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Susanna Fraser Returns with A Marriage of Inconvenience

Everyone, welcome back our Risky friend, Susanna Fraser, who has been a faithful commenter on Risky Regencies even before her acclaimed debut, The Sergeant’s Lady, was released by Carina Press. Today, however, Susanna is here to talk about her exciting second book, A Marriage of Inconvenience.

“…this was a very enjoyable, mildly angsty romance with just a tiny hint of kink.”

The Romanceaholic

“it’s steamy and defiantly gives you the chills with how much detail is given. James is very much the tall dark and handsome man that you want to read about.”

1. Tell us about A Marriage of Inconvenience. Is it connected to The Sergeant’s Lady (which I loved!)?

Yes, it’s a prequel. The hero, James, is the brother of Anna, the heroine of The Sergeant’s Lady, and the heroine, Lucy, is a poor relation of Sebastian, Anna’s first husband.

Lucy Jones is a nobody. As an orphan she was reluctantly taken in by her wealthy relatives, the Arringtons, on the condition that she be silent and obedient, always. When her lifelong infatuation with her cousin Sebastian is rewarded by a proposal of marriage, she’s happy and grateful, even though the family finds excuses to keep the engagement a secret.

James Wright-Gordon has always had the benefits of money and a high station in society, but he is no snob. He’s very close to his sister, Anna, who quickly falls for the dashing Sebastian when the families are brought together at a wedding party. Meanwhile, James is struck by Lucy’s quiet intelligence, and drawn to her despite their different circumstances in life.
Lucy suspects that Sebastian has fallen for Anna, but before she can set him free, a terrible secret is revealed that shakes both families. Will James come to her rescue—or abandon her to poverty?

2. What sparked the idea for A Marriage of Inconvenience?

It got its start as a Mansfield Park adaptation, believe it or not. I saw the 1999 version a couple years after it came out, and for the next day all I could do was talk to my husband about how I would adapt Mansfield Park. Instead of changing Fanny’s character to be more palatable for a modern audience, I wanted to go inside her head and show a modern audience what would make a naturally spirited and intelligent woman act as meek and yielding as Fanny.

This was before I’d ever completed a manuscript. I started them all the time, but I would get three or four chapters in and then get bored and quit. By the time I got this idea, I’d given up thinking I’d ever finish a book. But weeks went by, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how I would adapt Mansfield Park. Eventually I started writing, thinking that I would get bored soon and give up. That never happened. Since I was a writer and not a filmmaker, I knew I couldn’t use Austen’s exact characters and plot unless I wanted it to be fanfic. So I started making changes.

The most obvious change was to make the Henry Crawford figure the hero. So I gave him more integrity than Henry, but he was still the type of man a sheltered, innocent girl would think of as an intimidating rake. I made what turned out to be a fateful decision to make the Edmund Bertram figure, Sebastian, an officer instead of a clergyman. The more I wrote, the more the story changed, but when I finished the very first draft of the book in 2003, its Mansfield Park roots still showed.

I was shocked that I had finished a whole book. Not for the world would I show anyone that version of the manuscript now. It was 150,000 words long. It rambled. It was written in first person from the heroine’s point of view. Nevertheless, I did send the book to a few agents. It got soundly rejected.

One of the ways my story had drifted away from its roots was that my Mary Crawford placeholder character, Anna, had grown on me as I wrote. And Sebastian had turned out far more villainous than Edmund Bertram ever thought about being on his worst day. (Edmund is by far my least favorite of Austen’s heroes, but compared to Sebastian Arrington, he’s a paragon.) So I knew I needed to tell Anna’s story and give her a chance to find someone worthy of her. Since I’d made Sebastian a soldier during a war, he was wonderfully easy to kill off. And that’s how The Sergeant’s Lady came to be.

After I finished The Sergeant’s Lady, I decided to revisit James and Lucy’s story. I added additional points of view and started thinking of it as these characters’ story rather than my dialogue with Mansfield Park. The story turned out so different from my original concept that I don’t think of it as my first manuscript anymore. It’s my third manuscript, which just happens to be loosely based on my first one.

3. What is risky about A Marriage Of Inconvenience?

Quite a few things. For starters, James is short. I never explicitly state his height in the book, but I’ll do so now: he’s 5’6”. (He’s still half a foot taller than Lucy, though. One of these days I’ll get really daring and write a romance where the heroine is taller than the hero.) Also, James and Lucy are quite a young couple by current romance standards–James is 24 and Lucy, 18.

Another risk I took was to show the development of Anna and Sebastian’s marriage and how it went wrong. It’s integral to the story and has a major impact on Lucy and James’s growing relationship, but usually romances with a secondary couple use that couple for light comic relief rather than as a source of darkness and angst. I’m hoping that readers will forgive me once they discover that there is a sequel out there. And I did make sure to mention in the epilogue that Sebastian is dead and Anna is happy with someone else.

