Archive for May, 2008

Inquiring Minds

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

Right now, I’m supposed to be writing a Q&A with myself for the back of the paperback edition of The Seduction of the Crimson Rose (due out in January of ’09!). The fundamental problem with this exercise is that I already know the answer to any question I might think to ask myself. This somewhat puts a damper on the process.

So, once again, I’m asking for your help. Is there anything– anything at all– that you have ever wanted to know about The Seduction of the Crimson Rose, the Pink Series, the writing process, dashing spies, or the price of tea in China? (Well, not that last, but you get the idea). You can post your questions here or email them to me at willig@post.harvard.edu.

Thank you!!



Weekend Reading

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Now that I’ve gotten over my Elizabeth George kick, I can finally dig into that pile of books my amazing college roommate gave me last week. There have also been a few shopping indiscretions since last I posted (also known as Why I Should Not Be Allowed into Bookstores). Despite the fact that I now have far too many books to choose from, I’ve managed to narrow down this weekend’s reads to the following:

1. Austenland by Shannon Hale.

Despite loving the Austen books, I’ve been very wary and more than a little bit cynical about all the modern spin-offs that have mushroomed on the shelves recently. I adore Melissa Nathan’s Pride, Prejudice & Jasmine Field, but I otherwise tend to stay away from Austen-named books– until someone recommended Austenland to me this week. The premise is a clever take-off on Austen mania, a Pride and Prejudice obsessed American traveling to an Austen-themed resort. I’m ridiculously excited about reading it.

2. Captives of the Night by Loretta Chase.

Anything by Loretta Chase is always pure gold. Her research… her use of language…. Don’t even get me started. So when this appeared in the stack my roommate gave me, it went right to the top of the pile (despite the man with the strange haircut on the cover. Regency heroes should not use that much hair gel).

3. Journal of a Residence in India by Maria Graham.

Proof positive that the plucky, globe-trotting Englishwoman isn’t merely the invention of modern novelists, Maria Graham zigzagged across India in 1809. She explored erotic drawings in remote caves outside of Bombay, attended nautch dances thrown by natives of Calcutta, and camped her way across the countryside, all the while remaining every inch a gentlewoman. Her journal makes fascinating reading– and a great rejoinder to those who like to begin sentances with “Women in the nineteenth century would never have….”

What are you reading?



Casting Call for Lord Vaughn

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Despite the fact that he has no flowery title to call his own, Lord Vaughn has proved one of the most elusive of my heroes– at least in the looks department.

Ironically, I’ve probably described him in more detail than any of my other heroes (when you’ve hung around for three books, you tend to get more than your fair share of physical descriptions), so we know that he’s of average height but seems taller, that his build is wiry, that his hair is dark and suspiciously frosted with silver (to match his black and silver clothes), that his lips are thin and quick to quirk, and that he has deep shadows beneath his eyes. And so on and so on.

Despite all these individual details, many have commented to me that they have trouble picturing Vaughn. You’re not alone. While I was writing Crimson Rose, the image I had in mind was Sean Bean as Lovelace in the BBC adaptation of Clarissa— although, as I was quick to point out to anyone who asked, Vaughn doesn’t actually look all that much like Bean. I know, I know. It doesn’t make much sense. What I had in mind was more a similarity of soul, as it were (although, since Vaughn would object to that term, let’s call it a similarity of motivation, instead). Bean’s Lovelace is a practiced rake, the sort who views seduction as a sport, somewhat akin to shooting grouse. The more wary the quarry, the greater the challenge. But, um, yes, Lovelace was blond and Vaughn most certainly isn’t.

As I was writing, other comparisons that came to mind were Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes (he has the long, thin features down and something of Vaughn’s air of herculean self-control), the guy who plays Lynley in the dramatizations of the Elizabeth George novels (aspects of his appearance are right, but the character is all wrong), and Clark Gable as Rhett Butler (without the little mustache), but none really hit the spot.

