History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

06 December 2010

Welcome, Laurel McKee!

Duchess of Sin (book two, Daughters of Erin)
by Laurel McKee
Available Now!

Blonde and beautiful Lady Anna Blacknall is in the mood for mischief. Entering Dublin's most notorious den of vice, she finds herself in the arms of a mysterious, emerald-eyed Irishman. And although he is masked, his tender kiss is hauntingly familiar.

Conlan McTeer, Duke of Adair, has come to Dublin to fight for a free Ireland. But he's suddenly reunited with the young Englishwoman who had once claimed his heart, and his passion turns from politics to pleasure. When their sizzling encounter brings danger to Anna's door, she must decide where her loyalties lie-and quickly. For someone will do whatever it takes to destroy Conlan . . . and anyone he dares to love.

Duchess of Sin is set in Ireland in 1800. Is there a particular reason you chose that year?

Thanks so much for inviting me to visit the Hoydens today! I love this blog, and am always learning new, fascinating things here. I chose that year because 1) the first book in this series, “Countess of Scandal,” took place in 1798, and I needed the heroine of “Duchess”, Anna, to grow up a bit before she got her own story!  Also it’s the year the official Act of Union between England and Ireland took place, with much drama and upheaval, and I needed that to be the story’s background. (It also happened to be Christmastime, and I got to research fun Irish Christmas traditions as a bonus!)

How did you become interested in this time period? What you love about it?

I’ve always been fascinated by Irish history! I grew up hearing stories of history and mythology at my grandparents’ house, and it always sounded like such a beautiful, dramatic place full of larger-than-life characters and romance. I also love the Georgian period, especially in Ireland—the fashions, the wild parties, the gorgeous architecture, the dangerous background of the times! It just took me a while to find the right characters for the setting…

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

The real history of the times! I wouldn’t say I like it “least”—it’s fascinating stuff, and full of suspense and danger, but it’s also very complicated. Before I even started writing the Daughters of Erin series, I had to read a lot and try to figure it all out in my own mind. We’re used to thinking in terms of “good guys versus bad guys,” but in this period it was not nearly so clear-cut. So many Irish were also English and vice versa, and the issues of the day were complex and very deeply felt. The vast majority of my research didn’t make it into the stories themselves, or they’re just background, but I felt like I needed to understand it if I was to create the right atmosphere! I’m not sure I still totally understand, but I did enjoy the research. 

Anything you flat-out altered or “fudged”? If so, why?

No, everything that’s in there I found in the research somewhere! That’s one of the fun things about these books (to me, anyway!). I was tempted to spend more time describing fashions and furniture, but I restrained myself!

Any gaffs or mea culpas you want to fess up to before readers get their hands on the book? I know I always seem to find one after the book has gone to press. *sigh*

LOL! That’s why I never really read them after they’re “real books.” I just know I would find something and would get upset about it when there’s nothing I can do about it! I’m sure there is something there I wouldn’t like…

Tell us a little about your hero. Something fun, like his favorite childhood pet, or his first kiss.

I do love Conlan so much! He’s a duke, with the accompanying deep sense of responsibility and duty, but also dark and brooding and wild, with green eyes and Celtic tattoos (I sort of pictured Richard Armitage as I wrote!). I know his childhood pet was a beloved pony, because he’s a great rider as an adult!

At first I had a hard time finding the right name for him, but a friend came to my rescue. Her son is named Conlan, which she said meant “hero”—perfect! (but her son is only 3 now, so it will be a while before he can read his namesake’s story)

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

I knew when I started this series there would be 3 books, and Anna would be the second heroine. But I wasn’t sure who her hero would be, or what would happen to her. Then Conlan appeared in the first book and they sort of took over their scenes together, and in my research I discovered the upheaval around the Union and all the great people and stories around it.

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

For the first book, I read a huge amount about the 1798 Uprising, but luckily I already knew something about it and it was easy to find resources. I knew very little about the Act of Union, except that it made the United Kingdom “official” and there was a great deal of skullduggery and corruption about it. I basically had to start from scratch. I also had to find out what life would be like for a duke with an Irish title like Conlan, which was fascinating! And Christmas—that kept it fun

What/Who do you like to read?

I am not a very discriminating reader! I will read anything and everything that looks remotely interesting. Luckily that can be “research” or “inspiration” now and not shirking my chores, as I was accused of when I was a kid and hid out with a Nancy Drew book in my closet for hours! I read lots of historical non-fiction, romance, mysteries, literary fiction, etc. I’m very obsessed with steampunk at the moment! (And when the holidays start to feel overwhelming, I burrow under the covers with an Austen or Bronte novel. It’s like hanging out with old friends)

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?

I’m pretty much a pantser! I’ve tried writing out charts and scene boards and stuff like that (I have a weird love of office supplies, so I love messing with colored sticky notes and highlighters), but it just doesn’t work for me. I end up spending most of my time changing the charts. To get to know characters and their stories I just have to sit down and write them. Sometimes they surprise me that way, or run away from me, but it’s what works for me! And by the time I finish a book I’m pretty tired of it and ready to go on to the next project, so I try to make it as clean as possible the first time.

What are you planning to work on next?

The third Daughters of Erin book, Lady of Seduction (Caroline’s story! She’s the bluestocking sister, so of course I love her) is out in June 2011! There’s a hint of her tale, and we meet her hero, in Duchess of Sin. And my other self, Amanda McCabe, has a book out in March 2011, The Shy Duchess (a spin-off from the Diamonds of Welbourne Manor anthology). It’s duchesses all the time around here!

If anyone is interested in more of the history behind these stories, I have info and sources on my website, http://laurelmckee.net! Plus excerpts, pics, and a fun contest…

Thanks so much for having me here today!


Blogger Isobel Carr said...

This sounds fabulous! Makes me think of Lord Edward FitzGerald (son of the Duke of Lenister). I love Stella Tillyard's book Aristocrats and the miniseries they made from it.

8:46 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Thanks for visiting us, Laurel! Duchess of Sin sounds fascinating. I used the United Irish Rebellion as a major part of a character's backstory, and like Isobel I loved "Aristocrats." There are so many fascinating stories to be told about Ireland at that time.

10:57 AM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Thanks for blogging with us, Laurel. Wishing you many happy sales!

4:14 PM  
Blogger Amanda McCabe/Amanda Carmack/Laurel McKee said...

Thanks so much for inviting me here today! I love this blog. :)

I also love "Aristocrats" (both the book and the TV movie), and the style and characters were a big inspiration when I was working on these books.

6:30 PM  
Blogger Cynthia Owens said...

Laurel, I can't wait to read Duches of Sin! In fact, it's one of my Christmas gifts from my DH this year. And I love that Christmas is involved in the story. In my own upcoming release, "Coming Home," (set in 1867 Ireland), I have what I hope is an unforgettable Christmas celebration.

4:23 AM  
Blogger Aoife said...

As first generation American of Irish parents, I love how you avoided religious stereotypes. This is a really good series.

8:46 AM  

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