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Today at the Riskies we welcome not one but six Harlequin Historicals authors to talk about their new miniseries “Regency Silk & Scandal”! They have so much to say on the creation of these books that they’ll be with us two days, today and tomorrow, and they’ll be giving away some great prizes–two copies of The Lord and the Wayward Lady and one early copy of The Smuggler and the Society Bride


Three friends and rival spymasters, two scandalous affairs, one murder, and an innocent man hanged on the testimony of his best friend set the stage for the next generation to try to solve the mystery of the murder and redeem lives shattered by disgrace.

Series, miniseries, continuities…by whatever name, these linked stories are perennially popular with readers.Those not written by a single author, however, are generally contemporaries and generally created by an editorial team who determine an overall story arc, individual plots and continuing characters, then contract authors to write the designated stories.

The REGENCY SILK & SCANDAL miniseries, which began this month from Harlequin Historical/Mills & Boon with Louise Allen’s THE LORD AND THE WAYWARD LADY, is quite different. First, the stories are set in Regency rather than modern times. Instead of having editors predetermine the significant factors, the six-author team was given free rein to develop the story arc, invent the recurring characters and determine the plot for each of the eight books, then each author picked which story she wanted to write.

The creation of SILK & SCANDAL was an adventure that lead to a Yahoo group currently clocked in at over 3000 e-mails, spreadsheets presenting family trees, detailed timelines, and a “bible” created and maintained by author Annie Burrows that logged weekly all the significant facts developed about the recurring characters as the authors simultaneously wrote their stories.

With six authors, even simple replies get lengthy, so we’re dividing this post into two segments. Today, the authors will talk about the process of writing the continuity; tomorrow’s post will focus on how they developed characters when some were members of the miniseries families and some were not.

Part 1: What were the best and worst things about writing this continuity?

The opportunity to help create something on a much wider canvas than usual was the first positive that struck me – and despite the difficulty of trying to keep it all straight, that remained enormously satisfying.

What was a worry at first, and then rapidly turned into an absolute joy, was getting to know the other continuistas. The stimulus of working with five other very creative writers, all with a different style and approach and yet all willing to work together to a common end was great and it is such a satisfying way to acquire five wonderful new friends.

The worst thing was realising I was writing the first book and the terror – usually at 3am – that I wouldn’t get this off to a coherent, let alone readable, start. It did get less worrying as time went on though!

Then there was the anxiety that I had done something that would have an effect on other books in the continuity – perhaps developing a character, who was minor in my stories but major in someone else’s, in the wrong direction and not realising this would create a problem that would have serious consequences later on. This didn’t happen, thank goodness, because we all tried very hard to keep checking and Annie Burrows kept a vast file of every email decision or comment.

Christine Merrill, author of Book 2, PAYING THE VIRGIN’S PRICE and Book 8, TAKEN BY THE WICKED RAKE:
This will be tricky, because it sounds like shameless pandering to say that there was no “worst thing.” Unless I count the absolute terror I felt at the beginning, when we didn’t know each other, and had absolutely nothing to start with. I felt pretty dry of ideas at that point, and very intimidated to be working in such a talented group.

But the worst thing turned out to be the best thing, when I began to enjoy the freedom of it, and the creative rush of new ideas, as the story started to develop. By that time, we weren’t strangers any more. More like a tight knit group of friends. Then it became more like playing than working.

Julia Justiss, author of Book 3, THE SMUGGLER AND THE SOCIETY BRIDE:
For The Best, What Louise and Chris Said! With the scope of eight books, we wanted to write about a wide variety of characters, and so came up with the idea of three aristocratic families rocked by a scandal that sees one family remain at the top of the ton, members of a second slip down into the middle reaches, and those of the third, whose father is convicted of treason, cast out altogether and scattered to the four winds. So among our heroes and heroines we have viscounts and governesses, paid companions and thief-takers, Diamonds of the Ton and milliners.

My greatest hope? That the series will do well enough that the editors will consider commissioning other projects like this in future.

The absolute best? Having five other authors with whom to brainstorm, revise and commiserate!

