Friday With Carolyn Jewel!

This Friday, we have a special interview with Carolyn Jewel, whose new book, Scandal, is released this week. Scandal has already gotten some stellar reviews:

Dear Author gave it an A-; Romance Novel TV gave it “5++++++++++” stars, saying, “WOW. Simply, wow. That is the only word I can use to describe this masterpiece. It has been such a long time since I have read such a rich, emotional and tension filled romance.”

Carolyn lives in Northern California with her son, three cats, a border collie, several chickens, some sheep and various strays and other rescued critters. In addition to writing luscious historicals, Carolyn writes edgy paranormals, with her next book, My Forbidden Desire, coming out in May. Megan is honored to have Carolyn as a faux critique partner, and even more thrilled that she was able to help, in some small way, with Scandal‘s brilliance.

Carolyn took some time out from basking in the glow of excellent reviews to answer a few questions. Comment on the interview to win a copy of signed copy of Scandal, the winner chosen randomly by the Riskies.

Q. Tell us about this book—its characters, setting, etc.

Scandal is set during England’s Regency era and takes place in the countryside and London. It’s the story of a young woman who marries unwisely and pays a fairly severe price for her love.

Lord Banallt is a rake who behaves very badly with Sophie. They’re both married, and although Sophie would never, ever be unfaithful to her husband, Banallt has no such scruples. By the time he realizes he’s in love with her, it’s too late. She’s convinced, with good reason, that he is irredeemable.

Two years later they have both lost their spouses and Banallt sets out to prove that he really has changed. And he has. It’s a genuine transformation for him. Convincing Sophie of that is the challenge.

Q. How long did it take? Was this an easy or difficult book to write?

It took Banallt the entire book to convince Sophie he’d changed – oh. You mean how long it took to write the book?

I wrote at least two very different versions of this book, one of which was probably okay, the other one(s) was/were pretty awful. My agent read the opening chapters of sucky version 10.5 and advised me to start over. So I did. Scandal underwent its own transformation to a version that was truer to the original version, but much, much better. My fabulous agent sold it shortly after I resubmitted the proposal, and I wrote the rest of it in about four months, and spend the last two absolutely convinced there was no way I’d ever finish on time.

So far every single book I’ve ever written has been difficult. All of them. I don’t foresee that changing.

Q. Did you run across anything new and unusual while researching this book?

In a way, I did the opposite. Rather than research for the book specifically, I drew on research that I did in graduate school (in 2005/6 I believe) when I chose Regency Era author Eleanor Sleath as a project subject for my academic research course. Our assignment was to find everything EVER written about our subject. The trick then, was to pick someone who wasn’t too famous, because then you’d never be able to track down everything, and yet find someone who wasn’t too obscure, because then there wouldn’t be enough material for all the research papers we were to write in this course.

Jane Austen fans will recognize the title of Sleath’s most famous book, Orphan of the Rhine, which Austen mentions in Northanger Abbey. For quite some time scholars believed Austen made up the titles. She didn’t. All of them have been located, with Sleath’s book the very last to be found. The account of that is actually rather exciting.

The other exciting thing is that in the course of that research, I discovered what no one else knew; that Eleanor Sleath was a wealthy widow who married Reverend John Dudley under rather scandalous circumstances. The really silly thing is that I should have written a paper on this discovery since, actually, I think there are now only three people who know Sleath’s biography; me, the English historian who was researching Dudley, and a professor I happened to be corresponding with on the subject of Regency era novels. But I was working full time, going to grad school, parenting a soccer playing son who was young enough at the time to need more attention than he does now at 13, and writing novels. Frankly, I was a bit overwhelmed. I did not have it in me to write the paper on top of everything else.

So, after that lengthy digression, in the course of my Sleath research project I learned an absolutely astonishing amount about publishing in the Regency. The economies, I was surprised to discover, are not vastly different from today. My heroine, as the wife of a man who is spending all her money as fast as he can, takes to writing in secret in order to have some money to pay the bills. This research informs a great deal of the backstory in Scandal.

Q. What is it about the Regency period that interests you as a writer?

Larger than life characters like Byron, Mary Wollstonecraft and too many others to name. The period is a transitional one, in my opinion anyway, sandwiched as it is between the Georgian period and the far more stultified Victorian era (which probably wasn’t quite as stultified as the stereotype). It is in the Regency that we see so many of the events that drove the Reform movement and, ironically, and ultimately, led to the decline of the aristocracy Regency authors so love to write about.

