Christine Trent is an avid doll collector and fan of all things British. Her travels have taken her to England (many times), France, Spain, Italy, and China. She lives in Maryland with her husband and three precocious cats.
I was privileged to meet Christine while attending the 2008 Romance Writers of America® national conference in San Francisco, share lunch, and hear more about her and her writing journey. Now you have the opportunity to get to know more about this talented writer.
Read on to learn some interesting facts about Christine, such as what she writes, how her favorite travel destination directly relates to her stories, and where she was on 9/11.
All of those who leave a comment for Christine from September 4-7 will be entered in a drawing. The two winners will each receive a $5 Borders® gift card and a motivational bookmark. (See photo at the bottom of this post.)
•What led you to write romances?
My greatest writing influence has been Rosalind Laker, a British historical romance writer. I found one of her books tossed in a $1 bin in a used bookstore, picked it up, and was hooked. I love her ability to weave a wonderful love story with some aspect of history. It was reading one of her romances that led to the very first time I actually cried while reading a book. I thought to myself, “I have to try this!”
•Historicals? Since I write them, too, you’ve got my attention. Unlike your stories, which are set in Europe, mine are westerns set in California’s Gold Country where I live, so research is fairly easy for me. How do you conduct your research and get a feel for your setting since you live in Maryland?
The influence of Ms. Laker, combined with my own travels to Europe, led to my interest in writing Historicals. In particular, I am a rabid Anglophile. My husband and I have been to England six times, and each time I visit stately homes, gardens, and museums that will help give me the feel for historical settings. There’s nothing quite like sitting in a 16th century smugglers den that has been turned into a pub to immerse you in the mood and atmosphere of jolly ole England.
•An Anglophile, huh? What aspects of the British culture and people most appeal to you? Have you found the English you’ve met helpful when you’ve approached them with questions related to your manuscripts? Does one of your trips to the Old Country stand out more than the others? If so, why?
The English are wonderful, friendly, open people. I’ve made friends on my trips over, and now make a point of visiting them each time I go. Their hospitality is unparalleled. On my visits to stately homes, I find that the interpreters go out of their way to help me with information, even when I say nothing about writing a book.
I think my standout trip to the UK was when I ended up getting stuck there over 9/11. The outpouring of love and sympathy from the English people who realized that we were Americans left me simply speechless.
•You’ve completed two manuscripts, The Duke’s Ballerina and The Queen’s Dollmaker. Would you tell us a little about each of them?
In The Queen’s Dollmaker, a young woman who flees Paris after a devastating fire kills both of her parents and destroys their doll shop, struggles to expand her own London dollmaking trade. She finds a surprising customer in Queen Marie Antoinette, an avid doll collector herself. This seemingly innocent exchange puts Claudette’s life in danger when she is lured back to Paris by her childhood sweetheart, who is now a fervent supporter of the revolutionary cause. Money and jewels smuggled inside dolls destined for the Queen are discovered by the fledgling French government. The two women’s lives become inexorably intertwined through lies, jealousy, and cruel passions. Both are falsely accused of crimes and sentenced to become victims of The Terror. Just one will survive, but only when she trades in her devotion to the man she thinks she loves, for complete trust in the man who loves her unconditionally.
The Duke’s Ballerina is a partially completed manuscript and is based on the true story of an 18th century romance. Giovanna Baccelli, a self-reliant, talented and willful ballerina, is dancing her heart away in France, making an international name for herself. John Sackville, the third Duke of Dorset and soon-to-be English ambassador to the court of Louis XVI, is a carefree aristocrat who amuses himself regularly with gambling, sports, and womanizing at his country estate in Kent. But when he sees Giovanna on stage in Paris, it’s love at first pirouette. The duke sacrifices his cavalier ways in order to secure a stage pass to her heart, but can it last? And together, can their love withstand disapproving Georgian society when they return to England?
•I learned that you’re a doll collector. I see how that comes into play in your stories. And we’ve heard about your travels. What other interests do you have?
I’m also an enthusiastic scrapbooker. My dream is to one day have a scrapbook chronicling how I got published!
•I understand you have an extensive library. Just how big? What types of books do you like to read, and do you have some favorite authors?
