Regency Silk & Scandals!

Today at the Riskies we welcome not one but six Harlequin Historicals authors to talk about their new miniseries “Regency Silk & Scandal”! They have so much to say on the creation of these books that they’ll be with us two days, today and tomorrow, and they’ll be giving away some great prizes–two copies of The Lord and the Wayward Lady and one early copy of The Smuggler and the Society Bride


Three friends and rival spymasters, two scandalous affairs, one murder, and an innocent man hanged on the testimony of his best friend set the stage for the next generation to try to solve the mystery of the murder and redeem lives shattered by disgrace.

Series, miniseries, continuities…by whatever name, these linked stories are perennially popular with readers.Those not written by a single author, however, are generally contemporaries and generally created by an editorial team who determine an overall story arc, individual plots and continuing characters, then contract authors to write the designated stories.

The REGENCY SILK & SCANDAL miniseries, which began this month from Harlequin Historical/Mills & Boon with Louise Allen’s THE LORD AND THE WAYWARD LADY, is quite different. First, the stories are set in Regency rather than modern times. Instead of having editors predetermine the significant factors, the six-author team was given free rein to develop the story arc, invent the recurring characters and determine the plot for each of the eight books, then each author picked which story she wanted to write.

The creation of SILK & SCANDAL was an adventure that lead to a Yahoo group currently clocked in at over 3000 e-mails, spreadsheets presenting family trees, detailed timelines, and a “bible” created and maintained by author Annie Burrows that logged weekly all the significant facts developed about the recurring characters as the authors simultaneously wrote their stories.

With six authors, even simple replies get lengthy, so we’re dividing this post into two segments. Today, the authors will talk about the process of writing the continuity; tomorrow’s post will focus on how they developed characters when some were members of the miniseries families and some were not.

Part 1: What were the best and worst things about writing this continuity?

The opportunity to help create something on a much wider canvas than usual was the first positive that struck me – and despite the difficulty of trying to keep it all straight, that remained enormously satisfying.

What was a worry at first, and then rapidly turned into an absolute joy, was getting to know the other continuistas. The stimulus of working with five other very creative writers, all with a different style and approach and yet all willing to work together to a common end was great and it is such a satisfying way to acquire five wonderful new friends.

The worst thing was realising I was writing the first book and the terror – usually at 3am – that I wouldn’t get this off to a coherent, let alone readable, start. It did get less worrying as time went on though!

Then there was the anxiety that I had done something that would have an effect on other books in the continuity – perhaps developing a character, who was minor in my stories but major in someone else’s, in the wrong direction and not realising this would create a problem that would have serious consequences later on. This didn’t happen, thank goodness, because we all tried very hard to keep checking and Annie Burrows kept a vast file of every email decision or comment.

Christine Merrill, author of Book 2, PAYING THE VIRGIN’S PRICE and Book 8, TAKEN BY THE WICKED RAKE:
This will be tricky, because it sounds like shameless pandering to say that there was no “worst thing.” Unless I count the absolute terror I felt at the beginning, when we didn’t know each other, and had absolutely nothing to start with. I felt pretty dry of ideas at that point, and very intimidated to be working in such a talented group.

But the worst thing turned out to be the best thing, when I began to enjoy the freedom of it, and the creative rush of new ideas, as the story started to develop. By that time, we weren’t strangers any more. More like a tight knit group of friends. Then it became more like playing than working.

Julia Justiss, author of Book 3, THE SMUGGLER AND THE SOCIETY BRIDE:
For The Best, What Louise and Chris Said! With the scope of eight books, we wanted to write about a wide variety of characters, and so came up with the idea of three aristocratic families rocked by a scandal that sees one family remain at the top of the ton, members of a second slip down into the middle reaches, and those of the third, whose father is convicted of treason, cast out altogether and scattered to the four winds. So among our heroes and heroines we have viscounts and governesses, paid companions and thief-takers, Diamonds of the Ton and milliners.

My greatest hope? That the series will do well enough that the editors will consider commissioning other projects like this in future.

The absolute best? Having five other authors with whom to brainstorm, revise and commiserate!

The worst? Worrying that I wouldn’t finish on time, or that my book wouldn’t rise to the high standard of the others.

