When will your next book come out?
The Forgotten Room, the book I’ve co-authored (tri-authored?) with my good friends Karen White and Beatriz Williams will dance in on the heels of the New Year on January 19, 2016. Moving back and forth between 1892, 1920, and 1944, this multi-period novel follows three women tied to the same Gilded Age townhouse in New York—and the secret that binds them all together.
On March 1, 2016, it’s time for a Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War, which contains, as one might expect from the title, stories of love and the Great War. Contributing authors include Jennifer Robson, Beatriz Williams, Jessica Brockmole, Hazel Gaynor, Heather Webb, Evangeline Holland, Marci Jefferson, Kate Kerrigan, and me. All nine novellas focus in one way or another on the mingled joy and sorrow of Armistice Day, 1918.
My next stand alone novel is due to appear on shelves at some point in the summer of 2017. More on that below!
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What are you working on now?
Right now (autumn 2015), I'm working on a new stand alone novel (working title: The French Marriage). Since it would be no fun to have any idea of what I’m doing, I’m trying something new: this time a multi-generational family saga that begins in Gilded Age New York when an American heiress marries a French nobleman. The story takes us to Belle Epoque Paris, World War I France, 1930s Boston, and, finally, Paris on the eve of World War II. I’m still at the very beginning of the journey, so I’ll be sure to post more about the book here and on the News page as it begins to take shape.
A little hint for my Pink Carnation readers: my 1889 American heiress, Helen Jay, is the granddaughter of a Pink character you may have met before….
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Are you planning to write Lizzie Reid's story?
You know I never say never…. Although Lizzie’s story isn’t on the immediate agenda, it’s certainly there in the back of my head. Since Lizzie’s story takes place much later, chronologically, than the rest of the Pink books, I haven’t decided yet whether Lizzie’s story would be an additional Pink book with an Eloise frame or if it would work better as a stand alone novel.
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Is The Ashford Affair
part of a series?
The Ashford Affair is separate and entire unto itself. I did sneak a descendant of one of my Pink Carnation characters, Lord Vaughn, into the book (how could any descendant of Vaughn and Mary resist partying in the Happy Valley?), but other than that, it’s completely unconnected to any of my other books.
My next book for St. Martin’s Press, That Summer, which revolves around the early days of the Preraphaelite movement in 1840s London (see above), is also a stand alone. As with Ashford, however, I couldn't resist putting in a Pink connection: the modern hero of the book, Nicholas Dorrington, is a direct descendant of Miles and Henrietta.
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Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Check out my new Writing Wednesday feature on the News page
. Every Wednesday, I talk about some area of the writing life, from character development through the publication process. You can skim through the Writing Wednesday archives by clicking here
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In what order should the books be read?
For both the short and the long answer to that question, check out the new Book Order
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Do you plan to continue giving characters and couples appearances in future books?
It would be hard to keep them out of it. I would never bring old characters in purely for the sake of giving them a cameo, since that does a disservice to the current story, but my fictional world is a very interwoven one. Rather like real life, where you’re constantly running across people you know, my characters tend to bump into one another a fair amount, so it’s a good bet that you’ll see old characters in new books.
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Do you have any plans to write anything other than Pink Carnation in the near future?
Confession: I’m very superstitious. I don’t like talking about future projects for fear that I might jinx them. I’ve also noticed that the more I talk about an idea, the less likely I am to turn it into prose. So I’ll just say, broadly, yes. My literary tastes are pretty varied, so there are a whole range of books I want to write, from a young adult series, to an English Civil War-set epic, to a light romp of a mystery novel. Stay tuned….
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You mentioned you were possibly thinking about doing short stories to catch up with previous characters. Are you still planning on doing that?
As many as time permits! Right now, you can find Amy and Richard’s Christmas novella (Ivy & Intrigue
), Henrietta and Miles’s first Valentine’s Day together (Bunny & Biscuits
), and a Turnip wedding night bonus chapter (Away in a Manger
) all up on the Diversions page in the Free Reads section. I’m hoping to eventually get to the rest of the Pink couples, with Geoff and Letty the next up.
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When are we going to find out what Jane has been up to?