Ah yes, my library. I know many other people probably have more books, but they probably don’t go to the ridiculous storage lengths I do. My mother-in-law was a librarian before she retired, so I blame her entirely! After my husband and I married ten years ago, she found a triple card catalog unit for me that was being discarded by an elementary school and began cataloging all of my books. She eventually taught me how to catalog them myself. She also taught me to cover hardback books just as libraries do, to keep the covers in excellent condition. I have approximately 3,000 books, and unfortunately that number is growing daily. My favorite categories are British history, British historical fiction, and British historical romance. Of course!
•I know you were an entrepreneur with a corporate event planning business. That must have required lots of strategic planning and tracking of details. How do you apply those skills in relation to your writing? Do you plot the entire book before beginning, or did owning the business teach you flexibility that enhances your ability to create without a clear-cut plan, i.e. as a pantser?
I was an event planner for about seven years. At the outset of any conference/trade show/special event, I had to ask: what’s the objective of this event? When I start a manuscript, I ask myself the same question: what’s the storyline objective of this book? I think event planning directly led to my need to plot out a book before beginning. After all, you don’t call a caterer or a band before you know whether you’re planning for an elegant tea or a rodeo!
I tried pantsing with my second manuscript, but it was difficult for me, and I went back to plotting. I need to know where I’m generally headed with everything in order to write scenes. For my first manuscript, I had a ten-page synopsis written before I ever finished my first chapter.
•You’ve served as a contest judge. I know you give excellent feedback, since I’ve been the privileged recipient. What do you look for in a contest entry? What advice would you give contestants as to how to best present their work?
I really enjoy judging. In fact, I’d say I get more from it than the contestants. It gives me very good insight as to what time periods other writers are writing out there, and the unique plots and voices they are developing. I would recommend judging to any writers aspiring for publication. The biggest thing I look for in a contest entry is one that makes me forget I’m reading an entry because I’m so interested in the story. I consider myself to be a “tough but fair” judge, and do try very hard to give helpful advice to a contestant. I spend hours on each entry.
My advice to writers is not to let a judge’s comments strike home too deeply. Remember: it’s your work and any judge is just a lone opinion. It is entirely up to you whether to incorporate a judge’s comments or recommendations.
I once entered a contest in which a judge told me that my writing was terrible, I would never sell my work, and she saw very little hope that I could improve. After 30 minutes of tears, I realized that the judge probably had no awareness of the impact of her comments. I shoved her handwritten comments in a drawer and never looked at them again. If I had paid her too much attention, I probably would never have finished my manuscript.
•And didn’t you tell me you’re a member of several RWA chapters? Which ones? What do you find to be the greatest benefits of being in writers’ groups? And how ever do you keep up with all the loops and email?
Two words: Daily Digest. ☺ I am a member of Washington Romance Writers (which I consider to be my “home” chapter), Virginia Romance Writers, and Maryland Romance Writers. Additionally, I’m a member of (and love) both the Hearts Through History and Beau Monde chapters of Romance Writers of America. I’ve noticed a lot of fellow writers cross-pollinate themselves on chapters, and it’s fun to see them appear on different loops.
I’ve found two enormous benefits to belonging to these kinds of groups. One is that you have ready access to an astonishing collective brainpower. It’s amazing what some of these writers know and are happy to share with you. Second is the remarkable amount of encouragement and support that flows from these other writers who share your same journey. Thus concludes my RWA® commercial. Go on. Join if you haven’t already.
•In closing I want to say what a pleasure it was to have you visit today, Christine, and ask if you have any final thoughts or questions for your visitors?
Keli, I’d love to know how many books other writers and readers out there have in their personal libraries. And what subject do they have the most of? If it’s Romance, any particular sub-genre that lines every square inch of their living spaces? I’d love to hear about everyone’s personal collections!
Leave a Comment for Christine
Christine will drop by throughout the day to chat. She’d love to hear from you.
If you don’t see a comment form below, please use the link by the post title.
In honor of the fact that Christine not only has an extensive library but catalogs her books using the Dewey decimal system, I’m holding a drawing for two $5 Borders® gifts cards and motivational bookmarks.
Two people leaving comments for Christine from 9/4 to 9/7 will each receive the two items. I’ll hold the first drawing the evening of 9/4 and the second the evening of 9/7.
If you don’t wish to participate, say so in your comment, and your request will be honored.
Congratulations to Delilah Marvelle, winner of the first drawing, and to Debra Key Newhouse, winner of the second.
If you would like to get in contact with Christine, please say so in your comment, and I’ll send her your email address.