Risky Regencies

Riskies Welcome Back Andrea Pickens!


Tell us about Seduced by a Spy!

It’s the second book of my trilogy starring the swashbuckling students of Mrs. Merlin’s Academy for Select Young Ladies, which is sort of a Hogwarts for hellions! Trained as an elite cadre of female spies, they are England’s ultimate secret weapon–dispatched to handle the most difficult, dangerous missions. Shannon, the heroine of SBAS, appeared briefly in The Spy Wore Silk, where she crossed swords with a mysterious Russian as she and her roommate Siena sought to trap a traitor who was passing government secrets to the French.

In SBAS, she meets with Mr. Orlov again, but this time they’re allies on a joint mission for British and Russian Intelligence. Though neither is happy about this assignment, they’re sent to a remote castle in the Scottish Highlands to protect the family of a military ballistics expert from a French assassin.

Sparks fly as they rub together–igniting what I hope readers find is a fun, sexy, action-packed read!

What gave you the idea for this story, and the whole “Hellions” series?

I’ve always been a bit of a tomboy. As a kid, I wanted to be a knight who got to fight the dragons instead of the typical princess who needed to be rescued. I guess this never quite rubbed off (I’m still more comfortable in jeans and a sweatshirt than a slinky black dress!), and I’ve always liked strong, unconventional heroines who challenge the status quo and aren’t afraid of breaking rules.

So in thinking of the Regency era, and how I might do something a little unexpected, I got to thinking–what would be the least likely endeavor for a female to be involved in? A ‘secret agent’ came to mind, and as a big fan of the old James Bond movies, I thought it would be a fun idea to pursue. And so the hellions of Mrs. Merlin’s Academy were born!

I’ve had so much fun creating stories for the trio of roommates, and I’ve tried to put each one in a different situation. Seduced by a Spy is very action-oriented, set mostly in Scotland. The final book, Sofia’s story, will hit the shelves in October 2008. It takes place in London, in the glitter and glamor of high Society.

What attracts you to the Regency as a setting?

For me, the Regency is so fascinating because in many ways it’s a mirror of our own times. There were such tremendous upheavals in all aspects of life, from literature, music, and philosophy to politics, science, and social conventions. So many new and exciting things were happening, and I love researching and discovering how people reacted to the challenge of change.

And of course I adore the romance of the era–the gowns, the tailored finery of the gentlemen, the glamorous balls and soirees! It has a fairy-tale aspect that makes it a wonderful setting for richly complex stories. I think all of us who write Regency-set books love the fact that we can have fun with those details while exploring complex themes that are so relevant to modern readers.

Did you come across anything new or interesting in researching this story?

I was lucky enough to travel to Ireland and Scotland during the time I was writing Seduced by a Spy! I discovered a wealth of fascinating facts there. Strangely enough, many of them revolve around–spirits (the alcoholic kind!)

1) There are close to 200 single malt scotches made in small distilleries throughout Scotland (If you have ever experienced the weather in the Highlands, where my fictional McAllister Castle is located, you will understand why!)

2) In both Scotch and Irish Gaelic, the words uisge beatha and usquebaugh mean “water of life.” This eventually translated into “whisky” in English (no doubt after someone consumed more than a few drams of the stuff). Another interesting aside is that it’s spelled “whisky” in Scotland and “whiskey” in Ireland.

3) The local brew of Dornoch (the seaside town where Shannon and Orlov first land to begin their trip to the hills) is Glenmorangie, which means “glen of tranquility” in Gaelic. It was founded in 1848, but illicit distilling in the area dates back to the 1700s.

4) Kenmare, the charming town of the Ring of Kerry where Shannon helps the wounded Orlov to the safety of a British naval cutter, has been renowned for its healing waters since the 1600s. Today, it’s also known as the home of Sheen Falls Lodge, a wonderful country manor hotel that has the largest wine cellar in Ireland. (Trust me on this!)

5) Saltpeter, one of the 3 essential ingredients in gunpowder, is found in nitrates, so during the Napoleonic Wars, the British government considered requiring tavernkeepers to save the urine of their patrons in vats. (Brandy was said to create an especially desirable end product)

LOL! What is “risky” about this story?

