First things first: A thief hero! From Robin Hood to Megan Whalen Turner’s Eugenides, I adore a good rogue. What made you decide to make Ash a con man, and do you have a few of your own favorite fictional thieves?
Me too! I've always been especially fascinated by the skill/craftsmanship aspects like safecracking, pickpocketing, forging and lockpicking. Until seeing it again a few years ago, literally the only thing I remembered into adulthood about the Last Unicorn movie was Schmendrick picking the lock on the unicorn's cage.
I decided to make Ash a con man because I watched a movie called "The Brothers Bloom" in which Mark Ruffalo plays a con artist who raised his little brother and they have an intense, unhealthily codependent relationship and BAD THINGS HAPPEN. I was heartbroken and I wanted to fix it. So I did. :)
A few favorite fictional thieves: the crew from Leverage, Bunny and Raffles, Moist von Lipwig from the Discworld series, Aladdin, George from the Alanna books. My devious little angels! And a favorite historical romance is Joanna Bourne's My Lord and Spymaster, in which the heroine was raised as a street thief.
Your books were actually the first historical romances I ever read and reviewed, and I remain fascinated by other romance readers’ points of entry. When did you start reading romance, and which book and/or author did you first fall for hard?
Oh, that’s so cool! I started reading Regency romances when I was 12 or 13. I was doing a career-mentorship program and my middle school matched me up with a very kind local writer, who offered to introduce me to a published author she knew. That happened to be Regency romance author Carola Dunn, and I got one of her books out of the library as interview prep.
(My mom used to read Regencies back in the 70s—she started again when I did—and I remember her trying to explain to me what they were: 'A lot of times someone gets kidnapped, or they get sick and need to be nursed back to health...')
A dozen romances or so later, I was hooked and scouring the shelves for books with similar covers. My favorite of hers was Miss Jacobson's Journey, about a Jewish woman, an earl, and a Talmudic-scholar-turned-adventurer smuggling Rothschild gold for Wellington's payroll through France and across the Pyrenees. There's a love triangle, derring-do, and lots of bad hotel food.
The Lively St. Lemeston books comprise your first series, if I’m not mistaken. How differently did you approach a series of connected stories as opposed to your previous standalones? And how many books do we have to look forward to?
The books are very loosely linked, so there isn't much interconnected plotting that needs to happen. The main difference is that I already have a certain degree of familiarity with the world when I start writing a new story, which helps jumpstart things for me. And I need to keep track of continuity, so I have a series bible for the first time ever.
When I finished Sweet Disorder, I wasn't planning for it to be a series. I was actually working on a smuggling story (I still hope to write that book one day), and while discussing it at RWA with an editor, she asked me, "Could it be in a series with Sweet Disorder?" I just didn't see how. "Well, could they take place in the same town?"
Hmm. I had gotten fond of Lively St. Lemeston. Why not set more books there? The smuggling story needed an isolated coastline and general eerie atmosphere, but I had just come up with the idea for True Pretenses, and since Ash was a traveling con artist, there was no reason he couldn't come to Lively St. Lemeston. Suddenly the story started to flesh itself out and I was really, really excited. So I would like to thank that editor!
I tend to respond favorably to protagonists who have their backs against the wall, literally and/or figuratively. Lydia and Ash felt particularly kindred spirits to me, with the weight (or lack thereof) of family history on their shoulders, their hopes for and frustrations with their younger brothers, and their own unexpected association. Can you tell us a little more of what makes these two tick and what changes for them when they enter each other’s lives?
Me too! I like stakes to be high. That doesn’t necessarily mean objectively high, like life and death or the fate of nations or anything, but I want them to feel high to the protagonists (I am a sucker for fate-of-the-family-restaurant stories, for example).
Both Ash and Lydia took on “adult” responsibilities very young, raising their little brothers from babies (Lydia with help from her father, Ash on his own). They’ve focused most of their emotional energy on their siblings, partly as a way of shoving their own childhood grief and loneliness to the back burner. Ash imagines that he and his brother Rafe will be con artist partners for the rest of their lives, and Lydia plans for her brother Jamie to eventually take over from their father Lord Wheatcroft as Tory patron of Lively St. Lemeston, with her as his hostess and partner.
So when Rafe announces that he wants to go straight, and Jamie announces shortly after Lord Wheatcroft’s death that he doesn’t plan to pursue politics, both Ash and Lydia have serious empty nest syndrome. It’s as if, as well as threatening these close relationships and career choices, the change snatches their entire identities from them. I think they need each other to remind them that they are whole people, even without the roles and responsibilities they’ve taken on.
What is one book and/or series (from any genre) you’ve been gushing about nonstop lately?
A Bollywood Affair. OMG SO GOOD. The heroine is adorable and heartbreaking, the hero's angsty backstory was incredibly effective. Every trope was used so perfectly. Plus I love a romance where food is important. Read it, but make sure you have snacks around when you do.
And just for fun, what’s the first word that comes to mind when I say:
It's funny, I'm not good at this...I get flashes of images, not words. So I'm describing the image that popped into my head instead.
Lydia: pansies. They're such a quiet, self-contained, but vivid flower.
Books: the stack of research books falling over under my night-table.
Delicious: a Martha Stewart Living-style food photograph that appears to be some kind of puff pastry dough square with ham in it?
Ash: a wrinkled button-down under a rumpled suit jacket. Yes, I know they didn't have button-downs in the Regency.
Romance: two people laughing by a fountain in Central Park. Wow, my brain is embarrassing.
Writing: my composition notebook.
Hero: a dapper cartoon character with dark hair falling in his eyes and Edwardian evening dress.
Sexy: chocolate and a bright color palette like Star Trek: TOS or the con artist TV show Hustle.
Love: a group of people watching TV together.
Home: my home. :)
Thanks so much, Rose!Thanks for having me!
And now for the giveaway! Rose is offering an ebook of True Pretenses to one lucky reader. To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter. The giveaway will run one week from today (1/21). Good luck!