Interview with Kalen Hughes, author of LORD SIN!

Kalen Hughes is a debut historical author and former Golden Heart finalist. Always a voracious reader, Kalen didn’t discover the world of romance until her godmother handed her a Georgette Heyer novel during her freshman year of college. While she studied philosophy and creative writing (yes, she’s one of those dreadful MFA people *grin*), she continued to read romance . . . and eventually her inner poet was drowned out by voices demanding that their stories be told. Growing up in the lively reenactor community on the West Coast, and working as her godmother’s research assistant during college, pretty much guaranteed that those self-same voices would be historical.

When she’s not writing, Kalen spends enormous amounts of time researching and recreating historical clothing, often going so far as to use period sewing techniques (yes, that means lots and lots of hand sewing). She also gives workshops to her fellow romance writers on topics ranging from the History of Underclothes, to How Clothes Worked During the Regency, to the Origins of the Kilt.

For more information about Kalen, LORD SIN, and the History of Underclothes, please visit her website www.kalenhughes.com.

Enter a comment or question for Kalen by the end of the day, Monday April 23, for a chance to win an autographed copy of LORD SIN (winner to be chosen by the Riskies).

“Lusty and dramatic, with a great touch of suspense, this deliciously erotic debut will keep readers enthralled. Heavily character-driven, Lord Sin features a tremendously appealing hero and a splendid heroine, full of honesty and courage. Fans will be eagerly awaiting the next sexy Georgian romance from Kalen Hughes.”

– Julia Ross, RITA Award winning author

K.I.S.S. Award!

“What do May flowers bring? Heroes like Kalen Hughes’s Lord Sin, Ivo Dauntry, who learns that revenge is a double-edged sword.”

4-Stars (RT Book Reviews)
“Hughes debuts with a novel that’s part erotic romance and party country house party romp—a unique combination that will keep readers intrigued. Part of the appeal is Hughes’s ability to create likable characters as well as spicy love scenes tinged with rough sex and tenderness. She’s definitely on her way to enticing readers who adore Lisa Kleypas, Pamela Britton and Katherine O’Neal.”

Tell us about LORD SIN. What inspired you to write this particular book? Did it start with a character, a setting, or some other element?

Honestly? Ack. LORD SIN started out as my response to some book or other that hadn’t pleased me (so many of us get started that way, LOL!). I knew what I wanted to be reading (Georgette Heyer, but HOT) so I began to write that book . . . the story really started with the heroine, and the idea of writing a role reversal book. She’d be the alpha, he’d be the silently strong man who loves her just the way she is. I wanted a kick-ass historical heroine, something you don’t see a lot of in historicals. Fast-forward a year or so, I have a finished manuscript and no bloody idea what to do with it. My godmother, who’s also a novelist, tells me to email the first 100 pages to her editor at Avon. Knowing nothing about the business, I did. *blush* All I can say is Lucia Macro is an angel and was extremely gracious about the whole thing. She wrote me a detailed rejection letter and suggested I check out RWA.

Someday I’ll meet her face to face and buy her the dozens of drinks I clearly owe her. If I’m brave enough to introduce myself, that is.

Tell me more about your characters. What or who inspired them?

Georginna, the heroine, is a tomboy. A girl raised with a pack of boys (her parents’ friends). Her theme song is Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better. She simply is one of the boys. I’d say she was very much inspired by my own childhood (only girl on a commune) and strongly influenced by some of Heyer’s more lively heroines (Sophy, Babs, Serena, Prudence). I wanted her to have edge. To be strong. Too strong for most men to handle. And I wanted to explore the challenges that strong-minded independent women face (then and now, as I think this issue is timeless). She’s got a little bit of Georgiana the Duchess of Devonshire in her, mixed up with some Hester Stanhope, and maybe just a little bit of Moll Flanders.

