About The Author
Gaelen Foley is the New York Times, USA Today, and Publisher's Weekly bestselling author of eighteen historical romances set in the glittering world of Regency England. Her books are available in fifteen languages and have won numerous genre awards, such as the Bookseller's Best, the NJRW Golden Leaf (three times), the CRW Award of Excellence, the National Reader's Choice Award, the Beacon, and the Holt Medallion.
A Pennsylvania native, Gaelen holds a B.A. in English literature with a minor in Philosophy from the State University of New York, College at Fredonia, a quaint lakeside village where Mark Twain once owned a home. It was here, while studying the Romantic poets, such as Wordsworth, Byron, and Keats that she first fell in love with the Regency period in which her novels are set. Gaelen lives in western Pennyslvania with her college-sweetheart husband, Eric, a schoolteacher, with whom she co-writes middle grade fantasy adventure novels under the pen-name, E.G. Foley. (See www.EGFoley.com.) She is hard at work on her next book.
Writing & Life ~ Photo Gallery
This event was put on by Avon during RWA's National Conference in NYC, July 2011. Panel discussion about writing, romance, heroes, heroines, and books! From left to right: Katharine Ashe, Miranda Neville, Maya Rodale, Stephanie Laurens, Gaelen Foley, and Sarah Maclean. Enjoy!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. Is Gaelen Foley your real name? How do you pronounce that?
Yes, it is my real name. It’s Irish, like the Gaelic language, and it’s pronounced GAY-len. For people who find that hard to pronounce, I also answer to Gail. :)
2. How did you get started writing?
I was only in high school when I made up my mind to pursue my dream career as a novelist. I saw the adults in my life pretty unhappy in their jobs, and this made me determined to do what I love and have a happy life--and I knew I couldn't be happy if I wasn't writing.
Getting started so young was a real help because I was able to be very methodical about it and right from the start, orient my college education around my long term goal of becoming a writer. As an English major, I wasn't getting much out of the creative writing track, so I switched to the literature track (also with a lot of history, fine arts, and philosophy) so I could focus on studying the great masterpieces of our language before starting my own humble attempts. In hindsight (for you college kids who want to write) I wish I had also taken a few business and marketing classes, because an author is a small business owner. (So, don't become one of those artsy people who slam business. You need to be able to handle both sides of the equation.) Fwiw, I also found Logic and a few Psychology classes helpful.
After college, Eric and I moved to Atlanta, Georgia. I did a secretarial stint in a chiropractic office (oh, the joy of fighting with insurance companies), worked in a library and a bookstore, and then for several years, worked nights as a waitress to pay the bills so I could keep my days free for writing and honing my craft. I fully admit I was a bad waitress, constantly forgetting people's orders, with my head all full of stories. So I was pretty broke! But I was happy, reading, reading, reading, and busily writing away.
Thankfully, in Atlanta, I found RWA (Romance Writers of America) and met my first real live published authors and made some dear writing friends. The famously awesome chapter of RWA based in Atlanta gave me some much-needed guidance and practical, how-to knowledge that was light years beyond the college program. (Note to aspiring writers: A membership to RWA is much cheaper than an MFA and won't indoctrinate you with weird values that put you at odds with most of the audience. Just sayin'.)
It took five and a half years to sell my first book, which was actually my fifth completed manuscript. This became The Pirate Prince, which won the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best First Historical Romance in 1998. That book is still in print, on something like it’s fourteenth printing, and has been translated into many languages, the rest is history.
3. Why do you write historical romance?
Writing is my passion, and historical romance is just plain FUN. The drama, pageantry, swashbuckling adventure, glittering elegance, passionate sensuality, and intense emotion that work so well in Historical Romance are a perfect fit for my personality and my muse. Plus, I’ve always been a history buff, and the Napoleonic/Regency era is a glorious setting to work with.
But the most important reason I write romance is because I believe in the power of love to heal and transform people’s lives. My work celebrates the possibility of triumphing over the darkness of this world through the power of love.
4. Where do you get your ideas? Do you ever use personal experiences in your books?
Well, I can’t say I have ever been wooed by a duke or carried off by a gorgeous pirate (yet! Here's hoping, ha ha.) So, no, it’s not really based on my personal experiences, but certainly, the emotions of my characters come from me. Little seeds of ideas can blow in from anywhere—a dream; a what-if; random facts I stumble across in history books; some particular aspect of a movie premise that gets my brain churning; inspiration from a classic work of prose or poetry, and of course, from fairytales, just to name a few. It’s all what you do with the idea once it arrives that makes it exciting, how you combine it with other ideas to come up with something fun and original. I'm not sure there are any totally "new" ideas; it's how you express it--your voice and personal viewpoint--that makes it your own.
5. Do you outline your novels before you begin writing or make it up as you go along?
I do outline my stories before writing, with the understanding that it's ok if it changes as I go along. You have to be fairly flexible to allow for new ideas that pop up along the way. Another step I take to prepare before I actually start writing is to sketch out fairly detailed character profiles for my heroes and heroines, and (less so) my villains and secondary characters. It saves time by cutting down on the amount of revisions needed later. Since my stories are usually connected in series, it helps me to know in advance where I'm going with each installment of a given series or trilogy.
6. How long does it take you to write a novel? Do you work on several books at the same time?
It takes me about six to eight months to write a book, and I build time into my normal schedule for plotting and researching the next one. I change my writing methods all the time. I'm always experimenting with new ways to work and so forth. I love learning about writing and trying new approaches. I never assume I have it all figured out! Lately I have tried working on a couple of different projects at a time, and so far, I am loving doing that. It's very refreshing for my brain!
7. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
The thing about writing is that it's all a head game, and it seems like a lot of writers get too intense about it, not in a positive way. The biggest challenge we all face is how to keep on motivating ourselves over the marathon of getting the novel done, and the next one, and the next one, and the next one... The answer to that, in my opinion, is to focus on the pleasure of the creative process. It shouldn't be something you have to grit your teeth and "get through." It's much easier to get it done if you are enjoying it, but we often kill the joy for ourselves by being too serious and too perfectionistic. It actually produces better writing to approach it in a fun, playful, excited way, not a stressed out, this-must-be-the-best-book-ever-written-or-my-life-is-worthless kind of mentality. When you chill out a little and keep it fun, better results come out.
The fear is understandable, though, because for unpublished writers, the competition is vast, and for published writers, it is tough to know that every word you write is going to be judged, especially by those weird people out there who love writing 1-star reviews on Amazon for everything they read.
When I'm writing, I try to block out any thought of the outside world and let myself get totally absorbed in the story--to relish and enjoy the adventure, the emotions, the settings and characters. Sometimes I look up at the clock after a writing stint and can't believe hours have passed when it felt like twenty minutes.
It doesn't always flow like that, but I do know that self-doubt and perfectionism are two of the biggest traps in which writers can get mired. We can often be our own worst enemies--but trying TOO hard is equally counterproductive. The worst thing that can happen is for the writing to begin to feel like a chore. So my advice is to focus on the joy, and your enthusiasm and excitement will take the fear factor out of it and sustain you until you write The End. Best of luck. ~GF