The series veered away from Jane a bit in Night Jasmine
and Blood Lily
, but don’t worry. It veers back with The Orchid Affair
and The Garden Intrigue
, as we find ourselves in the midst of the workings of Jane’s league in Paris. Pink X, The Passion of the Purple Plumeria
, follows Jane and Miss Gwen back to England as they investigate the mysterious disappearance of Jane’s sister from her Bath boarding school.
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Will Jane and/or Miss Gwen get a book of their own?
I am thrilled to announce that The Passion of the Purple Plumeria
, which came out from NAL in August 2013, features Miss Gwen. As for Jane, if everything goes to plan, we should see Jane’s book in the summer of 2015. (Pink XII, for those of you who are keeping track.)
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What area of the law did you focus on and work in? How has your work in the legal profession influenced your historical writing?
During my very brief legal career, I worked as a litigator. It was Big Firm litigation, which meant that I was dealing largely with corporations rather than individuals, and found myself learning a lot more about abstruse accounting principles than I would have otherwise liked. As to the second half of that question, I really don’t have a pat answer. I do think that there are interesting similarities in the way one constructs a brief and the way one constructs a story: both are productions meant to persuade. Both rely on the mustering of examples and the creation of a certain type of atmosphere. Aside from that, I’m not sure. Although the hero of The Orchid Affair
is a lawyer!
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What books and articles are you using to research your books?
You can find the background material for each book, as well as some basic references, on the Bibliography
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What are your favorite historical movies/costume dramas?
My favorite go-to costume dramas include the Anthony Andrews Scarlet Pimpernel
, the Ciaran Hinds Persuasion
, the BBC production of Clarissa
(Vaughn owes a lot to Sean Bean as Lovelace), the Sharpe series (do you sense a Sean Bean theme?), and Horatio Hornblower
. I’m also a big fan of Dangerous Beauty
, although I prefer the English title, The Honest Courtesan
. Then, of course, there are the classics of swash and buckle: Captain Blood
, The Sea Hawk
, Robin Hood
, and Zorro
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Will Richard and Miles ever reconcile?
Many of you have expressed concern about the state of Richard
and Miles’ relationship. Poor Richard. He didn’t have an easy time
dealing with his best friend’s defection. Used to being the center of both
Henrietta’s and Miles’ attention, it was a nasty shock to him when
his adoring little sister and longtime best friend decided they were more interested
in each other than him. I do believe that Richard will relent over time—he
and Miles were friends for too long to remain entirely estranged—but it
may take a while.
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How many Pink Carnation books do you intend to write?
I finally have an answer to that question! Pink XII (Jane’s story) will be the final book in the series.
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Do you outline your books in advance?
I outline constantly—and I save the old outlines,
so I can laugh hollowly over them two months later, when they no longer bear any
resemblance to what I’ve actually written. I’m always impressed by
those people who can outline a book in advance and stick to it. Frequently, the
bits on my original outlines I’m most pleased with are the bits that prove
most unworkable in practice, and find their way into the dustbin.
Despite their lack of utility as an actual blueprint, I do find outlines quite
useful for organizing my thoughts, and working through plot kinks. In general,
I tend to have a fairly detailed outline for whatever the next five chapters may
be, and then a sketchier outline for anything that comes after that. It helps
me keep track of the overall story and pacing, while still maintaining the flexibility
to adjust to unexpected plot twists.
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Will Eloise and Colin finally get together in the
Like all good chick lit heroes and heroines, Colin and Eloise
must undergo a suitably prolonged period of suffering before they are allowed
to reach the promised land of romantic bliss. Since they only get about six chapters
of their own per book, they haven’t suffered nearly enough yet. However,
I have been threatened with violence by several of my friends if Eloise and Colin
aren’t at least allowed a smooch sometime soon. Let’s just say, things
are going to get interesting for Eloise and Colin. A possible kiss… a few
rivals… who knows?
Well, I do, but I’m not telling. If I did, Eloise might find out, and
there’s no telling what she would do.
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How much of the modern story is autobiographical?
Hmm, a handsome Englishman, a cache of never-before-seen
papers…. If only. I did loan Eloise my basement flat in Bayswater, as well
as a rather bizarre party featuring models and glo-sticks, but the rest is pure
imagination. And, no, no boyfriend of mine ever smooched another woman in the
cloakroom of the Faculty Club, nor did I go abroad because I was thwarted in love.
