This Friday, we have a special interview with Carolyn Jewel, whose new book, Scandal, is released this week. Scandal has already gotten some stellar reviews:
Dear Author gave it an A-; Romance Novel TV gave it “5++++++++++” stars, saying, “WOW. Simply, wow. That is the only word I can use to describe this masterpiece. It has been such a long time since I have read such a rich, emotional and tension filled romance.”
Carolyn lives in Northern California with her son, three cats, a border collie, several chickens, some sheep and various strays and other rescued critters. In addition to writing luscious historicals, Carolyn writes edgy paranormals, with her next book, My Forbidden Desire, coming out in May. Megan is honored to have Carolyn as a faux critique partner, and even more thrilled that she was able to help, in some small way, with Scandal‘s brilliance.
Carolyn took some time out from basking in the glow of excellent reviews to answer a few questions. Comment on the interview to win a copy of signed copy of Scandal, the winner chosen randomly by the Riskies.
Q. Tell us about this book—its characters, setting, etc.
Scandal is set during England’s Regency era and takes place in the countryside and London. It’s the story of a young woman who marries unwisely and pays a fairly severe price for her love.
Lord Banallt is a rake who behaves very badly with Sophie. They’re both married, and although Sophie would never, ever be unfaithful to her husband, Banallt has no such scruples. By the time he realizes he’s in love with her, it’s too late. She’s convinced, with good reason, that he is irredeemable.
Two years later they have both lost their spouses and Banallt sets out to prove that he really has changed. And he has. It’s a genuine transformation for him. Convincing Sophie of that is the challenge.
Q. How long did it take? Was this an easy or difficult book to write?
It took Banallt the entire book to convince Sophie he’d changed – oh. You mean how long it took to write the book?
I wrote at least two very different versions of this book, one of which was probably okay, the other one(s) was/were pretty awful. My agent read the opening chapters of sucky version 10.5 and advised me to start over. So I did. Scandal underwent its own transformation to a version that was truer to the original version, but much, much better. My fabulous agent sold it shortly after I resubmitted the proposal, and I wrote the rest of it in about four months, and spend the last two absolutely convinced there was no way I’d ever finish on time.
So far every single book I’ve ever written has been difficult. All of them. I don’t foresee that changing.
Q. Did you run across anything new and unusual while researching this book?
In a way, I did the opposite. Rather than research for the book specifically, I drew on research that I did in graduate school (in 2005/6 I believe) when I chose Regency Era author Eleanor Sleath as a project subject for my academic research course. Our assignment was to find everything EVER written about our subject. The trick then, was to pick someone who wasn’t too famous, because then you’d never be able to track down everything, and yet find someone who wasn’t too obscure, because then there wouldn’t be enough material for all the research papers we were to write in this course.
Jane Austen fans will recognize the title of Sleath’s most famous book, Orphan of the Rhine, which Austen mentions in Northanger Abbey. For quite some time scholars believed Austen made up the titles. She didn’t. All of them have been located, with Sleath’s book the very last to be found. The account of that is actually rather exciting.
The other exciting thing is that in the course of that research, I discovered what no one else knew; that Eleanor Sleath was a wealthy widow who married Reverend John Dudley under rather scandalous circumstances. The really silly thing is that I should have written a paper on this discovery since, actually, I think there are now only three people who know Sleath’s biography; me, the English historian who was researching Dudley, and a professor I happened to be corresponding with on the subject of Regency era novels. But I was working full time, going to grad school, parenting a soccer playing son who was young enough at the time to need more attention than he does now at 13, and writing novels. Frankly, I was a bit overwhelmed. I did not have it in me to write the paper on top of everything else.
So, after that lengthy digression, in the course of my Sleath research project I learned an absolutely astonishing amount about publishing in the Regency. The economies, I was surprised to discover, are not vastly different from today. My heroine, as the wife of a man who is spending all her money as fast as he can, takes to writing in secret in order to have some money to pay the bills. This research informs a great deal of the backstory in Scandal.
Q. What is it about the Regency period that interests you as a writer?
Larger than life characters like Byron, Mary Wollstonecraft and too many others to name. The period is a transitional one, in my opinion anyway, sandwiched as it is between the Georgian period and the far more stultified Victorian era (which probably wasn’t quite as stultified as the stereotype). It is in the Regency that we see so many of the events that drove the Reform movement and, ironically, and ultimately, led to the decline of the aristocracy Regency authors so love to write about.
Q. What do you think is the greatest creative risk you’ve taken in this book? How do you feel about it?
My philosophy is to risk everything in every book. There is no point in holding back. Alas, I have varying degrees of success with this, which I sometimes don’t see (or not see) until long after it’s too late to fix things.
I am a character driven author, which means my stories develop from my characters. The risks, therefore, tend to derive from them and what they are bringing to the story that unfolds as I panic that everything completely reeks of failure and I’ll never ever pull it off.
Q. Is there anything you wanted to include in the book that you (or your CPs or editor) felt was too controversial and left out?
No. It’s happened in other books, but not this one.
Q. What are you working on next?
I just turned in another historical, Indiscreet, which will be out from Berkley Sensation in October 2009. Right now, I’m –shudder– writing proposals for more paranormal romances. Very soon, I imagine, I will be writing a proposal or two for more historicals, too.
Q. Is there anything else you would like readers to know about you or your books?