Risky Carolyn Interviews Joanna Bourne
Today, I have the wonderful RITA winning historical romance author Joanna Bourne here to talk about writing, cats stuck in trees and her new book, The Black Hawk.
She’s giving away a book, so yay! Make sure you leave a comment and/or question for Jo.
There’s also an excerpt, hard-hitting questions from yours truly and over-all interview awesomeness.
1. Tell us about your book!
In the years they’ve known each other, Adrian Hawker — spy for England —and Justine DeCabrillac— spy for France —have been friends, allies, secret lovers and open enemies. Sometimes all at once. None of this, except the enemy part, is made easier by their countries slugging it out in Napoleon’s endless wars.
Now that the war is over, why are they still dodging knives and bullets? Who wants Justine dead, and Adrian blamed for it?
You can buy The Black Hawk at Amazon.
I’m merciless, as you’ll see. Got more questions for Jo? Ask in the comments.
2. So, what made you decide to write about birds? That’s a very unusual theme for a Romance author. Are you an avid birder? We get Golden Eagles here when they’re migrating. One time one ate our neighbor’s rooster and came back the next day to finish. Has anything like that happened to you or a rooster of your acquaintance? Is something like that what sparked the idea for your Romance?
Do you know . . . I don’t understand titles. I just don’t.
I keep giving them titles for the books, and I think they are very good titles. Like, The Tycoon Spymaster’s Blackmailed House Guest. The publisher, however, doesn’t use any of my titles. They are polite about it, though.
(That’s a pretty awesome title. I wonder why they didn’t pick that one?)
So I was sitting on the computer typing in good suggestions like Harry Potter and the Deathly Spy, or Sense and Sensibility and Spies, or Where the Wild Things Are, Including Spies, or Spies and the Women Who Love Them, and the editor mails me.
“What about Black Hawk?” says she.
“You want to name it after a helicopter?”
“The Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter,” says I.
Turns out nobody in New York publishing, or at least nobody she can buttonhole in the hallways has ever heard of a black hawk helicopter.
(Huh. That is SO strange.)
There’s a hockey team with this name. When I wonder why a Romance genre book is named Black Hawk, I also say . . . Why a hockey team? Are hawks found in the frigid wastes of the north?
Anyhow, I did not really think about birds while I was writing the book and I had to go back quick at the end and add a few references to ‘Black Hawk’ so folks would not be utterly bewildered by the title. I do not like to bewilder folks if I can help it.
We do not have golden eagles. We have turkey buzzards which are large and remarkably ugly. They’ve never made off with a chicken from me, because I do not actually have any chickens. Possibly I counted them before they were hatched at one time. The buzzards sit in a tree in great numbers and watch me as I pass. Waiting.
(One time a Red-Tailed hawk got IN our chicken coop. He was waiting for dinner to come to him, I guess. He flew out when my son came in, as he was, I suspect, more dinner than he wanted.)
I worry that the turkey buzzards will get the cat. But they don’t.
(The buzzards will wait until your cat is, uh. Never mind.)
3. What did spark the idea for your book? Do you have a favorite scene?
I had just barely set The Spymaster’s Lady on the shelves.
THEM: When is Adrian’s story coming out?
Me: He’s a minor character. Really, I wasn’t planning to write a story about him.
THEM: When is Adrian’s story coming out?
Me: He’s not suited to be a romantic hero. He has ethical issues.
THEM: When is Adrian’s story coming out?
Me: I have this timeline problem that means I can’t write his story when he’s young. It doesn’t work.
THEM: When is Adrian’s story coming out?
Me: November 1.
Here’s a bit of The Black Hawk:
She’d always been pale as the moon. Skin you could almost
see through. He used to lie beside her in the candlelight and
trace the line of a vein up her arm to the pulse in her throat, then
down to the mound of her breast. Or he’d follow one thin track
up her leg to the silky, soft nest he never got tired of playing in.
She was opaque now, as if the light in her had retreated to the
core of her. It was gathered up there, keeping the chill out,
keeping her life’s heat in.
Fate carries a sting in her tail. He’d wanted Justine back in
his bed. Now she was. But look at the price of it.
Doyle came up beside him. “Luke says she has a good
“It’s his job to say that.”
“He’s too busy to lie.”
“Friends will always find time to lie to you. A heartwarming
thought in a cynical world.” He set his knuckles against her
cheek. Skin fluent as running water, sleek as air. He felt the
vibration inside from her blood pulsing.
Even after all these years, he’d still wake up in the middle of
the night, hard as a rock from dreaming about her. He’d never
stopped being hungry for this woman. “I wanted her back, and
here she is. Fate’s a perverse bitch.”
