...starting with yours!
Happy Monday morning! I’m jazzed to be a guest here at (the always sassy) Michelle Buonfiglio’s blog…since I’m burning the midnight oil these days finishing up the final book in my trilogy, THE SECRET TO SEDUCTION (the first two are BEAUTY AND THE SPY/BATS, out in March, and WAYS TO BE WICKED, which will be out in October), Michelle was kind enough to go easy on me and send some interview questions to answer, and some of you guys sent some very entertaining questions my way. :)
I have to thank you for the diversion—I needed it! So here are my answers—and feel free to fire away with any questions or comments you might have, or write to me any old time at email@example.com.
Bellas: Do you ever find yourself writing current dialogue for your characters? Something like "How cool is that?" or "She's the bomb" or "My bad"?
JAL: It’s funny, but I’m never really tempted to use modern slang as I’m writing, because when you’re getting into the rhythm of your story, it just doesn’t happen—the story doesn’t allow it, if that makes sense? You become too immersed in the era for modern slang to intrude in your thoughts. At least I do.
But language is tricky— historical authors often have to stop to audit themselves to make sure they aren’t putting words or concepts in their character’s mouths that didn’t exist in the particular era in which their story is set. Some words that are actually fairly modern seem as though they’ve been around forever, and other modern terms have been around for centuries but carry such strong modern associations for us that they’re jarring for the reader when encountered in a historical. For example, “creative”: use of the word “creative” as we think of it today—as being related to the arts or as someone who is “creative”—was first ascribed to Wordsworth in 1816. And the word “selfless” was apparently invented by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1825. I’ve been tempted to use both of those words in my books, which are set in 1820, but I ultimately decided not to after I did a little research.
Other words that are many, many hundreds of years old—I believe I used the word “grenade” (16th century) as part of a metaphor in THE RUNAWAY DUKE, and “alien” (14th century) used in BATS (which was in common usage in the Regency, and essentially meant foreign) have strong modern connotations for some of us, so it might feel kind of strange to come across them in a historical. So sometimes it’s a tough call! There’s also a delicate balance between using authentic language and burdening the story with so much terminology that some readers might need a Regency dictionary to translate it. :) But it’s part of the challenge of writing historicals, so it’s fun to try keep on top of it.
Bellas: What is the naughtiest thing you can put in a Regency story and yet keep the lady's virtue intact?
JAL: An actual young lady of the Regency period could hardly breathe without compromising her virtue. Then again, it all depends on how we’re interpreting “virtue” here… For some vivid examples of, shall we say, virtue tampering, let me just refer you to pages 222-229 of Beauty and the Spy and 211-213 of TO LOVE A THIEF. ;)
Bellas: What is your favorite Regency curse word?
JAL: Bloody. Bloody, bloody, bloody. That’s my favorite Regency curse word. Common-sounding to us, perhaps, but it was considered a pretty naughty word, and it’s versatile—it goes with everything! “Bloody hell,” “Bloody fool,” “Bloody wench,” and etc. Don’t you think it sort of rolls off the tongue in a very satisfying way?
Bellas: What's your favorite reference?
JAL: Oh man! There are so many. I like http://www.etymonline.com for word origins (see the first question—LOL). I have a fabulous book called THE REGENCY UNDERWORLD in which I’ve found much inspiration. Very educational. A rare book on Gypsies in Britain helped me write THE RUNAWAY DUKE. A book called SECRET SERVICE: British Agents in France, a comprehensive look at British secret service during the Napoleonic war, was fascinating, and helped with BEAUTY AND THE SPY.
I have reference books on clothing, manners, customs, dances, food…and of course, I love Google for digging up the random bit of info here and there. A few minutes ago I Googled pianoforte makers and the history of the pianoforte, which helped with exactly two paragraphs in my WIP/Work in Progress, THE SECRET TO SEDUCTION. :) I learn something new all the time.
The beauty of research is that in the search you almost invariably stumble across new ideas for stories. I love digging up information.
Bellas: Corsets or Brassiers? Breeches or Drawers?
JAL: Gosh, I just don’t know. I just try to get our heroes and heroines out of their corsets and breeches as quickly as possible when the occasions call for it. ;)
Bellas: What authors or books have been the most influential on your own writing?
JAL: I can’t honestly say that any particular author has influenced my actual prose (at least I don’t think so)…but I can point to the kinds of stories I enjoy, which are character-rich and what I guess I’ll call emotionally comprehensive…in that you laugh a lot, you might shed a tear, you worry, you get angry with or on behalf of at the characters.
A fully realized, very involving story. I think those kinds of stories, for example, are a big part of the reason Jane Austen has abided in popularity for so long. P.D. James comes to mind for me for that reason…in that even if a character appears for a mere few sentences in one of her books, you feel like you really know that character. I think when I started writing I had those kinds of stories in mind, so that’s what I’m going for.
Bellas: Who/What inspired BATS?
JAL: There were a couple of ideas that hit at once:I had an idea about a spy, a Super Spy, naturally, who had served in his Majesty’s Secret Service during the war…and was now just plain bored, because in the wake of the war there’s much less call for the sort of work he did. He’s so used to danger and intrigue, to being a walking weapon… How on earth would he be able to stand ordinary life? Would he manage to stay out of trouble? (Of course not).
So we have Kit Whitelaw, an impatient, dangerous, mischievous, clever man, who ends up involved in a decades old murder mystery and entangled, of course, with a beautiful girl. :)
And with Susannah Makepeace…I liked the idea of yanking the charmed life out from under a slightly spoiled London belle and thrusting her into an entirely unfamiliar situation to see whether or not she’ll rise to the occasion. I think we all only become whom we’re meant to be when we’re challenged…and Kit Whitelaw is nothing if not a challenge. :)
Bellas: What do you like best about BATS?
JAL: Hmmm…I think I like the way Kit’s and Susannah’s relationship unfolds naturally against the backdrop of danger, their overlapping pasts, and the drawing of voles and adders. :)
The rhythm of how they fall in love, how they surprise themselves and each other in the process. I tried to capture how it really feels to fall in love.I also like pages 222-299. LOL.
Bellas: Who're you crushin on these days?
JAL: I’ve rediscovered my deep, abiding appreciation (all right, foaming lust) for: http://www.ioanonline.com/. He’s going to be in a movie with David Duchovny, another longtime favorite. I may just need to be carried out of that movie on a stretcher.
Bellas: Answer the question you wish someone would ask?
JAL: Why yes, I WOULD love a million dollars and Ioan Gruffudd for a roommate. Thanks so much for asking!