Hello, Riskies! It’s great to be stopping by, though I have to admit I was just a tad miffed Janet failed to mention she was rooming with me at the New England conference. Oh, well. Perhaps it is an experience she would rather forget, though I don’t believe I did anything especially objectionable. And she is a Risky, right?
Anyway, I’m here to talk a bit about writing, specifically how I’ve been writing my Naked books and where I’ve been getting my ideas. If any of you are Nakedly inclined, you might have noticed the fifth Naked noble, The Naked Baron, is taking “his” bows on bookstore shelves these days. The sixth Naked guy, The Naked Viscount, is tentatively scheduled for April 2010, and I’m getting ready to begin writing The Naked King. (No, don’t worry–not George IV. I write romance, not horror!) Little did I know when the first Naked book, The Naked Duke, came out in February 2005, that I’d still be writing Naked all these years later.
I sold the Duke when I finalled in RWA’s Golden Heart and a judging editor called to offer me a two book contract. Great! But I didn’t know if I could write a second book. What should I do?
The first thing I did was to get the delivery date for book two put off as far into the future as my new editor would allow. Then I looked at the Duke. Ah, ha! The main character had two male friends. Perfect! I’d write their stories.
Those of you who are published or just in the know are probably rolling your eyes now. I had a TWO book contract, the Duke being the first of the two. And I was planning a trilogy. Not a smart move. One of the sad facts of publishing is numbers rule. If the first book doesn’t sell well for whatever reasons, there won’t be another contract. Writer and reader are left hanging.
Being a complete babe in the publishing woods, however, I didn’t know this. I wrote The Naked Marquis, saving the duke’s sister and the duke’s other friend for the third book. I even “promoted” the marquis’s brother from an earl to a marquis during the Duke’s copy edits so I wouldn’t have two naked earls.
Fortunately, readers liked the Duke, so I did get a second two book contract. I could complete my trilogy…but what–or whom–would the fourth book be about? Well, the Marquis’s heroine had a sister, Meg, who’d caught my attention…
This all sounds vaguely crazy, even to me. I always thought I was a bit of a control freak–certainly my four sons would say I was. But here I am, letting these people who come out of my head–who are literally figments of my imagination–boss me around.
And of course I don’t find only my characters while writing, I find my plots as well. When I finally started on the third Naked book, The Naked Earl, I was delighted to finally be able to get to Lizzie’s and Robbie’s story. But then I realized I didn’t know their story. Why hadn’t they gotten together earlier? They liked each other; they were of comparable social stature; everyone could tell they were meant for each other. So what was the problem?
That was quite the stumper. I thought seventeen–Lizzie’s age in the Duke–was far too young to wed, but regency people wouldn’t think so. I mused about that for a while until I came up with the reason–Robbie had performance anxiety, an embarrassing disability he would be unlikely to discuss, even with his closest friends. A fellow writer later told me how daring I’d been to give my hero such a problem, but I didn’t think I’d been daring at all. Desperate, perhaps. This was the only thing I could think of that offered me a way out of the box I’d built for myself.
I discovered the hero and heroine of my newest book, The Naked Baron, while writing The Naked Gentleman. The Gentleman’s hero, John Parker-Roth, first appears in The Naked Earl. One of the characters in that book, in a stray thought, reveals that Parker-Roth had been jilted a few years earlier by a Lady Grace Dawson. In the Gentleman I learned that the man hadn’t just been jilted, he’d been left standing at the altar the day of his wedding, which is what turned him against marriage. But then as I went on writing the Gentleman, I met Lady Grace and her husband. They weren’t nasty, evil people. I rather liked them. I wondered why Grace would do something so heinous as failing to show up to her own wedding, leaving her friend John to face all that embarrassment. I wrote The Naked Baron to find out–and I was happy to go “back in time,” since the Gentleman is set near the end of the strict Regency; The Naked Baron goes back about four years to when The Naked Duke is set.
