This post originally appeared on Rakes, Rogues, and Romance. I’ve edited it with comments to address Rookery Rogues projects.
You have a B.A. in writing. Did you always want to be a writer?
Definitely. I’ve been telling stories since I could form words into sentences. I had a wonderful teacher in fifth grade who really believed in me and encouraged me. From there on out, I started to commit my stories to paper. When I started to look at colleges, I specifically chose one that had a writing program as well as English. While I’ve done other things to support myself—worked at a video store, was a barista, a secretary—writing has always been my passion. It’s where I’m most comfortable.
If so, what drew you to Romance and Regency England?
I always loved historical fiction as a kid (the American Girls, come on!) but it wasn’t until I read Emma by Jane Austen in the summer between eighth and ninth grade that I fell in love with the regency era. I come from a primarily sci-fi background, so I didn’t think about writing historical romances until I joined a text-based roleplay game that was set during the regency. From there, I met a dear friend, Jenny, who told me that I should be writing books and that I needed to go for it.
Originally, when I began to draft A Dangerous Invitation, it was set in 1815. Further investigation into documented cases of resurrection men (grave robbers) set me back into the 1830’s, and the more I found out about this preVictorian time the more I really fell in love with it. The 1830’s were a crazy time for England—a ton of new political bills, the Catholic question, and then the repeal of the anatomy laws a few months after my book concludes.
Most romances are all about the dresses, the ballgowns and the occasional wounded hero. What drew you to write romance from the dark and gritty side of London?
It started with an image of a woman walking down a deserted alley in the East End. She’s got a gun, and she thinks she can defend herself. In fact, she’s incredibly proud of her independence because she’s beaten all of the odds and survived here. The last thing she wants is to meet the man who left her three years ago, but that’s exactly who she encounters.
To replicate that kind of circumstances, I needed to investigate the poorest neighborhoods in London. Unfortunately, history tends to overlook the poor—perhaps because they’re not usually the ones making the laws of the country, and sometimes they don’t have the means to write down their history. I wanted badly to give them a chance to tell their story. So the Rookery Rogues was born: a series of connecting romances that were joined together by focusing on these pockets of vice. I wanted to show that even in the darkest of times, you can still find love. And you’ve still got hope and a belief in your own ability to succeed.
How much research was involved before you could even begin writing your Rookery Rogues? What are your favorite sources?
I am inherently a plotter, so often, research helps me to figure out what stories I want to tell. For A Dangerous Invitation, I didn’t at first know exactly what I wanted to do. I read Donald Low’s The Regency Underworld and there was a chapter of grave robbers. I was totally intrigued. It was morbid and disgusting, and I’ll admit, I’ve got a love for anything that’s a little creepy. So I did some further looking into resurrection men and I found out about Burke and Hare in Edinburgh, Scotland, who instead of just digging up graves and selling bodies to unscrupulous surgeons, decided to go ahead and murder people who came to their boarding house. They cut out the middle man, so to speak, but their plan failed when they started to local people that the surgeons recognized when anatomizing. Burke and Hare were arrested, and so spread this great panic about resurrection men.
I wanted to capitalize on that fear. What if the murder my hero was accused of three years prior was actually done by resurrection men trying to keep their business secret? In late 1831, three men were arrested for the same type of crime as Burke and Hare (and indeed, they were referred to as the London Burkers). They had murdered a little Italian street peddler. I gave my villains ties to the Italian Boy’s murderers, and hence they had another reason to be worried when Kate and Daniel started to investigate into the murder of a warehouse laborer that Daniel was accused of before. For the London Burker case, I read Sarah Wise’s The Italian Boy.
For just a general view of the underworld, I read Henry Mayhew’s The London Underworld In The Victorian Period – Authentic First-Person Accounts By Beggars, Thieves And Prostitutes. I love this book so much.
I’ve actually made a Pinterest board of all my favorite research books (too many to name here). http://www.pinterest.com/regencyerica/research-books/
Tell us all about A Dangerous Invitation
A Dangerous Invitation is the story of Daniel O’Reilly, a shipping assistant who was forced to flee London and the woman he loved after he was arrested for a murder he didn’t commit. He needs the help of the woman who wants nothing to do with him: Kate Morgan, the daughter of his old boss and his ex-betrothed. To prove his innocence–and win her heart again–he’s got to show her he’s something more than the drunken failure he was before. But Kate’s got a new life as a fence for stolen goods, and she’s loathe to give away her independence. Even if Daniel makes her remember all those powerful passions she thought she had forgotten. Together, they try to clear Daniel’s name, and in doing so they uncover things about Kate’s family she’d rather keep hidden. They’re chased by some nasty resurrection men throughout the scariest parts of London, but all of that pales when compared to the terrifying feat of giving up your heart to another.
What is next up after your debut?
