Interview with Author Gwyn Cready on Playing with Time

Gwyn Cready is my guest today at Reading Reality. Of course, Gwyn’s not really here to talk about reality, she’s here to talk about time-travel in romance. I’ll confess that the heroine of her latest time-bending romance, Timeless Desire, has an extra-special place in my heart, because Panna is not just a heroine, she’s a librarian! What could be more awesome? (The story is terrific, too. Check out my review and see for yourself)

Now let’s hear Gwyn talk about time-travel and Pee-Wee Herman…but not, thank goodness, at the same time.

Marlene: Introduce yourself to us. Tell us a little bit about Gwyn Cready, and what she does when she’s not writing.

Gwyn: I love movies. My husband and I pop out to films all the time. One of our favorite theaters is a single-screen theater in Dormont, Pennsylvania, called the Hollywood. They pop their own popcorn, and they even have a balcony. You just don’t see that a lot anymore. We just saw the third Indiana Jones movie there. Next up: PeeWee’s Big Adventure!

Marlene: You’ve written several time-travel romances. What draws you to time-travel romances in particular?

Gwyn: I love the idea of playing with time. It opens up so many possibilities for characters. In a romance—at least a properly written one—you know the story is going to end with the characters in a happy ever after. But a time travel romance adds a whole other layer of tension for the reader by making you wonder which time period will win out for the couple and how. Moreover, you want your hero and heroine to clash. What could be more clash-inducing than coming from different eras?

Marlene: And what inspired you to choose the Scots border in the early 1700s for Timeless Desire?

Gwyn: A lot of my books have characters from or action that takes place in the borderlands of England and Scotland. The dawn of the 1700s was a very interesting time. Scotland is teetering on the edge of losing its independence. The Age of Enlightenment is pushing the men who live and die by their swords into a world where thinking and science are revered. The clans are at their peak. And, of course, the kilts.

Marlene: Libraries are gateways to magical worlds, but was there a specific library (or librarian!) that you were thinking of when you set the modern-day parts of the story in a public library?

Gwyn: To be fair, I’ve been helped by so many librarians over the years. This was a little shout-out to all of them. I know a lot of people, including me, who think librarians are among the luckiest people on earth, since they spend all their time around books. My cousin, Donna, is a librarian, and she always seems aglow when she’s at work. Another close friend, Manuel, is a music librarian at UC Berkeley. He’s my go-to person for special research needs—and not just ones involving music. Many an article that resulted in an interesting plot twist or essential character attribute have come winging their way into my in-box from him.

Marlene: What do you think about the inevitable comparisons between Timeless Desire and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander?

Gwyn: Outlander is the book that inspired me to become a romance novelist. No writer will ever come close to creating the world and hero that Gabaldon did. That won’t stop us from trying.


Marlene: Who first introduced you to the love of reading?

Gwyn: My mom loved to read. Her two great joys in life were reading and playing bridge. I think I failed her on the bridge front, though. I do not have the brain for bridge. My husband, a casual player, will be watching me struggle to figure out which card to play. He’ll finally say, “For goodness sake, please play the jack. Everyone knows you have it.”

Marlene: Who influenced your decision to become a writer?

Gwyn: My younger sister, Claire. It was her unexpected death at age 31 that make me want to become a writer.  She was the artsy one in the family—a poet and photographer. I was the upright businesswoman. I wanted to do something to honor her memory. I started writing the month after she died. Eleven years later, my first book was published. It’s dedicated to her.

Marlene: What book would you recommend that everyone should read, and why?

Gwyn: Outlander, of course. Jamie Fraser is the most romantic, honorable and well-crafted romance hero ever written. The entire Patrick O’Brian Master and Commander series. The New York Times called it “the best historical fiction ever written.” I agree. I’ve read or listened to each of the twenty books at least three times.  And I’d throw The Time Traveler’s Wife on the list as well.

Marlene: Speaking of good books, there’s something in Timeless Desire that made me wonder about this. Have you read Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond series?

Gwyn: I have not. And now I’m very curious as to what made you wonder that.

Marlene: Can you tell us a little bit about your next project? What is next on your schedule?

Gwyn: I have two next projects (ah, a writer’s life, eh?) One is a memoir about losing my sister and finding her again through her friends. The other is a time travel romance trilogy about three extraordinary women on—where else?—the borderlands of England and Scotland.

Marlene: Now can you tell us 3 reasons why people should read your books?

Gwyn: Location, location, location? Kidding. First, the heroes are always smart, wry and totally dedicated to the heroine’s happiness. Second, the heroines are real-world, kick-ass women, very much like the women who read my books (and me, might I add.) Third, there’s always that hint of Colin Firth in the air.