So how do you risky writers discover your characters and stories? Do you stumble along through the mist, do your characters show up and direct your writing, or do you plot everything out before you type “chapter 1”? And risky readers, what draws you into a story and makes you pick a book off the bookstore shelf? Character? Plot? Both? And do you like to see secondary characters get their own stories?
USA Today bestselling author Sally MacKenzie writes funny, hot Regency-set historicals for Kensington’s Zebra line, and her books have been translated into Czech, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Russian. Her fifth book, The Naked Baron, is a Romantic Times BOOKreviews Top Pick for May, with the baron himself receiving a K.I.S.S. award. Sally graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Notre Dame (in the first class of women). She’s a Cornell Law School dropout, former federal regulation writer, current swim league president, and mother of four mostly grown sons. A native of Washington, D. C., she still resides in suburban Maryland with her husband and whichever of her sons are stopping back in the nest. To find out more about Sally and her books, visit her website at www.sallymackenzie.net.
Sally, I LOVE reading NAKED !! I have since the first one came out. The funniest look I’ve ever received was in San Francisco during the RWA National Conference. My room mate and I went down the street to the drug store and I happened to be wearing my conference name badge lanyard. There on the pouch was my “I’m a Naked Reader” button. The poor guy at the counter did a double take! Too funny!
I have really enjoyed this series and I do love related series. There is a sense of coming home and comfort in visiting old friends, seeing what they’re up to and finding out the stories of people you met in other stories. I have a number of secondary characters in my yet unpublished novels that are HOWLING for their own stories. The temptation for me is to go ahead and write that secondary character’s story because I LIKE him or her and want to tell it, but I am trying to resist and write other stories while taking notes on those secondary stories.
Oh, Sally! You should make up a new set of buttons saying “I love reading NAKED”
Great blog. Loved reading about the development of the Naked series. So far I have only read Naked Duke but I have copies of Marquis, Earl & Gentleman on my TBR shelves (note to self: pull the naked guys out to read ASAP!). The rest of the series is on my BTB list. Now, to my question: how does The Naked Laird in the Lords of Desire Anthology fit into the mix?
Hi Sally, great post. I love to hear how authors get their ideas for their charactors and plots. You’s are very interesting. I really enjoyed how the Naked series started. I think I only have one book in this series but will have to get the rest.
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I’m so sad that The Naked Duke is not available as a Kindle book….any chance it will be soon? In its place I have purchased The Naked Marquess. I am downloading it to my Kindle as we speak.
Hey Sally, for the record you were an exemplary and charming roomie. We hung out yesterday, too, when Diane and Sally and I and a bunch of other writers went to a signing and lunch at a local military base for the wives of retired military–a lot of fun. I ate a lot of Sally’s chocolate since I was sitting next to her.
I’m trying to persuade Sally to do a downstairs series–the Naked House Steward-Butler-Footman–French Man Chef, and so on.
Hi, Riskies! I’m sorry to be late to the party–I just got back from Denver and I think my brain got lost along the way. As Janet says, I even spent yesterday with two Riskies–but it wasn’t until I got home from the grocery store and went to cross something off the calendar that I saw I was supposed to be stopping in here. (skaneibp–that’s my forehead hitting the laptop keyboard)
Louisa, I’m SO glad you’re a Naked reader–and you probably brightened that poor guy’s day. I was just presenting a workshop–well, only a handful of folks showed up, so perhaps we should say I was blathering on about the Naked guys–in Denver. One of the few people there was male–and, my mouth running ahead of my brain as it is wont to do–I started talking about The Naked Viscount, the book I turned in at the end of March and which will be out next April. It features–unless my editor informs me I was totally mad and must redo–Pan statues with enormous penises. Which I actually said in mixed company. Argh!! Glad to hear you’re taking notes on those secondary stories.
Diane, I always caution folks who take my buttons not to pin them on if they are indeed reading Naked. But I do love you’re version.