I think this inability to pin Vaughn down visually says something deeper about Vaughn as a character. First, Vaughn is a creature of deception for whom every appearance is a performance, every item of clothing a costume (I have serious doubts as to the veracity of that silver in his hair). He creates a shifting show in which the object– for Vaughn, at least– is to prevent us from pinning down anything concrete about him. Second, and in direct contrast to Mary, Vaughn has always operated entirely on strength of character rather than looks. To be frank, his looks aren’t much to write home about. It’s the personality that animates them that makes him so entirely riveting. In that, he has more than a little bit in common with Charles II, who was famously ugly and yet still gets my vote for Monarch With Whom I Would Most Like to Have Drinks.

Even so, it would still be rather nice to have a concrete physical image of Vaughn. Please help me out here! As you can tell, my cinematic lexicon is limited. When you read about Vaughn, who do you picture?



Weekend Reading

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

Are you a re-reader?

Every so often, despite the presence of new books just begging to be read, I go on re-reading kicks. Sometimes, these are seasonal, even if the books themselves have nothing to do with a particular season (Barbara Michaels’ Ammie Come Home and Here I Stay are autumn books for me, while Angela Thirkell’s August Folly, Wild Strawberries and The Brandons are early summer), other times they have to do with a fleeting mood or impression. Some of these links are really rather bizarre. A few weeks ago, a chance comment about apple cores made me think of the street urchin, Sim, in Judith Merkle Riley’s A Vision of Light, who betrays his former poverty by always eating his apples core and all– so naturally, I had to go and re-read that whole series, right then.

Right now, despite a whole pile of new books given to me just yesterday by my brilliant college roommate (the same brilliant college roommate who first introduced me to the works of Eva Ibbotsen, Loretta Chase, Lois McMaster Bujold and Charlaine Harris), I’m on one of my re-reading kicks. This time, it’s Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley series, which I’m shamelessly re-reading entirely out of order. I started Thursday with Payment in Blood, followed it up with A Great Deliverance, and right now I’m In the Presence of the Enemy.

Given the length of the series, I have a feeling I’ll be occupied for most of the holiday weekend– unless something else catches my attention and launches me on a different re-reading kick. Like all eight books in the Anne of Green Gables series…. It has distinct possibilities.

How are you planning to entertain yourself this weekend?

Happy Memorial Day!



Tasha Alexander on History Hoydens!

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

Hello, my fellow procrastinators! I’d like to invite you over to History Hoydens, where one of my favorite authors, Tasha Alexander, kindly consented to take over my blog for the day.

Tasha is an author of many talents. (And I’m not just saying this because she relieved me of having to do my post for the day!). The bulk of her books, And Only to Deceive, A Poisoned Season, and A Fatal Waltz, follow the adventures of the freshly widowed Lady Emily Ashton through the drawing rooms of late Victorian London, Paris, and Vienna. Critics have compared the Lady Emily books to Elizabeth Peters and Georgette Heyer. I’d add in Deanna Raybourn and Carole Nelson Douglas (if anyone else has read Douglas’ Irene Adler books, you’ll know what I mean). At the same time, Tasha has also written the book version of Elizabeth:the Golden Age, and today, on History Hoydens, she’s tackled a topic near and dear to my heart: the immortal allure of Mr. Darcy.



While I’m having fun with covers…

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

… here’s a real Pink Carnation artifact: the Lost Cover of Pink I.

Doesn’t that have a nice ring to it? Having a lost anything imparts such a lovely air of antiquity and myth-making, like the lost city of Atlantis or the lost subway stations hidden among the tunnels beneath the city of New York.

And I’m not even making it up. Pink I really does have its own lost pictoral history, a cover that flourished for two brief months before being consigned to the scrap heap. Et voila:

Different, isn’t it? It tells its own little historical story. When the advance copies were being printed up, way back in 2003, chick lit was all the rage and every book cover boasted a trendy bag. By the time the advance copies had shipped, the fickle favor of style had shifted and chick lit, like an aging royal mistress, was no longer chic. To be honest, although I do like the bag of the girl on the original cover (and the lovely leather book), I was delighted when my publisher made a snap decision to switch to this cover:

What do you think?



