Janet’s Improper Relations

Diane here, with the absolute delight of interviewing Riskies own Janet Mullany about her Little Black Dress release, Improper Relations, released today! If you haven’t already, hurry over to Book Depository (with its free shipping) or any UK book vendor and order this book.

I read Improper Relations and I am absolutely in awe. I don’t think I’ve read anyone who reminded me more of Georgette Heyer, except Janet writes like Heyer after a few drinks.

But don’t just listen to me. Here’s a review of Improper Relations

What I continue to love about Janet Mullany’s books is how she manages to convincingly tell her story in first person from both her hero and her heroine’s perspective. The first person narrative gives an extremely refreshing take on the insanity which populates the plot; from the way her heroine observes the foibles of her own family, to the slowly beautiful dance it takes the hero to discover he’s in love. I can’t wait to see where she goes next–Stacey, Publisher’s Weekly, Beyond the Book.

Janet will give away a signed copy of Improper Relations to one lucky commenter chosen at random. Without further ado, here’s Janet!

Janet, what were you doing? Channeling a very naughty Georgette Heyer? Tell us about Improper Relations!I brought a conversation at a conference to a total embarrassed stop when I told a group of writers (who I’d never met before) that I really wasn’t very interested in men because relationships between women were so much more interesting and that’s what I was currently writing about! To clarify my out-of-the-closet confession, I wanted to write a romance where a friendship between two women is as central to the book as the romantic relationship itself, and loyalty, to the friend or the husband, cause the conflict that drive the plot. And I have to admit I really wanted to start a book with the sentence: My story begins with a marriage.

You did such a clever job of tying all the threads together. It made me very curious about your plotting process. Did you figure it all out ahead of time? Or did you fly by the seat of your pants?
A bit of both. I sold it on proposal, so I knew roughly what was going to happen, but I trusted to luck about how everything would tie in. There was a character, a rather horrible old lady, who appeared quite early on and she turned out be very significant later. I blogged about that at the Riskies after I’d written a scene with her in the middle of the night as an example of trusting your instincts when writing, which I really did with this book. I tend to spend a lot of time thinking about fixing to get ready etc. to write and my first drafts are usually very clean, which is just as well.

Your voice is so distinct. Were there any writers in particular who inspired your style?
I’ve read a lot, but mostly outside romance. I write romance because I think what I write fits in with the genre (which is huge, there’s room for a lot of variants and niches!) so I don’t think I ever fell into the trap of writing as though I were writing a romance (does that make sense?). I don’t analyze what I do a lot, but I’ve always been able to make people laugh. Apparently John Cleese realized that his repressed anger was the inspiration for Monty Python sketches that involved people shut up together shouting at each other (The Argument Sketch here). I tend to like getting groups of people behaving badly together, and I don’t quite know what that says about me (it was at the core of my last book, A Most Lamentable Comedy, where they were all engaged in amateur theatricals in the country). The huge resolution scene in Improper Relations has about six to ten people coming in and out of a room at an inn.

I didn’t see any special research in Improper Relations. Was there any?
Uh. No. Originally Shad, the hero, started off as a military officer, but I was reading Nelson: A Personal History, by Christopher Hibbert (wonderful historian) while I was writing it and so he became a naval man.

What is risky about Improper Relations?
I don’t think it is a particularly risky book, to be honest, other than in style and structure. It’s all very conventional stuff, but I think the risk comes in the delivery. With all my books, either readers are going to get it or they’re going to be confused–I hope more of the former than the latter! If there is an element of risk, it’s in having a heroine who allows herself to be manipulated by someone she loves–and it’s not the hero or another man, it’s her best friend. Oh, and the hero and heroine end up in bed at the end of the book and go to sleep instead of having a boinkfest. I wanted them to fade into domestic tranquillity.

I’m in awe about how you included just about every Regency cliché there is. How did you do that?
I had a sort of shopping list of things I wanted to include, as well as the first sentence! I wanted to do a marriage of convenience because I thought the sex would be interesting to write about; I also wanted a duel, a Vauxhall Garden scene, the heroine to be transformed by a makeover into a ravishing beauty, a John Thorpe, a Wickham … I make absolutely no secret of the fact that I’m writing for my own pleasure and entertainment. And, yes, there’s sex in this, but sex as practiced by uptight Georgian people in an era where men married good girls and had sex for procreation, and paid bad girls for anything else. So great sex in marriage is a delightful, if worrying, surprise.

