With us today is the talented and imaginative Candice Gilmer who has graciously allowed me to pepper her with questions about writing, life, and her newest book, Rescuing Rapunzel, the first in her The Charming Nobles series with Lyrical Press.
Rescuing Rapunzel was an absolute delight to read and threatened to put me way behind on writing and housework because it was so hard to put down. Candice took one of my least favorite fairy tales and made me love it. She does a fabulous job of infusing the simple tale of Rapunzel with life, humor, heart fluttering tension, logical setup and motivations, and characters that are as real as anyone could hope for in a medieval romance.
Laura Lee Nutt: Thank you for joining us today, Candice. You’ve been writing for a while and had books published with both Lyrical Press and Samhain Publishing with genres ranging from paranormal to contemporary to fairy tale romance. With this range, what is your favorite part about being a writer?
Candice Gilmer: I love to tell stories. I always have. Didn’t matter what kind they were, I just loved to tell them. People talk about character developing, plotting, and editing and all these other things that are a part of writing, but really, writing is also a kind of magic, because no matter how specifically you write out an outline, as you write the actual story, these “things” happen. The characters do things you didn’t know they could, or in some cases, would, do. The scenes appear, like little snapshots, out of nothing.
It’s like magic. That’s what I love about writing. The unexpected, the magical things that start to unfold as I write a story. Even my friends can attest to me calling them, mid-day, squealing over something in my manuscript that I never expected. One second there was nothing, and then, poof, there it is.
The magical part of writing is my favorite.
LLN: Can you give us a brief idea of your journey to publication and your success since?
CG: I started, believe it or not, in the fan fiction world. Being a scifi nut, I started writing my own Star Wars stories, eventually even having my own fan fiction web site. Part of that was the inspiration for my first book, Fantasy Girl, about a fan fiction writer who is stalked by an internet based serial killer.
I started working on sellable stories rather than fan fiction, and eventually figured out that the most important part was the characters coming together and the HEA. When I let go of the idea of everything having to be science fiction, I found I had a lot more fun writing anyway. I could delve into all sorts of characters and their stories.
Do I still like scifi stuff? Of course. I even have a couple on the far back burner, waiting for their time to come alive. May be a while, but they’re waiting.
LLN: I’m sure a number of authors have influenced and inspired you. Who are your favorites, and how have they impacted your career and writing?
CG: Well, being a child of the eighties, I read stuff like Danielle Steele, Rebecca Brandywine, and VC Andrews (I know, VC wasn’t quite romance, but sorta). And they were all such tragedies… and soap operas. Every time you turned around, there was something horrible happening to the heroines. So tragic, that I took a break, and completely quit reading them, delving instead into books based on Star Wars and Star Trek (my two favorite fandoms).
I’d never considered writing romance novels, because, frankly, I couldn’t write that kind of depressing, over the top, throw the book across the room drama. I wanted good things to happen to my heroes, bad things to happen to the villains, and no evil mother/grandmother/what-have-you being mean and spiteful because her life sucked.
Then I found a book called The Corset Diaries, by Katie MacAlister. It was sexy, sweet, romantic, and hysterical. So funny, I couldn’t read it around other people, because I would laugh so hard. That book was a major turning point for me--realizing that romances weren’t what they used to be.
They could be funny, and interesting, and silly, and still be wonderful, and make me sigh when it’s over.
And reading The Corset Diaries made me realize, that yes, I could do this. Because this was how I would do it, if I did it.
So I did.
LLN: I assume that, with your latest turn to fairy tales, you enjoyed them as a child and even still do. What is your favorite fairy tale and why?
CG: My favorite fairy tale has always been Cinderella, influenced by my mother, who read it to me every night as a child (complete with special voice for different characters), but also, because Cinderella was, well, someone who had been given a really rotten hand in life, and never lost her hope or faith that things would work out right in the end.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember that--things do work out. Maybe not as planned, but they do work out. I doubt that Cinderella ever thought she’d be married to the prince, but she knew someone would marry her, and she would be out from under her stepmother’s rule, eventually.
And nowadays, it’s a great reminder that there are good people in the world, and they can help you remember to hang onto your faith. Whether they’re your fairy godmother, or just neighbor who mows your lawn because you’ve broke your foot, people will help people.
It’s important to keep that faith.
Sometimes it’s all you have.
LLN: What was your inspiration for The Charming Nobles series? Did you come up with the series concept before or after imagining up Rescuing Rapunzel?
CG: I started working on the basic idea of Rescuing Rapunzel, and I realized right away, that my hero Nick was going to need some help.
