Interview with Author Courney Milan – Plus a Contest

The funny and fabulous Courtney Milan stops by today to talk about her debut, her attack cat, some future books and all manner of other things you’ll enjoy hearing about. She’ll be giving away some copies of the novella, so read through to the bottom to find out how you can come away with one for yourself.

Courtney Milan
This Wicked Gift in THE HEART OF CHRISTMAS, HQN, October 2009

The Interview

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Photo of Author Courtney Milan
I was born in a Russian gulag, and learned to read by scraping twigs against the….
Oh my God! Courtney, you too? Didn’t those twigs really–

Oh. Wait. You want me to tell the truth?
Well, only if it’s no trouble.

All righty then. I’ve held about nine or ten very different jobs, ranging from sales to graphic design to administration of a Linux cluster to animal training. Also, I’m a liar, so some of the things I say may not be 100% true.

Q: Why historical romance?

This one is easy: I can’t write contemporaries, because I know absolutely nothing about popular culture. Nada. Not a thing. This is not to say you need to be a pop culture maven to write contemporaries, but it’s just one of those little things I’ve learned: Never lie about subject matter to someone who knows more than you do. You’ll never fool them.

Q: Team Eric or Team Bill? Edward or Jacob? (If you answer Bill and Edward, I won’t hold it against you. Promise.) Why?

Um, who are Eric and Bill? (See above question.) As for Edward versus Jacob, that’s easy. Bella can keep Edward. She deserves him. ๐Ÿ™‚

I will email you some references. Because I’m just generous that way.

Q: Did you train your cat to be an attack cat or did you just get lucky? Do you have a picture you can share?

The cat came pre-trained to attack. We were very lucky with this cat; we got him because a "friend" asked us to watch him over his vacation. Vacation ended and the "friend" never showed up to pick up his cat. Needless to say, we kept the cat and ditched the friend.
Good move. An attack cat is invaluable.
You can see a picture of him, prepared to attack my carefully-built fortress of author copies of my novellaPicture of Courtney Milan's attack cat and book fortress

Q: Are you a plotter or a pantser or somewhere in between?

I’m definitely a plotter. And I plot by writing. The way it works is that in order to really get going on a story I need to know the beginning, the middle, and the end. That may sound like the whole story, but really, it’s about 30,000 words–there’s the part after the beginning but before the middle, and then the part before the middle but after the beginning and after the part after the part after the beginning…. trust me, it’s just as confusing inside my head. So I basically have three scenes in my head when I start writing. Everything else I figure out in writing.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the kind of stories you write?

Some people write stories about good people who have bad things happen to them. I write stories about good people who make bad mistakes. In some sense, I think my characters always bring the meat of the story upon themselves, by making choices that while often well-intentioned, are fatally flawed. This is not to say that my characters get into bad situations by their own stupidity–quite the opposite. In fact, if anything, I think that relying too much on intelligence and overthinking are more likely to get my characters in trouble than, say, foolish choices made without thought.

I like writing stories like that because I feel it really pushes my characters to grow emotionally, to discover things about themselves, to rediscover the notion of honor and to decide that they are worthy of respect and love. I really believe it’s hard to love another person if you don’t love yourself, and so it’s crucial that during the course of the story, my heroes and heroines learn to trust themselves as well as the people around them.

Q: I’m pimping you, Courtney. Tell me about your upcoming single title.

On January 1, 2010 (that’s a lot of 1’s!), my single title debut, PROOF BY SEDUCTION, is coming out. Proof by Seduction is the story of Gareth Carhart, the Marquess of Blakely, an inveterate scientist who is stunned to find out that his cousin and heir has been visiting a fortune teller for advice. He decides to prove Madame Esmerelda is a fraud. But what he assumes will be a simple task becomes drawn out by a simpler occurrence: He sees her almost naked. And once he’s seen behind her disguise, he realizes that she is far more complex than a simple fraud. False as Madame Esmerelda’s predictions might be, the woman who plays Madame Esmerelda, Jenny Keeble, is more compelling than any of the fortunes she manufactures. And before he can understand what’s happening, he realizes that the way he feels about her can’t fit inside a scientific proposition.

To put it in visual terms:

My Usual Approach is Useless Here, Cartoon by xkcd


PROOF is also the story of Jenny Keeble, an illegitimate byblow who has never known her parents, and who’s struggled for respect all her life. She’s found a measure of that respect telling rich people what they want to hear. She has money, security, and people who look up to her. But when she meets Gareth, she begins to realize that all of that means nothing if she can’t respect herself.

That sounds so awesome. I can’t wait to read it.

Q: What else do you have for us to look forward to?
Cover of This Wicked Gift
Sometime in 2010, after PROOF BY SEDUCTION, the follow-up, TRIAL BY DESIRE, will be released. TRIAL BY DESIRE is the story of Ned Carhart, the cousin of the hero of PROOF BY SEDUCTION.