Marlene: Coffee or Tea?

Gwyn: Oh, coffee. Perfect cup for me: an ancho chile mocha latte. Ooh, I can almost feel my tongue tingling.

While I never did quite get Colin Firth, I’m totally behind The New York Times on Patrick O’Brian’s series, also known as the Aubrey-Maturin series. 

All I’ll say about Lymond is that Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles are also set in the Scots border country, and at a period a bit earlier than Timeless Desire. But the endings have something in common. And I’ll leave it at that. 

Thanks so much for answering all of my questions. Being a librarian myself, I just had to know every pesky detail!

When I think about love stories…

Today is Valentine’s Day and everyone is thinking about love stories.

Not necessarily romance novels, mind you, but love stories. The stories that last. The ones that endure.

We all have them, names that instantly spring to mind when someone mentions the word love.

The names “Romeo and Juliet” always invoke the image of star-crossed lovers. Shakespeare’s story lives for the ages. It’s ironic that one of the best known images of romance is about a love story that ends tragically.

I’d prefer to look at three of my favorite fictional couples whose pages I return to because they either end happily, or they show no sign of ending at all.

I’ve never made any secret of following the adventures of Eve Dallas and Roarke. One of the things I enjoy most about the series is that the stories show a strong relationship between a married couple that continues to throw off hot sexual sparks well after they tie the knot. The author has managed to make married life interesting. If this were a TV series, the wedding would have ended the show. But with Eve and Roarke, the continued influx of homicide investigations into her squad room just means more interesting cases for Eve to solve–and more peeks into Eve and Roarke’s evolving relationship. Readers still don’t know the man’s first name, but we continue to be fascinated, 33 books and counting. Celebrity in Death, book 34 is coming on February 21. I’m already planning to stay up and read it.

Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander was not initially marketed as a romance. It was sold as historical fiction, and considering the amount of research that goes into each volume of the series, that’s probably the right place for it. Yet the core of the stories (7 doorstop sized books and counting) is the century-spanning love story of Jamie Fraser and Claire Randall. Claire is the daughter of the 20th century, and Jamie the son of Scotland in the time of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Yet magic, or fate, brings them together.

While I enjoy the story of Jamie and Claire’s first romance, it’s not what draws me back. My copy of Voyager opens automatically to Part Six, Chapter 24. I’ve read over and over the part where Claire takes her courage, and her life, in both hands and risks the standing stones to go back to Jamie, back two centuries in time, knowing that he survived the disaster at Culloden, but having no idea what changes the intervening 20 years have wrought in his life. All she knows is that she must tell him that he has a daughter. But  she really wants to be his wife again, and has no clue whether he still loves her as she has never stopped loving him.

My other favorite is from Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles. Again, this is historical fiction of the intensely researched and amazingly complicated school. The Lymond Chronicles are about a young man named Francis Crawford of Lymond, the second son of the Earl of Midculter and his wife Lady Sybilla. Francis Crawford is many things over the course of the six books of this saga, an outlaw and a spy and a mercenary and a drug addict and a diplomat and a fool. But always he is a Scottish patriot at a time when Scotland was a small and independent country playing her chief rivals, France and England, off against each other in the hopes of retaining that independence. In the mid-1500’s, that time was running out.

Crawford commits crimes and treasons, both great and small, in the service of his country. He lives his life believing that the ends always justify the means and he never counts the cost to his own soul. Until near the end of his story, when he finally discovers that there is a woman who has grown to be his equal. Philippa Somerville set herself the task of cleaning up Crawford’s messes and tending to his victims almost ten years previously, and has been following him around Europe ever since he wrongly accused her father of betraying him.

But when they started, Philippa was a precocious 12-year-old, and Crawford was only 19. Both of them much too young for Crawford to declare at 29 that it was too late for him to love anyone. That he had seen too much and done too much for him to be worthy of love, or of being loved. Three scenes I come back to, over and over. The one in The Ringed Castle where Crawford realizes that Philippa is not the child he remembers, but a woman who has played music for kings and comforted queens, and is fully his equal, and that he loves her. Then he returns to his home and locks all his feelings away because he feels unworthy.  The night of the rooftop chase in Checkmate, when Philippa realizes that she loves Lymond, and feels rejected because she offered to share friendship, and he turns from her when she shows that she feels more. And last but not least, the conclusion at the end of Checkmate, when the prophecy from the opening of The Game of Kings is fulfilled.

Lymond was prophesied that he want two things, one he would have, and one he would not, nor was it right that he should. The answers are love, and his birthright. The story is everything.

What are your favorite love stories for Valentine’s Day?