As I wrote the story, I learned more and more about the other two Charming Nobles, Penn and Bryan, and by the time it was finished, I knew that they both needed their own stories, because they were far too great of characters to be left in the wings.
LLN: Why did you choose to begin The Charming Nobles series with the story of Rapunzel? Does that particular fairy tale hold special meaning for you? Does it have anything to do with your evening job as a hairdresser?
CG: Rescuing Rapunzel was a challenge by my 8 year old daughter (at the time), wanting me to rewrite Rapunzel, because she didn’t like the Grimm’s Fairy Tale version. We’d been reading the original fairy tales, because I wanted her to know that the Disney version wasn’t all there was to them.
She challenged me to a contest, to see which one of us could write the better story. She won, of course, because she created a sister for Rapunzel, and they fought bandits and witches and all sorts of devilish characters. Myself? I never finished by the deadline, because the more I worked on Rapunzel, the more involved it got, and I realized I had more than just a little story for a challenge here.
This was something else, something special. And I’d be a fool not to figure out exactly what that was.
LLN: In Rescuing Rapunzel, you put Rapunzel’s point of view in first person and the hero, Nick’s, in third, an unusual arrangement, though one I found interesting. What led you to this decision?
CG: I can’t call it a “decision” to do the first/third point of view shift for the story, only that writing it, that was what worked the best. I started with Rapunzel, of course, and the more I wrote, I realized that it couldn’t just be from her point of view--there was too much going on around her, outside of her perspective that had to be told as well.
And while I considered doing Nick’s point of view in first as well, I felt that was far too confusing for readers--heck it was too confusing for me, so he went in third for the story.
I did try to put Rapunzel’ s point of view in third, but no matter how I did it, it read too cold, like it wasn’t deep enough inside her for the story. She was my hero. We needed to feel what she felt, as strongly as possible.
LLN: You chose Germany as the setting of Rescuing Rapunzel, a choice that I, as a fan of tales set in Germany, was giddy about reading. Your portrayal was especially nice because you actually covered the basics of German politics at the time with the presence of principalities and such. Why did you choose Germany as your setting, and how did you find writing in it particularly enjoyable or challenging?
CG: I picked Germany, because the original Grimm’s fairy tales were set in Germany--the Black Forest and all that. I wanted to remain as close to the original idea of the fairy tale as possible. But, I did “fictionalize” a bit, by naming the region “The White Mountains” so it would still be its own government. And, I fudged a little bit in some of the German titles, a tiny bit in Rapunzel, but more in the sequels, about titles and holdings and such, so I wanted to cover my bases that it wasn’t exactly Germany, but close.
Also, so many historicals that I read are set in England, Ireland, or Scotland, and I wanted to do something different with it, just a bit of a change.
LLN: Was there any particular life experience, training, or hobby of yours that helped in writing Rescuing Rapunzel?
CG: I’ve always been a historical romance reader, especially newer historical romance, because I liked the idea of propriety, and the tighter social rules they had in history, but was very intimidated about writing one, because of the strict rules with titles and such. There is so much detail and information one needs to know to write them, it’s quite daunting if you’ve never done it before. I wanted a challenge, but I also wound up calling in a lot of favors from friends to help me out with certain parts, to make sure my details are right.
My day job as a hairdresser helped me with how Rapunzel dealt with her hair. The braiding scenes were necessary, because I could never see someone with seventy feet of hair ever being able to move with it without it somehow bound. I imagined her braiding it in many different ways to keep it out of her way.
And the scene where Nick braids the little strand for her, to me, was very sexy--a man taking the time to help with her hair, that’s quite powerful to me.
LLN: There was one conversation between Rapunzel and the hero, Nick, that made me smile as a fellow author: when Rapunzel explains to Nick the actual definition of tresses, i.e. loose hair. I didn’t actually know that prior to reading your book. Was it a particular point you felt strongly about? One of those writer pet peeves?
CG: Actually, to be honest, I needed a reason for Nick to call Rapunzel “Tressey.” I fell in love with the nickname early on in the story. It was one of those magic moments in writing, where I saw Nick touching a strand of her hair, and the discussion of tresses between them. The close, intimate conversation about something so benign, yet there’s a deeper meaning, more intimacy than what the conversation alone reveals.
I love stuff like that. The characters talking about one thing, but their body language saying something much more.
It was definitely a scene I worked on a great deal to get just right.
LLN: What was your favorite part of writing Rescuing Rapunzel?
