Sally MacKenzie and The Naked Gentleman

The Riskies are delighted to have Sally MacKenzie visit us once again, this time to talk about her April release, The Naked Gentleman. The Naked Gentleman was selected as a Blue Ribbon Favorite of the month at Romance Junkies!

Q. Tell us about your latest book, The Naked Gentleman.

The Naked Gentleman is the fourth in my Naked series, but can be read independently, of course. (Bonus–Kensington has reprinted my backlist, so all the books are available again, even my first book, The Naked Duke.) Meg, the Gent’s heroine, first appeared in The Naked Marquis. She was one of those characters who leap off the page and demand their own story, but first I had to write her friend Lizzie’s tale, The Naked Earl. Meg also appears in that book, where she meets John Parker-Roth, her hero-to-be. As to the actual story, the back cover copy probably says it best:

John Parker-Roth cannot believe that marriage is necessary for his happiness. He would far rather pursue his interest in horticulture, but if one day he should find a female who shared his passion for flowers–a level-headed, calm sort of female–he might reconsider. Certainly the lovely young woman who has just tumbled into his lap will not do, as she possesses neither of these admirable qualities. Yet Miss Margaret Peterson does have many things in her favor. To begin with, she is a true English rose, blushing a delectable pink. And she is not entirely clothed. Her full mouth begs to be kissed. If only she would not wriggle so…oh, dear. He cannot ignore the sudden vision of her in his bed, but he must.

What? Is Meg actually asking him to kiss her? Well, well, well. John Parker-Roth is a gentleman, first and foremost. And he cannot turn down a lady’s request…

Q. What if anything was “risky” about The Naked Gentleman?

I love writing very nasty villains, but in the Gent I decided to try telling a story without the help of any truly dastardly characters. For an added challenge I brought back the “bad” girl from The Naked Earl as a secondary character to see if I could give her a happy ending.

Q. In the Naked Gentleman, both Meg Peterson and John Parker-Roth are plant enthusiasts. Are you a gardener yourself? Is that why you picked this interest for your hero and heroine?

HAHAHAHA…crash! Oops. Excuse me–I was laughing so hard I fell off my chair. I picked plants because I am insane! In real life, I avoid any up close and personal vegetative contact–plants make me reach for the allergy meds. All landscape work at the MacKenzie estate is handled by a hired army of blue-shirted garden and lawn guys.

I gave Meg her plant interest back when I was writing The Naked Marquis. I had a vague idea she might turn into a healer of sorts. Fortunately I shared this thought with a British friend who does know lots about plants and garden history–she clued me into the fact that I was teetering on the edge of a major anachronism. She kindly pointed me in the right direction. I hadn’t realized garden design was such a hot topic in the Regency and that people–often soldiers or clergymen in foreign countries–sent home new-to-England plant specimens, so the variety of greenery gracing English gardens was exploding during this time.

Q. How did you research the plants and flowers of the Regency period? Do you have any research sources to share with us?

My friend told me Penelope Hobhouse was one of the experts in this area. I found her Plants in Garden History (ISBN 1-86205-660-9) quite interesting and helpful. Another little gem I stumbled upon while prowling Amazon for sources was Seeds of Fortune by Sue Shephard (ISBN 0-7475-6066-8). It chronicles the story of the horticulturally significant Veitch family. I also got a copy of Mavis Batey’s Regency Gardens (ISBN 0-7478-0289-0). And I found lots of useful information in two “bibles” of Regency research: Regency Design 1790-1840 by John Morley (ISBN 0-8109-3768-9) and Regency Style by Steven Parissien (ISBN 0-7148-3454-8). Finally, Emily Hendrickson’s The Regency Reference Book has a section on gardens as well. And of course I poked around the internet!

Q. You’ve had a busy spring, attending the NINC conference in New York City, the Romantic Times convention is Pittsburgh, the NECRWA conference in Natick, MA, and our very own Washington Romance Writers Retreat, alas, not in Harpers Ferry this year. Tell us about one special thing that happened at these conferences or one special thing you learned.

I enjoyed all my travels (I ran into Risky Megan Frampton at NECRWA!), though I am totally beat now–and I have yet to master the art of writing on the road. Fortunately, my next deadline isn’t until June 1 and I’m in fairly good shape with that story…I think.

