Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Leigh Michaels and Just One Season in London

*Captain Jack Sparrow saunters onto the darkened set of Hero Hot Seat, glancing around* Where did everyone go?

DRD: Shhh, don't say anything! Maybe he'll go away.

Captain Jack: I heard that!

DRD: *stands up* We're not doing a show today, Captain, so you can take a long walk off a short pier. Shoo. Nothing to see here.

*Captain Jack saunters over and notices DRD's got company* Helloooo, lovelies!

DRD: Ignore him and he'll eventually go cause harm to a hero—Wait. We don't have a hero today. Maybe if I do the intros he can go cause destruction somewhere else. Captain, this is author Leigh Michaels.

Captain Jack: Enchanted. *lifts Leigh's hand toward his lips, smiling seductively*

DRD: I believe you were on shore leave the last time Leigh visited us. How's that rash doing, by the way, Captain?

*Leigh yanks her hand back from Captain Jack's grasp*

DRD: And this is Lady Stone, who plays a very important role in Leigh's newest book Just One Season in London, which was released July 1.

Captain Jack: A lady, you say? *wets a fingertip and smoothes it across his eyebrow*

Lady Stone: Are you spoken for, young man? *gives Captain Jack an appraising look* Because if not, I've got someone who would be perfect for you—

Captain Jack: *leans in, very interested* Does she have her own ship?

Lady Stone: *chortles* Oh no! You won't have time for a ship with this woman. You'll be staying in port all the time. In fact, we'll need to get you cleaned up--chop off those silly braids, and wipe off whatever you've got smeared around your eyes. We will have you presentable and respectable in no time--

*Captain Jack races offstage, screeching and setting a new land speed record*

DRD: Thanks, Lady Stone. That was brilliant. *raises hand to high five* *thinks better of it and motions to nearby chairs instead* This is even better than a Hero Hot Seat episode, since it gives us a chance for some fun girl chat. Leigh, maybe you could start by telling us a little bit about your latest book.

Leigh: Just One Season in London features the Ryecroft family -- Viscount Ryecroft, his beautiful sister Sophie, and their mother, the still-young Miranda. If Rye could find an heiress to wed, he could not only save the family estate, but also send Sophie to London for her first season. If Sophie could just land a proposal from a wealthy man, she could afford to help her brother out of his financial straits. Their mother would do anything to financially secure her children’s futures, even entertain an unconventional offer from an old friend. But to do that, they need Just One Season in London – which Lady Stone helps them to achieve. The three stories, and three romances, are interwoven in a comedy of errors as the Ryecrofts realize how devilishly difficult it can be to marry for money.

DRD: And Lady Stone, you figure quite prominently in this story. I know you are considered a secondary character—

Lady Stone: *sniffs* Secondary? That's hardly accurate. *glares at DRD and Leigh*

DRD:  *gulps* Well, when I said "secondary", I meant of course "second to none".  "The character that holds the entire story together". *holds up teapot* Would you care for a refill, Lady Stone?

Lady Stone: Why yes, thank you. *puts hand to forehead* Although I'm feeling a little dizzy all of a sudden.

DRD: *winks at Leigh* This "pirate tea" affects some people that way. It's like getting your sea legs, though. You'll be used to it in no time. *sneaks a little more rum into Lady Stone's teacup* Maybe you can tell us more about your part in this story. There were several storylines to keep you busy.

Lady Stone: I'd love to, but I might need to lie down for just a moment.

*Captain Jack pops up next to Lady Stone's chair* You are very welcome to share my quarters. It will give us a chance to talk about other potential females you have in mind for me. Ones with really large. . .ships.

DRD: *yanks Captain Jack's collar until they are nose to nose* No funny business, okay? They haven't signed a release yet.

Captain Jack: *frowns* It's as if you don't know me.

DRD: *watches Captain Jack lead Lady Stone offstage* *turns to Leigh* Maybe you could tell us a little more about Lady Stone's role, in both books.

Leigh: Lady Stone made her first appearance in my first historical, The Mistress’ House, where she was a gossipy friend of the family. She also appears in a Regency-period short story I wrote called Wedding Daze.  She likes to be at the center of the action, where she’s usually tugging at a string just to see what she can unravel. Or in this case, what she can pull together.  She offers to host the Ryecrofts for the season, introducing Rye to heiresses and making it possible for Sophie the beauty to meet eligible men – to the dismay of Lady Stone’s faithful companion, who’s actually the one who gets stuck with the work.

DRD: Did you plan this? Or did she take over, as some characters can do?

Leigh: A little of both! Lady Stone is fun to write because she’s old enough and wealthy enough to say exactly what she thinks and do exactly as she likes. She’s abrasive and cynical and funny, but I didn’t realize for a while that she’s also a romantic at heart. So she came to life on the page. She’ll also make an appearance in my next historical, The Wedding Affair, which comes out in September…

*Scuffling noises can be heard offstage* *Stage curtain billows several times*

DRD: Not again. *drops head in hands*

*Lady Stone stalks across stage, her fingers firmly gripped on Captain Jack's earlobe, dragging him towards the chairs*

*Captain Jack attempts his most winsome smile, hands clasped prayerfully*

DRD: Okay, while I try to figure out exactly what happened here. . . Pirates, what questions do you have for Lady Stone? I know Leigh is likely to have lots of writing treasures to share with us, just like last time, so feel free to ask all kinds of questions! And one lucky commenter will receive a free copy of Just One Season in London (U.S. only, no PO Boxes).