From Gayle Wilson, author of Book 4, CLAIMING THE FORBIDDEN BRIDE:
The most difficult thing for me in writing was plunging back into the Regency world after six years of exclusively writing romantic suspense. Although early in my career I easily switched back and forth between these two disparate genres, I hadn’t done that in quite a while. Knowing how knowledgeable Regency readers are, I was also apprehensive that I might make some glaring historical error or not be able to find my “Regency voice” again.

As it turned out, those fears were allayed somewhat by the discovery that I would be writing with a group of Regency pros who were more than willing to share both their expertise and their resources.I’m sure I made some of those period mistakes I had dreaded, but if so, that was only because I didn’t ask my fellow authors the right questions. Their creative generosity, their endless patience, their enthusiasm for this project, and their friendship was, in the end, the very best part of this experience for me.

From Annie Burrows, author of Book 5, THE VISCOUNT AND THE VIRGIN:
I hate to sound unoriginal, but the best thing was, without doubt, getting to know the other authors. At first I felt a bit shy about working alongside writers whose books I have on my shelves. But they were all so open and friendly that I soon began to look forward to logging into my inbox each day, and bouncing ideas around with them all.

Worst thing? The sheer volume of work required. We all had to keep the plots, characters, and timings of seven other stories clear in our heads whilst creating our own individual stories, with no editorial “bible”to guide us.

Before long, I started to record joint decisions as we made them, so I could keep things straight in my head. And before much longer, someone else owned up to having trouble remembering exactly what we’d agreed, after all the to-ing and fro-ing of ideas that went on, so I volunteered to upload the weekly progress to a file in our Yahoo group. There went my Friday nights.

From Margaret McPhee, author of Book 6, UNLACING THE INNOCENT MISS:
The best was the experience of working with the other continuistas; it was both interesting and inspirational to discover the ways other authors work. I’ve really learned so much from these lovely and generous ladies.

The worst was, like Julia, the two-fold worry that: I wouldn’t finish on time and b) my book wouldn’t meet the series’ high standard.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part II of our interview!

About Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Writer (as Amanda McCabe, Laurel McKee, Amanda Carmack), history geek, yoga enthusiast, pet owner!
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Barbara E.
12 years ago

I enjoy series written by multiple authors, but I’ve never read a Regency series like this before, so I’m looking forward to it.

Diane Gaston
12 years ago

Wow! What a party at Risky Regencies. A Regency House party, lasting two days!

Barbara, I, too, am looking forward to this! What an opportunity for the authors and for Harlequin Historical!

12 years ago

I’ve never read a series like this before. I look forward to the experience.

12 years ago

This series seems awesome and the covers are beautiful too. Have read some anthologies that had connecting stories and they were great so this series sounds promising.

Lesley-Anne McLeod
12 years ago

Congratulations on your six book miniseries! What an undertaking; it’s difficult enough to keep the characters and plots of a one-author, three-book trilogy in mind–this is an impressive piece of work. I’m looking forward to reading it!

Louise Allen
Louise Allen
12 years ago

I don’t think there has been anything qute like this one, Kat!
I’m just back from London, retracing my heroine Nell’s footsteps through the City of London today. Such a thrill!

Julia Justiss
12 years ago

Barbara and Kat, Mills & Boon did a Regency continuity a few years back, before Harlequin Historicals were edited out of London, and I don’t think the series ever appeared in North America. So it is pretty unique.

Diane, it was a great opportunity. Usually writing is such a solitary pursuit. It was great fun having five other co-conspirators to consult with and bounce ideas off. I’m hoping the miniseries does well enough that TPTB will decide to do more of them…and that they will give any future team the same creative freedom we were given.

Kirsten, the covers ARE awesome! We’ve seen pretty-much-final versions of all of them except the last, though they are only “official” for up to Book 4. Wait until you see Annie Burrow’s for The Viscount and the Virgin–the h/h embracing, tangled together on purple satin sheets! Wooee, that is HOT! Margaret’s Unlacing the Innocent Miss is being unlaced. And Louise’s Officer is being helped out of his lovely uniform by an obviously not-so-Proper Lady (reminiscent of Diane’s great cover.)

