Archive for the ‘Teaser Tuesdays’ Category

Teaser Tuesday: Work in Progress

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

I’m in the final stretch of the currently untitled next stand alone novel– which is why things have been so quiet here on the website. But, to break up the wait, here’s a small outtake from the work in progress.

As you may have noticed, my characters tend to talk. A lot. I absolutely hate cutting those conversations short, but, sometimes, for the sake of pacing, they have to go.

This one had to go.

Here’s the scene. London, 1894. Burlesque actress Georgie Evans has, with reservations, agreed to accompany her friend Kitty to supper with the notorious Sir Hugo Medmenham and Sir Hugo’s American friend, Bayard Van Duyvil. Georgie is mostly there to keep an eye on Kitty who has her eye on Sir Hugo. (Which makes an awful lot of eyes in action.) And Georgie wants to make sure the American knows she’s not for sale with the meal.

Kitty and Georgie are performing in a burlesque version of Twelfth Night called Eleven and One Nights, so the conversation turns quite naturally to Shakespeare….

“Will you say me a sonnet, then?” He sounded genuinely interested, but then they all did, didn’t they? Until they had what they wanted.

“For the right price,” said Georgie, with calculated crudity, “you can have all of Hamlet.”

“Bodies and all? That’s a grim prospect.”

Not everyone got a comedy or a romance. “A sad tale’s best for winter.”

Van Duyvil frowned. “That’s not Twelfth Night, is it?”

“A Winter’s Tale.” She’d played Perdita, pursued by a rather lascivious bear. Never mind that Perdita and the bear never shared a scene in the original; the audience enjoyed the sight of scantily clad Perdita fleeing an orsine embrace.

“But it’s nearly spring now.”

He’d been gammoned, poor man. The cost of a dinner and all he would get at the end was words for his trouble, and twice-used words at that. It was his friend who would go home to a warm bed at the end of the night, at least, if the way Kitty was leaning on his arm was any indication, while Van Duyvil would be left to sport the blunt.

“Don’t expect a thaw to set in any time soon.” And then, in case he didn’t understand, “I’m only here as chaperone.”

More about the new stand alone coming up soon!



Teaser Tuesday: the Work in Progress

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

Here’s a little sneak snippet from the work in progress– one you’re not going to see in the finished book.

One of my biggest problems as a writer is when to make my characters stop talking. They do go on. And on and on. And the on and on flows so naturally that I have trouble reining them in and making them get on with the story.

After sixteen books, I’ve learned that, sometimes, I have to cut conversations I like. It’s never fun, but it’s necessary. Because otherwise my characters would talk themselves and me into a corner.

So here’s a little bit of conversation that just bit the dust in the current WIP.

To set the scene, it’s 1894 London. Georgie Evans, an actress in a burlesque version of Twelfth Night (Eleven and One Nights, now showing at the Ali Baba Theatre!), has accompanied one of her fellow cast members out to dinner with an English rake and his American friend.

The English rake’s name? Sir Hugo Medmenham. And if any of you wonder if he bears any relation to a certain character in The Temptation of the Night Jasmine…. Yes. Yes, he does.

At this particular moment, Medmenham is putting the moves on Georgie’s friend, Kitty, which leaves Georgie to deal with the American, Bayard Van Duyvil– who isn’t behaving at all as she expects.

“Sorry, I only work with borrowed words.”

“Will you say me a sonnet, then?” Van Duyvil sounded genuinely interested, but then they all did, didn’t they? Until they had what they wanted.

“For the right price,” said Georgie, with calculated crudity, “you can have all of Hamlet.”

“Bodies and all? That’s a grim prospect.”

Not everyone got a comedy or a romance. “A sad tale’s best for winter.”

Van Duyvil frowned. “That’s not Twelfth Night, is it?”

“A Winter’s Tale.” She’d played Perdita, pursued by a rather lascivious bear. Never mind that Perdita and the bear never shared a scene in the original; the audience enjoyed the sight of scantily clad Perdita fleeing an orsine embrace.

“But it’s nearly spring now.”

He’d been gammoned, poor man. The cost of a dinner and all he would get at the end was words for his trouble, and twice-used words at that. It was his friend who would go home to a warm bed at the end of the night, at least, if the way Kitty was leaning on his arm was any indication, while Van Duyvil would be left to sport the blunt.

“Don’t expect a thaw to set in any time soon.” And then, in case he didn’t understand, “I’m only here as chaperone.”

