Happy Wednesday Gentle Readers! I’m excited and pleased to introduce you to a member of HTH who has made such a positive and energizing impact on the group!
You might know Christa from her active presence in the forum and for introducing the highly popular Hot Topic Tuesday (or for her fascinating experiences as a volunteer worker!) but now is your chance to get to know a bit more about her and her writing.
Minerva Spencer: Thanks so much for joining me on the blog today, Christa! Before we start talking about your writing, tell us a little about yourself and what you write.
Christa Bedwin: I’m a world-travelling, adventurous, homeschooling single mom. Now that my son is six feet tall, intelligent, curious, and well mannered, I have a little more time to write and I’m loving it! I grew up in the mountains on a cattle ranch in Canada, but now I really love islands and Europe (and being warm!) best.
I love friendly communities with people who care for each other, places that are organic and where people care for the environment, and beautiful, vibrant, colourful landscapes. We have travelled to a lot of fascinating communities and countries with farm volunteering, and met a lot of wonderful and crazy characters living curious mixtures of modern and historical ways of life. Those widespread, interesting approaches to living worm their way into my books.
MS: You have certainly had a fascinating life!! Do you write full-time or part-time?
CB: It’s funny – my parents told me that to be a writer wasn’t a real job, but I’ve made almost all of my income over the past two decades either writing or editing anyway!
I started out as a high school chemistry and math teacher, but within my first 3 years, McGraw-Hill had hired me on a full-time contract to write and edit chemistry textbooks. In fact, I had actually asked the woman who connected me with that job through a “Word on the Street” fair if she knew anyone that wanted any romance novels, since I had three written so far (that was in 1999).
She laughed and said no, and shook her head in that “every amateur thinks they can write a novel” way. So I said, “How about chemistry textbooks? I have always wanted to write a chemistry textbook.” She said, “Well, actually… yes.” I wrote an audition (from Australia, using the new Environment Canada webpage for research – the technology boggles!) and got the job. That spun into more work and ever more work and distracted me from my fiction for, oh, 15 years or so!
The silly thing about my writing career at the beginning was that I lacked the confidence to put my fiction out there. It was easier to take all those science-writing and technical contracts that fed my son and I. Now, I did serve the world well through writing and editing engaging, accurate, interesting textbooks for teens and teachers, but I think that the highest good I can do in this world is through fiction. With stories, we can help make society be a better place by helping people to think wiser, happier thoughts. I think people who read interesting, curious books are more likely to think of out-of-the-box solutions to life’s troubles, to ponder others’ motives, and to take more risks with new situations. I love readers.
MS: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
CB: When I was twelve, and I realized that I could use my own difficulties to write to help other people through their hard times. I didn’t really mean to keep on having a tricky sort of life, but… wow, I have been through a lot of situations and seen life from a lot of angles, now. When I get a little peace and ease, I write, write, write! And finally, finally, I’m getting brave enough to share my thoughts with the world. I’ve finally collected readers who love what I’m writing – too bad I didn’t know how to find those people sooner! But I’m here now.
I love to laugh at the absurdities of fate and the twists and turns life throws at us, and it’s so fun to be able to write situations where everything works out in a satisfying way. As my grandmother told me long ago, romance novels are great for making women feel good. She used herself, a widow, and her neighbour, whose husband was often away with work, as examples of women who can feel warm and loved by reading when life doesn’t give us the fairy tale. Now I know, intimately, that spinsters/single moms need love too. We are just as bereft as the widows are, and maybe even more, because we have no memories to warm us! Plenty of married women don’t have as much warmth or love as they would like, either.
So we need romance. Joy. Adventure. And books can help to fill that need. Even with little kids, we can steal moments for ourselves and find solace in the pages of delicious books. I think that’s one of the most important things in the world, helping others feel good and live better. Happiness is so important for parenting, living, serving others, staying healthy.
MS: What drew you to write in the historical romance genre?
CB: Something I always loved about reading Harlequin Presents in the ‘80s and ‘90s was the international travel aspect of the books – the food, the architecture, the nature, the different ways of life. I’m sure that’s part of what led me to travel so much myself, and now I’m in a place to share that rich multicultural smorgasbord of life with readers, who might not be able to travel so much.
At the time I dreamed up Caterina’s Renaissance, I was living on a little island, and completely unable to find a man to date, much less a husband. Somewhere in my despair at this deficiency in my real life, I started to dream of a hero from the Renaissance. Someone strong, yet learned. Someone who had travelled in his own time. Someone who wasn’t addicted to a smartphone! A man from the past seemed ideal.
Combining world travel and history just adds an extra layer of excitement and spice, I think. I love reading historical novels myself. With all the characters in the past, it’s easier to excuse human failings, somehow – no distraction being annoyed about the foibles of modern society that way!
MS: If you could time travel, what era would you visit?
CB: I know that some writers like to find one time period and stick to it, but when someone asks me my favourite colour, I say “rainbow.” My answer to this question is: many!
I have travelled to almost fifty countries now, and I write historical and time-travel romances back to a variety of time periods. So far I have written about Renaissance Venice, Enlightenment-era Edinburgh, post-Roman Cornwall, and 18th century Acadian history in Canada-France. I just love all the things there are to learn and share, all the colour and life and traditions and food and fabrics and technologies and… oh, it’s so fun.
MS: Are there specific books or authors who have influenced you as a writer?
