Janet talks about The Rules of Gentility

Almost two years after her first book Dedication Janet Mullany’s Avon A, The Rules of Gentility, was published this week. Your comment or question could win you a signed copy–but remember, the usual rules apply: We know if you’re appearing under several names; we will give you the cut direct and you will never receive those precious Almack vouchers.
The winner will be announced on Saturday morning.

What it was like to have written a book for a canceled line and how did you keep your mojo going?
Not only was I a Signet Regency refugee, but my editor at NAL left, and I was restricted for a long time by a rather vague option clause–business as usual in the publishing world. I also had a major case of second book syndrome where I was awed by the reaction to Dedication and felt I couldn’t possibly live up to expectations after that. But I found an agent who really believed in what I was doing; and just as important, I had a great support group here and at the Wet Noodle Posse and with other writer friends.

Your Publisher’s Weekly review stated: “Mullany’s saucy narrator and bubbly tone won’t convert many classic Regency fans, but the combination should entice romance readers who’d otherwise sidestep the flurry of petticoats.” So how is Rules of Gentility different than your not-so-traditional Traditional Regency, Dedication?
Apart from the stylistic stuff (tense and voice), it’s funnier. Dedication had its moments, but The Rules was written as a comedy and I fool around with various styles–there’s a French farce scene, for instance, quite near the beginning. I don’t quite have banana skins but it’s pretty close at times. Oh, and there’s very little sex–well, actually there’s quite a lot but not in any sort of explicit way. Sorry.

Was the release of your book planned to coincide with the release of the new Jane Austen movie?
Yes, although it has virtually nothing to do with Jane Austen–my opening sentence quotes the beginning of Pride & Prejudice (I didn’t realize everyone else would be doing it too) and I think it’s Inigo’s mother who describes Philomena as a silly husband-hunting butterfly, paraphrasing that famous description of Austen herself. Philomena was somewhat inspired by all of the Bennett sisters; her mother is a hybrid of Mrs. Bennett and Miss Bates (Emma)–she talks so much and so fast she has no punctuation.

We’ve heard you don’t read much romance. Is this true?
I have to read this stuff on public transport; I don’t want to flash mantitty! I read Heyer years ago, alternating between her and Hemingway, but haven’t re-read either. I like books where people fall in love and mess each other up and that covers a very wide spectrum; I also like books that use language in a thoughtful sort of way. Sometimes romance does it for me, but I’m quite happy to shiver my timbers in other genres.

Your wonderful review on Dear Author (which was syndicated on USAToday and Reuters online) made the point that you spoofed nearly all the Regency romance conventions. Had you planned the book that way from the beginning?
Definitely, but it’s a very affectionate spoof. I started writing it as Bridget Jones’s Diary set in the Regency, to see whether I could do it and to entertain myself. After a while I realized it was getting a plot and I began to take it seriously, or as seriously as I could take anything that was such fun to write. But yes, there’s the Secret Engagement, the Falling Off the Horse in a Park, the High Adventure in Low Places, the Unexpected Proposal, and so on. But I do consider it the most romantic thing I’ve ever written, and I think it works both ways.

What was the hardest thing about writing in first person?
I love writing in first person, but you have to have a tremendous amount of (invisible, I hope) author involvement–you have to sift and organize and edit the solo voice to avoid a blow-by-blow narrative. I actually found it rather scary how easily I could adopt the persona of a “Regency Miss,” and I think it’s a cosmic joke on me, after my claims that I’d never write about a nineteen-year-old virgin prancing around in drawing-rooms.

Would you ever consider writing a contemporary?
It’s funny how reviewers commented on how contemporary my voice is in The Rules after I tried so hard to sound authentic ca. 1816! I don’t think I could sustain a contemporary voice. I don’t have modern American speech patterns in my head, or, at this point, modern English speech patterns either. Sometimes, though, I long for a real infrastructure. Wouldn’t it be nice to just use a cell phone rather than send the footman across town…

Who/what is your authorly inspiration?
Wives and Daughters by Mrs Gaskell for its lush romanticism and exquisitely observed comments on family life and class differences; Daniel Deronda by George Eliot as a brave experiment that doesn’t quite work; Villette by Charlotte Bronte for its subversiveness and passion; and Emma by Jane Austen for its brilliant plotting and ambiguities.

Are you making any personal appearances?
Later today I’m doing a radio interview that you can listen to on your computer by clicking here. It’s at 4 pm PST/6 pm EST on World Talk Radio, and I’ll be Cynthia Brian’s guest on a show called Be The Star You Are! You can call in toll-free at 1-866-613-1612 in the US/Canada and 001-858-268-3068 around the world. So come on over and chat!

And if you’re in the Washington, DC area I’ll be reading and signing on Saturday August 11 at 1:30 pm at Riversdale House Museum, which is holding the annual Battle of Bladensburg Encampment–lots of fun activities, costumed historical reenactors, and refreshments.

Thanks, Riskies, for letting me talk about myself and The 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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