While Cass Grafton has several popular regency and time travel romance books under her belt, she has stepped into a third genre for her latest work – a “contemporary upbeat romance” entitled The Cottage In A Cornish Cove.
If the reviews are anything to go by, it was a move worth making. “Utterly joyful”, “like a warm hug” and “romance to make you weak at the knees” are just a sample of the praise on offer.
I was delighted when she agreed to be my latest Behind The Book interviewee because I was intrigued as to why she decided to take the risk and head down that different path.
Before we get to the Q&A , here’s the blurb:
Orphaned as a baby and raised by uncaring relatives, much of Anna Redding’s happiness as a child came from the long summer holidays spent with an elderly family friend, Aunt Meg, in the coastal village of Polkerran.
With Aunt Meg’s passing, Anna is drawn back to the West Country, relocating to the Cornish cove where she was once so happy. Filled with memories, she hopes to perhaps open a B&B—and perhaps cross paths with Alex Tremayne again, a local boy she used to have a major crush on and who only had to walk past Anna to make her heart flutter.
Settling into her new life, and enjoying her work for the older, reclusive and—to be honest—often exasperating Oliver Seymour, Anna is delighted when Alex reappears in Polkerran and sweeps her off her feet.
The stars finally seem to be aligned, but just as Anna thinks all she’s ever wished for is within reach, a shock discovery brings everything under threat, and she discovers she’s living a dream that isn’t hers.
Can Anna rescue the new life she has made for herself and, when the testing moment comes, will anyone be there to hold her hand?
When did you realise you wanted to be a writer? And how have you gone about achieving that dream?
I wanted to be a writer from my early years, and in my teens, I started many stories but never got beyond a few chapters. Life took over after that, and it was years later that I started writing again.
Initially, this was online fan fiction (historical romance), posted chapter by chapter over a few years, because I fitted my writing in around a demanding full-time job, and I had no plans to publish it when I finished. Then, after a milestone birthday—not long after a run-in with a serious illness—I realised that if not now, when? That was when my forays into self-publishing began.
When we moved to Switzerland six years ago, I was finally able to focus full-time on writing, initially co-writing a time-travel romance with my friend, Ada Bright, and then another solo project (historical romance again).
Canelo Escape then picked up the time-travel romance (along with my back list of historical romances) and commissioned a sequel.
Once that was written, I was able to return to an on-going project, my latest release, The Cottage in a Cornish Cove.
I know you’re a big Jane Austen fan – and, indeed, feature her in your time travel books and some of her most well-liked characters in others. Why do you think her books remain so popular? Why did you want to include her in yours? And were you ever worried about how they would be received, given how much she is still loved?
I think Jane Austen’s books have been able to stand the test of time because they centre on families, relationships, friendships and finding love. These are all universal themes, resonating as much today as they did 200 years ago.
The inspiration for the time-travel story came from staying in a holiday flat in what was one of Jane Austen’s former homes. My over-active imagination was soon envisioning Jane there, having slipped through time to the present day.
As for putting words into the mouth of Jane Austen… the thing is, when Ada and I plotted the outline of the first book, we were very clear about Jane not being a main character. We didn’t want the responsibility of depicting someone who was renowned for her acerbic wit and cleverness with words.
As it happened, Jane was having none of it. She took over and became the main feature, and we’re so grateful she did. She was the best fun to work with. Thankfully, she’s been well received, so we think we didn’t do too bad a job.
How much research did you have to do for those books? Was that an enjoyable part of the process?
There was a lot of research! Mostly, I enjoy it, especially when it’s a great excuse to go and stay in Bath (which I did frequently during the writing of the first book) or Chawton in Hampshire (ditto the second book).
It can be challenging, as various books about Jane Austen’s life express differing opinions on ‘facts’, even amongst well-respected scholars. Jane’s letters to her sister became the best illustration of her character in the end. As our books are a work of fiction, we did our best to weave factual information into the story and just crossed our fingers that we got the balance right.
