Friday, May 08, 2009

Jennifer Ashley GuestBlog: Betcha' Can't Look Me In The Eye And Say That

CONTEST TODAY!!! 5 Lucky Commenting Bellas, randomly selected, each win a copy of Jennifer Ashley's "The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie" from Dorchester. Check back tomorrow to see if you've won.

From Jennifer: Hi all. Thanks, Michelle and Bellas, for giving me the opportunity to come here and talk about Madness of Lord Ian!

A question I’ve gotten since I conceived this book is “why on earth did you write about a hero with Asperger’s?” A man who has trouble relating emotionally to others? Who will have great difficulty saying the three little words, I love you?

Romances, to me, are about the power of love getting you through anything—about two people finding their strengths by coming together. The more difficult the problems are to get through, the more poignant the romance. Ian faces not only the problem of relating to other people, but also doing it in a time (Victorian England) when people had no idea what Asperger’s was, nor were they tolerant of anyone who was “different.”

With Ian I wrote a man who believes he will never find the joy of falling in love (or having a “normal” life in any way). He wishes for a fulfilling relationship but is convinced it will never happen for him (sex, yes; love, no).

Enter Beth, who has experienced a fulfilling relationship (with her late husband), and can’t imagine how Ian believes he’ll never have that in his life. The memory of her happiness with her husband gets her through lonely times, and her heart goes out to Ian no matter how much he unnerves her.

It was very difficult writing Ian because he couldn’t do some of the things romance heroes are supposed to, in particular, pin the heroine with his powerful and manly gaze! (Ian can't look anyone directly in the eye.) Plus Ian firmly believes that his feelings for Beth are purely physical (he wants the relationship very, very much and will do anything to get it, but he doesn’t believe it’s love).

How to make this guy say the magic words and mean them?

Ian believes he can’t feel love, but from the moment he meets Beth, he worries about her, wants to be with her, and wants to protect her. And slowly, through the story, he allows Beth to draw out of himself things no one else has been able to (a Beauty and the Beast story). Beth teaches Ian a lot about himself, life, and love and makes him see, in the end, that he is perfectly capable of loving her.

Every second of writing this book was both joy and frustration. Ian was not easy to pin down, and he wanted to do many things I didn’t want him to! But I also loved writing Beth, a resilient heroine who doesn’t take crap from anyone. Together these two found their happily ever after (and it wasn't easy for them). You'll them again in future books.

I hope everyone enjoys Ian’s story!

If the hero literally doesn’t know what ‘I love you’ means, when and how do you think he might realize he’s in love? How does this jibe with the idea that the hero in romance always has to say ‘I love you’ for the romance to be successful? How do you feel about romances w/ heroes/hns w/disabilities?

Encore! Book 2 of Jennifer's Highland Pleasures series, "Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage," is out mid-'10. You'll meet Isabell and Mac in "Lord Ian" and'll be dyin' for their story. Check out Jennifer's Allyson James and Ashley Gardner reads and Tudor historicals, too.
Encore due! Learn more about Asperger's Syndrome (AS) here plus a mom's take on loving a child with AS here.
Encore tre! Read more about heroes like Ian here.
"Tails of Love" fund-raising anthology authors Lori Foster, Stella Cameron, Diane Castell & Pals GuestBlog Tuesday! They're kicking off the
Tails of Love Pet Photo Mascot Extravaganza!


Stacy~ said...

Morning Bellas :) Hi Jennifer! I've heard nothing but good things about this book, and it's one I'm very anxious to read. I love historicals, and it sounds like you've written a very memorable one.

I haven't read a lot of romances with disabled heroes of any kind, but I'm not against the idea. I think if a writer is knowledgable about his/her subject matter and writes the story with care and consideration, then it doesn't make a difference to me. Probably the biggest frustration would be if the person didn't know a whole lot about the mental and/or physical conditions of the disability and didn't bother to research it. I think that does a disservice not only to readers, but also to the disability in question.