Q. What do you think is the greatest creative risk you’ve taken in this book? How do you feel about it?

My philosophy is to risk everything in every book. There is no point in holding back. Alas, I have varying degrees of success with this, which I sometimes don’t see (or not see) until long after it’s too late to fix things.

I am a character driven author, which means my stories develop from my characters. The risks, therefore, tend to derive from them and what they are bringing to the story that unfolds as I panic that everything completely reeks of failure and I’ll never ever pull it off.

Q. Is there anything you wanted to include in the book that you (or your CPs or editor) felt was too controversial and left out?

No. It’s happened in other books, but not this one.

Q. What are you working on next?

I just turned in another historical, Indiscreet, which will be out from Berkley Sensation in October 2009. Right now, I’m –shudder– writing proposals for more paranormal romances. Very soon, I imagine, I will be writing a proposal or two for more historicals, too.

Q. Is there anything else you would like readers to know about you or your books?

Can we just skip this question? I am too boring to answer it.

Thanks, Carolyn, for joining us here today. Comment to get a chance to win a copy of Scandal.

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Maggie Robinson
13 years ago

I loved your post on Dear Author. (And this one too, LOL.)Time to go to Amazon!

Keira Soleore
13 years ago

I’ve been waiting and waiting for this interview. (Ahem, Megan. 🙂

There isn’t a review site or a reader I’ve come across who hasn’t raved about SCANDAL. How does it feel to have writing The It Book of 2009?

Er, and how do you promote your books? (teasing)

Don’t you two look really cute in that photo from RWA @SF?!!

My first face-to-face with Carolyn came about via a tattooing sesson. Not exactly a happy bonding session, but as it turns out, it was.

You’re SO amazingly disciplined about your writing. Are you like this with everything in your life, or is it just writing? How do you motivate yourself to be so? And knowing you added grad school to that mix recently has me totally floored and awed.

I’ve always thought of you as an urban gal even in P. So the chicken and sheep were a complete surprise.

As far as that academic paper goes…there’s no statue of limitations, so how about it?

13 years ago

What Maggie said–and boy, but is there buzz around Scandal! Excellent buzz, that is. Here’s wishing you great success with it.

Louisa Cornell
13 years ago

Hello, Carolyn! I absolutely LOVED Scandal ! What a wonderful love story and such fantastic characters. I love that it was centered around just the two of them – their struggles, their beliefs, their heartbreak and how everything in their lives lead them to this moment where it could go terribly wrong or terribly right. Great stuff.

I am very impressed with your research! The little diamonds you find when researching something completely innocuous are such fun.

What are some of your favorite Regency research sources?

Diane Gaston
13 years ago

Glad to have you here, Carolyn. Scandal sounds fabulous.

andrea pickens
andrea pickens
13 years ago

What a great interview, Carolyn! I just loved your research story, but then I’m a sucker for obscure history. What a fascinating pursuit—I hope you one day do the academic part. But thankfully you’ve given us the your books first!

I have Scandal on top of my TBR pile and am staring longingly at it—it will be a treat after finishing my RITA books.

13 years ago

“He desires the one woman who can never be his…”

Wow! Can I just say that the cover gave me chills. No joke.

Hey Carolyn!

I’m stuck on and struck by the part of your interview where you talk about writing TWO versions of this story.

I just recently attempted this with two books that I wrote. I actually combined them into one book. LOL It sounds strange but it works better that way.

I wanted to ask you about your writing methods. Do you strive to write with a certain goal in mind each day (ie: number of pages or number of words)?

Also, can you give me some advice on how to create believable historical characters? I struggle to break free from contemporary hang ups.

13 years ago


I read SCANDAL and thought it was fabulous. Thank you so much for writing this book and giving me 8 hours of good reading.

After I finished it, I was left with all sorts of niggling random questions and I am glad of the op to ask.

For instance, the heroine confesses to shouting the hero’s name at a critical moment in the book. I couldnt help wondering which name. Gwilym or Banallt? Neither one comes easily to the tongue. LOL.

I know I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who wondered.

13 years ago

“Can we just skip this question? I am too boring to answer it.”

I find that very hard to believe! All of the authors I’ve ever met IRL or online have been fascinating, even if they forced one to dig a little deeper to get beyond their modesty.