Well, I think I may have pushed my heroines to the edge with their swordplay and seduction! I wanted them to dare to shake things up–like many of the real-life Regency women, who weren’t afraid of breaking out of their traditional roles.

One online reviewer got all huffy about the first book in the series, saying “This isn’t how a Regency romance should be written!” I’m actually sort of proud of that. Obviously she believes that the era entirely revolved around drawing room calls and formal house parties. But we can’t forget there was so much more to the times, much of which was “down and dirty.” It was a time of war and intrigue, with actual characters like the cross-dressing Comte d’Eon, a double agent who changed his allegiances as often as he changed his sexual persona. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction!

What’s next for you?

I’m very excited about a new trilogy that I’m doing for Grand Central Publishing, about a trip of unconventional female scholars who formed a bond of friendship through the weekly meetings of their Scientific Society. Each has an expertise in a certain field of science–and each has a slightly shady past that comes back to haunt them. The books are scheduled for a 1-2-3 release starting in January 2010.

As for other projects, I’m trying to convince my new editor to let me do a book starring lord Lynsley, the head of the Merlins. And I’m fooling with a Regency-set YA book that has some paranormal elements to it. So I should be keeping busy for the next little while!

Not too busy to visit the Riskies, we hope!!

Be sure and comment on the post to win a signed ARC of Seduced by a Spy. And don’t miss any of our upcoming visitors and special events–sign up for our newsletter at riskies@yahoo.com!

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Diane Gaston
14 years ago

Welcome, Andrea! Seduced by a Spy sounds like another winner. I’m so envious of your trip to Ireland and Scotland I could spit!
I like that you stretched the bounds of the Regency genre! And that you have more books to come.

andrea pickens
andrea pickens
14 years ago

Thanks for the nice words, Diane. (If your mouth is dry, I can send you a bottle of single malt!) Scotland and Ireland were wonderful, and I can’t wait for an excuse to go back.

I just love this group, and all the interesting stuff that’s discussed. I feel very lucky to be a part of it!

Maureen
14 years ago

Congratulations on your new book Andrea! I enjoy drawing room regencies but I also like the idea of adding some adventure to a Regency story.

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

I actually got a “sneak read” of this book, and can attest that it’s very exciting! I love seeing what the period is like in other locales. ๐Ÿ™‚

flchen1
14 years ago

Hi, Andrea, Thanks for taking the time to provide a great interview today–I love hearing about how writers decide certain things about their stories. I’m pretty new to reading Regencies, and do think I’ll really enjoy yours–I think the glamour of this time is very appealing, and love that you’re combining it with more modern feeling heroines (just that action-adventure part!) Alias, for the Regency period ๐Ÿ˜‰

Also, I’ve always loved things Irish and Scottish–those accents!

andrea pickens
andrea pickens
14 years ago

Maureen, hopefully you will enjoy the action. I’ve tried to keep a certain flavor of a Regency “house party” too, so that it’s true to the era,

And fichen1, I’m glad that you enjoyed the interview. Keep visiting here, because we will soon convert you to being a Regency era fan. It’s such an interesting timeโ€”I cant’ say enough about how I love its whole world! Make sure you all the other great authors who contribute to this site. You’ll discover wonderful books!

And Amanda, thanks for the great graphics! The Glenmorangie label was an inspired idea!

doglady
14 years ago

Hello, Andrea. I love the sound of this book. It sounds like Country House Party meets The Avengers. I have to agree that if you manage to break the mold of Regency romances and do it well it isn’t just good for you, it is good for the genre and for aspiring Regency romance writers as well.

How much research did you have to do into the use of weapons and the kind of training that might have been available to male agents. I assume your female would receive the same training with the added advantage of training in seduction.

andrea pickens
andrea pickens
14 years ago

Hi doglady,

I appreciate the kind words!

As for weapons, I have a wonderful reference book on weapons from all eras that I love to pore over. The pictures are fantastic, and show all sorts of details and technical info. In addition, I read a great history on gunpowder, which had lots of fun, arcane facts.

There are also a number of books on espionage during the Napoleonic Wars. I think I learned a lot about training and techniques just by osmosis.

