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Mary Blayney Interview

Everyone, please welcome my good friend and wonderful Regency author, Mary Blayney, who joins us today to talk about her novella Amy and The Earl’s Amazing Adventure in the anthology Dead of Night with coauthors JD Robb/Nora Roberts, Mary Kay McComas, and Ruth Ryan Langan.

“…this all-new four-novella anthology definitely doesn’t suffer from standout single syndrome—this one’s all killer, no filler.” Publisher’s Weekly of Dead of Night

Mary is giving away one copy of Dead of Night, signed by ALL the authors. Just make a comment on this blog. We’ll announce the winner on Monday.

Hi, Mary!
What’s a nice Regency writer like you doing in an anthology with J.D. Robb?

How could I say no to an anthology with Nora Roberts (w/a JD Robb)? Especially when I was told that I could write anything I wanted as long as it had a paranormal element and would fit under the umbrella title. Admittedly my first novella “Poppy’s Coin” in Bump in the Night was not bumpy at all but I’m a fast learner and I took care of that in “Amy and the Earl.”

Tell us about Dead of Night, especially “Amy and the Earl’s Amazing Adventure.”

The anthology includes time travel, futuristic police procedural and a parallel world story. JD Robb is working with the fabulous Eve Dallas and her husband Roarke and a very nasty man claiming to be a vampire. Ruth’s Langan’s story is a time travel. Her contemporary heroine, Laurel, stumbles way back in time to meet the very alpha Conal MacLennan. Mary Kay McComas story is more parallel world than time travel. Bonnie rides a magic carpet to an alternate past, a chance to see what life would have been like with just a few changes.

In “Amy and the Earl’s Amazing Adventure,” Amy and Simon meet, not entirely by accident, and realize that they both are curious about the origins of a coin minted in 1810. The coin is the key element in my first novella “Poppy’s Coin” and Amy appeared in that story as the nameless tourist who hears how the coin changed the lives of my Regency lovers. The nameless girl was a sweetheart and I wanted to know more about her. Then Simon appeared, driven by a need to know how a coin minted in 1810 could be in a family portrait painted in 1805. When someone offers them the chance to time travel together they agree. The story spins out from there.

Is there a connection between the novellas?

No. I call it a “romance sampler” with something in it for every fan. It is a way to try a different genre without a big commitment of time or money.

As you said, Poppy’s Coin appears again in “Amy and the Earl’s Amazing Adventure.” How did you think of Poppy’s Coin?

My friend and talented writer, Lavinia Klein, gave me a coin known as “TheAdmiral Gardiner Shipwreck Coin,” one of thousands discovered when the ship, Admiral Gardiner, was recovered in 1985 off the Goodwin Sands beyond the Straits of Dover. The story of the ship and its cargo is fact and I included it in “Amy and the Earl,” then added my own paranormal twist. Is the coin magic? Not that I know of, but my writing career has changed dramatically since it came into my life. Which came first the chicken or the egg?

You have written some lovely Regencies, His Last Lover, The Pleasure of His Company and The Captain’s Mermaid. How was it to write contemporary characters, even if they did travel back to 1805?

It was a cross between great fun and real work. The chance to have characters speak in a contemporary voice was a great change of pace, especially when they were back in the Regency and using modern language leads to some confusion. On the other hand I am so much more familiar with the Regency world that writing characters immersed in the 21st century actually took some research. How’s that for a flip-flop?

What was risky about “Amy and the Earl’s Amazing Adventure?”

Without a doubt the riskiest thing was writing a story that was plot driven and not character driven. This is the first time I have ever tried it. The readers will have to tell me if it works.

I know you love the Regency. How come?

It is that moment in history when the world is on the cusp of change, when man is about to move from an agrarian society to an industrial one. When the individual begins to become more important than the group. I think that last transition is why marrying for love became acceptable. That is, what the individual wanted gradually became more important than what was good for the family. The tension of those two elements and the Napoleonic War make it an era filled with conflict on a level that ranges from international to interpersonal. And I love the clothes and the houses.

Did you come upon any interesting research for this novella?