Fun With Covers

Friday, May 16th, 2008

I don’t have the cover for Pink V– I mean, The Temptation of the Night Jasmine— yet, but Patricia kindly passed along to me this picture of the cover of the large print version of Pink I to add to my cover collection.

I’ve always wondered why they chose such a different look from the mainstream version. Which of the two Pink I looks do you prefer?



Weekend Reading

Friday, May 16th, 2008

Another week, another Friday, another weekend to indulge in some leisure reading…. Since I so enjoyed hearing what everyone was reading last weekend (my To Be Purchased list has reached whole new proportions), I think this may need to become a weekly topic.

So here’s what’s on my list for this weekend:

1. Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

It was almost exactly a year ago that my little sister gave me my first Susan Elizabeth Phillips book, Breathing Room. Is it too pathetic that I practically remember the exact date? Last summer was the Summer of SEP for me, slowly treating myself to one book at a time as I read my way through her backlist. I have a hard time picking a favorite, since every time I re-read one, I remember quite how much I like that particular one. Until I re-read the next one. Right now, I’d say it’s a toss up between Breathing Room and Nobody’s Baby But Mine. Or maybe Dream A Little Dream. Anyway, I was ridiculously happy to see that her latest is out– even though once I finish it, it will be back to re-reads!

2. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley.

Maybe it’s several people mentioning The Blue Castle recently that’s given me blue on the brain. Or maybe it’s that there’s something vaguely India-like about McKinley’s imaginary kingdom of Damar and I’m about to start Book VI (set in India) next week. So it practically counts as research, right?

3. The manuscript of The Temptation of the Night Jasmine by me.

My last read through before turning in my final revisions for Book V! At least, I really hope they’re the final revisions. Sometimes, final has a way of being not so final. Especially when revisions are involved.

What’s on your list for this weekend?



And on a related topic….

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

… Do you notice titles?

The was my Big Personal Revelation for the week. As my editor and I were wracking our brains over this latest title, it occured to me that I seldom notice titles on other peoples’ books. Oh, I remember the titles– most of the time– so that’s not the issue. It’s more that title has little effect on why I pick up or reject a new book, since I generally take for granted that the title will have little or nothing to do with the actual content of the book.

I think this is largely because the trend during my formative reading years was to have relatively nondescript titles that had little to do with the actual content of the book. My childhood shelves are packed with “Passion’s Burning Lust”, “Lust’s Burning Passion”, and “Burning Passion’s Lust” (ah, the joys of interchangeable title words). There were all those Amanda Quicks that began with S’s– although I can’t remember now what the actual titles were– and those eternally optimistic Judith McNaught titles, like “Something Wonderful”, “Paradise”, and “Perfect.” Even my mystery novels all sounded the same, with Copenhagen Connections and Camelot Capers running riot through the shelves. Covers were generally a safer guide than title.

I remember titles as a means of identification, but they’re seldom a selling point for me, even the really good titles, like “Through a Glass Darkly” or “I Capture the Castle”. I will admit to a susceptibility, though, not to titles as a whole, but to individual words in titles. Words like “castle”, “king” and “lord” tend to catch my attention (sense a theme?). I always feel very betrayed when these then turn out to be dystopian novels about dysfunctional families in the Bronx in the 1920’s, or something of that ilk.

Do titles have any effect on whether or not you pick up a book? And, if so, is it the title as a whole, or individual words within the title that get to you?



Pink V has a Title!

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

Like some books, some titles are easier than others. Pink V was a Problem Title. We went through a number of flowers and, yes, even wildlife (there was some talk of doves) before settling on the current title.

Henceforth, Pink V shall be… The Temptation of the Night Jasmine.

Huge thanks to everyone who helped out with flower suggestions. Keira, Jessica and Christina, that means you!