This interview originally appeared on the television review blog site Showratings.TV. I have edited it to add comments on Rookery Rogues projects.
Congratulations on the new book! We understand that it’s your first romance novel. What inspired you to start writing romance novels?
Thanks! Though I only started seriously pursuing a career in historical romance two years ago, I think I’ve always been a romance writer at heart. Almost all of the stories I’ve worked on over the years have involved some sort of love relationship. I used to dabble in contemporary short stories, where the emphasis is more on the devolution of the relationship instead of the getting together.
What I love about romance is the happy ever after. For a book to be considered a romance, there must be a happy ever after—where the problems have been worked out and you know these characters will end up in something emotionally and physically fulfilling for them. I don’t like surprises, so I think having that knowledge going in with romance is something that works for me. That said, I write for the journey these two characters take to get to the HEA. I want to see them overcome their struggles. I believe in the power of love to triumph over adversity.
I also believe strongly in the power of romance as both a literature and entertainment medium. Not only do people want that HEA, I believe that they need it. Seeing romance gives us hope. Which isn’t to say that every romance needs to be all flowers and kittens—mine certainly aren’t—but even in these dark situations, we can find something better.
Care to give us a brief rundown of A Dangerous Invitation?
A Dangerous Invitation is the first book in my new series, The Rookery Rogues, which takes place in 1830’s London in the slum areas (called rookeries). Each book features a heroine and hero who either hail from the rookeries—for there’s many different slum areas just in London alone—or who is thrown into this setting.
A Dangerous Invitation is the story of Daniel O’Reilly and Kate Morgan. Three years prior to the start of the novel, they were engaged. But one night, Daniel is found in alley with the corpse of a slain warehouse laborer, and he’s arrested for the murder. He escapes transport to prison and flees London, sinking into an alcohol-induced depression. Meanwhile, back in London, Kate’s father dies, leaving her with no wealth to fall back on and no family to take care of her. She ends up in the rookeries, relying on her knowledge of antiquities and becoming a fence for stolen goods.
Now sober, Daniel returns to win back Kate. He wants to prove he’s innocent of that murder. They start investigating and realize that they’ve become entangled in a plot by resurrection men (grave robbers who sell the corpses to surgeons to anatomize), and that those villains might have closer ties to Kate’s family than she wants to admit.
When you and I have spoken before, you’ve said that television characters greatly influenced the way that you wrote the characters in A Dangerous Invitation. What are some classic (or non-modern) television characters that influenced the story?
I watch a lot of sci-fi/paranormal stuff for being a historical writer. Prior to starting to write this late Regency/preVictorian period in England, I wrote a lot of sci-fi with romance elements and I think that still shows in what I choose to watch. I’m particularly drawn to shows with strong female characters. In the back of my mind, I think I kept this picture of the shows I watched as a young child and as a teenager. I loved Lucille Ball as a kid, because even though she was in this very traditional role you definitely knew she was the real one with the control in her marriage. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed for instance were very much about strong, independent women trying to navigate these complex worlds. For Kate, that worked a lot because she has assumed a role in society that women didn’t normally have—she lives on her own, she has a small bit of autonomy living in the mostly anonymous rookeries. She’s so far removed from the person she was when she first met Daniel. No longer is she this daughter of privilege in the upper middle class with fancy clothes and an even fancier house.
What about modern television characters?
The idea for A Dangerous Invitation came when I was watching Castle one day, and hence my Kate Morgan bears the same name as their heroine (Kate Beckett). I loved how independent and fierce Beckett is, and I also loved that underneath that hard shell she’s very vulnerable. Castle has to work to get to know her, but it’s well worth it. Beckett looks every problem dead-on and she doesn’t flinch. I wanted that strength for my Kate. In earlier scenes of Castle, Beckett also has to deal with anger from the past (her mother’s murder), and she struggles to move past that. I use similar themes in my book.
Daniel O’Reilly is a harder character. I didn’t have just one inspiration for him and to this day I can’t put my finger on exactly what made me write him originally. In writing Daniel, I was particularly drawn to stories about recovering addicts, because Daniel struggles with his sobriety. So I watched a lot of Elementary, some Ripper Street to get the gritty feel. Daniel is particularly self-deprecating. Later, in editing A Dangerous Invitation, I was really drawn to the character of Deacon on Nashville, as he’s facing a similar plight as Daniel. He hates himself when he drinks, and he wants badly to never be that man again.
Would you say that television is one of your greater inspirations when it comes to character writing?
Absolutely. I think I wandered into writing stories with heavy romantic suspense elements because of my love for anything detective or action-focused. The shows I watch often have an element of romantic suspense or mystery—Alias, Elementary, Sleepy Hollow, Nikita, The X-Files, Burn Notice. Even the humorous shows I’ve loved have those elements (Chuck, Brooklyn 99, Leverage).
What is it about television that you find inspiring?
There’s something about television that makes it more…relatable to me. Maybe it’s because there’s another veil, so to speak. Television writing is so completely different from novel writing; it’s a side of the business I really have no desire to be in and thus my opinions are more mine personally and not mine as a novelist. I’m able to immerse myself easier in the story because I can’t pick apart the craft so easily. Television also can be enjoyed with groups, so when I’m sitting around and I want to spend time with my husband, we can watch the television and both see the same thing.
My husband claims that I watch television the way he listens to music. I “feel” television—I pay attention to the visual aspects and sometimes even if the story isn’t working (like in the movie Ultraviolet) it’s the appeal of the setting that gets to me. I think that’s one of the reasons I was drawn to the dark, gritty setting of the rookeries. I live that world.
Where do you find your other inspirations?
Books for sure. I have to do a lot of research for these books, and from that different ideas spring. I also listen to music while I write.
If A Dangerous Invitation were to be made into a television series, who would you want to see playing your characters?
My absolute dream cast would be Stana Katic as Kate Morgan and Damian Lewis as Daniel O’Reilly. I cast all my characters in my head (in fact, I pin pictures of the actors on my boards for each story on Pinterest). I use those pictures to write the physical descriptions.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on a short story prequel to A Dangerous Invitation called A Wayward Man*. Then I’m working on the Rookery Rogues 1.5, a novella called Secrets in Scarlet**. It is the story of Daniel’s sister Poppy and the Metropolitan Police Sergeant I introduce in ADI, Thaddeus Knight.
*This short story is exclusively available for subscribers of my newsletter, which you can sign up for here.
**This later became a full-length novel, book 2 of the Rookery Rogues.