Celeste Bradley is one busy author! Her first series, The Liars Club, is still going strong and she's introduced a second, The Royal Four, to sandwich inside it. We tracked down Celeste to ask her more about her work.
Celeste, welcome to TRR! You came on the romance scene in 2001 with
Fallen, released by Leisure Books. Tell us about your background before
you started writing.
Thanks, Cathy. I love The Romance Reader. As for my background, I studied art for many years and had my own business selling my pottery and sculptures to gift galleries all around the country. After I had my second child, the physical studio work became too difficult and I turned to other forms of creative self-expression.
Okay, that sounds great, but what really happened is that I was very unhappy about not working for the first time since I was fourteen and tried to lose myself in reading fiction. Iíve always been an avid reader, but I became voracious, reading up to 30 books a week. I read romance because of the lovely escapism of it. The genre of romance satisfies on so many levels. I loved the drama, the comedy, the sensuality and especially the positive outcome. When I was unhappy, I truly needed to believe that there were happy endings.
Then I had a story idea pop into my head. For fun, I wrote down a first scene. I wrote another scene, and then another. After several months, I wrote the end, stunned to realize that I had actually completed an entire novel.
As an experiment, I submitted a proposal to several agents and publishing houses in New York. I sent 18 proposals and got 17 rejections over the next several months. I found the editors to be polite, kind and encouragingóvery unlike art critics!óso I didnít find it at all dispiriting.
Then I received an email from Dorchester requesting FALLEN, the story of a spinster who wakes up with a man in her bed. I sent it off in a daze. It was all just a crazy experiment! They promptly bought it and scheduled it for a quick release. I ended up with a book on the shelves a mere twenty months after writing the first sentence.
Although Fallen was generally well-received, it was two years - and
another publisher - before St. Martins came out with The Pretender, the
first in your Liar's Club series. Why the wait, and the jump to another
The response to FALLEN was really amazing and really unexpected. I immediately began to hear from readers and writers alike. When it was nominated for a Rita award for Best First Book, I was stunned.
A friend encouraged me to talk to her editor at an RWA conference and the editor was intrigued by my story idea about a Regency-era gentlemanís club that housed a ring of spies. When my first publisher didnít respond to my submissions, I sold my Liarís Club series to St. Martinís Press. Incredibly, later that same day Dorchester offered to buy another book from me!
The wait resulted from my new publisher wishing to release the books on a four-month schedule. It took a while to build up enough work to make that possible.
Did you set out to write a series when you started The Pretender? Was
it easier to attract a publisher with a series outline than a single-title
I actually think in series, in story after related story. Iíve always been a fan of S/F series and mystery series, so it seemed very natural for me to return to the same world in book after book. It was good luck that the series idea had really hit big just then and my publisher loved the idea.
The Pretender brought you a lot of attention. How did it feel, having
launched the series successfully and knowing you now had expectations to fill?
I was such a dork. None of that even occurred to me. And after all, I had finished THE IMPOSTOR by the time THE PRETENDER was released. I donít think any sort of performance anxiety hit me until I was rewriting ďAn Uncommon FancyĒ (the book Dorchester tried to buy) into TO WED A SCANDALOUS SPY. My style had matured and it was very hard to pull the old book up to the new level. I wasnít sure I could do it and it worried me a great deal. I will never, ever, try to rewrite a book again. Trust me, itís easier and faster to simply write a new one!
You released four books in the Liar's Club series, but your latest
release, To Wed a Scandalous Spy, takes your stories in a new
direction. Why start a new series when the first one was going strong?
The Liarís Club hasnít gone anywhere. Iím still writing books for those blokes! The Royal Four came about because my editor loved the idea of that secret society. As I planned the next several Liar books, the Royal Four books just seemed to fit seamlessly into the middle.
I didnít think it would cause so much confusion, however. Just think of it as one long series and check the website to find out the order, okay gang?
What can readers expect for the Royal Four series?
Well, umÖthereís FOUR. (LOL!) The difference between the Liars and the Four is that the Four are full-on romance fantasies. Wealthy, sexy lords and their bold, impetuous ladies. The plots take a backseat to the wild ride of the love story.
I honestly donít know the release dates beyond Book 2 (SURRENDER TO A WICKED SPY) this October because I havenít yet been informed by the great and mighty Oz. When I know, Iíll let everybody else know.
Are you finished with the members of the Liar's Club?
Well, Mayís release THE ROGUE is Liarís Club Book 5. Ethan Damont (youíll recall him from the adventure in THE CHARMER) isnít a Liar and doesnít want to be a Liar, but the Liarís Club has a different plan for him. After ROGUE, I think I owe all those patient ladies out there a story about Ren Porter. I donít have a release date or a title on that one yet, but it should be in 2006.
From a reader's perspective, a series can be a tricky thing. A reader
wants to be able to follow the story even if she hasn't read all of the
previous books. How do you avoid having previous characters take up too
much of the story, while still dropping hints that might entice a reader to
look for their books?
I havenít a clue. I do my best and hope it works. Luckily, my plots are so complicated that I couldnít give it all away even if I tried. Personally, Iím compulsive about reading things in order. I hope it works the other way, but I canít imagine reading them all wonky. Please donít make me.
Was writing a series more challenging or frustrating than you initially
thought it would be?
Yes, and precisely because of the reason you just mentioned. Because I have multi-book story arcs (thatís hard--donít try that at home) I have to bring in a lot of backstory at the beginning of each book. Writing backstory is easy. Making it un-boring is really, really difficult.
With so many connected characters under your belt, how do you keep your
head from getting crowded with too many characters, especially since they
are all so familiar to you?
Do you get your family members mixed up? Your co-workers? Button and Kurt and Pearson are real.
Are you now writing full-time? What does your family think of that?
I do write full-time. I write 2 Ĺ books a year! My family? Well, my husband does laundry and shopping and my pre-teen daughters can cook (I believe they didnít want to starve). Does that tell you anything?
How can readers get in touch with you?
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and yes, I answer all my own email. Eventually!
Your websites are interesting and fun. What can we expect to see there in the future?
Iím so glad you asked! Iím currently working on a massive redesign of LiarsInLove.com that will include a lot of my own artwork as a guide to the Liarís world and characters. Be sure to check it out this summer!
Celeste, thank you so much for joining us! Readers, you'll find reviews of
Celeste's books here on our site.
June 2, 2005