You mean besides learning about 21st century men and woman? Yes, I researched the artists Guardi and Canaletto. In the process learning an interesting tidbit about Rembrandt that I used in the story. I also spent a lot of time with Google Earth and my Regency maps of London trying to find a locale that could be both a pub and a Regency town house. It was a great way to waste time, I mean research. Sure enough I found the perfect spot in a part of London I have actually visited.

What’s next for you?

At the end of January 2008, my first single title comes out. ­Traitor’s Kiss is the first of three books for Bantam. It is a family series and I am currently working on the second. Traitor’s Kiss features the youngest son of the five children of the Duke of Meryon. Lord Gabriel Pennistan went to Spain in 1811 as a man of science and wound up in a French prison, even though it is the English who consider him a spy and a murderer. He is rescued by the mysterious Charlotte Parnell. Each discovers the truth about the other as they escape from France. There is also a third anthology in the works and, yes, in this one the magic coin makes an appearance once again though it is essentially a ghost story. The umbrella title is Suite 606 and the title of my novella is (currently) “Love Endures

Thanks so much for inviting me to join the Riskies for the day. Hope to hear from lots of bloggers and am happy to offer as a prize a copy of Dead of Night autographed by all four of the authors.

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Diane Gaston
15 years ago

Hi, Mary! Welcome to Riskies.
How did the booksigning go? (Mary and Nora and Mary Kay and Ruth did a booksigning at Turn the Page Bookstore Cafe, Nora’s husband’s store)

Mary Blayney
15 years ago

The signing was amazing — four solid hours and lots of books sold. It was great to see my anthology pals and Pat Gaffney and Michelle Monkou were signing as well. A good time was had by all.

It’s my guess that out of a six figure print run for Dead of Night there will only be a couple hundred signed by all four authors. How could they resist?

Megan Frampton
15 years ago

Mary, welcome to the Riskies!

Did you ever think you’d be writing contemporary? And what’s the biggest difference between your characters then and characters now?

rugosa
15 years ago

Mary, I’m looking forward to Dead of Night. What a terrific combination of authors!

Cara King
15 years ago

Thanks for joining us, Mary!

you wrote:

On the other hand I am so much more familiar with the Regency world that writing characters immersed in the 21st century actually took some research.

Ooh, I know how that is! 🙂

Can’t wait to read the anthology. Sounds fab!

Cara

Todd
15 years ago

The four stories in the anthology all sound very different from each other, but all really intriguing. I love Regencies (hence my presence here–well, OK, that’s not entirely a coincidence), but I also love the J.D. Robb futuristic mysteries (which nicely combine my enjoyment of mysteries, science fiction, and romance). And the other two stories sound excellent as well!

How does the process of putting together an anthology like this work? Do they just contact you and say “write a story on such-and-such a theme?” Or is there more of a back and forth procedure, pitching different ideas, and so forth?

Anyway, it’s a fabulous prize!

Todd-who-is-already-mentally-adjusting-his-to-be-read-pile

Mary Blayney
15 years ago

Characters then and characters now? Good one Megan. As a writer and a reader I have a better idea of what is important to me in a character that is, HONOR AT THE CORE OF THEIR BEING.

I only realized that as I read the In Death series by JD Robb and “met” Eve Dallas and, at about the same time, first read Lois McMaster Bujold’s story of the Vorksoigan family, esepcially the boy wonder Mile, all characters I love. What could these very different people have in common?

As the honor factor came to me I realized that it was something all my characters share as well.

In more concrete terms, Amy (from Amy and the Earls Amazing Adventure) would never last in the Regency for reasons she makes very clear and came as a surprise to me as the writer. Simon would have done fine. He knew the culture, had lived it as a second son all his life.

The question remains whether the Earl could have managed in modern times. I wonder if we will ever find out?

Tracy Anne Warren
15 years ago

Hi Mary!

Can’t wait to read your new novella in Dead of Night, and Traitors Kiss this January! They’re both sure to be wonderful.

doglady
15 years ago

Hello, Mary! I love the sound of this novella. Sounds like a something for everyone’s literary palette. Makes you wonder which would be more difficult, for someone contemporary to survive in the Regency or someone from the Regency to survive today. What makes writing something plot driven more difficult than writing something character driven? And I am really looking forward to Traitor’s Kiss as well!