“Always.” Doyle slipped his hand inside the blanket, to Justine’s
shoulder, testing the temperature. “She’ll make it. She’s
hard to kill.”
“Many have tried.”
Her hair spread everywhere on the pillow. Light-brown hair,
honey hair, so golden and rich it looked edible. He knew how it
felt, wrapped around his fingers. Knew how her breasts fitted
into his hands. He knew the weight and shape and strength of
her legs when they drew him into her.
. . . The last time they’d exchanged words, she’d promised to kill
4. I know that you and I share the trauma of a beloved cat being stuck in a tree. (Dear Riskies, my cat was 30 up a tree for 3 nights. Raul of Summit Tree Care rescued him for me. It was a terrible experience but then Raul was my hero. Jo was kind enough to send me consoling emails during the ordeal.)
Your story doesn’t have Raul the Tree Climber, but maybe you could share a little about that. Cat pictures kindly accepted! Will you ever write about a cat stuck in a tree?
There is a cat who lives at Number Seven, Meeks Street. A succession of cats, actually, over the years, all of them named by Adrian. I don’t know if the cat has ever appeared in a story, but it’s there.
Definitely, if I can ever manage to write that cat in, I will.
5. I love love LOVE the late Georgian era. Can you tell us a bit about why you write in that period? Also, I love the way Georgian sensibilities linger in the Regency. Any observations about that?
I like to say I write between busks and bustles. That is, my heroines are in one of the periods of history women are not weighted down with thirty pounds of clothes and twenty minutes lacing themselves into and out thereof. Pretty clothes, comfortable clothes, and innately democratic clothes. Women right down the social scale could produce a reasonable facsimile of fashionable garments.
And it’s one of those times the basic assumptions of society changed. So interesting.
6. You write the most wonderful heroines. Can you tell us about the heroine of this book? If she had a cat, and it was stuck in a tree, what would she do?
Justine is a child of the French Revolution. Life is difficult. It’s made her tough. It’s made her a fighter. It’s made her do things she’s ashamed of. The only time she can let down her guard is with Adrian.
She’s loyal to everything that matters to her, because she knows it can all be swept away in a moment. She’s had that happen.
If Justine had a cat, she would be adamantly protective of that cat. She’d arrange for somebody to go up in the tree and get the cat down.
Blackmail, probably. Threats. Cunning plans. Bribery.
I don’t know how she’d do it, but somebody would go up that tree and rescue the feline.
7. When I read your first book, The Spymaster’s Lady, I remember thinking (among many other things) that you had completely nailed a heroine whose first language was French. To this day I am in awe of your use of language (in all your books). I heard later that you speak fluent French. True? This linguistic otherness is true of your other heroines, too. Tell us a bit about your take on that aspect of your writing.
I wouldn’t say I’m fluent in French. It’s more a workaday grasp of it.
In Spymaster’s Lady it’s important the protagonist is utterly French. This is how she sees herself. It sets her up to have something to lose. It makes her ultimate choice just that much more difficult. When she speaks in a very ‘French’ way it emphasizes this ‘Frenchness’ which plays an important part of the story.
Where the mere fact of being French is not one of the points of the story, it’s easier to use a lighter hand with the character’s voice.
I’m all for using the least possible dialect or accent to make the point you need to make. A little word choice. A little idiom. To make life easier all round, you try to give your folks a reason to be eloquent and fluent in English.
8. What’s next for you?
I’m just beginning on Pax’s story. We’re in the same fictive world here. I’m just beginning it, so I don’t know quite where we’ll end up, but it looks like it’ll be set half in England and half in France.
Jo will be giving away a copy of Black Hawk to some lucky person in the comments trail, so leave a comment!
Rules: Void where prohibited. No purchase necessary. Leave a comment by Midnight (Pacific Time) Thursday 11/3.
What a amusing post! (Admitting:) I’ve never read Jo Bourne but I clearly have been missing out. I will be adding some titles to my TBR today.
This was a totally entertaining post, and the novel sounds great. Thanks for the giveaway.
Love the interview. My great aunt taught French for over 40 years and about all I know is how to sing one song… pick moi!
Oh Dee, you are in for a treat! Jo is an amazing writer.
Great interview! No more cats in my household due to allergies, but they once ruled home and hearth (and when they went up trees they came down when they got hungry; I think Carolyn’s cat planned the tree episode just to bring Raul into her life. They’re smart that way).
Loved the post! I especially liked the parts between Ms. Bourne and her publishers…and the book names she suggested are hoot! They totally should use one sometime…lol…I’ve never read Ms. Bourne’s books but I’ve added them to my list.
