Laura Kinsale on Writing, Sirens, and “Lessons in French”

Gentle Reader, in October of 2009, I had the privilege of numbering Ms. Laura Kinsale among this blog’s readers. The result? Faster than she could say, “Thanks for this, my second RITA”, I hit her up for an interview. She said yes. :) Please join me in welcoming the NYT best-selling author of twelve historical romances – one of which was released only yesterday – Laura Kinsale. 

There’s one question I’m dying to ask, and I’m certain many readers will share my curiosity: What’s with the hats? If you have a fetish, will you be indulging it in publicity photos for your new book, Lessons in French?  

I love hats!  I have no idea why women are not required to wear hats in public anymore.  Or men either.  (Have you seen Matt Bomer wearing a fedora?)   Some recent scores: I snared a pink and purple Emilio Pucci rain hat on sale, and bought a great fuschia-and-black wool winter hat by an Estonian designer when I visited Talinn this summer.

I guess there’s a danger of ending up looking like those old ladies who wear the big sun hats with bows, but since I began aging backwards at 35 (with sunscreen), I refuse to recognize the threat.  Speaking of fedoras, I tried to talk my husband into one, but he ended up buying it for me.  You can’t look like an old lady in a fedora. 

I’ve read that you gave no real thought to writing until age thirty-five, when you were a geologist often stuck in remote locations. You began to read out of boredom, fell in love with story, and not long after, found a few plots you wanted to execute. Once you decided you wanted to write, can you describe your learning curve and road to publication? 

It wasn’t quite like that.  I have always wanted to write fiction, but could never think of a plot.  I wrote my first story in 3rd grade, about the Lost Colony, and gave it a happy ending.  Then I had a dry spell until high school, when I got a story published in the school magazine.  Another dry spell, until I started writing romances on legal pads during those all-nighters out on drilling rigs.

I’ve never had any formal training to write fiction.  I don’t think it’s necessary and it could actually be counter-productive, depending on the agenda of the teacher. The best training for writing is to read, and then to go back and analyze how the writer did it.  When I did that with some of my favorite writers and scenes, what I found was how little it took to create an emotion, if the right words were chosen.  I think it’s helpful to read outside the genre you write in, too.  Read as widely as you can.