Manda
15 years ago

Okay, I’m not sure how I’ve missed you, Mary Blayney, but you’re going to the top of my TBR pile. Traitor’s Kiss sounds wonderful! I love scientific heros (even though I am sadly lacking in that area:)

And this anthology sounds wonderful. I love it when Regency authors mix it up with contemporary authors. The more we break down the barriers between the subgenres, the higher it elevates all of us–plus it brings contemp authors to Regency audiences and vice versa. Writing is writing after all–no matter what subgenre you choose.

Besides length, was the process of writing a single title different from writing trads?

Nathalie
15 years ago

I also love it when authors get together – we discover new authors and get attached to their writing.

Mary Blayney
15 years ago

Plot driven vs character driven: I can only speak for myself. I am so used to spending all the time in my characters heads and for this one I had occasionally ignore them and figure out the story — why, how and when.

As for who would make the time- travel transition more easily: I think that totally depends on the personality of the person whether they be 21st or 19th century. Apart from the sensitivity to foods and illnesses that do not exist in their own times I think they would have to be open and flexible to find a place that felt like home.

Amy has a fantasy world in mind and the real Regency world, especially with its attitude toward women and the power of the very wealthy, ruined her daydream. Good thing Simon was around to make the rest of her dreams come true.

Thanks for the kind words Tracy!

bamabelle
15 years ago

Hi Mary!

Dead of Night sounds amazing, and your story sounds positively enchanting! I love that cover for Traitor’s Kiss also. Do you find writing novellas or single titles the most challenging?

Hugs, Zara

CM
CM
15 years ago

Mary, this sounds like a ton of fun.

I have to admit that Lois McMaster Bujold is a love for me that borders on mild obsession. She’s the one that got me started reading romances, and historicals–all with a dedication in one of her books, to “Jane, Charlotte, Georgette, and Dorothy.” Jane and Charlotte I got. But Georgette? Dorothy?

Georgette was obviously Georgette Heyer, who ended up being my gateway Regency drug.

So now I find out there’s an anthology that’s (a) connected to Nora Roberts, (b) connected to the Regency, and (c) connected to a fellow Bujold lover.

I’m sold! I’m grabbing it the next time I stop by the bookstore.

Mary Blayney
15 years ago

Manda — hip hip hooray — a new reader. Ahem, now to answer your question — no it wasn’t hard at all to “write longer”. I have no idea why. Sorry, that is not much of an answer. Maybe the following will help.

The greater challenge is writing the shorter novellas. I find it easier if the characters have a history so it’s like the reader is
coming into the tale mid-story. Amy and the Earl did not have that kind of past but the characters in the next novella will.

Mary Blayney
15 years ago

cm, I have the same obsession with Bujold and know that we are not alone.

The Dorothy in the dedication of Bujold’s A CIVIL CAMPAIGN is the mystery writer Dorothy Sayres. Miles and Sayer’s Lord Peter Whimsey are kindred souls. I have never been able to quite figure out why the two resonate with each other but for me they totally do.

Cara King
15 years ago

CM wrote: I have to admit that Lois McMaster Bujold is a love for me that borders on mild obsession.

Oh, me too! For a while I would corner my Bujold-reading friends (come to think of it, I think the set {my Bujold-reading friends} = the set {my friends}) and say “what makes her so good? what is it about her writing that makes it so wonderful???”

But, unfortunately, their responses were all along the lines of “because she’s really good.” :-p

Cara

Mary Blayney
15 years ago

Todd, the process for the anthology is amazingly casual as this is hardly the most important thing that Nora writes. We are given the umbrella title and we just write and meet the deadline.

Then they take a look at Nora’s publishing schedule for the year and decide where the anthology will fit in best.

terrio
15 years ago

Reading this I realize I don’t think I’ve ever read a time travel book. Considering I’ve been reading romance for nearly quarter of a century, I have no idea how I’ve missed them. I guess I better add this one to my pile.

