We love hosting debut authors and when that author is someone whose writing journey we have followed for years that makes the visit all the more special. It's our great pleasure to welcome St. Martin's Press historical romance author, Manda Collins to The Romance Dish. We're excited to help her celebrate today's publication of HOW TO DANCE WITH A DUKE (read PJ's review here), the first of what we're sure will be many successful book release days. Welcome, Manda!
On Objects and Affection
by Manda Collins
One of those questions that comes up again and again in author interviews is the old favorite “Where do you get your ideas?” In some cases, for me, the answer is: “I just kind of thought really hard and came up with it.” Or other times the answer is: “I was reading an article in
The New Yorker Entertainment Weekly and I wondered how
that would work in the Regency.” But for one particular object in How to Dance with a Duke, inspiration
came from across my living room.
When I was a little girl, I spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ house. (In fact, it’s the house I live in now.) And one of my very favorite objects d’art or, what we in the South call knickknacks, was this tall blue ceramic cat.
As a child I had no idea where the cat, which stood in prominence in my grandparents’ living room, came from. All I knew was that it was blue and it was a cat, two of my favorite things. Despite residing in a house with six children and an ever-growing number of grandchildren coming in and out, the cat has only suffered one blemish over the years. When he was around three years old, my cousin Heath (now 21) picked up the blue cat, and . . .well, dropped him, causing the cat a broken off ear. Which I then lovingly repaired with Krazy Glue. (Only the best for my ceramic injuries!)
When my grandmother asked us, years later, to pick out something we’d like to have after she dies, I only wanted one thing: the blue cat. Fortunately, my grandmother is still around, and when she moved house a few years ago, she left the cat behind for me as a sort of housewarming gift. He sits in prominence on a side table in my living room, and goes quite well with my own décor.
Anyway, back to ideas. So fast forward to 2009 when I was working on what would become How to Dance with a Duke. I knew there had to be some kind of object which would contain a clue. But what? It should probably be something Egyptian, and something easily mass produced. I was staring off into space—in this case, across the room toward a side table—when it hit me! Or rather, my eye hit it. It had to be a blue cat. I hopped on the internet and checked to ensure that there were indeed sarcophagi for cats, and that they were often decorated with paint, which could be blue. The rest, is, as they say, history.
Specific objects have a long history in romance novels, of course. Who can forget Sarah’s spectacles, so lovingly kept by Derek Craven in Lisa Kleypas’ Dreaming of You, or the gorgeous peacock colored fan in Laura Lee Guhrke’s And Then He Kissed Her? I don’t suggest that the blue cat will hold a place in those ranks. It’s more Maltese Falcon than love token. But being able to write something associated with so many wonderful childhood memories was one of the highlights of writing this book for me. I hope you’ll have as much fun reading it as I had writing it!
In the next book in the Ugly Ducklings trilogy, there are no cats, blue or otherwise. But there is plenty of romance as Cecily’s cousin, Lady Madeline Essex, is forced to come out of her shell a bit and finds herself the object of one of London’s most eligible bachelors. And the cover is a gorgeous bright blue. Though my eyes go straight to the man candy at the top of the picture. There’s an object to remember!
So, gentle reader, can you think of a particular object that has played a key role in one of your favorite books? Tell us about it! Inquiring minds want to know! One commenter will win a copy of How to Dance with a Duke.