Leigh Michaels (www.leighmichaels.com) is the award-winning author of 83 romance novels, including sweet traditional contemporaries and spicy historicals. With more than 35 million copies in print in 25 languages, she is a six-time RITA finalist and received two Reviewers Choice awards from Romantic Times magazine. She is the author of On Writing Romance, which has been called the definitive guide to writing romance novels, and teaches romance writing at Gotham Writers Workshop (www.writingclasses.com). Her latest book, a July release from Sourcebooks, is Just One Season in London, which RT Reviews gave four stars and called “a veritable feast.”


Donna said...

Looks like that scuffle scared everyone away. Either that or they're having some more "pirate tea" for breakfast. . .

Let me see who I can rustle up here.

Marnee said...

Morning! I'm here!

*waves* Hi there, Leigh! Welcome back!

This story sounds wonderful. I love the idea of three different story lines revolving around a mom and her kids. Any hints about weaving subplots together fluidly?

And I'm sure I'm going to love Lady Stone. Anyone who can keep Jack in line is worth my respect.

Hellion said...

Hi Leigh! Welcome aboard the ship! It's great to see you again!

I love interwoven stories--and I love secondary characters who hold the whole story together. :) I second Marn's question about tips for weaving subplots together fluidly.

Who are your favorite authors to read? Who inspires you? What are you working on now?

Scapegoat said...

Welcome Leigh! We're honored to have you (even if we are pirates).

I'd like to know - how does it feel to have written 83 books and what inspires you to keep creating new stories? Amazing!

Bosun said...

This story sounds like something I need to read. I admit, the premise behind some recent historicals have not, shall we say, called to me. But I like this one very much. Interwoven stories with love and romance and humor and folly? Count me in.

Some good questions already. I'd like to know how your stories come to you. Do you get the characters first, and then the plot grows out of them? Or is it the other way round?

And I'll be attending your Sunday workshop at M&M this fall. Can't wait to meet and learn from you!

Janga said...

I was reading Leigh Michaels' Harlequin Presents when I could buy an HP for less than three bucks and before Brittany was a celebrity name. I like the sound of yoour historicals, especially the inclusion of a romance for a mature heroine. :)

Did you find switching from writing sweet contemporaries to writing spicy historicals difficult in terms of voice and style?

Leigh Michaels said...

Ahoy, pirates! Good morning to all – it’s lovely to be back on board... thank you for having me. Let me refill my tea cup and settle in to chat.

Interwoven stories are a favorite of mine – and it’s a technique that’s used a lot in women’s fiction and mainstream novels, so I thought it was a natural to use in romance. But it seems (so far at least) I’m about the only one who’s doing this.

Mixing several storylines lets me focus on the light side – the humor and folly and comedy of errors involved in love stories. One reviewer said Just One Season made her laugh so hard her sides hurt – which I think is pretty darn good.

But interweaving several plots has its risks. I’ve read multiple-plot-line stories where I really only cared about one set of characters, for instance. I was tempted to skip past the other stories to get back to the people I cared about.

It’s important to keep the stories weighted about the same, with about the same amount of time on stage for each set of characters. I try to move all the stories along at about the same pace, so no couple gets their happy ending too early – and I go back and forth between the stories at fairly even intervals, so the reader doesn’t forget about the others.

In Just One Season in London that was a little easier because the characters are together a lot – they’re living in the same household and going to the same balls – so even when I’m following one hero/heroine, the other characters are there to be observed and to act on the situation. And Lady Stone is always in the background, keeping an eye on things.

I keep a list of scenes with tag lines and POV characters, and as I start a new scene, I look back over the last half dozen. Whose head haven’t I been in lately? – That’s usually the next POV character I use.

After 83 books, it’s tempting sometimes to think that there’s nothing new out there!– but just when I start feeling that way, a new story begins to whisper around the edges of my mind. Sometimes it’s the character first, but more often it’s the situation – the problem – which is the initial spark and then I have to figure out what sort of people would get involved, and why it would be important to them.

I’ll be around all day – have to get my full ration of pirate tea – and I love hanging out with you!

Bosun said...

You touch on something I've been wondering lately. For prolific authors with long careers like yours, does this ever become too much of a "job" and lose the fun. If the spark, as you call it, goes out. I'm encouraged to see that hasn't happened for you.

I do something similar to your list but I use a storyboard. The scenes are color coded on post-its so I can see whose POV I've been in and keep a good balance.

How long does a story stew around in your mind before you have enough to actually start writing? Do you do the same process for each book, or does that continue to evolve as well?