More on the Work In Progress soon! And now back to the bits that are– hopefully!– going to stay in the book….



Teaser Tuesday: A Funny Thing Happened….

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

A funny thing happened on the way to the next stand alone novel.

Remember that book I was working on, the family saga set in Belle Epoque Paris, World War I Picardy, and World War II Paris?

That book is not the book you will be reading in 2017.

The research was fascinating, the idea worked beautifully on paper– and the characters just wouldn’t come out and play. They felt a bit like cardboard cut-outs, flat and one-dimensional. I could move them around from place to place, but they wouldn’t DO much when they got there. It was all great in theory, not so great in practice.

But, in the meantime (because you know this has a happy ending, right?), I found myself drawn back to an idea that had been bouncing around in the back of my brain for a while, a Gilded Age scandal involving a murder/suicide in a grand mansion on the Hudson. The papers are all gleefully reporting on the love triangle that caused the tragedy– but do they really know what happened? Or are all the smug spectators getting it completely backwards and upside down?

These characters? They’re only to eager to jump onto the page.

So the short version is that I may be tucked away in my writing cave for a bit this winter, because while the story may have changed, the deadline hasn’t. I’ll have more news for you about the new book once I’m a bit farther along.

Right now the working title is the clever and inventive “Stand Alone #4” or SA #4 for short. My college roommate, who generally knows more about my plots and characters than I do, has been calling this one “Gilded Age Gone Girl“, but, somehow, the acronym GAGG just didn’t seem entirely salubrious.

Stand Alone #4, still to be titled, will, with luck and good writing vibes, be coming your way as scheduled in the summer of 2017. More soon!



Teaser Tuesday: Gabrielle Jaouen returns….

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

Into every stand alone novel, a little Pink must fall.

I didn’t really set out to put a Pink Carnation descendant into every stand alone. But, somehow, because my world is such an interwoven one, it always seems to turn out that way. There was Val Vaughn in The Ashford Affair, Nicholas Dorrington in That Summer, and Cecelia Heatherington-Vaughn in The Other Daughter.

In stand alone #4 (working title: The French Marriage)? There’s Gabrielle Jaouen.

Some of you may remember Gabrielle as the sulky nine year old daughter of André Jaouen and his first wife, Julie Beniet, in Pink XVII, The Orchid Affair. Towards the end of The Orchid Affair, Eloise can’t resist taking a look into the future of Gabrielle and her brother. Here’s what she discovers:

Gabrielle Jaouen had gone on to become a noted diarist, an advocate for the abolition of slavery and, very late in life, a noisy proponent of the rights of women. She had died in her home in New York in 1893 at the age of ninety-five, leaving behind five husbands, twenty-odd great-grandchildren, and a vast pile of tracts and memoirs.

I wondered what Laura had thought of it all and whether she and Jaouen had had any children of their own. There were fairly easy ways to find out– including tracking down the memoirs of Gabrielle Jaouen de Montfort Adams Morris Belmont van Antwerp– but it was well out of the purview of my current research.

I’ve always been a little curious about the life of Gabrielle Jaouen de Montfort Adams Morris Belmont van Antwerp, but I’d never really believed our paths would cross again. Until I sat down to start writing the story of an American heiress who marries a French nobleman and realized that I was writing about Gabrielle’s granddaughter. Helen Jay is the late life baby of Gabrielle’s daughter, Lavinia Belmont, who marries a robber baron of dubious heritage named Oswald Jay. At loggerheads with her own mother, Helen finds herself looking to her grandmother as a model– with results that Gabrielle would never have predicted or desired.

The book I’m working on is the story of three generations of women: Helen, Aurélie, and Meg. Even though, by the time we get to Meg, we’re looking at several generations removed from Gabrielle, Gabrielle’s life is still creating ripples in the lives of her descendants.

There’s another major Pink descendant in the book– but I’ll tell you about him later!



Teaser Tuesday: the Final Pink Book

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

Look what showed up in my mailbox last night!

Pink XII

A final copy of the final Pink book.

I’m still grappling with this whole “final” bit….

The Lure of the Moonflower appears in stores– and on Kindles, Nooks, and audio players– on August 4.



Teaser Tuesday: Simon Montfort

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

The Other DaughterWith the release of The Other Daughter only three weeks away, my hero, Simon Montfort, has been conspicuously clearing his throat and adjusting his cuffs, wondering why he hasn’t had his Teaser Tuesday spotlight yet.

How to describe Simon?

