Riskies: Welcome back to the blog, Regina! Tell us about La Petite Four.
Regina: It’s a romp of a young adult Regency about 4 friends making their debut in 1815 London, and running afoul of a handsome young lord who may have more up his sleeve than a nicely muscled arm. But why tell you when I can show you?? Here’s the La Petite Four video, courtesy of the Class of 2k8, a group of 27 authors with YA or middle grade novels out this year.
Riskies: What gave you the idea for this story?
Regina: One of my traditional Regencies, A Dangerous Dalliance, featured an art teacher who is coerced into chaperoning 4 students on an Easter holiday visit to a Great House. The four students–Lady Emily Southwell, Priscilla Tate, and sisters Ariadne and Daphne Courdebas–help the teacher blossom and catch the eye of the new earl. They also solve a mystery along the way. Readers had written me asking if I would ever tell the girls’ stories. When I decided to try a YA, I knew exactly which story I wanted to tell first!
Riskies: What was the research like? Did you find any unusual or unexpected facts?
Regina: Lady Emily wants to be an artist, a rather shocking pastime for the daughter of a duke. At first, I hoped she would join the Royal Academy of Arts school, but as I went deeper into research I was shocked to learn girls weren’t allowed! One of the required courses involved sketching nude models, and it wasn’t considered “proper” for young ladies to view nudes. Some women actually posed nude, but that’s another story. Even Angelica Kauffman and Mary Moser, founding members of the Royal Academy, were treated differently. In a famous painting, Johann Zoffany depicted the founding members of the Academy, all standing around models. Kauffman and Moser are seen only as paintings on the wall! Of course, one of the great things about writing today is that you can sometimes address these historical issues. I created a group of aristocratic artists, men and women, who paint only for charity–The Royal Society for the Beaux Arts, and gave Emily the dream of becoming a member there instead.
Riskies: What are some of the challenges and rewards of writing for the YA market?
Regina: Today’s teens are amazing! I’d barely put my toe in the water on MySpace, and I had friends everywhere, many teen reviewers with their own blogs and webpages. These are mostly girls who read voraciously, then talk eloquently about what they’ve read, sharing their thoughts with dozens of other teens with similar interests. I don’t think I was half that organized at their age! I only hope I can do them justice in my books by writing about similar teens with dreams and spunk.
Riskies: What is “risky” about this book?
Regina: Historical YA without a paranormal elements is a risk these days. The Luxe came out recently, but it was more glitz and garters. I’m more giggles and gowns. I also stretch the boundaries of what is considered appropriate for the Regency period. I tried hard not to break the rules, but I did push them! I made them go as far as they could go to meet what my publisher thought would excite teen readers.
Riskies: Tell us about your own blog, Nineteenteen!
Regina: It’s dedicated to sharing things teenagers did during the 19th century in England. Marissa Doyle and I are having so much fun! The more we share aspects of the 19th century the more we find to write about. The language of flowers, a decade-by-decade look at fashion, even the first rollercoaster! I focus on the Regency, and Marissa is more early Victorian. We both love to tell stories and share cool stuff we’ve found in the our research. It’s been exciting to see our readership grow.
Riskies: I saw that some of the your Regencies are available at Belgrave House through their Regency Reads line! How does it feel to have them out there again?
Regina: Very gratifying! The stories are finding a whole new group of readers, and I’m enjoying hearing from them. I’m also honored to be one of the Regency Reads authors, with my books alongside those of Emily Hendrickson, Allison Lane, and Barbara Metzger. It’s a great resource for Regency lovers!
Riskies: What’s next for you?
Regina: I’m happily playing in this new world of YA fiction! I’m also working on a contemporary fantasy based on Native American mythology. And, of course, I’m hoping readers will want more stories like La Petite Four! I’d love to tell Priscilla’s story next.