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Interview with Julia Quinn

The Risky Regencies welcome New York Times bestselling and two time RITA-winning author, Julia Quinn. On Oct 19, Julia’s latest, Mr. Cavendish, I Presume, was number one on the New York Times bestseller list and this week remains in the top ten. Today Julia will be talking about Mr. Cavendish, I Presume and its simultaneous story, The Lost Duke of Wyndham.

Julia’s journey to number one has included stops at Harvard and a brief stint in medical school before she decided writing Regency Historical Romance was what she was meant to do. Her books have been lauded for their wit and humor, and none other than Time Magazine said she has “a smart, funny touch.” We are so happy to have Julia here, especially because she’s been traveling a lot this month and spent yesterday traveling back home.

Listen to this! To one lucky commenter chosen at random, Julia is going to give away a set of The Lost Duke of Wyndham AND Mr. Cavendish, I Presume!

Heeeeerrrrree’s Julia!

1. Tell us about Mr. Cavendish, I Presume? How it is connected to The Lost Duke of Wyndham?

Some time ago I was humming an old Dire Straits song called “Industrial Disease,” and I got to the line: “Two men say they’re Jesus. One of them must be wrong.” Being the historical romance writer I am, I immediately change that to: “Two men say they’re the Duke of Something. One of them must be wrong.” The trick there, though, was to figure out how on earth the succession to a Dukedom could be in doubt, because that sort of thing was generally well-documented.

Once I came up with a way to make the plot work, I started thinking about the characters. Which would be the bad guy–the current duke or the long-lost duke? Then I thought–wouldn’t it be so much more interesting if they were both good guys?

At that point I realized I’d need two books, since if both were hero material, both would need to their own love stories. At first I thought I would write them sequentially, with one picking up where the other ended, but as I delved into the plotting, I realized that there were so many scenes that were crucial to both sets of characters. I couldn’t bear, for example, to show the big reveal scene (when the characters learn who is the real duke) from only one hero’s point of view. So I ended up with two novels that took place at the same time.

2. We’re all about taking risks here at Risky Regencies. What do you think is the greatest creative risk you’ve taken in this book?

Running the stories simultaneously. This meant I was going to have to write them simultaneously as well. It was a tremendous creative challenge for me–and one that I found very exciting and energizing. I loved weaving two separate and distinct love stories through one set of external events. But at the same time, I risked alienating some readers, who might not like this approach. If you’ve read Lost Duke, for example, you know who the real duke is before you start Cavendish. I personally don’t think this detracts from the novel in any way; the real heart of the story is in the characters and how they adjust to and learn from the events. But some readers didn’t like this; they felt they’d started the story already “spoiled.”

3. With Mr. Cavendish and The Lost Duke so intertwined, did you have to do anything different than your usual plotting process?

Absolutely! In fact, this was the hardest part of the process. I wrote a joint outline for the two books, which was far more daunting than I’d envisioned. Normally when I’m plotting I can make my secondary characters do whatever is best for the main story, but this time I had to consider the other book as well. It took forever. I’m not kidding when I say I went through seventeen versions. (Okay, many of the versions were somewhat truncated, but still.) And I kept switching who would end up with whom!

4. What is it about the Regency that keeps you writing in that time period?

I’m not sure exactly. It just seems to work for me. The witty repartee, probably.

5. You’ve won the RITA two years in a row, 2008 for The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever, and 2007 for On the Way to the Wedding. Can you tell us what this has meant to you?
It’s indescribable. There is something so special about validation and praise from one’s peers. And I had reached the finals so many times that when I finally won, I couldn’t stop laughing. I was giddy, absolutely giddy.

6. I’ve heard your excellent workshop on writing dialogue. What is your greatest weakness in writing dialogue, the one thing you find yourself having to fix before turning in that final draft? (Mine is overuse of dialogue tags)

I find myself deleting dialogue tags, too. But weirdly, I also find that I have to add action tags and emotional tags to flesh things out.

7. What is next for you?

I’m writing a spin-off of The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever. It’s about Lady Olivia Bevelstoke. I’ve paired her up with an all-new character named Harry Valentine. Olivia is such a great character. I think it’ll be a lot of fun!
♥♥♥♥♥
What is your favorite Julia Quinn book and why? Do you have any questions for Julia? Now’s your chance.
Remember, if you comment, you have a chance to win the set of The Lost Duke of Wyndham AND Mr. Cavendish, I Presume.

