Meet Debut Author Anthea Lawson

Anthea Lawson is the pen name for a husband and wife team, Anthea and Lawson, who create historical romances set in exotic locales during the Victorian period. Their debut novel, Passionate, which released in October 2008, was a RITA® finalist this year for Best First Book. Prior to that, the story was a 2006 Golden Heart® finalist. Their second book, All He Desires, is due to hit the shelves next month.

Talent oozes from this couple’s fingertips. Not only do they write awarding-winning stories, but they’re also two of three members comprising the Celtic group Fiddlehead. Anthea plays the fiddle and sings; Lawson plays the guitar for the band, but he also plays the banjo and bodhran (a one sided Irish drum played with a two-headed drumstick). They’ve been performing together for 15 years and have produced several CDs.

Anthea and Lawson live in Olympia, Washington with their daughter, where Lawson works for the state and Anthea teaches Irish fiddle. The couple met through an online writers’ group in the early days of the Internet and conducted much of their courtship via email. And lest you have concerns about a man writing romance, Lawson proposed to Anthea at sunrise on a bluff overlooking the ocean. Can you say aaah?

Join me as we learn about more about Anthea and Lawson and their journey to publication.

(Look at the bottom of the post for multiple drawing prizes offered, including TWO copies of their debut novel, Passionate.)

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Anthea and Lawson

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Anthea Lawson’s Journey Begins

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•You sold the first book you wrote. When did you begin the story, and how long did it take to get it “right”?

(Note: I’ve asked Anthea to put an A in front of her answers, and Lawson to use an L for his. Yeah, I know. Real creative, huh? 🙂 )

A: I got inspired to write a romance, sat down, and in two weeks had written twenty-five thousand words of a novel. Unfortunately, although the story was interesting and compelling inside my head, it hadn’t come out that way on the page. Lawson read it, furrowed his brow, (Lawson adds: it was only a very small furrow) and together we started learning the craft of fiction. It took about two years and many re-writes to get the book to the point we felt it was finished – and then another year and half of improvements based on agent and editor feedback to end up with the final version of Passionate.

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•Where did you come up with the idea for Passionate? Did the characters start chatting, did you visualize a certain scene or did an entire story play out in one of your head’s movie style?

A: I had just finished reading a book that promised romance with exotic adventure, but didn’t deliver on the adventure part. I love historical settings, and I began to imagine what would take characters to interesting and exotic lands – a botanical expedition! Lawson started brainstorming story ideas and characters with me, which was a lot of fun, especially the villainous Cousin Reggie. We knew what the high and low points of the story would be (more or less) but had to write the book to know how to fill in the holes.

L: Our process involves a lot of time spent together talking about the characters and plot of the story. We ask and answer questions about the characters for each other and bring in the bits and pieces of research that get woven into the story. For Passionate, there was a book (The Plant Hunters) about British “adventure botanists” who went on expeditions to bring back plant specimens for the gardens of Europe. That one really inspired us.

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•Much of Passionate is set in Tunisia and All He Desires in Crete. What led you to choose such exotic locales? Have you been able to visit these wonderful places in the name of research?

L: We live in Western Washington State where it is gray and drizzly all winter long. Someone once described our climate this way: Go into your bathroom, turn out the light, get in the shower with the water on cold. Now stay there—for six months! While it’s not quite that bad, you do start longing for bright sun and warm breezes by the time midwinter arrives. Some of that longing found its way into the settings and locations in our first two stories. We wrote about places we would like to visit, but never have—yet.

One of our dreams is to someday write a novel while living on an island in the Mediterranean. I imagine walking on the beach in the morning with Anthea, chatting about our characters while the sun sparkles on the water and waves make that peaceful shushing sound as they run up on the shore.

A: What Lawson said!

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Anthea Lawson’s Mountaintop Experiences

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•In March 2006, you received a call from a Romance Writers of America® board member that many an unpublished writer longs to get. Your story, the first you’d written, then known as Fortune’s Flower, was a Golden Heart finalist. How did you react to this news? Did that final open any doors for you?

A: Finaling in the Golden Heart was a tremendous boost – to our own confidence in our writing, and in terms of getting an agent. After the Golden Heart final, we saw a definite increase in interest from agents and ended up signing not long after. Getting that Golden Heart call is a rush! The support among the other finalists and RWA® in general was wonderful.

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•You sold two books to Kensington Zebra. Where were you when you received The Call, and who took it? Who was most excited? And was your happy dance a dignified waltz, an 80s-style disco number or something beyond description?