As to a special thing learned…well, maybe that the RT convention is not so very scary. I have to admit I was definitely nervous about going. I’m a bit of an introvert and the thought of costumes–and male cover models–makes me break out in hives. But it was really quite fun. I did avoid the Mr. Romance contestants (they were probably all my sons’ ages) and I made only a very token nod at costuming myself (a few beads, a few spangles on my head), but I had great fun observing the celebrations. (And I’m relieved to say I did NOT observe some of the “celebrations” mentioned on other blogs! Apparently I have a knack for avoiding anything risky in real life.) I saw many old friends–and some not-so-old friends from NINC and NECRWA–and I made a few brand new friends as well. I was on a panel moderated by my pal–and Diane’s pal–Kristina Cook (debuting in 2009 as Kristi Astor) that included Mary Balogh, Gaelen Foley, and fellow WRWers Kathryn Caskie and Sophia Nash. Very much fun. And Kim Lowe of Fort Meade fame (Diane and I went to the Officers’ Wives’ romance tea she organized last year) fortunately persuaded me to stop in at the author chat with Mary Balogh, Nicole Jordan, Mary Jo Putney, and Patricia Rice. It was wonderful. Kim also coordinated and emceed the SOS military mixer, a lovely tribute to veterans and their families–I was only sorry I came late from lunch and so missed hearing her husband, Air Force Lt. Col. Christopher Lowe, sing the national anthem. And of course, the book signing was another highlight–I love meeting readers. I also discovered, much to my surprise, that Pittsburgh is a very nice city. I had a wonderful view of the three rivers from my hotel room. But now I’m ready to stay home for a while.

Q. Tell us about your next project? Who gets naked next time?

Two guys get Naked in 2009!! The Naked Baron, scheduled to release in the spring, goes back to the year of The Naked Duke and tells the story of a couple whom readers met in The Naked Gentleman–as well as a new couple’s story. The Naked Laird, my first novella, will be out in February 2009 in Lords of Desire, an anthology with Virginia Henley, Victoria Dahl, and Kristi Astor (aka Kristina Cook). It’s set during the house party that takes place in the Baron, so I’m having “fun” figuring out how the Baron and the Laird will mesh. And then? Well, if all goes according to plan, I have a Naked Viscount waiting in the wings.

Sally is attending the Washington Romance Writers Retreat today—right down the road from where she lives. She’ll be popping in to say hi and answer questions in the late afternoon, ET.

And one lucky commenter will be selected at random to win a Naked Gentleman—a signed copy of Sally’s book, that is.

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14 years ago

I have read the other books and would love to win The Naked Gentleman.
Congrats on the book being selected the Blue Ribbon Favorite of the month at Romance Junkies!

14 years ago

I enjoyed The Naked Earl and have The Naked Gentleman on my shopping list. 😀

I’ve “met” a number of bad boys who turn heroic enough to get a happy ending, but redeeming bad girls is rare. So I’m very intrigued with that secondary plot in The Naked Gentleman.

14 years ago

Squeee! Sally MacKenzie! I have loved this series from the start. After I read the Naked Duke I told everyone I knew “You have to read this book!” Of course as I do quite a bit of reading at work on my breaks and lunch a cover with the title THE NAKED DUKE raised quite a few eyebrows. Then those eyebrows came back when nobody was watching and said “Is it any good?” I had to laugh because when I strolled by the book area at Wal-Mart that evening all of the copies were GONE!

I have to know, where did the idea come from? What inspired you to write the Naked books. (Well, other than the fact that a naked man has universal appeal, at least for me!)

Thanks so much for including all of your research sources. I am definitely writing those down.

So are you a plotter or a pantser? What is the hardest part of writing a series like this?

I will probably be back with a hundred other questions.

I am an Air Force brat so I really appreciate any effort to recognize veterans and all they have done for our country.

Keira Soleore
14 years ago

Sally–hi. *waves madly*

It’s good to see you back at the Riskies and hear all about your traveling adventures this year.

Congratulations on your bravery at attending RT. I’ve been reading all the details at various places with much trepidation. But you’ve given me good tips on how to navigate those perilous waters if and when I make that trip.

I look forward to chatting with you at RWA in July. Congratulations on the release of another of the very popular Naked chaps.

14 years ago

Congrats on the Naked Gentleman. sounds like a great read.
Definitely would love to read it.

14 years ago

Hi Sally,
I’ve been a fan since reading “The Naked Marquis.” Will there be flying figurines in “The Naked Gentleman?” I’m so excited the Naked series will continue with the Baron, the Laird and the Viscount. Will there be any more after these?

