Archive for the ‘Teaser Tuesdays’ Category

Teaser Tuesday: Lusitania!

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

The three W’s have returned from our retreat! After many drinks…

Ws drinks Ws drinks 2

… and a few rewrites…

Ws Lusitania work

… the manuscript is in the hands of our editor!

The Lusitania Book (which will eventually have a title) is currently slated to appear sometime in autumn 2018. So expect to hear more about it soon!



Teaser Tuesday: Coming Next

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Here’s the publication schedule for the next year or so….

April 18, 2017: That Summer (paperback reissue).

July 4, 2017: A Paris All Your Own: Bestselling Women Writers on the City of Light, a series of personal essays about Paris by assorted authors (trade paperback).

January 9, 2018: The English Wife, aka Stand Alone #4, aka the Gilded Age Book (hardcover).

Autumn 2018 (date and title TBA): the three Ws’ latest collaboration, a novel set around the final voyage of the Lusitania, with Karen White and Beatriz Williams (hardcover).

(I am very happy to announce that the three of us finished a draft of the Lusitania novel last week! We will shortly be retreating to our top secret bat cave to polish up the Lusitania book and plot the next Three W adventure. And possibly finally come up with a title for the Lusitania book other than Lusitania book.)

That Summer discount edition paris-anthology The English Wife

I can’t wait to share all of these with you!

I’m working on my 2019 book (aka Stand Alone #5) right now. I’ll have more to tell you about that once The English Wife is safely out in the world….



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?