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…
MURDER…SCANDAL…REVENGE? WHY, IT’S REGENCY SILK & SCANDAL!
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?
Louise Allen, author of Book 1, THE LORD AND THE WAYWARD LADY and Book 7, THE OFFICER AND THE PROPER LADY:
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!