He’s the scion of an old and proud family, but his upbringing has been anything but conventional. His mother, in the parlance of the time, was a bolter. As Simon’s friend Cece confides in Rachel, “…one must admit that Simon did have the most eccentric upbringing– villas in Italy and cattle ranches in America and heaven only knows what else. Brian has such stories– most of them likely only half true. But then, there is that other half….”

Although he had originally trained as a historian, the War put paid to Simon’s plans. Now, as he tells Rachel on their first meeting, he works as a gossip columnist for the Daily Yell. He attends the glittering parties of the Bright Young People not for pleasure (or so he claims) but for crass, commercial purposes.

But is anything about Simon Montfort as it seems?

Here’s Simon as Rachel first sees him, at the worst possible moment, just as her life is falling to bits around her:

A clipped, aristocratic male voice, rich with humor, drawled, “I hate to intrude….”

There was a man. A man standing just inside the doorframe.

No, not standing. Lounging. He leaned bonelessly back against the old oak, his pale gray suit molding itself to his long form, a miracle of expert tailoring.

The man looked just as expensively constructed as his suit, along the same long, elegant lines. Beneath close-cropped, curly black hair, a pair of high cheekbones slanted down across his face. His lips were red and sensual, lips for eating strawberries with, but his black eyes were alert and all too keen.

Right now, they were focused on Rachel.

I don’t usually base my characters’ appearance off actors. They tend to pop up in my head just as they are. From the very start, Simon, however, bore a marked resemblance to Benedict Cumberbatch. I didn’t plan it. That was just how he was.

So, yesterday, I appealed to you all for a visual that might help illustrate Simon Montfort a la Cumberbatch. I never expected such riches, including my personal favorite, Cumberbatch avec otters. (Not very Simon-ian, but oh such fun. Thank you, Pam!)

It was great hardship going through them all, but one makes these sacrifices in the interest of art.

But what to choose?

Cassidy provided this image , which looks just as I imagine Simon would while remonstrating with Rachel.

Trish provided photos from Parade’s End, which beautifully captured the war experience which still haunts the seemingly unflappable Simon.

If you want to see the whole batch, just click here and go through the links in the Comments section.

They’re all wonderful, but the one that really takes the palm is this image, from Joy:

Other Daughter Cumberbatch

Thank you, Joy! I will treasure this always. There is something so gleefully meta about the idea of the character reading his own book. (And Simon so would.) Not to mention, well, Cumberbatch.

Thank you all, so much! The winner of the Cumber-Contest, chosen at random from among all the entries, is Beth F, of Comment #16. Congrats, Beth!

I was only going to pick one winner… but, Joy, there’s a mug for you, too.

Congrats, ladies! If you email me at willig@post.harvard.edu, I’ll have those mugs winging your way.

Thank you all for the hours of amusement! More on Simon Montfort and The Other Daughter coming soon….

The Other Daughter appears in stores on Tuesday, July 21!



Teaser Tuesday: Rachel Woodley

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

The Other Daughter comes out a month from today!

The Other Daughter

Yesterday, as part of an interview, I was asked to provide a quotation with a physical description of my heroine. Simple enough, you say. But it wasn’t. Because Rachel Woodley, my heroine, goes through a number of metamorphoses over the course of the book.

Here’s Rachel in the first chapter, on her way home from France:

The train lurched and swayed; it was deathly cold in the car, the windows so fogged with her breath that she couldn’t see out. Outside, she knew, the trees were starting to sprout their first green buds, but she could see none of that, only the ghostly reflection of her own face, her unfashionable hat drawn low around her ears to keep out the chill, her cheekbones too high, her mouth too wide, her hair dark against her pale face.

There was nothing remarkable in that face, just another nursery governess, another woman in a shabby skirt, clutching a carpetbag on her lap. Nothing remarkable except to her mother, who loved her.

This is how she appears to Simon Montfort, the enigmatic gossip columnist:

“It’s quite an amusing idea, really. If I were to pass a nobody off into society . . . it would be the stunt of all stunts. The elusive and sought-after Miss Merton— Miss Vera Merton. You have the cheekbones to be a Vera.”

Absurd to feel flattered by that, but she did, just a little. Rachel could picture Vera Merton, with her long red nails, her bobbed hair, her general air of devil-may-care. Vera Merton wouldn’t stay on the wrong side of the green baize door; she would breeze merrily past the butler, greeting everyone with a breathy “Darling!”