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Liz in Australia
Liz in Australia
14 years ago

I’ve been a Julia Quinn fan pretty much when I was introduced to quality romance in the mid 1990’s. She and Jo Beverly were the ones I had on my must buy list back then and have never been off it. My favourite would probably be “Dancing all midnight” because I love a wounded hero or “The Duke and I” because of Simon’s horrid childhood that left scars of a different sort. Very hard to decide!

Margay
14 years ago

Whenever anyone asks me who your favorite author is, Julia Quinn tops the list. I love all of her books, so it’d be hard to pick just one – I love the Bridgerton series; every one of them has a special place for me. What I would like to know about Julia is if she’s ever tried – or would consider trying – a different genre. Contemporary, for instance. And congratulations on the Rita! I read both of those books and loved them.

Phyllis Campbell
14 years ago

About three weeks ago, Julia Quinn was at my RWA Chapter Conference. In fact, I was the one who contacted her to come speak. (grins) At the conference we were given the book – The Duke and I. I bought another book at the booksigning, The Lost Duke of Wyndham. A week ago I had allergies so bad that the glare from the computer made my eyes hurt, so I read all day. I picked up The Duke and I and could NOT put it down! Currently, I’m reading The Lost Duke and lovin’ every second!

Julia Quinn is an awesome writer!

~Phyllis~

Lois
14 years ago

Hiya and welcome to the Riskies! 🙂 My favorite I still always put How to Marry a Marquis, but certainly have many favorites. . . and I definitely loved the two Dukes! 🙂

Lois

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

Hi, Julia,
Welcome to the Riskies! I’ve read both the Lost Duke and Mr. Cavendish and loved them both. As a writer, I was fascinated by the concept of writing two simultaneous stories (hence my questions in the interview!)
We’re glad to have our new Risky visitors, as well. Welcome, Everyone!

Gwynlyn MacKenzie
14 years ago

I loved both books about the Duke, but admit I almost didn’t buy the second because the characters were so familiar I thought I’d already purchased it. A quick “middle of the book” read reassured me.

I’m so glad Thomas had his own story and found his own love. Although a bit stuffy–especially at first–in the Lost Duke book, his honor and staunchness made him sympathetic and likeable (in light of his dragon of a grandmother, you had to root for the man.)

I read Lady Whistledown first, and have been a fan ever since. Then the Bridgertons caught me (reminded me of my own family, actually) and I haven’t looked back.

Louisa Cornell
14 years ago

Hello, Julia! A favorite Julia Quinn book? That is a tough one. I loved the Bridgerton series, but my favorite of those was To Sir Phillip With Love, hands down. I just love Eloise and Sir Phillip is such a wonderful hero – tortured, desperate for a successful marriage, and his fidelity is definitely admirable!

And another of my all time favorites is Brighter Than the Sun. I can completely relate to Eleanor! There have been times when I tried to be so elegant and efficient and came off as a klutz! And I didn’t have a precocious child to blame for it! And what’s not to love about a man that literally falls into your lap!

Thank you, Julia, for giving me so many hours of reading pleasure!

Keira Soleore
14 years ago

YAY! JQ’s in da hus! Welcome, welcome. Now, I’m off to read the interview…

Ellen
14 years ago

Hi Julia!
Thanks so much for sharing the inside scoop on the very beginnings of The Lost Duke and Mr. Cavendish :))

All the Best,
Ellen Dye

http://www.ellendye.com

PJ
PJ
14 years ago

Hi Julia!

I’ve been a JQ fan since reading The Duke and I back in 2000. A friend was raving about it so I bought a copy and was hooked. Everything she writes is so fresh and new. I’m never disappointed when I pick up one of her books.

I don’t know if I could choose just one favorite. Romancing Mister Bridgerton was very special but I think I’d have to choose The Duke and I because it was my introduction to JQ’s stories and because it ever there was a hero who deserved a hea it was Simon.

OT: Please don’t include me in the drawing for the signed books. I had the pleasure of seeing Julia in Tennessee last week and she graciously signed my copies.

Renee
14 years ago

I too have been a huge fan of JQ’s for a while. It’s too hard to pick a favorite, I just don’t think I can do it.

