Beneath the Covers Past

Lauren Royal Interview
 Review: Amber

Golden Treasures
An Interview with Lauren Royal
By Suzie Housley
July 2001

Lauren Royal decided writing was for her when she won a "Why My Mother Is The Greatest" essay contest in the third grade. That first taste of success and publication was addictive! Being both a history buff and a sucker for a happy ending, she discovered historical romance as a teen and knew she had found her genre. She fell in love with the Restoration period when her high school English teacher suggested she read her favorite book, FOREVER AMBER

From then on, she started amassing a collection of books on the period, and still has notecards she made way back when. Everyone in her family came to know that her favorite gift was (and still is!) a dusty old history book. Unfortunately, somewhere along the road to the writer's life, she got sidetracked. Her college major was TV and film production, and although she wrote a few screenplays during that time, her goal of writing a novel fell by the wayside. After school,  she ended up opening a jewelry store in a mall, which eventually grew to a small chain spread throughout Southern California. During this fourteen-year period she wrote 150-page employee manuals, countless scintillating company newsletters, and an occasional political opinion article, but nothing creative.

Thankfully, she made her way back to her dream and today is delighting readers with some of the best historical romance in the business.  Her first book was AMETHYST, followed by EMERALD, and now AMBER, all stories about the Restoration-era Chase family, who have been called "one of the most engaging families to appear in romance fiction."  In addition, a novella in the anthology IN PRAISE OF YOUNGER MEN features secondary characters from her other books.  Her number one fan is the first person she wrote about, her mother; whom Lauren calls her "Head Cheerleader."  Her faith in her writing skills enabled her to be the successful author she is today. "Yes, my mother really is the greatest," Lauren says. "She always told me I should be a writer, and she was right!"

Suzie Housley: Briefly summarize how you began writing.

Lauren Royal: I've been writing as long as I can remember, but mostly articles whenever I felt like it, not as a serious career. I always knew I wanted to write a novel, but it was a "someday" sort of thing. Then, after we sold our chain of jewelry stores a few years ago, I thought it would be nice to stay home with my three children. Well, having been CEO of a very busy business, it didn't take me long to figure out I wasn't quite mentally prepared to "just" stay at home, although I really did want that for my kids. That's when I remembered that I wanted to write a book someday . . . it seemed that "someday" had arrived. So I wrote AMETHYST and was lucky enough to sell it as part of a three-book deal, which really jump-started my new career. Writing really is a perfect job for a mom. I am very fortunate to be able to combine two things I love so much.

Suzie Housley: Your web page is stunning, could you tell us about how it was created?

Lauren Royal: Thanks so much for the compliment! I am very proud of my site, and especially of my teenage son who does all the programming for me. I was thrilled for him when we won the 2001 Award for Website Excellence from Sacramento RWA. Our goal with the site is to present content that expands on the experience of my books, rather than just advertising them.

So in addition to the usual excerpts and career updates, we post pictures and history about the real people and places in my stories. Readers seem to appreciate the additional information and the chance to see what the historical characters and buildings really look like.

Suzie Housley: You also have a German book published. Could you tell us something about it?

Lauren Royal:  Three of my books have been sold to Cora Verlag Publishing in Germany, although only AMETHYST has been released so far. The German readers who have written to me are so nice and enthusiastic, and the whole experience has been quite an adventure. The cover (click here to see cover) is completely different from the North American version, the book's title was changed to FEUERSTURM, which means "Fire Storm," and two of my characters, twins Kendra and Ford, had their names changed to Alice and Allan. This was all very surprising to me. I can't wait for the next book to come out so I can see what the publisher does with it!

Suzie Housley: On your web page you feature 17th Century Recipes which you mention in your various books. Where do you get the source for these delicious recipes?

Lauren Royal: All over the place, actually! I comb the used bookstores and internet for old cookbooks, and I've even had readers write to suggest recipes and likely books. My 12-year-old daughter loves working in the kitchen, so the two of us do our best to translate the recipes into modern terms and test them. When we find one we like, we try it out on the menfolk -- my husband and two sons. They're all very picky eaters, so if they like something, we know we have a winner. 

