Thursday, April 19, 2007

Party Post Number 15

Anna Campbell loves to travel in real life...

...and in her imagination, where she regularly visits the dark, decadent years before Victoria was crowned. Her debut book for Avon, CLAIMING THE COURTESAN, was released on 27th March and has been hailed by NYT bestselling author Stephanie Laurens as ‘Regency noir’.

Tessa, firstly, thank you for asking me to blog on your site today and I’d also like to say a very loud whoo-hoo for your success! You’re an inspiration. I was so excited when BLACK WIDOW BRIDE hit the Waldenbooks bestseller list. Shows you what a combination of hard work and talent can do!
Now I’ve got that off my chest, I’d like to talk about taking chances by trying something new. A subject very close to my heart!
As some of you know, it took me an awfully LONG time to find a publisher for my stories. I completed my first manuscript (I’m not counting the half-finished ones I’d been fiddling with since childhood) twenty-seven years before I sold my first book to Avon in April 2006. Obviously I am a very slow learner, although I’m discovering now that has its advantages, frustrating as that endless apprenticeship was at the time.
Just before I started writing CLAIMING THE COURTESAN, I’d settled into what I thought was my writing niche. Regency historical romantic comedy – apologies for the mouthful when it comes to genre! I enjoyed writing those stories and my latest effort was doing well on the contest circuit which is always encouraging.
Then one day out of nowhere, two characters took up residence in my mind and I couldn’t banish them for love nor money. And believe me, these people did NOT belong in a Regency comedy! They were dark, they were compelling, they were stubborn, they had tragic backgrounds which had left them with a very individual take on life and love. One was a reluctant courtesan called Soraya/Verity Ashton. The other was her tormented, passionate lover, the Duke of Kylemore.
Not only were these people insisting I explore emotional territory I’d never touched in my writing, they belonged in a really sexy book! Oh, man, this was so not what I wanted to do!
Eventually, the clamour from these two that I tell their story became overwhelming. To shut them up, I wrote a first chapter hoping to prove to everyone, including me, that this thing was dead in the water. Then strangely that first chapter became a complete manuscript that got people more excited than anything I’d done before.
You guessed it. This difficult, dark, unusual book is the one that has just come out as CLAIMING THE COURTESAN. Scary as it was, taking a chance on something new made the breakthrough for me.

Have you ever tried something completely outside your comfort zone then discovered it was the best thing you could have done? I’d love to hear about your experiences. My favourite comment wins a signed copy of that book I was talking about, CLAIMING THE COURTESAN. Three runners-up will win signed coverflats. Good luck!


Blogger Tessa Radley said...

Welcome, Anna!

I loved your story about how Claiming the Courtesan came into existence.

Dark and sexy?

Can't wait to read it!:)

3:23 PM  
Blogger Annie West said...

Hi Anna,

Good to see you here and congratulations on your current debut release! I'm so glad you gave in to your inner voice and wrote your courtesan book - what an amazing rollercoaster read. I find it fascinating that you can write both the sparkling light comedies and the darker, emotional stories. I hope one day we'll see the comedies on the shelves too.

As to doing something completely out of your comfort zone: yes, I've done that and understand your title 'The Terror of the New'! Several years ago I was in a dream job: fascinating work, wonderful goals which would really make a difference to a lot of people, well paid and very, very busy. I turned around and realised that it had taken over my life and my family was suffering. We're not just talking short, busy periods here, this was consuming. So after a lot of consideration and discussion I resigned, took the plunge into unemployment and spent time with my family. A little later I found a part time job that suited me - it all worked out well, but at the time it was like diving off a high board without being able to see the water beneath - absolutely terrifying!


3:54 PM  
Blogger Abby said...

Anna! Loved your blog. I'm going to be completely shameless and shout it from the roof tops - I want to win your book! (But if I don't I'll be ordering it toute suite) It sounds amazing. I love your description of how your characters took up residence. They were obviously working on behalf of your subconscious to let you know where to go! Don't we always think we know best?!
Very inspiring - it's making me think about my comfort zone now...hmmm.
x Abby Green

4:00 PM  
Blogger Kimberly L said...

I want to win too. LOL I understand about the job thing. I worken in a office but during the months September thru December I had to work from 6 A.M. til 8:30P.M. I was so tired I didn't have the energy to help with my kids homework. So now I'm going to school and have only 3 months left to go and then I will be my own boss. YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

4:12 PM  
Blogger Bronwyn Jameson said...

