Megan and Amanda Dish About Muses

This Sunday, Megan interviews Amanda about her new series, “The Muses of Mayfair”! The first book, To Catch a Rogue, is on shelves next week. Comment here for a chance to win a signed copy….

Megan: Amanda, congrats on your new series! Tell us about the Chase Muses.

Amanda: Well, when I started writing these books I wondered if I was setting myself up for some kind of karmic fail naming the Chase sisters after actual Muses! What if I angered them and they deserted me? But it turned out I loved spending so much time with this family and seeing where their romances took them. Each of the couples was very different from each other, and it intrigued me to see what they would do next!

I never had a sister, just one younger brother, and I always kind of wanted one. Until I got a little older and one of my best friends in high school was the middle of three sisters. I would go to her house after school sometimes to eat potato chips and watch Days of Our Lives, and I would see what happened behind closed doors–screaming fights, hair-pulling, illegal clothes borrowing, phone call eavesdropping. It made me glad I didn’t have sister after all! But it did give me a bit of insight into how family dynamics might work with 3 intelligent, strong-willed, very different but also loving sisters. (A lot of the “I can bully my sister as much as I want, but God help anyone else who does!” sort of thing).

I’ve also had a lifelong love of archaeology and ancient myths, ever since I was a little kid and my parents had a big book full of gorgeous pictures of various sites around the world (Crete, Lascaux, Newgrange, Viking ship burials, stuff like that). I spent hours looking at those photos in fascination. I even became convinced we had Viking treasure buried in our back-yard (why Viking, I have no idea) and dug up some newly laid sod in my own little archaeological dig. I think my dad is still mad about that. I was reminded of all that when I read a book a few years ago called The Medici Conspiracy about modern antiquities theft, which is an enormous problem of great concern for anyone who cares about history. I decided to blend these two loves–antiquities and family dynamics–with my love of the Regency period, which also had a fascination with the classicial world. The 3 Chase sisters–Calliope, Clio, and Thalia–are the daughters of a famous scholar and antiquarian who passed on his love of history to his children.

Megan: And what about this story, To Catch a Rogue?

Amanda: This is Calliope’s story! She’s the oldest of the Muses, and like the “real” Calliope (“chief of the Muses”) she feels like she has to take care of her siblings and keep things in order. She has definite opinions about how things should be! But events are going to turn all that order upside-down for poor Cal. Here is the back cover copy:

When antiquities begin to go missing from London drawing rooms Miss Calliope Chase sets out to restore order. The famous Lily Thief must be a well-connected member of the Ton. And she doesn’t need to look much further than Cameron de Vere, Earl of Westwood, for a suspect.

What she doesn’t realize is that her determined pursuit of a criminal is beginning to look like a budding romance. Until Cameron kisses her, and her ordered life is thrown into appalling confusion!

So the tale moves from the glittering London ballrooms to Gothic castles and moors in Yorkshire–and Calliope realizes that Cameron, and the Lily Thief, aren’t at all what she expected.

Megan: You have written the most delightful heroine in Calliope! Organized, intelligent, studious–only to find herself flummoxed by the Apollo-come-to-life hero, the Earl of Westwood. Knowing you, it’s probably a better question to ask what parts of Calliope aren’t you?

Amanda: LOL! Well, I wish I was more organized–my desk tends to take on a life of its own and swallow papers and pens whole. And I wish I had her wardrobe and nice, shiny hair. But I did put quite a bit of myself into Calliope (unlike Thalia, who is more what I wish I was). She’s stubborn, bookish, protective of people she cares about–and easily flummoxed by a handsome face. 🙂

Megan: And what was Calliope missing in her life before Cameron?

Amanda: Fun, for one thing! She’s always so busy studying and getting her wild family organized she forgets that it’s okay to enjoy life once in a while, to be silly and laugh. She’s also missing someone who really understands her, as Cameron does. He sees things about her she doesn’t even know about herself until it’s almost too late. I do enjoy stories where a straitlaced character is forced to loosen up by another who is more fun-loving (like the movie Bringing Up Baby, which I love!), but it turned out Cameron has a dark side, too, and a troubled heart he keeps hidden from the world–until Calliope.

