Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Today's Special - - Manda Collins

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 d├ęcor.

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.

For more information about Manda, visit her website, "like" her on Facebook, friend her at Goodreads and follow her on Twitter.  


  1. Happy Release Day, Manda. In Laura Lee Guhrke's "Secret Desires of a Gentleman" the hero has kept the heroine's hair ribbon(which she lost and was devastated because it belonged to her dead mother) for over ten years. I became fixated on that hair ribbon.

  2. Happy release day Manda. Special object that I will always remembers in my mind that will always play a special role in a novel would be a gold watch. This gold watch plays a very special role in Judith mcnaught book something wonderful. The heroine got this gold watch from her grandfather. The heroinevat first gave the watch to her husband but then she seriously thinks that her husband is not good so she take the watch back. So funny when I read how the hero feel so angry when the heroine takes the watch back because she seriously thinks that the hero lacks of character is so annoying :). Aretha_zhen@yahoo.com

  3. Hi! The first thing that came to my mind was the St. John tailisman ring in Karen Hawkins' series. The ring helped the St. John brothers find their true love.
    manning_j2004 at yahoo dot com

  4. Hi Manda, Happy release day!

    I recently read Mad About the Earl, heroine has a locket which is part of the story. June M already mentioned the St John talisman ring. One that sticks in my mind is Liz Carlyle's Tempted by Night, Tristan keeps Phaedra's garter.

    Another fave is Loretta Chase's The Last Hellion, Ainswood has a box in which he collects keepsakes that Lydia leaves behind.


  5. Linda Conrad's Gypsy Inheritance series- a magic hand mirror, a magic music box and a magic book of fairy tales

    Elizabeth Lowell A Woman Without Lies Angel's beautiful stained glass picture of a Hawk crying, a drop of blood

  6. I LOVE the blue cat. In HEART'S BLOOD by Juliet Marillier there was a book full of spells, recipes for potions & the various uses for plants. It was fascinating.

  7. Manda, congratulations on your debut and release day! Your book sounds soooo good and PJ's review was wonderful! It has now been added to my TBB list.

    I have been trying to think of a specific object in a romance story and I keep coming up with---nothing. I'm sorry, I just can't think of anything that particularly stands out. I either glossed over the fact or just don't remember.

    On a personal note about an object....my now-husband bought me a cheesey bubblegum machine ring when we first became engaged because he couldn't afford a diamond at the time. It took $1.25 until he found the one he wanted, but the little piece of junk is priceless to me and still sitting in my jewelry box. :)

    I can't wait to read your books!

  8. Jane said, In Laura Lee Guhrke's "Secret Desires of a Gentleman" the hero has kept the heroine's hair ribbon(which she lost and was devastated because it belonged to her dead mother) for over ten years. I became fixated on that hair ribbon.

    Good example!

  9. Aretha, Something Wonderful is one of my favorite McNaught books. Thanks for reminding me of the watch!

  10. Good example, June! Thanks for stopping by today.

  11. Beebs said, I recently read Mad About the Earl, heroine has a locket which is part of the story.

    I loved this book! Wonderful beauty and the beast story.

    Another fave is Loretta Chase's The Last Hellion, Ainswood has a box in which he collects keepsakes that Lydia leaves behind.

    Another favorite book. Beebs, if you enjoy reading Loretta Chase, I think you'll really like Manda's How to Dance With a Duke!

  12. Marybelle said, In HEART'S BLOOD by Juliet Marillier there was a book full of spells, recipes for potions & the various uses for plants. It was fascinating.

    I discovered Marillier a couple years ago. She's fabulous, isn't she?

  13. LaurieG said, Elizabeth Lowell A Woman Without Lies Angel's beautiful stained glass picture of a Hawk crying, a drop of blood

    I enjoy Lowell's books but I must have missed this one somehow. Off to look for A Woman Without Lies!

  14. WOOHOO!! Happy Release Day, Manda! It seems like only yesterday we were all drooling over your ARC at M&M... *g* I can't wait to pick my copy up!

  15. It took $1.25 until he found the one he wanted, but the little piece of junk is priceless to me and still sitting in my jewelry box. :)

    Deb, I'd be holding that close to my heart too. Give your hubby a hug from me today. He's a keeper!

  16. Not sure whether this book is including or not because i only can think about this book by gayle callen - in pursuit the scandalous lady ;)

  17. Hmm.... Roarke kept Eve's button as a good luck charm in J.D. Robb's series... That's a special charm for him... That's all I can think of at the moment...

