Risky Regencies

Cara Elliott Sunday!


The Riskies are happy to welcome Cara Elliott (aka Andrea Pickens) to the blog to talk about her “debut” series! Comment for a chance to win a copy of To Sin With a Scoundrel

An enjoyable romance peopled with charming characters that demonstrate her strong storytelling gift! –RT Book Reviews

Riskies: Welcome back, Andrea! Tell us about To Sin With a Scoundrel and your new series as Cara Elliott!

Cara: The Circle of Sin trilogy, which marks my debut as Cara Elliott, centers around a small group of female scholars who meet each week to share their knowledge–and their friendship. The 3 heroines of the trilogy, Ciara, Alessandra, and Kate, are beautiful and brainy. And they each have a scandalous secret…

The 3 stories are all about past deceptions, dark secrets, and hidden passions. Each of the heroines must draw on her own cleverness and courage–as well as help from a sinfully sexy rogue–when a past sin stirs up a mix of deadly intrigue and dangerous desires.

To Sin With a Scoundrel, the first book in the series, features Lady Ciara Sheffield, a reclusive widow. Because of her expertise in chemistry, she’s been shadowed by rumors that she poisoned her late husband. When his relatives try to gain custody of her young son and his inheritance, her friends decide she needs a rich and influential fiance to help quell any scandal. The rakish Earl of Hadley doesn’t seem to be an ideal choice. A fun-loving, hell-raising devil he is her exact opposite–but in science there’s the old adage “opposites attract”…

Riskies: What was the inspiration for the stories, and what kind of research did you do? Did you base your scientific circle on real women of the Regency era?

Cara: The inspiration for the series came a few years ago when I saw a couple of exhbits on women of the Romantic era. They showcased a wonderful array of real-life females, from scientists and writers to artists and explorers. Their stories and accomplishments were truly amazing, and it brought home to me how much courage and conviction these women had to dare to defy the conventions of their time in order to pursue their passions.

For example, there was Mary Shelley, who eloped to Europe at 16 with married poet Percy Shelley–and then went on to become a famous writer of her own. And then there was Augusta Ada Byron, Countess Lovelace, daughter of Byron, who was a mathematical genius. She survived an abusive childhood and went on to work with Charles Babbage, helping to develop the precursor to the modern computer.

So I knew right then that I wanted to write a series that celebrated the spirit of these smart, brave women.

But even though my heroines are smart, they don’t live in an ivory tower! There are some pretty steamy scenes in Scoundrel, but they certainly weren’t difficult to write. I just call in Johnny Depp or Orlando Bloom for a little rehearsal, and then it’s no problem at all! (Sometimes I have to settle for Daniel Craig, but what’s a girl to do?)

Riskies: What is “risky” about the book?

Cara: Well, I tend to write offbeat, unconventional heroines, maybe because I tended to be a tomboy as a child and was often chided to “act more like a normal young lady!” (To her credit, my mother was not one of those voices. She always encouraged my enthusiasms, whether they involved cutting out cardboard swords and crowns, or making bows and arrows, for which I am profoundly grateful). In any case, none of my heroines are demure, dainty demoiselles swathed in layers of satin and silk. They’re more the sort of women who don’t mind rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty, both physically and metaphorically. I enjoy creating characters who are both strong and vulnerable. To me, that dichotomy adds depth and texture to a story.

Riskies: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Cara: Oh, I always had stories bubbling around in my brain! I wrote my first book at age 5, a cowboy story with brightly colored drawings of horses and gunslingers. (Since I now write Regencies, I must have a thing for Men In Boots!). My other childhood memory of storytelling was a 5th grade English class. I had a wonderful teacher who gave us really interesting projects. One day he walked in with a sheaf of pictures cut out of magazines, and handed one to each of us. The assignment was to spend the next half-hour writing a short story based on the picture. Then we all had to show our picture and read our stories aloud. After class, as we were filing out to math or some other odious subject, he took me aside and said that he had been sitting in the back of the room, half listening to everyone as he corrected papers, but when I started to read he put his pen down. “You have a real talent for this,” he said with a pat on my shoulder.

So I’ve always had a vivid imagination…so much so that I think at times it worried my parents that I was so happy in my own little world, drawing, reading, playing with toy soldiers. My teachers would tell you that I was the class history geek, even in grade school. In high school, my interest in art sort of took over and steered me away from writing. I remained a voracious reader, and as a history minor in college I wrote reams of non-fiction essays, but storytelling got put on the back burner.

Then about 12 years ago the Muse started whispering in my ear again. I sharpened my pencil and opened a blank notebook–and despite the craziness of the publishing world I can’t imagine my life without writing!
Riskies: What’s next for you?

