Friday, February 20, 2009
Sally MacKenzie and Victoria Dahl Visit the Manor!
Kristi: Hi, Sally and Victoria! Welcome to the LIT manor. Pull up a velvet chaise and grab a cup of tea and let's get started! First off,I’m delighted to be sharing an anthology (LORDS OF DESIRE, Kensington, Feb. 09) with you both! Why don’t you begin by telling us all a little bit about each of your novellas.
Sally: It’s great to be here Kristi--and great to be in LORDS OF DESIRE with your newest persona! My novella, "The Naked Laird," is set during a Regency house party. Lord and Lady Kilgorn have been assigned the same bedchamber--the only problem is, neither knew the other was invited. They’ve been separated for a decade; this is the first time they’ve seen each other in all that time.
Victoria: “Lessons in Pleasure” is the story of Sarah Hood, a sheltered Victorian newlywed. Though she loves her husband, James, she’s never been in close proximity with a man before, and their relationship fills her with anxiety. But together, James and Sarah begin to learn the joys of giving and receiving pleasure, in order to forge a true union of body and soul.
Kristi: Sally, how does "The Naked Laird" fit in with the rest of your “Naked Nobility” series?
Sally: "The Naked Laird" is set in the same year as The Naked Duke, the first book of the Naked Nobility series, and at a house party that happens during The Naked Baron, my May 2009 release. In fact, I was writing the Baron when Lord and Lady Kilgorn stormed into a scene and “introduced” themselves. So while the Laird and the Baron don’t completely echo each other--the house party is only a portion of the Baron and many of the scenes are separate--the characters do show up in each story. It was a real challenge keeping the two stories consistent. And the viscount who hosts the house party appears in The Naked Gentleman--he’s Jane Parker-Roth’s husband. He’s also the hero of my current work-in-progress, The Naked Viscount, which is set about three years after the Laird and nine months or so before the Gentleman.
Kristi: Sally, your books are all Regency-set. What is it about the period that draws you to it as an author?
Sally:I loved Georgette Heyer’s books when I was growing up. I loved the wit and the relationships she crafted between her heroes and heroines. And I love the words and expressions in use then--like “brangle” and “shilly-shally” and “shoot the cat” (No, no felines are injured!)--so much so I sometimes find them creeping into my daily conversations which causes my husband to roll his eyes. And of course the idea of elegant parties and rich, handsome gentleman and a life of relative leisure is appealing--I just can’t think about the lack of modern plumbing or medicine.
Kristi: Well, I find the language in your Naked books positively delightful! Your turns-of-phrase are very clever and fun--it’s one of the things I most admire about your writing style! Are there any particular challenges associated with writing books set in the Regency?
Sally: Perhaps my major challenge is avoiding historical false steps. Most research books are not written with writers in mind, so they don’t include the kind of details that I need. And I am very much writing historical romance--not historical fiction. I want to get the historical details right, but the history isn’t my focus. There are some readers--we can call them the “Regency Police”--who seem to delight in finding historical faux pas in Regency romances--I’m always a little afraid they’ll arrest me. I had one fellow take me to task because I used “hello” two or three times in one book. I now have my Oxford English Dictionary CD open on my computer desktop--it’s the second thing I open after my work-in-progress file--but I still make mistakes. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I will make mistakes--or I’d be too afraid to get past page 1 of the story. Really, just being an American writing stories set in England probably introduces a host of inaccuracies.
Kristi: And Victoria, your books are all Victorian-set. Same questions for you—what draws you to the era, and what challenges do you face with the setting?
Victoria: I admit to choosing the Victorian just because I was afraid of writing Regency! I would’ve been entering into it with less knowledge than half the readers, not to mention the writers who’ve spent their lives researching that era. So I chose to focus mostly on the early Victorian, when some of the Regency ideals were still alive and well, but we were entering interesting new terrain in both society and technology.
The biggest challenge I’ve found is with preconceptions about the era. There were a lot of prudes back then, but private sexuality was alive and well. People didn’t truly wear blinders. That story about people covering up the legs of their pianos because “legs” were vulgar and not to be seen? That story was made up by an Englishman making fun of unsophisticated Americans. Totally not true.
That’s another thing to keep in mind. Most of the books of manners from that time period were written for middle-class Americans. They were NOT written for the English upper-class, who could get away with a heck of a lot more. Also, rule books were written to influence behavior. They reflect the ideals of the author, NOT the actuality of life in Victorian times.
Kristi: Any naughty tidbits you’ve discovered when researching your particular eras? For instance, I found that there was a very short-lived but popular trend of nipple piercing in the Edwardian era! And I don’t mean courtesans or ‘loose women’ doing it—I’m talking gently-bred ladies! Strange, but true.
Sally: The naughty bits that are currently on my mind deal with my work-in-progress. I have a copy of Vic Gatrell’s City of Laughter. It’s full of prints from the 18th and early 19th centuries, many of which are quite, quite naughty. I’m using one as the inspiration for The Naked Viscount.
