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We are back with Julia Ross for Part 2 of her interview. Click here to read Part 1.

Q. Your writing style has been described as a “combination of lyricism and sensuality … on par with Jo Beverley’s” (Booklist). How do you achieve this effect?

I’m very flattered to be compared to Jo, because I’ve always loved her writing. If reviewers or readers see some similarities between us, though, it’s probably because we were both growing up in England at about the same time and were exposed to many of the same influences. My writing style is exactly what comes naturally. I care very much about language and polish every sentence until it sounds “right” — the rhythm and feeling and choice of words — plus I try to delve deeply into my characters’ hearts and minds, so I write in terms of what matters to them, not to me. In the end my approach is very intuitive, and though many of Jo’s fans love my books and vice versa, that’s not always the case, since each book is unique.

Q. The heroine of GAMES OF PLEASURE is a courtesan, definitely a risky heroine. Can you tell us more about how you came up with this character?

All of my historical heroines have tended to be a little — or a lot — unusual, I think. My very first (in ILLUSION) was an English lady who’d been trained as a concubine while captive in a harem in India, and returned to Regency England with a gold ring in her nostril. Frances was expert in the erotic techniques of the Kama Sutra, but — since not even a maharajah always sampled every concubine that he owned — she was also a virgin, and that’s what made her so interesting.

And Miracle, sought-after courtesan to the Regency aristocracy? By the time I finished NIGHT OF SIN (with my brave Dissenter heroine, Anne Marsh) I knew that Jack’s brother, Lord Ryderbourne, had to have his own book. As a duke’s heir, Ryder was sexy and powerful and an obvious hero, yet he was also weighed down by duty and strangely innocent. Since romance thrives on tension, the heroine needed to present him with a challenge — and a professional courtesan was about as far from Ryder’s expectations as was possible. Though I must admit that when Ryder first plunged his horse into the ocean to save Miracle from drowning, I had no idea what she’d been doing for a living, or why she was unconscious and half-naked in a boat.

However, I already knew who Ryder was from NIGHT OF SIN. My hero always really drives the story, and if he’s complex and tortured, so much the better! Though Ryder isn’t as obviously dark and troubled as his brother Jack, it’s only because he’s less self-aware. So once I knew her real past, I was fascinated by how Miracle would react to a man like Ryder, and how he’d react to her, especially once he knew the truth.

Yet in spite of her pragmatic attitude to men and sex, I honestly didn’t think of Miracle in terms of risk. She’s honorable and brave and worthy of a hero’s heart, and she’s never been simply promiscuous. After all, there are plenty of rakes in romance who abandon their mistresses at the start of the story when they meet the heroine. It would reflect a very cruel double standard if those women were always villains, or doomed to unhappiness, wouldn’t it? So why not have a brilliant, sexually knowledgeable heroine like Miracle seduce a gorgeous guy like Ryder, and then overcome all the odds to eventually find happiness with him?

Q. What do you see as some of the greatest creative risks you’ve taken in your career? Has there ever been anything an editor asked you to remove or tone down? Anything readers had problems with?

To judge a character or plot-element as a “risk” implies that the author has accepted a certain set of expectations that she’s consciously breaking, and that’s simply not the way that I write. Though it might have been “safer” to write simpler or less sophisticated stories, all of my editors so far have encouraged me to go wherever the story demands, whether it’s “different” or not, and no editor has ever asked me to tone down a thing. On the contrary, my editors repeatedly tell me that my unique voice and approach is what they love most about my books. There’s great freedom in that, but it can also be a little intimidating at times!

As for readers having problems, several years ago I lost some of my early Regency readers, who didn’t like the explicit sensuality of my long historicals and let me know all about it. Yet only the kindest of readers seem to contact me these days. My fans sometimes point out little errors that might have crept in, but usually they’re incredibly generous with their praise, which always touches me to the heart.

Beginning every new book is incredibly tough for me, and it’s often at some moment of great self-doubt that I’ll receive a wonderful e-mail from a new fan. For example, a professional romance reviewer in Germany just e-mailed to tell me that she’d become so caught up in THE SEDUCTION that she was in danger of falling behind on her job. She’d already ordered copies of all of my titles still in print and was searching out my backlist, as well. I feel very humbled to get an e-mail like that, but it also helps to inspire me to keep writing.