Hi Anna. And congratulations on your success with Claiming the Courtesan which is just an amazing, amazing book. (Tessa and Abby, take note! *g*)

My jump-from-a-plane (because I would never actually jump from a plane!) was when I sat down and started to write my first book. That was terrifying and exciting and SO far out of my comfort zone -- I wasn't one who'd always written stories or even conjured them in my imagination. I was a reader, yes, and a freelance journalist. Making stuff up was another thing entirely. But it only took me a couple of hours and I was in love with the process. I wrote and wrote and wrote that first day and nothing has ever approached that high (at least not writing-wise) because I surprised myself with my brilliance (ha!) And because I had no idea what I was doing and whether I was doing anything right or wrong. I had no concept of audience or pleasing anyone but myself. It was awesome!

4:15 PM  
Blogger anne said...

Congratulations on this wonderful book! Your novel has a unique and special appeal which I know when I do read it will be enthralling.

4:40 PM  
Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Thanks, Tessa. Hope you like CTC!

Annie, I so admire your courage in taking that leap for the sake of your family. But a leap into the unknown becomes par for the course when we write, doesn't it?

Abby, you're so right about the subconscious often knowing best. And it's a stubborn beast - once it latches onto something, you're stuck really! Good luck! I'd love you to win my book! Oh, and congratulations on all your success too, by the way. Harlequin have taken on some amazing new authors recently. It's hard to keep up with you all!

Kimberly, good for you making those changes. Change is always scary, isn't it, even when our current circumstances seem impossible?

Bron, thank you for those kind words about CTC. I'm delighted you enjoyed it (hey, who am I kidding? I'm dancing around the room singing Climb Every Mountain - be afraid, be very afraid). I still think the best bits of writing are when you're completely in that world and it's alive to you. There's no feeling like it, is there? And you sure made up for being a late starter! I think you write sexual tension like nobody else. Ooh, mamma!

4:44 PM  
Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Anne, sorry, you snuck in there while I was answering the other comments. Thanks for the congratulations. I hope you enjoy my book!

4:46 PM  
Blogger Nicola Marsh said...

I sooo can't wait to read your book!!!

For me, travelling on my own to Europe was a huge step. I'd already travelled extensively but always with others.
However, it was at a time in my life where I needed to spread my wings and 'find myself' and you know what? It worked! I came back a much more assertive, confident person.
Moving out of a comfort zone is scary stuff at the time but can be so liberating :)

5:09 PM  
Blogger ellie said...

Your blog has been so on target and fascinating. Normally I am extremely content and settled about everything in my life. I had never travelled at all, due to no opportunity, family and finances. I did not realize the wonder of travel, the beauty out there and the entire change that would take place if I did allow myself to travel. For the first time ever, I went out of my comfort zone and travelled to Italy and then before that to India. Both were total revelations to me and memorable trips.

5:27 PM  
Blogger traveler said...

Your story and your novel deserve congratulations. What amazing resilience we have. I had lived in a prominent city my entire life and thought that it was the ultimate. We had an opportunity to relocate and never had second thoughts about it. A new home but in a totally different geographical and unique area. I decided that we had to take advantage of this chance and have never regretted this move.

5:31 PM  
Blogger Yvonne_Lindsay said...

Okay, it's truth or dare time, hmmm? Should this be PG? Yes? Okay, I'll go for the PG version.

Something completely outside of my comfort zone would have been appearing live on tv this week on the Good Morning Show. I had rattled myself to be totally sick with nerves by Tuesday morning and as my family so kindly pointed out the sleepless nights beforehand definitely showed. Why was it so nerve rattling? Well, aside from the whole 'live' tv aspect, which I have to admit I had done once before, this appearance was about 'me' and 'my book', not a generic representing RWNZ thing. I was terrified, but wow, did I feel fantastic as I walked back to the green room afterwards. Talk about high! LOL!

Yvonne (also unashamedly putting her hand up for Anna's book)

5:34 PM  
Blogger pearl said...

When I was young I played it safe with a career choice. But as I became more mature and realized the options available I decided it was time for a change. Together with another young woman we decided to form a business based upon our interests and indvidual abilities. So far so good and we are hoping that this business will take off. No regrets. An exciting and eventful time for us.

5:52 PM  
Blogger Annie West said...