Your latest novel, The Cottage In a Cornish Cove, is a slight departure from your other books in that it’s a contemporary romance. Can you tell us about writing it?
It’s an idea I had many years ago. So long ago, we were all wearing shoulder pads and, back then, mobile phones and the Internet had never been heard of.
Romance has always been my go-to genre as a reader (after the classics, which I also love). I love heart-warming stories with romance (and some humour) at their core, and so I decided to have a go at writing one.
I’ve always loved Cornwall and longed to live there, a pipe dream that even as an adult I knew would never happen. One of the joys of being a writer is that if you can’t do something, you can imagine it through one of your characters. I decided to write about someone who does get the chance to live there and how it changes her life.
I know you’re already working on book two in the series, is it nice to go back to characters and a place you’re already familiar with?
I can’t wait to go back to Polkerran! I fell in love with it and the locals and I’m loving writing a new story set there.
You have lived in various countries around the world, how important is the setting in your books? How did you come up with your fictional village of Polkerran for your Cornish series? Would you like to live there, if you could?
Location has become a key feature of my romance stories, be they historical, time-travel or contemporary, so much so it almost becomes a character too.
Polkerran is inspired by family holidays in the small fishing village of Polperro and later holidays taken by my husband and I in Fowey. Fowey sits opposite a smaller settlement, Polruan, either side of the Fowey river where it flows out into the sea.
I ‘closed off’ the estuary in my story and turned it into a bay—the Cove—adding a small harbour. There are two properties on either side of the cove that feature in the story, the gothic Harbourwatch on the west side and the large cottage, Westlerleigh, on the east (both inspired by two existing properties, one on each side of the Fowey river).
I’d love to live there, and thankfully I can through the characters!
In the past you have written with a co-author, how does that work? Is it an enjoyable process? How do you decide what route the story will take?
Ada lives in California and I live in Switzerland, so all our actual writing takes place at a distance of several thousand miles, but when we’re outlining the plot, we like to be in the same place and time zone, so the planning of the first book took place—naturally—in Bath!
We outline an overall plot arc for the main story, then return to our homes and start writing, during which the characters will run away with it all and we’ll occasionally have to rein them (or each other) in to get back on track. It’s a lot of fun!
We both find writing together a more smooth, structured process than when we each go it alone. We have a set routine (there’s a 9-hour time difference between us), and we both work on every chapter, so much so that by the end, we sometimes can’t remember who wrote what.
You’ve had experience of both working with a publisher and indie publishing, can you share a pro and con of each?
Being with a publisher gives you some credibility, something that can be hard to come by in self-publishing, especially when starting out.
When you self-publish, you have full control over everything—title, cover design, who to use as editor, how to market the book and where, when to discount it etc. With a publisher, you are very much in their hands. If you don’t like the cover, title, structural edits made to your story, then there’s not much you can do about it.
What does your writing day look like? Do you have set times and always write in the same place?
On a usual day, I am at my desk by 7.30am and try to write for a few hours. Then I will walk for an hour or two before eating my lunch (watching Bargain Hunt—love a good antiques show). I try to keep admin and social media etc to the afternoon. This plan doesn’t always work, but it is the norm.
At home, I write at my desk, but if I’m travelling somewhere, I love to find a quiet corner in a cafe, pub or anywhere where I can stop to people-watch whenever I feel like it. I write at my best with ambient noise around me.
Do you have one top writing tip you can pass on please?
Keep going, even when you think what you are writing is fodder for the nearest bin. Sometimes, you’ll go back and look at it and agree, but quite often you’ll be surprised and think, ‘hey, that’s not bad’!
If you don’t get the words on the page, you can’t improve them, so just keep going until you reach the end.
Thank you so much to Cass for answering my questions so thoroughly. I especially love her final writing tip. So true! To find out more about Cass, please visit her website, follow her on Twitter or Facebook.
You can also find all the ways to buy The Cottage In A Cornish Cove via this link.
I’ll be back with another Behind The Book post soon.