Jane
14 years ago

Hi Andrea,
As you know, I’m anxious awaiting for Sofia’s story. I’m also excited to hear of your new trilogy. Will these ladies of the Scientific Society be involved in defending the Crown?

Deb Marlowe
14 years ago

Hi Andrea!

I’m loving your Regency spy-girls, can’t wait for this one!

The new series sounds fascinating–can you tell us which scientific areas your research has you delving into? (I love that part of the process!)

tetewa
14 years ago

Glad to have you here today and congrats on the release! This sounds like a great series.

Keira Soleore
14 years ago

Andrea–hi! *waves madly* I loved your first spy book, as I wrote to you about, and this one promises to be just as much fun, full of spit and fire. Woo Hoo! And I love how they carried forward the pictoral theme of the first book cover.

Did you do a tour of a distillery? We did one, and I was alarmed to see the thick layer of black mold growing on the outer walls of the buildings. It’s quite common, I was told. I know, fermentation and fungi and all that. But still. I hire people to kill it from my lawn every spring, and to see it flourishing there merrily on the walls was a bit much.

Andrea wrote, “…unconventional female scholars who formed a bond of friendship through the weekly meetings of their Scientific Society.”

OMGOMG! I’m going to have to kidnap you at National so I can have the scoop. You’re attending the Beau Monde conference, right? And Ammanda will be lunching with you, right? At a biggish table? Hm. I see a spot for me there…

Diane: Spit away. I haven’t told you about my trip to Scotland yet.

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

Diane: Spit away. I haven’t told you about my trip to Scotland yet.

Noooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!

THUD (She passes out from envy)

Cara King
14 years ago

It sounds like Country House Party meets The Avengers.

LOL, Doglady! That’s a great tagline! ๐Ÿ™‚

Loved the interview, Andrea!

One online reviewer got all huffy about the first book in the series, saying “This isn’t how a Regency romance should be written!”

Silly! Folks like that really mean, and should write, “this isn’t what I look for in a Regency romance.” I always think it bizarre how some people can’t tell the difference between “I prefer” and “this is the only way it should be.”

Cara
(who puts milk in her tea, but doesn’t scold those who prefer sugar, or honey, or coffee)

andrea pickens
andrea pickens
14 years ago

Hi Jane, Deb, Cara and Keira (waving madly back!!)

Yes, the Scientific Ladies will be working in government matters, but in a more subtle way than the Merlins. They are often called upon by Lord Lynsley, the head of the Merlins, to give expert advice on matters that might affect England’s sovereignty. So while the trilogy will, on the surface, be a bit more “traditional” than the first one, it will still involve some intrigue and action.

Deb, the main subjects will be chemistry and botany. Currently, I’m doing research on spices and medicinal plants from India and the East Indies. The first book is going to have a medical discovery as part of the plot . . . that’s all I’ll say now!

Cara, you make a good point about likes and dislikes. It does amaze me to see online people get so nasty about certain things. Not everyone is going to love a story, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s “good” or “bad”. It simply means that the style/plot may not be your cup of tea. No need to get huffy.

And hugs to you Keira. I had such fun meeting you in Dallas and can’t wait to see you in SF this year. Amanda and I will definitely save you a seat next to us! Yes, I did tour a distillery, and yes, the mold is rather off-putting (have you ever seen a champagne cave??) But all is forgotten at first sip. Now, don’t get me wrong, I really don’t indulge in spirits all that often (right Amanda?!?) But it’s fun to learn about any new subject. Er, yes, that’s it, single malts were simply a research project.

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

“But still. I hire people to kill it from my lawn every spring, and to see it flourishing there merrily on the walls was a bit much.”

Maybe you should open a distillery of your own, Keira!!! I could design some Hello Kitty labels for you…

“Er, yes, that’s it, single malts were simply a research project.”

I think champagne should play a large part in my next project. Not sure how I will work it into the story, but it will definitely have a big part, yes. ๐Ÿ™‚

Pam P
14 years ago

Hi Andrea, I like some adventure and intrigue in a regency, there’s more to life than just ballrooms, lol. Love to get to Scotland and Ireland some day.

Now I’m very interested in your Scientific Ladies, definitely will be watching out for those.

