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!


Charlotte Featherstone said...

Awesome interview, ladies! I have to run to get the kidlet to school, but I'll be back to play. Speaking of playing, I'll see if I can bring his lordship with me!!!
He sleepith abovestairs at present. I'll rouse him....

Amanda McIntyre said...

Warm welcome to the manor,ladies!
I am dying to dive into this book!
I wanted to ask the both of you- though we all know that things tend to come in cycles, what do you see in the way of historical writing? Do you see any particular trends evolving? IE; cross genre historical?

I see the melding of genres in a lot of areas and I wanted to know your take on this and see if you feel that it will add to, or distract from, the popularity of tradtional historical?
(Steam Punk seems to be on the upswing at the moment sort of sci-fi /Victorian/time-travelish stuff)

Is your publisher/editor/agent interested in acquiring cross-genre historical?

thanks for being here!


Amanda McIntyre said...

I actually came across some of the "hysteria" as I researched for Diary of Cozette-set in Victorian England about the time of the white slave trade going on with young girls.
There was a little machine(can't remember the name right now) they used on women to "resolve " their pent up anxiety! LOL I understand husbands actually would send their wives to doctors , like you mentioned,without their consent.

Interesting the double standards set between American and England, but also men and women as well as social class.

Men were encouraged to have frequent sex to maintain good health and preferably with virgins to boot! Yet women were thought to e hysterical if they enjoyed sex!

Such a rich bed(pardon the pun) of chaos to choose to write from!

What got you interested in writng in this era in particular?(aside from your fear of writing Regency-one I share with you,btw)


Victoria Janssen said...

This sounds like a really fun antho!

Sally MacKenzie said...

Hi, everyone. I'm back from the gym, got my coffee at my elbow, and thought I'd stop by before I tackle the Viscount.

Hey, Amanda, I'm probably the last person to ask about publishing trends. I wrote the Duke in total seclusion from such stuff--hadn't even joined RWA. And frankly, I didn't really think it would ever sell--I was just getting back to writing fiction after a bit of a vacation--8 years or so--raising my four sons.

Hmm. Sometimes I think I write romantic comedy. Pretty funny, that. Seems like people have been saying historicals and rom com are both dead. Glad I didn't know that.

I have noticed a couple paranormal Regencies popping up, but I'd say the thing writers should do is just write the story they want to write. If it's good--especially if it has a unique voice--it should find a home.

The other thing I sort of think, just as a pretty clueless observer, is while new "genres" seem hot, they never really chip away at the historical, esp. the Regency. I think there's a big group of readers that just like Regencies.

When I sold the Duke, I'd started a futuristic. I used to think about running away from the Regency and writing futuristics--and I suppose I may still do that, or at least write this one--but I don't think the audience for futuristics is as large as for historicals.

And now I hope blogger lets me post this long comment.

Amanda McIntyre said...

Hi Sally!
I do think there is a huge following of Rengency readers and as you say its a constant. I admire those who can write that era,truly!

As far as comedy timing, yours is immpeccable, I have to say. Just meeting you clued me into that real quick! If your writing is anything remotely close--I am running to the bookstore today!

*disclaimer: I am just sticking my head out of the deadline gopher hole and hoping I can remember how to read for pleasure!**

I would agree on not following trends in the writing-they simply change to quickly. I was wondering though if you were seeing any in particular--I think that change can be a good thing. I especially love seeing the blend of paranormal and historical--coming into play. Plays havoc on review sites and contests about where to place them, but I love it!


Sally MacKenzie said...

Hi, back at you, Amanda--unless you're back in your gopher hole.

Here's my problem with mixing paranormal and Regencies (Shh--don't tell anyone; it's sort of a dirty dark secret...). As a reader, I'm just not that into paranormal in my Regencies. Isn't that sad for a writer to say?

As a writer, I can see that it might be fun. And I've read some fun paranormal Regencies. So I might try one sometime. But I don't want to annoy the reader me, ya know?

Victoria Dahl said...

Looks like a lot of us will be running in and out of here today. I'm about to step out to run errands and go to lunch, But I'll be back!!! Yes, I just got here. I'm running late. Coffee and breakfasta t 10, lunch at 12. *g* This is what happens on deadline.