Renee

Stephanie
Stephanie
14 years ago

I knew Julia was going to be a success when her first book went on the NYT best sellers list. She caught a lot of grief in those days for being new, young and fresh. I loved her voice then and I’m still a fan. Her risky approach to Regencies has paid off. I can tell you that her books are on my keepers list, but The Duke and Mr. Cavendish I Presume top that list. I am fasinated by the simultaneous writing process. Thanks for sharing Julia.

Maureen
14 years ago

I’ve enjoyed reading Julia Quinn’s books for some years and actually just finished The Lost Duke of Wyndham. That Jack has to be one of my favorite heroes of the year. He is everything I really enjoy about a hero; funny, strong, adores the heroine and he is not perfect.

Love Romance Passion
14 years ago

It’s in His Kiss is mine. I just couldn’t put it down once I started. There are so few books like that for me. 🙂

Kathy
14 years ago

Hi Julia,

Your books are filled with great imagery.

Have you been to the places in your books?

How do you research for your characters and your stories?

Julie
14 years ago

Julia, I have read all of your books. And I have enjoyed ever one of them. There is one though that is on my “favorite’s shelf”. I have it in hard cover & just reread it last week. This is the book that I recommend to people who are new readers to the Romance genre`. In fact, I just recommended it to my librarian! The book is called The Duke And I. The story is funny and sad and sentimental. A well crafted ‘I don’t like you but some how I’ve fallen in love with you” love story. Simply Wonderful!

Janga
14 years ago

I’ve been reading JQ’s books since Splendid. I could list a top ten more easily than I can choose a single favorite. I do have a special affection for The Duke and I, but I think the Julia Quinn story I love best is the second epilogue for When He Was Wicked. It really is perfect!

Hi, Julia! And hurrah for Olivia’s book! I have been hoping for her story since I read the last page of TSDOMMC.

Tracey Devlyn
14 years ago

I think my favorite Julia Quinn scene was in Minx. I laughed out loud when the heroine threw manure on the hero’s boot.

I have two questions:
1) In the early days, what research material did you rely on?
2) What do YOU believe is your greatest strength? And what area of writing do you still struggle with?

Thanks! Tracey

Raven99
14 years ago

It is really tough to choose my favorite Julia Quinn book when I love all of them. The Viscount Who Loved Me was the first one I read, so it has a special place in my heart for introducing me to her work. But I would have to say that either Splendid or The Duke and I is my favorite.

M.
M.
14 years ago

I’m relatively new to the genre. When I first started exploring I kept encountering the Bridgerton name. The first I read was ‘Sir Phillip’ and it is still my favorite.

I ambled around the JQ website, too, and have to say: I adore Mr. JQ and his bonmots. He is absolutely hilarious!

Christine
14 years ago

Julia, this is completely off-topic, but you have an awesome web site. Diane G. knows I am a bit obsessive about them lately. I’m betting you get lots of readers just through your inviting site, which breathes, “Read more…”

Christine Trent

Elena Greene
14 years ago

Welcome to the Riskies, Julia. Writing simultaneous stories must have been such a challenge. I imagine as one evolved it would affect the other in unexpected ways. Congratulations on pulling it off!

flchen1
14 years ago

Chiming in late to say what a terrific interview! I’m a late convert to historicals and I heard a lot about your books before I caved and picked up Romancing Mr. Bridgerton–of course, I figured out that there were another 7 siblings to read about and fell in love with the entire series. I’ve been collecting the rest of your titles since.

And I’m thrilled to learn that Olivia’s getting her own story!

Ladyhawk
14 years ago

I’ve never read a Julia Quinn novel. These certainly sound intriguing for the process alone. I wonder if the two stories could be read at the same time or if that would be too confusing?
~Judy T

zara hemla
14 years ago

What a great interview! It’s so fun to read about the way an author solves a problem like writing two books at once. 🙂 My favorite Quinn book is “On the Way to the Wedding.”

Cara King
14 years ago

Thanks so much for joining us here at the Riskies, Julia!

BTW, I think Avon did a great job with the covers of the two Lost Duke books — they’re similar enough that they seem to go together, but different enough that it’s very unlikely a reader will think the book she just picked up is the one she already read (Gwynlyn Mackenzie’s experience aside!)