What amazingly clever, wickedly irreverent, riotously funny book is next for you?
My next Little Black Dress book, for spring 2011, is going to be called Mr. Bishop and the Actress–it’s funny that with all three of the books for Little Black Dress the title has come first or very early in the process. And I hope it’s all of the above! I don’t know if this is generally known outside England, but if you tack on “…as the actress said to the bishop” to an innocent statement, it immediately makes it obscene. For instance, “Do you think it will snow today?” “Yes, we’re supposed to get six inches … as the actress said to the bishop.” (The same thing works with fortune cookies, if you add “in bed.”) Possibly Shad and Charlotte (hero and heroine of Improper Relations) will appear as secondary characters.

In April, I have a Loose-Id e-novella, Reader, I Married Him, a dirty version of Jane Eyre, and then in October I have Jane & the Damned from HarperCollins and my novella which may or may not be called Little to Hex Her, based on Emma, in the anthology Bespelling Jane with Mary Balogh, Susan Krinard, and Colleen Gleason.

I can’t wait!

Remember, everyone, comment for a chance to win a copy of Improper Relations. Ask Janet a question or see how many Regency conventions we can list. What are your favorites?

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12 years ago

Hi Janet,

Nice interview. There are not that many books (that I’ve read) that start with a marriage. I did wonder often what happens after the I do’s, sounds like it’s going to be interesting.
Can’t really think of a question for you but please count me in. Thanx.

Take care, Kirsten

Virginia C
12 years ago

“Risky Regencies” indeed….what fun. Don’t you think it’s the suggested naughtiness (and sometimes outright bawdiness) of regency romance which is so entertaining? Witty, wicked and wonderfully winsome, that’s great Regency Romance!

A great post and giveaway!

gcwhiskas at aol dot com

12 years ago

Hi Janet,

Describe your writing in three words 🙂

love to be here and enjoyed the interview so much ! 🙂

uniquas at ymail dot com

12 years ago

After reading A Most Lamentable Comedy, I can’t wait to read this one!

12 years ago

You grabbed me at the top of the blog when you described Janet as like “Heyer after a few drinks”. I would like to know if Janet reads or has read many Heyer novels.
Thanks for the giveaway.

12 years ago

This book sounds delightful. I haven’t read any of Janet’s other stuff, but I’m now on the lookout! Thank you…….

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon
12 years ago

I adore your writing Janet and I can’t wait to read this one. My question is, since you read a great deal out of the genre, who are your favorite authors?

Leanne Shawler
12 years ago

Cor blimey, Jane! You’re on a roll (as the actress said to the bishop!)

How fabulous….

Love the premise so I shall have to get it if I don’t win. (And I won one of your books last time so I don’t fancy my chances.)

Hmm, favorite Regency trope – that would be the heroine being gambled off to the hero. Love those bad boys.

Janet Mullany
12 years ago

Hi everyone, thanks for dropping by!

Kirsten, it isn’t the heroine’s marriage at the beginning of the book although that comes soon after!

Virginia, welcome to the Riskies’ world.

Three words, Mariska? Funny, sexy, surprising.

Margay, so glad you liked Comedy. Hope you like this one too.

Linda, I read just about every Heyer a long, long time ago and I’ve reread a few within the last couple of years. I can’t say I love her as much now as I did then (there are certain things I find very annoying about her writing) but she certainly influenced me a lot. If you’re a Heyer fan, I hope you’ll join in the Riskies group read we have planned.

Tinky, welcome. If you buy my books, buy the US version of Rules for the extra material in the back, and you can buy the UK ones at Free shipping worldwide!

Diane Gaston
12 years ago

Hi, Janet! It was fun to interview you, but especially to have the chance to read Improper Relations early. I hope everyone can tell how much I loved it.

