Janet’s latest book, A Most Lamentable Comedy, is out in the UK now, and Janet answers some questions all about it.
Tell us about this book; what was its inspiration?
It’s a sequel (sort-of) to The Rules of Gentility (2007), and and an attempt to prove to my editor at HarperCollins that Rules wasn’t a one-off book. Although she didn’t bite, Little Black Dress (UK), who’d bought and published their own edition of Rules, offered me a three-book contract. This is the first of the three. I chose Caroline as heroine because I wanted to write about a bad girl. Philomena, the heroine of Rules, was quite well-behaved, as was Inigo, more or less. Caroline isn’t and I had to create an equally disreputable hero to match her. I based the premise of the book on a couple of minor characters from Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend, con artists who find out after they marry that neither has any money, which I found quite fascinating.
It’s told in first person present tense—how did you decide to write it that way (since it is an unusual style)?
Rules was written that way, my UK editor loved it, and I find I have a lot of fun with it. Essentially it is all about my entertainment.
What would be your response if people say they can’t sympathize with your heroine, who is on the run from creditors and has not always led a pristine life?
Read another book?! She gets more likeable as the book goes on; she is a fiercely proud, loyal woman and you see that side of her emerge, although she remains a troublemaker who can’t resist opportunities to behave badly.
Do you plan to write more on any of these characters?
Not at the moment. They may turn up elsewhere, but they haven’t so far!
You’re a “risky” writer in terms of sex, yet this book has hardly any actual sex in it; what made you write it that way (although it does have plenty of sexual overtones)?
For this style it’s all in the subtext, and so there’s very little explicit language, which makes sense given who the characters are. Also during sexual encounters most of us are not taking notes or having a blow by blow (if you’ll pardon the expression) narrative in our heads.
What kind of research did you do for the book?
Embarrassingly little. I researched card games, bears, and sheep online, and wrote to the Folger Shakespeare Library about prompt books. As usual I dredged up items from the large trivia collection in my mind.
What is the biggest risk you’ve taken here?
I think having characters who don’t reform. Nick and Caroline remain essentially who they are, but what redeems them is that they open themselves up to friendship and community and responsibility. I may also have offended every writer who’s written about Dukes and courtesans, and every reader who likes that particular trope.
What’s up with the animals that pop up in your books: The pig who eats buttons, the dancing bear, etc.?
Oh, I like animals. The pig is based on a bit of family lore and there’s a photograph to prove it (which my brother, ahem, is supposed to be finding and scanning so I can put it on my website). When my brother was two he had a traumatic experience in a Dutch petting zoo with a pig that ate a button off his coat. As for the bear, Elena Greene blogged at the Riskies last year about dancing bears and I found them very appealing. I needed a way for the hero to meet up again with another character who’d disappeared, and I thought of a circus. As one does.
Do you think this book has an HEA?
Definitely. I can’t write the long, drawn-out apologies, explanations, declarations and six babies later type endings. To me it’s always an act of faith, the leap into the unknown territory of marriage.
What is your writing process? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m a pantser by nature which is a bit of a problem for selling on proposal. So my rule of thumb is that if an idea doesn’t come together in a week to can it. My synopses are always extremely vague (the phrase “after many exciting adventures” is very useful) and once I start writing, the plot twists and secondary characters emerge.
What’s next for you?
Lots! I have a two-book contract with HarperCollins for a paranormal-speculative history series, Immortal Jane Austen. The first one is about Austen and vampires fighting a French invasion in Bath and should be out next summer. I wanted to call it Blood Bath; my brother, with whom I brainstormed the idea, suggested Austen Powers. I’m just finishing up my next Little Black Dress book, Improper Relations, and I have no idea what the third one will be, although I have a very appealing title knocking around in my mind (Mr. Bishop and the Actress). I also have a two-book contract with Harlequin Spice, writing erotic contemporaries as Liz Diamond, and the first of those will come out in early 2011. I’m very lucky; I’m enjoying the glow of having all these exciting projects to work on, and then remembering that yes, I do actually have to write them.
Thanks for letting me pretend to be a guest here today, Megan! Today I’m also over at History Hoydens and guest blogging at Romance Buy the Book about writing a historical bad girl. There’s a complete blog tour on my site (and a contest!)
A Most Lamentable Comedy doesn’t have US distribution but you can buy it with free shipping worldwide from bookdepository.co.uk.