CB: I love what Maeve Binchy said about her characters starting out as losers and getting better by the end of the book, and I try to do that. I think our power as authors is to help our readers see their way out of difficult situations sometimes.
At the moment, I’m also devouring a lot of M.C. Beaton. She writes such funny characters and fun situations. I am glad she’s so prolific because I love escaping into her books – they’re like comfort food. My editor recently told me that of all the people she’s editing right now, she’s chosen my “heart-warming characters” as her bedtime reading. That’s who I want to be with on the bookshelves and in history – on the lists with the other authoresses who love to make people feel good and put smiles on readers’ faces.
MS: Who’s your favorite historical figure?
CB: There are some amazing women in the past, and in general we haven’t heard enough about them yet! I like to explore time periods where women, or at least some of them, had a certain amount of personal power in society.
In Caterina’s Renaissance, Veronica Franco, a Renaissance Venice cortigiana onesta (an honest or intellectual courtesan), is a key player in helping the hero and heroine along on their adventure. In real life, Veronica Franco was known and loved for her intellect and wisdom, and she had enough power in Venice to help shape peaceful politics for La Serenissima during her lifetime.
It is inspiring to study her way of being, how she was so feminine and yet so powerful, and to weave that into a story. I believe that just reading about women who have held power and done good in their times helps us to find our own power and our own unique ways to navigate society in our own times. I think that modern women are often almost afraid of our femininity and the power we wield. Sexy women have been so villainized by the media and even women’s magazines. Through studying historical women who understood being sexy, smart, powerful, and good, I think we can gain more confidence in our own roles in the modern world.
In a medieval romance that is also on my plate for later this year, Queen Balthild, a Merovingian Queen who was a slave before she was a queen, has an influence. The real Queen Balthild was instrumental in outlawing slavery in her realm (what is now France) by the year 650 AD: about 350 years earlier than England, and 1200 years ahead of America! Another strong and sexy woman I’m excited to wrap a plot around.
Enlightenment-Era Edinburgh, before Victorian times and the Regency Era, was also a period where women were granted a certain intellectual and societal respect. I’m setting a little trilogy in that time period, too. Village and farm women of all ages have sometimes held more power than the wealthy classes we have traditionally read about. I’m exploring that in an early medieval book too.
MS: Tell us about your latest release and what’s coming next for you.
CB: Caterina’s Renaissance is a romance between a modern-day west coast island woman and a man who appears in her bed fresh from Renaissance Venice. She’s been dreaming of him, and the chemistry is very powerful from the beginning.
The book takes a turn for the unexpected when it turns out she’s had a dragon living with her for some time. He has been invisible to her, but Massimo and her neighbours can see him. He’s sort of a mischievous fellow who sings in a deep voice and likes to taunt the cat and laugh at Caterina and Masssimo, but who turns out to be a key helper for their adventures into the past. This book is a lot of fun, and my readers tell me that they have a huge crush on Massimo and think about the book when they’re not reading it. My characters are nice people to be around and interesting to think about, and that makes me so happy.
Something that surprised me about this book (well, actually, the dragon jumping into it was a big surprise, but it turned out we needed him, so okay) is how much readers love the neighbour couple, Frank and Maureen. They’re modeled after the real neighbours I had when I lived on the island this book is set in. The real Frank really does have a giant greenhouse, and Maureen truly is that insightful about people… whether they can actually accomplish the magic feats they do in the book, I am not sure, but I would not put it past them!
MS: What are you working on now?
CB: Well… a rainbow of things!
Blodwyn’s Redemption: The sequel to Caterina’s Renaissance. The villainess who was trying to destroy what others held dear in Caterina’s Renaissance loses her memory and goes back in time to post-Roman Cornwall. She learns about her own goodness and value to the community as she heals from terrible injuries, and when she remembers her villainy in the past, she’s horrified. Luckily, the hero loves her enough to go through fire – and time – for her. It’s a passionate, complicated tale, and yet really so simple: love conquers all, if only we can accept it.
Idelle’s Inheritance (out in July 2018)/ Idelle’s Englightenment (Fall 2018)/ Moira’s Modern Mayhem (Winter 2018) is a time-travel trilogy set between modern-day Edinburgh and the inspiring Enlightenment period in that same incredible city. It all begins when Idelle inherits a Georgian house and the clan lands from her aunt, and tumbles back in time to meet her “cousin” Moira. Moira helps Idelle solve a legal problem, and then, frustrated with the limitations forced on her in the 18th century, decides to follow Idelle to the future.
In Idelle’s Englightenment, we’ll find out how Idelle transforms her life from the rut she was stuck in, and how she learns to balance love, her career, and her new inheritance. Should she trust that Graeme, who she’s wanted for so long, really does want her now? Or would she be better off striking out on her own? Moira’s around sharing the house, insisting that the world change for the better, giving various bits of good and bad advice, and making blunders and discoveries of her own. If the first book in this series is like a cozy tea and scone break, this book is more like a surprisingly spicy curry meal!
It’s only in Moira’s Modern Mayhem that Moira’s fire is fully unleashed. Like Idelle, she ends up being faced with deciding exactly what it is she wants with her life. To be loved like there’s no tomorrow? To make a difference in the world with her career? What is it that matters most? And does she have to give up one to have the other?
Thanks so much for joining me today, Christa! You can read more about Christa and learn about her books at her website and the links below.
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