(Believe it or not, I’ve actually been asked that several times since the
book came out—including by an old family friend!). It’s called fiction
for a reason.
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Where do you get your ideas?
Every now and again, the Good Plot Fairy will wave her magic
wand over my head. When I fail to pay attention, the Good Plot Fairy will then
bash me over the head several times until I sit up, stick a bookmark in whatever
novel I’ve been reading, and take notice. At least, that’s what happened
with The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. “What if…” a
little voice whispered in my ear (most of my bouts of demented pacing and muttering
to myself usually start with those fatal words, “what if”). “What
if you paired a know-it-all English spy with a stubborn royalist heroine?”
And once the idea appeared, it wouldn’t go away. That darned spy kept dashing
back and forth through my head (sometimes swinging on a rope, just for variety),
until I finally had to do something about him.
But that initial, comet-blazing-across-the-sky, Big Idea is only the beginning.
Each book is composed of a mosaic of thousands of little ideas, ideas that invariably
come to me at two in the morning when my alarm is set for seven. Ideas like, “What
if Amy sees Georges Marston standing outside the house in a black cloak?”
In fact, the bigger the initial idea, the more problems it causes, and the more
mini-ideas it takes to sort everything out. For example, for the book I’m
working on right now, the Big Idea, the idea that clunked me over the head—repeatedly—and
wouldn’t leave me alone for nights on end, was “What if my hero were
to accidentally elope with the wrong woman?” This seemed like a great idea.
Until I started working on it. At which point I had to start answering questions
like, “How in the hell do two sensible individuals get themselves into that
sort of situation?” and “What was I drinking—er, thinking?”
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Who are your favorite authors?
It’s always impossible to answer that without leaving
scads of people out, since my favorite authors list stretches to an alarming length.
But I do have a shelf of books that has traveled with me from my childhood room…
to college… to various apartments in Cambridge… and even England.
The Security Shelf basics are L.M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle
Robin McKinley’s Beauty
, M.M. Kaye’s Trade Wind
Judith McNaught’s Almost Heaven
, Paradise Lost
, a complete
Shakespeare, the collected poems of John Donne (featuring a rather cocky courtier
glowering from the cover), ditto Yeats, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Stoppard’s Arcadia
, C.S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces
, and revolving
selections by Nancy Mitford, Elizabeth Peters, Judith Merkle Riley, and Julia
Quinn. Other favorites (which didn’t make it onto the Security Shelf, but
are beloved nonetheless) include Karleen Koen’s Through a Glass Darkly
Diane Gabaldon’s Outlander
, and anything by Georgette Heyer. And
that’s just the tip of the iceberg. My dream in life is to someday have
an apartment with enough bookshelves to house all my books, without involving
large piles in front of my couch and next to my bed and under my kitchen table….
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I’m just starting my historical novel—do
you have any research tips?
Lots and lots! I gave a talk on the subject at a conference
last spring, and one of these days I really will get around to posting my workshop
outline on the website. In the meantime, here are a few research strategies that
have worked for me.
Start with biographies. Biographies often contain wonderful details about physical
culture (clothing, food, architecture) that more straightforward political histories
lack. They give you an excellent sense of what the time period was like as it
was actually lived—and they also usually have excellent footnotes you can
pounce on to locate other scholarly works and primary sources. For example, for
my research on Napoleon’s court, I originally started with Theo Aronson’s The Golden Bees, Andre Castelot’s Napoleon, and Evangeline
Bruce’s Napoleon and Josephine, and then tracked down the contemporary
memoirs they had used as sources.
Don’t neglect museums. Some museums have wonderful collections of furniture
and other everyday objects, and many (like my personal favorite, the V&A in
London), have posted substantial numbers of images on-line. Not quite as good
as getting to go in person, but still a wonderful source of ideas for furnishing
your heroine’s boudoir. I’m also a big fan of glossy coffee-table
books about antiques with lots of pictures and diagrams—and, fortunately,
there always seem to be lots of those available, for a fraction of their proper
price, at used books stores.
And then there are writers’ groups. I’m a member of the Beau Monde,
the Regency chapter of Romance Writers of America. The sheer amount of esoteric
information possessed by the members of the group could fill several libraries
and quite a few history departments.
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