The Write Way Café welcomes author Kathleen Bittner Roth, who took her mothers' advice and found her calling (one of them!) writing historical romance.
Kathleen is giving away a signed copy of Josette (U.S. only). Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win!
When did you first have the thought you'd like to write a book? Was that first thought related to writing romance?
When I was quite young, I would lull my little sister to sleep at night using my vivid imagination. At about twenty-five, my mom shoved a historical romance at me and said, “You need to write these kinds of books. You’ve got the talent and you’ve always been a romantic at heart.” Smart woman.
I went on to found a wellbeing center that kept me incredibly busy for twenty-five years. In any spare time I had, I enjoyed reading historical romance and never forgot Mom’s words. When the opportunity came for me to write, I sat down, placed my fingers on the keyboard, looked to the heavens and whispered, “I’ll be needing a little help with this.” Within moments, my fingers started flying over the keyboard and A DUKE’S WICKED KISS was born, a historical romance set mostly in India in 1857 during the sepoy uprising against the British East India Company. DUKE went on to become a Golden Heart finalist and my first sale.
What was your path to getting this book written and published? What type of research did you do?
I had entered CELINE in am RWA chapter writing contest. Alicia Condon, Editorial Director at Kensington Publishing, was the final judge. After I took first place, she asked for the full manuscript. Once read, she then offered me a three-book contract. JOSETTE is book three in my When Hearts Dare series that chronicles the powerful Andrews family, world-wide shipping magnates from New Orleans. CELINE, book one in the series, began on a plantation upriver from New Orleans. Cameron Andrews, my hero in Josette, was a vital secondary character in book one. With JOSETTE, I wanted Cameron to return to his roots in the French Quarter after having spent years abroad (he’s French/English). As for research, I enjoy thoroughly digging into the past. I scoured the history of New Orleans in person, online, in libraries, and meeting with people who could provide information key to the story.
Where did the idea for your story come from?
For JOSETTE, I was on Skype with a critique partner who’d worked with me on books one and two of the series. She knew Cameron Andrews inside out from the first two books and agreed with me that Cameron should return to his roots in the French Quarter. We chatted about him as if he were a living, breathing being (my characters pretty much come alive for me while I’m writing). We brainstormed about what he would do if…how he’d react if… With just that bit to go on, JOSETTE was born.
Why did you pick the setting you did?
I picked the New Orleans area for the series because I’m enamored with the city’s sultry, mysterious and flamboyant personality. With JOSETTE, I got to explore how life in the bayou contrasted to plantation life in book one, and the luxurious Garden District where Josette ended up. Then there was delicious historical French Quarter that Cameron calls home—oh, the food alone had me hungry all the while I was writing! Josette’s mother is a voodoo priestess who raised her own and her sister’s illegitimate children in a shanty along the bayou. Josette’s two brothers are irascible, handsome rogues. Their stories, The Bayou Bad Boys, will come next, in another three-book deal.
Are your main characters completely imaginary or do they have some basis in real people? Do they reflect aspects of yourself?
My characters are all imaginary. However, I once read that an author can’t help but slip a bit of themselves in every story. That said, I can see a bit of my humor in Josette’s brothers and in Cameron’s business mind. At seventeen, Josette escaped an impoverished life in the bayou by marrying a wealthy, older man. Widowed and living in a fabulous mansion in the Garden District, she is nonetheless rejected by society. That’s the part of her that I identified with and here’s why: My late husband and I moved to a small town in Western New York in the late ‘90’s. To our dismay, the quiet village turned out to be a closed community. We were actually told we’d have to live there twenty-five years in order to be accepted. We moved on!
Did you face any blocks while writing the book, and if so, how did you handle them? If not, what's your secret?
No blocks. When I’m writing, my stories play in my head like a movie and won’t leave me alone until I can write “the end.” I often dream scenes or chapters along the way, so I get out of bed every day and write. No matter how I feel, I write. I believe that keeps the blocks from interfering with the progression of my stories.
