Let me thank you once again for accepting to answer these questions !
Onirik : You started your career when you published your first book in 1994. Since then you have been awarded a RITA as well as many other prizes. There is even a prize which bears your name today. How do you account for this huge success ?
Gayle Wilson : I’m not sure I’d classify whatever success I’ve enjoyed as huge. I have won two RITAs, of which I am very proud. RWA members elected me president of Romance Writers of America in 2006. I was deeply honored when my local chapter chose to name their published contest for me. And I’m very grateful that so many of the stories I’ve had to tell have been published. All that said, I’ve never made the New York Times bestseller list, for example. Still, I’m pleased that I’ve been able to do something that I enjoy very much for so many years. It is truly rewarding.
Onirik : You had important responsibilities within Romance Writers of America. Could you tell us about your work in this frame ?
Gayle Wilson : RWA is the world’s largest genre-fiction writers’ organization, with almost 10,000 members. I served on the RWA Board of Directors for three years before I was elected president. In that position I was privileged to be able to speak to many groups about romance fiction and about the wonderful people who write and read the genre. I was, in a sense, the spokesperson for romance fiction, a role that I enjoyed and was honored to hold. I also got to work with Nora Roberts during the 2006 RITA Awards Ceremony and was privileged to present a Lifetime Achievement Award to Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I was keeping some very prestigious company in those days ! J
Onirik : Since the beginning of your career, you have written historical romances, contemporary romances, and then romantic suspense which, for several years, you have mainly focused on. Do you consider going back to historical romance or is it definitely over ?
Gayle Wilson : Actually, I’m writing an historical romance right now. It’s part of a continuity series (connected stories) that I’m writing with five other authors. Each author writes her own book, of course, but there are connecting elements. Although I don’t have a title for the series or for my individual story yet, they will be released by Harlequin Mills & Boon in 2010. I hope you’ll look for them because I’ve really enjoyed getting back into the Regency world where I began my career.
Onirik : Your heroes’ lives are often led by a sense of duty which brings them to make difficult decisions (Griff in Men of Mystery runs a team that may have to assassinate men, for instance). Do you think, like some of them do, that you sometimes have to go very far for reasons of state or to protect your loved ones ?
Gayle Wilson : Duty has played a role in my life, no doubt. It hasn’t, however, been in the life-threatening situations my heroes face. I was taught as a child that one has a duty to God, to parents, to family, and to country. My husband is ex-military and served two tours in Vietnam as a helicopter gunship pilot. No matter one’s feeling about that war, one should certainly acknowledge that those who sacrificed in the course of it did so out of a sense of love and duty to their country. For many Americans serving or not serving in that conflict was a very difficult decision, so I suppose many of my heroes are a reflection of my life experiences, albeit only through my husband rather than in my own actions.
As far as protecting loved ones, I think we would all go very far if they were threatened, wouldn’t we ? Those are also stories I enjoy writing—women whose children are endangered and so on.
Onirik : In the same way, your heroes can go as far as self-sacrifice, forgetting their desires for a cause or another person. Do you regard this quality as essential in a hero ?
Gayle Wilson : Absolutely ! My heroes must be capable of sacrifice on behalf of those they love or for those they are bound to protect. Good, decent people do this every day of their lives. We sacrifice for our aging parents, to meet our children’s needs, for our families and our friends, and through our volunteering and donations to charitable organizations. To me, self-sacrifice is truly heroic. Men who lay their own lives on the line for others, such as soldiers, policemen, firefighters, and many other endeavors, are my real-life heroes.
Onirik : Many of your heroes are handicapped or in poor health because of wounds (Griff Cabot as well as Dominic Maitland or Ian Sinclair...).What does such an element bring in the plot ?
Gayle Wilson : I believe that the most interesting people are those who have overcome obstacles. They’ve been tested, either physically or mentally, and have come through the experience with their courage and their honor intact. They may have been wounded, but they continue to fight and to live life to the fullest extent possible for them. As I said, to me personally they are more interesting than those who have never been battle-tested.
Onirik : These men do their best to hide and overcome their handicap. Does this underline the hero’s nobility ?
Gayle Wilson :I think it does in that none of them have given up. They continue to pursue their lives and in many cases continue to do their duty. They certainly don’t “trade” on their handicaps to acquire special concessions. Rather they want to be treated like everyone else and to make their own way.
Onirik : Many of your historical plots and romantic suspense take place in the spy world. Is this a rich setting that you are particularly interested in for your plots ?
Gayle Wilson : I think it’s an interesting world because it’s covert and something most of us think very little about. These men serve their countries without uniforms or fanfare or very much public recognition of the dangerous job they’ve undertaken. They are truly unsung heroes. And in my books, they wouldn’t have it any other way. They don’t do what they do for fame and glory, but for love of country. I really admire that.
Onirik : You have been a teacher, in particular of gifted children. Did you get a lot out of their teaching ( besides a heroine who has this same job in « The Suicide Club ») ?
Gayle Wilson : Although I’ve been writing for over 15 years, I still think of myself as a teacher. I spent so much of my life in the classroom, and I loved every minute of it. I taught high school (ages 14-18), which can be very trying years. I love that age group, however. I loved being around them and being able to introduce them to literature and history. And teaching the gifted was such a joy ! The chance to mold and influence our brightest and our best minds was one of the highlights of my life.
Onirik : You most likely inspire many young writers today, but who was an inspiration to you ? Have your readings acted upon your life ?
Gayle Wilson : I was an English major in college, so I was exposed to the very best in literature. I can’t begin to name all the writers who influenced me. My favorite author is a Scotswoman named Dorothy Dunnett. I would love to say that she influenced my writing, but she was so brilliant a writer, I wouldn’t dare make that claim. Perhaps I can say that I always wanted to write like her, so in that sense, she might be considered to have been an influence.
Also, my father was a great storyteller. He loved to make up stories and entertain his children with them—ghost stories, legends, and other « tall » tales. I’ve always considered myself to be a storyteller first because the story is the most important aspect of a book to me. It’s more important to me than style or word usage or any of that. What happens to these people and what are the consequences for them are the questions I’m most interested in answering for the reader.
Onirik : Could you give us some information about your next book and your plans for 2009 ?
Gayle Wilson :I won’t have a new book out in the US in 2009—I’m not sure what will be coming out in France during that timeframe. The historical I’m currently writing will be published in 2010, but I don’t yet have a title for it. It is set in the English regency period, as are my other historicals, and the heroine is a Romany healer. The hero is, of course, one of those wounded warriors I so love to write about. I really hope you’ll look for it next year.