But before we even get there, sometime in late November/early December I’ll be posting a free read. You know how Harlequin Historicals sometimes have titles like, "Smashingly Drunk Lord, Feisty Maiden?" This will have a similar title. Completely similar. Except… totally different.

Smashingly Drunk Lord, Feisty Maiden was one of my fav reads of 2005.

Q: Can you provide a fun fact or two about your story?

Fun facts! Oh, man, whenever I hear "fun facts" my brain automatically translates that into "lies." What does that say about me? Nothing I haven’t already said, I suppose, but alliteration sounds so immediately hyperbolic that it gets me thinking about all kinds of things that are fun. And you know what else alliterates with "fun" and "fact"? Yeah, you got it. Fake. So I will tell you three fun facts about my novella, but one thing I say in this section will be completely fake.
We here at Writer’s Diary are all about really good lies. Lie on, Courtney. Lie on.

  • I named the hero of my novella after a famous football star.
  • I originally described this novella as Dickens’s A Christmas Carol meets, but it really ended up being more like The Damnation of Faust takes polite tea with, but then goes on its merry way to a happy ending.
  • Hidden inside this Christmas novella is a shocking truth: My novella almost never mentions Christmas. Hidden inside the lack of mention of Christmas in this novella is an even more shocking truth: Chapters of the novella parallel the libretto of Handel’s Messiah.

What’s the lie? Identify it in comments–and two people who correctly identify the lie will win a copy of my novella! (If nobody correctly identifies the lie, I will give out three copies at random.)

The Important Stuff

Read an Excerpt

Buy a copy of This Wicked Gift

And leave a comment. You could win big!


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12 Responses to “Interview with Author Courney Milan – Plus a Contest”

  1. RKCharron says:

    Hi Carolyn & Christine ๐Ÿ™‚
    Thank you for the great interview!
    It was fun & informative.
    Was the third one the lie?
    Thanks again,
    All the best,

  2. Cat Marsters/Kate Johnson says:

    Thanks, Courtney and Carolyn, for the funnest interview I've read in a long time!

    And I reckon #1 is the lie. Because the truth is always weirder.

  3. Susan in AZ says:

    I vote that Handel had nothing to do with writing this novella – it's all-Courtney, all the time.

  4. SonomaLass says:

    I'm going guess that an author totally unfamiliar with popular culture did not name her hero after a football star. So I agree that #1 is the fake.

  5. Jane says:

    Hi Carolyn and Courtney,
    Congrats on the new release, Courtney. I think number three is the lie.

  6. Courtney Milan says:

    These are all good choices. ๐Ÿ™‚ I don't want to disturb anyone's guesses, but I will add this: I am sneakier, and more full of lies, then I appear. Also, I am a lawyer, and have no problem relying on a technicality.

  7. Kate T says:

    Great review! I don't read a lot of romance novels, but there's something about the approaching cold weather that makes me want to curl up with a good romance and some hot chocolate.

  8. Kate T says:

    Oops! I forgot to say which is the lie, I'm going for the second one, as no one has guessed that and I love an underdog.

  9. Pam P says:

    Fun interview Courtney, and congrats on the release.

    I'm going to guess you're scamming us with the second one.

  10. Courtney Milan says:

    Thank you everyone for all your guesses! I do have to warn you though… I am a lawyer, and that means that so much hinges on a technicality.

    To whit, the prompt: I will tell you three fun facts about my novella, but one thing I say in this section will be completely fake.

    Note what I didn't say: One of the three things I tell you will be fake.

    So, on to the three things:

    1. I named my hero after a famous football star.

    Status: True. Mr. William White's last name was obtained when I was a lawyer, and I was grousing around for the name of some random secondary character. I didn't think the person would ever be important, so I didn't want to spend much time on it. So I did what I always do when I'm naming characters: I looked to Supreme Court Justices (past and present) and famous cases. In this case, the Justice I happened to first glance at was (now deceased) Byron Raymond "Whizzer" White, who was also a running back before he was appointed to the Court. And thus, the secondary character become Mr. White.

    2. I originally described this as A Christmas Carol meets, but it turned into The Damnation of Faust has tea with


    3. (Some) chapters of the novella parallel the libretto of Handel's Messiah.

    True. I only took portions of the libretto that came from the Old Testament (because I didn't want to make any Jewish people who read the story feel excluded, if they happened to notice, and if somehow they picked up a Christmas story).

    You can't read anything into the use except confusion, and as that accurately captures how I feel about religion, I figured it would work.

  11. Courtney Milan says:

    SO: The lie was that one of the items was fake.

    And now that you're all groaning and thinking about smacking me with something, I will point out that this means I give away more copies of my novella (that's why I set it up that way!)

    So the winners are: Kate T., Susan in AZ, and Cat Marsters/Kate Johnson.

    Send your snail-mail address to, and I'll send it out right away.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Nice article as for me. It would be great to read more concerning that theme. Thanx for sharing this material.