I’m currently working on two projects. Secrets in Scarlet* is book 1.5 in the Rookery Rogues, and it’s the story of Daniel’s sister Poppy and the Metropolitan Police Sergeant who appears later on in ADI, Thaddeus Knight. Poppy works at a factory that Thaddeus is investigating. They’re drawn to each other, but Poppy has a secret she doesn’t want to get out, and she’ll do anything to protect it.
Why did you decide to self publish?
I knew once I got about half-way through the first draft of A Dangerous Invitation that this book (and the whole series!) would be the very definition of hard sell. Not that I didn’t think the book was good enough to make it in traditional publishing, but I knew that it was very different than what was currently selling. The only correlation I could really make was to Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series, and while that’s doing well with Forever, it still has some aristocratic elements to it. I knew trying to pitch this dark, crazy world of the rookeries was going to be difficult—it’s so far from anything that we normally see in today’s fluffier regencies. And when I started to lay out the rest of the series, with heroines that are prostitutes, madams, thieves, etc., I didn’t want to be limited by someone else’s vision. I wanted to be able to remain true to the gritty, twisted side of life back then. Plus…and maybe this is the real reason, I loathe giving up control.
So we know you live in North Carolina, love animals, love TV and have a slight shoe obsession. Anything else deep dark and hidden you want to share with us?
Five little known facts…
- I cannot use a can opener. It just boggles me. I have to use a handheld opening device because the countertop standing one gets me EVERY time. I can’t figure out where the can’s supposed to line up and inevitably I get frustrated and bash the can against the opener.**
- I firmly believe that leggings are acceptable as pants and I refuse to be persuaded otherwise.***
- I would happily eat sushi every single day of my life.
- I read books in a very strange fashion. I flip through parts and read completely out of sequence. I have at least 200 romance novels in my office and I guarantee you I’ve flip-read 60% of them. I attribute this to my very small attention span and my desire to know what happens at the end.
- I attribute my feminism to reading romance novels.
*Secrets in Scarlet became a full length novel, Book 2 of the Rookery Rogues.
**I learned how to use a can opener in November 2016 AND LET ME JUST SAY HOW PROUD I AM OF MYSELF.
***Still wear leggings as pants every day. You can pry my leggings from my cold, dead hands.
Excerpt from A Dangerous Invitation:
“What part of ‘I shall make you bleed’ did you not understand?” Kate kept her hands hidden behind the solid wood of the banister, preferring him to think she might be armed.
He rounded the last step, coming to a stop in front of her.
Kate retreated against the bannister, which came up to her hips. “Why are you here, Daniel? I already told you I wouldn’t help you.”
“I need to know.” Daniel took another step forward, effectively boxing her up against the bannister.
She leaned back further, unbalanced. What did he need to know? Who had killed Dalton? If she believed him? Or worse, if she still loved him?
Cold air swept in through a broken window on the first floor, ruffled the knotted ribbon of her straw hat underneath her chin. Her fingers clenched around the worn wood of the railing, gripped so tightly her knuckles became white.
She might never feel sure of her footing again.
“You let it pass for three years,” she charged. His urgency made no sense.
“I shouldn’t have. I won’t this time. Dalton deserves justice, and so do I. I’m going to investigate Dalton’s murder whether or not you help me.” Daniel brought his hand to rest on her arm, heat penetrating through her greatcoat. “But truly, I came back for you.”
He leaned his head down, so that their eyes met. His gaze pulled at her. Her body longed for his touch, craved it, as if he was the answer to every question she’d had in the past three years. He could not love a woman so wrecked.
She retreated back again. Bent against the bannister, it sagged against her weight and a threatening groan echoed from the wood. She didn’t move, knowing that if she did she’d be back in his arms within seconds.
He took one look at the bannister, then at her, and tugged her closer to him. His hold was strong, but not unrelenting. She was flush against him, so close she could feel the beating of his heart. Warmth replaced brisk wind, and his presence blotted out loneliness until she was part of something greater, something powerful beyond herself.
She feared that heady sensation. Passion didn’t stick to predetermined routes and checklists.
When he spoke, his breath tickled her skin. His voice rumbled in her ear. “I don’t want to lose you again.”
A tremble tore through her. In those few months after he left, she’d woken with those words on her lips, whispers from dreams wherein he’d fulfilled his promise to return for her. He was here, and she forgot the reasons why she should loathe him.
Everything but the smell of bergamot and cloves disappeared. An altogether familiar aroma, one intrinsically locked in her mind as his, yet different this time without the overlay of pine needles. It enveloped her, clouded her senses. She lifted her head from his chest.
She looked him in the eye. But that was a mistake, for his eyes shone with the same desire she kept trapped.
“If I didn’t know better, I might believe you.” She forced herself to step away from him. “I can’t be with you again.”