Before The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting was picked up by Orion, KJ Charles self-published the book. A lot of people have already found and fallen in love with her writing, and now there will be even more readers who will get to read this funny, heart-warming, and sexy Regency tale. We have the honour of inviting KJ Charles to chat about her book today:
Before The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting was picked up by Orion, you were doing self publishing. Can you tell us a little bit about what that was like? How did you grow your audience?
Self publishing has a lot of advantages. You have total creative control, which is nice if you, like me, are a bit of a control freak. You can turn a book round very quickly, give it the title you want rather than the one the sales meeting decides on, and write the things you want to write. (UK-set historical romance is almost entirely Regency and Victorian, and it’s only pretty recently that we’ve seen historicals that aren’t about white cisgender heterosexuals coming from the big publishers.)
Self pub is a lot of work though. I’d already worked with a couple of independent publishers and one Big Six, so I had an established readership when I switched to self pub, which definitely got me through the hardest part. Plus I used to work in publishing so I didn’t find the learning curve too daunting. But there is inevitably a lot of marketing, a lot of social media, plus having to find the right freelance editor and manage your own covers and so on. It’s not for everyone.
And how does it feel now that you are doing traditional publishing? What are you most looking forward to?
It’s really great having a team! Working with an editor and having a marketing person takes a huge load off. My favourite part is the covers, without a doubt. I adore The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting’s new cover by Chloe Friedlein. I’m not at all visual and it’s so much better to have a publisher’s design team coming up with ideas, finding the perfect image or illustrator, and making it happen.
The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting is described as tropetastic. What do you think makes books with tropes so great?
Tropes give the reader a delightful combination of the familiar and the new. We see a trope and feel a happy anticipation of how things are going to play out, which may be satisfied, supplying the pleasure of the familiar, or subverted, offering the thrill of the unexpected.
And what trope from other romance novels would you want to write about next in your books?
My next book with Orion, The Duke at Hazard, has a classic ‘duke in disguise’ plot. It was enormous fun to do, and I completely leaned in to the trope.
The dialogues, especially between Robin and Hart, are so smart. Does it take a long time to plan them or do they come naturally to you?
I really enjoy writing dialogue and my books are quite dialogue heavy, so I think it is a natural tendency! I do think we need to see main characters verbally interacting in order to believe in their romance—watching the characters spar and misunderstand and then start to be honest and real with each other and come into harmony is my favourite thing in romance.
Robin and Hart were huge fun to write because they’re such different personalities so their conversations go off in all sorts of unexpected directions. Hart is extremely plain spoken, Robin is alarmingly impulsive, and they’re both attempting to operate in a milieu that demands poise and good manners, which neither of them is capable of sustaining under pressure.
The character developments and the relationships between characters are done incredibly well too! Aside from Robin and Hart’s relationship, which character / which relationship did you enjoy developing the most?
The sisters! Robin has Marianne, a fortune hunter in her own right, and Hart has his worried older sister Edwina. This is very much a book about ways families work and ways they don’t, and the two sisters are a crucial part of that. I also really liked working out Robin’s relationship with the woman he’s trying to fortune-hunt. It’s a potentially pretty cruel thing to do, and he’s not a cruel person, so it was important she got her own happy ending.
And finally, please tell us: are there going to be more books in the Gentle Art universe?
Yes! There is already a novella, A Thief in the Night, which tells the story of Robin’s long-lost brother Toby. And then later this year, Orion will be publishing The Duke at Hazard, about a duke going incognito and the gentleman of uncertain fortune he picks up along the way. It stars new characters, but Robin and Hart make a crucial cameo appearance, which was terrific fun to write.