Vera Merton would quaff cocktails with Rachel’s cousins; she would know them all by name, whisper intimately in their ears.

What would it be like to be that woman? Not earnest, hardworking Rachel Woodley— the Rachel Woodley who didn’t really exist— but someone entirely different. Someone sophisticated. Someone hard-edged.

Someone who could approach her father on his own terms.

Mr. Montfort waved a dismissive hand. “The clothes and the hair are all wrong, of course—”

“What’s wrong with my hair?” Rachel had always been rather vain about her hair, thick, dark, and so long she could nearly sit on it.

“Nursery governess hair,” said Mr. Montfort succinctly.

After that, what’s a heroine to do but get a haircut?

The hairdresser was swift. Hanks of hair fell around her. Rapunzel hair, long ropes of it. The hairdresser lifted the cloth from her shoulders, using a soft-bristled brush to sweep the last strands of hair from her back.

Rachel’s head felt strange, the back of her neck naked. She couldn’t help glancing at the hair on the floor, years and years of it, gone in an instant.

“Cheer up,” came Mr. Montfort’s voice from behind her. “You’ve hardly sold away your soul.”

“No, just my hair.” The hairdresser swirled the chair around, holding up a mirror so that Rachel could see.

Mr. Montfort was right; the short cut did highlight her cheekbones. You have the cheekbones to be a Vera.

Rachel didn’t know who the woman in the mirror was, but she rather liked her.

She looked up at Mr. Montfort, who stood, frowning down at her.

“Well? What do you think?” Rachel demanded cheekily.

“You’ll do,” he said curtly.

But it takes a new frock before Rachel’s ready to be launched in the glittery, shadow society of the nightclubs:

In the end, she’d succumbed to sheer lust and chosen a dress of flame-colored chiffon, glittering with a subtle pattern of beads on the bodice, the skirt falling in uneven layers around her legs.

Wearing it, she felt like a Vera, like a woman of the world, the sort of woman who went out at ten at night, who drank and danced, without another care in the world.

And from the look in Simon’s eyes, he clearly agreed.

Which quote would you have chosen? And which Rachel do you most relate to– pre or post transformation?

The Other Daughter— with Rachel in all her guises– appears in stores on July 21!



Teaser Tuesday: the “voice” of THE OTHER DAUGHTER

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

There are times when writing can be a bit like acting. You need to get into the characters’ heads, experience the world as they experience it, speak as they speak.

The Other DaughterFor The Other Daughter, speaking as they speak was the big challenge for me. There’s such a unique tone to the 1920s, and particularly to the specific subset that my heroine, Rachel, was trying to infiltrate.

So I went into training. For about six months, I read only books written during the twenties and thirties. (I cheated and let myself creep forward into the 30’s because… well, Angela Thirkell.)

I had two voices I needed for Rachel: her natural voice and her Bright Young Things voice, although, as the book went on, the lines between the two became less and less distinct.

Here are a few of the books I used to get “in voice” for The Other Daughter:

— Dorothy Sayers’s Unnatural Death: published in 1927, this Lord Peter Wimsey mystery takes place in between a country town similar to the one Rachel grew up in and the London to which she moves. Careful readers will notice that I might have borrowed a few details here and there (including a block of flats!).

— Margery Allingham’s The Crime at Black Dudley: Allingham’s first Campion novel came out in 1929, so it was written just about the right time. I found that mystery novels were, in many ways, more useful than the satires that epitomize the era: they’re full of what a professor of mine used to call “accidental evidence”, details of life and bits of slang that are just thrown in along the way to the big whodunnit.

— Angela Thirkell’s High Rising: Angela Thirkell’s first Barsetshire novel came out in 1933, six years late for me. But her image of English village life has a timeless feel to it and deeply influenced my image of Rachel’s home life. (I was tempted to put Rachel’s home in Barsetshire, but decided that would be pushing it– and found an appropriate village in Norfolk instead.)

— Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies: Waugh’s 1930 satire is the quintessential portrait of the Bright Young Things in all their frenetic frivolity– and, in many ways, the Bright Young Things’ swan song. An inside member of the group, he knew their quirks and their slang and parodies them all mercilessly. (Naturally, I had to have Waugh make a guest appearance in Other Daughter.)

— Nancy Mitford’s Highland Fling: like Waugh, Mitford skewered the group from the inside. Her first novel, written in 1930/1, satirizes the same crowd. Her columns in The Lady were also incredibly useful– and, of course, ridiculously funny.