Ivo (yes I stole the name from Bath Tangle) has gone through a lot. Literally. He started out as the strong, silent type. The guy who could let George’s outrageous behavior just wash over him like water off a duck’s back. The guy who would never compete with her, because he’s not at all threatened by her. His only growth arc was to learn to love her just the way she was . . . He’s ended up a little more emotional, and a lot louder. LOL! Somewhere in the middle of the book he suddenly had an agenda. And he started getting angry about what had happened when they’d met years before. They had back-story. Who knew? So I rewrote the opening to play up that back-story and bring what was clearly their real conflict into focus. I can tell he had a much better time when he got to be as bad as she is. *grin* He’s so ready for that duet. I feel really honored that Romantic Times gave Ivo a K.I.S.S. I sure think he deserved one!

What draws you to write about the Georgian period?

Oooooo, I can give you a couple of different answers here. There’s the “real” reason my book is Georgian, and then there’s all the reasons I’m glad it is.

The “real” reason is that my (now) editor said she was full up on books with Regency settings and could I please send her something else. Anything else.

The reason my “anything else” is Georgian is that I just love the period. The late 1780s is a period which fascinates me. It’s tumultuous on multiple fronts, multiple continents, in ways both micro and macro. 1787 marks a major milestone for the still fledgling United States: The signing of the Constitution. Uranus, Oberon and Titan are discovered by Herschel. Mozart’s Don Giovanni is performed for the first time. In 1788, England’s George III experiences his first bout of madness, ushering in the Regency crisis which will last for the next twenty-plus years. London’s Daily Universal Register becomes the Times. The first convicts are transported from Britain to Australia, and Sydney is founded. 1789 marks the beginning of the Revolution in France, and the world will never be the same. The guillotine is invented. Mrs. Radcliffe’s first horrid novel, The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne, is published. The Duke of Devonshire is openly living with both his wife and his mistress (the duchess’s best friend). The young Price of Wales is illegally married to the Catholic Mrs. Fitzherbert, and has likely already sired an illegitimate son. The Whigs and Tories are locked in combat in Parliament, each marshaled behind their leaders Charles James Fox, and his former protégé, William Pitt. There’s just so much going on. And then there are the clothes . . . I know lots of people love love love Regency fashion, but I vastly prefer the clothing of the late 18th century. There’s just something sensual about the silks, the embroidery, and the fabulous hair that I think gets lost by the Regency. And the general mores of the people are a little wilder, a little looser, a little more fun. I felt I had more scope, a wider vista, a more distant horizon. LOL! And it seemed fresh. Only Heyer, Beverley and Ross to contend with really (and none of them were currently putting out Georgian-set books). Since then, a certain NY Times Best Selling Author has set her new series there (yes, I’m looking at you, Eloisa!). I’m hoping that she’s so addicted her legions of fans to all things Georgian that I’ll get to bask in a few reflected sales. *grin*

You mention on your website that you’ve been involved in a great variety of living history events since you were three years old. How do you think this has influenced the way you write historical romance? Do you think it’s given you an advantage in getting “inside” a historical period?

I think having grown up doing living history events really does give me something of an insider’s view of history (with a small “h”, the kind of day to day stuff that informs our writing). I’ve made and worn the clothes. I’ve “lived” as they did (pretended, that is). Eaten the same foods. Done the same chores. I’ve researched the minutiae of their daily lives not just to write a book, but to try an recreate that life. I know what happens when you fall down wearing an Elizabethan court gown. I know how it feels to wear petticoats and hoops in a high wind on the deck of a ship. I know exactly what kind of range of motion you have in a Regency gown (hint: you ain’t climbing no tree). I know that a corset doesn’t poke or pinch. I know that starting a fire with a flint and tinder is hard work (and that it sucks to do it in the rain, shivering and desperate to be warm). I know how to load and fire a black powder gun, and what the smoke smells like. I hope that all this adds up to a rich narrative that readers will enjoy, but not be actively aware of. Growing up around horses didn’t hurt either. I’ve ridden to hounds. I’ve driven a carriage. I’ve jumped in a side saddle. I’m not just imaging doing these things, I’m remembering them.