Louisa Cornell
12 years ago

Another wonderful romp through Regency romance land with Janet! It just doesn’t get more entertaining or fun than that. Can’t wait to read this one. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read Rules of Gentility and I loved A Most Lamentable Comedy!

Since you do a lot of the creative process in your head before you commit to paper (or the computer) how long does it take for you to finish a book or is it a stop and start process? And do you crack yourself up when you write some of this?

12 years ago

Great blog!

Jane Austen
12 years ago

Janet, I am going to tell my friend about your novel because her favorite type of romance/regency is the marriage of convenience variety. She reads those like I read bookish heroines who get the hunk. The book sounds great, but I’m a little more interested in this Bespelling Jane. Can you tell us a little about that? Also I <3 a naval man, but of course Captain Wentworth is my ideal. Congratulations.

Janet Mullany
12 years ago

Hi Elizabeth and Leanne. Great to have you here as the actress said to the bishop…

Favorite writers outside the genre, off the top of my head and in no particular order:

Terry Pratchett, George MacDonald Fraser (when Diane asked which historical writer had influenced me I think it was probably him), Kate Ross, Anna Maxted, Austen, George Eliot, Nick Hornby, Hilary Mantel, Sarah Waters. I recently discovered Lev Grossman whose book The Magicians I loved.

12 years ago

Woot, Janet! Congrats on your release, and the great review over at Dear Author.

Janet Mullany
12 years ago

Thanks, Diane, I’m so glad you liked it! And welcome jcp.

Hi Louisa. It felt as though I diddled around on this book a lot although actually I didn’t. The actual writing of it, rather than the fixing to get ready to start preparing etc. stage was three months, with stops and starts, which is fairly typical for me. I have to write 2k a day to get in the flow and if I don’t I feel it the next time and so on.

Janet Mullany
12 years ago

Thanks for word of mouth selling, JA! I think marriages of convenience are very sexy in a pervy sort of way (sex with a stranger, officially sanctioned by society and the C of E).

Bespelling Jane is an anthology put together by Susan Krinard, who wanted to do a paranormal of Pride & Prejudice, and invited me to join. Hers is a contemporary called Blood & Prejudice. Mary Balogh did a version of Persuasion, about Wentworth and Ann going through a series of reincarnations before they get it right; Colleen (who wrote the Gardella vampire hunter series) did Northanger Abbey; and mine is a contemporary about a dating agency for the paranormal population of Washington DC. (We all know Capitol Hill is full of bloodsuckers….).

It’s out in October, released simultaneously in the UK as Frightfully Jane, more English than the English.

12 years ago

FINALLY! A romance where the characters are worried that the marriage sex is “too enjoyable”. *LOL* (I get tired of the Regency heroines who are more comfortable with sex than I was at their age–and I grew up 200 years after them.) Plus it adds a nice dose of conflict.

Your comedy sounds right up my alley.

Favorite Regency convention: the sidekick friend who is always racing around in a phaeton and a pair of finely matched grays. I mean, he’s like in EVERY regency, but he never marries. And he must be EVERYONE’S friend because surely there aren’t that many pairs of finely matched grays in the whole of London.

Janet Mullany
12 years ago

Thanks, Carolyn! yes, I had an A- review over at Dear Author (it went up Monday, I think, so it’s fairly recent).

Janet Mullany
12 years ago

And in the spirit of blatant self-promotion, I have a contest at my website, and if you scroll down the home page you can download some soundbites of me reading from my LBD books.

Janet Mullany
12 years ago

Favorite Regency convention: the sidekick friend who is always racing around in a phaeton and a pair of finely matched grays. I mean, he’s like in EVERY regency, but he never marries. And he must be EVERYONE’S friend because surely there aren’t that many pairs of finely matched grays in the whole of London.

Obviously it’s code for being gay, MsHellion. Even as we speak, someone is writing a series of m/m romances based on the notorious Matched Gray Club of Regency London.

12 years ago

Great interview! Most of the book I read end with a marriage so I am very interested it this one because its different! I would love to read it! What types of books do you read? Do you enjoy your research?