The worst? Worrying that I wouldn’t finish on time, or that my book wouldn’t rise to the high standard of the others.

From Gayle Wilson, author of Book 4, CLAIMING THE FORBIDDEN BRIDE:
The most difficult thing for me in writing was plunging back into the Regency world after six years of exclusively writing romantic suspense. Although early in my career I easily switched back and forth between these two disparate genres, I hadn’t done that in quite a while. Knowing how knowledgeable Regency readers are, I was also apprehensive that I might make some glaring historical error or not be able to find my “Regency voice” again.

As it turned out, those fears were allayed somewhat by the discovery that I would be writing with a group of Regency pros who were more than willing to share both their expertise and their resources.I’m sure I made some of those period mistakes I had dreaded, but if so, that was only because I didn’t ask my fellow authors the right questions. Their creative generosity, their endless patience, their enthusiasm for this project, and their friendship was, in the end, the very best part of this experience for me.

From Annie Burrows, author of Book 5, THE VISCOUNT AND THE VIRGIN:
I hate to sound unoriginal, but the best thing was, without doubt, getting to know the other authors. At first I felt a bit shy about working alongside writers whose books I have on my shelves. But they were all so open and friendly that I soon began to look forward to logging into my inbox each day, and bouncing ideas around with them all.

Worst thing? The sheer volume of work required. We all had to keep the plots, characters, and timings of seven other stories clear in our heads whilst creating our own individual stories, with no editorial “bible”to guide us.

Before long, I started to record joint decisions as we made them, so I could keep things straight in my head. And before much longer, someone else owned up to having trouble remembering exactly what we’d agreed, after all the to-ing and fro-ing of ideas that went on, so I volunteered to upload the weekly progress to a file in our Yahoo group. There went my Friday nights.

From Margaret McPhee, author of Book 6, UNLACING THE INNOCENT MISS:
The best was the experience of working with the other continuistas; it was both interesting and inspirational to discover the ways other authors work. I’ve really learned so much from these lovely and generous ladies.

The worst was, like Julia, the two-fold worry that: I wouldn’t finish on time and b) my book wouldn’t meet the series’ high standard.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part II of our interview!

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I’m home from the RWA conference in Washington, DC, after having a lovely time. I am still so tired from the festivities that all I can do is produce random thoughts.

1. The time started out in a very exciting way! We Riskies (except Janet who was squiring folks around on a Washington DC historic house tour)
were interviewed at XM Radio (more on that in upcoming days!)

2. I danced with Janet (and the Harlequin Historical editors) at the Beau Monde Soiree. But just one dance. We would not wish to set tongues wagging.

3. The Harlequin Party was held at the Ritz Carlton in a ballroom with a great dance floor and the same DJ as in San Francisco (He’s so good!). The theme was Harlquin’s 60 year anniversary, and they set up bars with a theme of the decade. For example, the 1960s bar served Singapore Slings. A video display of old covers was flashed on the wall and on monitors throughout the room. Needless to say, it was a wildly wonderful party.

4. Harlequin was a big presence at the conference and well they should be with the wonderful year they are having, sales-wise. They gave all conference attendees tote bags with a vintage Harlequin cover on them. Keep an eye out for more Vintage cover products, soon to be on sale in Barnes and Noble and Borders and such. Harlequin partnered with a stationary company to produce a bunch of very cool notebooks and things like that. To a few lucky early arrivers at the Harlequin party, I snatched a set of post cards with vintage covers on them. Here is an idea of the covers that will perhaps be featured.

5. The Mills & Boon editors (including Harlquin Historicals) are the BEST!! Not only did Joanne Grant (Historical) and Kim Young (Romance) attend (and dance in spike heels) at the Soiree, they also “made an offer” to aspiring writer and Golden Heart finalist (and later the winner) Jeannie Lin to buy her manuscript Butterfly Swords. Joanne and Kim gave a great workshop on avoiding cliches, a download of which should be available to purchase. (check the RWA site for more on that). I could go on and on about how much fun these two ladies are, but the other editors were equally as friendly. Sheila Hodgson (Medicals) greeted me like an old friend at our Mills & Boon Reception and editorial directo, Karin Stoecker, met me for a friendly drink. (Joanne, Karin, and Sheila also toasted me with champagne in 2006 after my RITA win). Tessa Shapcot (Presents) sat across from me at the Harlequin Historical lunch and was a delight to chat with.

