With us today on tour is Janet Mullany on tour with her book, The Malorie Phoenix! The title alone has me wondering: is this a romance, a murder mystery, or a story filled with intrigue? Let's find out. Welcome Janet!
Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in England but I’ve been over here for years. I still sound very English, except when I’m visiting there and then I sound like a loud American, or so I’m told. I live near Washington DC and I have a day job with a baroque music organization--running the box office, not as a musician, although I do love music. I have just gone through the rigors of a kitchen remodel and the cat has just about stopped stress shedding over me.
When did you decide to take that step that made you a published author?
When I started writing, which I did fairly late in life, I decided my goals were (1) to entertain myself and (2) to get published. I’d always written a lot for various jobs, and decided to try fiction and very soon I started looking around for writers’ groups and came upon my local RWAâ chapter. I was so impressed that people were writing to sell and with how generous they were in sharing information and expertise. My idea was to put my daughter through college by writing. It didn’t actually work out that way but I always intended to sell. Yes, to a certain extent I was, and am, writing for myself, but there’s not much point if no one else is going to read it!
What inspired the idea behind your book?
I seem to write a lot of books where characters are in disguise in some way. In my other recent release, DEDICATION, the hero is “disguised” as a female gothic novelist. In THE MALORIE PHOENIX Jenny Smith impersonates an heiress. And nearly all of my characters go through a process where they search for and reveal their true selves. I also love writing characters who are deeply divided socially, so Benedict de Malorie, the hero, is an earl; and Jenny is a former pickpocket and courtesan.
Without giving it all away, please tell us a little something about how Jenny is going to get through her biggest challenge.
Jenny has a chance encounter very early on in the book with Benedict that results in a pregnancy. She’s sick and is afraid she’s dying, so she hands the baby, Sarah, over to him. But she lives, and after seven years as a courtesan is offered a large sum of money to impersonate Miss Evelina Stanley, a missing heiress. Jenny knows the plan is a crock, but if she succeeds and earns the money, she can present herself as a respectable gentlewoman and bring up her daughter. She thinks that Sarah is probably being brought up in fairly humble circumstances and unwanted; instead, she finds that Benedict dotes on their daughter. And everything starts going wrong from there. Oh boy, it’s complicated. Read the book!
What message do you hope readers take away from the book?
I am very suspicious of messages in fiction. Fiction should be all about entertainment and escapism.
What three words would best describe Benedict. (Hot hot hot?) Arrogant, loyal, honorable.
Which character in THE MALORIE PHOENIX will be the most difficult to part with?
Naturally he had to come to a sticky end but I adored writing the villain. He was such fun—unpleasant and smarmy and pathetic all at once.
While writing THE MALORIE PHOENIX did you connect with one character more than the others? Who and how?
Definitely Jenny. She has courage and smarts and self-awareness. I prefer to write about commoners and survivors. I really have trouble writing about aristocrats, but the plot demanded it, and it was something I first started writing a long time ago. If it was something I’d started recently I would have had to promote Benedict from an earl to a duke (shudder).
Do you have to be alone or have quiet to write?
Strangely, because I’m a terrible slob, I need a clean, tidy office to write in and I like to listen to classical music. If I’m outside the house I can write quite efficiently in places like bookstores and coffee shops and the background noise doesn’t bother me.
What has been your greatest pleasure in writing this book?
Seeing it come together. It’s based on two different mss., one of which was a Golden Heart finalist in 2003 that I couldn’t sell, but I’ve always had a fondness for it.
What do you have in store next for your readers?
I have an erotic contemporary called HIDDEN PARADISE coming out in September from Harlequin. It’s set in an Austen-theme resort where the characters misbehave continually and there’s a fair amount about servants (my favorite research topic), Jane Austen, and historic house renovation, because frankly, who doesn’t get a little tingle reading about paint analysis.
Who or what has most influenced your writing?
Jane Austen. She’s masterful in so many ways, but particularly in the reveal: what you know, and what you want your readers to know, and when and how.
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve received?
To keep moving forward. It’s so easy to get stuck and the best thing to do is to move forward to the next scene, or the scene that is dying to get out, and then come back. And the fix is usually quite easy.
What are you reading now? Why did you choose that book?
I’m re reading INDISCRETION by Jude Morgan who is a brilliant, witty, stylish historical writer. I love it, and like all great books when you read it again you find things you missed the first time around.
Which authors and books have most influenced your writing style?
Other than Austen, particularly EMMA, WIVES AND DAUGHTERS by Mrs. Gaskell, VILLETTE by Charlotte Bronte, Sarah Waters, and Angela Carter. Also Georgette Heyer although now her style makes me mostly squirm.
Does where you live or have places you’ve been influenced your work?
Absolutely. Having lived in England gives you a tremendous advantage if you choose to write Regency-set books, in knowing what the countryside and cities look like (or at least look like now—the landscape has changed tremendously in the last few decades), and how people speak. My dear dad, who died earlier this year (at almost 101!) loved Austen and he had very old-fashioned speech patterns. If I want to think of something in Regencyspeak all I need to do is imagine how my dad would say it (when he was on best behavior, of course).
