Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Today's Special -- Q&A with Sarah MacLean
I am thrilled to welcome back New York Times and USA Today best-selling author Sarah MacLean to the blog today. As many of you know, Sarah burst onto the historical romance scene with her debut, Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, the first in her Love by Numbers series. Now, she delights readers again with the first in her Rules of Scoundrels series, A Rogue by Any Other Name (sure to be another best-seller). So, without further ado...
Hi, Sarah, and welcome back to the Romance Dish! It is an absolute pleasure to have you dishing with us today. :)
So happy to join you today! You know I love hanging out here at the Dish.
Congratulations on your latest release, A Rogue by Any Other Name, which comes out TODAY! It received a starred review from Library Journal, was named an RT Top Pick!, and received five stars here at the Romance Dish (scroll down to see my review or click here). Can you tell our readers a little about the story?
Anyone who has read Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart knows that I just couldn’t leave Penelope to a life of sad boredom once she was jilted by Simon. She deserved better. She deserved to be the heroine of the first book of my new series! And here’s the best part—she deserved a hero who was going to love her desperately—much more desperately than Simon could have.
So, I gave her Bourne, the coldest, cruelest, quietest of the heroes in the Rules of Scoundrels series. Nine years ago, Bourne lost everything that wasn’t entailed in a single turn of the cards. He’s spent the decade since rebuilding his fortune, and preparing for his revenge. When he gets a shot at it, he takes it...even though it comes with a bit of baggage—namely a wife. Enter Penelope!
A Rogue by Any Other Name is the first in your new Rules of Scoundrels series. How are the books connected? And where did the idea for the series come from?
I’ve always been drawn to two things about 19th Century London:
First, I love society. I’m fascinated by the way that people were either born into favor, or had to claw their way there, and the way that—no matter how favored you were—everyone was one bad idea or clandestine moment from falling from grace. Second, I love the underworld. The sketchy, dark corners of this young, growing city, filled with prostitution and thievery and gambling. I suppose it was only a matter of time before I wrote a book merging the two.
The Rules of Scoundrels series is my homage to those two sides of pre-Victorian London. The books are born from the idea that society and the underworld are not so far from each other, and not so different after all. The premise is simple—four one-time aristocrats, royalty in society, each having fallen in some way or another, come together to found a casino—The Fallen Angel—and become royalty of a different sort.
I think readers are going to love how you merged the two worlds together. Penelope is a secondary character from Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart and I am so glad you gave her a happy ending. As you mentioned, she truly deserved it! Did you always know she would be a future heroine?
I didn’t know she’d be a future heroine when I started writing Eleven Scandals, but the moment I wrote the scene at the betrothal ball, when Juliana (the heroine of Eleven) meets Penelope in the ladies’ salon and watches her wash her hands, I knew I couldn’t leave her jilted. She was too special. I like to think that if I hadn’t given her her happily-ever-after, Juliana would have stepped in and done it herself.
LOL! That sounds exactly like something Juliana would have done! Rogue takes place in 1831 and many scenes occur in a gaming hell in London. How much research did you have to do and what is the most interesting fact you discovered?
I knew I wanted the series to have a sense of time and place in a way that my other books haven’t. I wanted the hell to feel like it was its own character, like it breathed and had a life and secrets of its own. To do that, I had to learn everything I could about gaming hells. Once I was down the rabbit hole of research, I discovered a fascinating character, William Crockford, the grandfather of the modern casino.
The history on the man himself is hazy, and he’s more myth than fact these days, but its generally accepted that he grew up the son of a fishmonger in Temple Bar and pulled himself up by his bootstraps, first running dice games in the slums of London, then his own small hell, and finally trading up for an enormous casino at 50 St. James’s, just across the street from White’s. Where White’s offered a civilized place for men, Crockford’s offered vice and sin and fun...and the aristocracy ate it up.
There are dozens of great stories that I’ve uncovered about Crockford and his eponymous hell—and many of them will end up in the series, I’m sure. But one of my favorites is this: Crockford wanted the best of everything...and when he decided he wanted something, he went out to get it. On one particular occasion, he decided that he wanted to have the best chef in the world working for him—so he went and stole him. Right out from under Napoleon himself.
Wow! That is really fascinating. I enjoy learning little known facts. Sarah, I have to tell you that I absolutely adore the letters that are included within A Rogue by Any Other Name. They are tender and sweet and absolutely perfect. Did you write them before, during, or after writing the book?
Thank you! They’re my favorite part of the book, too, and I have to confess that they almost didn’t happen. I’d had the idea to include some kind of chapter header from the beginning, and for a long time, I thought it would be Penelope’s diary. But there came a point while I was in revisions when I realized that Michael and she had exchanged letters...and they were written all at once, in one day, 24 hours before the book was turned in for copy-editing. Now, I cringe at the idea of the book without those letters! Talk about down to the wire!
Oh my goodness, I couldn’t imagine the book without those letters, too! They really help to illustrate how close Penelope and Michael once were.
Inside the Fallen Angel is a huge stained-glass mural of Lucifer that is described as “beautiful and grotesque—the perfect backdrop for this den of vice”. Is it based on a real picture?
It is! While I was building the Angel, I knew I wanted it to be largely based on the idea that Lucifer was more than pure evil. The idea—the concept of sympathy for the devil—has artistic and literary legacy, and I was reading anything I could find to inspire the architecture (concrete and theoretical) for the club. After all, I was planning to tell four stories of the redemptive power of love—could there be a devil worthy of that redemption?