6. Our Riskies get-together did not go as planned. Harry’s Pub was not conducive to such a gathering, but we made do in the Lobby bar and I had a great time chatting with Santa and Keira. Andrea Pickens and Miranda Neville, both past guest authors, also were there. Santa and I even did an impromptu plot-storming session. (Miranda Neville, by the way, helped me solve a sticky plot problem, as well, when we were just chatting at breakfast Sunday). Another Risky interviewee, Pam Rosenthal, won the RITA for BEST HISTORICAL Romance!!!

7. My very favorite part of the conference is running into old friends and making new ones. I love the mystery of why I sometimes see certain people everywhere (either Sandy Coleman and Amy of All About Romance were stalking me or I was stalking them, not sure which, but everywhere I went, they did too.) and others hardly at all. And I also love walking through the halls and greeting old friends.

8. I had great intentions of touring around DC with Keira and Amanda on Sunday, but I was so exhausted that I went home early and barely budged from my spot on the couch. So sorry, Keira and Amanda! I hope you had a good day.

How about you? If you attended the conference, what were your most memorable moments? If you didn’t attend, what else can we tell you about it?

Oh, I also met with Emily Cotler of Waxcreative Design so look for some new stuff at my website real soon. There is a new contest there right now.

Tomorrow Linda Fildew (my lovely editor) and her Harlequin Historical team will be blogging with us. so be thinking of what you want to ask them.

I thought I would just do a little blog today about visiting the Richmond offices. The Mills & Boon offices are in Richmond, about ten miles from the center of London.

I visited the offices twice, once in 2003 when I’d just sold to them and everything was new to me. Amanda and my friend Julie went with me to the Richmond offices. The
second time was in 2005 right after The Wagering Widow had come out in the UK. Julie was with me that time, too.

We rode the underground to the Richmond station and walked the short distance to the offices. The town of Richmond is picturesque in itself, but, of course, I was too excited both times to take any photos.

The Mills and Boon editors treat visiting authors like valued guests, which to a brand new author was very gratifying in itself. I was given a tour of the offices and have to say I was struck by how neat and tidy everything was. One had the impression that this was a very efficient office. I also sensed a pleasant atmosphere, a happy place to work.

After my visit, the editors took us out to lunch. The first time was to a restaurant back on the main street in Richmond. The second was a restaurant on the Thames where we sat outside overlooking the river with the bridge in view. We had two bottles of wine and lovely conversation. Both lunches are treasured memories.

On that first visit, Amanda, Julie and I walked to the park nearby the Richmond offices and savored our view of the river. Here’s Amanda in the park and the monument that was there, as well.

My last photo was taken on the second trip. Julie and I were on underground on our way back to London when I took this photo of a non-paying passenger.When you aspiring writers sell to Harlequin Historical, make the trip to Richmond. You’ll love it!

Remember that the UK is 6 hours ahead of us here on the east coast, so try to visit us early tomorrow. Or leave your questions here. I’ll make certain the editors see them.

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Today the Riskies welcome back Elizabeth Rolls. Elizabeth was our guest last November when she talked about her novella A Soldier’s Tale in the Regency Christmas Anthology, Mistletoe Kisses.

She’s back to tell us about A Compromised Lady, available this month in bookstores.

Elizabeth Rolls was born in Kent, but moved to Australia at the age of fifteen months. She has lived in Australia ever since, except for a few years in Papua New Guinea as a child. Elizabeth taught music for several years and took a masters degree in musicology. Alternating between Melbourne and Sydney for a while, Elizabeth and her husband have fled the city for five acres surrounded by apple and cherry orchards in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia. They share this paradise with their two sons, three slightly demented sheep, four alpacas and a collection of cats and dogs, as well as a colony of bats who reside in the air vents of Elizabeth’s study.

