I interviewed three groups of m/m romance authors at the Romantic Times convention in May, asking the authors primarily the same questions. I let the discussions go in any direction the authors wanted with the idea that the mix of authors would put a different spin and focus on the topic. (more…)
Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category
The best part of RT was, for me, talking to authors. I asked each the same three questions.
What is the most interesting piece of research you ever uncovered while writing a book?
How have people responded to you when you tell them you write romance?
If you had to have lunch with one of your characters, who would it be and why? (more…)
There were countless authors at RT and I met many of them. Those I interviewed, I asked the same three questions.
What is the most interesting piece of research you ever uncovered while writing a book?
How have people responded to you when you tell them you write romance?
If you had to have lunch with one of your characters, who would it be and why?
My next book is called The Suffragette’s Scandal which is about Frederica Marshall who is a recurring character in The Brothers Sinister series. It comes out later this summer. The hero of the book is someone my readers have never met. He is a complete scoundrel, a blackmailer, a man who doesn’t believe in anything at all. Frederica is the most idealistic heroine I’ve ever met so it’s an explosive combination.
In my latest book, my heroine had gone to Cambridge so I was researching women attending Cambridge at the time. They gave a test called the Mathematical Tripos to those who would graduate with Honors. They finally started allowing women to take the test but wouldn’t rank them alongside the men. Instead, they would announce the women separately and then say where they would have fallen in the official ranking. In 1890, there was a woman named Philippa Fawcette who was a badass. She took the test and her results posed a challenge for the announcers. Her score beat out all the men… by 13%. She is one of the reasons Cambridge began to let women be ranked alongside the men.
For a very long time I kept my romance life completely separate from my work life. Then, I quit my day job. All of my friends were completely supportive. I went to a reunion and, afterwards, a guy from it emailed me and said “We all voted and we think you have the coolest job.”
At this point, it would be Free (Frederica). She’s funny, she’s optimistic, and she likes to eat. So we could order everything.
My latest book is Diary of an Accidental Wallflower–it’s “Mean Girls” set in Victorian London. It’s will come out in late 2014 or early 2015 and is being published by Avon.
In Diary of an Accidental Wallflower, the hero’s a physician who is working on a device to safely deliver chloroform in surgeries. I researched the phases of sedation. I actually found a YouTube video from the late 1940′s and early 1950′s and watched it over and over again. I was interested to learn that many people fight being sedated and may have to be tied or calmed down to get to that final stage of unconsciousness.
I get a lot of raised eyebrows because in my day job I am an epidemiologist at the CDC.
I would have lunch with Carolyn Tolbertson, the heroine of my second book, Summer is for Lovers. First, I would get to go to Brighton in the 1800′s. Second, she was a very unusual woman. She was a swimmer at a time women didn’t swim. She was very true to herself. I think she would be an interesting person to talk to.
My latest–and first–book is Siege of the Heart. It’s a Medieval romance set in England in the aftermath of the Norman conquest. The heroine, Isabel, is English-born but Norman-blooded and is somewhat adrift in this new political climate. The hero Alexandre is one of William’s knights sent to her holding to secure her family’s loyalty. It was released in April of this year by Kensington Books.
It was incredibly difficult to research this time period. It was a time when everything was in the transition, so I had to research the late Anglo-Saxon period, the post-Norman climate in England, and make guesses as to what happened in between. It was an eye-opening experience for me, especially given that the victors write the history.
I’d pick Isabel. She is a twisted mirror reflection of myself. She’s the version of myself I’d like to be.
My upcoming release is Roulette, which comes out in December, 2014.
The most interesting bit of research had to do with Sharia Law and arranged marriages in Somalia. This still goes on, but the laws are gradually changing to allow mothers to support their daughters’ decisions to decline an arranged marriage. It’s only a minor part of a subplot, but I love learning all these random facts. I also loved doing research into Parisian cheese shops, high-end clothing shops, Van Cleef & Arpels, and private jet interiors.
When I tell people I write romance they are usually super-excited to meet a “real” writer. I am often out socializing with my husband and the conversation frequently leads to the raised eyebrow along with, “So…do you help with research?”
