A writer with a passion for historical romance

Lotte James is a successful writer for romance specialist Harlequin Mills & Boon and also a self-published author. The former actor and theatre director tells Eileen Leahy how her love of reading romantic fiction led to her career switch…


So Lotte, after working as an actor and theatre director, what led you to pursue your dream of writing?

To be honest, it was a ‘stars aligning’ type of situation. For as long as I can remember, I would dream up stories and scribble notes at any given chance. Then came a time in my personal and professional life when I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to fully commit to writing, and I went for it. It fulfilled me in ways I had only ever dreamt of, and I knew that this was the right path to travel.


How long have you been a published author and how did you get into writing romantic novels?

My debut with Mills & Boon, ‘The Housekeeper of Thornhallow Hall’, was published in 2021, but I began self-publishing in 2018. I started writing romance after I remembered my love of reading it! I realised that in most of the tales I was already dreaming up, the main arc was a love story.


Is romance your preferred literary genre?

Definitely – both to read and to write about. But I do like other styles as well. I particularly enjoy a good thriller or crime book and I am hoping to try a bit of everything at some point.


What are some of the titles of the books you’ve written?

For Mills & Boon I have penned ‘The Marquess of Yew Park House’, ‘The Gentleman of Holly Street’ and ‘The Viscount’s Daring Miss’. I have also written a series entitled Vixens & Villians for them, which is ideal for fans of historical romance with a dash of darkness and danger.


Where do you find inspiration for your characters and plot lines?

It can be anything really. A painting, chemistry between characters on a TV show, or the need to tell the story of one of the secondary characters in my own books. Once I have the initial kernel of an idea, I use a lot of my theatre training to build the story. I ask myself questions about the characters, ponder what kind of themes or atmosphere I want to play with, and where I want them to go in the story.


How do you ensure that no two stories are ever the same?

I think that comes naturally. Just digging into who the characters are ensures no two stories will ever be the same because they are fully developed, with rounded lives. They each travel their own paths, as we do in real life.


Do you find writing for publishing houses such as Mills & Boon constricting, or are you allowed free reign?

No, it’s not constrictive at all! The publishers are really great at giving their writers a lot of creative freedom, and in terms of the editorial process, it’s really more of a collaboration to ensure we’re telling the best version of the story we can.


Can you tell us why your books for Mills & Boon carry the strapline ‘Historical’?

Because they are just that: Historical romance. I have self-published one contemporary book, and am planning more in the not-so-distant future. But for now, most of my books are set in the 1820s and 1830s, which is a really fascinating, liminal, and transitional period.


Do you have to carry out a lot of research for each of your novels?

I do, and I love it! It’s one of the best parts of the job, though I have to be very careful and limit myself to what I actually need to research at any given time. One too many times, I’ve fallen down the research rabbit hole!


What techniques do you employ to ensure that your writing and plots do not become formulaic?

I think it comes back to knowing your characters, and your world. You may be following a certain plot structure, you may have, say, a midpoint in every story, but the middle of the story for your main characters will rarely be the same in all cases. That’s because everyone’s story is different, even just by the perspective in which you choose to tell it.


Who is your target audience?

Oh, that’s a tough one! I would probably say people who love protagonists willing
to break the rules to find their happy ending!


You also run writing workshops. Please tell us a little about those.

When I started writing full-time, I found myself employing many of the tools and techniques I learned working in theatre. They offer a different way into the writing process, and have been really useful in conquering the blank page. So I thought, why not offer that perspective to others? I now host virtual workshops that vary according to levels of experience, suited to people at every stage of the writing journey.


What books do you have coming up for publication?

My next book, ‘The Viscount’s Daring Miss’, is out April 27 in the UK, both in eBook and in paperback. I am hoping to self-publish more books this year. My next, as of yet untitled, Mills & Boon novel should be out in the autumn.


For more information about Lotte’s work, visit her website at: lottejamesbooks.com or follow her on Twitter: @lottejamesbooks

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