Jennifer, what do you think was the most challenging thing about writing this story?

Myrin said...

Hi Jennifer, how cool to have you here! I've read your pirate trilogy which I liked very much and I'm sooo looking forward to reading TMOLIM (phew, what an abbreviation!).

When I first read about this new book of yours I didn't realize that the hero had Asperger's. Somehow I thought that he had been taken into the asylum while he doesn't have any mental problems. I was interested in reading the book.

However, after reading only yesterday or the day before that that Ian actually suffered from Asperger's, I decided that this book must be an absolute must have.

I don't know if any of you know or have read "The curious incident of the dog at the night time". We read that in school last year and it is a great book! The I-narrator has Asperger's, too, and it's so very interesting - and sometimes amusing - to see everything from his point of view. You get to understand the illness very well reading that book.

And of course, now I'm so very curious about TMOLIM. A romance with a hero who "cannot feel". I think it's intriguing, really. And I don't think I've ever read a romance where either hero or heroine are disabled (not counting the "Beauty and the Beast"-stories with the maimed hero, that's something different, I think).

So I'm sure the book will be one of the most interesting ones that are out there.

Unknown said...

Jennifer, I have never read any of your books but I have heard a lot about them. Personaly myself I love the flawed hero. To me books are much better if the hero is flawed. Nothing in life is perfect so why should our heros in books be perfect.

maered said...

I am definitely interested in reading about a hero with a disability. I think there are too many romances out there where the hero is portrayed as physically perfect. It's nice to see something different out there for readers to enjoy.

As long as the disability is written about with knowledge and with sensitivity, I think it's a good idea.

Jennifer, I love your books (under all your names,;)) What genre of romance is easiest or most fun to write about?

ev said...

Hi Jennifer-

I have read some really great reviews already on the book and have planned on adding it to my must buy list. The excerpt that I read had me dying for it right then.

I think it is a refreshing idea to have a hero who is disabled, with something besides a war wound or other heroically gained boo-boo is fantastic! Who says heroes can't have disabilities?

Normally, I stick with contemporary novels, but more and more I am finding some awesome reccommendations from different sites for great regency and other settings. I can't wait to add this one to my collection, small as it is!!

Julie in Ohio said...

Morning, Bellas!! Welcome, Jennifer!!!

I read and thoroughly enjoyed your Immortals series. =o)

This book really interests me. As I mentioned yesterday, I have a friend whose son was just diagnosed with Asperger's and have seen first hand the struggle of both the son and his family. Knowing what's going on with him has helped the family out alot. As GI Joe says, knowing is half the battle. But the other half is dealing and that can be shakey at the best of times. I'm very curious to see how Lord Ian and Beth do it.

Thanks for visiting today, Jennifer!!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Buongiorno, Bellas, and welcome, Jennifer! I'd been looking forward to Lord Ian in advance about 8 months before ARCs were out. Erin Galloway from Dorchester told me she had a hero w/Asperger's Syndrome in an upcoming book while she and I were having a convo about the syndrome. I think I brought up the topic while talking about kids with special needs. Anywayz, couldn't wait to read Lord Ian and once I did, couldn't wait to tell everyone and have you visit us.

'mornin, Stace! I'm with you, there's really no way to write a 'wallpaper' disability. The book comes off as too 'message-y' or maybe even smarmy.

Let's hear it for the imperfect guys, Virginia. Probably lets the real ones off the hook a little, too. Yet I so objectify heroes that even flawed I think they're perfect. sigh.

Hi, maered! Welcome. I like that you point out sensitivity as key. If the author feels empathy for the character w/the disability -- but doesn't feel 'sorry' for them -- the picture we get is one of striving to live life fully. At it's best, we realize the disability itself doesn't make the character a 'saint.' And when done well, pressure's taken off the character w/ the disability to behave perfectly like a caricature of the 'kindly, grateful disabled person' we used to see in films and books years ago.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Julie, unequivocally, I can state that nobody ever has quoted the underrated pop philosopher of our generation, GI Joe, @ RBTB. Thank you. Thankyouverymuch.