14 years ago

I really liked The Naked Earl–the villains were really evil for a book that was otherwise incredibly lighthearted and Wodehousian. Glad to see you have more tales in store!

14 years ago

I’ve not read this series, I’ll have to check it out. Glad to see you here today and congrats onthe blue ribbon!

14 years ago

Hi Sally!
Thanks for visiting with us today! I loved all of the “Naked” series. I first discovered them and thought all of the series was out- and got so confused when I couldn’t find the others :P. I had to wait so impatiently.
I’m so excited about the two new books!

Sally MacKenzie
14 years ago

Hi, everyone. Here I am, popping in…only I don’t think I’m popping much–I’m pretty beat. I have to admit, I’m glad my travels are done for a while. The WRW retreat was wonderful, as usual, even though it was in a different location–MUCH closer to my house, actually. The two major drawbacks were no air conditioning in the rooms–the temperature rose Friday and Saturday. It was cooler Saturday night when it rained, so openning the windows would have worked…except for the second major drawback–lots of pollen. So I chose to sleep in a stuffy, hot room with my Benadryl at hand.

I saw Diane Gaston at the retreat, which was wonderful–and she was wonderful, as always. AND she won a Very Cool (and well-deserved) Award!! Now, on to your comments/questions.

robynl, thanks for the congrats. I have to say, the blue ribbon looks very nice! I’m glad you enjoyed the other Naked guys.

Paula, I’m glad you liked the Earl–I hope you’ll like the Gent. You’ll have to decide for yourself if I pulled off the bad girl HEA.

doglady, squeee back at you–and thanks so much for being a sort of Naked Ambassador! Word of mouth is gold when it comes to getting books into readers’ hands.

What inspired me to write the Naked books? Hmm. Truthfully, I was just getting back to writing with a view to publication. I had written and submitted picture books in the mid to late 80s and had gotten some positive rejections, but no sales. When the youngest of my four sons was about 4 I thought, well, he’ll only be home for another year…I’ll just concentrate on enjoying the kids and write when he’s in full time school. The one year turned into eight or nine–I was busy being the carpooler/volunteer, etc. When the oldest was starting to head for college, I decided I wasn’t ready to give up my dream of publishing–that I had to get down to it and give it another serious try. So I wrote the Duke just sort of seeing what I could do, trying to write a story that I might like to read. I entered it in the Golden Heart and much to my surprise it finalled and then sold–in a two book contract. So I had to come up with another book…and there were these three friends in the Duke…Fortunately, the Duke was pretty popular with readers, so my publisher was eager for more Nakedness.

I find I do like to “seed” characters that I might want to write a story about later. It makes starting a new book a little less scary and overwhelming for me. I wouldn’t say there was anything as organized as an inspiration at work…just a bumbling along a path that seemed to be leading somewhere.

I guess that tells you I’m more of a pantzer than a plotter. I do have some vague general plans, so some people accuse me of being organized, but I really don’t think I am. I usually start a new book by writing sort of stream of consciousness thoughts in a notebook about the story and the characters, getting a general idea of where I want to go and whom I’m going with.

Probably the hardest part of writing a series like this is remembering what has happened before and who the characters are–I have notecards, but I often have to look through the previous books–or do a global search through the previous manuscripts. I also have to live with whatever I’ve decided before–like Meg and her plant interest. This is also a challenge, though, and helps to shape the book–makes starting a new book a little less scary in some ways. I’ve learned not to be too detailed in my current work-in-progress about characters I think may star in a subsequent book, though.

Hi, Keira (waving madly back) and I will definitely see you at RWA. I’m bringing the husband and youngest son, making it a bit of a vacation. I’m quite sure husband and son will flee the hotel when all the RWA ladies descend, however.

Thanks for the congrats, mona. And, jane, were you the one who asked the figurine question on the Romance TV mystery author thing? I had sort of forgotten about that, so when I first read it on the board, I thought, what an odd question…and then I thought, oh yeah, there WERE figurines. I was certain I’d been found out then.

I think after the Viscount there will be one more Naked guy. That’s a little too far in the future for me to be sure, but I am contracted for one more book beyond the Viscount–maybe a Naked King or Prince–but I assure you, the Naked One will NOT be Prinny/George IV. Eewww!

