When did you first have the thought you'd like to write a book? Was that first thought related to writing romance?
I wrote my first steamy story in the 8th grade. It starred my best friend and her then-celebrity crush. So it was fated that eventually, after being mis-directed into deadly dull office work for too many years, I became a full-time romance writer. I used to entertain myself during the long days in Corporate Land by sketching characters and plot ideas in the back of notebooks.
What was your path to getting this book written and published? What type of research did you do?
My first release, TO WIN A LADY’S HEART, began as a short story. One of the editorial directors at Entangled liked it, but thought there was too much going on for the length and asked me to resubmit the story at full category length. Because there is a very subtle Christmas theme that became even more subtle as I re-wrote the story, I researched Regency Era Christmas traditions. Most of that research, however, didn’t make it into the book.
Where did the idea for your story come from?
My story idea started with character. I wanted to write a very, very nice hero, someone who put honor first and who would never fail to do the right thing. As I rewrote the story, he took on new dimensions with severe social anxiety. I tortured him more by making him love the heroine from afar for many years. Then, when he sets out to win her, everything he tries backfires.
Why did you pick the setting you did?
The Regency Era is so much fun. It’s incredibly modern, while at the same time having many social norms that would be distinctly alien to us living today. There is a ton going on—fabulous fashion, interesting discoveries, a mad king, several wars—and, among the readership, an expectation of amazing dialogue between the hero and heroine.
Are your main characters completely imaginary or do they have some basis in real people? Do they reflect aspects of yourself?
Wholly imaginary. I put bits and pieces of certain aspects of myself into the main characters, but more their preferences for things like chocolate or reading than personality traits. I think if I tried to base my characters on myself or other people, it could too easily start reading like parody, and the readers would pick up on that in an instant.
Did you face any blocks while writing the book, and if so, how did you handle them? If not, what's your secret?
Between submitting the original draft as a short story and getting the revise and resubmit request from Entangled, I got pregnant. Never having been pregnant before, I had no idea what to expect. And that first trimester was brutal. The fatigue was unbearable. When I wasn’t sleeping, I felt like I was living in a fog. I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t cook, I couldn’t do regular household chores—I basically couldn’t keep up with the basic necessities for survival, so I certainly wasn’t able to write. They were long, lonely weeks. I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to write again. Thankfully, right around week 16, I regained some energy and was able to get back to work. I have no secret. I just had to wait it out. Knowing that I made it through relatively unscathed and have an amazing child out of the bargain, I think next time I’d be able to better trust that I would eventually be able to return to my writing.
What have been surprises you've encountered while writing the book and after?
I was definitely surprised by how much I learned during the process of revising and resubmitting, then again when I went through edits with my lovely and super sharp editor, Erin Molta. I’ve been at this writing things for six or seven (maybe eight?) years and have many, many manuscripts on the ol’ hard drive, both finished and unfinished. What was valuable for me about seeing how much I learned is knowing that I will always have something to learn. I will always have new ways of challenging myself, I will always have new craft ideas and insights to experiment with, and I will always be able to strive to improve. That’s exciting. It’s going to keep this job fresh and exciting for years to come.
What did you learn? For instance, what did you learn about yourself, your process, the writing world; about the social mores of Regency times?
I learned that at the very end of the process after going through the story so many times for so many different passes that I could more easily let go of the book than I anticipated. I didn’t think it was perfect—far from it—but there was a time I was absolutely ready to leave well enough alone and move on. I’m a strong believer in taking imperfect action, and I don’t just talk the talk, either. If I waited for something to be perfect, nothing would ever get done. Didn’t do something as well as I would have liked the first time? No problem, I can strive to do better the next time. It’s a very freeing philosophy.
Tell us about your writing space and how or why it works for you.
These days, with a wild toddler running around eager to get into everything, I take what I can get! We’re also between houses because after we sold our home, the deal on the house we were trying to buy fell through, and I don’t have a dedicated office space in our apartment. My child’s babysitter comes four days a week for two hours. I hand him over, race upstairs, hop onto the bed, and dive in. Some days this works better than others depending on how many times my child woke me up during the night and how easy it was to get back to sleep after the disruption.
What are some of your favorite books and why?
I have so many romance authors I love—I have quite a substantial number of books on my keeper shelf, so I will focus on other genres for this question so I don’t inadvertently forget to mention a favorite author.
- CURSE OF CHALLION by Lois McMaster Bujold is incredible. It’s fantasy and doesn’t follow the usual mold. The worldbuilding is some of the best I’ve ever encountered and the main character leaps off the page.
- PEOPLE OF THE BOOK by Geraldine Brooks, which is fabulous for its historical detail and concept.
- The first two thirds of HALF BROKE HORSES by Jeannette Walls is excellent.
What are you working on now?
My current writing project is book number three of the Landon Sisters series I started with TO WIN A LADY’S HEART. The book is called TO SEDUCE A LADY’S HEART. This has not been an easy one for me. Book number two, TO COVET A LADY’S HEART (due out in February 2017!) was a breeze. The characters were feisty and larger-than-life, and the conflict was strong. No sooner was I dusting off my hands from that project and starting the new one that I started struggling. I couldn’t get a handle on my characters.
I pushed through to about 45K and had to throw everything away. I restarted just about from scratch, keeping only the main characters (but altering them significantly—if I thought they were wet rags, I can’t imagine how let down my editor would have been had I turned that crap in to her). It was not as difficult a decision as one might think. Yes, it was hard to lose that much work, but I’m a few chapters into the re-write and it’s so much stronger. This is a book I will be able to put my name on and still be able to hold my head up in a room full of writers.
Would you like to try your hand at writing a different genre? Which one and why?
Gothic. Absolutely no question. Something historical that might or might not have an romantic element.
If you were not a writer, what would your dream job be?
Not a writer…that barely computes! Maybe a painter. I’d go nuts if I weren’t creating something.
What aspect of writing gives you the most trouble?
Conflict! That’s a tough one to nail down, but absolutely the most critical.
Who is your favorite hero/heroine?
My own hero and heroine, definitely Phoebe & Max who have my second book coming in February, TO COVET A LADY’S HEART. They were both larger than life and absolutely leapt off the page. Feisty, too. He blackmails her—then she blackmails him right back.
England, 1811. When John Merrick, the Earl of Corbeau, is caught in a locked storeroom with Lady Grace, he has but one choice—marry her. He cannot bear to tarnish any woman’s reputation, least of all Lady Grace’s.
Lady Grace Landon will do anything to help her mother and sisters, crushed and impoverished by her father’s disgrace. But throwing herself into the arms of her dearest friend’s older brother to trap him in marriage? Never.
Corbeau needs to prove that he loves her, despite her father’s misdeeds. After years of being an object of scorn, not even falling in love with Corbeau alters Lady Grace’s determination to not bring her disrepute upon another. However, if they don’t realize that the greatest honor is love given freely without regard to society’s censure, they stand to lose far more than they ever imagined.
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About Ingrid: Ingrid Hahn is a failed administrative assistant with a B.A. in Art History. Her love of reading has turned her mortgage payment into a book storage fee, which makes her the friend who you never want to ask you for help moving. Though originally from Seattle, she now lives in the metropolitan DC area with her ship-nerd husband, small son, and four opinionated cats. When she’s not reading or writing, she loves knitting, theater, nature walks, travel, history, and is a hopelessly devoted fan of Jane Austen.