Saturday, 8 February 2014

Author Interview: Christina Courtenay

Today it's my pleasure to welcome Christina Courtenay to my blog to talk about her latest book The Secret Kiss of Darkness which was published yesterday.

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book The Secret Kiss of Darkness? 
It’s a time slip set in Devon, and the heroine in the present has her life turned upside down when she almost bankrupts herself to buy a portrait of a mysterious 18th century gentleman at an auction. Forbidden love, smugglers, romance and a gypsy’s spell!

Where did the inspiration come from for this story? 
It came from a painting I saw in the National Gallery in London, a portrait that was so life-like I was convinced the man in it was going to start talking to me any second. Then I thought, ‘What if he did, how would I feel?’ and the story grew from there. 

How hard was it to write in dual timeframes hundreds of years apart? 
It wasn’t all that difficult really because I had both stories in my mind at the same time and I knew how I wanted them to intertwine. The only problem was in making the transition between the two as smooth as possible each time so that the reader can follow them easily.

Are you currently working on a new book? If so, are you able to tell us anything about it? 
I will soon be doing edits for the third book in my Kinross trilogy. It’s called Monsoon Mists and follows on from Trade Winds and Highland Storms. It’s mostly set in India and I’m looking forward to concluding this series. After that, I’ll be working on the third book in my other (Japanese themed) trilogy, which is provisionally called The Snow Ghost.

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
No, I was always an avid reader but had no ambition to write until I tried it (in order to earn some money and still get to stay home with my first child) and discovered how much I enjoyed it! 

How long did it take you to get your first book published? 
It took nearly 21 years to get my first full-length novel published, although I’d had a couple of novellas published before then.

Do you have a set daily writing routine? 
No, I go with the flow (I’m a ‘pantser’ so don’t really plan anything much).

Have you ever had writer’s block? 
Not really – if I get stuck I usually work on another story for a while and then when I go back to the first one hopefully I’m able to look at it with fresh eyes which helps. Some books are definitely more difficult to write than others though.

If you weren’t a writer, what career path would you have chosen to follow? 
wish now I’d studied to become an archaeologist, or that someone had told me I could work in publishing – reading all day every day would have been an ideal job for me!

Where do you get the inspiration from for your stories? 
All sorts of things can trigger a story. So far I’ve been inspired by such varied things as a sumo wrestler, a real ghost, a house, a painting and a music video. You just never know when inspiration will strike.

Would you say that any of your characters are like you? If so, which one(s)?
Well, I always imagine I’m the heroine of the story, so they probably all have something of me in them – my likes and dislikes. Usually they are a lot more courageous than me though (not to mention much younger) ;)

If you could write another style of genre, what would it be and why?
I tried writing YA romance last year and really enjoyed that so I’d love to do more if possible. If I could think up a really good plot I’d also love to write a historical thriller, type Dan Brown or Steve Berry – but I don’t think I’m knowledgeable enough for that.

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be? 
Get a writing buddy to share critiques with and to support and encourage one another.

Being a writer appears to be such a solitary lifestyle, especially when you’re in the midst of writing, so do you consider the influence of social Media, Facebook and Twitter, a blessing or a hindrance? 
It’s lovely to be in touch with so many like-minded people all the time, as well as having the chance to interact with readers, so in that respect it’s a blessing. However, it’s also a massive distraction - I’ll go on Twitter or FB to just check a few things and find myself still there an hour later! I should be stricter with myself.

Do you prefer to read physical copies of books or e-books? 
Physical although I don’t mind e-books either

Are there any books you’ve read that you wish you’d written? 
Midnight is a Lonely Place by Barbara Erskine 

What’s the last book you’ve read that has made you cry? 
The Winter Sea (aka Sophia’s Secret) by Susanna Kearsley, but in a good way – I never read sad books (I check to make sure they have a HEA)

When you’ve finished writing a book, do you treat yourself to a reward? 
Sometimes, but mostly the reward is having some time off to do other things

Where would be your idyllic location for a writing retreat? 
A castle in the Highlands of Scotland next to a loch

If you were going to be stuck on a desert island and could only take 3 books with you, which ones would you choose? 
Cotillion by Georgette Heyer, Midnight is a Lonely Place by Barbara Erskine and a collection of the Grimm Brothers’ Fairy Tales or possibly Shadow of the Moon by M M Kaye


  1. Great advice, Christina. A writing buddy can make a whole lot of difference. And ... may I join you in that castle, please? :D

  2. Yes, please do Laura! It would be a lot more fun :-)

  3. Writing Buddies are awesome. I couldn't do without mine! Great advice.

  4. Wholeheartedly agree! I met my writing buddy on a course. Other than having my son, she is possibly the best thing that happened along in my life. Would be lost without her. x