Anna, you're so right about a leap into the unknown being par for the course for a writer. That must be why it can feel so unsettling! I love the fun of it but sometimes it's daunting. How about with you?

Yvonne, congratulations on your TV appearance - wow!


6:10 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

Hi Anna
I loved your book and your hero, the dark and difficult Kylemore. He and his courtesan really demanded you pay attention to their story, didn't they? Congratulations.

Mmm, being a chicken sooo many things are out of my comfort zone but a biggie for me was buying a house. For lots of reasons. Firstly, I grew up as an Air Force brat and we'd always lived in Air Force houses, never our "own" house. And then trawling around the banks - unsuccessfully - trying to find one that would give a single woman a loan (er, yes, this is MORE than a few years ago!). And then signing the papers once I'd found a building society that would take a chance on lending to me - scary!

Anyway, good luck with your future writing, Anna. I'll be looking for more of your books!


6:12 PM  
Blogger catherine cockburn said...

Hiya Anna, As always I'm fascinated with people's journeys towards publication, but your dogged determination for all those years is surely an inspiration to all.
As for stepping outside my comfort zone - easy enough, have scuba dived with tiger sharks, parachuted out of a tiny plane (only did that once!) and even travelled from Katmandu to London by myself through war-torn Afghanistan but the biggest risk I took was giving my heart to someone. Twenty-seven years down the track (hey! same as the time you were working towards publication!) we're still happily married.
That was the scariest thing I've ever done - and yet the most rewarding.

6:25 PM  
Blogger Rachael said...

Wow - so many amazing stories - what a great topic. Thanks Anna! I join the hoards in jumping up and down for your book, but it's on my wish list too, so whichever way it won't be long...

My biggest leap from comfort was last May when my old uni buddy and I decided to write a Mills & Boon!! HAHA! I'd never read one in my life... but I've a Creative Writing major (what a waste of time that was) and had been writing what I suppose you'd call women's semi-literary fiction for years. But it lacked something...

So, I took up the bet. Bought a whole load of M&Bs and locked myself away to read. Now, I'm hooked, and having so much fun with my writing. Whether it'll get anywhere is anyone's guess... but I'm learning more on this romance writing journey than anything I ever learnt at uni!!


6:36 PM  
Blogger alissa said...

My wish was to obtain a law degree and become an attorney. With much hard work and perseverance I finally did achieve this goal. Normally I would have a career less demanding but what I wanted to do was to test myself and to see if I could handle the pressure and the limelight. The struggle was worth it. Congrats. on this new release. Your story gives me and many others inspiration and hope.

6:47 PM  
Blogger LadyVampire said...

Congrats on the great success of Claiming the Courtesan! After reading your post today, I definitely need to get a copy.
As for trying something outside my comfort zone, well I recently went on stage to play some music with a friend's band. I've been playing electric guitar for a while but have always been pretty shy and had been reluctant to be on a stage. But my friends talked me into it and I was pushed out onto the stage feeling a kind of shock. At first my fingers moved mindlessly as I was so nervous but eventually everyone listening to us started clapping and shouting for more. Soon I lost my nervousness and had an thrilling night. One of the best in a long time.

7:19 PM  
Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Nic, thanks for your comment. You're right - I so remember the sheer terror of flying overseas for the first time to live in England for two years. Really just wanted to turn round and go home again and they were in many ways the best two years of my life and taught me so much.

Ellie, Italy and India! What a contrast and fantastic that you did it. Are you only going to visit countries that start with I? ;-)

8:39 PM  
Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Traveler, moving cities can be so stressful, can't it? But every time I have, it seems to release a whole blast of energy in me and the fear turns into opportunity somehow. Sounds like it was like that for you too.

Yvonne, I saw your TV show and you were brilliant. An absolute natural. I only knew you were nervous because I knew you and knew you would be, if that makes sense. You were so eloquent and funny. Isn't it wonderful to find out that sometimes we're only limited by our view of ourselves and not by what we can actually do? By the way, congratulations on your success too! I've always thought of you as a writing sister because you were as stubborn in sticking to your dream as I was!

8:42 PM  
Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Annie, the weird thing about writing is that it's a leap into the dark every time for me. It doesn't get any easier. I remember seeing an interview with Bono and him saying that for all the hoopla and razzamatazz, the work keeps the people in U2 honest and I think he's right. Mind you, I'd love to be the romance world's equivalent of U2!