Megan: It seems as though Calliope and Cameron fell in love through dialogue. Their conversation is so charged, and you’ve written great repartee. What’s your inspiration?

Amanda: Thank you so much!!! I do love writing dialogue and imagining the characters talking in my head (sometimes I say it all out loud in the car as I drive, trying to figure out what they’ll say next). Dialogue seems even more important in a Regency setting like this than in a Renaissance or Elizabethan story. It has to move the characters toward the physical encounter they’re aching to have! Like I said, I love old screwball comedies from the 1930s, like The Awful Truth and The Lady Eve, where Irene Dunne and Cary Grant (or Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant, or Barbara Stanwyck and anyone, or Nick and Nora Charles) have the wittiest, crispest dialogue, even in the midst of absurd scenes. And they also have great clothes and fabulous nightclubs. They really have a lot in common with Regencies, if you think about it. I pictured the Chase sisters and their heroes as something like sophisticated, elegant screwball comedy characters who are knocked upside the head by true love.

Also there’s the love of Jane Austen and Edith Wharton! There’s no better teacher for “falling in love through dialogue” than them.

Megan: Did you find any interesting items when researching these stories?

Amanda: Oodles! I had to read about a wide variety of topics for these books. They’re set in very different places (London and Yorkshire, Sicily, and Bath) and involve ancient artworks (especially the alabaster statue of Diana that features in Rogue and the silver altar set that appears in To Deceive a Duke and To Kiss a Count), archaeological methods of the Regency period, clothes, theater, music, geography, history of the Italian freedom movement–all sorts of things. It was lots of fun, but also hard to keep straight at times (I could have used Calliope’s organizational help!).

Here at my website
I have some more info on the history of the stories, as well as some sources I used (and an excerpt from the book).

Megan: Who did you picture when you were writing Calliope and Cameron?

Amanda: It took me a while to find just the right models for them! It turned out Cameron was something like a young Christian Bale, and Calliope looked a bit like Nina Dobrev from The Vampire Diaries (another guilty pleasure of mine!)–long, straight dark hair, dark eyes, doesn’t smile easily. I had a couple of CDs I listened to a lot while working on this book too–The Jane Austen Companion and an interesting piece called Musique de la Grece Antique, a recreation of a rare musical fragment that survives from ancient Rome (which features in a scene of the book).

Megan: What’s “risky” about this story?

Amanda: Well, usually my settings are somewhat “risky” but not this time! We’re in Regency England, but the milieu of the characters is a bit risky. They’re part of an intellectual, artistic crowd, but one that’s suddenly faced with crime and violence and they have to learn to deal with that while being true to themselves.

Megan: And which sister is next for you?

Amanda: Clio’s story is next, To Deceive a Duke (out in May!). We meet the Duke of Averton, Clio’s great adversary, in Rogue, but like so many other things in this world he is not what he appears to be. When they meet again in sunny, mysterious Sicily, they have to learn to work together even as they try not to admit what everyone else can see–that they’re totally hot for each other. The prequel story, To Bed a Libertine, where we first meet the Chases, is still available through Harlequin Historical Undone, too!

What were your childhood obsessions? What are some of your favorite aspects of a Regency setting, or some favorite movie couples? Comment for a chance to win a signed copy of To Catch a Rogue!

About Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Writer (as Amanda McCabe, Laurel McKee, Amanda Carmack), history geek, yoga enthusiast, pet owner!
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20 Responses to Megan and Amanda Dish About Muses

  1. Thank you, Megan and Amanda, for the fun post!

    When I was a child, King Tut made his first tour of the US. Thereafter, I became obsessed with Egyptology. 20 years later, I traveled with several teachers to Luxor for a Nile River cruise. I was just fascinated with the ancient temples along the Nile River. But nothing could prepare me for the Ramses’ Temples at Abu Simbel. (a four-hour bus ride through the desert). More amazing is the fact that the UN cut the temples out of a mountain, relocated them to the top of the mountain, and built a mountain around it to recreate the setting. Why did the UN spend $40 million for this project? Egypt was building the Aswan Dam, which would flood the Nubian plain where the Ramses’ temples sat 3500 years. In appreciation for the UN’s support, Egypt gave smaller temples that would have been flooded to the countries that lead this archeology feat – I have visited them in New York, London, and Madrid. I can easily see why the Regency period became fascinated with Egyptology after Nelson defeated the French Navy in the Battle of the Nile.