As a contemp writer who develops hives at the idea of writing historical, I’m intrigued by the idea you had to do more research on 21st century characters. Could you give us an example of some of this research? Without giving away too much of the story, of course. *g*

Mary Blayney
15 years ago

Cara — I think part of her great talent is that she does deep point of view so well. Also that Miles is a flawed character but still so immensely likable. The truth is every time I read Memory (yes, more than twice) I want to yell “Miles, don’t do it. Don’t send that false report!”

To the rest of you, pardon the distraction or feel free to ask which Bujold you should start with…

Mary

Mary Blayney
15 years ago

terrio, my research involved going to a sports bar and listening to young people talk. Not that I am that old mind you but my sports bar days are way behind me. Also watching my favorite movies set in modern London and observing slang and the different accents.

And finally relying on the contemp writers in my critique group to tell me if I got it right.

Hardly onerous which is one reason I so love my job.

CM
CM
15 years ago

Oh, Mary, so sorry for taking this off on a tearing Bujold tangent. *blushes*

Let’s get it back where it belongs. There are a lot of different kinds of honor–family honor, honesty, respect for others. Which kind do you think mattered most in your novella?

tlynnies
15 years ago

Hi, Mary!
I recently read Poppy’s story. She had me wrapped around her little finger after the second sentence.

I’m going through the final edits of my “dark” Regency (first mss), then I must polish my query letter. Wish me luck.

I can’t wait to read Amy and the Earl’s Amazing Adventure!

Diane Gaston
15 years ago

Mary and our friend Julie (who you hear me mention all the time- she gave us our Shakespeare insult website)FORCED me to read Bujold’s Vorkosegan series. A dwarf as a romantic hero? Futuristic/science fiction?
I LOVED THE SERIES!!!!!

I made a trip to Borders today and bought my copy of Dead of Night!!

If you can track down Mary’s Traditional Regencies, do it! They are wonderful!

And I cannot wait for Traitor’s Kiss!

catslady
15 years ago

Oh my goodness that book sounds good!!! and signed to boot! A real keeper. Thanks for a chance to win such a treat.

Todd
15 years ago

Very cool to see so many Bujold fans here. 🙂 And I also am a big fan of Jane, Charlotte, Georgette and Dorothy. I once adapted one of Dorothy Sayers’s novels for the stage, which was a lot of work, but really worth it.

And Cara, I cannot too much admire your use of set theory in describing your literary tastes. 🙂

Todd-who-prefers-to-speak-in-differential-geometry

anne
15 years ago

I enjoyed the interview and relish reading this intriguing and wonderful book.

Mary Blayney
15 years ago

cm, I love any excuse to talk about Bujold with a new audience so no apologies necessary.

In THIS novella, honor meant respect for others.

That really is a great question and I am going to think about it in the context of my other novels. I am big picture thinker so the phrase “honor at the core of their being” is all I needed — but I love it when someone makes me think harder.

Mary Blayney
15 years ago

Todd, which of her books did you adapt to the stage…

Cara King
15 years ago

You know, Mary, the concept of honor is one that I find fascinating, too.
And that’s one of the things that I’ve always liked about Regencies (and some other historicals) — they don’t shy away from discussions of the topic.

(Come to think of it, in my Regency, my hero has rather extensive discussions about honor both with his brother and with the heroine — partly because, as it turns out, her concept of honor is slightly different from his… I do find the topic absorbing!)

Cara

Megan Frampton
15 years ago

Mary, I cannot even fathom how you switched from pantser to plotter. I think I would bust a few brain cells if I tried to plot, and stick with it when I actually sat down to write.

Todd
15 years ago

Mary Blayney wrote:

Todd, which of her books did you adapt to the stage…

It was The Documents in the Case. Sort of a step-child of the Wimsey series, though Wimsey himself doesn’t appear. (Which spared me having to find an actor up to that part, and also spared me the temptation of doing the part myself. 🙂

Because it’s an epistolary novel, it was very interesting (and challenging) to stage–switching back and forth between narration and action so that everything flows smoothly…I was pleased with the result, anyway, though part of that was having an excellent cast.