Amanda, I'm like Sally. I've sort of got my head down as far as the market goes. But I HAVE been hearing about steampunk and I LOVE IT. I'd love to write it, but I have plotting problems, and I think it would be my downfall in this genre. Have you seen the movie Perfect Creature? That was my first exposure.

I think the Victorian fascinates me because of the dichotomy between public and private lives. So much pushback on sexuality seemed to bring out the kink in people. I also love the bustling feel of it, as if the world were moving faster and faster around them.

Anonymous said...

Wow very cool!
Victoria more on the subject of the so called medical treatments for "hysteria" was the information gathered published by huge schools or were they smaller unknown schools at the time? Plus due to the time frame did the Contagious Disease Acts of 1886 effect these so called treatments?

Charlotte Featherstone said...

Hi guys, Lord CM is fluttering his eyelashes, he'll be up and flirting in no time!

Now, as to Victorian, the exact same thing interests me as Victoria, the dichotomy of the 'two' faces. The moral side, and the amoral side. Plus...I'm kinda of a sucker for those dresses that had bustles, and I luuuv corsets. Just sayin'....

Sally, you're so funny. I still remember you sauntering into our hotel room 'dressed' for the fairy ball at RT last year. Your gold pipe cleaner, or was it Christmas garland? halo was perfect!
If anyone has met Sally, you'll know she's a hoot! Don't even get me started on the Mr. Romance competition!

Okay, who will be ticked off if I skip out for a few and have a quick nap????

OH, btw, I've read all the novellas in Lords, loved them, and Victoria I bought a back copy of your work because of Lessons In Pleasure. Sally, I always buy yours~ya know, gotta support friends and all that!
I read Lords at work, and sparked a whole 4am discussion on 'swords', if you get my drift. I know of at least one other person who was going out to buy it. They know better than to ask me to 'borrow' books. I give them the author rant of royalties and all that stuff. Now they don't even bother! lol!

Sally MacKenzie said...

Hey, Charlotte, are you dissing my "elaborate" costumes? And it was a Christmas garland. But maybe you're getting that costume mixed up with my Vampire costume. I made that one all by myself--I bought a bead stringing kit at the drug store and made a bead-halo thingee.

And good for you for enforcing the "no borrowing/support the starving artist" rule. I always wondered what those nurses on the graveyard shift did...when not saving lives, of course.

I know why Victoria writes Victorian--she always wanted an "n" on the end of her name.

Kristi Cook said...

Charlotte, I think watching Sally watch the Mr. Romance contest was the *highlight* of last year's RT, wouldn't you say?! Simply priceless!!

Didn't mean to abandon you all--today is a migraine day and I'm only just beginning to conquer it. Blech. I hate my bum head.

Kristi Cook said...

Oh, and in case you folks didn't know, Victoria also writes *very* naughty (but oh, so delightful!!) contemporaries for HQN!

Jane said...

So many great books to look forward to.

Victoria, can you tell us about your next contemporary?

Anonymous said...

Hello Ladies :) Wonderful interview.

I just wanted to say that something that Victoria mentioned really caught my eye. She said how prone doctors were to diagnosing most with women with "hysteria" and I've seen that alot in what I've read oabout the Victorian Era. Either hysteria or meloncholy.

Have any of you read The Yellow Wallpaper? My sister inlaw asked me to read it to give her a bit of help on a report she needed to do for school. It was a short story written in the late eighteen hundreds and give a little insight into how men and doctors perceived women at that time.

Okay I know it's a bit off subject from Lords Of Desire, but it just popped into my head as I read this interview, and thought it might be informational to anyone writing about that subject.

In any event, sorry for rambling. LOD sounds great and I'm really looking forward to reading each of the stories.

Amanda McIntyre said...

The Yellow Wallpaer? That s ounds liek an interesting read Barab, thank you for sharing that I'll have to hunt that down.

This is such a fascinating era to me.


Genella deGrey said...

Hello girls!

As the LIT gals already know, I LOVED Lords of Desire! I ran to my local Borders and scooped it up the day it came out!