Booklover1335 said...

Hi Jennifer,
I have read several of your Allyson James titles, but for the life of me I never knew you also wrote under Jennifer Ashley.
I don't know how this can be since I love Highland romances. They are near and dear to my heart, and I can't believe I have previously missed this series. There are so many books, that it is sometimes hard to keep up, which is why I am soooo glad you were a guest on this blog today!
I can't wait to read this series, and love that your hero is atypical of most romantic heroes written today.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Hi, booklover! oh, if you love Highlanders -- and, really, can there be too many written? I think not. -- you'll dig clan MacKenzie. There are 3, plus a nephew whom we only can hope Jennifer will pen a story for. That's how much I'm looking forward to this series.

Know what I didn't know? That Jennifer has pirates! Pirates! Why didn't I know this, besides the fact that I'm like you; it's just plain hard to keep up. :)

Julie in Ohio said...

I'm hearing series talk here. What book number are you looking at for Lord Ian and his maddness??

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

get a holda y'self. It's book 1. book. one. sheesh.

Julie in Ohio said...

Thank you, Michelle. I knew you wouldn't let me down. ;p

Unknown said...

I am SO looking forward to picking up this book. It sounds so wonderful!

Keira Gillett said...

Every post about Lord Ian I find and read makes me itch more to read his book! Count me in!

Jennifer Ashley/ Allyson James / Ashley Gardner said...

Hi everyone, and thanks Michelle for having me!!

Yes, Ian is BOOK ONE of the series. :-)

I did another Highland story called HIGHLANDER EVER AFTER, a historical with a touch of paranormal.

I did do a lot of research for IAN. Read books, blogs, websites, and talked to people. It was enlightening and heartbreaking. I haven't read "Curious Incident" though I heard much about it when it came out--one of those books that slipped by while I was busy. Now that I'm finished with IAN I can pick it up without worrying about channeling it (if that makes sense).

Thanks for all your kind words, and I hope you enjoy Ian!! I'll pop back during the day, so feel free to keep coming with the questions.

The Brunette Librarian said...

Please Oh please count me in!! I would love to read this book :D!!

Lyoness2009 said...

I've heard such great things about this book. Looking forward to reading it.

lyoness2009 AT

Sharon Angle-Boyer said...

Everyone needs to read the book! It is amazing. Ian is an incredible character. I hope you do more stories on characters with disorders.

Jessa Slade said...

I've heard wonderful buzz about this story, and part of it is BECAUSE the hero isn't perfect. I love the premise that all of us deserve to find love, whatever our failings. That's what romance is about, after all.

I heard someone say that all romances are retellings of Beauty & The Beast -- with each of us playing both parts.

Kim said...

I've never read your books, so this would be a good one to start with. Please enter me in the drawing.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

oh, hi, LisaK! sorry i missd you before. The Curious Incident... is really famous w/in the Asperger's community, of course, and it's very cool that it opened folks' eyes up to not only the abilities of someone w/AS, but the creative way folks w/it look at situations and challenges.

The think I like best about TMOLIM is that it's the story of a man (who happens to have AS). It doesn't separate the two, which would be, like in real life, stripping someone of their uniqueness. But it also shows that, in this case, men w/AS are men first; they don't become less because of a disability, or something other altogether.

It seems society tends to marginalize men who are disabled as not being 'all man.' We know society does it all the time w/men who don't meet the standards of strapping, athletic, slim, smart but not too smart, rich... Of course, in romance, we objectify men in ways we try not to (hopefully) in real life.