  18. Hooray!! Happy release day, dear friend! I adored How To Dance with a Duke, and I know the Dish readers will too. Everybody, run to the bookstore or go on line and buy Manda's fab book!

  19. Congratulations on the new book Manda. Your post reminded me of my grandparents and the two ceramic cats they had on the mantlepiece. They were black if I recall correctly. I don't really remember off the top of my head a particular item that was featured in a book but I do know that often the hero or heroine keep something that reminds them of the other person.

  20. In Christina Dodd's "Scandalous Again" Madeline gives Gabriel her glove, until she can give him her hand in marriage. He carries it, and a special license for 4 years until it finally happens.

  21. WOOHOO again! I found HTDWAD at Target--which only sometimes happens with debut authors--and snatched it up! It'll be awhile before I can read it (review books are piling up), but at least I have it!

  22. Hi, Manda! I'm so happy for you on your new release. I was very intrigued by your beautiful blue cat. It looks as though it was carved from lapis lazuli. If so, you have a very valuable treasure there!

    Trying to think of a particular keepsake in a book has left me with a blank mind. OK. So, that's nothing new! ;-)

    Wishing you all the best and continued success. I'm also looking forward to reading your new book.

  23. Yay for Manda's debut!How To Dance with a Duke is wonderful, and I second Vanessa's recommendation to rush to your nearest bookstore or to your computer to buy it today. I'm also offering a free copy to one randomly selected commenter at Just Janga today.

    I love the blue cat story, Manda, and now the cat has double meaning for you. I'm reading Jean Brashear's soon-to-be-released SuperRomance, A Texas Chance, today, and a locket with their pictures is all the heroine has left of her young husband and child--a poignant, tear-inducing memento rather than a romantic one, but it's the first one that came to mind.

  24. Congrats, Manda!!!! I'm so excited for you and can't wait to start reading HTDWAD.

    The one that comes to my mind and I always think of as sweet and so touching is in another Lisa Kleypas book, Where Dreams Begin. I believe it is sort of a button chain, or buttons in a box (it's been a while since I've re-read that one), that Holly's daughter makes out of all the special buttons she collects. If I remember correctly what makes it so sweet is that the hero, Zach, rips a button she wants off one of his coats to give to her. Always melts my heart when I think about it.

    I love your cat story. How neat you get to use something so personal in your debut novel!!

  25. Thanks for the congratulations, everyone! And thanks to The Romance Dish for sharing my release day with me!

    Jane, I remember that hair ribbon. It was such a wonderful, sentimental touch.

    Aretha, it's been an age since I've read McNaught, but I do seem to remember the watch. Great example!

    Oh, June! The Talisman Ring was great, wasn't it? I loved how it passed from sibling to sibling!

    All favorites of mine, Beebs. Especially Ainswood. I've always had a fondness for him:)

    I'll have to check out that Linda Conrad series, Laurie! Thanks for coming by!

    Oh, cool, Marybelle. As a librarian I cannot resist a great book. Especially one of potions. Glad you like the cat!

    Aww, Deb, that's so sweet! I'll bet your bubble gum ring is more valuable in sentiment than a ruby would be!

    Thank you, PJ and Andrea!

    Haven't tried that one, Eli! But I'll bet it works.

    May, that's a perfect example! I haven't read the In Death books yet, but I've got the first one in audio. I'll be on the lookout for the button.

    Thank you, Rebekah!

    Thank you, Vanessa!

    Aww, glad mine weren't the only grandparents with ceramic cats, Maureen. I think as a child you just fixate on the familiar. And I did love kitties. Still do:)

    That's a great example, Christy. Love those special licenses--romancelandia would be pretty boring without them!

    I wish it were lapis, Connie! But, alas, he is just cheap ceramic. But priceless in sentimental value. Thanks for the good wishes!

    Janga, that Brashear sounds good. I'll have to check it out. Lockets do tend to show up a lot in romance don't they? I guess because they are made especially to carry a loved one close to your heart. Can't get much more sentimental than that. Thanks for the well wishes!

  26. Thank you, Irish! You know that's one Kleypas I haven't read. But it sounds right up my alley. I'll have to find it and check it out.

