I have a different kind of post today that I know you will love. I’m privileged to host my first ever interview of this type with Best Selling Author, Eloisa James.
[KLW] When I read your “Mary Bly (a.k.a. Eloisa James) Talks to TIME About Her Literary Double Life” (http://entertainment.time.com/2012/05/18/mary-bly-aka-eloisa-james-talks-to-time-about-her-literary-double-life/) I am beside myself. The question that sticks is: “Your secret dual-identity life is remarkable. How did that start?” I had been writing romance for a couple of years (and never spoke about it) until one of my friends joined me at jazzercise and mentioned to another member that we were romance authors. I can remember my mouth falling open, but the floor didn’t open, and I didn’t die. From that day forward, I have been proud to admit to reading and writing romance. And loving it. (Although, I admit I am still waiting for my big-time break.)
[EJ] Kathy, Thank you for doing this interview! I’m honored to be your very first interviewee. And I love the story of the big reveal in a jazzercise class.
[KLW] It did catch me off guard, and have never regretted it since. Originally, I’d planned my questions around your education, but I see that much is already discussed in that vein, so I would like to start with the series of fairy tale stories that you’ve been working on since 2010. A Kiss at Midnight; When Beauty Tamed the Beast, The Duke is Mine, and most recently, The Ugly Duchess (which I believe might now be my favorite, I must say.) The stories are so creative. What gave you the story idea besides the actual fairy tale itself?
[EJ] Inspiration comes (in my case) from two places: first, from my own life, because the strong emotions in novels need to spring from the author’s own emotions, and second, from my reading. I read all the time—in my genre and out of lit, fiction as well as non-fiction. I think reading is the most valuable use of an author’s time. You never know when you’ll be reading and suddenly come up with an idea for a plot. It even happens reading the newspaper!
[KLW] I agree. All I have to do is walk through the bookstore! Did you brainstorm with other writer friends?
[EJ] Yes. My dear friend Linda Francis Lee and I meet about once a week for lunch. We help each other thrash out ideas for plots and revisions.
[KLW] How many more of these types of tales can we expect to enjoy?
[EJ] My version of Rapunzel is due out in July of next year. After that I’m jumping to a pair of books with a different premise. But I think I’ll return to fairy tales, possibly with a version of Sleeping Beauty.
[KLW] Of course, every single one goes into my spreadsheet, titled “New Releases to Watch For.xls” (note: for my friends who make fun of me for being the “Excel Spreadsheet Queen”). . .but I digress. You speak of your mom’s declaration on her deathbed on your “writing a real book” (Your keynote speech at RWA a few years ago left me in tears), but what of your father? Were his views similar to that of your mother?
[EJ] My father is a poet, so romance wasn’t really his thing. But he isn’t as doctrinaire as my mother. He has always thought it was great fun, and my stepmother actually read one aloud to him (skipping all the sex scenes).
[KLW] Perfect! Do your children show the same inclination toward writing, whether fiction or non-fiction?
[EJ] I think they both have great talent. But whether they’ll use it for fiction or not… I don’t know. They’re both teenagers, so right now it’s hard to imagine them doing anything productive with their lives.
[KLW] Well, said! You say your first book, written in 1985, was “turned down by every conceivable publisher. . .” What was the book, if you don’t mind my asking?
[EJ] It was called Passion’s Slave. It was a wild story of a young English noblewoman who fell off a boat in the Seine, and ended up somewhere in the East, and met several shieks (this was the 80′s).
[KLW] Oh, my. Did you put it under the bed or stow it in the closet?
[EJ] It’s in my file cabinet right now!
[KLW] Did you work on it and eventually sell it?
[EJ] Nope. It lives a silent, embarrassed life.
[KLW] If you re-read it now, would be you mortified, horrified, or laughing hysterically?
[KLW] Well, if all successful authors have one put in the closet, under the bed, or in the file cabinet, then I’m thrilled to see my time is near! I love your take on why you feel romance novels are so underappreciated, could you share those views with our readers and writers?
[EJ] I think that a cornerstone of this problem is equivocal attitudes in popular culture towards women’s desire. There’s a lot of fear; you see articles to this day insisting that women should stop reading romance because it makes them dissatisfied with their husbands. Well, sure—if a husband is disrespectful, filthy, or abusive, a woman might take a look at him and think, I can do better. But most of the time, romance is an escape that actually makes “regular” married life easier!
I’m curious to see what happens now that Fifty Shades of Gray—an unequivocally “desirous” book—has been read by so many people, including men. Will it make a difference to the reputation of romance? It seems to me that it could go either way. People were already very prone to asking me if I wrote “porn for women.” Fifty Shades is, of course, more sexy than the average romance. Will that work in favor of the genre, or will it lead to more denigration on the grounds of sexual content?
[KLW] I’m curious as well. I hold season tickets to Thunder NBA, and the guys who sit behind me asked if I’d heard of it. . .What a conversation that was, and at a basketball game! Finally, congratulations on your non-fiction, Paris in Love. Will you be writing more non-fiction works in the future?
[EJ]I might write one on Florence—I’ve been staying every summer there for the last twenty years. I have a lot of stories! But writing non-fiction is hard, and I’m staying away from that for the moment.
[KLW] I am proud to admit I read and write romance. And, I believe its women like you who make it possible for authors like me to hold their heads high. On behalf of romance, readers and authors, alike, I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart and the tips of my fingers as they fly across the keyboard.
[EJ] Thank you! Eloisa
Look for Ms. James latest release, The Ugly Duchess.
The Ugly Duchess – Eloisa James
Well, I feel somewhat breathless and awed. Can you picture me with my palms on my flaming cheeks trying to calm myself? Ms. James is so. . .so. . .oh, I don’t know, down to earth, enchanting, like a real person! (Excuse me for a moment while I take several deep breaths).
Ahhhh, there. I think my heart may be slowing to a more normal pace. I really do want to tell you about the The Ugly Duchess and Theodora Saxby. She quite stole my heart. Apparently, at nineteen she had not quite yet come into her own. I should know! I was an Ugly Duck—well, that’s another story.
Anyway, she was considered not so attractive by aristocracy standards. The sweet thing is, she knows and accepts as much. At least on the surface. That’s what makes this such a powerful story. Psychology, because deep down it feeds on every insecurity she (and I) harbors. Insecurities that are years in the makings.
She and James Ryburn, heir to the Duchy of Ashbrook have been the best friends since childhood. Unfortunately, just when James is ready to strike out on his own, sow his wild oats, so to speak, his father tells him he must marry. There is no money. And isn’t it just fortunate that Theo (Daisy, as James refers to her), is downright bursting at the seams—with money.
But James could care less. Let the dukedom go to hell! he says. But things were drummed into him since childhood too. And James finds out his father, who happens to also be Theo’s guardian, has been embezzling her fortune for years, it turns “ugly”.
And, now James has no choice but to marry her.
You know as much as I want to share what happens, I will not.
My advice? Have a box of Kleenex next to you when you start the book. You’ll need it. —Kathy L Wheeler