But I think some folks find it shocking that a guy like Ian -- in fiction or real life -- would need affection, connection, intimacy. TMOLIM could go a long way toward helping folks see that, but they'd have to understand romance a bit first to understand why some of his 'quirks' are so sexy. :) Then again, irl, I guess they could work, too...

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Hi, Jessa: in some ways, it works cause his imperfections also are in line w/what many of us admire in a hero. But I can't give em away, or i'd ruin a book.

Hi, Jennifer! Thanks for stopping by. The 'channeling' sounds perfectly reasonable.

Could you please give us a little tidbit about each of the Mackenzies (and tell me whether the youngest eventually will get a story, too)?

Jane said...

I think there are instances where the hero knows what "I love you" means, but they just have difficulty speaking those words or showing affection. I can't think of any romance I've read where the hero or heroine has a disability. I'm looking forward to reading "The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie."

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

That's a great way to put it, Jane. I've read a couple romances where I felt the hero coughed up the ILY when the heroine didn't really need to hear it - and it was way too early or out of character (especially cause the author did a great job of showing how everyone was healthy in their expecations). The hn understood -- and we, too -- he loved her. Sometimes the guys aren't holding back the words to be manipulative. Sometimes their actions and intentions speak way louder than the men who shout ILY from the rooftops and can't follow through with the back up. That's in real life as well as romance.

Jennifer Ashley/ Allyson James / Ashley Gardner said...

"Could you please give us a little tidbit about each of the Mackenzies (and tell me whether the youngest eventually will get a story, too)?"

Sure thing!:

Mac and Isabella will have their story told in Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage (a reunion story).

Lord Cameron (whose first wife had postpartum depression), finds himself helping a lady in distress (a lady he thought he hated, poor guy), in The Many Sins of Lord Cameron.

Then Hart will pair up with a woman who won't take his sh*t in The Duke Takes a Wife. (I mention her in Ian, though she's not in the book.)

All these titles are tentative and could change, but that's what I'm calling them for now.

Daniel will have to grow up a bit, but I think I'll be ready for his story after Hart's. :-)

Unknown said...

My grandson has Asperger's and thus I'm so happy to see a hero like this. I'm sure it wasn't easy to write Ian. I'll be interested to see how you created him.

Martha Eskuchen said...

Hi Jennifer and Michelle and Bellas! I'm coming in late after work today. I love the idea of this hero...sometimes I get tired of all the perfect men. (Like that's real in life? Not!) And I love a romance where it takes the guy a while to recognize that he loves and that he can say I love you with meaning! I am so looking forward to this book and the series! Best wishes!

Caffey said...

Hi Jennifer! So love the variety you write! You been doing so much! Many thanks. I can't wait to read Ian's book! As being deaf myself, I do love to find characters who have disabilities. I think its for me, a way to see how they adjusted in those times in history where it was so much different than it was today. But too love to see that they find their love as I did! I think love is one that each person can 'feel' and just know it. I think it can be hard if hurt in the past by it and seem to challenge your feelings. So I see that and other reasons for them not to be able to define that its love right away but love when they do!!!

Manda Collins said...

Hi Jennifer, Michelle, Bellas!

Jennifer TMOLIM was my first book by you but it won't be the last. What a wonderful, touching story. And sexy! Don't forget the sexy! I loved the way you wrote Ian and his Beth. Am looking forward to the other books in this series!

Michelle, excellent point that Ian is still a man whether he has Asperger's or not. I do think that it's easy to forget that people with disabilities have the same old sexuality and human flaws and foibles that everybody else does. The fact that Ian has a healthy libido and acts on it is one element of his character that for me made him an interesting character. I think there is a tendency to want characters like Ian (though admittedly there aren't that many in romance fiction) to be virgins who have trouble relating to women. I loved that despite his trouble with articulating and understanding emotions he was still able to put the moves on the ladies just like any other good looking man.

Keira Soleore said...

Jennifer, so many folks have been raving for weeks about your book that it's absolutely on my list of books to buy.