Congratulations on wonderful reviews for ‘Scandal’ (I thought it would be very funny if the sequel were titled ‘Moderate Humiliation’ and the next one after that ‘Mild Embarrassment’) and is there any information on how to access that lost author’s books? I’m quite interested in the ‘Rhine’ one, having spent a fair bit of time in that river’s vicinity.

(no need to enter my name. my tbr toppleth over)

13 years ago

Thanks for all the kind comments about Scandal. For people who intend to read it, I do hope you enjoy it.

@KeiraSoleore: It was fun meeting you at RWA. You know we’ll always have Mom’s Tattoo Parlor. I love mine, by the way.

I don’t know that I’ve written the IT book but it would be cool if I have.

I am amazingly disciplined about not doing much housework, how about that? I have tips for not doing it, if anyone’s interested. I’m disciplined about the things I feel passionate about. It’s funny lots of people say that about me, but I usually feel like I’m slacking. I wouldn’t have been able to manage grad school without the help of my family. I’m intensely grateful for that.

My motivation for writing comes from something kind of tweaked in my genes and psyche, as I think is the case with most writers. But it also comes from panic and terror. Not meeting deadlines has consequences for a writer.

@Louisa Cornell: Thanks! One of my favorite and most helpful sources for research (aside from library catalogues the world over) was before they did a redesign that made their site unusable. I still cry about that. They had (have?) copies of The Times going back to the mid 1700’s. I found loads and loads of stuff in articles and advertisements. There’s gold in those old papers. Unfortunately, they’re now set up without anyway for potential customers to see if they going to be spending their money wisely. I refuse to give them another penny until they can satisfy me that the site has been fixed and the materials I’m interested in are available. They ignore me when I ask. I would happily pay them their $70 a year for access to those papers. Sniff. Grad school got me access to a lot of academic journals and sources that I also miss terribly. There’s so much incredible information that just isn’t available to regular interested people. It’s a shame. Two other sources of note were the documents digitized by The UK with lottery funds. BOPCRIS is the acronym. It’s spotty whether you’ll see the whole document but just the abstracts are often helpful. The other is the UK census studies. It’s free or nearly free to students, but regular folks can pay a fairly modest fee for access to materials.

@kerribookwriter: thank you for your kind comments! When I am on a deadline, I do the following calculation: 100,000 / (x – 30) which is 100K words divided by the number of days to deadline minus 30 days. The result is the minimum daily word count I need to finish with 30 days left to panic. OK, with 30 days left for outside review and revision. This usually comes out to 800-1000 words per day which really isn’t all that onerous, provided life isn’t leaping in to disrupt you. (HAHAHAHA — that never happens!)

Of course, it isn’t just words, but the quality of the words. But you need words in order to end up with something to be whipped into shape.

Creating believable historical characters, for me, requires that I set aside contemporary-set reading and really put myself into the past. Vocabulary is important, but just as important is the mind-set of the characters. This is where reading period documents can really help. Advertisements, articles, letters etc all help impart a sense of the ways in which people viewed the world, and this was far more rigid in cultural expectations than I think often shows up in many historical romances.

But this also depends on the kind of historical you’re writing. There are some stories that are lovely and light and don’t explore some of the darker realities of gender roles that tend to fascinate me.

@seton Thanks for your great question. The name Sophie would have said in that particular moments is Banallt. That is how she thought of him and how she interacted with him. I loved the name Gwillym and was disappointed when it turned out that Sophie, being who and what she was, would simply never have used his Christian name. Rats.

@M Very funny! I wonder if marketing would approve those titles? As for Eleanor Sleath’s books — I should have mentioned that in Northanger Abbey, Austen mentions several horrid novels, Orphan of the Rhine being one of them. Orphan is available on the web at various places, in PDF or as text from Gutenburg books. Orphan and Nocturnal Minstrel were reprinted several years ago and are pretty easily found in libraries. The rest of her books are confined to rare book collections in libraries around the world. Sleath’s books are:
– Orphan of the Rhine
– Nocturnal Minstrel
– Pyrennean Banditti
– Who’s the Murderer (which may also have been staged as a play)
– The Bristol Heiress – I own one original volume of this book
– Glenownen. To my knowledge the British Library has the only copy of this book. I’ve never seen it in any other catalogue. It’s children’s fiction, considered the first fiction written for children, as opposed to fairy tales and fables.

There is good evidence (I do need to write that paper!) that she was working on a novel set in India. Her husband mentions this in one of his letters, but I’ve never seen it, and suspect she didn’t complete it.