Cara

Jane
14 years ago

Hi Julia,
Congrats on winning the RITA two years in a row. My favorite book is “Everything and the Moon.” I love stories about reunited lovers.

Gerri Bowen
14 years ago

Hi Julia!
It’s hard to pick one, but I guess my favorite is To Sir Phillip, With Love. It was funny, witty, but also had elements of sadness that affected the husband and children. Loved it.

Julia Quinn
14 years ago

Hi everybody–

Sorry to arrive so late. My cat passed away this morning. He was about 17 (we don’t know for sure) so he had a long life, but still, it was not expected and took us by surprise.

Thanks to everyone for all the lovely comments. One thing that has always made me feel good is that I don’t seem to have one book that is singled out as the reader favorite. It’s so great to hear that different readers prefer different books.

On to the questions—

Margay–right now I have no plans to try a different genre. I still really enjoy the regency, and I’ve found that the best way for me to keep from getting burned out is to shake up the writing process rather than the setting or genre. That was why doing something like the Two Dukes was so terrific. It forced me to approach writing in a different way.

Kathy–I’ve been to many of the places in my books, but not all. I like to move the setting around England, and unfortunately, I’m not able to head overseas with each new book. (Wouldn’t that be great!) But sometimes I’m able to do good on-site research. I lived in London while I was starting Romancing Mr. Bridgerton—that’s how I came up with the idea of using St. Brides as a setting–it’s the church for writers!

For the most part, I tend to research as I go along. I have a broad knowledge of the era, so I don’t have to research things like titles before I begin. But I do look things up as I go along. I didn’t realize, for example, that I was going to use the Boucher painting in The Lost Duke of Wyndham until I got to that scene, so I ended up researching it quite a bit while I was writing.

Okay, I’m going to post this and answer the other questions in another post. I’ve been interrupted so many times since I started this, I’m worried I’ll never get it posted.

JQ

Julia Quinn
14 years ago

Me again!

Tracey–when I first started writing, the internet didn’t really exist as a research tool, so I relied mostly on other books set in the era, which is NOT a good idea. Frankly, it’s a miracle I didn’t make more mistakes than I did.

As for my greatest strengths, I think I’ve become pretty good at developing my characters—this is something that I’ve improved upon, IMO, over the years. Dialogue has always been a strong point, too. In terms of what I struggle with, it’s not so much a specific aspect of writing as it is just doing it. I seem to have difficulty staying focused. This has definitely gotten worse. I think it gets harder and harder to write books. On the one hand I know I –can– write a book. I mean, I’ve done it many times. But still, each one feels like such a monumental task. The first 100 pages are definitely the worst.

Christine–thanks for the website kudos! It will probably come as no surprise to you that Diane and I share the same website designer!

Ladyhawk–I bet you could try to read both of the Dukes books at the same time. You’d have to do a lot of flipping back and forth, though. It’d be interesting to hear how it turned out.

Cara–Glad you liked the covers! They were my idea!!! We were trying to make them look like movie posters.

JQ

Julia Quinn
14 years ago

A few more responses—

Phyllis–so we hooked you with the free book??? That’s the evil plan, you know.

Louisa–the opening of Brighter than the Sun was an awful lot of fun to write!

Stephanie–glad you liked the simultaneous writing experience! (I wish everybody did…)

m.—Mr. JQ has quite a dry sense of humor. Quite a bit of it cannot be repeated on the web, tho…

elena–you hit the nail right on the head about each book affecting the other. That was why I HAD to write them simultaneously. Can you imagine writing one and then having to go back and change it when I was writing the second?

If I missed any questions, PLEASE post a nudge. I’ll check back soon.

JQ

M.
M.
14 years ago

So sorry about your furry family member. Always hard, no matter how elderly the member may be.

Carol
14 years ago

Just put a hold on Julia Quinn’s Duke books at the library. Reading this blog may be a mistake – I can see myself lolling around the house reading Regency after Regency and getting nothing done! 🙂

Kammie
14 years ago

Stopping in after a long day at work to say hello. No questions…just a post to say I love your stories. I don’t have one favorite, I have many. I haven’t read either of the books you mention today, but I have them both on my wish list.

Louisa Cornell
14 years ago

Stopping by to offer my condolences on the passing of the furry old gentleman. They don’t live that long without a loving home and great care. He knew he was loved and that has to be a great comfort to you.

