History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

07 November 2011

Welcome, Joanna Bourne!

The amazing Joanna Bourne is here with us today to talk about her new release The Black Hawk.  She'll also be giving away a copy to one lucky commenter! If you're like the rest of us, you're addicted to Jo's very special world of intrigue, and you're chomping at the bit to read Adrian's story...

Attacked on a rainy London street, veteran spy Justine DeCabrillac knows only one man can save her: Hawker, her oldest friend . . . her oldest enemy. London's crawling with hidden assassins and someone is out to frame Hawker for murder. The two spies must work together to find who's out to destroy them...

Black Hawk is set during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars.  That's  from 1794, running to 1818.   Is there any particular reason you chose these years?  How did you become interested in this time period? What you love about it?
Romance genre was my gateway drug to the Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Century.  I'll point to Georgette Heyer and her light-hearted Regencies and to Sergeanne Golon's sprawling Louis XIV world.
There's a fifty or sixty year period in the Eighteenth Century when our whole view of how people should live, and interact with one another, and be governed changed irrevocably. 
When the Declaration of Independence talked about 'all men are created equal,' and 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,' and 'deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,' they are not stating old, well-established truths.  These were hot new ideas.
Exciting stuff.

What do you like least about this period? Anything that constrained you or that you had to plot carefully around?  Anything you flat-out altered or “fudged”? If so, why?

There's the usual lack of washing and opportunity to pick up personal wildlife.  I think anybody writing fiction in the past has to deal with this.
You want to know little thing that drives me nuts? 
Hats.  And gloves.
Anybody respectable was walking around with a hat on their head most of the time and pretty much universally gloves.  And I refuse to picture my characters wearing hats.  Especially my male folks.  I do not think it is manly and heroic to wear hats, and I know this is narrow minded of me and I am sorry.
So generally I don't talk about this.  Or think about it.  And I just wish it would all go away.

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*

I think I make mistakes all the time and mostly the readers are too polite to bring these to my attention.  I know I did once put a reference to a 'kept woman' living in St John's Wood in London about thirty years before this would have been common.  And I made at least one mistake in the timing of some backstory once.
The most impressive Black Hawk gaff is something I didn't do myself and didn't even know about till it was far too late to prevent.  It's on the stepback cover, and I'll let folks have the joy of discovering it for themselves.

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

This next book, Black Hawk, is Adrian's book, so I'll tell you a bit about Adrian.
Adrian has a cat.  What happened was this:
When he was young and working for the King Thief of London -- that was a position of some prestige where he came from -- he had occasion to break into British Intelligence Service Headquarters with the intent of removing papers therefrom. 
He got caught at it.  This is one of those hazards of the thieving profession. And while he stuck knives into several Service agents, in the end he got subdued.  His kneecap was dislocated in the process and it never did get entirely right again, which no doubt served as a reminder to avoid physical confrontation where possible.  For anyone who's read some of the other books, Doyle's the one who did that to his knee.
In any case, Adrian ended up in a secure room in the attic where the Service put people they hadn't decided what to do with yet.  It had a flap on the door for passing food in. 
Adrian was laid up on a mat with his leg strapped to a board.  This was tedious for him, even though he had the excitement of waiting for the Service to turn him over to the hangman.  A bumbling six-week-old kitten pushed through the door flap every day.  Adrian called it 'Cat' and started feeding it the best of his food and teaching it to fetch and so on.
It was Adrian's treatment of Cat that told the British Service the boy was worth keeping alive.

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

I had some readers mention that they'd like to see a book with Adrian as the main character.  I guess I was responding to that, initially.  But when I started thinking about it, I got excited by the idea of giving Adrian his own happy ending. 
I really like him as a character.

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

I always have to do major research. 
Research on the Louvre building.  There was a lot of that. 
Research on assassination attempts on Napoleon.  People just kept doing this, did you know?  Going after that man with poison and pistol.  I had no idea. 
So I sat down and asked myself how one would go about killing the man and it turns out somebody or other had tried just about everything under the sun, so I was authentic no matter what I did.
I guess what surprised me most was that one of the earliest fire extinguishing pumps ever was installed in the Louvre just before my story takes place.  So cool.

What/Who do you like to read?

I mostly read nonfiction, when I'm kicking my feet up and relaxing.  I do enjoy journals and letters of the period I'm writing in.  My fiction is a pretty mixed bag.  Some Romance, some Fantasy, and the occasional mystery.

Right now I'm reading Stephen King's On Writing, Thomas Allen's George Washington, Spymaster,  (Spymaster.  Now that's a good title,) William McNeil's Plagues and People, and Alfred Cobham, Aspects of the French Revolution
In fiction I've been doing a bunch of YA lately.  Recently finished Julie Kagawa's The Iron King, Mary Stewart's Merlin trilogy, and Mercedes Lackey's The Fire Rose.  I'm in the middle of Mary Jo Putney's Kiss of Fate.  Next on the fiction bookshelf are Joann Ross', Out of the Mist, Emma Bull, War for the Oaks and Rhys Bowen, Her Royal Spyness.