I would love to have lunch with Miki and Rome from Roulette. He brings her take out from Petrossian that they eat in the back of a limo when she is too busy to eat lunch between high-powered meetings in New York City.
available books mentioned in this post are:
I spent one morning at RT, sitting in the lobby and accosting authors. I asked each the same three questions. (more…)
She began writing as Stephanie Tyler at Harlequin Blaze in 2007. She wrote several very successful books featuring Navy Seals. (more…)
Sharon and Tom Curtis. The husband-and-wife team started writing in the 70s and stopped writing in the 90s, and since then some of their books – especially the pirate romance The Windflower - have entered into legend. Hyperbole from a fan? Well, if you haven’t yet read the Curtises, who publish as Laura London, you’ve got your chance. Grand Central is reissuing all but two of their stories, which includes tomorrow’s release of The Windflower. To celebrate, we have an interview with the authors, and we have three (3) Advanced Reader Copies of The Windflower to give away. To put your name in the draw, just comment below before 11:59PM EST, Wednesday April 30, 2014, and we’ll pick three winners. (Unfortunately, because of the cost of postage, this contest is only open to those in Canada and the USA.)
And now without further ado, Sharon and Tom Curtis. – Jean AAR
You’re a writing duo! I know of a few others in the business (fantasy author Ilona Andrews immediately comes to mind, although I know there are other collaborations), but there aren’t that many because, I imagine, it must be difficult finding someone whose style meshes with yours, much less turn into something even semi-coherent. And your books are more than coherent – they’re magical. How did you decide to start writing together, and why romance novels?
Tom and I were married in our teens, and we were both huge Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer fans. In our midtwenties, I started telling Tom that I wanted to write a regency romance. I wanted to live in that world in my imagination. One afternoon, I sat down at the typewriter and wrote the first page and a half of A Heart Too Proud. When Tom came home from work, he was excited to read it, and said “Hey, it sounds like a real book.” Tom wanted to join the fun, and so that evening, we began to write as a team. We can’t thank you enough for calling our books magical. What a wonderful compliment! Good feelings. (more…)
I recently had the good fortune to listen to Ms. Essex read from her latest novel, After the Scandal, at my local Lady Jane’s Salon. There, I asked if she’d answer a few questions. The result is this interview.
Dabney: Elizabeth, you are the current historical romance writer I most associate with the sea. And so many of your books the characters are either on the sea, defined by their relationship to the sea, and/or deeply aware of their family’s debt to the bounty and education provided by the sea. I remember reading, after I read your first novel, you have a Masters degree in nautical archaeology. So I must ask, really? Nautical archaeology? What called to you about that field?
Elizabeth: I blame those marvelous old Jaques Cousteau National Geographic specials I watched when I was a kid. They just riveted me to the screen. I grew up on the seashore, sailing all summer long in a small pinnacle on Long Island Sound, so I have always felt very drawn to the sea and ships. And National Geographic showed me that there were actually people who studied shipwrecks as a profession. That combination of being underwater, and studying the remains of ships as an archaeologist was my idea of heaven. I got to travel all over the world, and work with some of the finest individuals I’ve ever met. And my studies gave me a very deep background in the history of 19th century sailing navies. Archeology and writing popular fiction aren’t as unrelated as they might seem—they both involve studying people, and figuring out how, and why they do the things they do.
Elizabeth: I didn’t plan it at all! It seems that characters just stroll into my head and start talking, and I just write down what they say. I do get very attached to my characters, especially Meggs—I missed her so deeply when I had to move on to writing the next book, it took me a very long time to find the heart of my next heroine.
For After the Scandal, I began by thinking about a certain kind of hero, someone who is very analytical and detached from his emotions, or perhaps has no idea of what to do with his emotions. And then that character just seemed to fit Tanner like a glove. I had always thought that he would have had a very rocky transition from street thief to becoming the Duke of Fenmore, so off I went.
And then, I looked around the world of my characters, and there was Lady Claire Jellicoe, with every advantage, and who was supremely at home and confident in society—his complete opposite in every way. And I thought she would the perfect sun to Tanner’s dark moon.
Dabney: After the Scandal has many of the characteristics readers expect from Elizabeth Essex novel: luminous writing, subtle yet sensual sexual tension, and a lead who defies conventional description. And yet the thing I found the most unusual about it was its time frame. The vast majority of the novel takes place in just two days. That’s far more common in contemporary romance then in historical. Tell me about that.
Elizabeth: Thank you so much! For After the Scandal, I wanted to work with the idea of the “coup de foudre”—literally the strike of lightning at the heart, that changes people in an instant. But my idea was that this love at first sight had already happened to Tanner—he’s loved Claire secretly for so many years that the moment he sees his chance to finally be with her, he moves as quickly as possible. I wanted the plot—solving the murder—to drive the pace and force Claire to see Tanner in the right circumstances to let her fall in love with him. I really wanted to call this book It Happened One Scandal, to give it that It Happened One Night, lovers-to-be on-the-run connotation, but I think that was felt to be too like another title that came out this past year.