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

Add my condolences, too, Julia. I have 4 cats…or rather 4 cats live in my house, none technically are mine (but guess who cleans the litter boxes). I’d miss any of them terribly.
It is so sad. Hugs to you and your family and when the time is right…get a kitten. No, do like Cara did. Get two kittens.

Santa
14 years ago

As always I’m in the better late than never crowd but I knew I just had to stop by.

I love this latest duet, Julia. Mr. Cavendish is just that – a dish. Give to me tortured hero and I’m a happy camper. The tension was delicious.

Can’t wait for Olivia’s story either. I guess I’m a secondary character junkie. Romancing Mr. Bridgerton is my favorite JQ book mainly because it was my first but I also think because you took a secondary character and made her front and center. I adore Penelope!

My thoughts are with you about the passing of Bailey. It’s been quite a year for the passing of our four footed friends.

Virginia
14 years ago

So many authors and so little time. I have never had the pleasure to read any of Julia’a books but would love to. Her books look out of the world and I have never got around to reading them and she writes historicals, which is my favorite read and what I read the most. One of my problem is I am limited on book stores in my area. If Wal-Mart doesn’t have it I have to order from amazon. I think I will add Julia to my list to start watching for. Because I have heard so much about her books.

I am so sorry to here about your cat, we all get attached to our pets.

Keira Soleore
14 years ago

Hi again, JQ. Hope you’re on Seattle time and not yet asleep.

I’m so-so sorry to hear about your treasured pet passing away. How are your children dealing with it? So was she yours or Paul’s?

I love that RITA-holding photo of yours, and who could ever forget that giggle when you recived your first? The entire ballroom rocked with everyone’s laughter. Different folks have different sections of the ballroom cheering when they won a prize. In your case, the entire ballroom cheered.

I can’t single out one of your books. I have them all (no, not all signed 🙁 🙁 yet) and I love them all. Going by re-reads, I have to say, “Sir Phillip” is my top fav, though Wyndham comes close, and then there’s the Marquis, and Miranda, and… KWIM?

JQ, you won’t like to hear this, but I’m glad writing is something that doesn’t come too easy for you. Writers get complacent then they write the same books. You work hard at finely crafting that perfect story, while at the same time, always pushing the envelope on achieving something new/risky: Penelope, Sir Phillip, Miranda, Colin, Wyndham-Cavendish. Your books that is why have a fresh perspective, nothing recycled there. And the comedic moments are so funny.

(I may’ve gushed all over the page, but I’ll have you know how restrained I was in my usage of caps and !!! everwhere.)

Pam P
14 years ago

Sorry about your cat, Julia.

The Duke and I is my favorite because of those emotional scars of Simon’s. Really hard to choose a favorite, next I’d say The Viscount Who Loved Me, Splendid, It’s in His Kiss, Romancing Mr. Bridgerton and When He Was Wicked. Too many good ones to just pick one or two.

robynl
14 years ago

my fav would be It’s In His Kiss; yummy.

so sorry about your fur baby’s passing; I totally feel for your loss.

Kim
Kim
14 years ago

Sorry about your cat. It’s always terrible to lose a beloved animal.

My favorite JQ books are WHWW and TLDOW. In the latter, Jack fell in love at first sight, yet the story still worked. I think it’s because the love story was so sweet. Plus the banter (“truthiness”)in TLDOW was funny.

Question: Are there any lessons from being a medical student that helped you become a successful writer?

Julia Quinn
14 years ago

Kim, I’m not sure that any of my medical school experiences directly affected my writing, but you definitely do see some crossover in that I’ve always been quite interested in science and medicine and will frequently add bits of it into my books.

Warmly,
JQ

librarypat
librarypat
13 years ago

Love the covers for these two books.
Can’t imagine trying to work these two books together. Among other things, editing and rewrites on one work effect the other.
At the moment I have at least 4 of your books in my TBR pile. I pick up books that sound good, then try to find time to read them all. It is especially hard when I find an author I like, then I go out and get all their other books. When I finish them, I’ll put them on the shelf of the library where I work. If I really like an author, I make sure we automatically order their new books. There are a few patrons I share my books with even before I decide to catalogue them. I need to retire so I can catch up on my reading. I’ll have to move your books higher up on the TBR shelf.

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