Well done, all!

I think historicals in general are getting hotter in the boudoir. AND THANK GOODNESS! :) I like them that way!

And I don't know about you, but I'm glad my enthusiasm about me and my partner's bedroom habits aren't seen as hysteria. He's pretty happy about that, too.


Charlotte Featherstone said...

Genella, lol!
I would suspect that most hubbies are pretty happy about that! Imagine being thought hysterical by your uterus...geesh....

Anonymous said...

Do forgive me for being late (fashionably, of course) to the party. The LIT ladies were insatiable last night. Something about research.......ahem.

So, allow me to tour you ladies about the manor. I shall start in the parlor and end in my chambers, I assume that will be a satisfactory conclusion to the tour? There we discuss the state of historical romance.

Now then, I have read Lords of Desire (and for the record, my sword is much longer and prettier than his) and I have immensely enjoyed reading the naughty bits!

And since this is the 21st century and its women charmingly open to the ways of men and women, do tell me, how you come up with these amusing and naughty little scenes of lust of passion.... How do you approach the love scenes, and do you find it easy or difficult to write such little debauches in the man's point of view?
Oh, and if either of you ever need anyone to to provide first hand, authentic historical research, I shall leave you with you my calling card! Oh, and I'm not at all opposed to morning visits!

Hugs and kisses
Lord Craven-Moore

Sally MacKenzie said...

Well, sir--being a good American, I can't say "my lord"--I have no idea where this stuff comes from. My characters just do whatever they darn well please--or they do nothing at all, which is far worse as my editor is expecting a finished manuscript. So I have little choice but to let the naughty creatures do as they will.

I write the love scenes pretty much the way I write all my scenes--as best I can.

As to the male point of view? I lie like a rug. And I cringe a little when gentlemen such as yourself read my stories. I hope if my lies are too far off anyone's thoughts of reality, my editor or agent would gently steer me in the right direction.

Hmm, or maybe I write the male pov as a woman would wish it were. I've always been surrounded by me--a father, two brothers, a husband, and four sons--so I do understand you all aren't women in male clothing, LOL.

Sally MacKenzie said...

Oops--that's surrounded by "men"--not "me."

Victoria Dahl said...

I'm back! The children have haircuts and hubby has been successfully treated to lunch! Give me just a moment to grab some research notes and I'll be right back!

Victoria Dahl said...

And.... I'm sure it goes without saying that I can't find any of my research notes now. So I'll tell you how I found it anyway. I went to a university library and started looking up books on "Victorian Women" and "Victorian Marriage" and "Victorian Sexuality." One of my favorites was The Dark Angel: Aspects of Victorian Sexuality I also had a LOT of luck with Google Books, as far as finding individual medical advice books from that era.

Victoria Dahl said...

Thanks for trying out one of my full-length books, Charlotte. And Sally, my mom actually did name me after Queen Victoria. Her attempt to class me up didn't work though. *g*

Victoria Dahl said...

Jane, my next contemp is out in July. It's called Start Me Up. It's about a girl named Lori Love (a secondary character in my first contemp) who decides to spice up her love life and enlists the help of a male friend. But the part I had a lot of fun with... He starts stealing her erotica books to figure out what her fantasies are. Much naughtiness ensues. *g*

Charlotte Featherstone said...

Oooh, love those friends turned lover books (Addicted is one of those) anyway, will you be signing this at RWA this July Victoria. If you are, I'll get my copy then!

Victoria Dahl said...

Charlotte, I'll definitely be at the signing! Assuming nothing goes horribly wrong, I'll have both my contemps there and hopefully the new historical as well.

Hmm. Word vefification is "relabia". Not sure what THAT maeans.

Kristi Cook said...

Barbara, I read The Yellow Wallpaper, back in a feminist lit class in college! Fascinating, wasn't it?! A similar story is Kate Chopin's The Awakening.

I LOVED that lit class!

Kristi Cook said...

Just wanted to say a HUGE thanks to Sally and Victoria for joining us today!! It was great having you both here at the Manor, and I hope you'll drop by again!

Sally MacKenzie said...

It was fun being here--thanks for the invitation!