- What made you want to start writing, and more specifically, historical romance?
I have been telling stories since I learned how to string words into sentences. My mother likes to claim I used to start telling her a story on an hour-long drive to my grandmother’s house and not finish it until we arrived in Grandma’s driveway! (Sorry, Mom.) As I got older, I learned that I could write down these stories and be able to edit them later—which was a big draw as there’s unfortunately no edit button on my mouth.
Prior to historical romance, I was primarily a science fiction/fantasy writer because that’s what I’d grown up with. My father was a big Trekkie and so am I. But I found my first Jane Austen novel in ninth grade, and from there on out I was hooked on nineteenth century British literature. I studied writing in college, but I was also able to minor in English and concentrate on my real passion for anything British. That helped me learn a lot, and though I was primarily studying Victorian era at the time, it gave me the foundation and the lust for historical knowledge that I need to complete my manuscripts.
I stumbled into historical romance, instead of just plain historical fiction, through a dear friend. I had read Lauren Willig’s Secret History of the Pink Carnation years before but didn’t even realize there was a whole genre for this. I also come from a post-to-post text roleplaying game background, and I joined a game for regency writers. From there, I was hooked.
What keeps me writing romance now is because I believe strongly in the beauty of a happily ever after. I also want to bring to life things that I feel are as true now as they were in the 1830’s.
- What sparked the idea for A Dangerous Invitation?
I watch A LOT of television. Some authors read obsessively…I uh…watch television. In epic quantities. (If you’ve seen my tweet feed perhaps, this is no surprise). One of my absolute favorite shows is Castle, which stars Stana Katic as Kate Beckett. I was so intrigued by Kate’s character—a rough around the edges cop, who when you got to know her you learned about all these secret vulnerabilities. I wanted to capitalize on that image of a woman who appears tough as nails, but is struggling with these very real feelings she’s not sure she understands. The love story arc between Kate and her partner, Rick Castle (played by Nathan Fillion) also interested me, for I loved to see Kate let her guard down around him. I gave my own heroine Kate’s first name as a tribute.
So I had a basic character profile that I knew I wanted to work with. I knew that I wanted to tell a story of reunited lovers, so I thought of what would make a woman be so forceful, so strong-minded in a time period when that really wasn’t well accepted. I was very intrigued by the rookeries of London so I thought “what if she was rich, but something happened to make her have to live in the poorest East End?” Then from there it’s a matter of just piling on different elements that work and don’t.
- From where do you draw inspiration for your plot and characters?
It depends. Mostly, it’ll come from something I like—a television character as in the case of my own Kate Morgan, or a book that strikes me. I’m interested in social dynamics and the effect that has on crime, so I spend a lot of time watching crime shows, reading mysteries, or going through my stack of research books which feature crime and legal issues in the 19th century.
Sometimes it’ll be a piece of research that interests me, and I’ll highlight that and want to work a plot around it. That’s what happened with the resurrection men in A Dangerous Invitation–the idea of grave robbing to sell the cadavers for medical research was so gruesome that I knew I had to use it.
But I’m really pretty simple-minded when it comes to stuff. If it looks cool, is in some way twisted or dark, then I want to work with it. I love to show characters in tough, almost inhabitable circumstances and have them rise above it to reach a better place emotionally. I think that’s why I’m drawn to dark romance—it’s a catharsis. People have an incredible ability to overcome things and I think that gives us hope as readers.
- Are you more hero-centric or heroine-centric?
I am definitely heroine-centric. I usually start with the heroine when writing. Though this series is called “the Rookery Rogues,” the women have just as much power over their heroes. Given the time period, there was a lot of changes going on in with the Poor Law Reform and social mores, and the rookeries is a less rigid climate than the bon ton. So I’m able to write these women who really do challenge the everyday idea of a “perfect woman.”
- If you were given the opportunity to travel back in time, which of your characters would you most want to befriend?
While I obviously love Kate and Daniel, I think if I was going to travel through the neighborhoods I write about I’d want Atlas Greer as my companion. He’s Daniel O’Reilly’s best friend, so he has several scenes in A Dangerous Invitation that he completely steals. Atlas is London’s most notorious thief, so he wields a certain amount of influence over the rookeries. I feel like he’d be a great guide and I’d certainly be safe with him.
- What stories are coming out next from you?
I’ve currently outlined two projects for The Rookery Rogues. One is a novella* featuring Daniel’s sister, Poppy O’Reilly, who is talked about in the first novel but doesn’t actually appear. Poppy has a secret she wants badly to protect, and she’ll go to great lengths to make sure she can keep her family safe. But when she falls for a Metropolitan Police Officer, the stakes are higher. He knows something isn’t quite right about her past, and the more he spends time with her, the more curious he gets. I expect this project to be out in early 2014. The working title is Secrets in Scarlet.
The second project is what will be book 2 of the Rookery Rogues. Tentatively, I’ve called it Scandal Becomes You**, but I change my titles about six times before settling on one. This features Justine, who has a past history with Kate. Our hero for this book is Alex, who returns to London after years in the Navy, only to be forced back into the Chapman Street thieving gang associations he fled. I expect this project to be out in mid-2014.
*Secrets in Scarlet turned into a full-fledged 98,000 word novel, and it is Book 2 of the Rookery Rogues. It was released on September 23, 2015, so beginning a long history of me wildly misestimating a release date and a word count. Sorry to my editor, yet again.
**I actually never managed to write Scandal Becomes You, which later got referred to as A Scandalous Wallflower. I still plan to, someday, but I just couldn’t get the story to cooperate.