Last but far from least, James and Lucy don’t find instant sexual bliss after they marry. Lucy has certain mental blocks about letting go and experiencing pleasure, and the solution they discover takes them into somewhat kinky territory.

4. Did you come across any interesting research tidbits while writing the
book?

I had a lot of fun planning the setting. I found a book called Life in the English Country House, by Mark Girouard–which, incidentally, I highly recommend to anyone researching the era–and I enjoyed contrasting families with old titles who lived in ancient piles with James’s new money and the playful, whimsical castle his father had built.

5. What is next for you?

That is a vexed question. I’m coming out of a five-month battle with carpal tunnel syndrome, which has unfortunately slowed my writing process. I don’t have any other books currently under contract, but I’m working on a novella set during the Peninsular War where both the hero and heroine are common, as well as a Napoleonic-era historical fantasy that I hope will be the first of a series. The heroine’s unusual background and paranormal abilities lead to her becoming the only woman officer in Wellington’s army. I’ve often said that every historical author has a chick-in-pants story somewhere in her imagination, and this is mine.

Fortunately my hand is finally starting to heal, and I’m learning to use DragonDictate so I can keep writing even when my wrists won’t cooperate. I’ve written this post using Dragon, as a matter of fact. So with any luck, my new stories will be finished soon and I can start finding homes for them.

6. Tell us how to purchase A Marriage of Inconvenience.

It’s only available electronically. You can buy it direct from the publisher, Carina Press, from Amazon, from Barnes & Noble, from Apple’s iBooks store, etc.––really, most anywhere e-books are sold.

If you are trying an e-book for the first time, I recommend making it easy on yourself. If you don’t have an e-reader, you can read e-books on your computer or your smartphone. Amazon and Barnes & Noble offer free versions of the Kindle and Nook apps you can download onto your computer, iPad, or phone. Once you’ve done that, it’s a straightforward process to purchase books from their sites and read on your device of choice.

And now I have some questions for you. Writers, have you ever used a classic story as inspiration? Readers, are there stories you’d like to see your favorite authors adapt? One commenter will win a free download of A Marriage of Inconvenience.

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Janet Mullany
11 years ago

Susanna, my first question is how you got Daniel Craig to pose for the cover! Congrats on the release. I love that you used Mansfield Park as your jumping off point–it’s such an interesting and sexy book, and I too loved the film adaptation although I know we’re in a minority.

As for using a classic story as inspiration, I think Persuasion has a lot of possibilities. Yet I find, when I’m writing, that quite often I’ll discover I’ve based the story on an archetype–Orpheus and Euridice is one that resonates strongly with me.

Kat
Kat
11 years ago

I loved the Sergeant’s Lady and I really appreciated the unique perspective of the social status of the main characters. Looking forward to reading your next release,

Susanna Fraser
11 years ago

Thanks for having me as a guest today!

– I wouldn’t say I loved the film adaptation, exactly–it just made me think about the challenges of adapting MP for a modern audience, and what other ways one might do the same thing.

Persuasion would make a good jumping-off point, wouldn’t it? I’ve even got a vague hint of an idea for a book that might fit its skeleton, now that I think of it.

@Kat – I’m so glad you like Sergeant, and I hope you enjoy the new book too.

I’m going to be in and out throughout the day. I’m about to go out for a few hours, but I’ll be back in my early afternoon (Pacific Time), so keep those comments coming!

RevMelinda
11 years ago

Susanna, I am thrilled to hear about A Marriage of Inconvenience. You are a wonderful and perceptive writer and I loved Sergeant’s Lady. I’m glad that your carpal tunnel is healing and that you’re finding your way back to writing.

I have a very soft spot in my heart for “chick in pants” plots, the result of early exposure to Heyer’s “Masqueraders.” Just the thought of you writing one makes me a little giddy with delight.

Cara King
11 years ago

Hi, Susanna!

In the past, I toyed with writing a sequel to Pride and Prejudice with Mary Bennet as the heroine…but when the Austen glut happened, I shelved that idea.

Oh, and after I saw three Mansfield Park adaptations that all disappointed me, I spent some mental energy figuring out how I would structure a screenplay — and I’m totally with you on Fanny! Our alternate reality selves are probably collaborating on the project right now. 🙂

So sorry to hear about your CPS…and glad that Dragon is working for you!!!

Cara

Diane Gaston
11 years ago

Welcome back, Susanna!
The idea of using a piece of classic literature as a jumping off point agrees with me.

Cara, too bad you didn’t write Mary Bennet’s story. She’s always intrigued me.

