New York Times bestselling author Eloisa James writes historical romances for HarperCollins Publishers. Her latest book, Pleasure For Pleasure, completes the Four Sisters series. It comes out next Tuesday, November 28! You can order it here. And get a chance to win a copy of Pleasure For Pleasure by leaving a pertinent comment or question on today’s post! The winner will be announced Tuesday.
After graduating from Harvard University, Eloisa got an M.Phil. from Oxford University, a Ph.D. from Yale and eventually became a Shakespeare professor, publishing an academic book with Oxford University Press. Currently she is an associate professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the English Department at Fordham University in New York City. Her “double life” is a source of fascination to the media and her readers. In her professorial guise, she’s written a New York Times op-ed defending romance, as well as articles published everywhere from women’s magazines such as More to writers’ journals such as the Romance Writers’ Report. She, along with five other bestselling authors, posts to the hugely successful SquawkRadio blog
Welcome to the Riskies, Eloisa. Thanks for joining us.
1. You started out writing as a diversion from your academic interests and writing; can you talk a little bit about your background, and what made you decide to write in the Regency period rather than your area of expertise?
It was a tough decision – I teach Renaissance drama, so that’s the field I know best. But I was reading (and loving) Regency romance, and I decided to place a story there. Plus, there was the fact that Regency romances are readers’ favorites, and while there are a few Renaissance romances, they’re far and few between. I wanted to write – but I also wanted to get published and read.
2.Which of your books is your favorite?
At any given time, my latest book is always my favorite because it’s still clear to me. I wake up wondering whether I did the right thing here or there. Plus, I love them most before they’re published because at that point they are all potential. I have a clear memory of thinking before Potent Pleasures (my very first book) was published that no one could possibly dislike it (ha). I loved my characters so much that I thought they were insulated from criticism (and yes, there’s a lot of parallels to motherhood here). In the years since, I’ve come to know that every book will be loved by some people and hated by others. Before a book is published, though, it’s like a baby whom everyone calls beautiful and whose mother can’t see a fault in it.
3. You’re completing the Four Sisters series with your book, Pleasure For Pleasure, that comes out November 28. What was the spark that inspired the Four Sisters series? Did it start with a character, a setting, or some other element?
It was a combination of things. I like writing about women’s friendship, but I wanted to write about a relationship between women that wasn’t quite as easy as friendship: sisterhood, in other words. My sister and I are very close – and in fact, live about a mile apart – but our relationship is complex and far more nuanced than that I share with my girlfriends. Another aspect was my abiding love for the work of Louisa May Alcott. I wanted to walk in her steps, at least a little bit.
4. Was Pleasure For Pleasure an easy or difficult book to write?
They’re all difficult. It’s one of the cruel facts of life – the first book is difficult, and you think: “the next will be easier!” and then the next is more difficult. And the book after that, more difficult still. They just get harder as I learn more about writing.
5. How do you do your research?
Well, a great deal of it comes to me through my scholarship in the early modern period. For example, Desperate Duchesses features a series of chess games – the idea for that came through scholarship that’s being done on the chess game in Shakespeare’s Tempest. Once I have a vague idea of the areas I’d like to know more about (say, chess in the Georgian period), I ask my research assistant to start scaring up some material for me. One of the consequences of being a full-time professor and director of the graduate program in English is that I don’t have time for much research myself; instead I hire brilliant people to find out interesting facts for me.
6. What are you working on now? Tell us a little bit about the Desperate Duchesses series.
Desperate Duchesses is set in the Georgian period, so that’s a change for me. I wanted a wilder, more sensual period than the Regency for the story I had in mind. It’s a series of four books, focusing around a group of duchesses whose marriages are in trouble, for various reasons. Jemma, the Duchess of Beaumont, is the best female chess player in England or Paris – and now she’s embarked on two matches. One is with the Duke of Villiers, a chess master. And the second is with her own husband, a master of strategy in Pitt’s government. The games are conducted one move a day….and if either survives to the third game, that game will be conducted blind-folded, and in bed.
This is a really sexy, fun series…I’m hugely enjoying writing it!
7. In your writing, do you feel as if you are taking risks? How?
I do it all the time – in fact, I don’t think there’s any point in writing unless you take risks. To write a story without risks would be to write a story about a perfect hero and perfect heroine, sweetly matched and perfect in bed. Where’s the story? The story only comes in the risks you take in deviating from that “perfect” formula – in creating a hero who is crap in bed, or a heroine who lies, or a marriage that’s a disaster. Pleasure for Pleasure is the story of a very curvy woman – and she doesn’t lose weight either. I take risks, but for me, that’s where all the pleasure of the story lies.