I will admit that I tried to draw the timeframe out in my earlier drafts, to give Claire more time to fall in love, but a longer timeframe removed that sense of urgency that drove Tanner right from the opening moments, so I tightened it up in defiance of a more courtly Regency courtship. And I really wanted to write a couple who don’t fight and battle with each other, but just have the opportunity to fall deeper and deeper into love.
Dabney: After the Scandal is as much a mystery as it is a romance. I was fascinated by all of the historical details you inserted into the novel that were clues guiding the reader to an understanding of both the societal evil and the evil individual that led to the murder that occurs in the beginning of the book. What kind of research did you do for this book? What did you learn about that you weren’t already aware of?
Elizabeth: One of the things I like to explore in my stories is the steaming, gritty working world outside the ballrooms of the Regency Ton. I’ve peopled my fictive world with characters who intersect with that mannered world, but don’t belong to it. After eight books, I already had a great working background for the story, but I did some very specific research about reform movements and politics of the era, especially the monetary systems and policies. I also got some very particular assistance from a former Nautical Archaeology colleague, who is now a well-known ancient coin specialist, who guided my research about counterfeit ancient coins.
But in fact, my inspiration for the crime that is at the heart of the story, came from very contemporary events—like the television commercials that prey on people’s fears in the recent recession, and urge everyone to join their schemes to invest in gold. Perhaps that’s what surprised me the most—that greed and venality are just as alive today as they were in the Regency, when the power was concentrated in one social strata.
Dabney: When I read your books I often encounter words I’m utterly clueless as to their meaning. Furthermore, the dictionary that is a part of my e-reader is also clueless to their meaning. At best I am told a word is archaic. Where do you get your vocabulary from? And would you ever consider a lexicon in the back of your book to help out those of us who love to learn new words?
Elizabeth: You have, in a very kindly way, hit upon one of my chief failings. My editor is always striking out words as too obscure. The problem is my use of language is just a part of my voice—a product of all those years of academic study, and reading, reading, reading, especially 19th century British authors like Austen, Trollope, Dickens. My language also comes from a steady diet of BBC dramas, and my habit of doing the New York Times crossword every morning to get the words flowing in my head.
I try very hard to put as many terms, especially the nautical terms, in context so the reader can get a sense of their meaning without having to resort to looking up that a halyard is a part of the standing rigging on a ship, but sometimes that just isn’t possible. If my editor objects (strongly) I’ll change the word, but there are times when the cadence of a character’s dialog just demands that word, and I can’t bring myself to change it.
For my own reference, I find my online subscription to the Oxford English Dictionary invaluable. It has an impeccable chronology of when the particular word was in general usage, with excerpts from written sources of the time. Very often I find that words, and especially phrases that come second nature to me, are (predictably) American slang, and even some British-isms I am dying to use, like ‘numpty,’ meaning a stupid or foolish person, an idiot, are modern Scottish slang.
But I take your suggestion of a lexicon to heart, and have decided that I will open a new page on my website for one, where I’ll keep an alphabetical list, and take reader’s queries for definitions. Thanks for the suggestion!
Dabney: What’s next for Elizabeth Essex? Are there more Reckless Brides for readers to look forward to? And I’m curious. Can you see yourself ever writing a contemporary romance are you firmly ensconced in the realm of the historical?
Elizabeth: There are at least two more Reckless Brides in my head, with one of them already on the page, and headed for print in August 2014. A Scandal to Remember will be a shipwreck story, featuring Charles Dance who was one of the young midshipmen in Almost a Scandal. (I have a very soft spot for those boys.)
After that book is put to print, I have a real pip of a story in my head that will feature quiet, steady Jack Denman, a secondary character in After the Scandal, as the hero, and a very unlikely heroine, who is also a fringe character in After the Scandal. Can you spot her?
As to other genres, my agent has been after me for years to write a contemporary romantic suspense series with a nautical archaeologist heroine. I’ve been hesitant to take a crack at it, as I really feel my voice is more suited to historicals, but we’ll see what characters stroll into my head, and demand that I tell their story.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to chat with you and share some of my thoughts about After the Scandal. It’s been a pleasure. Cheers.
Dabney: Thank you!
Juliana, I enjoyed The Bad Boys of Crystal Lake. Your series features three men who have been friends since they were kids and who have all come back to Crystal Lake, the small town in which they grew up. Where did you get the idea for a series set in a small town in northern Michigan? You’re Canadian, right? (more…)