A: Our agent called to let us know we had an offer from Kensington. We both got on the phone and were thrilled to hear that they wanted TWO books! Thrilled and a little panicked, since we weren’t sure we could do it again – book two was only about halfway written at that point. I think I was most excited – Lawson was stunned but very pleased. We were in the kitchen, and I remember big hugs and high-fives. Oh, and we do know how to waltz…

L: All my dances are beyond description.

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Passionate made its debut a year ago this month. What was your reaction when you held your book in your hands for the first time? How did you celebrate your release? A huge launch party with plenty of Celtic music playing perhaps?

L: For me it was strange to see that oh-so-familiar stack of manuscript paper packaged and turned into a book. It really takes a while to sink in. You open the pages and read a little just to make sure it’s really yours. It is! The publisher didn’t make a mistake and put somebody else’s words in there. Every book you have ever picked up in your life has had someone else’s words inside, but this one, this one has yours. There are the characters you created. There is that line you wrote and rewrote to get just right.

You don’t get just one copy. They come in a big box and then you realize that this is not the only box: there are thousands of copies being sent out to stores across the United States. You are published! Ding! Whether the book succeeds or fails in the marketplace, you are a novelist. No one can ever take that away.

As for the celebration, we rented a local historic mansion and threw a big release party with a reading and book signing. Here is Anthea at the signing table looking proud and writerly.

Anthea at book signing

A: When the box of author copies came, we each took a book and sat side-by-side on the couch, flipping through the pages and reading passages aloud to one another. It took a while to comprehend that, yes, this really was OUR book!

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•You received another call from RWA® this year with news that Passionate was a finalist in the RITA for Best First Book. How many glasses did you shatter with your shrieks? And what was it like being at RWA Nationals as a RITA finalist?

A: The night before, I had made some joke about getting a call from RWA the next day, never DREAMING it would actually be a reality. Kelley St. John called that morning and as soon as she identified herself, I felt an enormous, quivering smile take over my whole body. She asked how I was, and I said “Really excited!” which made her laugh. Lawson kept saying “no way.” It was fabulous.

And Nationals as a RITA finalist – wow! I felt like a princess, and had a great time. Sadly, Lawson couldn’t come – his work schedule was set before we even had Nationals on the map.

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Anthea Lawson’s Process

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•I’m sure you’re asked this repeatedly, but how does your collaborative process work? What strengths do each of you bring to the writing partnership? How do you divvy the duties?

L: Anthea is fearless about facing a blank page and filling it with words, and she has an unsinkable optimism that drives the whole project forward. She is also a very lyrical writer with a great sense of description and detail. Usually we talk the scene through, then she drafts it. After that, I come through and work the second draft. I focus on character emotion and dialogue and will add sentences, paragraphs, and mini-scenes. Then it is back to Anthea. Meanwhile, we are thinking and talking about what comes in the next chapter, plus the overall arc of the story.

Now that we are published, our agent is pitching our next books based on the first three chapters and a synopsis. We have to think the whole story through and have a good idea who the characters are before we have written much of the story. I’m sure our process will continue to evolve and change as we develop as writers and storytellers. For one thing, now we have to complete books in months instead of years.

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•What challenges do you face co-authoring a novel. How do you overcome them?

L: For me, the biggest challenge is keeping up with Anthea. She thinks fast, writes fast, and wants to move forward quickly. I’m more deliberative. I want to get things right, to consider options, to make it really, really good. The mixture and interplay of our drives makes for better stories, but it takes compromise and understanding.

Of course writing novels together is more than just being co-authors. For Anthea and me, doing creative projects is really how we move through life as a couple. We do it as musicians, as parents, as business partners and as writers. It’s woven into the fabric of our lives. We have had years now to get to know our complementary strengths and to develop a deep respect for each other.

A: One of the interesting challenges is coming to a mutual vision of what is going to happen in the book. With Passionate, we had talked about a scene taking place during a meal aboard the ship as the characters travel to the Mediterranean. I drafted it as an alfresco luncheon out on the deck—while it turns out Lawson had envisioned a formal dinner inside! We had some negotiating to do on that one (grin). Since then, we’ve learned to clearly articulate the scenes we feel are most important. Other things we can leave sketchy and see what happens in the writing, and we’re getting pretty good at hearing one-another out, even if at first we don’t agree.

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Anthea Lawson’s Debut Novel

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•Please tell us about Passionate.