Todd-who-wonders-if-the-plural-of-monocle-is-binocle

Lindsey
15 years ago

Welcome, Mary! Great interview! I love anthologies – especially ones that offer real variety. Since you didn’t work closely with the other authors to make sure the stories worked together, were you surprised by any common connections or themes that popped up?

Lis
Lis
15 years ago

Hi Mary!
Wonderful interview, look forward to picking the anthology up.
What was the most challenging thing about writing the novella?

Mary Blayney
15 years ago

Megan — plotting first was a challenge. I don’t think I will do it again without a good good reason. I enjoy it so much more when the story flows from my subconscious — sometimes in fits and starts, sometimes in great bursts.

Cara, lets talk about “honor” when we meet — would be fun to have a roundtable discussion of it, don’t you think?

Can’t resist….have you Bujold fans read her Fantasy novels?

Todd, I’ve never read The Documents in the Case — will have to hunt it up.

Regarding themes and connections — it was interesting that three of us did time travel — though, as I said before, I consider Mary Kay’s more of a parallel world story. In the next I am curious to see how we deal with the umbrella title Suite 606 — we Regency writers and readers know there were no sixth floor suites in the Regency so I am going to have to be creative…

What an enthusiastic group — thanks for your interest. This is so much fun.

Megan Frampton
15 years ago

Okay, so now I get to be the lone dissenter: I didn’t like the Miles series at all, but I love Bujold’s fantasy–I read all three Chalion, just finished the first in the Sharing Knife series.

Funny, huh?

Mary Blayney
15 years ago

I like Bujold’s fantasy novels as well but not as much as the Vorkosigan series. Someday, Megan, we will have to have a face-to-face discussion of the two Chalion novels which I liked best of all the fantasy stories and perhaps analyze your dislike of Miles and family…hmmm.

Keira Soleore
15 years ago

Mary, how wonderful to see you here at the Riskies. It’s rather late Sunday night, but I hope you get this message on Monday. We met at the History Hoydens over hot-air balloons.

Four hours of signing–what a wonderful hand-cramping event :). I’m really glad the book is drawing so many readers.

I am so much more familiar with the Regency world that writing characters immersed in the 21st century actually took some research.

I just had to laugh over that one. Only a writer deeply steeped in the Regency would say that every day life takes research. 🙂 Other than the details, how did you “find” your contemporary voice. Did you have to do a lot of pre-writing? Would you consider writing a full-fledged contemp novel?

Yay! Another Dorothy Sayers fan. Mary, do you read PD James and Elizabeth George, too?

Do you collect old British coins? Or is the Gardiner coin one-of-a-kind?

Mary asks, “Is the coin magic?” I would say, it’s a case of chance (coin) meeting writerly creativity.

I’m really, really intrigued how you tied a Dutch master, to a Regency coin, to the our world.

This has been an immensely long comment already, so I’ll return later to add more comments. It’s a great pleasure to see you here.

Keira Soleore
15 years ago

Todd-who-wonders-if-the-plural-of-monocle-is-binocle

Binocular vision means using both eyes… 🙂

Differential geometry? (shudder)

Diane Gaston
15 years ago

Do you collect old British coins? Or is the Gardiner coin one-of-a-kind?

I can’t resist telling this. It is not one of a kind because Lavinia, Julie, Mary and I each have one made into a pendant for a necklace. Lavinia found the coins on sale and gave them to us as gifts.
Some of you might remember Lavinia. She was a double Golden Heart finalist in 2006, and a single GH finalist the year before, I think.

Mary Blayney
15 years ago

Hi Keira — I was hoping you might pop in. It’s only “late” for us on the east coast. Have to admit that I am fading and will have to check in tomorrow for all those west coast (and beyond) bloggers who still have hours before it’s bed time.

To answer your questions: My first two books — back in the 80’s were contemps. I currently have a proposal for a contemp romance that is very sweet and family centered — I am sure there is no market for it. My agent’s comment was something like “If I sold it exactly when would you have time to write it.” That was such a good point that it is still in the drawer.

I read a little PD James and am not sure why I don’t make time to read more. I do not like Elizabeth George for reasons that have everything to do with her characters — sorry to say that I don’t like them very much though some of my friends who are fans say I have not given enough of a chance.