Doglady, great tag line, love it.

doglady
14 years ago

I’m going to let Andrea pave the way for unusual Regencies so that when I write my heroine who studies reptiles ( medicinal uses of snake venom) it will stand a much better chance of getting published. I am writing the novel for the sole purpose of giving the Divine Ms. Gaston the willies. What do we think about this for a first line?

“That’s a big bloody snake.”

Susan/DC
Susan/DC
14 years ago

Ms. Pickens’ earlier trad Regency “A Storybook Hero” sits firmly on my keeper shelf. It too may be considered out of bounds of the usual Regency in that it’s a road romance much of which takes place in Russia. I liked it very much.

As for the next in the Merlin series, your description of the setting brings back memories of a family vacation to Ireland a few years ago, which included a trip to the Ring of Kerry. I was quite struck by how beautiful Ireland is, and I look forward to reliving the settings in your book. When is the exact publication date (or did I miss that tidbit in your interview)?

KimW
14 years ago

Scotland is one of my favorite settings for a story. I love to read about it and escape away. Your story sounds so good and I love that cover! I’m putting in on my wish list.

Tessa McDermid
14 years ago

Thank you for stopping by, Andrea. I can’t wait to find your books. I’m always looking for new types of Regency stories as a change from my daily life. We always liked spy stories in my family: Bond, the Avengers, the Scarlet Pimpernel. Reminds of my growing up years with my mom and dad.

madameamethyst
14 years ago

I can’t wait to read this book. I love the regency romance genre, but this a refreshing change from the usual regency novel.

Elena Greene
14 years ago

Hi, Andrea! Thanks for the great interview. Both these series sound wonderful. Dancing and drinking tea are lovely but I like variety, including stories with unconventional characters and settings other than London, Bath and Brighton.

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

What do we think about this for a first line?
“That’s a big bloody snake.”

It gives me the willies, O Doggie One.

Melinda Hammond
14 years ago

your Spy books sound fascinating, Andrea – and I like the idea of your next trilogy, too. Keep pushing the Regency bounds – IMHO there’s lots of scope for all types of Regency. I have managed to get adventure and romance into mine, but stopped short of the paranormal… so far!

Melinda Hammond

andrea pickens
andrea pickens
14 years ago

Hi everyone,

Sorry I’m tardy in responding, but I appreciate all the kind words, and hope you all enjoy the story!

Specifically . . .doglady, I love your reptile idea. I’m with Diane in getting the heebie jeebies over snakes, but I can’t wait to read your story. The first line is great, so go for it!

susan/dc, I’m so glad you liked Storybook Hero. It’s one of my favorites too. I studied Russian history in college and was always fascinated by the country, so it was fun to work it into a regency story. The current book, with a scene set in ireland, went on sale this past weekend, so hopefully you can find it now.

Santa
14 years ago

Sigh…I couldn’t get on line yesterday to chat with all of you!

I am very excited about this book and am so happy to hear about the rest of this series and your next great adventure!

Kiera – take copious pictures of lochs, distilleries and kilts for the rest of us!

Tracy Grant
14 years ago

Chiming in late to say I loved “The Spy Wore Silk” and am eagerly looking forward to the new installment in the series. The scientific trilogy sounds super–so glad it’s related to the the Merlins. And I *really* hope you get to do the book about Lord Lynsley–from the moment he appeared in “The Spy Wore Silk” I thought he deserved a book of his own!

andrea Pickens
andrea Pickens
14 years ago

Tracy, I’m blushing furiously . . .I just love your books, so feel incredibly flattered. I do hope I can twist a few arms at GCP to get Lynsley’s in print. It’s almost all written, but there was a change in editors and I got nixed by the new powers that be. Never a dull moment in publishing!

Santa, hope you enjoy the coming books. And yes, Keira, takes LOTS of pictures to share with all of us here, or at RWA. Looking forward to seeing you all there!

Tracy Grant
14 years ago

Andrea, thank you for your lovely words! Best wishes on the Lynsley book. know all about the vagaries of the publishing world :-). Now that I know it’s almost written I’m even more eager to read it. (Is the heroine anyone from the previous books? No, I suppose you probably don’t want to say…). Do tell your editor you have lots of readers eagerly awaiting it! And the new trilogy gives you even more books to set it up…

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