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 have been trying to outline more and plan more so I don't end up doing these multiple drafts.  I hate to write my way down a blind alley and then have to throw out lovely writing.
So you could call my method, 'in transition.'   

What are you planning to work on next?

This book that's coming out now is Black Hawk.  It's Adrian's story, as I say. 
In Black Hawk, we have a spy for England and a spy for France, one each.  Adrian Hawkhurst and Justine DeCabrillac.  In the small spy community of Europe, everybody knows everybody else.  These two have been friends and enemies and cautious allies and sometimes lovers. 
But they can't be together.  They can never wholly trust each other.  This business of being on opposite sides in a long war is a complicating factor of great magnitude.
Now, after the war is over, someone's out to kill Justine . . . And frame Hawker for the deed.
 The story after this, getting to your question, is Pax's story.


Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Welcome, Jo! Thanks for joining us. The Black Hawk sounds fabulous. I've been researching Royalist plots myself for my current WIP, which is set in 1815 but refers back to a fictional failed Royalist conspiracy as part of the plot.

How much of this book did you have worked out as you wrote glimpses of Adrian and Justine in your other books?

1:42 AM  
Blogger CrystalGB said...

Great interview. The Black Hawk sounds good. I love the cover.


6:01 AM  
Blogger Isobel Carr said...

Hey, Jo! Welcome to HH. So glad to have you here today. I have the day off work and I'm going to plunge into THE BLACK HAWK while babysitting the dogs.

8:04 AM  
Blogger Angelina Barbin said...

Hi, Jo! I had the pleasure of meeting you in NY at conference and you were wonderful and very down to earth. There are so many interesting things to love about Black Hawk. I'm interested in reading about the attempts on Napoleon's life. I have a 13yr old son who thinks he knows everything about Napoleon so I try to keep up.

8:45 AM  
Blogger Lindsey Edwards said...

This book sounds really intriguing and the cover is absolutely beautiful! I agree with the hat thing too. Very rarely do I see a hat on a man and think sexy or masculine.

8:54 AM  
Blogger Jo Bourne said...

Hi Tracey --

Interesting question.

I 'know' a lot more about my characters than shows up in the books.

You're going to say, "Well, of course," because I am just stating the obvious of which I do a fair amount.

In Her Ladyship's Companion, Adrian is fairly 'flat'. There's not much to him outside the appearances in the book. Nothing shows his interesting past because he didn't have one yet.

When I moved into the Twenty-first Century, I like to think I was writing a little better. When I wrote The Spymaster's Lady, I knew Adrian's childhood and I knew about his relationship with Justine, (though I didn't have her name. She was originally Marianne, but you can't have a Marianne in a book with a Marguerite.)

In Spymaster's Lady Adrian was whole and complete as a character.

But he wasn't ever plotted to be primary. I wasn't going to write a book about Adrian. I was going to keep him as a cool secondary character.

Then somehow I ended up writing Adrian's story. I'm not sure how this happened. It was dark. The woods were extensive and poorly mapped. I became confused.

Anyhow, the whole Black Hawk story was a new endeavor when I sat down to write it. I didn't have any coherent plot in mind that I'd been building up to.

What I had was dozens of dates and events that were what Dr Who would call 'Fixed Points In Time'.

My plotting, if you can dignify it with that name, was a desperate squirrel cage whirr whirr of turning these Fixed Points into some kind of story.

As life events, Adrian's past worked fine. As a smoothly plotted Romance genre story, these plot points sucked.

Black Hawk is my way of handling the corner I was painted into.

Every once in a while somebody asks me, "What advice would you give new writers," and I generally say something like, "Never give up!" or "Keep records," or "You can't deduct double shot soy lattes."

The real advice is, "Don't paint yourself into a corner by suddenly deciding to promote a secondary character to protagonist."

10:08 AM  
Blogger Jo Bourne said...

Hi Crystal --

I like the cover, though this is not my own mental picture of the hero, Adrian.

I wonder if authors ever find the cover looks like the character?

10:09 AM  
Blogger Jo Bourne said...

Hi Isobel --

I do so hope you like it. *h*

Having admitted that I had no idea what I was doing when I plotted it, I suppose I have let the cat out of the bag.

10:12 AM  
Blogger Jo Bourne said...

Hi Angelina --

The wonderful thing about writing in the Napoleonic era is that if you want to plot an assassination attempt on Napoleon, there are dozens of them. Poison, bombs . . . take your pick.

One of my favorites is the Infernal Machine:


I had that in mind, a little bit, when I was writing Black Hawk.