Cara: I’m working on a new trilogy for Grand Central, and I also have some historical mystery ideas taking shape….

And in June look for the second “Circle of Sin Book” To Surrender to a Rogue!
Riskies: You’re currently teaching a seminar on Regency romance at Yale! What’s that been like? What’s the reaction of your students to romance fiction? Has it had an effect on your own writing?

Cara: Teaching the seminar with Lauren Willig has been an amazing experience! Our students come to class each wekk with such interesting reactions to the book assignments. Their comments have been fresh, witty, unexpected, amusing, and it’s made me look at my own views from a whole new perspective. The dialogue and debate are exciting and inspiring.

We’ve been tracing the development of the Regency romance from Austen to the modern American practicioners, and we talk about such things as what makes a compelling hero and heroine, as well as plot tropes and the nature of love and romance. So in drafting the lesson plans for each week I’ve had to read (or re-read) the books not just for enjoyment but with a critical eye, looking at language, structure and characterization. I’ve learned a lot about writing, and I hope the students have too. I’ve really enjoyed every minute–but I have to say, I had forgotten how much work school is!

For more information on Cara’s books, and the syllabus and reading list of the class, you can visit her website! Comment for a chance to win a copy of To Sin With a Scoundrel

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Kim in Hawaii
12 years ago

Thanks, Amanda, for the interview.

I had the privilege of reviewing Cara’s ARC -a delight to read (my review is posted on Amazon and B/N) Fans of Andrea Pickens will be satisfied, too, with Cara.

I “discovered” Lady Ada Lovelace when I attended Computer Officer Training in the Air Force – DOD named its own interoperability program after her. She remains a role model for women today who still encounter the “good ole boy” network in today’s modern society.

Thanks, Cara, for taking the risk to give us unconventional heroines and delicious heroes!

Emmanuelle
12 years ago

Very interesting interview.
I was in 5th grade too when I had the chance to have a fantastic french teacher (I’m french). He probably was a book lover before being a teacher. While most of the time was supposed to be dedicated to grammar, spelling and such he loved to talk for hours about books and music and culture in general. Before 5th grade I hated reading books. His class was a real turning point for me. I wish there were more teacher like him or like the one you had.
Congrats on your release. I love strong heroines and it sounds like you do too !!!

cara elliott
12 years ago

Emmanuele, I totally agree that a special teacher can change your whole life by lighting a passion, be it for science, literature and any subject! We really need to encourage everyone to give education the respect it deserves!

cara elliott
12 years ago

Thanks for your lovely compliments, Kim. Ada really was an amazing woman—and there are so many like her throughout history who made similar contributions and rarely get recognized. I like to think that is changing.

Virginia C
12 years ago

Hi, Cara! Your new series is absolutely wonderful! I think that intelligence is a very sexy characteristic! The sexiest romantic scenario of all is a hero with enough sense to be captivated by the intelligence of the heroine! A romantic duel of hearts fueled by wit as well as want is fiery indeed!

gcwhiskas at aol dot com

Kirsten
12 years ago

Hi Cara!
I really enjoyed this interview. Your series sounds wonderful. 3 smart women who all have a secret… very intriguing. I would love to read your book. So please count me in. Thanks & take care, Kirsten

cara elliott
12 years ago

Thanks, Virginia C and Kirsten!

Virgina, glad you find that smart is sexy too!

Dawne Prochilo
12 years ago

I remember my first romance was a historical one- was hooked ever since…good luck with your writing.
Dawne

Caroline Storer
12 years ago

Hi Cara – great interview and your book sound lovely! Caroline x

jcp
jcp
12 years ago

My favorite heroines are usually the smart character. Congralations on your new alter ego and book.

Louisa Cornell
12 years ago

I am so excited to hear about this new series and your new persona! Love the books you’ve written as Andrea Pickens so I know I will love these as well.

I have always been intrigued by women who lived their lives outside of the box in the Regency and Victorian eras. It seems to me they had so much more to lose by being true to themselves and when they did it anyway the courage they showed is really an inspiration.

I was very fortunate in my life to have teachers who inspired and believed in me. My 6th grade teacher is the reason I had a career in opera, but he was also the reason I came to love history so very much, especially British history.

My third grade teacher loved the stories I wrote for her class and told me if there was a story in my head I had to write it down because stories are a gift and they’re meant to be shared. Never forgot that one.

Congratulations, Cara !! And many, many more books to come !

cara elliott
12 years ago

Louisa, thanks so much for the nice wrds. And huzzah for your teachers! They were so right to encourage you to follow your passions!

cara elliott
12 years ago

Thanks, Dawne, Caroline and jcp. I hope you enjoy the book!