Meanwhile, I’m absolutely thrilled that my fans have enabled Berkley to put the words “bestselling author” on my covers, and I owe them a huge debt of thanks. THANK YOU, READERS!! On the other hand, my stories are definitely not for everyone, so I don’t troll the Internet looking for negative comments from readers who prefer a different style. One of the greatest attributes of romance is that there’s enough variety to suit all of us, so no author needs to please every reader, and it’s far better that way.

Q. We hear you just completed the manuscript for your next book. Congratulations! Can you tell us more about it?

CLANDESTINE will be released in Berkley trade paperback in November with some very sensuous orchids and a lovely, iridescent barn swallow on the cover. It’s the third book in the Wyldshay trilogy, and opens when Guy Devoran — Jack and Ryder’s glamorous cousin — is accosted in a London bookstore by a redheaded schoolteacher from Bath. I had no idea when I began this story that Guy was hiding dark secrets throughout NIGHT OF SIN and GAMES OF PLEASURE — secrets he simply must keep from Sarah Callaway, even when he agrees to help her find her missing cousin. The cover art and a tiny teaser are already up on my web site at and I’ll be adding more between now and November. So please stay tuned!

Q. What are you planning to work on next?

I don’t plan very far ahead, and I always take off a little time between books to refill the well, so at the moment I really have no clue what the next story will be, or even when or where it might take place. I’m going to England again very soon — I go every year to explore new locations and ideas — so I trust that another “burning idea” will have grabbed me by the time I get back! Meanwhile, I hope I can find the time to put some photos up on my web site of places in Britain that helped to inspire scenes in previous books — like bluebell woods and coast paths — though that probably won’t happen for several more weeks. Which leads me once again to thank my readers for always being so patient with me. Including my necessary “dream time,” it takes me a solid year to write a book, so there’s not a lot of spare time left over. Thanks again, Risky Regencies!

Posted in Interviews | Tagged | 2 Replies

We’re thrilled to welcome Julia Ross as our guest.

Julia began writing as a child in England, where she wrote and performed plays with her cousins, to the great amusement of adult family members. She graduated from Edinburgh University, then came to the U.S. and settled in the Rocky Mountains, where she worked with her husband designing solar homes before deciding to write her first romance novel.

As Jean Ross Ewing, Julia wrote six traditional Regencies, the last of which, LOVE’S REWARD, won RWA’s RITA award in 1998. Since then, she has written seven historical romances, all of them Romantic Times Top Picks. Her latest release, GAMES OF PLEASURE, is a finalist for the 2005 Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Historical Romance of the Year.

Read more about Julia and her books at

Praise for Julia Ross and GAMES OF PLEASURE

“An exceptional writer who creates rich, compelling characters in tales of intrigue.” – The Oakland Press

“One of the most powerful voices in historical romance.” – Mary Jo Putney

“Historical romance fans can count on Julia Ross to present novels full of romance and excitement, telling prose and engaging dialogue, and soul deep characterization.”
– Romance Reviews Today

“The journey is intriguing, sometimes dangerous, and filled with all the lush sensuality Ross’s readers have come to expect. A resourceful heroine with a past and an honorable, complex hero who is trying to avoid his proscribed future find passion and an unexpected destiny in this emotionally involving story.”
– Library Journal

The Interview

Q. Welcome to the Riskies, Julia. You started your romance fiction career writing traditional Regencies as Jean Ross Ewing. Since then, you have written seven historical romances, five of them as Julia Ross. What do you see as the differences between traditional Regencies and Regency-set historical romances?

Thanks for the welcome! I’m truly delighted to be here, and I love the name “Risky Regencies,” because the truth is that my short Regencies were never very “traditional” to start with. I’ve always adored romances filled with dangerous adventures and high emotional stakes, which is why I switched to historicals eight years ago. The longer format lets me develop more complex stories and delve deeper into my characters’ emotions. Also, since my historical romances are far more explicit, the sexual dynamics can be a much bigger part of the story, essential to a conflict that’s truly fundamental to the characters.