Santa
15 years ago

I know it’s late and everyone else has gone to bed but I really enjoyed this post and am thrilled to be introduced to a new writer (to me anyway). I give you a lot of credit for doing this anthology but with co-authors like these, how could you resist.

It is also wonderful to see yet another trad Regency writer successfully make the leap to single title. ‘The Traitor’ sounds marvelous.

So it’s off to the bookstore for the anthology. Off to the UBS for your backlist and adding your latest to my TBB list.

Keira Soleore
15 years ago

I’m really disappointed over your agent’s assessment that “sweet” is not “in” these days. This conference “hot, hot, hotter” was the theme. Perhaps by next summer, there will be editors queueing up for the romantic romances. The readers are always there for this market, just like for historicals.

I do not like Elizabeth George for reasons that have everything to do with her characters

As Tracy Grant (an excellent Regency-set historical writer) said that George’s books tend to be darker and have gotten progressively darker, so if you started later in the series, then the characters are more difficult to take.

Diane: What a clever and memorable gift that is for all four of you to share. It sounds like a focal point for your next Beau Monde soiree outfit (so I can see it 🙂

Santa: I envy you your introduction to Mary’s Regencies. I do hope you can find all of them, because they’re wonderful.

CM
CM
15 years ago

Oh, so true, Mary.

I have to say that the best of the Miles books are far superior to any of her other books. Of course nobody agrees on the best of the Miles books.

I’d put Curse of Chalion/Paladin of Souls (with Paladin being the better of the two) on par with Cetaganda.

But nowhere near the incredible gut-wrenching awesomeness that is the arc of Brothers In Arms/Mirror Dance/Memory/Komarr/A Civil Campaign.

The amazing thing is how well it’s set up from book to book–from the point in BiA where Galeni says, “Playing Lord Vorkosigan? Just who do you think you are?” down through the line at the end of Memory, when Miles says to Gregor, “The one thing you can’t trade for your heart’s desire is your heart.”

God, I love those books.

For those of you who haven’t read any Bujold, if you go to Baen’s website and click on “Free Library” and follow the author’s links to Bujold, you can read a free short story she’s written entitled “The Mountains of Morning.” Which incidentally won a Hugo, so it’s no slouch.

If you’re afraid of sci fi, there is almost NO sci fi in it–it is pure Regency, complete with a Regent (Miles’s father), horses, places without electricity–and infanticide. It’s pure character-driven awesomeness.

Okay. Must stop spouting Bujold!

Erin Gordon
15 years ago

All the stories sound really good. I can’t wait to read them.

I love good regencies, and I love paranormal, what I great mix!

Cara King
15 years ago

Can’t resist….have you Bujold fans read her Fantasy novels?

Yep! I absolutely love Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls, and really like the third as well. I don’t very well remember Spirit Ring, but I remember I liked it all right, though I wasn’t overly excited about it.

However, I admit was quite disappointed by the Sharing Knife books…

Cara

Lily
15 years ago

I am going to pick my copy especially for the two regencies which seem really nice…

Mary Blayney
15 years ago

cm — one last word — we all have our favorite lines from Bujold — one of mine being Ekaterin’s “Do you think your six feet tall?” — said with real exasperation when he tries to save her from a fall.

Miles might be very very short but in spirit he is way more than six feet tall.

I have always felt that the science fiction format was just a unique stage Bujold contrived for one of the greatest character studies in literature. It starts before Miles’s birth(which in itself contributes significantly to his character) and follows him until he is in his mid-thirties with his first children. All fans are hoping it is not over yet.

bamabelle
15 years ago

I’ve really enjoyed your answers to all the questions, Mary! If you had to recommend only one book to someone, which book would it be?

Santa
15 years ago

CM – you drive a hard bargain! I’ll explore Bujold soon.

Kiera – you are so right. Too bad it’s not about how great a book will is but how great it will do! I made the mistake of not saying ‘hot, hot, hot’ while in Dallas and got pointed in the direction of inspirationals. A fine bunch but not a group for my book. I corrected myself in NJ, added the appropriate adjectives and got a request from an agent.

Mary – to piggy back on bamabelle, who were your inspirations as a writer?

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