What have been surprises you've encountered while writing the book and after?
I was barely on chapter four when René and Bastien, Josette’s hot bad boy brothers, showed up. They ended up playing an integral part in the story. The big surprise after I finished JOSETTE came when my editor fell for those bad boys as well and suggested I write their stories. That’s when I got another three-book deal and the green light to continue with the series.
What did you learn? For instance, what did you learn about yourself, your process, the writing world; about ships, and about New Orleans and its’ peoples?
I think we, as writers, grow every time we sit down to write a story. Giving myself permission to explore the gritty, poverty-stricken circumstances Josette and her brothers endured growing up with an abusive voodoo priestess for a mother really gave me more confidence to explore the darker side of life while still writing a romance with a happy ending. As for ships—oh, the glorious feelings I had while researching the magnificent China Clippers. They first appeared in CELINE, book one, for a bit, played a big part in ALANNA, book two, and were an integral part of the landscape of JOSETTE. I researched clipper ships and the China trade until I felt as though I had sailed on one.
Tell us about your writing space and how or why it works for you.
I live in Budapest, Hungary in a grand old apartment located in the very rear of the building. My windows overlook the back yard of a villa that houses the Franz Liszt Music Academy students. My desk is a massive, ornate German antique, circa 1850. It angles in one corner of the living room nearest the window. This gives me a wide view of the apartment’s interior as well as the tall trees and mansion behind me (I’m on the third floor). I often hear classical music pouring in through the nine-foot tall windows so I don’t play anything myself when I’m working. I sometimes feel as though I’ve stepped back in time.
What are some of your favorite books and why?
For craft themes, I have three favorites: Stephen King’s ON WRITING, Anne Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD, and Debra Dixon’s GOAL, MOTIVATION AND CONFLICT. Both Stephen King and Anne Lamott’s words reached into my soul and gave me permission to write what I love.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on the next book in the series, Rene’s story, and also the sequel to THE SEDUCTION OF SARAH MARKS with Entangled Publishing (I feel blessed to be able to work with two publishers).
Would you like to try your hand at writing a different genre? Which one and why?
It’s in the works. I just returned from Northern France where I conducted research for a WWII story. This one will be women’s fiction.
If you were not a writer, what would your dream job be?
I would go right back to my old job. I founded a wellbeing center years ago, worked my butt off while loving every minute of interacting with and helping people become self-empowered. I still have ties to it and conduct seminars and classes whenever I’m in Texas. Who knows what time will tell. Were I to reopen a physical address, this time around I would include rescue animals to interact with the students. But I’d keep on writing nonetheless.
What aspect of writing gives you the most trouble?
Those last couple of chapters when I know the ending is looming and I have to keep from racing through to get to it!
Who is your favorite hero/heroine?
If you mean in my books, they are always the stories I am currently writing.
Available at: Amazon Barnes & Noble.
Also available at Target and Walmart
Josette Book trailer
Once Kathleen Bittner Roth realized that making a living was not the same as making a life, she blazed her own trail by founding a successful well-being center, walking on fire, marrying in a castle in Scotland, scuba diving in dangerous waters, and performing dressage on her Arabian horse. She has somehow managed to live in six U.S. states and several foreign countries. Currently residing in Budapest, Hungary, she keeps one boot in Texas and the other in her home state of Minnesota.
Kathleen considers writing romance a great venue for creating characters who are forced to draw on their strength of spirit in order to overcome adversity and find unending love.
A PAN member of Romance Writers of America®, Kathleen has been a regular guest on radio, television, and various blogs. She has won or been a finalist in numerous writing contests, including the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart®.
You can find Kathleen on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, or by visiting her website at: www.kathleenbittnerroth.com.
Four of Kathleen’s books released in 2014: The Seduction of Sarah Marks; A Duke’s Wicked Kiss; the When Hearts Dare series: Celine and Alanna. Book three, Josette, releases this September 29th.
Website Facebook Twitter: @K_BittnerRoth