— P.G. Wodehouse’s Leave It to Psmith: Wodehouse’s 1927 novel was set in New York, so I went back to 1924 for that unique Wodehouse spin on the antics of the English. (Although, who are we kidding? As with Sayers, Waugh, and Mitford, you can’t read just one. Once you pop, you can’t stop.)

— Stella Gibbons’s Cold Comfort Farm: like Angela Thirkell, Gibbons was a bit late (1932), but any excuse to read Cold Comfort Farm…. Because there’s always been Starkadders at Cold Comfort Farm.

What are your favorite novels of the 20s and 30s?



Teaser Tuesday: THAT SUMMER Bibliography

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

I’m a little behind when it comes to posting a bibliography for That Summer— about a year behind, in fact.

With the paperback of That Summer appearing in stores a week from today, now seemed like a good time to remedy the defect.

Of course, a year after first publication and two years after handing the manuscript in, this is, of necessity, only a partial bibliography, drawn from a combination of memory and lots of digging through the piles of books next to my desk. It’s a combination of Victorian life, Preraphaelite painters, and contemporary criticism and fiction.

There are some excellent books about Victorian London that have come out since I wrote That Summer, but, for the sake of consistency, I included only those I actually consulted in the writing of the book.

And, voila! The partial bibliography….

Barringer, Tim. Reading the Pre-Raphaelites.

Batchelor, John. John Ruskin: A Life.

Bronte, Anne. Agnes Grey.

Bronte, Anne. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre.

Cooper, Suzanne Fagence. Effie: The Passionate Lives of Effie Gray, John Ruskin and John Everett Millais.

Daly, Gay. Pre-Raphaelites in Love.

Davidoff, Leonore. Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 1780-1850.

de Vries, Leonard. Panorama 1842-1865 – The World of the early Victorians as seen through the eyes of the Illustrated London News.

Flanders, Judith. Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England.

Gaskell, Elizabeth. Mary Barton.

Garnett, Henrietta. Wives and Stunners: The Pre-Raphaelites and Their Muses.

Gernsheim, Alison. Victorian and Edwardian Fashion.

Mitchell, Sally. Daily Life in Victorian England.

Moyle, Franny. Desperate Romantics: The Private Lives of the Pre-Raphaelites.

Picard, Liza. Victorian London: The Tale of a City 1840–1870.

Pool, Daniel. What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist — The Facts of Daily Life in Nineteenth-Century England.

Robinson, Michael. The Pre-Raphaelites: Their Lives and Works in 500 Images: A study of the artists, their lives and context, with 500 images, and a gallery showing 300 of their most iconic paintings.

Ruskin, John. On Art and Life.

Ruskin, John. Praeterita.

Todd, Pamela. Pre-Raphaelites at Home.

That Summer Paperback

That Summer appears in paperback on Tuesday, May 19th!



Teaser Tuesday: My Mary Stewart Tribute Book

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

Now that The Lure of the Moonflower, aka Pink XII, is safely in the hands of my editor, I can finally get back to talking about my next book out: The Other Daughter, which appears July 21.

The Other DaughterMy agent likes to call The Other Daughter “1920s Revenge“. I think of it as my Mary Stewart tribute book.

I’ve been trying and trying to unpick just why The Other Daughter is Mary Stewart to me. There’s no exotic location (just London and Oxford); it’s set a good thirty years earlier than most of the Stewart books; and, although I initially began writing it in the first person, a la Stewart, it shifted quickly to third person and stayed that way.

Nine Coaches WaitingThere are a few obvious points. In homage to one of my favorite books of all time, Nine Coaches Waiting, I made my heroine, Rachel, a nursery governess employed in France (although Rachel’s employers aren’t homicidal, which does make a change). And the story is told only in Rachel’s viewpoint, the first time I’ve ever written a single viewpoint story.

In the end, though, what made me look to Mary Stewart while writing this book is that Mary Stewart specializes in ordinary, sensible human beings placed in extraordinary situations. Her heroines are all just so down to earth. Intrigue and mayhem may follow them around, but they face it all with calm good sense and a great deal of pluck– and that was exactly what I was trying to do with The Other Daughter: take an ordinary person and throw her into a bizarre turn of events. How often, after all, do you discover that your supposedly dead (and unimportant) father is really alive– and an earl? And that everything you knew about your life was, in fact, a lie?

Have you read Mary Stewart? Which is your favorite?

Stay tuned next week for an excerpt from The Other Daughter!