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Passionate CoverA finalist for the RWA RITA Best First Book award, this debut Victorian-set novel takes the reader on a romantic adventure from the ballrooms and parlors of London through the Mediterranean to the exotic valleys of Tunisia. Fans of Julia Quinn and Connie Brockway will enjoy this witty foray into the outer edges of civilization—and propriety.

Temptation…

Before she must wed, Lily Strathmore decides upon one final adventure—a botanical expedition through the wilds of North Africa with her uncle and his family. In search of a fabled bloom, James Huntington soon joins them. Handsome to a fault and rakish to boot, he has the maddening habit of catching Lily at her most improper…

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•Since All He Desires will hit the shelves soon, please tell us about it as well.

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All He DesiresAll He Desires features a brooding hero and a pure, but passionate, heroine. Self-exiled on the Isle of Crete, an English doctor with a troubled past meets the one woman who can bring him out of the shadows and into the light.

And then he kissed her…

Far from home and her noble relatives, Miss Caroline Huntington has been injured in a fall from her horse. Called to her side, Alex Trentham knows he must assist her, though he has sworn not to practice medicine again. Caroline is all that is warm and feminine, beautiful and pure. Brave to a fault, she does not flinch under his hands and is soon on the mend. Alex struggles to hide his feelings, knowing his dark past shadows any hope of a future, but the beautiful Caroline is impossible to resist…

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Anthea Lawson’s Journey Continues

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Passionate has been out for a year, and All He Desires will be available this November. What can your readers look forward to next?

A: We are currently working on a new series set against the glittering backdrop of 19th century musical celebrity. We’re enjoying taking talented, spirited heroines, pairing them with masterful heroes, and adding music to the mix. It’s fun to weave our own experience as performing musicians into the books!

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Five Fun Facts About Anthea

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~ Chocolate helps me make my word count goals!

~ I’m an Aquarius.

~ I have never broken any bone in my body – and I climbed lots of trees as a kid.

~ In middle school I thought I would be an astrophysicist when I grew up. (Probably Carl Sagan’s fault.)

~ I need at least 9 hours of sleep a night. True!

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Five Fun Facts About Lawson

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~ I play five instruments: guitar, banjo, mandolin, bouzouki and bodhran.

~ My favorite number is the number five.

~ I wrote all the words in italics on page 5 of Passionate.

~ I can easily do five pushups (but not while being tickled).

~ I have visited five foreign countries (drat, it was six, but Canada didn’t stamp my passport).

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Anthea and Lawson’s Questions for You

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•I’ve enjoyed having you as my guests, Anthea and Lawson. Thanks for your great answers to my questions. Now it’s your turn to ask a question of your visitors, so let’s have one from each of you.

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Have you read Passionate yet? We’re giving away two copies to make it easier for you! Ok, ok, here is the real question . . . Where is the most exotic place you’ve ever been?

To leave a comment, click on “Comments” below the date in the title at the top of the post.

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Learn More About Anthea Lawson

Visit “her” Web site ~ http://anthealawson.com

Friend “her” on Facebook ~ Anthea Lawson

Follow “her” on Twitter ~ AntheaLawson

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Leave a Comment for Three Chances to Win

To leave a comment, click on “Comments” below the date in the title at the top of the post.

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Special Drawing

Anthea and Lawson have generously offered to give away TWO copies of Passionate to two visitors who leave a comment for them.

To enter the drawing, just leave a comment for Anthea and/or Lawson by October 13th and enter your email address when prompted. (I don’t share your information or add it to any mailing lists.) On October 14th, I’ll post the winners’ names here.

Congratulations to the winners: Janette Harjo and Alison.

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My Regular Drawing

My next drawing will take place October 20th. I’m giving away an etched steel magnet with the word Dream scroll cut from the center of the oval disc.

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Dream magnet

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To enter the drawing, just leave a comment on any blog post by October 20th and enter your email address when prompted. (I don’t share your information or add it to any mailing lists.) On October 21st, I’ll post the winner’s name in the Welcome post at the top of the blog.

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You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook

If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by me, your blog hostess Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and October 31st. Be sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) Click red link above to see samples of covers and pages.

On November 1st, I will choose one person who will have her/his choice of covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your debut novel in your hands.

(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
This entry was posted in author interview, first sale story, Golden Heart, husband and wife writing team, RITA, Romance Writers of America and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Meet Debut Author Anthea Lawson

  1. Quilt Lady says:

    I am sorry to say I don’t travel much except in books so I have never been to an exotic place!

  2. Keli Gwyn says:

    Welcome, Anthea and Lawson! I’m excited to have my first husband and wife romance author team on my blog. I enjoyed learning more about you, your writing and your collaborative process.

