Interview with Christina Courtenay – Trade Winds

Another fantastic author has been kind enough to let me interview them about their novel, writing technique and Genealogy. 

The lovely Christina Courtenay has dropped by and this is what she had to say…


Hello Christina, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for me. You have a book out at the moment called Trade Winds, can you tell us what it is about?

It is set in 1731/32 and is about a handsome Scotsman, Killian Kinross, who goes to Sweden in the hope of making his fortune.  There he meets strong-willed Jessamijn van Sandt, a merchant’s daughter who believes she’s being swindled out of her inheritance by her step-father.  They join forces for mutual benefit and enter into a marriage of convenience, but then Killian is offered the chance of a lifetime with the Swedish East India Company.  He sets sail for China, but the journey doesn’t turn out quite as he expected …

You were born in Sweden, were the references to Sweden from memory or did you return for research? What other kinds of research was needed for this book?

All the references to Swedish customs, food and weather etc were from memory – I especially enjoyed writing the snow scenes as I loved the winters as a child.  Some of the other things I had to research, however.  For example, I had only visited the city of Gothenburg once a long time ago, so I returned there in order to see its layout and get a feel for it.  I also spent time at the Gothenburg City Museum where they keep journals and other archival material relating to the Swedish East India Company.  It made for fascinating reading.  And they have lots of artefacts there brought back by employees of the company, which helped me with my story.  Other than that, I read books about the company, about Canton in the 18th century and about Swedish history in general, plus I had to find out about Edinburgh at this time as well.

Have you always written, or always wanted to be a writer?

No, I’ve always loved reading, but never thought I could write myself.  It didn’t even occur to me until I had my first child and decided I wanted to stay at home with her rather than go back to work.  I had the mistaken idea that perhaps I could easily write a Mills & Boon book and thus earn enough money to stay at home with my daughter.  Unfortunately it was a lot harder than I thought and it took me 18 years to finally get published.  What I did find out though, was that I really enjoyed writing, so I persevered.

What are you working on at the moment?

 I’ve just finished proof-reading my second novel, The Scarlet Kimono, which will be published in March next year.  It’s the story of a rebellious English girl who stows away on board her brother’s ship in search of adventure and ends up falling in love with a Japanese warlord.  (You can read more about it and an extract at http://www.choclitpublishing.co.uk/Catalogue/2010_Selection/Christina_Courtenay/The_Scarlet_Kimono/the_scarlet_kimono.html)  I’m also working on a sequel to Trade Winds, which is set in Scotland, one of my favourite places!

Where do you find your ideas? Do you go looking for story plot ideas or do they just come to you?

 Usually they just come to me out of the blue.  They can be triggered by lots of different things like for example an actor, a snatch of conversation, a house, a painting or something I’ve seen in a film or on TV.  Sometimes I also get ideas for new books while researching the current one.  You can come across snippets of information that make you want to learn more and then an idea is born.

Apart from writing, I understand you take a very keen interest in Genealogy, can you tell us a little bit about what that entails? What made you first start looking into your family tree, is it something you have always wanted to do?

 I grew up in Sweden, where I had lots of relatives on my mother’s side.  There were always large gatherings of cousins, aunts and uncles etc.  But my father was English and I’d only ever met his immediate family and knew nothing about the rest, so when I moved to England I took the opportunity to do some research.  As anyone who does genealogy knows, it’s a very addictive hobby and I’ve been at it for over twenty years now.  It’s like a huge jigsaw puzzle that’s never totally complete.  I’ve found lots of fascinating things and made friends with distant relatives in places like Australia and New Zealand, so it’s great fun.  And it really brings history to life as well when you find out what your real-life ancestors did.

What types of books do you normally like to read? What are you reading at the moment?

 I love historical romance, especially those with slightly unusual settings, and also thrillers with a bit of history or some sort of treasure hunt involved, like those written by Steve Berry and David Gibbins.  Recently I’ve been reading a lot of YA novels too and especially like Melissa Marr’s “Wicked Lovely” series about faeries.  Naturally I read all the books by my fellow Choc Lit authors and so far I’ve loved every one of them – I just finished “Want to Know a Secret” by Sue Moorcroft, which was superb! And as I’m currently the organizer for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s “Love Story of the Year Award”, I’m reading my way through this year’s shortlist as well.
 Wow, you sound as though you have your hands full, right now. Well, thank you for talking to me today, it has been a real pleasure! Good luck with Trade Winds and I look forward to reading your next novel.
You can find Christina’s website here, and you can also follow her on Twitter. She regularly blogs here, too. 

Click here, to order your copy of Trade Winds from Amazon. I have read this book and it was a fantastic read. You can read my review, here.

Best of luck, Christina!
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