I’m glad you enjoyed the Earl, Kerry. I’m starting to mull over the Viscount–he’s next up after I hand in the Laird. I’m thinking I might try another villain, but maybe not such an evil one.

Okay, I’m not sure I was very coherent here, so please ask again if I didn’t answer a question. I’ll try to check in again later today–and tomorrow morning after I’ve had some sleep.

Sally MacKenzie
14 years ago

Hi, tetwea and limecello, and thanks. Your comments posted while I was writing my post–and trying to decipher the word verification stuff. It took me two tries–either my eyes are going (very possible) or blogger is getting just a little too tricky with the way it presents those letters.

On the series thing, I’m trying something new with the Baron. It is set back in the same year as the Duke, telling how two of the characters in the Gent got together. Hmm. Maybe that’ll be my risky thing for that book. I guess as some point I’ll have to put a timeline up on my website to explain how the books fit together.

I wish I could write faster–it seems so…wrong that we can read books in a matter of hours that take months to write, but that’s the way it is, right?

One of the risky things about writing a series, btw, is there ARE some people who won’t read the books out of order or until they have them all. The Duke was out of print for a while, which was a little frustrating–and it still can be a little tricky to find in bookstores.

Okay, now I’m off to get more tea and to figure out what needs to get done…I think laundry can wait for tomorrow, thankfully.

14 years ago

My ears pricked up at the mention of Fort Meade, as my oldest son works there. He’s in the Army Reserves and does counseling for military personnel and others who work there. Frankly, I can think of few things more therapeutic than a good book with a HEA — keep the Naked gents et al coming.

Elena Greene
14 years ago

Hi, Sally! Thanks for the great interview and congrats on the success of the series. I was recently at a B&N and saw a whole display of the “Naked” books in a prominent spot. I’m still hoping for The Naked Vicar sometime but seriously, great news about the upcoming stories! 🙂

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

Like Sally, I’m pooped. It was fun to see Sally at the Retreat. It was a lovely time.

14 years ago

Hi, Sally!

Boy, you sure have been busy lately! I wanted to say thanks again for being a fantabulous Mystery Author over at RNTV last week!! We had such a blast!

I’ve never read your books before, but have heard all kinds of wonderful things about them. They sound exactly like my cup of tea. I feel a GLOM moment coming on! LOL

Thanks again and have a great night!


14 years ago

LOL Elena! What about it, Sally? is there room for a naked vicar? Thanks for answering all of my questions! A Naked Ambassador. Now there is a t-shirt I definitely need!

14 years ago

I know it’s no longer Sunday but I just had to comment here. Sally, this is one of my favorite series! I just picked up Blue Ribboned The Naked Gentleman and am thrilled that there are more naked men waiting in the wings!

Eva S
14 years ago

Congrats on the new release, the Naked books are so great and I’m happy to hear the series continues!
The bad girl HEA will be interesting…

Sally MacKenzie
14 years ago

Thanks for the kind words about the Naked guys, everyone–you made my Monday. (Not sure about that Naked vicar though, Elena. I’m thinking that might be a little too risky…)

It’s raining here. I did drag myself off to the gym this morning…all that traveling, with little exercise and lots of food and drink…oohhh. I’m in trouble. And the food at the retreat–especially the desserts!–was especially good. I feel like a bleary-eyed lump at the moment. Time to dig into the email and other tasks I let slide while I gadded about the country. Groan.

So thanks again, everyone–and I’m so glad Diane blogged about her award–it was VERY well deserved. She was my first contact with WRW and was my go-to answer lady for quite a while–and, actually, still is from time to time.

Okay, off to be a good girl and answer email.

Cara King
14 years ago

I see Blogger ate my comment. Again! About time I break Blogger’s kneecaps or something…

Loved the interview, Sally! I think in addition to The Naked Vicar, other great possibilities would include The Naked Valet, The Naked Fop, and The Naked Archbishop. No, wait — darn! The bishops can’t be married. 😉

Cara (very silly today)

14 years ago

Hi! I live in the philippines and I have only read the 1st book and would like to ask if the publishing company would be selling the “naked” series here. I would really like to be able to read all the series. I really love the Naked Duke it was both hilarious and very romantic! please e-mail me at annaline_ong@yahoo.com if they have any idea where i can find a copy , I would really appriciate it. :)I would also be greatful if anyone out there has an e-book copy & would like to share it 🙂

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