What do you think is the greatest creative risk you’ve taken in this book? How do you feel about it?

That’s a hard one. I’d say it’s following where my voice leads me. Stephen King has this whole thing about the purity of spare writing, of being succinct. My personal motto is Why use one word when I can use eight?, and I clearly never saw an adjective I didn’t like. I write deep POV, filled with sentence fragments. I’m sure it’s going to drive some people crazy, but I love it. Voice is clearly my strongest asset, IMO anyway. If we’re not talking about something like voice, than I would say that my heroine is big creative risk. She’s brash, a little masculine, and she’s not shy about sex. I wouldn’t call her a slut, but some people might . . .

Is there anything you wanted to include in the book that you (or your CPs or editor) felt was too controversial and left out?

Too controversial? No. I kept waiting to get told I’d gone too far (esp. with the sex scenes, this is Zebra after all, not Aphrodesia), but I never got reined in. I had really expected to have some of my language cleaned up (let’s just say I don’t like euphemisms for men’s genitalia, I use the “c” word that also means a male chicken a lot) but no one ever said a word about it. LOL! The only thing I had to consciously work on was softening George up a bit. My editor felt she was a little too “magnificently competent” (aka hard). So I worked on layering in some softer moments in her internal monologue.

I have ideas for future books that have been deemed “too controversial”, though. I really really really want to write a romance about free blacks in England and Paris around the time of the French Revolution, but it’s a hard sell on all fronts. *sigh* But as the hero is already fully formed and running around inside my head harassing all comers, I’m going to have to write him eventually. And I’d better get on it before he and that damned balloonist join forces and stage a coup.

What are you working on now?

I’ve turned in my second book, tentatively titled LORD SCANDAL (due out sometime in 2008). In LORD SIN you meet George’s two best (male) friends, Gabriel Angelstone and Marcus Thane. LORD SCANDAL is about Gabriel. He’s the half-Turkish son of a diplomat who ends up falling in love with a very scandalous divorcee (what can I say, I’m just not interested in ingénues). Her already humiliated family is by no means pleased with the idea of being in any way connected with the living, breathing scandal that is Gabriel. It was loads of fun to write, and it happens to be the book I finaled in the Golden Heart with so I’m thrilled to get to share it with everyone.

I just sent off my proposal for Marcus’s book. He’s going to fall—hard and messy!—for a retired courtesan who’s been supporting herself by publishing her memoirs (a la Harriette Wilson). Unfortunately, someone appears to be trying to silence her pen . . . Keep your fingers crossed for me and Marcus. It took me a long time to find the right woman for him, I kept trotting them out and he kept yawning after a chapter or two. He finally got intrigued when I let the naughty girl out to play (who knew he had “knight in shining armor” complex and a thing for bad girls?).

Thanks for talking to us, Kalen!

Comment on this interview for the chance to win a copy of LORD SIN! The winner will be announced Tuesday, April 24. If you haven’t already done so, please check out Bertie the Beau’s Official Risky Regencies Contest Rules.

About Elena Greene

Elena Greene grew up reading anything she could lay her hands on, including her mother's Georgette Heyer novels. She also enjoyed writing but decided to pursue a more practical career in software engineering. Fate intervened when she was sent on a three year international assignment to England, where she was inspired to start writing romances set in the Regency. Her books have won the National Readers' Choice Award, the Desert Rose Golden Quill and the Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence. Her Super Regency, LADY DEARING'S MASQUERADE, won RT Book Club's award for Best Regency Romance of 2005 and made the Kindle Top 100 list in 2011. When not writing, Elena enjoys swimming, cooking, meditation, playing the piano, volunteer work and craft projects. She lives in upstate New York with her two daughters and more yarn, wire and beads than she would like to admit.
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