Gayle Callen is a romance author with many pen nameswho writes trilogies and moves effortlessly from medieval to historical and contemporary romances. (Photo: Copyright Jim Callen)

Thank you for taking the time for this interview.

You’re welcome! Thanks for asking.

I’ve just finished the first novel in your series about the „Scandalous Lady“ – „Ein verführerischer Akt“ (In Pursuit of a Scandalous Lady) – and met some wonderful new heroes and heroines in it. How did you think of the topic, a scandalous portrait and a stolen diamond?

It came about because of a conversation I had with my editor. I had proposed doing one book of a trilogy about an artist heroine who paints a special portrait, and my editor wondered if we could do a whole trilogy about the portrait, and have the reader not discover the truth until the final book. To link the three books together, we came up with the idea that no one knows who the mysterious model is. And because I really wanted to do an adventurous first book, I tried to think about what in the painting could make a bad guy chase our hero and heroine—and the stolen diamond idea was born!

How do you create your characters and stories? What is first?

Often I come up with a story idea first, like the scandalous painting. One trilogy developed because I always wanted to do a governess book (like Jane Eyre). Then I had to come up with why my heroine would have to support herself, and before I knew it, she had three sisters, who also needed jobs, because their father had killed himself. I just keep asking myself “why” questions, until I figure out the story.

Which authors influenced you the most in your writing?

I grew up reading a lot of fantasy like J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Frank Herbert’s Dune, along with watching Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek shows. Their brilliance inspired me to write my own science fiction stories in high school. But the first historical romance I ever read was Shanna, written by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. I fell in love with the whole genre and decided to write only that from then on. I also read Fern Michaels in those days, and later Loretta Chase and Susan Elizabeth Phillips, just to name a few. They still inspire me!

How do you keep the facts, heroes, their stories and different details straight? Do you have a notebook or something like that when you write a trilogy?

I keep computer files on each of my characters describing their goals, motivations, and conflicts for the book, as well as their unusual details. I also summarize each chapter as I write it, a paragraph for each scene, to remind myself of all the important points of the book, who told who what, what clue I used, etc. This really helps me when it’s time to revise. I also keep a long file of the characters used for all of my books, keeping track of what book they were in, what chapter they first entered, and their physical descriptions.

You wrote a story about Sir Geraint in „Knights of the Round Table – Geraint“ under the name Gwen Rowley. How did you come up with this pseudonym and what has been especially intriguing about the Knights of the Round Table? Do you ever plan to revisit them?

I was approached by the publisher to write one book of the Gwen Rowley trilogy. They wanted to publish them every six months, so they had another author write the first and the third books. They came to me because they knew I wrote medieval, six of them under my own name back at the beginning of my career, and more recently six more as Julia Latham. But the publisher created the Gwen Rowley name, and they retain the rights to it. I don’t think they plan to publish more books, but if they do, I hope they ask me to be part of it again. I love the fact that this mythology lives on in various parts of British history. I’d grown up reading Mary Stewart’s Merlin series, as well as other Arthurian books. I was thrilled to take one of the original characters, Geraint, whose story was never expanded, and write my own version.

Of course, every book can be read as a stand alone. But still it is very interesting that you tend to write trilogies. What about them is it that makes you choose this particular number of books?

I guess I like trilogies because as an author, I go through a lot of work creating a whole world for my characters to inhabit. I always figure, if I’m going to all that trouble, I want to get as many books out of it as I can. And I know readers like to revisit previous characters, so that makes it even more fun. Trilogies are pretty standard in fiction, so I just went with it. I actually wrote a trilogy before the Scandalous Lady one, about all the men in the family, so technically, I wrote six books in that series. I just called it two trilogies, because I have no idea if there’s a word to describe six books!

In English „Return of the Viscount“, the start of a new trilogy, will be out in August 2012. Can you tell us something about the content and the heroes we will be meeting?

After doing the female-oriented Scandalous Lady trilogy, I decided to focus on three men. I wanted men who were as close as brothers, and what makes men closer than being in the military? But they had to be ex-soldiers, or at least have the ability to be on leave, so I decided to give them a terrible secret that they felt guilty about and needed to make amends. In the first book, our hero, Michael, agrees to marry Cecilia, the daughter of his dead commander, by proxy, having never met her before. I liked the fact that the book opened with a woman “meeting” her husband for the first time! I gave it a Gothic overtone, as she wonders if her new husband is trying to kill her…

What did you think when you were informed that your books are translated into German?

I was so excited! Even though I’ve written 27 books so far, the Scandalous Lady was the first trilogy published in German. I know what great readers and fans live in Germany, because other authors talk about it often. So I was very excited to at last have my work before a German audience. I hope you all like the books! Plus, I’m half German, and family members have traced our ancestors back to the 17th century in your country.

You write about Valentine Valley under the pen name Emma Cane, a novel about Cowboys and a historic village called Valentine. The novel „A Town called Valentine“ was published in February 2012. How did that start and which do you prefer: a cowboy or a viscount?

Ooh, don’t make me choose! I honestly enjoy all sorts of men, cowboys and viscounts alike. Their differences make it exciting for an author, and hopefully for readers as well. The Emma Cane books came about after my publisher decided that medievals were too hard to sell in this economy, so I could no longer write them as Julia Latham. When I asked them what else I could write, they said Paranormals or Small Towns. I don’t get in to vampires that much, but I’d read plenty of small town stories by Debbie Macomber and Susan Elizabeth Phillips, so I tried that. I really enjoyed coming up with a contemporary town in Colorado (the state where my son lives) and writing modern characters who drive cars and talk on cellphones. And to my delight, my publisher bought it! I’ve already written the second Valentine novel, and am under contract for the third and fourth.

Could you tell your historical romance readers tell some reasons why they should start with „A Town called Valentine“?

I think “romance” is a language all to itself, whether it’s set in the past, present or future. I still write the same kind of books under any name, where the hero and the heroine have conflicts with each other because of the people they are, rather than just the situations they find themselves in. So I think my historical romance readers would like my contemporary books just as well.

What books would you recommend? And which are lying on your nightstand?

Some of my favorite books of all time are Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Nobody’s Baby But Mine. One historical and one contemporary. Anything by either of those authors is wonderful. I just finished an e-book called Taken by the Cowboy, a time-travel romance by Julianne MacLean. I really enjoyed it!

Thank you very much!