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Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

16 October 2007

Welcome Our Own Mary Blayney!

The only connection between the stories in Dead of Night is the umbrella title. How did the four of you come together?

Through Nora Roberts ( in this case writing as JD Robb). She had done a series of anthologies before and her editor asked her if she wanted to try it again under the JD Robb name. I was one of the writers invited to take part. It wasn’t hard to say "YES!" and not only because of the chance to appear on a cover with the best selling JD Robb. The only qualification was that each story have a paranormal element which left me free to write historicals or contemporaries or fantasy or time travel. Hard to resist that kind of open ended invitation. By the way, the other authors in Dead of Night are Mary Kay McComas and Ruth Ryan Langan.

This is the second anthology, right?

Yes, the first was Bump in the Night which came out in the spring of 2006. My story, "Poppy’s Coin" has a role to play in Amy and the Earl. "Poppy’s Coin" received some criticism for how thin the paranormal element was – a magic coin that changed people’s live when they made what the coin decided was the right wish. I knew the second novella would have to have a stronger element but I wanted to use Poppy’s Coin again so I decided on a time travel that would tell readers how Poppy’s Coin, a coin minted in 1810 wound up in the regency in 1808.

So you combined contemporary elements with historical? How hard was that?

Much more of a challenge than I thought it would be. I am so grounded in the Regency that I had to really work at making Amy and Simon sound at least 20th century. Once I mastered that it was downright fun to take them to 1808. I am not sure how many others have had two characters time travel at the same time, but it did provide a great way for the characters to express their reactions to the period. Amy knows a lot about the Regency era and Simon is visiting his family’s ancestral home. Each has something to offer in their efforts to avoid the more obvious pitfalls. And because they are in this together and not sure how they will get back, they grow very close very fast.

Does Poppy’s Coin exist in our reality?

Absolutely, Poppy’s Coin is not its true name, only what I call it. It is explained in the opening of Amy and the Earl. In fact it was a freshly minted coin, lost at sea with thousands of others. Lost right off the coast of England and discovered in the late 20th century. A friend gave me one of the "Admiral Gardner Shipwreck Coins" coins and when I read its history the original story began to take shape.

Has it granted you any wishes?

My writing life has been pretty magical since Lavinia gave me the coin. I have to admit that I never really thought about that since, really, its magical properties are a creation of my imagination. At least I think they are. Four of us have a coin. I’ll have to ask the others if they made wishes.

How long have you been writing Regency set historicals?

For about seven years. I had the opening for my first written way before that but had initial success with contemporaries and kept beating that locked door until a friend suggested I try writing a Regency. In one of those serendipitous moments a publicist I knew introduced me to an editor who bought traditional regencies: Amy Garvey who was an editor then and now writes. Kensington gave me a start, for which I will always be grateful. When they ended the traditional line my agent was able to find me a home at Bantam. At about the same time the opportunity to do the anthologies came along. It does sound a little like magic, doesn’t it?

What appeals to you about the Regency?

In my opinion it is the first historical period we can relate to and consequently much easier to write about than any historic period before. The early nineteenth century was the doorway from the Georgian period to the Industrial Revolution (once Europe took care of Napoleon). Thanks to eighteenth century philosophical thought and the printing press, the idea that the individual was important than the group began to take hold. If that is too intellectual then I will also note that the clothes look more comfortable than what men and women wore in the Georgian period and earlier.

What kind of major research did you have to do for this novella?

Art, architecture, music and the soccer season in Britain. Art and architecture are my favorite research distractions anyway so it is never hard to settle down with a stack of books and sort through what will work. I learned more than I needed about Italian artists of the 18th century especially Guardi. I needed to find a house in London that was private but backed on a more public road. Google Earth was great for that. I found exactly the spot in Mayfair that worked. What may be useful to readers is the places I go for research online: Google Earth, National Gallery of Art (Washington DC) and of course the font of all Regency knowledge the RWA’s online chapter Beau Monde.

What’s next?

My first single title for Bantam, Traitor’s Kiss, comes out in January 2008. There is a third novella in the works. The umbrella title is Suite 606. I know my Suite 606 has a ghost in residence and the magic coin does make an appearance. My second book for Bantam with a tentative title Her Wildest Fantasy is scheduled for October, 2008. Her Wildest Fantasy will be the second in the Pennistan family series.

Anything else you would like to add?

Thanks to the Hoydens for letting me hog the spotlight this week. This is a fabulous group of writers and I am delighted to share the page with them.

Thank you, Mary!

6 Comments:

Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Congrats on the release, Mary! Well done (and you are one very productive lady!)

Where did you get the name "Poppy" from? Is Poppy a grandparent or characters first name?

...haven't read the book yet, but will!

3:09 PM  
Blogger Mary Blayney said...

Poppy is one of those characters that barged onto the page. Even though she was just a child she thought the whole story should be about her. Obviously some deep part of my subconscious that believes it is all about mememe. Note that the Admiral Gardiner Shipwreck Coin is now known in my world as Poppy's Coin --

3:30 PM  
Anonymous Tracy Grant said...

rfruhGreat interview! I can relate to the difficulty of writing contemporary characters. All my published books have been in the Regency/Napoleonic era, which I love for the same reasons you sum up so well-the time of transition, not to mention the wondeful clothes :-). I love how you combined real historical details about the coin with the paranormal elements.

3:32 PM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

This sounds absolutely fascinating, Mary. I love the idea of a contemporary couple lost together -- "shipwrecked," if you will -- in the Regency.

Congratulations to you on the releases and to us for the chance to be reading so much of you.

4:42 PM  
Blogger Mary Blayney said...

My pleasure, Pam and thanks, Tracy. I hope "Amy and the Earl's Amazing Adventure" lives up to your expectations

5:06 PM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

Congratulations, Mary! I'm impressed with your dual skills -- the novella being a different animal, structurally, from the novel. And I love the premise!

4:48 AM  

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