I agree with Janet. You have great covers.

Zee Lemke
11 years ago

I usually find stories with gaping holes in them to be more inspiring than well-plotted ones. I have, I confess, several times started a story idea that was pretty much “Persuasion with wizards/vampires/spaceships,” but my better ideas usually come from, of all places, opera. “What if she was actually a character?” “What if the villain wasn’t a moron?” The Pearl Fishers is great for this exercise, and also Turandot.

Danielle Gorman
11 years ago

This post has seriously made me think and realize that all of the stories that I have started are very simular to Persuasion. I think it’s just something about giving love a second chance.

This book looks really good. I admit that I have both this one and your other one on my withlist. Hoping to buy them soon. I do love the covers.

iqb99@yahoo.com

Dee
Dee
11 years ago

I loved Sergeant’s Lady and will definitely add this new title to the list. While I have never cared for Mansfield Park mostly because I couldn’t imagine having to live as Fanny does (sure couldn’t have done it as gracefully), I think this is a neat character to explore. There is so much scope.

Susanna Fraser
11 years ago

@RevMelinda – It’s been a frustrating few months with the carpal tunnel, and when I think I could’ve avoided almost all of it if I’d just taken a week or two off when it first started to hurt…never again will I ignore arm or hand pain. I hope you enjoy the new book, and I hope my chick-in-pants (actually she’s often a chick-in-a-kilt) story works for you too.

@Cara – Mary Bennet does get the short end of the stick, doesn’t she? I’d enjoy seeing her story.

– I do love my covers, though I have to admit it cracks me up that I got the same cover model for both heroes when they’re not the ones with a blood relationship linking the books, and in fact it would be kinda strange if Anna married her brother’s near-double. 🙂

@Zoe – Opera is one of the gaps in my education, but I definitely understand the appeal of filling in the gaps and trying to make a story make sense.

@Danielle – Persuasion is so romantic, isn’t it? I love the second chance aspect.

– That’s a big part of why I write, to explore characters and work out for myself what makes them tick.

Barbara Longley
11 years ago

Great interview. Best of luck with the release of your second book, Susanna! I’m looking forward to reading it.

Taryn Kincaid
11 years ago

Looking forward to this one, Susanna. LOVE the cover! (I have Sergeant’s Lady already and, based on the great reviews, I must nudge it higher on the TBR!)

Rachel
11 years ago

Susanna, I’m currently using a Jane Austen novel as my inspiration. I’m taking Northanger Abbey and updating it although my characters are not similar. I thought about how Jane mocked Gothic novels and murder and wanted to mock The Da Vinci Code and art theft. This is my third attempt at writing a novel and I’m enjoying it. I totally understood your “I’d get bored” because I did too and when I look back at what I wrote it was pretty bad. But I feel more confident about this one. I have my own twists on the plot so it’s not fanfic completely, but I’m enjoying it.

I love the idea of updating Mansfield Park, my least favorite of the Austen novels. I will definitely check it out for my kindle.

bookloveroh
11 years ago

Susanna,
Congrats on the new release — I loved, loved, loved Sergent’s Lady and am really looking forward to reading A Marriage of Inconvenience.

BUT, what I really want to read is that historical fantasy you are working on — it sounds great!!! You’ve got 1 person ready to buy it when it comes out .

I think that I am with everyone else that Persuasion is a wonderful story for inspiration. I also love any story based on Beauty and the Beast, my all-time favorite fairy tale.
Thanks for providing me with hours of wonderful reading.

Shelley Munro
11 years ago

I’m looking forward to reading this one, Susanna. I haven’t tried using a classic story as inspiration yet. Maybe one day.

Susanna Fraser
11 years ago

@Barbara, @Taryn, @Shelley – Thanks!

@Rachel – I love the idea of giving Da Vinci Code the Northanger Abbey treatment!

@bookloveroh – Hopefully between Dragon software and my hands improving, I’ll be able to finish the fantasy soon!

librarypat
librarypat
11 years ago

Susanna,
Hope your wrists are healed soon. Had trouble with one wrist years ago and never realized how fast it can get bad. Luckily (?) I had no choice but to rest it. I couldn’t even hold a fork or spoon without dropping it.

Congratulations on A MARRIAGE OF INCONVENIENCE. It sounds like it will be a good read.

Many authors have used fairy tales for inspiration for their stories, primarily Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast and more recently mermaids. The YA writers have used many for inspiration. It would be interesting to see what romance authors would do with with some of the other fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood. They have probably already been done, but I missed them.

Elaine
11 years ago

I hope you finish your story with “common” hero and heroine. I’m tired of reading about dukes! Good luck with the carpal tunnel problem. With time, it can get better.

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