Miranda Neville
12 years ago

Your whole series sounds quite fascinating, Cara. It’s a challenge with historicals to take women out of the ballrooms and give them something to do that sounds interesting to the twenty-first woman.

Of course there’s also the fantasy of doing nothing but dressing in gorgeous clothes and attending balls.

And I love men in boots too!

Amber S
Amber S
12 years ago

I love the idea for the trilogy and the premise for this book!

cara elliott
12 years ago

LO, Miranda. It would be nice to occasionally get out of my writing pajamas and into a fancy ballgown! Alas, ducal invitations have been few and far between. (Though I wouldn’t turn my nose up at an earl.) Ah, well, a girl can dream.

cara elliott
12 years ago

Thanks, Amber!

Alison
12 years ago

Sounds a fascinating series -looking forward to reading more.

Pam Rosenthal
12 years ago

Someday the whole reading world will understand how important smart women are in our genre.

But thanks, in the meanwhile, for doing your part to bring this into the light of day, Cara.

cheripye
12 years ago

This sounds like such an interesting read! I love the regency romance books and am always looking for something different and LOL! to the tomboy thing. Ok coming from a girly tom boy, I climbed trees in a skirt and mary janes, (with shorts underneath) LOL! I appreciate the stronger heroine. No sugar and satin for my ladies.

I cant wait to get my hands on this trilogy, it sounds like enough to keep thoroughly entranced. I am a huge history fan, specifically regency through Victorian era.

Congratulations

Virginia
12 years ago

Great interview Cara and congrats on your new release! I have been seeing your book around lately and I would love to read it. It sounds really good and I love historicals.

lead[at]hotsheet[dot]com

cara elliott
12 years ago

Cheripye, what very chic tree climbing attire! You were WAY more stylish than I was! Hope you enjoy the book

Diane Gaston
12 years ago

Hey, Cara! It’s great to have you here…for the first time…again. I have To Sin With A Scoundrel waiting for me on my Kindle.

Funny, I have no memories of anyone encouraging my writing as a child, not to say they didn’t. I never thought of myself as being a writer. When I was well into my career as a mental health social worker, my supervisor once told me that my social histories read like novels.

Jane Austen
12 years ago

Cara, your books sound wonderful. I am always attracted to smart women as leads in my books. I think it’s because it’s one of the main things I have going for me. I’m pretty sure my parents raised me to be an academic (I’m a librarian) because they made sure I was given extra homework as a child…I event went to morning and afternoon kindergarten before all day kindergarten was cool. Your story about your cowboy story reminded me about my first research paper which I wrote when I was six. It was about how the black crayon was the superior crayon in the Crayola Crayon Box. My empirical evidence was it was the only crayon that could color over every crayon and you could not see the original crayon color. I still have it just like I have my research papers from my childhood, junior, senior high and college. All except my paper on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade which I lost in a fire.

Congrats on the book and on the class at Yale. I can’t wait to read the book.

Anne Gracie
12 years ago

Congratulations Cara/Andrea on the launch of this new branch of your career — may it blossom wonderfully. It’s very exciting and I’m waiting for my first Cara Elliott’s book to arrive in the mail, hoping it will get here before I leave for my writing retreat next week.

I, too was never once encouraged to think of writing stories, though I was a noted bookworm (and tomboy) and was always getting into trouble in school for being too creative with my essays. Creative writing wasn’t even an option at my university — all we did in English Lit was write literary critiques. It wasn’t until someone I actually knew got published that it occurred to me that books didn’t fall from the sky , dropped by benevolent and wondrous beings. LOL.

Janet Mullany
12 years ago

Andrea/Cara–it’s great to have you here today! I like the sound of your smart heroines. Are they all titled? I can see that although that being members of the aristocracy would give them power and influence they might also feel pressured by family, and more so than a commoner who might well have to think of earning a living.

mariska
12 years ago

Hi Cara,
I’ve been trying to get my luck to have your book. *wish me luck* 🙂

Amanda McCabe
12 years ago

Hello Cara and everyone! It’s been a busy weekend so I am late popping in here today, but I can say whoever our winner is will have a great reading treat! 🙂

cara elliott
12 years ago

Good luck, Mariska!

cara elliott
12 years ago

Thanks, Anne and janet!

Janet, All of my heroines have connections to titled families, as I felt it was a little more realistic that a well-born woman would have access to the sort of education/books that would allow her to become a serious scholar. But in my research I have found some women who rose from very humble backgrounds—maybe in a future book I will feature someone like them!

cara elliott
12 years ago

Jane, I love that you’ve kept your old stories! How fun. And kudos to your parents for encouraging your interest in academics. Love of learning is a real gift for a lifetime.

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