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If Liz Carlyle didn’t get bored so easily, she might never have become an author. The first time Carlyle, pen name for Susan T. Woodhouse, seriously considered becoming a writer was in the seventh grade, when a teacher told her she had literary talent. During her senior year in high school, Carlyle won a Scripps-Howard writing scholarship, and she majored in journalism in college. Carlyle did some freelance work for the local paper but worried that she might not land a full-time newspaper job after graduation. So she used her minor in business management as entrée to the corporate world, and spent the next 18 years working primarily for automotive and chemical companies, helping them close down unproductive plants.
The work took its emotional toll, and Carlyle cashed out what she calls her “tin foil” parachute and left the industry. She had another job lined up, but it didn’t start until four months later. So she spent the first week of her “vacation” cleaning her home, cooking gourmet meals, and driving her husband crazy. Then she remembered that she once wanted to write a romance novel. Not having read a romance for years, Carlyle went out and loaded up on current romances. Finally, she sat down and began typing. “I had no idea how hard it was to sell a manuscript. I didn’t know anyone who wrote fiction, and I just began writing on a whim. I’m glad, in hindsight, that I was clueless.”
Twelve weeks later, Carlyle’s husband helped her send the manuscript out to different publishers. Carlyle received several encouraging letters and calls. In the meantime, Carlyle’s husband landed a different job that would require the couple to move out of state. Carlyle informed her erstwhile future employer that she couldn’t take the job, and began writing her next romance, My False Heart, which was published by Pocket Books in 1999.
Carlyle quickly became known for her elegantly written and lushly sensual romances as well as the tough, intense, and occasionally dark emotional workouts her heroes and heroines must endure. While Carlyle frequently puts her characters through hell and back, she does know that romance readers expect a happily-ever-after ending and she always delivers. “I want the heroine to get a hero she deserves, and if there are any wicked characters involved, I want them punished. A well-written romance novel delivers the whole package, so I like to think that, as writers, we are giving our readers a bit of joy and perhaps a bit of justice in a sometimes unjust world.”
Fifteen years, 22 novels, 4 novellas, numerous spots on the New York Times best-seller list, and one RITA Award later, Carlyle is ready to take a break. The Earl’s Mistress is Carlyle’s last romance, for now.
“When I first laid down my pen last year, I thought I might return to writing in some fashion, eventually. I’m a bit of a high-energy, über-organized, Type A person, and everyone warned me that I might implode. I do have three old, unpublished manuscripts, quite good books, really, that I would love to e-publish some day, once I’ve given them a polishing-up. And I want desperately to write a few country-house murder mysteries for George Kemble.”
Carlyle’s fans know that Kemble is a gentleman’s valet turned antique shop owner. Carlyle explains,
“Kemble fascinated me from the start, and he gets more fan mail than any other character. Always a morally ambiguous man, Kemble is eventually revealed to be of aristocratic origin. He’s the man you call to help fill your wine cellar, to decide if your lamps clash with your curtains, or to have someone bashed across the head in a dark alley. I’m often asked by readers if Kemble is gay, to which I reply that Kemble is of the don’t-ask-don’t-tell persuasion. But since he did recently retire to a house in the country with his special friend, Maurice the haberdasher, I leave folks to draw their own conclusions.”
As for her future, Carlyle says, “If I ever write again, it will be something written just for fun.” Her multitude of fans will be fervently hoping that “fun” will include romance, in however dark and demanding a form this exceptional writer chooses.
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