What challenges did you face in getting your first book published?
I spent a long time trying to sell my GH ms. and everyone rejected it. Fortunately I wrote another book in that period, DEDICATION, and sold it after it finalled in the Beau Monde’s Royal Ascot contest. My challenge was trusting my instinct and keeping the faith on that book, since I received so many comments, mostly from well meaning contest judges who told me I couldn’t have an older hero/heroine (late thirties, early forties respectively), and commented “You can’t do THAT in a romance.” Funnily enough the book, DEDICATION, was published as one of the last trad regencies. I rewrote and reissued it, sexed up a bit, with Loose-Id this year.
What is your favorite movie based on a book, where you preferred the movie?
THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB. It had such a great screenplay and cast. The book was disappointing.
Do you believe in writer’s block? Has it ever happened to you?
Not writer’s block as such because it’s amazing how you can grit your teeth and finish a book as the deadline approaches. I hate finding myself procrastinating but sometimes that burst of energy is what I need. But I’m not one of those writers who’s always coming up with fresh ideas. I have great trouble in finding something that fires me up and inspires me to write.
Is there a book you’ve ever read more than five times? Which book and what drew you back to it?
Austen, of course, because there’s always something new to find and she speaks to you whatever stage of life you’re in.
You’re spending one year living on a desert island – which three authors do you want with you?
Daniel Defoe and Ernest Hemingway for the practicalities, Jane Austen for conversation. I can’t think of a writer who was a competent boatbuilder, but if I had Jane Austen there I think I’d want to stay. We could finish SANDITON together.
Benedict de Malorie, Earl of Trevisan, can never forget the masked woman he met one night at a London pleasure garden. The clever pickpocket stole his heart and his family's prized jewel – the Malorie Phoenix. But the family treasure reappears in Benedict's darkest hour, returned by its thief, along with the unexpected gift of his infant daughter.
Believing that she is dying, Jenny Smith leaves her daughter in the custody of the baby’s blueblood father. Seven years later she finds herself in good health and alone, yearning for her only child. To raise enough money to support them both, she takes part in a daring escapade that requires her to impersonate a woman of quality. She fools the ton and Benedict himself.
When Jenny finds herself entangled in a murderous plot against Benedict, the father of her child, her carefully laid plans begin to fall apart. All she wants is her daughter back, but she never thought she'd fall in love with Benedict. Revealing her part in the plot means she will almost certainly lose Benedict and their daughter forever. But continuing to play her role puts them all in terrible danger.
She recognized him immediately although he had changed. The man who stood there was taller, a little broader in the shoulder, with a wary, damaged look in his eyes—a man who had reason to mistrust the world. His hair sprang back from his brow as she remembered, a streak of white where seven years ago she had seen the raw red of a burn.
"Ladies." He bowed. His voice was as she remembered, deep, resonant, beautiful.
"You are come at a happy time, Trevisan. Look who has arrived this hour from the Continent!"
He straightened, his golden eyes cold as he looked at her. "Indeed. The lost lamb is returned to the fold."
He looked down to one side as a small figure stepped from behind him. "Ladies, I should like to introduce my daughter, Miss Sarah de Malorie."
My friends call me Malorie.
His face softened as he placed one hand on the child's shoulder. She looked at them with solemn eyes beneath a cloud of dark curls.
Her eyes had changed color, now the same dark-rimmed golden eyes of her father, and her face echoed his, in a smaller and more feminine form—the promise of high cheekbones above childishly rounded cheeks. Jenny remembered the cloudy blue eyes of an infant who had just learned to smile, the wide stretch of her tiny pink mouth. Forgive me.
Beside Jenny, Mrs. Stanley sucked her breath in sharply. "Good afternoon." Sarah's voice was soft and sweet. She looked at her father for approval. None of the Stanley family moved. Jenny stepped forward. "Good afternoon, Sarah."Her daughter hesitated before an answering smile lit up her face. She tucked one foot behind the other and dropped a neat, elegant curtsy.
Janet will award a $20 Amazon GC to one randomly drawn commenter on the tour.
Janet Mullany, granddaughter of an Edwardian housemaid, was born in England but now lives near Washington, DC. Her debut book was Dedication, the only Signet Regency to have two bondage scenes (and which was reissued with even more sex in April 2012 from Loose-Id). Her next book, The Rules of Gentility (HarperCollins 2007) was acquired by Little Black Dress (UK) for whom she wrote three more Regency chicklits, A Most Lamentable Comedy, Improper Relations, and Mr. Bishop and the Actress. Her career as a writer who does terrible things to Jane Austen began in 2010 with the publication of Jane and the Damned (HarperCollins), and Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion (2011) about Jane as a vampire, and a modern retelling of Emma, Little to Hex Her, in the anthology Bespelling Jane Austen headlined by Mary Balogh. She also writes contemporary erotic fiction for Harlequin, Tell Me More (2011) and Hidden Paradise (September, 2012).