Thanks for giveaway!
What is it about cats? Lately, when we go out of town, our cat traps herself in the attic so she can do this big plaintive production upon our return. There’s a hole in the hall ceiling through which she pokes her head and complains about how helpless and lonely and starving she is and that she can’t get down. She can, of course — she got up there and she could @#$% well get down the same way (but she doesn’t *want* to).
However, I am a true softie, so I open the ladder to the attic and call her. (I’m not prepared to go find her. It’s gross up there, and I might put a foot or more through some ceiling or other.)
She doesn’t come. I call some more. She meows and meows. So I shrug and leave her. It’s a standoff for a while, until I go call her again and she deigns to take the ladder. She shows no signs of hunger or thirst once she’s back among us, so I’m pretty sure it’s all a scam. I have a feeling she only goes up there when she hears us arriving. (Or maybe she catches squirrels in the attic and feasts on them while we’re gone.)
Dang cat. I’ll have to warn the lady who feeds her to check the hall ceiling from now on, just in case.
Don’t put me in the giveaway! I already have my copy. I’m about halfway through and savoring it slowly (although I admit to some skimming). It will be over too soon, and then there will be another long wait for the next one.
What a great post! I have been hearing a lot of great things about this book. I know it was Top Dish at the Romance Dish blog. There are some really great reviews on it and I can’t wait to read it.
Thank you both for such a very entertaining interview.
This was a fun post! Congratulations on your release. I have The Forbidden Rose and getting ready to dig in as I’ve heard tons of great things about Joanna’s historical romances.
Lovely excerpt! I like to see turkey vultures in the mornings when they sit in trees with their wings out, warming up their armpits.
What a wonderful and fun post. I don’t think that I have read any of your books before, Jo, but I am putting you in my mind as an author to buy from. Thanks for the giveaway!
I’m so looking forward to reading this, having loved all your previous books. I was wondering “why Black Hawk?” and I’m still not sure – why did the publisher suggest it if there were no obvious references until you put them in? Bizarre.
Jo’s new book was already on my Amazon wish list as I have read all the Jo’s other books, will buy new book as soon as out in UK. (Joanna is my real name)
Very entertaining, Jo and Carolyn!
Your books have beautiful covers! They’re like works of art inside and out.
Loved the exchange between ME and THEM, but it’s WE who come out the winners!
Also loved Spymaster’s Lady, and I’m looking forward to Black Hawk.
Well, I have to say that was the most interesting interview I have ever read. Kinda strange, but good. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.
Count me as another who loved Spymaster’s Lady. I need to catch up before getting this one. I have only heard wonderful things about it!
My cats are all strictly indoor cats and would never deign to climb a tree. I doubt they’d climb stairs unless there were filled food dishes at the top.
However! Every time a new Joanna Bourne book comes out my CP (who is a HUGE JB fan) calls me and says I’m going to shoot myself. How can she write such amazing prose. Where is my gun? Thank goodness she hasn’t taken to climbing trees. Yet.
Fabulous interview both of you and I am looking forward to read your latest, Joanna!
Hi Cathy P —
Sometimes the books turn up in a library system. You might check. I win, because the library is encouraged to buy the book and I just adore and dote upon libraries. You win because you get to spend your money on a latte and croissant to eat while reading the book which, like, enriches the experience.
Also — Amazon has a ‘look inside’ feature that is almost like picking it up when you’re browsing in a bookstore.
And that is only a click away from a kindle download, so I encourage folks to do it, me being not entirely disinterested if I am making full disclosure here.
Hi Janet Mullany —
‘… warming up their armpits’ That is so funny.
I see — I swear it is ten of them — sitting in the great big trees over one of the paths I walk.
They watch me.
Well, they may be watching the dog, but the principle is the same.
Hi Anon —
I do not know why Black Hawk.
It is probably one of those mysteries that will confound me pretty much forever.
You know how there are people who are tone deaf and folks who happily mix plaids . . . I am like that. Clueless. My particular field of clueless is marketing.
Hi Diana Gaston —
Thank ye kindly. I love the soldier’s uniform on your new cover, btw.
Gotta love a man in uniform, Jo!
(I like the title The Black Hawk)
Hi Dee —
At Amazon — I’m not pushing them as a company, but the feature is there — you can ‘look inside the book’ and see if you’d be interested.
For me, buying a book or not buying a book depends so much on the writing. If I like it, I’ll follow a writer from Mystery to Romance to Fantasy and back again.
I’m doing some special pleading here and saying you may not read Historical Romance, but you might like the book anyhow.