Ah, Karen H in NC–as an aside, second son went to Davidson College–I’m so glad you asked about the Laird. (And I want to point out that I didn’t put you up to it.) Did I forget to say that in the blog? I wrote it befofre I went traveling and if I look at it now, I will probably lose this comment–which might be a good thing on balance, but I don’t want to lose it. The Laird actually happens during the house party that is recounted in a section of the Baron. So the two stories are very closely linked, and observant readers might be able to find discrepancies…though I hope not and I also hope such readers will not hold that against me. And here I will say…if anyone is still with me…that I will give away a copy of Lords of Desire in whichever way the Riskies choose. Guess I should probably tell Diane that, hmm?
Virginia, writers LOVE to hear a reader say she has to “get the rest”! I do hope you enjoy my Naked world.
Jane, so nice of you to stop by. The reprint and e-print aspect of this business totally befuddles me. I don’t believe I knew the Marquis was available on Kindle as it came out before the Kindle was invented–or at least out in the world–I think. I’ve been told that my publisher is planning to reprint the Duke (hooray), so perhaps they will do the Kindle thing with it at that time. When that time is…I haven’t the foggiest.
I must point out that the candy Janet ate wasn’t mine. I think it was provided by the hostesses. Or at least someone who wasn’t me. I think I ate almost all the candy Janet didn’t. But we did leave a little on the table.
Now I’m going to publish this quickly, before blogger eats it. Please forgive any typos, and I promise to pop by more promptly in future.
I love books in a series and I have the first 3 in this series and loved them all.
I love getting to know charaters in one book and then them having their own books is great I feel that I know them already and connect straight away.
Congrats on the series Sally
I really like when secondary characters get their own story; especially if they’ve been in the first story to some extent that shapes the story.
I really enjoy series because one can further see what the characters have been up to and find new friends in the second and third book and so on.
The cover art first catches my eye and I am known to pick up a book because of that. Then I read the blurb and get hooked often times.
Even though it’s not on Kindle (it’s the only one) I decided to buy it in paperback. I saw that the books interconnected and like to read book series from the beginning. Look forward to starting it. I am intrigued by the plot line.
I just bought a fainting couch for when my stays get too tight!
Thanks for the congrats, Helen. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the Naked guys you’ve met so far.
Robynl, covers are so important, aren’t they? Yet the writer usually has no say in her cover. But I’ve been lucky so far–I like the Naked covers. And I’ve found it fun to write a series.
Jane Austen, thanks for inviting the Duke into your home. Did you really buy a fainting couch?
Speaking of fainting couches, I’m afraid I’m going to head to bed. It seems rather early, but I’m still tired from all the traveling I did. Maybe I’ll read a little of one of the Risky books I got yesterday–Diane, Janet, and I swapped books at the Fort Meade signing.
I’ll try to remember to peek in tomorrow in case anyone has commented.
Well it is a modern day fainting couch, but a fainting couch nonetheless.
And I would never turn down a Duke!
Jane Austen said
“I would never turn down a Duke!”
Especially a NAKED one!
Hi Sally! Love those NAKED books! I remember when your first one came out with the Zebra debut line! I’ve missed some recently so its so good to hear about those other characters having their stories told! I love that when all get their HEA’S. I remember one time writing an author and asking if they would have that other characters story and they never had intention to write that one but not long after I asked, that character was sticking out more and asking for their story! So I love to ask for them too.
I love going to the romance section in the bookstores! I dearly love to find my favorite authors and too sometimes publishers since I’m familiar with them. But I also look for names I never heard of. Its so fun to read a new to me author and debut authors. With that I pick up and get a glimpse of the genre from the cover. Most do match the blurb on the back. I basically read anything in romance except those faith based (religious) and horror (I’ve not found any horror romance but you never know! I’m a wimp). But I love my paranormals too love them more when they set in Regency etc. So if the blurb appeals to me, I grab it. I only rely on reviews to get some info on the genre, sensuality, series info as well as again, authors I didn’t know of. So there’s ways for me to find some of those I haven’t read as well as finding out there’s a new NAKED book! Thanks for doing them Sally! I can’t wait to get the last couple that I missed. They are a joy to read.