Q. Your stories have had late Georgian, Regency and slightly post-Regency settings. How did you become interested in these time periods? What do you like best (or least) about them?

The period from 1760 to 1820 has always enchanted me. I grew up in a Georgian house in the English countryside, so it wasn’t hard to imagine that past. Life for the upper classes was both more elegant and less certain than our lives are today, but the setting was wonderfully romantic — the green countryside, the great houses, the new towns. I love it that no one could travel faster than the fastest horse, and honor and gallantry were still truly meaningful concepts. And men have never looked sexier!

For the earlier Georgian period (the setting for THE SEDUCTION and THE WICKED LOVER), there was such a great contrast between the rich, flamboyant clothes and the very masculine, dangerous men who wore them. Secure in their power before the French Revolution, the aristocracy enjoyed a pretty licentious time. It’s hard to resist a hero dressed in silk and lace who never doubts his authority and knows how to fight with a sword!

The Regency period was a little more restrained and elegant, but the Wyldshay Trilogy (starting with NIGHT OF SIN and GAMES OF PLEASURE) takes place in 1828-29, after Prinny became King George IV. I became fascinated by the interface between the sophistication of that late-Regency society and the burgeoning scientific exploration of a world where huge areas were still unknown. When Wild Lord Jack returns to England in NIGHT OF SIN after his dangerous travels in the far reaches of Asia, he’s still a Regency gentleman at heart. Yet he’s been profoundly changed by his experiences, and his interests are all forward-looking. Though he wants to dismiss the heroine as a typical Regency miss when he first meets her, she’s a real freethinker. They’re both outsiders, and the story wouldn’t have worked as well at any other moment in history.

Q. Which of your books is your favorite?

Well, they’re all very different — so how can I pick favorites? Yet my most recent books are at the forefront of my thinking, so right now I’d have to choose GAMES OF PLEASURE or NIGHT OF SIN, though that will change when CLANDESTINE is released next November. Each of my stories is written only because what I call a “burning idea” grabbed me and simply wouldn’t let go. That “burning idea” is different each time, yet it always involves plenty of built-in excitement and conflict. Then I fall in love with my hero and can’t wait to see what happens next. So the book I’ve most recently finished always becomes the favorite of the moment — until I go back to read one of my earlier books (which I often do when the stories are related) and get swept away by that one, instead!

Q. What do you like to read?

Now that I’m a full-time author, I have little time left to read fiction: a great irony, since it was my love of historical novels that brought me to romance in the first place. Instead, whenever I get time to read, I delve pretty much at random into any history that catches my interest. Reality is always stranger than fiction, and the most apparently random tidbits often end up sparking ideas for my next story. Thus I have shelves full of interesting history books, many of which I’ve not had the chance to read yet.

Q. For the writers amongst us, what is your writing process? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you write multiple drafts or clean up as you go?

Alas, I’m an unrepentant “seat-of-the-pantser.” Once that “burning idea” grabs me, I just plunge in to see what happens, following my very personal, intuitive sense of what makes a great story. It’s a tough way to write a novel, because it involves lots of rewriting as I go, but almost all of my best scenes and ideas have come to me that way — and each time I must have faith that it will work once again! Luckily, my characters and plot always seem to sort themselves out in the end, almost as if the entire story was already waiting in my unconscious mind, and all I have to do is uncover it. Yet I envy the organized plotters, because I’m sure that their methods are far more efficient than mine are. But so far my messy process has carried me through fourteen novels and many awards, so I’d never dare try to change it!

Look for Part 2 of this interview next weekend!

Posted in Interviews | Tagged | 4 Replies

Like many other historical romance authors, I have a fondness for outdoor love scenes and put one in my new Regency novella, LADY EM’S INDISCRETION. Maybe real Regency folk didn’t spend as much time cavorting around gardens as the fictional ones. But they could have, and based on human nature, I bet some did.