Hi Linda —
I will wish you good luck on the giveaway. (Well, I wish good luck to everybody. *g*)
I just sent a giveaway book to Indonesia and I am tickled pink to think of it winging across the oceans that way.
Hi girlygirl —
Did that leave you with an interest in matters French? I have to admit the history of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars just fascinates me.
Hi Karenmc —
I hear what you are saying about allergies.
I love birds. They are so elegant and beautiful. But I can’t be around them. They make me sneeze.
Hi Maria D —
I don’t know whether I can mention this here — is it commercial too much? — but Black Hawk is eligible for the 4-for-3 deal at Amazon. It’s where, if you are buying three books, you get the fourth one free.
I don’t know how long they will have that in place, so I just wanted to mention this for anyone who is thinking of buying books for Christmas or something.
Hi Barbara —
It is widely known that cats rule. Even my dog knows this.
I bought a big, beautiful dog bed and set it down. The cat walked over and curled up on it and the dog just backed quietly away.
(I had to buy ANOTHER dog bed for the dog.)
Hi Virginia —
I do hope you enjoy Black Hawk. I really like my character, Adrian. Justine is pretty neat too.
Hi Cara King,
I lurk at Risky Regencies, y’know. I just enjoy this place so much.
Wishing you luck, of course. I wish the publisher gave me some e-books to give away as well as print books.
Hi Joanna —
I it those geographic restrictions? Is the book coming out later in the UK?
If so, I am so sorry. I have no control over this. I really regret that books are not released freely and simultaneously everywhere at once. It seems so unfair.
Hi Louise B —
I am of two minds about the cover of Black Hawk. He’s a fine handsome man, that fellow. But he’s not really how I picture my Hawker.
But, as I say, I don’t understand marketing and must leave it to the experts.
I do think it is well composed and I love the subtle colors and the cityscape behind him that looks so very Parisian.
Hi Jane George —
Thank you so much for like TSL. I think Black Hawk should be on the shelves of your local bookstore by now.
A friend said she had to roust out a clerk and have him head into the back and crack open a box. *g*
Hi Terry P —
Funnily enough, lots of folks look at me as if to say — ‘Kinda strange, but good,’ so your assessment may be right on.
Hi Amy Kathryn —
Thank you so much for the kind words. I do hope you’ll be able to get Black Hawk.
As I say, it’s one of the ones on sale at Amazon right now.
Or you may be able to get your library system to buy a copy. I am a huge fan of libraries and always proud and delighted when I find they’ve included me on their shelves.
Hi Louisa Cornell —
I’m like your crit partner. I feel all amazed at the writing of current stylists like Anne Gracie, Meredith Duran, Cara Elliott, Sherry Thomas, Patricia Rice, Grace Burrowes, Susan Frasier, Jo Beverley, Anna Campbell, Eileen Dreyer,Jeannie Lin, Courtney Milan, Mary Jo Putney . . . I could go on and on.
I enjoyed the post and The Black Hawk sounds like a fantastic book. I’m looking forward to reading it.
Barbed1951 at aol dot com
Jo, your answers are always direct and hilarious.
Yeah! I vote cats in books! Ha ha!
I read you on Twitter, I’m going to go out and get a book of yours when I get paid next.
Jo has the most amazing voice. A true talent that isn’t contrived or too try-hard. I love how her characters project strong actions and re-actions, but always for the most compelling believable reasons. A true story teller. Thank you for a tantalising glimpse of The Black Hawk. Can’t wait to read it.
LOL! great post ladies.
Joanna, I love your books, they’re amazing and I can’t wait to read this one.
Love your books, Jo. But, I had no idea the angst involved in coming up with titles–wow! I was rolling on the floor when I read the back-and-forth regarding Adrian’s story. LOLLLL
Please enter my name in the drawing. I’m going to read your book one way or the other but would just LOVE to win a copy.
All the best!
Lovely lovely post! Thanks for it, Joanna! I adore your books and can’t wait for Hawk to arrive on my doorstep. 🙂
claudigc at msn dot com
What a wonderful interview!! I read voraciously, about a book a day, and so I can’t afford to buy all the books that I read. Thank god for public libraries!! But yours are some of the books that I buy because I love them so much that I have to own them. Thank you for your truly wonderful stories
Black Hawk Down was kinda my first thought when I saw the title…
Love the bit about why Adrian got a story, and must admit that from the get go he was one of my favs, so I’m with the group that bugged you for him.
I always liked the name Black Hawk in old pirate movies we saw as kids. Your book sounds great…. would love to read it.