CG: Dialog is always my favorite thing to write, because so many times the words pour out of me, flowing naturally as I write. I usually have an idea of what’s going to happen in a scene, it isn’t until I finish the dialog that I really know where it goes.
A perfect example? Anything with all three Charming Nobles. That dialog just appeared, making me laugh as I wrote, and made me want, more and more, as I worked on Rapunzel, to know more about them as well.
Though we cannot forget Kiki, Nick’s little sister, who is a whirlwind in her own right. And a general thorn in Nick’s side, which makes it all the more fun. She was quite fun to write, for she seemed to have very little filter between her head and her mouth.
Yet another reason why the secondary characters are very special to me.
LLN: You’ve mentioned that you’re planning a trilogy with The Charming Nobles series. After reading Rescuing Rapunzel, I can say I’m really looking forward to what you have in store for Penn and Bryan, the other two Charming Nobles. Can you give us a few hints about what’s in store for the next book? Will Penn or Bryan star?
CG: Well, at the end of Rescuing Rapunzel, Penn receives a change in fortune and is riding out to inspect his holdings, and the next book in the series will focus on this change of fortune for him. We’ll get to see inside the happy playboy, and see what makes him tick.
LLN: Many of your books have a fantastic element, whether it’s a wish in a fountain (The Reluctant Prince) or vampires (A Darker Trinity). Is there something about the fantasy or paranormal that particularly appeals to you?
CG: I like the world building--creating my own takes on fantastic elements, whether it’s vampires, magic, or even fairies. How it can all lace together in some way, shape or form, and bring out the stories that are born in the creating of the world or universe.
I’ve always been one to ask “why is it that way?” and creating my own worlds, where I get to answer those questions, maybe turn traditional elements on their ear, and run with them in a different way has always been great fun for me.
LLN: Now, as a mom, I really understood your story on your website about the daily life of Candice Gilmer with demands of young children while trying to pen stories. What tips do you have for writer moms out there on how to balance writing, mothering, homemaking, and a job?
CG: The biggest thing about being a writer with a family/job/obligations, is prioritizing. It’s making the time, no matter what, to sit down and work. If it means not watching as much television, or getting up an hour before everyone else, or even staying up late, after everyone’s gone to bed, that’s what you have to do to get the job done.
I’ve always believed that truly being a writer is 20% talent, and 80% determination. You can have all the greatest ideas in the world, but if you don’t take the time to do something about them, they will remain nothing but ideas.
It also helps to have a supportive family. My husband and kids understand when Mom is working, she needs to be left alone. Is it a perfect system? Of course not. The kids still interrupt, the phone rings, the little one needs Mommy to take him pee pee, but I remain determined.
I won’t give up, because if I do, then my head will explode.
LLN: And our last, fun question: if you lived in the era of The Charming Nobles, what food would you have to try and what food would you not touch, even if on the brink of starvation?
CG: I don’t know that there’s any meat I wouldn’t try, as long as it’s cooked, of course, and vegetables, well, I’ve always liked vegetables.
But there is one thing I’ve always been a little scared of-- the meads and ales. I know they’re quite a bit more potent than any kind of beer or wine we have now, and not being a big drinker anyway, I think I’d wind up on the floor after a glass, if I could stomach drinking it, that is.
LLN: Again, thank you for joining us, Candice. You can find her book RescuingRapunzel here.
The Charming Nobles Book 1
Getting Rapunzel out the tower is only half the problem...
Rapunzel longs to live in the world she sees through her window, but more than her tower keeps her trapped. Her mother has taught her obedience without question and filled her with fear. She knows she will never reach the ground. Then Lord Nicolas von Hohburg scales her wall, breaks into her life, and changes everything.
Nick has resigned himself to a life of duty when Rapunzel’s song calls him to her tower. Soon she has his heart wrapped in her lengthy tresses and he can think of nothing else. But his responsibilities and sense of duty threaten to come between them...
Warning: A scheming witch, a damsel in distress and a Charming Noble who just might save the day.
CandiceGilmer leads a dangerous double life as a mommy and a writer. In between diaper changes and boo-boo healing, she writes stories usually to the tune of children’s television shows.
Growing up in the Midwest, Candice stays close to her family, especially the ones with basements when the tornadoes come around. She also works as a hairdresser, which she’s done for over fifteen years, and brings her laptop to work so she can write between clients.
When she’s not writing, styling hair and taking care of her family, she gets together with her girlfriends for gossip and coffee while her husband hunts ghosts with Wichita Paranormal Research Society. All in all, she stays very busy, but really, she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Well, maybe a little less children’s television.