Tell us about A Compromised Lady.

Er, right. Tell you about The Book From Hell. How long have you got? No, just kidding. About the how long bit. A Compromised Lady has a chequered history. It took several drafts and far too long to write. It has a quiet, scholarly hero, a heroine with a Very Big Secret and an over-protective brother, who might one day get his own story, an interfering godmother and potential scandal.

How did you think of writing this particular book? Did it start with a character, a setting, or some other element?

For this book I started with a character; Richard Blakehurst. I knew after finishing His Lady Mistress that I had to write Richard’s story. At first after all the angst of HLM I was determined to write a romp, but Richard insisted on falling in love with Thea, and it turned out to be anything but a romp! All sorts of dark stuff kept popping out all over the place.

Tell us more about your characters. What or who inspired them?

I honestly have no idea what inspires my characters. They seem to stroll onto the scene fully formed. Of course they don’t reveal all their secrets to me at once. A lot of my writing process involves discovering their secrets as I go. I do tend to write wounded heroines I’ve noticed. They often have been isolated in some way and have to learn to trust. I’ve no idea why this is the case. Thea appeared wearing grey and it took me quite a while to find out why. At first I thought it was because she was a companion or governess and tried writing the story that way, but it just didn’t work. Nothing worked until I found out her secret.

As for Richard, he was, to an extent, fully formed from His Lady Mistress. In some ways that makes things easier, because you already know the character, but in other ways it complicates things. You have to choreograph your dance around a relatively fixed point. He was always much quieter and easier going than his twin Max, probably as a foil to Max’s more emotional temperament. This meant that he was harder to stir to passion. He needed Thea and all her baggage to bring him to life. Otherwise he was just going to find a nice comfortable wife and sit on the North Downs breeding sheep and reading for the rest of his life!

One character I really enjoyed in this book was Lady Arnsworth, Richard’s aunt and godmother, who is also Thea’s godmother. She was a bit of a baddie in His Lady Mistress and I had a lot of fun redeeming her.

Your heroine has a secret. How did you use this secret to build anticipation for the reader?

Ack! Thea’s secret! She jolly well kept it dark from me for long enough, so I figured it could be a secret for my readers for a while too! Thea’s secret is something that has wounded her so deeply she tries not to think about it. So much so that she has buried part of herself. She believes that she has put it behind her, that she is ready to go on, so it is only when circumstances force the issue into the open that we find out anything about it. Took me a while to work that bit out too. So the revelation for the reader comes bit by bit as Thea is forced to face her past. If it builds anticipation for the reader then that is a good thing. Really I was just going with Thea’s character and emotional baggage. Of which last she has quite a bit.

Did you run across anything new and unusual while researching this book?

Yes! I found out about Miss Banks collection of ephemera! Sarah Sophia was the sister of Sir Joseph Banks the naturalist who sailed with Captain James Cook and she collected Everything. And I mean everything; her collection included coins, medals and printed and engraved ephemera – trade cards, visiting cards, admission tickets, invitations, you name it. All nineteen thousand items of it. I’d bought a book on the history of the British Museum because of Richard’s interest in antiquities, and she was mentioned briefly because all that stuff ended up at the Museum. That was the origin of Thea’s collection of odds and ends.

What do you think is the greatest creative risk you’ve taken in this book? How do you feel about it?

Hard to say really.

I think readers may not like Richard’s initial reaction when he discovers the entire truth. It is something he has to work through and I honestly think his reaction is not only true to the times, but true to his character. Probably true to a lot of men. In fact many men wouldn’t be able to make the decision Richard finally makes. At the end of the day though, it’s my story to tell.

Also I know people often don’t like stories where one character keeps a secret from another. They seem to think that puts the secret-keeping character beyond redemption. So readers, be warned; Thea is keeping the mother and father of all secrets from Richard. But considering what the secret is and that she really has no intention of marrying Richard, I think it is perfectly understandable. I can’t second-guess reader reaction. Trying to do so would leave me with a story like last week’s custard. Which is a reflection on my own process, not the readers!
Is there anything you wanted to include in the book that you (or your CPs or editor) felt was too controversial and left out?

