I’m very excited to bring you and interview with Anna Cowan, author of the amazing book, Untamed, a Regency romance like no other. I was thoroughly mesmerised by this story. It was so different from what I am used to and yet it won me over.
Anna tell us a bit about yourself
I’ve been writing since I was about 8 (I still have the A3 scrap books full of overblown, emotional adventure stories) (not much has changed LOL). Last year my debut novel Untamed was published by Penguin Australia – and four days later I gave birth to a daughter! I live in Melbourne with my husband and daughter in a beautiful house. I’m slowly slowly getting better at gardening.
What was your path to publication with Untamed? I understand you had a mentorship with Valerie Parv. How did that work?
I’d been writing seriously for about six months before I finally allowed myself to think I could write romance – it honestly hadn’t occurred to me, even though I was a voracious reader of the genre. I had a full draft of Untamed when I won the mentorship with Valerie Parv. It was an incredible year that transformed that naive first draft. I’ve written about the experience at some length on my blog.
I sent queries out to agents at about the same time and had at least 11 rejections! I made a Rejections Book where I recorded all my thoughts and feelings about each one, which helped me see them as professional milestones. I coincidentally met Sarah Fairhall, one of Destiny Romance’s publishers, early in 2012, so when I had a draft of Untamed I was happy with I sent it to her. I thought she might at least feel obliged to give me some feedback on the MS – and was blown away when she called a couple of days later to offer me a contract!
Untamed? How did that story evolve for you? Or was it a progression? Would you say the characters remained the same (Kit and Duke of Darlington) and that the story changed around them or vice versa?
The first draft of Untamed was titled The Three Loves of Miss Beatrice Sutherland – and it was a very different book. For one thing there was at least three books’ worth of plot fighting for space, and for another my heroine Kit (then Beatrice) was a passive-aggressive doormat. Anyone who’s read Untamed will know that she has evolved lightyears from that beginning! Darlington has remained essentially the same, though he was less tortured and more whimsical. The book began evolving when I started digging deeper into Darlington’s dark character and approaching every interaction Kit had by asking, “How would she respond to this person/situation, given that she’s tough enough on the world and herself to put aside whatever she really feels, and do what must be done instead?”
Was the Duke always a cross dressing bisexual?
Yes! The image that sparked Untamed was of a rake in hiding as a woman, lying awake in a room with five sisters, all of whom thought him a woman. (Torture, for a rake.) In that image Darlington was a more typical alpha hero and his costume would have been more awkward/slapstick. But as soon as I started writing him I realised he was the kind of person who wouldn’t think twice about dressing as a woman. It wouldn’t strike him as significant, and it wouldn’t confront his sense of himself. It would just be another way to be really alive. There were times when I was rewriting when I considered taking the cross-dressing out, but I could never bring myself to do it. His whole character sprang from the question: What kind of man would dress as a woman as naturally as breathing – and totally pull it off?
When you first conceived writing a Regency Romance were you going to explore the fringes or were you aiming for a more traditional plot?
One of the reasons I call my first draft naive is because I always felt I was writing a traditional romance. I can only shake my head when I look back at myself now, but I’m pretty sure I was just trying to be Julia Quinn.
How did you start writing romance ?
As I mentioned above, it took me a while to realise I was allowed to write it. Romance has always appealed to me – my sister and I still have an impressive collection of Dolly Fictions. When I started Untamed I’d been reading adult romance for a year or two, and had really just gone into those first throes of passionate readership. I was starting to take my writing seriously, determined to make a real go of it. I’d written the first draft of a YA urban fantasy, which proved to me that I had the discipline to write an entire novel, but deciding to write romance took my enjoyment and dedication to the next level.
What is your writing process?
I’m not all that good at personal motivation, so I need to have systems in place that help me write. Until the birth of my daughter I was meeting author CS Pacat four days a week to write 10-5. It was an incredibly productive relationship, not only for getting the hours in, but also because we brainstorm really well together and are super familiar with each other’s projects. If I was stuck with a plot/scene problem in the morning we’d often manage to untangle it over our morning coffee leaving me free to keep writing in the afternoon.
My natural method is a bit unfortunate. I tend to write a whole first draft that has way too much plot and underdone characters. I then look at what I have, find the thread of an actual story in there, throw the draft away and write the whole book again. I had thrown out at least 150,000 words of Untamed before I even started the draft that was eventually edited and published! I’ve tried planning more carefully but it doesn’t seem to make a huge amount of difference. I’m trying to come up with a way to work with my natural method and be efficient at the same time.
What do you prefer drafting the story or revising and reworking?
My favourite part is the bit just before I start writing, when an idea has become urgent because it’s THE BEST IDEA OF ALL IDEAS EVER. I love beginning a new book, but it’s always bittersweet because my writing is a clumsy instrument for pinning that great idea down.
What part of writing do you find hardest?
To be honest, I find all of it difficult a lot of the time. When I get stuck in a scene it’s hard to get going again and easy to procrastinate. When I’m revising I’m daunted by all the parts that need to be gutted and rewritten and patched up. When I’m editing the volume of decision making numbs my brain. But all of it is wonderful, too.
What do you plan to work on next?
I’ve started writing another regency romance between a female debt collector and a charming, naive youngest son. It’s a joy to write new characters in new circumstances, and I think this book will be part of a loosely-connected three-book series. (There’s also a novella idea that’s so wonderful to me I kind of want to write it RIGHT NOW. But the heroine needs to be thoroughly downtrodden in this novel, first.)
I understand you have a baby. How is juggling a baby and writing going?
If you’d asked me that in the first week of the year I would have said, Wonderfully! I hit my 1,500-word targets every day and felt very smug and productive. Then Robin stopped sleeping and I stopped sleeping and those bits of scenes where I get stuck are much more difficult to overcome when sleep-deprived. Every day is an attempt to strike a balance between rest and productivity. I just keep reminding myself that the fact I’m writing at all is a huge victory. And she’s a much cuter distraction than an internetful of kittens.
You can find Anna on twitter @annacowan
And she keeps a blog/diary here
Here is the blurb and cover image of Untamed, published by Destiny Romance
Outspoken and opinionated, Katherine Sutherland is ill at ease amongst the fine ladies of Regency London. She is more familiar with farmers, and her blunt opinions and rough manners offend polite society. Yet when she hears the scandalous rumours involving her sister and the seductive Duke of Darlington, the fiercely loyal Katherine vows to save her sister’s marriage – whatever the cost.
Intrigued by Katherine’s interference in his affairs, the manipulative Duke is soon fascinated. He engages in a daring deception and follows her back to her country home. Here, their intense connection shocks them both. But the Duke’s games have dangerous consequences, and the potential to throw both their lives into chaos…
Wildly romantic, Untamed is a passionate and beautifully written debut novel. This decadent historical romance defies convention and will shock and delight in equal measure.
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