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Julia Latham

A NEW NAME FOR A FAMILIAR FACE

(from Romantic Times Magazine, March 2007 issue)

It takes a village to name a romance writer. That's what Gayle Callen learned as she tried to come up with a new moniker for her medieval romance, this month's Thrill of the Knight (Avon). Callen describes the project as a group effort among herself, her editor and her agent. They finally decided on Julia Latham. "I must have put in eight to 10 hours of work," says the author of 12 other Avon historical romances.

Even though Callen had already written medievals under her real name, she says her publisher didn't want to confuse readers of her current Victorian novels by putting her name on a book set in another era.

"They wanted something that easily fit on a cover, so it had to be short, that sounded a little British and that I could buy the dot-com for," adds Callen, who had only published under her real name before. Plus, she didn't want the designation to be shared by anyone with questionable associations. "I did a lot of surfing to make sure it wasn't the name of a stripper. One name I came up with turned out to be a recent murder victim."

Naming aside, Callen had to make other adjustments to produce her latest paperback. For one thing, men were a lot more macho in the 400-some years before Queen Victoria. "In the Victorian era, you're talking lords and ladies, people who live a very civilized way of life. It's not such a stretch for people to understand," she explains.

"When you go back to the medieval era, men are in charge of everything. To fit women into that life and not have them be totally subservient is a challenge. You're straddling the line between knowing your readers are 21st-century women yet wanting to be historically accurate."

To that end, Callen created a heroine trapped by the laws of the day but not sitting in wait for rescue. Captured by a man who wants her for her land and her money while her betrothed is in France, Lady Elizabeth Hutton tries to save the day by changing places with her maid. Fortunately, her betrothed, Sir John Russell, shows up, but he hasn't seen her since she was a child and doesn't realize she's switched identities.

Russell is part of a band of knights called the League of the Blade, which is the centerpiece of Callen's new series. Another swashbuckling swordsman makes his debut in book two, due out this December. In between, she finishes up her Sisters of Willow Pond trilogy in June with The Viscount in Her Bedroom.

That's a lot of deadlines to meet, but Callen isn't worried. Although she has to work around family commitments, the youngest of her three children is 16, she sticks to a strict writing schedule. "I'm able to say, 'I need to write 15 pages every day to make my deadline,' and I'm pretty good about sticking to that." -- Diane Snyder

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