Why do you write historical romance novels?
I love history, especially Elizabethan England and Scotland. Yes, I have written several novels set in Regency England, but my editor at Dell dragged me (kicking and screaming) forward three hundred years. I will be returning to the Elizabethan Era very soon which is the great thing about self-publishing.
What do you think is the appeal of the romance novel?
Definitely, a happy ending. The external plot to a satisfying ending. After much trial and tribulation, the couple is together and happy.
When did you start writing and what first inspired you?
I read SKYE O’MALLEY and knew I wanted to write romance. Bertrice Small was my inspiration. I discovered I loved the Elizabethan era and already knew I adored Shakespeare. I actually talked about writing the book for 5 years. Then a friend said I should stop talking and start writing. So I did.
You were an English teacher for many years, did your students know about your publishing career? Did any of your students read your books?
I was teaching 8th grade while I was writing the first book but didn’t get published until I had transferred to the high school. I never really discussed it unless someone asked me a question about writing and/or publishing. A few students read my books, mostly girls, but I had more than one boy bring the book in and asked me to sign it.
Do you ever base your characters on people you know in real life?
Yes, sometimes “real life” people become characters as well as events that happen in my or someone else’s life. Here’s an example: In TO TAME A DUKE, the heroine had an 8-year-old brother who was kidnapped with her and stole every scene. I based him on my nephew, though my nephew is grown up now. Here’s another example: In FLIRTING WITH DEATH. I was at a meeting of romance writers. We broke into groups but I can’t remember what the topic was. Sitting at the table with me, Katy Cooper (writes for Harlequin), Hannah Howell (Kensington author), Patricia Barletta (Harlequin author and now self-; publishing, Myretta Robens (author of traditional Regencies. It was winter, and I had worn leggings, a sweater, and boots. I felt something irritating my inner thigh. I went to the ladies' room. When I returned, I told them I had a piece of kitty litter stuck between my thigh and my leggings. Every one of them turned to me and said, “Put it in a book.” So I did.
Did your students know about your publishing career? Did any of your students read your books?
I taught 8th grade when I started writing, but I had transferred to the high school by the time I was published. The students knew but I didn’t talk about it unless they had a question. A few students read the books, mostly girls.
You describe yourself as a dog person who lives with cats. How did you end up with so many cats?
I love big dogs, which was what the family. I’m a sucker for dogs, cats, and kids. I never meet a stray I didn’t want to take home. Anyway, I lied in a condo that allowed pets but not pets that needed to outside for the bathroom. A friend had a cat with kittens and I took one. Percy (my 1st cat) seemed very doggy to me. .I learned a hard lesson: Never take a carry case with you to an animal shelter.
People often say that with cats — they don’t live with you — you live with them. Tell us about the cats “you live with”.
People are wrong. I don’t live with them. They live with me. Though, I do admit I've spoiled them.
So many authors have pets or “fur babies.” Why do you think writers/authors love animals so much?
Many authors have “fur babies” because writing is a solitary profession.
Your historical novels almost always feature kids, animals, and butlers (majordomos) who steal every scene and you write them so well. Tell us about that.
I adore children and animals. When I look back at my teaching career, I remember the laughs my students gave me, not the irritations. Regarding those majordomos. I see long-time servants as being part of the family, sort of. Those majordomos have worked for those families for years and know most of the secrets, especially if they eavesdrop. However, if you notice, they are not usually too familiar with the lord and lady of the household. And, this is not Buckingham Palace.
You’ve written several historical romances set in the Elizabethan era, tell us about that series and what you love about it?
Elizabethan England and Scotland (1500’s) is my favorite time period. I’ve written six novels concerning the Devereux family. I had planned more books but at the time Regencies were become hugely popular so my editor suggested I fast-forward 300 years. I should clarify, I don't write traditional Regencies - I write historicals set during the Regency years, give or take a few years. I do plan to return to 1500’s Scotland, the scene of 2 of my Devereux books. I have the plot all set in my mind if I live long enough to write it.
What makes a Patricia Grasso historical romance different or unique?
I have no idea. I write the type of book I like to read. Humorous in places, witty dialogue, engaging characters. I usually have one or two emotional scenes, but I don’t enjoy books that are “gripping”.
Your historical romances tend to have murder mysteries woven into them along with supernatural and/or paranormal elements. Tell us about that.
Romance is not a plot. The story needs to have, more than the love aspect. All romance novels, even the category romances have more than a love story. The heroine and hero always have a back story and the stories also need conflict and many times the conflict is not directly related to the romance but to some external factor that makes the plot move forward.
Why murder? I adore murder and mayhem, but not bloody scenes. I also like touches of the supernatural and paranormal elements. I live in my family’s house. There are 4 spirits that live here (3 humans and one dog, but I’m not afraid because I know who they are.
You’ve also launched a contemporary “cozy mystery” series called the Zara Romano Mystery Series. Who is Zara and why did you want to write about her?
I wanted to write something different. The series takes place in Salem, Massachusetts. Zara Romano is half-Irish and half-Italian. She’s the youngest sibling in a family of 7 children and the only female. She’s a mortician and in business with 2 of her brothers. The mortuary is a good place to find murder victims. One of her brothers is the police chief and another is a detective. Her ex-boyfriend is also a detective. Salem is a relatively small city, maybe 40,000 people, and has everything a big city would have. Tourist attractions (the witches), a university, a hospital - but it also has that underlying mysterious quality because of its history. I live near Salem and have passed many hours walking around and taking notes.
In all the books you’ve written is there a particular hero/heroine or couple who stands out above all the others? Why?
The short answer is “no”. I enjoy the hero/heroine while writing the book. Though, NO DECENT GENTLEMAN is not my favorite because my mother died while I was writing it.
If you could have dinner with one of your historical romance couples, who would it be and why?
I do breakfast, lunch, and dinner with each of my couples while writing their stories. Some nights they crawl into bed with me. I did make a list of real famous people (from the beginning of time, and already deceased) whom I would invite to dinner. I limited myself to fifteen. Now that I’ve made you curious, I’ll move on to the next question.
Are you a coffee or a tea person? What’s your go-to beverage when you settle down to write?
I’m a coffee and water person. I don’t bring anything to my desk while I’m working.
What three words best describe your novels?
This is a hard one. (I hope) humorous, fast-paced, satisfying.
What encouragement can you offer aspiring writers?
Believe in yourself
Write every day. The more you write, the better you get.
Study the skill (as well as the art) of writing. Invest in a grammar book. Check out your local high school. At the end of the school year, you could probably get a freebie. Once you have the skills, you can learn the art of writing a book. Find your own unique voice.
Avoid critique groups unless the members are trustworthy. Critique groups are meant to offer feedback that is useful and constructive. In my opinion (and from my past experience) critique groups can sometimes do more harm than good. I’m sorry to say there are a lot of mean-spirited people who love to trash other people’s work. Give your work to people you trust (avoid family members if possible). If you know a published author, ask for advice. The author may not have time to read your whole book but might have time to give you some guidance, or critique your first three chapters.
Tell us about your readers and what they mean to you.
I appreciate my readers and have become good friends with some on Facebook. If several people tell me there is something they didn’t like, I’ll go back and look it over. Most of the time I agree with them. Given the chance, I will change it.
Do you believe in real-life happy endings?
Yes, of course. There aren’t enough, though. Remember this: Sometimes when you win, you are really losing. Sometimes when you lose, you are actually winning. Think about that.