10:17 AM  
Blogger Jo Bourne said...

Hi Lindsey,

Now I'm challenged. I am going to write somebody with a sexy hat.

10:18 AM  
Blogger Dee said...

Sounds really intriguing. It makes sense that there would have been assassination attempts on Napoleon but not something that I had ever considered. Serving and spying on the opposite sides of an international conflict would lead to some tension between characters. :) I have this book marked for my next shopping trip. Congratulations on the release.

10:18 AM  
Blogger Jo Bourne said...

Hi Dee --

Thank you so much.

England did not actually support the attempts on Napoleon's life. But they supported Royalist groups that made the attempts.

There was a certain amount of blind eye-age turning, I think.

I hope you enjoy Black Hawk. *g*

10:31 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

Hi, Jo - I've been enjoying your blog tour and learning new details about The Black Hawk. One of my favorite subjects in school was European history and specifically, studying about the French Revolution and its aftermath. The nice thing about reading historical romances is that it refreshes our memories about our history in an interesting way.

10:57 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

I forgot one thing: Have the rights reverted back to you for Her Ladyship's Companion? If so, do you plan on releasing it as an ebook?

10:59 AM  
Blogger Ecorman said...

I wish I could borrow or find a copy of Her Ladyships Companion at reasonable price. Since it is the start of series, I wish it could be reprinted. I know I read a lot of the Avon line of Regencies, but it is hard to remember from so long ago. Maybe you could give us some of that back story on your web site.

11:06 AM  
Blogger Jo Bourne said...

Hi Penfield --

Her Ladyship's Companion will be re-issued as an e-book. I'm not sure of the date yet. Shouldn't be too long.

I love this particular period in history -- the 1780 to 1820 -- because of the philosophical changes. There are wars all over the place. This was a war about ideas. Makes it very interesting for me.

11:07 AM  
Blogger Jo Bourne said...

Hi Ecorman --

I've been reluctant to see Her Ladyship's Companion back in print.

The writing makes me blush. It just really does. HLC is a 1980's standard thin Gothic and . . . not very good.

However, I also don't want to have folks spending a lot of money to read it. I don't like the horrible pirated copies that are floating around.

So I've given it to an e-press to re-issue. The writing isn't any better, (I preserve the original rather than try to 'fix it',) but this should be a clean version at a reasonable price. I kinda owe it to people who like the other books and want to read HLC for reference.

11:12 AM  
Blogger Ecorman said...

Great news on the re-issue. I will be watching for it.

11:12 AM  
Blogger Diane D - Florida said...

Thank you for such an enjoyable interview and for giving us all a chance to read an excerpt of “The Black Hawk”. Historical romance is my weakness and I loved this excerpt of your book.

I do have to agree with you about men in hats. They doesn't do anything for me either. Also, I'm bothered by the fact that people rarely washed back then. I can't even imagine getting out of bed and putting on my clothes without a shower. UGH!!!

I absolutely adore and love a good love story. I would dearly love to read this story as it appears to contain everything that I love, passion, intrigue and romance. I want to be carried away to another time and place where people lived, loved, and were finding their way to each other. I know that I use this saying a lot when I enter contests but, this is exactly how I feel and I don't have another way of expressing it. I tend to lose myself in the book and go to sleep with a smile on my face and enjoy beautiful dreams where the Hero is my man.

I do enjoy a series over stand alone books as it’s nice to meet and follow characters from one book to another. I also think this heightens the excitement in waiting for the next book to be released.

I love the front cover, he's extremely yummy.

dpd333 (AT) aol dot com

11:33 AM  
Blogger Jo Bourne said...

Hi Diane D --

I heard both good and bad about the cover.

Myself -- I have no 'eye' for art at all. I just get the covers and wrinkle my forehead and mutter -- "They think THAT is going to sell books? Let's hope they're right."

I would prefer a pair of clasped hands or the curve of one strand of woman's hair across a man's naked back . . .

Somehow, they don't do that.

I think there was more washing going on than is generally known. People didn't take showers. They seldom took tub baths. But they did get clean.

I blog about it


I am now all fired up with the prospect of men wearing hats. There must be something I can do with this.

11:44 AM  
Blogger Beebs said...

Hi Joanna

Still waiting to read Hawker's story, it's not released here til January. Every interview just whets the appetite even more.


11:47 AM  
Blogger Jo Bourne said...

Hi Beebs --

Apparently the print version of Black hawk comes out in England/Europe in January 2012. It will be in whatever bookstores will carry it then.

Book Depository, I think, has it now.

Amazon.uk will release the print book for shipment in England/Europe in January 2012.

The kindle version, I think, is available in England/Europe now.

All of this makes me want to put straw in my hair and caper like a maniac, but I suppose there is some underlying thread of reason, invisible to me.