Sin said...

Welcome aboard Leigh!

JUST ONE SEASON IN LONDON popped up on my Amazon recommends this morning. So excited! You've always been one of my favorites in historical romance. It never feels like I'm reading the same story over and over again. No matter if it's your first book or your 83rd (Congrats on all those books!!) your stories always feel fresh and new to me.

Leigh Michaels said...

That's a long time ago, Janga! :) Thank you for hanging around with me all these years...

Switching from contemporary to historical called on a whole new set of skills -- which was part of the attraction, actually. After 80 sweet traditional contemporaries, I was feeling pretty burnt out, and it took a massive change to bring back the joy. From short to long, from sweet to spicy, from contemporary to historical, from one hero/heroine to three sets in each book... yeah, that was a big enough change to challenge me again.

How long does a story take to brew? It depends on the story -- during my contemporary career there was one I thought about for more than a year, but then when it finally fell together I wrote it in 17 days (all-time land speed record, for me). Each book seems to take a little longer -- now I'm always thinking about the risk of repeating myself, too, so I do a bit more preparation. And I start a lot of stories that go nowhere -- I have enough first chapters that I could put out a book of them as story-starters!

Bosun said...

Check this out, Sin. One of Leigh's books was turned into Manga.


Bosun said...

I see a lot of your (extensive!) backlist is available in ebook formats. What made you decide to take that step?

2nd Chance said...

Wow, 83 books! Sure know how to set the goals for the rest of us way up there!

This sounds like a lot of fun and I do enjoy a nice rompy historical.

I'll be at M&M with the Bo'sun, so look forward to seeing you there!

And sorry about the pirate tea, Donna can be a bit heavy handed with the...uh...secret ingredient.

Clarissa Southwick said...

Lady Stone is such a wonderful character. I can't wait to read this series :)

Leigh Michaels said...

When I got the rights back to a bunch of my Harlequins, it was a no-brainer for me to put them up as e-books. Since these things averaged a couple of hundred thousand copies in print, there are still ample numbers of books to be found -- generally for 1 cent plus shipping on Amazon.com -- but the ebook market opens up the field for impulse buyers and for overseas buyers.

Plus my husband, who's a very talented artist, put his graphic talents and his photo collection to work and created new covers for all the books. We deliberately went with a non-romancy feel (you can see most of the ebook covers at the top of my webpage -- www.leighmichaels.com), because we were aiming at the reader who perhaps is turned off by the image of romance -- the brand name, the couple on the cover.

Results have been quite good -- enough that I'd much rather get the rest of my rights back than sign on to Harlequin's new ebook backlist program. Not that they're giving me an option. :)

Leigh Michaels said...

Oh, I should add that I'm scheduled to do a week at Pitch University in September, on the subject of self-publishing (ebook and POD).

And I'm really looking forward to M&M in early October... I'll also be in Springfield, Missouri, for the Ozark Romance Authors conference on July 23, if you're in that general neighborhood. Great conference.

Bosun said...

Hey there, Clarissa! Thanks for dropping by. I see you're already familiar with Lady Stone. This lady is going to be fun to read.

We have a couple of pirates in Missouri so maybe they'll be close enough. I love the Pitch University site. Such a great resource for us unpubbed.

Harlequin isn't giving you a choice? Huh. Well, congrats on the ebook success you are having. Smart marketing ploy to lure in all readers, not just Romance. The whole endeavor, including the covers, must have been a huge undertaking. Good to know it's paying off.

Liz Lipperman said...

How funny! I love reading about your books, Leigh. Does Lady Stone ever find her soul mate? Or at least does she get to "shiver her timbers?"

Leigh Michaels said...

Ah! For the rest of Lady Stone's story, you may want to be on the lookout for The Wedding Affair, coming in September! :)

Harlequin's decided to digitize everything they still have the rights to, and as long as they keep the books in print (an ebook version counts), they continue to hold the rights to publish.

The hitch is that their offer of 15 percent of net receipts simply doesn't compare to what an author can get by doing the books on her own (70 percent of cover price, on Amazon). Will Harlequin sell enough more copies of these books to make up the difference? We'll see... but they'll have to sell five times as many for the author to break even.

Marilyn said...

Clever interview! Leigh, how do you churn out so many high caliber books? You must be one busy lady!

Take care,

anita clenney said...

Great interview. Captain Jack always makes things interesting, and I think Lady Stone could give him a run for his money. The book sounds great, Leigh, and I'm glad you're getting back the rights to some of your older books. Good luck.

Donna said...

Just got back from work, so I'm sorry I missed all the fun. Is there any "pirate tea" left? I'm parched!

Leigh, thanks for all the valuable info, as usual. I wish I could attend your seminar in person but I'll have to look at the notes that Bo'sun and Chance jot down. :)

2nd Chance said...

I'm supposed ta take notes?

Bosun said...

I'll take notes! All this Harlequin news is buzzing like crazy. I have to wonder how long they can hold out when they're lagging behind changes that are happening at lightening speed.