If you read Orphan, you’ll notice there is poetry in it. Interestingly, Rev. Dudley, whom she married later under those scandalous circumstances, was a poet himself and I like to think he wrote all the poetry in her books. But that is rank speculation on my part.

13 years ago

I liked the plot of Scandal. I haven’t read it before. New ideas always fascinate me.

I’ve been to Dear Author, congrats on Scandal.
It really sounds like a not to miss read.

Janet Mullany
13 years ago

Carolyn, great to have you visit us, and I’m looking forward to reading your book on the commute!

13 years ago

Ms. Jewell –
I think you should write the story of the authoress and her scandalous poetic man of the cloth. In which they honeymoon in India, adopt an orphan, cause banditti to repent their ways, prevent the murder of an heiress, and hold salons at which minstrels play and they debate the need for a separate branch of fiction aimed at minors.

How cool, to own a copy of one of her works.

13 years ago

does he or doesn’t he convince Sophie? that is the question.

Such great reviews and comments that it makes one want to read this book even though I am not familiar with Carolyn Jewel’s works.

13 years ago

Hi Carolyn,
I’m reading Scandal now and I want to say that it’s as good as everyone is saying. These characters seem so real and while I don’t always like flashbacks in a book these really are working to help unfold the story and are very well done.

13 years ago

Congrats on the new release, Carolyn. Can’t wait to read “Scandal.”

13 years ago

Great interview! Congrats on your new release and all the great reviews.

13 years ago

Howdy from a fellow SFA-RWA-er. Scandal is now on my TBR list. Sounds wonderful. And you’ve piqued my interest about Sleath!

Amanda McCabe
13 years ago

Welcome to RR, Carolyn! I have Scandal on my TBR shelf, and I can’t wait to dive in–I’ve been really pining for a deep, dark historical.

Fascinating stuff about the research, too! I have friends who work in academia who can find obscure things for me, but it’s not the same as when I was in school and could go digging on my own…

Pam P
13 years ago

Hi Carolyn, I’m happy to see your new historical getting such great buzz, right up top of my to get list. I’ve been a fan ever since I read Lord Ruin when it came out. Very interesting post.

13 years ago

I’ve been hearing about this one all over the Interwebs and am dying to read it! — willaful

13 years ago

Thanks again, everyone, for all the kind comments. I’m getting the warm and fuzzies!

@M: I only own one volume of three of The Bristol Heiress. In those days, books were typically sold in 2-3 volumes, meaning separate books. I’ve heard it said this was so people could read one volume and pass it on, then start vol 2 etc. I have no idea if that’s true. The downside to this practice should be fairly obvious even as it speaks (silently) to the economics of books and book reading if this is indeed the trade off that was made.

Volumes can and do get lost or damaged and well, it’s sad to have vol 2 but not 1 or 3. And yet, it’s exciting to have one at all.

@janegeorge: Thanks and as for Sleath, I am, I have to say to my knowledge anyway, the ranking (unacknowledged) expert on Eleanor Sleath. I have her geneology, will, copies of letters and diaries and photographs of a bridge she and her 2nd husband dedicated, most of that documentation thanks to the historian in England who contacted me when he became curious about Sleath. I’d given a paper about my preliminary research at a conference.

Oh, dear, my geekishness is coming out. my apologies. Any body who wants the dirt on Mrs. Sleath should feel free to email me for details.

: I really miss the fun of coming across the unexpected in the course of research, When you have academic access to a library, that unexpected find can be quite exciting. Not to mention all the wonderful papers that have been written on some very arcane matters. I swear, I could spend my life in a library.

13 years ago

Hi Carolyn! Congratulations on the release of your book Scandal! I love the Regency era and books that are character driven. I’m looking forward to reading it! Thanks for the great interview and congrats again on all the fabulous reviews for Scandal!

Amanda McCabe
13 years ago

“I swear, I could spend my life in a library.”

LOL, Carolyn! I’ve always said I would be happy being a grad student my whole life. Sadly, that didn’t seem a feasible career choice (though I don’t think “romance writer” is any more secure, and it seems to involve just as many Ramen noodles…)

13 years ago

“Can we just skip this question? I am too boring to answer it.” hahaha! I don’t think you sound boring at all. I enjoyed the interview and your story sounds great!

13 years ago

Great post! I really enjoy reading interviews. they tell me a lot about an author. I also enjoy book reviews. I would love to read Scandal, I have heard they it is a fabulous read.

13 years ago

Thanks again, everyone! I really appreciate all your kind comments.