11:54 AM  
Blogger Beebs said...

Thanks Joanna,

Don't have a Kindle (yet, heavy hinting for Christmas present going on as we speak). Off to check out Book Depository.

11:59 AM  
Blogger Melanie said...

Hey Jo!

I've found out that I'm always entertained by 'stalking' you around the blogosphere :)

This was just such an enlightening interview, and I am truly intrigued now about Napoleon and the assassinations on his life!

But what got me more intrigued is the step back of THE BLACK HAWK :)

BTW, speaking of the cover, I noticed that the same model was used for both "The Black Hawk" and "The Spymaster's Lady", but I like you had a totally different picture in my head when reading Adrian's story. In my head, I had "Mary Bryant" mini-series protagonists in my head for both Hawker and Justine (Romola Garai and the ever so handsome Alex O'Loughlin).

Now, after reading how you 'painted' yourself in that proverbial corner, I was wondering about Pax's story and when did you decide to have his story? I honestly didn't expect it...

At Home w/Lord & Lady Valentine w/Madam Author Grace Burrowes
November 7, 2011

11:59 AM  
Blogger JenM said...

Hi Joanna - I was wondering if you plan to stick with this period in history, or if there are other time periods that you'd like to write about? Best wishes on the release. I'm looking forward to reading it.

12:04 PM  
Blogger Jo Bourne said...

Hi Melanie--

I've been told I must exploit the stepback, not deplore it.

Maybe in a week or two I'll go a 'Celebrate the Stepback' blog with a giveaway that isn't the book. *g*

I think the cover model on The Spymaster's Lady and Black Hawk is the same. Nathan Kamp.

He is well-regarded. He has fans.

I knew Pax's background from The Spymaster's Lady. I've been planning him as a protagonist all along.

1:55 PM  
Blogger Jo Bourne said...

Hi Jen M --

I don't know what I'll write after the Pax Story. I'm trying real hard not to look that far ahead. I think my brain can only hold so much at a time . . .

1:57 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

Wow. Seargeanne Golon. Brings back great memories of discovering the Angelique series while shelving books my junior year in high school as a page at our community library. Thanks for that reminder, Joanna. Love your french 'voice' in this series. Pragmatic, dry, honest. Grey and Annique remain my two favs so far. Can't wait to read Adrian's story.

6:42 PM  
Blogger Bron said...

I loved Spymaster's Lady and can't wait to read this book - already got it on Kindle. I love the spy plot with romance thrown in.

6:56 PM  
Blogger Melinda B. Pierce said...

Very nice interview and I can't wait to read the book!

I love Jude Law's version of Dr. Watson, and he wears a hat and looks very manly doing it. I then imagine all historical men in hats looking like him and that's enough for me :P

Thanks so much for sharing.


8:24 PM  
Blogger Linda said...

Woohooo! Exciting stuff indeed. I'd love to read this (=win the copy!).

Love the cat story/idea; the bit of whimsy makes the character & story so much more interesting.


8:45 PM  
Blogger Jo Bourne said...

Hi Linda --

The 'cat' substory is something I am just longing to put into a book.

So far, I keep putting it in and then carefully removing it.

There's a scene in Black Hawk where Adrian is looking into a mirror and shaving himself and talking. I had the cat in that scene.

Took it out.

I have to get organized so I stop doing that.

5:14 PM  
Blogger Jo Bourne said...

Hi Melinda --

I've been looking at period paintings. They have some wonderful wide-brimmed floppy hats. I have a feeling Pax is going to favor those.

5:16 PM  
Blogger Jo Bourne said...

Hi Bron --

You are so very kind.

Just these last few months I've begun buying books for the kindle.

I find I like my books being out there in electrons and springing into life on the kindle or nook or i-Pad. It feels -- I dunnoh -- magical or something.

Silly, I suppose. I like to think of the book in a library jostling up to other books. I like to think of my books interdigitating electrons with the great books of the past.

5:20 PM  
Blogger Jo Bourne said...

Hi Julie --

Thank you so much. I hope you enjoy Black Hawk,

I have not reread Golon in a number of years. I suspect it has worn very well. Probably just as entertaining as ever.

I will have to drag the old copies down from the keeper shelf and find out.

5:22 PM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Welcome, Jo! Thanks for posting. I love your interview---too funny!

I totally agree about the hats and glove thing. What kind of goofy hero wears a hat??? ;-)

9:31 PM  
Blogger Jo Bourne said...

Hi Kathryn --

I have to get past this prejudice I have against hats.

I think Pax will have a hat. Pax can make a hat look sexy. (jo tells herself.)

10:16 AM  
Blogger Isobel Carr said...

The winner of a copy is JULIE. We need an email address though so we can hook you up with Jo.

12:53 PM  

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