While looking, I found a stunning statue, Le Genie du Mal, by Belgian artist Guillaume Geefs, and this piece is unbelievably beautiful. It depicts Lucifer, but he’s young and handsome and a remarkable specimen of divinity. He looks like an angel should look. And it’s only when you get close to the statue that you see his perversions—horns, talons, a chain wrapped around one ankle—and his tears.
Here was the Lucifer I was looking for! The statue became my stained glass window.
It is an absolutely beautiful statue! And it certainly helps me to “see” what the mural inside the Fallen Angel looks like. Okay, let’s talk about Bourne. He is a total bad boy hero and is now right up there with my all-time favorite, Saint from Suzanne Enoch’s London’s Perfect Scoundrel. Who are some of your favorite bad boy heroes?
Wow! That Bourne is in the same sentence as Saint is high praise indeed! Thank you! We all love the bad boy, don’t we? I’ve always been a sucker for them...since I was far too young to know what I was getting into. My earliest bad boys were in black and white: Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski and smoking, drinking James Dean. As I aged and started reading romance, I came to love pirates. James Mallory from Lindsey’s Gentle Rogue, Vashon from Meagan McKinney’s Til Dawn Tames the Night, Lazar di Fiori from Gaelen Foley’s The Pirate Prince...the list goes on...
LOL! Ah, yes, we love our bad boys. *g* I know that you’ve been to London many times (lucky girl!). What is your favorite part of London today? What former building/landmark do you wish was still there to see?
I adore London and have since I was a child and we would spend summers visiting with my British grandparents. Every time I go, I spend the first day doing the exact same thing: A wander through Hyde Park to Green Park, then up St. James’s (have to see White’s, after all), over to Bond and then zigzagging through the little mews and alleys of Mayfair. It’s hard to pick a favorite place in the city, but as a romance reader, it’s hard not to love Mayfair!
As for wishing I could see something that is no longer there, these days I’m longing for Northumberland House, which was an enormous estate (held by the Duke of Northumberland) that actually sat on the Thames and had a huge piece of land that stretched down to the river. It’s hard to imagine such an estate in the central London of 2012, but it was there in the 1830s (demolished by the height of the Victorian era), and it’s the model for Dolby House, the London home of the Marquess of Needham and Dolby, Penelope’s father.
Out of all of your heroines (including the one you’re currently writing), which of them is most like you and why?
Oh, that’s so hard! There’s some of me in all of them. I would say that Callie has my self-doubt, Isabel has my fear of failure, Juliana my impulsiveness, Penelope my game face, and Pippa (my current heroine)...well, she’s odd.
My sister read and loved your YA book, The Season. She would like to know—are you going to write more YA books?
Yay! I’m so happy she enjoyed it! I’m absolutely getting back to YA. Just as soon as I figure out how to manage the deadlines for the next books in the Rules of Scoundrels series. I miss YA a lot...the community is wonderful and collegial, and nothing beats getting emails from young readers.
Many readers (including me!) fell for a previous secondary character, Benedick, Earl of Allendale (Callie’s brother from Nine Rules). You know that I have to ask—do you ever plan to write a story for him?
Ahh...the Benedick question.
When I start a book, I have no idea which secondary characters will appear, or how important they will become. And in the case of people like Benedick, I really have no idea of who readers will love.
But what I can tell you is that it’s not as easy as sitting down and saying, “Today, I’m going to write Benedick’s story.” In this particular case, Benedick’s heroine hasn’t shown up. I’m hoping that someday she will, because he’s just as real to me as he is to you, and I’d like to see him have his happily-ever-after!
We’ll keep our fingers crossed that his heroine will show up soon! I know that much of your time is taken up with writing (which so many of us are positively grateful for!), but what do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Right now, I’m on deadline, so it feels like the answer to this question is “Sleep.” But here are the things that I’m dreaming of: getting back into my kitchen—I have a crazy recipe for merengue that I’m dying to try; taking my dog for longer walks...he deserves them and I need them; wandering around New York City to “fill the well.” I’m due for a trip to the Met.
When I read the epilogue for A Rogue by Any Other Name I literally squealed and thought YES! *g* Can you share with our readers what is up next for you?
Sure thing! This winter, look for One Good Earl Deserves a Lover...the story of the second partner in The Angel—the math genius—Cross, and the woman who runs him in circles.
I’m also working on a new YA project, which hopefully will make for good news in the next few months!
Yay! I’ll add One Good Earl Deserves a Lover to my TBB list!
Okay, it’s Quick Six time!
Coffee or tea? Coffee just out of bed, tea just before it.
Alpha or beta? Alpha in fiction, beta in reality.
Heels or flats? Shoes. The more the merrier.
Early bird or night owl? Night owl. But I long to be an early bird.
Comedy or drama? Comedy. Life has too much drama to begin with!
Chocolate or vanilla? Vanilla.
Love the shoe answer. *wink* Thank you so much for answering all my questions, Sarah. Now, it’s your turn—is there anything you would like to ask our readers?
I confessed some of my favorite rogues above, and this month on my blog some of my favorite writers have joined me to tell me about their favorite rogues—I’ve had Shana Galen on Han Solo, Sophie Jordan on David Beckham and Lorraine Heath on Lord Dain from Lord of Scoundrels—your turn! Who is your favorite rogue?
Avon has graciously offered to give away a copy of A Rogue by Any Other Name to one lucky commenter (living in the United States; no P.O. Box, please).
Since I loved this book, I will also give one copy away to one lucky commenter (open to anywhere Book Depository ships).
Please state in your comment if you live in the USA or abroad. Thanks!