Such courage on your part as a writer to take on such a risky hero and give him such a beautiful story. This story embodies everything we tout romance novels stand for.

Robyn said...

This book sounds fantastic! Count me in please!

HeatherB said...

WHat an original and brave concept for a romance! Brava! I am very interested in reading this.

I think the hero that stands out most in my mind who had a disability was (I believe) Simon from Julia Quinn? He has a speech impediment, and a heroine in Eloisa James' book with a physical imparement. I feel it lends a unique confict, and maybe greater intensity to a story, when something tangible like this is overcome, beyond the typical 'reluctance of the alpha male' formula.

I salute you for taking a bold step in educating as well as entertaining your audience. Can't wait to crack this book and I adore series!


Laurie G said...

I know a lady who's son has Asberger's disease. He's 22, a genious, BUT depressed.
He doesn't want to do anything with his life, lives at home and complains. I feel sorry for her!
I'd love to read about Ian!!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Absolutely, Ashley, this book is important to many of us who know children and adults, men and women w/Asperger's; I think you and I are on the same wavelenth, and I'll bet your grandson is a blessing. :)

oh, goody, Jennifer. Just so's none of you cheeky Bellas think I'm gettin creepy on you, I was looking forward to Daniel's story when he grows up. I mean, you know I draw the line at, um, what was it again? 20? 21? Unless it's the epilogue of the 'they met when they were teens' stories. Then all bets're off.

hi, marthae! 'With meaning' is such a good point.

Hi, caffey! Thanks for sharing your story. I find your point, I think it can be hard if hurt in the past by it and seem to challenge your feelings. So I see that and other reasons for them not to be able to define that its love right away but love when they do!!! really impactful. Some folks fear intimacy because they've been hurt before in love, yet so often others are hurt in the bigger picture by folks around them and have to get through that to trust even that they're lovable. To convey that in a romance w/out the character seeming pitiful is tricky, I think.

here, here, keira!

Ah, yes, Manda, his beth. sigh. You're right about our fantasy of freeing the awkward nerdy guy from his unfortunate virginity thing. sometimes it works great when the guy has strong reasons for wanting to remain a virgin til the right one (Under Fire) or simply hasn't much choice in the matter (Untouched). But the guys I know with AS are guys who can be taught everything in the almost 'fake it til you make it sense.' That only can pay off in the long run for any woman w/the good sense to look beyond the 'outer package' (oh, stop!) and into the man.

Portia Da Costa said...

This book sounds fascinating. I would love to read it as I adore the Beauty and the Beast story, and heroes who battle with both physical and psychological wounds. When a couple has to overcome obstacles like this on their path to love and happiness, it adds so much richness and poignancy to their story.

Bravo for tackling such a challenging and sensitive issue via the medium of romance!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Buongiorno, Bellas! Took our kids last night to Medieval Times for my son's b/d. More on that soon...

well said, Heatherb, all around.

hi, robyn !

EJG said...

Good afternoon..I hope its not too late to enter the contest :)

Jennifer Ashley/ Allyson James / Ashley Gardner said...

Thanks all of you for your comments. I will be getting with Michelle to announce the winner of Madness, and letting you all know.

I so appreciate you dropping by and chatting with me!! I loved writing Ian, and he'll be back with the rest of his brothers. :-)


David B. said...

Sorry I'm late to this discussion, but I wanted to simply to say thank you to Jennifer for writing a book with a character like Ian. I'm so pleased that asperger's is starting to make its way into the culture in this way. A portrayal of this kind of character demystifies the condition to some extent. And the more that happens, the more accepted those who have it will be.

I plan on reading the book.

Thanks again.


orannia said...

I know I'm way late, but I just wanted to say that I'm so looking forward to reading this book. I love the idea of a hero who doesn't know what 'I love you' means!

All the best with the release Jennifer!

ev said...

Will this be coming out on digital anytime soon, for the Sony???