Wednesday, November 16, 2011

INTERVIEW: Chatting With Jenny Brown

Do you love historical romance but are bored with the same old stories? I have just the ticket to relieve the boredom.

My guest is Jenny Brown. She's a fresh voice in historical fiction and her books have been highly acclaimed. Jenny writes a series called The Lords Of The Seventh House. Each book is set around a astrological sign--she's a bit of an expert in astrology. 

The stories are historically accurate in the details, which is refreshing after so many that aren't, offers rich historical layers, emotional impact, don't always use just the Ton for settings (also a refreshing change), and are fun and sexy reads. In short, they're not the same old rehashed story. Instead they're fresh and different.

I had a chance to chat with Jenny and enjoyed her thoughts on her writing.

Lovers or Enemies?

Captain Miles Trevelyan, on leave from active service in India, is heading out for a night on the town when he rescues a beautiful pickpocket from arrest. She's the perfect choice for a few days of dalliance--beautiful, cunning, and completely disposable. 

But Temperance has no intention of becoming the plaything of a man who wears the uniform of the solders who murdered her lover. Disarming Trev with a kiss, she escapes. But her sultry kiss opens the two Scorpio adversaries to an obsessive attraction that neither can elude--or possibly survive. Excerpt Buy: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million

"This is Jenny Brown's second novel, but her exquisite characterization and unique sense of drama sparkles as brightly as that of a seasoned veteran. ..."[A] vividly emotional tale. " --Affaire de Coeur Book Reviews 

  • Tell me a bit about you? When you were little what did you want to grow up to be? Tell me some fun things Jenny Brown likes to do?

My family used to laugh about how when I was in grade school I’d answer the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up” by saying, “A doctor on Mondays, a musician on Tuesdays, a writer on Wednesdays, a psychiatrist on Thursdays, and an Actor on Fridays.” They thought it was a joke, but I was dead serious and that’s pretty much what I ended up doing. That’s probably because my curiosity is my strongest characteristic, and what I find the most fun is learning something new.

  • How has your own romance colored how you write romance in your stories?

I always tell the Hero of My Own Romance that he’d make a rotten romantic hero because he provides absolutely no conflict. Day in and day out he’s loving, kind, considerate, and giving. But it wasn't until I found a man like that who taught me what real love is like that I could write heroes other women would find appealing—though of course to make the book worth reading I do have to supply lots of conflict. No one would read a book about a decent, loving man who never gives the heroine a moment of anxiety!

  • Did you try other genres before you chose this one?

I started out writing science fiction and historical novels, but when I discovered the wonderful historical romance writers of the 1980s and ‘90s like Laura Kinsale and Judith Ivory, who wrote so brilliantly, I realized it was possible to combine the kind of historical setting I love with the kind of powerfully emotional story I most enjoy.

  • What do you still struggle with as an author?

I write slowly which makes it hard to cope with the demands of a genre where editors want a book every six months. I’m told most romance readers don’t care about many of the things I labor over—coming up with stories that aren’t just retellings of the same old story, getting the language just right, and respecting the details of the historical setting. But I care about them, and if a a book has my name on the cover, I want it to be a book that I’m proud of. That turns out to take a great deal of time and labor—which makes it hard to build up the kind of readership you need if you are to succeed in this genre.

  • What was the single best or luckiest thing that got you published?

One frigid January, when I was snowed in and bored silly, I checked out a brand new online critique site—Authonomy—that was filled with highly articulate, English writers with whom I exchanged critiques. I posted a version of a book I loved but had never been able to sell. The English writers, most of whom had never read a romance before, went at it energetically, and pointed out subtle things that confused them or slowed them down as they read.

I kept rewriting that manuscript until new readers on Authonomy were speeding through what I’d posted and asking for more. Then I submitted it again with all those changes. An agent snapped it up immediately and Lord Lightning sold two weeks after she sent it out to editors.

  • The Lords of The Seventh House are set around astrological signs. How much play did astrology really have in the 1800’s?

Astrology was surprisingly popular in the first decades of the 19th century. Astrologers advertised in periodicals in fashionable watering places and Astrology textbooks and ephemerides sold briskly, too. The reason I made my heroine an astrologer in Lord Lightning was that I wanted to tell a story about the kind of person who nowadays would be a therapist—someone who was an expert in other people’s emotions, but used her understanding of other people’s conflicts to keep from dealing with her own. Since there were no therapists in 1818, an astrologer seemed like the next best choice. It was my agent and editor who came up with the idea of doing an astrologically-themed series.

  • Do you actually chart your characters? If so, that would mean some pretty serious research time to incorporate where the stars were at the time of your characters’ births, wouldn't it?

Yes. All my characters have real astrological charts, and I provide their birth data in the afterward of each book. I go out hunting for charts that match the hero and heroine after I’ve sketched out the plot and major themes. Once I’ve found charts that match, I pore over the house placements, planets, and aspects they contain, which suggest new ideas I use to deepen the characters and make them more multidimensional and real.

  • I have to tell you, nothing ticks me off worse than getting the history wrong. I’m not nit-picky; I’m talking major things. How do you avoid that?

Most of my historical knowledge comes from having put in many years reading biographies of people who lived in the period I write about. I’ve also read many novels published in the late 18th and early 19th century. That’s given me a good basis from which to start. But once I start working on a novel, I have do a lot more specific research to get the details right.

For example, since the heroine of Star Crossed Seduction is a pickpocket, I spent a lot of time researching the Regency-era underworld and its slang, and found some sources different from the ones Georgette Heyer relied on so heavily which gave me some wonderful cant phrases you haven’t read in fifty other Regency-set novels.

I also read a lot about the British army in India in the Regency period since the hero’s story hinges on his experiences in the Third Maratha War. The undercover mission he’s involved in that plays such a part in the story, is based on actual cloak and dagger operations that were masterminded by a real English administrator who served in India in this period.

  • Star Crossed Seduction your current book. Tell me what YOU like about Trev and Temperance and what still makes you laugh when you think about them?

Trev and Temperance are two magnetic, attractive people whose difficult upbringings have taught them to use their sexual charisma to gain control over others. They are both survivors of harsh environments—Temperance of the mean streets of London and Trev of service in a war in a foreign land where has lived, as an outsider, since his teens.

I start the story by pitting these two wily survivors against each other in a take-no-prisoners battle of the sexes and then enjoy the fun as each of these masters of seduction finds themself realizing that they’ve finally met their match—in more ways than one.

I love how intense these two people are and how hard they fight against trusting what they feel when they finally meet someone who is just perfect for them.

  • You have a new book, Perilous Pleasures, due out in March. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Perilous Pleasures is the Pisces-themed book in the series. The hero, Lord Ramsay, is a Scottish lord with a tragic past who has taken a vow of chastity after falling under the sway of a mysterious mystical healer. I've paired him with Zoe, the ugly daughter of a cold-hearted courtesan.

Zoe’s virginity is essential to the rite that will transfer to Lord Ramsay the magical powers his teacher has promised him. So naturally, Zoe does what she can to rid herself of it—by seducing the mystical lord. Needless to say, trouble ensues.

  • Hmm, magical and fun. I like the idea of a the woman doing the seducing. I'm looking forward to reading it. Thank you Jenny for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions. It's been a pleasure.

 Thanks so much for having me on your blog.

Find out more about Jenny Brown Website, Facebook, Twitter.