Pearl, congratulations to you on having the guts to set up your own business. Good luck!

Sharon, I'm not surprised you were terrified when you bought a house. It's about as big a purchase as any of us make in our entire lives. And thank you for saying those lovely things about CTC.

8:46 PM  
Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Catherine, congratulations on your 27 years together with your husband. Actually, that's the greatest risk, isn't it? The risk you take on another person. I think that's why romance novels are perennially popular. Man, some of the other stuff you've done makes me shiver in my shoes!

Rachael, sounds like you're a born romance writer who just took time to find her particular wolf pack. Good luck with the writing! One of the greatest benefits of your journey, you'll find, is the friends you make along the way.

8:48 PM  
Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Alissa, I love to hear about people setting out after a goal and achieving it. Congratulations on your law degree!

Ladyvampire, I LOVED your story about going out on stage and having the guts to play the guitar. Fantastic!

8:51 PM  
Blogger Ai Yin said...

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8:59 PM  
Blogger Ai Yin said...

This post has been removed by the author.

9:03 PM  
Blogger Ai Yin said...

Hi Anna! *evil laugh* (er.. ignore that) i guess my step-out-of-comfort-zone event is writing stories. I have always been a reader, always admired the authors of their writing skills, their plots, how I am drawn into them, and I am especially a fan of the Harry Potter fan fictions. Then one day, shortly after the sixth book, Half-Blood Prince, was released, I started to speculate about the last battle for the end of seventh book, and I just kept thinking and thinking until I can’t stand it anymore. I poured it all out in Microsoft Word and thought, “Wow, my first piece of non-exam work. Not bad.” But I was still naturally insecure about publishing my work, I mean, what if I can’t compare? What if they throw rotten tomatoes at me (so to speak)? In the end I thought, “Oh, what the hell, I’ll just give it a try. It’s not gonna hurt… I guess.” (Note the feeble attempt at self-confidence) But about an hour after it first went online, I received my first ever review and, hey, it was positive!!! I started whooping and jumping in my seat, albeit in a low voice (I was in my college’s computer room). And before the year was out, I wrote sixteen more fan fictions (I resorted to taking my graphics calculator wherever I went, cause there’s a notepad-like programme in it), most of them one-shots, and I even branched out to other categories as well, like the Warcraft fanfic I wrote. And I think the weirdest thing isn’t actually getting the reviews (although those are great), but re-reading what you have written and wondering how you got the inspiration, almost as if I’m feeling a separate part of me actually wrote the story. Cause right now, I have no inspirations whatsoever.


Am I rambling? =)

9:06 PM  
Blogger Christine Wells said...

Hi Anna,
How wonderful that such a big gamble paid off for you so handsomely.

I think my biggest gamble was leaving my day job as a lawyer to write. My husband supported me, but still, leaving paid work means surrendering independence and the many other benefits working entails. Not least of which is not having to do as much housework!

I hardly ever think about going back now and the risk ultimately paid off.

Congratulations again on a stunning debut.

9:15 PM  
Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Hi Ai Yin! Lovely to see you again! And good on you for launching yourself into writing. Actually there's something magical about those first few pieces you do, isn't there? It doesn't matter if they're ragged technically - there's something there that you created and wouldn't exist unless you'd written it. Way back in my wayward youth, I was a Blakes 7 fanatic (yes, we ARE talking way back). And I remember sitting up all night after the very last episode which doesn't have a happy ending and rewriting it so that at least my favourite character (an anti-hero called Avon - hmm, I read that now and it seems to have so many echoes to my present life) lived. So I absolutely understood what you said when you told your story. Keep at it!

Christine, congratulations on the forthcoming release of your book SCANDAL'S DAUGHTER. Everyone, I read it in manuscript and it's mind-bogglingly good. Giving up work is scary - I gave up full-time work for part-time work when I wanted to pursue my writing more seriously and it was a terrifying moment. I admire your courage!

9:30 PM  
Blogger Rachel said...

Hi Anna,

I can't wait to read Claiming the Courtesan (I got my copy today!).

I think it's so interesting that you were writing comedy before these characters appeared. And such a contrast to how you've described CtC. Do you think you'll go back to comedy? Because from the blogs and interviews I've seen you in, I'd love to read something funny you've written!


10:21 PM  
Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Rachel, I'd love to go back into comedy. I loved to write it. For the moment, though, you'll have to get your fill of silly jokes by following me around cyberspace (snort!). Hey, hope you enjoy CTC (laugh-free as it generally is!).

