Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Heroine in Disguise!

Two Harlequin Historical authors discuss their differing approaches to the woman disguised as a man premise.

The “woman disguised as a man” setup has been a popular hook for historical romance for decades and it remains so today. In fact, two Harlequin Historical September releases feature this theme: HIS RUNAWAY MAIDEN by June Francis and mine, IN THE MASTER’S BED by Blythe Gifford. I invited my fellow author from “across the pond” to talk with me about the appeal, and challenge, of writing these stories. First, I’ll turn it over to June.
Thanks for joining me, June. Tell me about HIS RUNAWAY BRIDE.
It’s set in 1502, so the beginning of the Tudor period. My heroine, Rosamund is English and my hero, Alex is a part Swedish, part Scottish baron, who is also a spy. They are tricked into a speedy marriage when Rosamund's godmother, the slightly wacky Lady Elizabeth Stanley, realises not only that they have travelled through England unchaperoned but also that they are made for each other. She is related to the king of England and soon the couple are involved in the intrigue and machinations at Henry Vll's court at Richmond Palace. Rosamund's wicked stepbrother is party to treason and has them in his sights. With their lives in danger Rosamund and Alex soon realise where their hearts lie and there is an exciting finale on the River Thames.

How did the idea come to you? Was it part of the core idea?
At the beginning of the book Rosamund needs to make a quick escape from her stepmother and as she will be easily recognisable as herself, she decides she needs a disguise. When she was younger she used to don her supposedly dead brother Harry's clothes for riding and knows she can make better speed wearing breeches. She also believes that she is safer travelling if folk believe she is a male until she encounters our hero. So I'd say yes, it was part of the core idea.

What was the most challenging part of writing that scenario?
I think the dialogue. How do they talk to each other in their different roles? What about Rosamund's voice? When she donned her disguise she did not expect to have to converse and answer questions from our very male hero. She's had little experience of being in young men's company and can only guess at what they would talk about. But she wants to find out more about this foreigner and what is he doing in her country. As for Alex he has ulterior motives for continuing with the pretence and has questions of his own that he wants answers to from her. As we know this dialogue is important so as to give the readers information about our two characters as well as to build our hero and heroine's relationship and to have the readers wanting to know when will the denoucement happen.

Why do you think it is such a popular scenario?
Because one can have the hero and heroine alone together in close proximity. This creates lots of lovely conflict. She has to remember to remain in character which is more difficult when she is playing a role day in, day out. She is bound to slip up. For our hero it is the temptation of having a woman in his bed and having to treat her like one of the boys once he has guessed her secret.

Thanks, June. My turn! Here’s a brief recap of IN THE MASTER’S BED.
It’s set in the late 14th century, so more than 100 years before yours. My heroine, Jane, who has never really enjoyed “women’s work” runs away from home in order to study at the University, where women were not permitted. Disguised as a man in a place where women are forbidden, she meets a master who accepts her as a student, thinking she is “John.” Living surrounded by men, she discovers that being a man isn’t as easy as she always thought, and that a certain man makes her want to be a woman for the first time. Of course, my hero, discovers her secret and, it turns out, wears certain disguises of his own.
How did the idea come to you? Was it part of the core idea?
Definitely. I saw this as a “woman in a man’s world” story and really wanted to explore what the sexes find so mysterious about each other. In addition, the book was a spin-off from THE HARLOT’S DAUGHTER. In that book, I had already created a character who was a “tomboy,” as we would say today, so it was perfectly natural for her to masquerade as a boy.
What was the most challenging part of writing that scenario?
Given my setup, trying to figure out how men talk and behave when no women are watching! I’m sure some of my male friends will let me know if I got it right.
Why do you think it is such a popular scenario?
It allows the heroine much more freedom. She is released, as least for awhile, from the constricting requirements and expectations of her sex. That liberates the story, too, which the author appreciates! Also, I think the readers like being in on a joke, watching a baffled hero until he figures out what is going on.
But that sounds like a good topic for our readers.
Tell us: what do you like about woman-disguised-as-a-lad stories? We’d love to hear your comments.
And to learn more about us and our books, visit June Francis at http://www.junefrancis.co.uk/and Blythe Gifford at www.blythegifford.com.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A title for Crispin

Hi Readers,
I just got word that Crispin's story now has a title: Untamed Rogue, Scandalous Mistress. No due out date yet but I can hardly wait. He's by far the wildest of the Ramsden brothers. Thanks to all the UK readers who have enjoyed Peyton's story in the Earl's Forbidden Ward. I've loved hearing from you. I can hardly wait for Peyton to hit the stores in North America.

Friday, August 07, 2009

New Release!

This is a shoutout to let everyone know about my new release titled Texas Wedding for their Baby’s Sake which is officially coming out September 1st (but is available at eHarlequin now.) This sequel to The Rebel and the Lady tells the story of the younger brother, Brandon Dumont and the woman he left behind...

“Caroline Benet enjoyed one night in her fiance’s arms before he left to fight in the Texas territory. The day news reaches her of the Alamo slaughter is the day she learns she is carrying his child.

He may have survived, but Brandon can’t return to the life he once knew or the woman he once loved—not as a cripple and a man battling his own personal demons.

When Caroline shows up in Texas, Brandon is determined to send her packing. But Caroline wants more than Brandon’s name for their baby. Looks like it will take a love as big as Texas to win him back.”

To celebrate the release I’m running a contest on my website this August for a free autographed copy along with a Borders Gift Card. Hope you’ll check it out! (The contest and the book!)

Monday, August 03, 2009

The South Carolina Writer's Conference Oct. 2009

Hi all, especially aspiring Harlequin Writers!
There's a great writing opportunity coming up for you at the South Carolina Writer's Conference Oct. 2009. It's really more of an awesome workshop than a conference. There are critique sessions with authors, agents and editors. Which can be so useful to the new writer. I went to a critique session 6 years ago at the Tacoma Community College authors conference and the critiquer, who was a professional in her field, said "this manuscript should be easy to sell. Do these three things to it and you have a classic regency." I did those three things to it, pitched it once and sold it--not only did I sell it, but I sold it as part of three book deal. It was the second manuscript I'd ever written. So these critique sessions matter a lot! I might even suggest they matter more than the pitching opportunity.

In addition to critique sessions with the workshop faculty, there's editor and agent appointments, workshops for perfecting your craft and lots more. I'll be there teaching sessions on dialogue, research and the crafting of the historical romance. I'll also be there offering full critiques of partial and full manuscripts!! Other big names will be there too like Jenny Bent and Pamela Ahearn and Scott Eagan--so some really great agents. This conference is about more than romance writing, it's for all genres, so bring your friend who wants to write a biography.
I'm so excited to be part of it. There will be time to work on your favorite projects and the conference will probably be a lot more intimate than the massive national RWA conference, so if you're looking for a one on one connection with somebody in the business, this is a fabulous opportunity. Check it out, here's the link http://www.myscww.org/conference/faculty.php

Dulci and Jack are all finished!

Whew, Jack and Dulci (from Pickpocket Countess) have their story all finished for now. I'm just celebrating the completion of a manuscript. I know the process of finishing is just starting, but it feels good to have all that in place.