The series is coming out in the UK at the same time, but the covers are entirely different. M&B does alot of Regency “set” books, with two or more stories in them, which apparently are very popular, so the UK covers emphasize the Regency Silk & Scandal miniseries name, with author names and titles smaller. All the covers are the same background, with the markings in shiny gold. Pretty, but very different.

Lesley Anne, I haven’t had a chance to read all the books yet (did just finish Book 2!) but I think we did a really good job keeping characters consistent over the course of the miniseries. For which we authors owe a great deal to Annie for keeping our “bible” of character development and Louise for her family trees and miniseries story time lines.

It’s funny; Chris Merrill said after reading Book 1 that she was so anxious to read Book 2 again. Even though it was her book and she’d crafted every line in it, somehow it was different when it’s read as part of something larger.

Most of us are going to read each book as it comes out and then go back and read the whole series again. Only Louise (who was wise enough to order the books as sets when they were offered on the M&B website, briefly, before selling out) has read them all. (The rest of us pout about that, but she’s so much fun and so helpful we can’t stay mad.)

Can you tell how enthusiastic I am about this project?

Julia Justiss
12 years ago

Hi, Louise!

We NA authors are also jealous because Louise does such fab research trips. Liking walking the battlefield of Waterloo before writing her Officer and Proper Lady, which takes place there. But she takes wonderful pics and is kind enough to share. I’d love to move to England and be her research assistant, tho!

Susanna Fraser
12 years ago

This sounds like a fascinating series, and I’m so impressed that you pulled it off with such a large group of authors! I’m not sure I could cooperate on that level with ONE other writer, let alone five!

Julia Justiss
12 years ago

But Susanna, we are all so reasonable and easy to get along with! Seriously, I think many of us worried at first that there might be personality conflicts or problems over characters. I’ve heard horror stories from contemp writers who’ve done continuities and had to deal with fellow authors who were bull-headed and refused to compromise, or worse, went off their own way merrily writing what they felt like with no regard to how that story would impact the character in future books–a real problem as the books are usually written concurrently.

That’s one of the things that made this miniseries such a joy: we experienced all the creative inspiration of working with fellow writers without any of the problems. Maybe a miracle? I don’t know, but I do know it was probably my favorite writing experience ever!

Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Jumping in late here after a busy day, but I have to say I’m quite in awe of such a feat of cooperation! Can’t wait to read the results 🙂

12 years ago

I see some old friends in this group of authors. I still have a stack of early books from Julia Justiss and Gayle Wilson, and some by Louisa Allen. The other authors are new to me, but I am sure I will enjoy them all.
I have read several series written this way and enjoyed them. The variety of writing styles adds to the series.

Louise Allen
Louise Allen
12 years ago

It was fascinating to read the whole set – which I did, one after the other as though it was one big book – and to experience the different styles and “voices” each picking up the threads in turn, weaving them in and then passing them on (with some tangles and loose ends for the next continuista to catch hold of!). The differences really give it an extra dimension, I think. But the characterisation holds true right through,IMO, which is pretty amazing!The books can be read as stand-alone titles,of course – but having the whole set adds another dimension

Louisa Cornell
12 years ago

I envy you Louise, getting to read them all back to back and I may just have to do that myself. Do you thing Harlequin will do this again?

Julia Justiss
12 years ago

Louisa, I don’t know if Harlequin Historical will do other projects like Regency Silk & Scandal in future; we sure hope so, because we had such fun working on it. I suppose it depends on how well the series sells. (So if you read some of the books and like them, please spread the word to your reading friends!)

As fascinating as it was to help write the series, I think it would be equally intriguing to read one, so I’m very hopeful they may do others in future.

12 years ago

I am looking forward to this series – I read the previous continuity which had sixteen stories – that was a bit much to keep track of, so eight should be about right!

11 years ago

Just finished the complete series and all I have to say is outstanding, wonderful and to the writers “BRAVO!” I truly enjoyed each book in the series and will rad them again.

Stevie D
11 years ago

Just finished the complete series and all I have to say is outstanding, wonderful and to the writers “BRAVO!” I truly enjoyed each book in the series and will rad them again.