort Laramie National Historic Site did she get serious about her writing career. (Or as she would be the first to admit, as serious as it gets.)

Carla wrote a series of what she now refers to as the "Fort Laramie stories," which are tales of the men, women and children of the Indian Wars era in Western history. Two of her stories, A Season for Heroes and Kathleen Flaherty's Long Winter, earned her Spur Awards from the Western Writers of America. She was the second woman to earn two Spurs from WWA (which, as everyone knows, is all you need to ride a horse). Her entire Indian Wars collection was published in 2003 as Here's to the Ladies: Stories of the Frontier Army. It remains her favorite work.

The mother of five children, Carla has always allowed her kids to earn their keep by appearing in her Regencies, most notably Marian's Christmas Wish, which is peopled by all kinds of relatives. Grown now, the Kelly kids are scattered here and there across the U.S. They continue to provide feedback, furnish fodder for stories and make frantic phone calls home during the holidays for recipes. (Carla Kelly is some cook.)

Carla's husband, Martin, is Director of Theatre at Valley City State University, in Valley City, North Dakota. Carla is currently overworked as a staff writer at the local daily newspaper. She also writes a weekly, award-winning column, "Prairie Lite."

Carla only started writing Regencies because of her interest in the Napoleonic Wars, which figures in many of her Regency novels and short stories. She specializes in writing about warfare at sea, and about the ordinary people of the British Isles who were, let's face it, far more numerous than lords and ladies.

Hobbies? She likes to crochet afghans, and read British crime fiction and history, principally military history. She's never happier than talking about the fur trade or Indian Wars with Park Service cronies. Her most recent gig with the National Park Service was at Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site on the Montana/North Dakota border.

Here's another side to this somewhat prosaic woman: She recently edited the fur trade journal of Swiss artist Rudolf F. Kurz (the 1851-1852 portion), and is gratified now and then to be asked to speak on scholarly subjects. She has also worked for the State Historical Society of North Dakota as a contract researcher. This has taken her to glamorous drudgery in several national archives and military history repositories. Gray archives boxes and old documents make her salivate.

Her mantra for writing comes from the subject of her thesis, Robert Utley, that dean of Indian Wars history. He told her the secret to writing is "to put your ass in the chair and keep it there until you're done." He's right, of course.

Her three favorite fictional works have remained constant through the years, although their rankings tend to shift: War and Peace, The Lawrenceville Stories, and A Town Like Alice. Favorite historical works are One Vast Winter Count, On the Border with Mackenzie and Crossing the Line. Favorite crime fiction authors are Michael Connelly, John Harvey and Peter Robinson.

And that's all she can think of that would interest anyone. Carla Kelly is quite ordinary, except when she is sometimes prevailed upon to sing a scurrilous song about lumberjacks, or warble "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" in Latin.

Exclusive Interview With Carla Kelly

Q. Tell us something about yourself.
I’m 64 years old, with five children, one husband. I live in Wellington, Utah, a small town in Carbon County, Utah. My husband retired there in 2009 after teaching theatre in a state university in North Dakota. We like the wide-open spaces. I’d rather live back in eastern Wyoming, where Borrowed Light is set, but you can’t have everything. I am a Navy brat, daughter of a naval officer who took us willingly to interesting places in the U.S. and the world. I have a degree in history from BYU, and an MA in the same from University of Louisiana-Monroe. I’ve been variously a PR person at a major hospital, and a hospice; park ranger in the National Park Service; contract researcher for State Historical Society of North Dakota; report and columnist at a daily newspaper; teacher of journalism and history on the college level. All the time I did the above, I was writing novels, too. I keep busy.

Q: It is often said that if you can write a short story you can write anything. How true do you think this is and what have you written that either proves or disproves this POV? 
There’s a lot of truth to this, I believe. In many ways, a short story is a novel in miniature, with all the elements of a novel except length. Therefore, every word must be telling and informative. I started out in short stories, and still write them. Short stories require writerly discipline. Once mastered, it’s a valuable skill.

Q: How to you research for a book before you begin the writing process?
Research is almost the most enjoyable part of writing for me. My background and major interest is history. I’ve been a contract researcher for the North Dakota State Historical Society, and works for a number of years as a ranger-historian in the National Park Service. What I have found is that core research pays off in many books, not just one. I’ve written some 26 novels, and two or three historical works (the footnote stuff). The Regency romances center around a 20-year period in the early 19th century. I like to research by reading about the era, and reading in the era. For example, reading the Naval Chronicles can be dry bones, indeed, but it helps me learn how men at war thought. Valuable.

Q: What is the best part of writing for you?
I enjoy the whole, trying process. There’s a certain rhythm that develops, and that comes from consistent writing.

Q: Did you always have in mind to be a writer or it just happened?
I think it just happened. I’ve always been a reader and an observer. A background in history (2 degrees) tends to provide a global outlook, which serves a writer well. I started writing and selling short stories first, and did well (two Spur Awards from Western Writers of America). That kind of modest success builds confidence. I write novels because I can, not because it’s particularly easy. Two Rita Awards for Best Regency of the Year from Romance Writers of America typecast me, to a huge extent.

Q: How would you describe your book in a sentence? 
With great difficulty! It’s a story of family love, and the willingness to include others in that love, whether they think they need it or not.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your book?
The charming, eccentric Wynswiches of Devon are facing their last Christmas together before the family estate is sold to pay off debts accumulated by the late head of the family. The only way to stave off ruin is for one of the two daughters to marry well, and soon. The older daughter is pining for Sam, the poor-as-a-church-mouse vicar. The younger daughter, Marian, has decided that she’s too sensible to ever get married. Enter Gilbert Collinwood, Lord Ingraham, a marquis with diplomacy on his mind. He’d like to change her mind about marriage. Before the novel ends, two of the characters are on the road to maturity. The third will change his life to fit his love.

