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.
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. đź™‚
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!