Some of my favorite fictional spaces for outdoor romance: mazes, bowers, and what appears to be another of my fetishes (along with the chaise longue): the classical folly. One of my critique buddies asked when a Grecian temple is going up in my backyard. Maybe after I buy a chaise longue. 🙂

I enjoyed the use of Stourhead Gardens as the setting for the famous rejection scene in the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice, with Keira Knightley and Matthew McFadyen. They don’t quite kiss, but I find this scene very sexy.

As for favorite outdoor love scenes in fiction, I have many. There was a fun scene in a fountain in Laura Kinsale’s MIDSUMMER MOON. I loved the ending of ILLUSION by Jean Ross Ewing (aka Julia Ross), in which the hero ties up the heroine in chains of daisies.

What are some of your favorite romantic outdoor scenes, whether from books or films?

From comments on this post, I’ll draw five names to receive a Kindle edition of LADY EM’S INDISCRETION. If you win, you can also suggest a friend who will receive one as well. Comment through Friday (one entry per person) and I’ll announce the winners next Saturday.

Elena’s Facebook Page

Last week, in a new installment to the Cassie Edwards saga, Paul Tolme spoke out at Newsweek about the experience of having words from his Defenders of Wildlife article on black-footed ferrets used as dialogue in a romance novel. He’s clearly delighted that the resulting publicity has caused a spike in donations and ferret adoptions. However, he’s also upset some romance readers and writers by his use of terms like “trashy romance novel” and “standard romance-novel schlock”, for which he has since apologized.

It brings up the question of how much should we care when people mock the romance genre.

I certainly understand those who feel upset about it. Yet I can’t personally blame Paul Tolme. How could he resist such material? And he hasn’t exactly had a good introduction to the genre, has he? There are just too many people who share this view of romance (some of them even my relatives and friends). I just don’t have the energy to be angry with all of them.

What I do think is that too much righteous indignation can make us look foolish. Maybe we should just enjoy what we read and write and not worry about what people think.

But on the other hand, I’ve met too many women who might enjoy romance and won’t even try one, perhaps for fear of being thought foolish or frivolous. Especially if one of them admits to loving Jane Austen and/or the Brontes, I suspect there are romance novels that might appeal to her. If we managed to somehow tap into that market, it could lead to more sales of the sort of books I want to read and write.

So anyway, I do care and have always paid attention to advice coming through RWA and elsewhere on how to improve the image of the romance genre.

Sometimes we are advised to quote statistics (the ones like romance accounts for 50% of mass market fiction sales). Some people will be impressed by the size of the business even if they don’t think they’d care for the product. On the other hand, that can be like telling people they should be impressed with McDonald’s food because of the X brazillion burgers sold.

The problem is I don’t really feel comfortable trying to defend the entire romance genre. Some books are pretty indefensible. The covers are sometimes cheesy. Sometimes the contents are, too. (There are also some pretty cheesy covers on some wonderful books and vice versa, but that’s a whole different blog post.) There is usually some truth to any stereotype.

Anyway, I don’t think indignation or a blanket endorsement of the genre are the right responses. If someone is rude (like the teen who walked up to me at a bookstore signing and said “Eeeewwww, romance!”) I smile and tell her she is entitled to her opinion. If someone is more polite and seems open-minded, I talk about the variety that exists within the romance genre.

I have occasionally tried to “convert” friends to romance. Not that that is the right word, actually. I wouldn’t want someone to try to convert me to reading horror, for instance. (Nothing against horror, I enjoyed the one Stephen King novel I read. But it’s just not my favorite flavor.) What I’d really like to do is to get more people to try romance.

Last year, I got Julia Ross’s THE WICKED LOVER onto my book group’s reading list. I thought her use of language and her characterizations would appeal to them. However, most members didn’t read it. It could be in part because it was the December book and everyone was busy (no one read the previous December book either and we’ve since decided to skip the month). But I don’t know if it would have flown in any other month.

I’m at peace with that. I can’t change the world and I did get one member into romance. She started out with Julia Ross but has moved on to many new authors. I’m happy about that small gain and I’ll continue recommending good romance novels–especially those by the Riskies. 🙂

So how do you feel when people diss romance? Do you think it matters? What do you do about it?


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