    I don’t know if it classifies as exotic, but my husband and I lived in Germany four and a half years early in our marriage. We were able to visit several countries during our time in Europe and feel blessed to have had that opportunity.

  3. Laurie Ryan says:

    You’re going to laugh at my answers. I think they are exotic, in the sense that not too many people get there. Both are very chilly spots. Greenland and Prudhoe Bay (way north in Alaska). What can I say? I’m a cold freak.

    Lawson mentioned the word lyrical for your writing. I agree. Passionate is a wonderful story and I am very anxious to start turning the pages of All He Desires!
    Congrats, Anthea and Lawson. And I wish you many future rewards…and awards!

  4. Lavada Dee says:

    I have read Passionate and not only loved it but took that elusive something away that makes me remember it and no doubt will for a long time. This is what classics are made of.

    Congratulations on a great interview blog. It’s one of the best I’ve read. Knowing Anthea and Lawson to a lesser degree I can say it captured their characters. All He Desires is on my list of “Must Buys”.

  5. Sean Williams says:

    The most exotic locale I’ve ever been to was a betel-nut exchange ceremony on the Indonesian island of Flores. We were far up on top of a mountain in a very very crowded clan house where seven different families lived, pounding half-coconut shells on the floors in rhythm, singing, dancing, passing woven cloths around, choking from the smoke of multiple fire pits and clove cigarettes, and tipsy from very locally-made alcohol. The suspended wooden floor was bouncing, and most people’s mouths were dark red from the betel-nut.

  6. Most exotic? Maybe a primitive log cabin in the wilds of Wyoming. Of course I’ve read “Passionate”, several times, in several different guises. I’m really proud of how it turned out. Good job, kids!

  7. Janette Harjo says:

    I *loved* your interview! And I envy your partnership!!

    Janette Harjo

  8. Janette Harjo says:

    Oh! The most exotic place I’ve visited? Hmm . . . I would have to say Switzerland. But “exotic” is in the eye of the beholder. :))

  9. The most exotic places I’ve been were on one trip: Victoria Falls and on safari in the Okavango in Zimbabwe. I love the exotic locales of your books! Congrats and wishing you the huge success you deserve for this stellar new release!

    Margaret Mallory
    http://www.margaretmallory.com
    Knight of Desire, 4 Stars RT Book Reviews
    Knight of Pleasure, 4 Stars RT Book Reviews

  10. No exotic locales for me; dh did them while in the service and has been in no hurry to return. However, now that the children are grown, he’s making noises that might indicate a change of heart, so we’ll see.

  11. Thanks for having us on your fabulous blog, Keli! And thanks to everyone who stopped by and left such nice comments. We enjoyed doing this interview very much!

  12. Linda Henderson says:

    I have not read the book yet. I guess the most exotic place I’ve been is Juarez Mexico.

  13. Alison says:

    Wow, I’d love to read ‘Passionate’ – I’m fascinated by those plant hunters! Some made it to the himalayas and brought back many plants for UK and USa gardens. My most exotic place so far is Panama, which I was lucky enough to visit four years ago and have some very vivid memories.

  14. Susan Mason says:

    “Passionate” sounds like a wonderful read. I enjoyed learning how you work together. I think I write more like Lawson, and could use an Anthea in my world. LOL.

    The most exotic place I’ve been is Hawaii (sigh). It was a LONG time ago, but so magical with the beautiful Hawaiian people, the palm trees and the amazing colour of the ocean! Oh, and volcanoes! There you go. Exotic.

    Best of luck with your new release in November!

  15. What a great range of exotic places! Some would definitely be too cold for us (looking at you, Laurie!). Sean, your Indonesia description was lovely and soo exotic. Europe (I’ve only been to Ireland) and Mexico and Hawaii and, ooh, Lawson got to go to Panama two years ago on a fishing trip with his Dad, and really loved it. The world is full of marvelous places. Thanks everyone for sharing!

  16. That is so romantic!!! And wonderful that you and your husband can write together like that. I’ve mentioned it to mine, but he’s not real keen. In fact, if I read aloud from a romance, he doesn’t want to hear it. And yet he expects me to write one. Hence my block, I’ve just realized. You two are an inspiration. I will have to show him this when he comes home.
    Thank you, Keli, for having them.
    Julie

  17. Kayla says:

    That’s a hard question to answer when you don’t get to do a lot of traveling… I haven’t been much of anywhere, but I would love to go visit my family in England and Austria.

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