8. You are very good at writing female characters, and women’s relationships with each other. What or who inspires your fabulous heroines?
OK, don’t laugh – usually myself. What I mean is that while I’m not wildly witty and incredibly beautiful, like some of my heroines, I have to give each of them a bit of myself or they are lifeless. So when I think about my heroines, that’s what I see in them. Gabby fibs because I fibbed relentlessly when I was a child. Sophie gives birth to a child at 24 weeks and so did I. Josie (the heroine of Pleasure for Pleasure) goes through some harrowing experiences due to being plump on the marriage market – I was plump in high school and I channeled my experience straight onto the page.
9. Did you run across anything new and unusual while researching this book?
I found out some fascinating information about the early publishing world…I read a bunch of 19th century memoirs (each chapter opens with a parody of a memoir)…I learned a great deal about corsets. More than I needed to know!
10. Is there anything you wanted to include in the book that you (or your CPs or editor) felt was too controversial and left out?
Nope! My editor has pretty much given up trying to cut bits of my books: I’m horribly pig-headed.
11. SquawkRadio is a hugely successful authors’ blog; what is your favorite part of participating there?
Blogging asks for a different kind of creativity than writing books, and I find I like it immensely! To sit down and just make something up and then slap it up on the web, and then get cheerful responses from all over the world – what a high! And what a tonic to the usual writer’s day, sitting in your pajamas at home.
Is there anything else you’d like the Risky Regencies readers to know about you?
I love Regencies and I’m so happy that you’re holding up the torch for all of us!
Thank you, Eloisa!
Eloisa, I love the word plump. I hope you can single-handedly bring it back into common usage. If it’s all right to plump up your lips, I see no reason why the rest of your body cannot follow suit! I’m off to haunt Wal*Mart for PFP…I’m not sure how much longer I can hold out. I hope you know how much the Bob-Bons have been anticipating this book! Maggie Robinson
I’ve enjoyed your Four Sisters series so far and am looking forward to your new book. I was wondering if all the sisters make an appearance in this last book?
In your new book which certainly has a humorous vein running through it is due to the main character’s antics. It was a lovely diversion to have a female who behaves in this manner.
Your books have been a joy to read. Creating these engaging women must have been fun to work with.
How do you have unique ideas for each book to be an original masterpiece. Love the books.
I just looooooooove your books!!
Some of them I have myself and the others I’ve searched and found in the library.
I just wonna say one more thing: ELOISA, KEEP ON WRITING. SO WE CAN KEEP ON READING AND ENJOYING YOUR BOOKS!!!!!!!!!!!
Your books have provided me with hours of enjoyment and entertainment. They ar original and special in everyway.
I loved Gabe and Miss Pythian-Adams relationship. Your books are a delight and interesting reading.
Eloisa, what fun to read your interview here. As I have lurked and posted on the various blogs and boards on the ‘Net, it’s been fun learning more and more about you and the reasons behind why you are such a fabulous writer.
The minute I read your excerpt on Romantically-Inclined that talked about Josie being the antithesis of the svelte fashionable heroine, I was hooked. Physically perfect heroes and heroines are such a bore, primarily because it is diffiult to identify with such characters. While this is fiction, I still like my fiction to be within the realm of possibilities. That is what allows me to dream. And your stories inspire the most delicious dreams. 🙂
I’ve been waiting, rather impatiently I might add, for PFP to come out. I hope you’ll come out to Seattle for a book tour.
I learned a great deal about corsets. More than I needed to know!
That’s impossible. LOL! The more you know, the more devious little details you can find to exploit . . .
Looking forward to PFP.
I have been enjoying your novels for years. Your interview has given me new insight into your abilities to craft such stories that remain with me for weeks afterwards. The writing is super and the characters are real individuals. Looking forward to your newest novel.
I love your novels and am excited about the new one coming out. I’ll have to reread the other three to keep current — sounds like a wonderful way to spend the long car trip to in-laws for the holidays (I won’t be driving this time — new teenage drivers!).
Thanks for the insight into your writing process and keep the stories coming!
Ooh, your Georgian series sounds like a lot of fun! Looking forward to that — and “Pleasure for Pleasure” too, of course!
Thanks for joining us, Eloisa! And thanks for being such a great supporter of the romance genre! (My mother saw your famous editorial a while back and cut it out of the paper and mailed it to me — it definitely got noticed, by pretty much everyone around the country!)