12:43 AM  
Blogger Kate Walker said...

No, no- NO! I'm sorry but no one else can win Anna's book - that baby is mine by rights!

What rights? Well, come on - who else in their 'out of the comfort zone' experience can claim becoming 'Mum' to 35 assorted crazy would be romance writers at the RNA Conference. Specially when those 35 assorted included none other than Anna C herself.

You don't think that's bad?

Well, you want to try being claimed as the 'Virgin Mother' in front of a set of rather stuffy elderly romantic novelists - and the fact that I have had to live with shouts of 'Mum!' at every RNA meeting I attend ever since.

Seriously Anna - I can;t wait to get my hands on that book and I'm so so proud that you're one of my Published 'virgins' list and so totally 'deflowered'



2:28 AM  
Blogger Carol said...

Your book sounds wonderful!

I had never been on a plane. I hated the idea of flying! Ok, I was just scared of the whole idea! lol Then my daughter and her husband and, at the time, three children moved to Oregon and I live in PA. If I ever wanted to see them I had to get over my fear. So at the age of fifty and after quite a few invitations to visit I finally took my first plane ride and it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. It was worth it because I got to see my daughter and grandchildren! However, I'm happy to say that they have moved back to PA!

7:30 AM  
Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Kate, I still have fond memories of the shocked looks on some of those faces when we talked about being virgins. And you shepherded us like a champion!

Carol, your post made me think of my elderly mother getting in a plane for the first time when she was in her 70s. And she did it on her own too. She ended up having a great time on the flight and everyone made a huge fuss of her - facing her fear paid off. You could just see the pride in her face when she got off that jet - it was an hour flight to Sydney but to her it had been as big an achievement as climbing Everest would be to someone else. Good on you! Although I take your point about your relief now the family lives closer ;-)

10:40 AM  
Blogger Lois said...

LOL I seem to keep following you!!! But then I simply visit waaaay too many blogs in my day. LOL :)

My comfort zone. . . well, I do tend to be shy, so I could say starting up a conversation with someone, but once I get going though, I'm not as shy anymore. LOL :)


11:00 AM  
Blogger Minna said...

Going to another country as an exchange student was a bit out of my comfort zone, but it was definitely worth it.

11:12 AM  
Blogger Cherie J said...

Hi Anna,

So good to see you here. I have been hearing so many good things about your book. A major risk for me was getting married. My father abused me as a child and left me with a negative view of men. It took years and some counseling for me to heal. Now my life is wonderful. I have been married to my wonderful husband for almost 7 years now and we have 2 lovely children, a 3 1/2 year old boy and a 6 month old girl. That is why I love to read romances so much. I know from personal experience that the happily ever after is possible for anyone, even if they once lived in darkness.

11:34 AM  
Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Hello again, Lois! Lovely to see you again (actually it's like catching up with old friends meeting up with your blog mates, isn't it?). I relate to the shy thing (although like you, I'm a talker when I settle in with people). Public speaking is my next hurdle on that front - wish me luck! I'm giving my first talk about my book in three weeks at a library.

Minna, being an exchange student takes a bag load of courage! I think, though, when we find out we CAN cope with stuff outside our comfort zone, that it gives our confidence a huge boost. Sounds like it worked that way for you.

Cherie, I actually read your posts on Abby and Annie's blogs first, then I read the post on my column. My heart goes out to you for what you've been through and I also cheer for you because you've come past it. That takes so much courage. And love. I think that's why love stories are so powerful - because they are dealing with such fundamental issues for people. Congratulations on your wonderful marriage and on your two lovely children! You're an inspiration!

2:30 PM  
Blogger Christina Phillips said...

Hi Anna,

I love the story of how you came to write CtC, and especially how you originally wrote Regency romantic comedy!

The thought of public speaking brings me out in hives, so heartfelt good wishes on your first library talk. You're a star!

2:32 AM  
Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Hi Christina! Lovely to see you here. Sorry you're not a public speaker either!

3:37 AM  
Blogger Helenk said...

hi anna,

congrats on getting Claiming the Courtesan published. sounds like an intriguing read.

outside my comfort zone? hmmm i think i was proud that even though i am a scary cat, i did white water rafting when i travelled to NZ a couple of years ago. It was a wonderful experience.

11:10 PM  

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