Q: What were your inspirations behind “Marian’s Christmas Wish”?
I start each book with the idea: “What if this (or that) were to happen? What would it mean?” I wrote several Christmas short stories for Signet, and wanted to try my hand at a Christmas novel. Ever the observer, I saw my three daughters as Ariadne and Marian: wise one moment, childlike another, on the brink of womanhood.

Q: When you sit down and write do you know how the story will end or do you just let the pen take you? ie Do you develop character profiles and outlines for your novels before writing them or do you let your idea's develop as you write? 
I outline extensively. First I write what I think will happen, from beginning to end. I describe my characters. I over-outline each chapter, which means I always have material to keep me going to the next chapter and so on. Does the idea change? Of course.

Q: What is your guiltiest pleasure that few know about?
I like popping those little plastic pillowy things that surround delicate objects. I also love cowboy songs; “The Santa Fe Trail” and “Leaving Cheyenne” are two favorites. I always sing “Leaving Cheyenne when I, well, leave Cheyenne. (My Wyoming roots are pretty deep.)

Q: In your opinion, what are the best and worst aspects of writing for a living? 
The pay is uncertain, and not as much as you might think. The market changes. A person can get stuck in one genre. I discovered, to my chagrin, that I’ve been typecast as a Regency romance writer. Thankfully, that is beginning to change. The best aspect is that I am successfully doing something that so many people seem to think they want to do. It’s hard and it’s solitary work, which suits me.

Q: How similar to its principle protagonist and the main cast are you? 
I’m really not much like Marian. However, a fellow writer once told me that she likes my heroines because they’re like me: humorous, practical and usually self-reliant. She was right.

Now some simple questions and more fun^^

-Your favourite books and author?
My escape reading is really good crime fiction: Michael Connelly, Peter Robinson, Robert Crais and Philip Kerr. I have three favorite novels: War and Peace, A Town Like Alice, and The Lawrenceville Stories.

-Your favourite band/singer?
Michael Martin Murphey and Ian Tyson, cowboy singers

-Twitter or Facebook?
Neither. What a royal waste of time for a writer. I have a facebook page I look at occasionally. I have a blog that I usually write in:

-Favourite place in the world?
It varies. I love southwest England. I love even more that area around Choteau and Augusta, Montana, where the Front Range of the Rockies holds forth in all its majesty. I’m fond of Chama Valley in New Mexico, and am working on a novel set there in 1725.

-Last movie you watched at the cinema? 
Oh, gee. It may have been Contagion. Scared the willies out of me.

-The last book you’ve read?
I’m currently reading Erik Larson’s In the Garden of the Beasts, about the rise of Hitler to the Chancellorship of Germany and America’s general cluelessness. Fiction-wise, I’m reading Maud Hart Lovelace’s lovely Emily of New Moon.

-Have you ever googled yourself?
Of course. I go on for many pages.

-If you wouldn’t be a writer, what you would be?
I’ve done what I wanted to do: university adjunct professor in history, NPS ranger, researcher, newspaper columnist and feature writer, medical writer, editor.

-And last one....print or ebooks? 
Both. The book is a marvelous piece of technology that has held up for centuries and will continue to. Ebook is growing because it is convenient. When I do research, I still want the book, that I can mark in, etc.

Q: The cover of the book is really awesome. Did you have any inputs in it? 
Not too much. The first Marian had brown hair, and that had to be changed, because her hair is black. I think her eyebrows stayed brown, but that mere nitpickery. I have a lot of confidence in the art department at Cedar Fort.

Q: If this book is picked to be turned into a movie (I’m hoping they would) and if you are consulted for casting choices, then who would you cast as Marian, Lady Wynswich, Ariadne, Percy, Alistair, Reverend Beddoe, Lord Ingraham, Lady Ingraham and Sir William? 
I have no idea. Never thought about it. Other readers have told me that they can already cast Borrowed Light. Ahem, wouldn’t I like to write Hugh Jackman and Rupert Sewell into a book!


Q: What advice would you like to give budding authors or those who want to start writing? 
Well, don’t quit your day job. Don’t waste too much time in critique groups and writer websites. That takes time away from writing. Put your happy a** in that chair and leave it there until you’ve written what you want to for the day. Also, don’t use the word “very.” It’s a stupid word.

You should probably be aware that Marian’s Christmas Wish was first published in 1989 by Signet, a division of Penguin/Putnam. When I left Signet and started writing for Harlequin, I took my book rights with me. Cedar Fort is going to be publishing some of these as ebooks alone, and also softbacks on some. Signet is also going to be republishing some other of those earlier Regencies as ebooks. And I’ve just contracted with a company to publish my first, now-hard-to-find book as ebook. The ebook business is leading to crazy times in the book world.


The plot has an episodic feel to it and the best part as I had already stated are the interactions between Gil and Marian. They recognize an affinity between them immediately, quickly become comfortable allies, and progress to love. Marian, a good heart, though gets into much trouble with her loose tongue and sharp mind. Gil on the other hand is rather secretive himself yet very kind and has a particularly attachment to Marian, despite the 12 year age gap. And although this episodic saga has too many threads and wires weaving through it but at the end it all meets at a comfortable convergence, a perfectly sweet ending to an amazing read.

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  1. Thank you, both the interview and your review are great!!!



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