  27. Congratulations on your debut, Manda. In Perfect, another Judith McNaught novel, the heroine turned the hero into the FBI. Since this act broke up their relationship, Julie wore her engagement ring around her neck, so no one would see it. When Zach re-entered the picture, he thought another man had given Julie some jewelry, until he saw the ring.


  28. Happy Release Day Manda! In the Parasol Protectorate series - Alexia Tarabbotti's (now Maccon)parasol plays an important part in every one of the books. Thanks for the giveaway!

  29. What a wonderful day - must be a thrill to bring your books to fruition. I love the stories of how authors come up with things for their books. Sentimental objects are the best, or those that lead to solving a mystery.
    ps I have my grandmothers chair (which was in my parents basement for over 30 years) - I had it recovered in the same pink as your chair, but mine fabric has swirlies instead of stripes - it was really hard to find that nice pink fabric.

  30. I love the button that Roarke keeps in his pocket, from the tacky suit that Eve is wearing when he first meets her in JDRobb's In Death series.

    Thanks for visiting today. I look forward to reading your book.

  31. Manda, it is such a pleasure to read about your inspirations and finally able to congratulate you on your debut release! I think my favorite object of rememberance has to be from the Outlander Series.
    It's A small carved wooden snake that Jaime Frasier keeps as a reminder of his beloved older brother, Willy. His brother died very young, but Jaime and the snake are always together in a kind of bond that comforts him at many stages in his life.

  32. Hey, Manda!! I'm doing the happy dance for you. Sooo excited and I cannot wait to read it. You already know how much I love the cover! And the cover on your next is equally beautiful.

    Oh, I love the blue cat! What a treasured keepsake from your childhood.


  33. Hi Manda! Happy Release Day! Your comment about the blue cat made me think of a black & white painted cat that my great-grandmother had, which she gave to me before her death.

    I know I have read stories where the hero/heroine keep something to remind them of the other, but the only one I can come up with is in the Sookie Stackhouse novels. Sookie lived in an old fashioned tin roofed house with her grandmother. When her grandmother died, she left it to Sookie. Sookie kept tin roof since it had meant so much to her grandmother.

  34. Congrats on your new release! It sounds like a fabulous read.

  35. Congrats on your new release! It sounds like a fabulous read.

  36. I'd have to say the treasure box full of objects Jem and Scout found in Boo Radley's tree. My favorite book of all time- TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

    Congrats Manda on your absolutely wonderful debut! PS Don't enter me, I already have this gem of a book!

  37. Happy Release Day, Manda!!! I'm so excited and happy for you. I really looking forward to getting the book this weekend.

    I love you blue cat, especially since it is a piece you remember fondly from your childhood. I have something similiar to that, though not a blue cat. I have an old metal envelope opener that was my Grandmother's. It doesn't sound like much, but it was always on Grandma's desk. Grandma's desk was always a fascinating place for me as a child. I love looking over at the pencil holder on my desk and seeing it there.

  38. Congrats on your debut release! In Most Eagerly Yours by Allison Chase, she wears a button with a crest on it around her neck on a chain. The significance of the crest will be revealed later in the series. I can't wait to find out what it is.

  39. Congratulations on your new novel, Manda! It sounds like it will be a very entertaining story! As for a book I really liked that had a "special object" that played an important role...Hmmm... I really enjoyed reading BAIT by Karen Robards. The heroine had a stuffed dog named Fudgie who was rather important in the story.

  40. I have been trying to think of a keepsake in a book and am drawing a blank. I know there have been some, but my memory isn't cooperating.
    Thinking of visits to grandmothers, I loved going to my dad's parents house. She had lots of knickknacks and we enjoyed looking at them all. One thing that I loved wasn't a knickknack, it was the family cradle. It was a platform rocking cradle with turned spindle sides. There were stuffed animals that were handmade and an embroidered baby quilt my grandmother had made. Shortly after I got married, she gave it to me. I was honored she chose me of all the grandchildren to pass it down to. It had belonged to her uncle so my grandchildren are the fifth generation that have used it.

    Congratulations on the release of HOW TO DANCE WITH A DUKE. I hope it does well. I will be looking for it as well as the rest of the series.

  41. Hi Manda,
    Congratulations on your new release. I'm looking forward to reading How To Dance With A Duke.I'm trying to recall an object to mind and for the life of me can't. But I just finished reading The Goblin King by Shona Husk and in it the Goblin King gives the Heroine an amber bead set in a gold bracelet to remember him.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com