Jane Austen
12 years ago

Ha! The Finely Matched Grey Club of Regency England! I love that. My friend Fergus who offered to marry me so I could gain British citizenship as long as I realized we’d both be dating other men and I have always had this Regency era Masterpiece Theatre production we wanted to do where he was forced into a marriage with me, but secretly loved the stable boy and I secretly loved the butler. It might play better in Victorian times though. But if we stick with Regency I’ll have to make him a member of the Finely Matched Grey Club. Both Fergus and I are in for the costumes alone.

As a side note: I cannot wait until Bespelling Jane comes out. I wonder if I can preorder now….? The Persuasion reincarnation reminds me a bit of a time travel romance I had dreamed up one day. Not exactly the same, but similar.

Jane George
12 years ago

Brava Ms. Mullany! I can’t wait to read it. And a dirty version of Jane Eyre? I’m so there.

12 years ago

When I think of the Regency I think of balls and gowns. Will they be in this story?

12 years ago

Congrats, Janet, on your great reviews (already commented at Dear Author). Rest assured, I will find you at the RWA National Convention, buy you a cup of tea, and lather you with well-deserved compliments!

Thanks, Diane, for the interview! I’ll also track you down at RWA …

Kim in Hawaii
12 years ago

Oops, I’m the anonymous comment above!

Valerie L.
Valerie L.
12 years ago

Right now I’m reading Heyer’s The Convenient Marriage, and I think the perfect follow up to that would be “Heyer after a few drinks”! So, I’m going to make this my first bookdepository order and pour myself an drink (or two) and enjoy it. Thanks for a great interview, and thanks to Jane Austen for letting me know this was here…I’m the marriage of convenience loving friend she mentioned.

Janet Mullany
12 years ago

Back again (I’m now in a coffee shop with the laptop) and amazed at the networking that’s going on here! Glad to see JA lured you here, Valerie.

Kim! Kim in Hawaii! So that was/is you. Kim confessed at DearAuthor to having made a pity buy of Rules (hey, I’m not proud. I’ll take a pity sale over a non sale any day).

Virginia, my h/h marry in about chapter 5 and a lot of the book is about them learning to get to know each other and falling in love as husband and wife. I find that writing and research go hand in hand–for instance, quite often my research will lead to an idea for a book or a detail in one. I have a description of the heroine dressing for a ball that I wrote shortly after attending a workshop on Regency hair styles and getting the chance to touch some silver and gilt hair combs from the era. Hope that answers your question, too, Maureen–the heroine does actually undergo a makeover at the hands of her sister-in-law, a very fashionable lady. It’s a mixed success.

Hi Jane George!

12 years ago

Regency tropes:
Wastrel father
Wastrel brother
Stern grandfather
Missing heir!
Sensible, less-attractive heroines with flighty, attractive younger sisters
Friendly butlers
Falling into rivers/ ponds/ mud
Heroine knows about herbs
Heroine oil paints
Wounded veteran
Hero murdered his wife, oh, but no, he didn’t!
Nobody ever gets pregnant when they’re not supposed to.

12 years ago

I love Georgette Heyer. I am thrilled that Janet reminds you of her. I can’t wait to read Janet’s books!

sphinxcw at aol dot com

Amanda McCabe
12 years ago

LOL–I love that, Heyer after a few drinks. 🙂 It sounds wonderfully funny, and I can’t wait to read it (after I finish reading these contest books, ugh…)

Barbara E.
12 years ago

Georgette Heyer was one of the first romance authors I read, so I’m sure I’d enjoy Improper Relations. I’ll definitely have to look out for the book, glad to know that Book Depository has it.

12 years ago

My favorite seem to be the variations on the hero and heroine caught in a mildly compromising situation that was really an accident, and having to get married and get to know one another along the way. This sounds like it could be very similar, and looks like a fun read.

Janet Mullany
12 years ago

Dropping in late to see what was happening while I was at my local RWA chapter meeting–

Lorraine, I love the list, and thanks–I’ll know what to include in the next book. Sphinx, Barbara and J, thanks so much for visiting.

Amanda, I was in Borders the other day and your book was on the new releases table and really stood out with that gorgeous cover!

12 years ago

I like the idea of a relationship between women driving the plot – in a sense that’s part of the structure of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ as well!

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