    Looking forward to reading about the Muses!

  2. Kirsten says:

    As a young child I was obsessed with Alice in Wonderland. I had been sick for a while, was it measles? I don’t know for sure. Anyway… my mother gave me a copy of the book to cheer me up. And boy did that work! I read it almost in one go and read it again and again right after that. I dreamed of being Alice and the minute I was better and allowed back out in the yard. I started to pretend that the adorable rabbit with his pocket watch was running through the garden. I followed him round and made up many more fun adventures we had together. It became a game I often played. The storybook has always kept a special place in my mind and is part of my much loved childhood memories. So now that the Tim Burton movie came out I was (one of) the first to go and see it. It was a great experience but in my heart my own “versions” of Alice and her adventures still come first place.

  3. What fun! I know just what you mean about older movies; People Will Talk with Cary Grant is a favorite of mine. I’ve watched it countless times because of the wonderful dialogue. To Catch a Rogue will definitely go on my TBR list.

  4. Virginia C says:

    Thank you for a very enjoyable post! Thanks also for the “Nick and Nora” photo of Myrna Loy and William Powell. I love the “Thin Man” movies! William Powell is one of the funniest people to ever grace the movie screen, and Myrna Loy was his perfect mate. She was tall, elegant, beautiful, with crystal blue eyes and she was equally intelligent and sexy! She verbally skewered him at every opportunity, and she could stop him in his tracks with just a look! Boy, did he look! He admired and desired her! The more she teased, the more he wanted to please!

    Cary Grant was never less than terrific! He made wonderful movies with great dialogue and sizzling chemistry with both Katherine Hepburn and Irene Dunne. Of course “Kate the Great” had her absolute screen mate and life mate in Spencer Tracy.

    Those wonderful black and white romantic screwball comedies feature fully-fleshed characters, wonderfully detailed stories, and delicious dialogue. Exactly the elements found in wonderful regency romance : )

    gcwhiskas at aol dot com

  5. cara elliott says:

    Great interview, Amanda and Megan! I adore the old screwball comedies too. Bring Up Baby is one of my all-time favorites, and The Philadelphia Story too, with its blend of humor and a slightly darker side.

    Cray Grant and anyone—but especially Katherine Hepburn—is right up there with favorite movie couples. Scintillating dialogue, great characters, elegance clothes . . . the classics from the ’30s and ’40s really tell wonderful stories.

    As do you! And meg congrats on your RITA nomination. That’s SO awesome!

  6. Kirsten, I loved “Alice” when I was a kid, too! I loved the thought that a person could fall into a different, weird world where nothing really made sense and anything could happen (plus I liked her blue dress and pinafore, too!). In a linguistics class in college I wrote a paper about all the twisty things Lewis Carroll did with words in that story and the way it “made” the atmosphere of Wonderland. I enjoyed the Burton movie, especially the aesthetics, but I felt like he really needed to pay more attention to the plot as well.

    Kim, that archaeological book I found as a kid prominently featured Abu Simbel, which I found fascinating! I would love to take a trip like yours someday…

  7. My very favorite ’30s comedy is “The Awful Truth” with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne as a couple who impulsively decide to divorce then have to realize they still love each other! The scene where Grant thinks he’s busting in on Dunne and her “lover” and ends up falling over a table and landing on his butt in front of a whole party of people is priceless, as is the way Dunne giggles when she sees him there. She is really an under-rated actress. 🙂

  8. jcp says:

    I was obessed with pioner stuff after reading “The Little House on the Prairie” series

  9. Alison says:

    I find the fascination with the ancient world fascinating – the idea that there was a time when men and art were perfect. And even if you made a perfect replica of something it wouldn’t be authentic because the fourth dimension – time – is wrong. I suppose it’s the way that films from the past showing an older past are always of their time. I believe that’s how some forgeries have been discovered – a later generation realises it screams ‘1840s’ even though the 1840s thought it was original.

