History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

06 November 2007

Welcome, Jess Michaels!

Everything Forbidden
by Jess Michaels (aka Jenna Petersen)

Available Now!

Country miss Miranda Albright has secretly watched her wicked neighbor, Ethan Hamon, the Earl of Rothschild, as he 'entertained' lovers on the grounds of his country estate for three summers. But after her father dies and the family falls into financial peril, Miranda is driven to strike a bargain with the Earl. He will play financial and social host for a Season for each of her three younger sisters... in exchange for three months of sin with her.

Miranda has always ached for the passion she’s spied upon, but she knows Ethan is the kind of man who could steal her heart, as well as claim her body. And falling in love with a man who admits she is nothing but a game to him could be the most dangerous and forbidden seduction of all.

Everything Forbidden is set in Regency England. How did you become interested in this time period? What you love about it?

I think that when I started reading, most of my favorite books were set in the period, so it was a natural fit when I wrote my books. Pretty much everything I write, erotic or just straight historical is written in Regency (a few Victorian novellas early). Since I started, I’ve come to love the dichotomy of the period. There were such rigid Society rules and yet some of the young women didn’t wear undergarments of any kind to keep the lines of their dresses smooth. It’s just a fun time, socially, which is perfect for a romance.

What do you like least about this period? Anything that constrained you or that you had to plot carefully around?

People sort of accept erotic romance in the Victorian period, but they seem to be surprised when they find I’ve set an erotic romance in the Regency. But then they get excited, so I’m not sure it’s a constraint. LOL

What sparked this book? Was it a character? An historical event? A scene you just couldn’t get out of your head?

Actually, my lovely agent, Miriam Kriss of the Irene Goodman literary agency and I were talking one day, brainstorming about a new erotic contract I was working on proposals for. She started talking about an idea about a young woman who seems innocent, but is really spying on her libertine neighbor as he ‘entertains’ his lovers. The spark went from there and Everything Forbidden was born (opening with that scene). I am all about character, though, so once I have a kernel of an idea, I always go straight to character.

Did you have to do any major research for his book? Did you stumble across anything really interesting that you didn’t already know?

Not so much for this book, beyond the basic Regency base I already have. The story takes place on a country estate with London Society not really coming into play until the end of the book, so I got a little more freedom that way. Generally when I research now, it’s for specific parts of a book. Like the book I’m starting right now has a boxer for a hero, so I’ve done quite a bit of research on underground pugilism and opium addiction. And in between books, I tend to read research books to spark ideas.

This is a new pseudonym for you, what made you decide to branch out with a new persona?

It’s sort of a new pseudonym. I’m more widely known for my Jenna Petersen historical romances, but I actually started out publishing erotic romance as Jess Michaels in 2004 (a year before my Jenna Petersen debut). I wrote erotic historical novellas for Red Sage for a couple of years before I helped launch Avon Red with my novella in Parlor Games, which came out in June 2006. So Jess has a small, but faithful group of readers who I hope will keep growing.

I have always liked very sexy romance (which is what I write as Jenna). So this shift to even HOTTER books was very natural. I love to play in both genres.

What/Who do you like to read?

I love romance, of course. Authors like Kathryn Smith, Julia Quinn, Lisa Kleypas, Suzanne Enoch. I also really like Neil Gaimen, Susan Carroll, the Philip Pullman Dark Materials series, Susanna Clarke, Carrie Bebris and LM Montgomery. I love books, in general. LOL

Care to share a bit about your writing process? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you write multiple drafts or clean up as you go?

Sure! I write at least 10 pages a day, five days a week as a base. Most days it’s more like 12-15, especially once I really get going on a book. I plot extensively and do a lot of character work before I write one word, so I pretty much always know where I’m going, though my stories invariably surprise me and pull me from my plan at least once each time. I have learned that I write better when I write ‘head down’, or just write without editing from beginning to end. Then I take a break from the book and come back to it for a full edit before I send it to my editor.

From beginning to end, it takes me about 6-8 weeks to write a first draft and 12-16 weeks total to write, revise and turn in a book. Although I have done all that much quicker when on deadline. But that’s at my comfortable rate.

What are you planning to work on next?

Well, next May (2008), I’ll have another Jess Michaels book out, Something Reckless. My heroine, Penelope Norman, is the sister of the heroine from Everything Forbidden so if you like that book, I hope you’ll pick Penelope’s story up next. Then in July 2008, my next Jenna Petersen book, Lessons From a Courtesan will hit shelves. I just finished revisions on this book and I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited for a book to come out. I’m just jumping out of my skin. And this month I’m starting on my next historical romance, so I’m keeping busy.

One other thing you are known for, aside from your two author personas, is The Passionate Pen. What can you tell us about the site?

The Passionate Pen is my site for aspiring authors. I created it in 1999 (so we’re approaching a decade now, must plan celebration). It came from the fact that I was very frustrated after I finished my first manuscript but couldn’t find one clearinghouse of information about the publishing industry. I wasn’t a member of RWA, so I was just on my own, really.

I started compiling a list of romance publishers and as it grew, I realized that other people might want this information, as well. So I built The Passionate Pen. Over the years, it has changed and grown, but at its core is that list of romance publishers, alongside a list of literary agents who take romance. In 2001, I added a diary (I was blogging before blogging was cool) which followed my journey from unpublished to the Call and beyond. I also have articles about writing, links to writing sites, and much, much, much more. Oh, and the Buy A Historical page, which encourages readers to buy historicals and buy new, with an emphasis on debut writers. This is my way of trying to help keep the market strong.

The site is truly a labor of love (though if people want to pay it back, buy my books! LOL). And I really enjoy helping other authors. I’ve gotten literally tens of thousands of emails since I started and the site gets nearly 200,000 hits per month. So it’s grown a lot.