Victoria: I love their adorable pornography. The naked women always looked so demure. And plump. *g* It makes me happy that these cute nudes made people feel so naughty.
Kristi: Victoria, I thought the entire subplot in "Lessons in Pleasure" regarding the so-called “doctor” treating women for nymphomania was particularly compelling. I can totally imagine women being exploited in such a fashion during a time when talking about such private matters was entirely taboo. Was this based on any research you did, or was it pure fiction?
Victoria: When I started the story, I knew the heroine would turn to medical texts for information. I also knew that these books were hot sellers, probably because the more you try to hide sex, the more interesting it becomes. What surprised me was the perviness the permeated some of the books when I read them with a modern eye. Doctors were obsessed with the so-called malady of “hysteria.” They honestly believed that having a uterus put all women a hairsbreadth away from going crazy at the least provocation. (“hyster” in hysteria meaning “uterus”, as in “hysterectomy”.)
And yes, some of them advocated that women receive regular physical treatments to relieve dangerous “congestion.” Pervy, yes, but I personally theorized that these treatments might have generated a system of recommendations from one woman to another, if you know what I mean. (Do you know what I mean? I’m saying that some doctors jacked women off as a medical treatment. *snort*) Fine and dandy if she’s going voluntarily (“I’m off for my treatment, darling. Don’t wait up!”) Terrifying and abusive if she’s forced into this so-called treatment for depression or anxiety. Gives me the heeby-jeebies.
(At this point, I’d like to point out that the story isn’t creepy. It’s sexy! And sweet! That’s just a subplot, I swear.)
Kristi: I can confirm that!! Victoria’s story is very sweet and very sexy—and not at all creepy!
Can each of you tell me a little bit about your roads to publication? I know you were both RWA Golden Heart finalists—I even had the pleasure of judging Victoria’s entry, which I *adored* and knew with certainty that the book would sell (I’m so happy when I’m proved right!). But what happened after your GH final?
Sally: I can thank the Golden Heart for my current career. Hilary Sares, who was at Kensington then, got my Golden Heart entry, The Naked Duke, to judge. She liked it so much, she got my contact information from RWA and called me totally out of the blue to offer a two book contract.
Victoria: Kristi, did I know you judged my entry?
Kristi: Maybe. Probably. I’m sure I slobbered all over you about it at some point! It was a GREAT entry. I remember I also judged (and loved) and entry by the then-unpublished Monica McCarty that same year, and look at her now, too! Anyway, back to the interview….
Victoria: Curse this awful memory! That is SO AWESOME! Now look at us, two professional ladies in an anthology together. Awww!
When I won the GH for TO TEMPT A SCOTSMAN, I’d actually given up on historicals. The market was bad, or so everyone said, and I’d written three historical romances with no luck at selling OR finding an agent. My agent actually signed me after reading my paranormals. It was only after I WON the GH that she said, “Maybe I should read your historicals.” Hmm. Maybe.
I sold SCOTSMAN about seven months after winning. It seemed like a very long wait. I’ve since sold four more historicals to Kensington, along with two historical novellas. I never did sell those paranormal books, but… that second novella I sold to Kensington? It’s about a Highland vampire!!! Finally, I get to write about sexy biting!
Kristi: Lastly, what ‘hot historicals’ do we have to look forward to from both of you?
Sally: THE NAKED BARON is coming out in May and THE NAKED VISCOUNT should be a 2010 release. After that, I think there’ll be one more Naked book, tentatively titled THE NAKED KING. But don’t worry--it’s not about Prinny/George IV. That would be horror, not romance, LOL--at least by 1820.
Kristi: Yikes! I totally agree, LOL! Can’t wait to see what you’ve got up your sleeve! Victoria?
Victoria: My next full-length historical is ONE WEEK AS LOVERS, out in August. This story (previously known as Lancaster’s story) was excerpted at the back of A RAKE'S GUIDE TO PLEASURE. I can’t wait to see what everyone thinks. It’s a bit different from my other books, because the hero is the one with a tortured past. Also, he’s utterly adorable, if I do say so myself. *sigh* Poor Lancaster. He needs you to take him home and cuddle him, so be sure to buy a copy and do your part.
Kristi: Oh, don’t worry—I will!! I’ve been dying for Lancaster’s story since A RAKE’S GUIDE TO PLEASURE! Suffice it to say that THE NAKED BARON and ONE WEEK AS LOVERS are two of my most eagerly awaited 2009 books!
Thank you both so much for taking the time to visit with us today at the LIT manor! I know Lord Craven-Moore is angry with me for not allowing him the pleasure of interviewing you two lovely ladies himself. I suppose I should go and attempt to smooth his ruffled feathers….(I know, it’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it!)
Okay, LIT readers….now I’ll turn it over to you! Any questions to ask Victoria or Sally?? Don’t be shy! They’ve both agreed to hang around the manor for a bit (I think they’re secretly hoping for a glimpse of his lordship!).
Purchase LORDS OF DESIRE now at Amazon or BN.com!
Posted by Kristi Cook at 12:25 PM