Not in this story. Of course my editor did nix the condom in A Soldier’s Tale. And after Diane went to all the trouble of photographing the thing in the British Museum! To be honest, my editor’s comments are usually pretty positive. On the rare occasion she has asked me to remove something, it’s been something I’m not dead happy about myself. (Except for the condom. I liked the condom.) Without her patience and encouragement I’d still be floundering in the second half of this book. Which is why I dedicated it to her.

Can you talk a little bit about your background, and how it helps or doesn’t in your writing?

It’s hard to say specifically what helps. In a way, everything helps. You just use what’s to hand. That’s part of what shapes and drives the stories you tell. My background as a music history teacher means that I have a basic grasp of history. And my whole family likes history. The main thing is that we are all readers. Every last one of us. There were books all over the house when I was a kid, and no one ever thought it was strange that I liked writing stories. They were a bit surprised when I did a degree in music with a singing major, but they coped.

One thing that really helps is that I have a memory for odd details. This drives my husband insane, but it’s very handy as a writer, because lots of snippets are stored away up there and they pop out when needed.

What is your writing process? Are you a pantster or a plotter? Do you write multiple drafts or clean up as you go?

A bit of both really. I do plot madly, and then the whole thing morphs under me. This story certainly did. Rather like a dream where you’re riding a horse that changes into a tiger while you’re aboard. At least it still had four legs and a tail. Just the teeth were a shock. I tend to write a couple of reasonably complete drafts, but I do clean up a bit as I go.

My whole process has changed over the last couple of books. I used to do the entire thing on the computer, but now I find I just freeze staring at the screen. I didn’t know what was wrong for ages and kept forcing myself to sit in the chair, telling myself that this was work and I had to do it and getting more and more stuck until at last I had a fully blown case of writer’s block. I bought a second hand Alphasmart from Harlequin Presents auther Trish Morey and tried that, but it was even worse. With the small screen I couldn’t seem to keep the story thread going.

I’d realised a while back that when I was scribbling plot ideas, scenes would often flower in the middle of my notes, forming dialogue and action. More often than not I’d continue with the scene and it would end up in the book. The final scenes of the novella The Prodigal Bride in A Regency Invitation were written entirely in a notebook, and several key scenes from my Christmas novella A Soldier’s Tale.

Recently I heard Jenny Crusie speak on the subject of freezing out The Girls in the Basement by insisting on Working, instead of giving yourself Permission to Play. This freezes all the creative juices. Lightbulb moment. I understood that I’d been fighting my own creative process in the interests of so-called efficiency, by trying to work straight onto the computer. Now I’m going with the flow and getting the scenes down in a notebook, after which I type them up and edit as I go. And if you think that makes sense, then God help you. The moral of the story is; know your own creative process and Don’t Mess With It! That’s probably more than anyone wanted to know, but you did ask. It’s working for me and that’s all I need.

What is next for you?

At the moment I’m finishing up Julian, Lord Braybrook’s story. He comes into both His Lady Mistress and A Compromised Lady, although his role is much bigger in the latter. This happened sort of accidentally, because parts of his story were written while I was struggling with Richard and Thea, so he kept leaking into their story. In the end he was quite useful so I let him stay. I’m hoping to have his story finished in the next little while, after which I’m planning a few murders. I’d like to write another novella too, because I have an idea for one, but I’ll see how it goes. I also have an idea for a restoration story, but I’d have to do a huge amount of reading first to feel familiar enough with the day to day life before I started writing. So I’ll write other stuff while I read it up. In the meantime I need to find a title for Julian’s story. Right now it’s simply Lord Braybrook’s Marriage, which tells you at once that it’s a marriage of convenience story. I love MOCs. All that pent up sensual tension! I hope it will be out some time next year.

Comment on Elizabeth’s interview and earn a chance to win a copy of A Compromised Lady. The winner will be selected at random on Monday, Sept. 10. Remember. Berties Rules apply!

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