Welcome to Sunday Spotlight. Today we feature historical romance fiction author, Christina Phillips, and her most recent novel, Her Vengeful Scot (Highland Warrior Chronicles #2).
When did you start writing and what was the catalyst?
I know it’s a cliché, but I’ve always loved writing, ever since I was old enough to hold a pencil. The catalyst for deciding to get my butt in gear and work towards making this my career came shortly after my family and I moved to Australia from the UK.
How many novels have you written and published?
I’ve had seven historical romances published (one is a PNR involving a dissolute vampire duke set in the Regency!). Four of the books, The Druid Chronicles, are set in first century Britain, during the Roman invasion, and two are ninth century Highland Warrior romances, set during the turbulent times when Kenneth MacAlpin, King of the Scots, claimed Pictland for his own.
I also write contemporary romance and have eight books published with various publishers, including two indie pubbed boxed sets. I also have two short PNR/fantasy stories published.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
FORBIDDEN, my first historical romance, took me nine months to write. The second book in that series took me just over five months. A short erotic romance I wrote for Harlequin Escape took me just under four weeks, and my category length romances for Entangled Publishing take me between three and four months.
How has being Australian AND a woman impacted on your writing and/or writing career?
It was only after moving to Australia that I decided to get serious about my writing and I joined the Romance Writers of Australia, who have been invaluable in terms of encouragement and support. So moving to and becoming an Australian citizen certainly impacted on my life. I always give the women in my books agency, and the older I get the more passionate I become about women’s rights—even in my historical romances.
What authors and types of books do you love the most?
Romance is always my first love. I need a happy ending!
What is your favourite childhood book? Did reading as a child have any bearing on your decision to become a writer?
I loved the Narnia Chronicles. I always wanted to find a magical land at the back of a wardrobe! Although I always wrote, it wasn’t until my third child started school that I actively decided to get serious about it.
What inspired your most recent book?
HER VENGEFUL SCOT is the second book in the Highland Warrior Chronicles, but the series was first inspired when my agent asked if I could write about some hot Highlanders. This was just before she sold FORBIDDEN to Penguin US (I have since received the rights back to this book and several others and have published them myself). I spent a weekend reading through a brief history of Scotland and when I came across the mysterious disappearance of the Picts and the rise of the Scots, I knew I’d found my hook!
How much research do you do? As an author of Historical Fiction, how do you balance the demands of getting the facts right and telling a good story?
I do a lot of research for my historical romances. With my Druid Chronicles, there’s an abundance of material available on how Romans lived, etc. but hardly anything on the Druids who lived during this time. They didn’t believe in writing down their knowledge, so the only contemporary writings we have are from the Romans, who were the victors and obviously biased! So in this case, I was happy to recreate my Druid world in the way my heroines wanted.
With my Highland Warriors, there are many legends and rumours as to what happened to shift the balance of power in Pictland. I used my own interpretation of what’s in the history books to weave fact and fantasy into my romances.
Often when researching I’ll come across differing opinions on things, and in these cases I’ll go with whichever scenario best serves my story.
Do you read your book reviews? Do you appreciate reader feedback and take it on board, even if it is negative? How do you deal with negative feedback after spending so much time writing your book?
If a reviewer sends me a link to a review, I’ll read it as I would hope they’d only let me know if they enjoyed it! On the whole, I tend to avoid reading reviews. When I was first published I would read every one, but the fact is no writer can please every reader, and you can’t even try. Now days I only read the snippets my publisher sends to me, unless reviewers tag me on FB or Twitter.
Having said that, I must add that one of the best things about this job is when readers contact me to let me know how much they enjoyed my books. Day. Made!
How much planning do you do? Do you plan / plot the entire story from beginning to end, or let it evolve naturally as the writing progresses? In terms of characters, are they already a firm picture in your mind before you start writing or do they develop a personality of their own as the story progresses?
I have a loose plan of things that need to happen during the course of the book, but I rarely know the details until I’m on top of them in the writing stage. My biggest surprise was while I was writing FORBIDDEN. I knew something catastrophic had to happen near the end, but had no idea how or why it would come about until I was literally writing that scene. It was as though I was watching a movie in my head. Unfortunately not every book is that obliging, and often I need to really hammer out what’s happening before things flow again.
As for the characters, I tend to know a lot about them before I start writing. It’s who they are that drives the plot, but as for what happens on the page – that’s something I’m not always sure about because of how the characters evolve once the story starts. So although I may have a vague outline, the finished book never follows my original plan.
If you could go back in time for a year, which historical era would you choose to live in?
I don’t think I’d like to go back to any historical era for a whole year, mainly because I’d miss my mod cons *and* I’m not partial to all the diseases that ran rampant back then. Then there’s the personal hygiene issues. This is one of the reasons why I love historical romance. We get all the amazing history wrapped up in a spine tingling romance but without all the bad breath and body odour!
When did you discover the Australian Women Writers Challenge? Do you think the challenge has had any impact on the awareness and discoverability of Australian Women writers? Have you personally benefited in terms of exposure of your work to new readers?
I discovered the Australian Women Writers Challenge a few years ago when it was being discussed on Facebook. It’s a wonderful opportunity to gain exposure to readers who may otherwise have never heard of many of the fabulous Australian Women writers who are part of the Challenge.
About Her Vengeful Scot – Highland Warrior Chronicles #2:
To avenge his sister’s honour, he must destroy the woman he wants most in the world…
Ordered to remain in Pictland, Cameron MacNeil fights the lust that consumes him whenever he encounters the aloof princess, Elise. Not only is she a cursed Pict, she belongs to the man he has vowed vengeance upon.
Despite her reputation, Elise has no interest in men until she meets Cameron. Lacking the famed Scots charm, his blunt ways enchant her and he ignites a passion she long thought dead. When she is freed from her difficult marriage, Elise places her trust in the tough Scot warrior who has stolen her heart.
Bound by blood oaths, the only way Cam can protect Elise from political schemes is to make her his bride. When Elise discovers the truth, she fears everything she knew about her husband was a lie. All she can do is trust her goddess was right and Cameron is her one true love.
Historical fiction fans might be interested to attend the 2017 Melbourne Historical Novel Society Australasia conference on 8-10 September. The programme features over 60 speakers http://hnsa.org.au/conference/speakers/ You can read interviews with some of the participating authors at the HNSA blog. https://hnsaustralasia.blogspot.com.au/
About Theresa: Writer, avid reader, keen reviewer, book collector, drinker of all tea blends originating from Earl Grey, and modern history enthusiast. I enjoy reading many genres but have a particular interest in historical fiction. You can find me and all of my book related news and reviews at Theresa Smith Writes, Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter @TessSmithWrites