  10. I do love those screwball comedies. Movies like Desk Set, Bringing Up Baby, The Philadelphia Story all have such sparkling wit and sparkling settings and clothing. Very much like the Regency period. I think I love the idea of a time when conversation was thought of as an art. Grace, elegance and wit – you just can’t beat that combination.

    I saw the King Tut exhibit as a child when I lived in England. Saw it at the British Museum which was just a feast for the eyes and imagination of a ten year old girl.

    I think Egypt is so fascinating to us because of the wonderful monuments that have stood the test of time and the intricate mythology that created those monuments.

    I was obsessed with the study of herpetology for years and even had a large collection of reptiles as pets – snakes, lizards, tortoises. Once the last of them passed away (a thirteen foot, 100 pound python) I didn’t acquire more as they can be quite time consuming. I have however maintained my herpetology library and my fascination with this much misunderstand and maligned creatures.

  11. Virginia says:

    Great post! When I was a kid I was obsessed with Elvis, I thought he was awesome! Also Barbie Dolls, they went everywhere with me! I thought when I grew up I would take my Barbie and move in with Elvis, thats just like a kid, big dreams!

  12. Jane says:

    Congrats on the upcoming release, Amanda. I’m a fan of the Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire romantic comedies. I love the mistaken identity plots and the of course the dancing.

  13. Diane Gaston says:

    How about Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in In Happened One Night? Tracy and Hepburn in Adam’s Rib and Woman of the Year. And all the others mentioned.

    My childhood obsessions? Several different TV stars and Paul McCartney….Nothing so admirable as Viking treasure.

    Amanda, your imagination amazes me. This series promises to be terrific fun.

  14. Jane Austen says:

    Amanda, just wanted to give a testimony….I’ve read this book. In fact I won an autographed copy already and it is WONDERFUL. I absolutely loved it and think everyone should read it. Her research with antiquities theft was good and I should know since I plan on studying it in grad school next fall. If you don’t win the book please go out and buy it. You will not be disappointed except for the fact the next book isn’t out right away and you’ll have to wait for it.

    Great job Amanda!!!

  15. Thank you so much, JA! You heard her everyone–go out and buy it. 🙂 Seriously, it really means a lot to me that someone who has read it recommends it so highly, especially the research. 🙂

    Diane, I love It Happened One Night! The way hidden aspects of the characters are revealed as they travel together is wonderful, and the ending so romantic. I’d love to write a road romance one day soon!

  16. Alison, that is so true. I recently caught an old bio-pic about the Brontes on TV, and it was so very, very 1940s, complete with curled, immovable hair. I love not only the antiquities and classical history, but the Regency attitudes towards them

  17. Amanda, congratulations on the release. I am in awe of your productivity and creativity!

    Childhood obsessions … horses, Sherlock Holmes, more horses…

  18. Aren’t all girls obsessed with horses? 🙂

  19. librarypat says:

    Like you, I had a fascination with ancient history – Egypt, Pompeii, Vikings, the Etruscans, India, The Mayans, Incas, and Aztecs. My other favorites were music (classical, show tunes, rock & roll, and jazz) and science. I lived in the library on weekends reading. I was never a fan of history as history, more archeology.

    As for the Regency setting, I think the strict social rules people were supposed to follow are interesting. The formality of the upper class in their social interactions gave an order to their lives probably giving them a sense of place.

    I like Audrey Hepburn and most any leading man they teamed her up with. Cary Grant i just perfect.

    I look forward to reading this series.

    librarypat AT comcast DOT net

  20. Cynthia says:

    To tell you the truth, I haven’t read any books by this author but I am very much looking forward to reading this book. Hopefully, I will want to keep reading the rest.

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