(who never met an exclamation point she didn’t like)
…in the years since, I’ve come to know that every book will be loved by some people and hated by others. Before a book is published, though, it’s like a baby whom everyone calls beautiful and whose mother can’t see a fault in it…
And isn’t THAT the truth! Sometimes I wonder if there are no good books and no bad books. There are just books I like and books I don’t like. No, okay – that’s taking it too far, but when you get totally conflicting reactions from readers who are obviously perfectly intelligent, you really do know there is such a thing as personal taste!
Your comment about putting a little of yourself into each heroine definitely resonates here. I do that as well, although I’m not sure that I’d be prepared to ‘fess up which bits in public.
Thanks for the insight, Eloisa.
Hi everybody! Sorry I wasn’t around yesterday but (big surprise) I went shopping. Along with every other single living soul in New Jersey! But it was fun. Everything but Best Buy, which was a huge mistake.
Anyway, back to the much more interesting world of books… Maureen, all the sisters do appear in Pleasure for Pleasure. Imogen is on her wedding trip for much of the book, but there’s a very nice epilogue (to my mind) — you’ll have to see if you like it when you read it!
One thing is that if there’s something you miss in this book, or you want to see all the sisters together one more time, I’m going to write an extra chapter, same as I did for Taming of the Duke. Come onto my BB as soon as the book pubs and toss out your ideas for a new chapter.
We’re going to put up a poll, and I’ll write the winning chapter (Josie 5 years later, Griselda one more time, all the sisters in ten years…whatever you want!)
It’s so lovely to read these nice comments, especially on the eve of book publication, which is always nervewracking! Thank you, thank you!
Hi Eloisa! *waving* I know I’m a little late, but I just wanted to say that was a great interview. I’m looking forward to reading PfP and your new series – which sounds awesome!
BTW, Manuelita, you’re not late at all — Eloisa James’s interview is so important that we’re going to keep it The Main Event for several days here at Risky Regencies! So keep the comments coming!
The games are conducted one move a day….and if either survives to the third game, that game will be conducted blind-folded, and in bed.
This sounds wonderful! You come up with the most clever little games.I think focusing the series on women with troubled marriages will be a fresh new look. The vast majority of romance novels out there deal with new relationships, instead of looking at what happens once the original spark has somewhat diminished. Relationships that need work can be so much more interesting.
It seems like we’ve all been waiting forever for the release of PFP, and it’s torture to wait these last few days. I already have my schedule planned for the 28th so that I’ll be able to grab it as soon as possible. Oh Mayne and Josie… *g*
Clearly a loyal Bon Bon,
I just want to thank you so much for your books, your strong advocacy for Romance, and for visiting us here at Risky Regencies!
It is wonderful to have you as our guest!
Eloisa, what fun! Writing a winning chapter based on a poll of your readers’ suggestions. I just recently signed up to your board and have been following the various discussions.
Manuelita, love this avatar of yours, too. 😉
Eloisa Wrote… then the next is more difficult. And the book after that, more difficult still. They just get harder as I learn more about writing.
Julia Quinn had said exactly the same thing a few months ago when I’d attended her book signing, and to me, an aspiring author, this was a difficult realization. Naively, I’d assumed that the writing would come easier. I now see that as you grow as a writer, you attempt more and more complex plotlines and characters.
So, the question is: Are you intimidated by the new story structure or a particular character when you start a new book?
I’m looking forward to your Georgian series. A cat-and-mouse chess game and a troubled marriage. Risky stuff, indeed, and thrilling for a reader.
Eloisa Wrote… Plus, there was the fact that Regency romances are readers’ favorites
Oh, yes! Most definitely!! 🙂
I love your books Eloise. I have several on my tbr pile. Great interview.
I love your books and several are on my keeper shelf. I can’t wait to read PFP (Wal-Mart, here I come)!
You are a very talented lady. I enjoyed reading all of your answers. I am a fan of Regencies also.
I’ve been a fan since Potent Pleasures was published, and am very much looking forward to Pleasure for Pleasure. Thanks for being such an advocate for the romance genre–your books gave this former English major a reason to start writing!
Pleasure for Pleasure, sounds like everyone comes out satisfied. The only way to go.
You are a ‘new’ author to me and I believe I’ve found a good one by the comments and interview I’ve read.
Eloisa, your new book sure sounds like a lot of fun. I look forward to reading it! Best wishes for great success and Happy Holidays to you all.
Keira said, “Manuelita, love this avatar of yours, too. ;)”
Thanks, Keira! Isn’t Gerard Butler gorgeous!
Cara, glad I wasn’t too late for the party. Speaking of parties, Pleasure for Pleasure will be released TOMORROW!! YAY!
Great interview! I love Eloisa’s books!