The best dishes are worked into my stories and posted on my site for readers to make for  themselves.  It's one of my most popular pages, and I love hearing how other people enjoy the recipes they try.

Suzie Housley: Research is imperative in any novel, that is a given fact, but can you tell us what sort of research you had to do for this particular novel.

Lauren Royal: The centerpiece of AMBER is a true incident that took place in 1633 -- the sinking of King Charles I's baggage ferry with half a ton of solid gold and silver treasure. I first heard of this little-known event several years ago when my dad gave me a videotape about it that he'd recorded off the History Channel. From there I went to the internet and eventually found the Burntisland Heritage Trust, a non-profit group in Scotland that is currently searching for the historic shipwreck. They were able to help me find everything I needed to work this true story into a tale that takes place thirty-five years after the actual sinking.

I also visited the town and the other locations in the novel. I've found that seeing the real places makes the stories come alive for me -- and, consequently, my readers -- so I make it a point to do that.

Suzie Housley: What are you working on next?

Lauren Royal: I'm currently writing a new trilogy. The books are set in late 17th century England, and my working titles are VIOLET, LILY, and ROSE. The first book is Ford Chase's story (the "leftover" brother from my Jewel trilogy). I have my readers to thank for that, since so many of them wrote asking for his book -- I found that very gratifying and inspiring! His heroine is named Violet, and the second and third books are her two sisters' stories. Since their family is a tad wacky (not unlike my own <g>), I'm having a lot of fun writing these books!

Suzie Housley: Why do you think reading and writing romance fiction is important to women?

Lauren Royal: I think romance fiction is very empowering for women. We get to see all different sorts of women, with all different sorts of strengths and weaknesses, overcome all different sorts of problems to win love and fulfillment. I also find that as a very busy, often stressed woman, I particularly enjoy the kind of escape that a romance novel provides. Most especially the guaranteed happy ending. My leisure time is too precious to spend several hours of it and then end up depressed when I finish. There is enough disappointment in real life. I love the way a romance novel leaves me smiling and looking at the world in a hopeful way rather than a negative one.

Suzie Housley: What is the greatest challenge you have faced in your career as an author?

Lauren Royal: Truly, the challenges seem to be never-ending. I guess I would have to say getting published in the first place was my greatest challenge, especially because my stories are set in an unusual time period. I heard over and over that I shouldn't waste my time -- that if I ever expected to sell a British historical, I should be writing stories set in the Regency or medieval times. But my heart was in the 17th century with all the pageantry of the Restoration, and since I'm the stubborn sort, I wrote the stories I wanted to read and paid no mind to the naysayers. I firmly believe that a well-written tale will find its place in the world, and I think my own experience bears that out. Although I did have a difficult time finding an agent to represent me (I have a fat folder stuffed with rejections that basically say, "Love your writing and characters, but I can't sell a story in this setting"), when I did finally find one willing to take me on, she had no problem placing my books. In fact, she sold them in less than a week. 

My other big challenge has been learning to balance writing with my marriage and family life. That's something I'm still working on. It really could be an all-consuming career if I let it, but it's so important to keep remembering that it's the real people who truly count, not the ones I've
created in my head. <g>

Suzie Housley: Of all your books you have published, which has been your favorite? Why?

Lauren Royal: That's like asking which of my three children is my favorite!  Like children, I love them all in different ways and really couldn't choose.  Usually, whichever one I've just finished seems to be my favorite of the moment, and whichever one I'm working on my least favorite. I seem to really fight with each of my stories. Then when I'm done it's my favorite until the next one comes along.

Suzie Housley: How and why do you choose your characters' names?

