Stephanie: I’d like to welcome author Isabel Morin to Layered Pages today!
Isabel, congrats on winning the BRAG Medallion! Please tell me about your book, “No Other Love.”
Isabel: It’s a historical romance set in 19th century Massachusetts (both in the country and in Boston) and revolves around a heroine (Rose) who’s trying to find her father’s killer. She’s convinced his murder is connected with her family’s refusal to allow a railroad line to be run through their farm in western Massachusetts, so she takes a job in the railroad president’s home to find out more. The president happens to have a handsome son, and there are of course many reasons they can’t act on their mutual attraction. I don’t tend to read thrillers and wasn’t inclined to write one, so the mystery aspect takes a back seat to the relationship.
Stephanie: That sounds really interesting. What was the inspiration for your story?
Isabel: I love reading a good historical because it’s such an escape, and also you have clearer class distinctions, especially if you have a servant-master relationship. Then I saw the movie “Gosford Park,” and I drew lot of inspiration from the dynamics between staff and family.
Stephanie: I absolutely love historical and I adore, Gosford Park! Are there any scenes you have written based on you own life experiences? Or is there anyone in your life that you have based their personalities in one of your characters?
Isabel: Elements of my husband turn up in all my hero’s, but especially in “No Other Love.” I started this book before I met him, but it was just a few sketchy chapters, nothing fleshed out. I knew that Luke, the hero, needed to be involved with the railroad in some way, and I wanted him to have a masculine job, but I didn’t know what he’d have been doing in that time period. Then I met my husband, who’s a cartographer, and I realized that’s what Luke should be. So I made him a cartographer and a surveyor whose job it is to find a route over the Berkshire Mountains for the railroad line. Luke’s backstory is that he spent a lot of time out west and loves geology and rocks, like my husband, and there’s mention of a little glass bottle of garnets Luke found in a stream out west, and Michael has the very same bottle.
Stephanie: That is really fascinating. How does your husband feel about that? I’m sure he is elated! That is really cool he loves geology and rocks. My daughter and I love going to the Blue Ridge Mountains to creek walk and find rocks.
Isabel: He seems to get a kick out of it, and I always tell him what traits of his I’m giving my heroes. He also likes helping me with research, like finding maps for certain places. He once printed out a wall-sized map of a place out west I was writing about. The only problem with that was I had nowhere to put it!
Stephanie: That is great he is so enthusiastic and helpful with your work. When did you first know you wanted to write Romance?
Isabel: I toyed with the idea for a couple of years before I started researching this book (and it required A LOT of research) sometime around 1999, maybe even earlier. I’ve been reading romances since I was thirteen or fourteen, so I know the different genres well. I just had to start looking at romances as a writer rather than just as a reader. Nineteenth century Massachusetts is not a typical setting for a romance novel, but I wanted to write what I knew.
Stephanie: I can imagine it’s not your typical setting for romance. Which makes it all the more fascinating! What is the time period that your story takes place in? How long did it take you to write your story?
Isabel: The story starts in 1841. I picked that year to match the historical facts about the railroad line involved. I almost don’t want to say how long it took me to write it, since I started around 1999 and didn’t complete it until 2010. I wasn’t actively working on it that whole time, but it still took me far longer than I would have liked. Let’s just say there was a big learning curve. I work much faster now, though I’m by no means a speed demon.
Stephanie: I’m a slow writer and I do tend to take my time. Which bothers me at times, I must admit. What intrigues you most about writing romance novels?
Isabel: I love that there are certain standard tropes but that you can do so much with them. The male-female dynamic is so much clearer, the men more macho, and you can play with conventional roles in a way that indulges female fantasies of being protected and craved. I love doing that while also having strong, independent heroines. Falling in love goes to the heart of who we are, and I love seeing how two characters will grow together and react to one another.
Stephanie: Sounds like a fun writing process! When did you first know you wanted to be a writer and when did you begin?
Isabel: I’ve been serious about writing since college, and after college I started taking poetry workshops. In my late twenties I got an MFA in creative writing and wrote exclusively poetry for years. But as much as I love poetry, I wasn’t losing myself in it the way I would have liked, the way I did while reading fiction. Also my poetry was mostly about myself and mostly pretty melancholic, and I was tired of writing that kind of thing. That was especially true after I met my husband. I wanted to try fiction, and since I’m an avid romance reader, I decided that would be the most fun. I also thought that having certain conventions would be helpful structure-wise as I learned the craft.
Stephanie: What advice would you give to a writer who wants to write romance?
Isabel: You need to love it and read a lot of it, and I think it’s good to understand the conventions and expectations, even if you intend to break them. Also, have a good critique partner or two. Learn the craft through books or workshops, and consider joining Romance Writers of America (RWA), as they’re a great resource for writers.
Stephanie: How did you discover BRAG?
Isabel: When I was given the medallion. I’m really thrilled to be part of the community now.
Stephanie: Isabel, it has been a pleasure to chat with you! Thank you!
Message from BRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Isabel Morin who is the author of, No other Love , one of our medallion honorees at www.bragmedallion.com . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, No other Love, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.