Thanks for having me here today! It was fun. And I’m happy to answer questions in the comments section!


Blogger Mary Blayney said...

Welcome to the Hoydens, Jess. What is your favorite area of Regency life? what catches your attention and won't let go so you know way more about it than you need to....

4:09 AM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

Welcome, Jess/Jenna! Our agent(s) Irene and Miriam are so proud of you!!

I am tremendously impressed with your marketing and promotional tools, particularly as it's an area where I always feel I am playing catch-up. I never can seem to find a big chunk of time to devote to the incredibly necessary business end of the business. You're an inspiration!

5:20 AM  
Blogger AndreaW said...

Hi Jess/Jenna! *waving*

Great interview and perfect timing! I am reading EVERYTHING FORBIDDEN right now, and WOW! Talk about hot! Such a great story. Now, I'm really looking forward to SOMETHING RECKLESS, as well. ;)


5:59 AM  
Blogger JennaPetersen said...

Hi everyone!

I'm very glad to be here and excited to play the rest of the day.

Mary, I love the idea of ballrooms and garden parties and estates that actually have land. There's just something so fairy tale about all that, and it appeals to me. I'm about to go onto a great research of opium. So I'll be in the Underground for the next few months. LOL Dirty and desolute is the life for me.

Amanda, hi agency mate! LOL Here's my big secret about promo. It's all about promoting to your publisher. As an author, I can reach... maybe a thousand extra readers, if I'm lucky. My publisher is really going to have to be the one to significantly build me through their sales and marketing teams. But if I do things and make sure they know about them, I think that helps a great deal. So I pick promo stuff that I like doing or having. I'm always happy to build one reader at a time and I do, but in the end, I'm really promoting with my publisher in mind. So make sure anything you do, your editor knows about it.

Hey Andrea! I'm glad the book finally arrived (UPS, right?). I'm really glad you're liking it. SOMETHING RECKLESS comes out April 22, 2008, so less than 6 months away now!!

Looking forward to talking more with everyone later!

6:06 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Thank you Jess for all the work you do with the Passionate Pen. I've often gone to it for information on publishers over the years. And congratulations on your new book. It sounds fantastic.

7:29 AM  
Blogger JennaPetersen said...

Oh thanks Elizabeth! I love doing Passionate Pen! I'm just happy it's still helpful. I've really got to start planning the Ten-Year Anniversary Celebration...

7:48 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Welcome, Jess! The PassionatePen is a wonderful site--as both a writer and a reader I so appreciate all the work you put into it! The new book sounds great. Was it constraining writing most of it set in the country or did you like exploring a different setting from London ballrooms?

9:52 AM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Hi Jess, I've been lurking the Passionate Pen for years! Delighted to have you here...and wow, I gotta say the cover and blurb for Everything Forbidden grabs my attention...has a kind of "Eyes Wide Shut" feel...;-)

All the best with the release and thanks for posting!


10:44 AM  
Anonymous Eliza Knight said...

Hi Jenna/Jess,

I am still waiting for Everything Forbidden to arrive..should be here tomorrow (fingers crossed). I loved "Fallen Angel" from Parlor Games, so I'm really looking forward to reading your newest release! Btw, the Passionate Pen site has been very helpful to me and I've recommended it to several other newbies like myself.

How do you do it all? You seem so organized! I'm pre-pubbed currently and the idea of all the promoting is a little daunting. I know its necessary, but how do you find the time?

10:46 AM  
Blogger JennaPetersen said...

Tracy wrote:
Was it constraining writing most of it set in the country or did you like exploring a different setting from London ballrooms?

I think it fit the story best, so I never felt constrained by it. Ultimately that's what it's all about for me, telling the story, developing the characters. The research is only as good as that anyway, you know?

Kathrynn wrote:
I gotta say the cover and blurb for Everything Forbidden grabs my attention...has a kind of "Eyes Wide Shut" feel...

I've been SO lucky with all my covers from Avon! Wait until you see the next two. Ridiculously fabulous.

Eliza asked:
How do you do it all? You seem so organized! I'm pre-pubbed currently and the idea of all the promoting is a little daunting. I know its necessary, but how do you find the time?

I'm so glad you enjoyed "Fallen Angel", that was a fun story to write. Honestly, it's just a little work every single day. I write full-time so I probably have more time to devote to promo, though. It's all about making it part of your routine, though, one way or another. Some weeks will be crazy, others will be better.


11:57 AM  
Blogger BethRe said...

Is there a genre that you haven't tried writing yet that you would like to? Is there a genre you will probably avoid? why?

12:16 PM  
Blogger JennaPetersen said...

bethre asked:
Is there a genre that you haven't tried writing yet that you would like to? Is there a genre you will probably avoid? why?

You know, I did a lot of soul searching this summer about whether I should branch out into other genres. I write very quickly and my publisher can only put out so many books by me per year, even with two names. But in the end, I realized that the books I love to write are historical and erotic historical romances. Nothing else that I was coming up with made me happy or excited or interested me for very long.

So I decided that I would follow my gut. Maybe I won't have twenty books out a year, but I'll love all the books I write and I won't confuse my audience.

As for anything I wouldn't write, I probably wouldn't write Inspirational or YA. I don't have kids and don't really GET kids, actually. LOL And I'm not religious, so I think the other would be a bit odd to write.

12:34 PM  
Blogger JennaPetersen said...

I'll poke my head in again later to see if there were any more comments (and I'll be back Thursday for another blog). But tonight I'll be at Coffee Time Romance for a Chat at 9pm with Elizabeth Boyle! Come join us if you can!


4:25 PM  

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