Lauren Royal: I've found that a character's name is very important -- if I don't have the right name, his or her personality won't ring true for me on the page. Several times I've initially struggled with a character who, after a name change, will suddenly come clear. While it's true that a few hundred years ago fully one-quarter of the males were named John and one-fifth of the females Mary, I prefer using more interesting and memorable names for my heroes and heroines. But it's important to me that they at least carry a flavor of the times. I cringe when I see a medieval heroine named, for example, Tiffany -- while it won't necessarily ruin a story, it will make me pause and notice it every time I read that name, and that is not a good thing. As for where I actually find names, I have an incredible collection of baby name books and books about the history of naming, plus I do internet searches to find names true to my time period. My favorite names to use, though, are those my husband rejected for our kids. I have a long list of names I proposed that he vetoed, and since I've always loved history, a lot of them are historical in nature. Giving these names to characters is my way of having "children" with the names, after all!

Suzie Housley: If you could be any one of your characters, which would you want to be?

Lauren Royal: Honestly, Suzie, I wouldn't want to be any of them! I put them through way too much hell before I allow them to find their happy endings -- fires, abuse, injuries, deaths of parents and other loved ones . . . I am happy to say that my own life has been downright boring in comparison.

In addition, I enjoy modern bathrooms and convenience foods entirely too much to wish myself back in time. Not to mention I can't imagine my life without writing, but neither can I imagine myself writing by hand with quills and ink . . . I'm much too lazy for that!

Suzie Housley: What are your thoughts on love scenes in romance novels?  Do you find love scenes more or less difficult to write than other types of scenes?

Lauren Royal: The truth is, I find all writing extremely difficult -- for me, the love scenes are neither harder nor easier than anything else. Actually, I don't see love scenes as different from any other types of scenes at all.

I never set out planning a certain number of love scenes or thinking, "I'd better put a love scene here," or anything like that. They should arise naturally as the next logical step in the plot and relationship. Love scenes must have goals, motivations, and conflicts just like any other
scene in a story. No matter how "hot" or creative, if a love scene doesn't affect the people involved -- change them in some way -- it will be boring. And pointless, boring scenes have no business in any book.

Suzie Housley: How do you know which details to leave in and which to leave out in a given scene?

Lauren Royal: I'm a bit of a perfectionist, and each of my books goes through many drafts. My first drafts are very sparse, mostly dialogue and internal thought with very few details at all. The second draft gets fleshed out with every detail I can think of (and then some <g>). The third draft is when I cut back and leave only what is necessary to give a sense of movement, time, and place. It's a delicate balance. I try very hard to dribble details into the story so as not to hit the reader over the head with blocks of description or history. As a reader myself, I enjoy learning those things, but if they're all clumped together without the dialogue and thoughts and emotions that keep me involved with the characters, then that's when I start skimming. Ugh. My goal is to write unskimmable books.

Suzie Housley: How can fans contact you?

Lauren: I adore hearing from readers and answer every letter. Readers can e-mail me at

Or send regular mail to :

P.O. Box 52932,
Irvine, CA 92619. 

Please include an SASE, especially if you would like autographed bookplates or bookmarks.

You can also reach me through my website at, and while you're there, don't forget to visit the contest page for a chance to win a genuine amber necklace! (Check here to Enter Contest). 

AMBER by Lauren Royal 
Signet – July 2001 
ISBN: 0451203917 - Paperback
$5.85 US

Reviewed by  Suzie Housley,
Buy a Copy

Lauren Royal’s AMBER is a precious jewel. It captures the true essence of Scotland with a tale of strength and endurance that thrives primarily through the human spirit. 

Twenty-three year old Kendra Chases’ brother has given her an ultimatum – to find a husband or they will find one for her.  Rejecting all the eligible titled Lords, she is awe struck when a handsome Highwayman robs her carriage. Determined to learn more about the enigmatic stranger, she follows him to his secluded hideaway. When her two brothers accidentally catch her in an innocent but a questionable situation, they demand she wed this mysterious man immediately. In the  Highwayman she sees the one man capable of stealing her  heart. 

Patrick ‘Trick’ Caldwell, Duke of Amberley, secretly poses as a Highwayman, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. This gallant Robin Hood holds many secrets he refuses to reveal. Upon meeting Kendra Chase, he finds himself readily attracted to her beauty. It will take many "tricks" to convince this spirited lass he is the man for her. 

Amber is a powerfully crafted story filled with the history of the times. The characters present a passionate romance with enough adventure to keep the reader turning the pages.

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