Good heavens! It’s been quite a week for Piatkus Fiction and ladies, we’re positively faint! *fans self elegantly, reaches for the smelling salts but –oops – finds the gin . . .* We admit it has at times been tiresome typing in gloves, insisting that email is not a thing and sitting on our office chairs in corsets (particularly for poor Dominic), but needs must.
All joking aside* we’ve had a wonderful time sharing such great content with you all! It’s been very exciting to see your enthusiasm for our brilliant authors and I’m delighted to present the final piece – a fantastic interview between two Regency romance greats: Eloisa James and Julia Quinn. This made us laugh out loud in the middle of the office – we hope very much that you enjoy it too.
*but not the gin. The gin stays where it is.
Julia: Okay, Eloisa, I’ll go first since my deadline is sooner which means I am more eager to procrastinate. I want to know what the first thing is that comes into your mind when someone asks, “Where do you get your ideas?” Because we get asked that ALL the time, and we never have a good answer.
Eloisa: “At the sale counter, going cheap — two heroines for the price of a pirate!” More seriously, I think I get them from reading. And watching movies and TV. I saw a couple episodes of House, M.D. on a plane once and ended up turning a version of the good doctor into the hero of When Beauty Tamed the Beast. How about you, Julia? Let’s talk blatant theft. What’s the last movie that inspired you to write?
Julia: When I steal things, I’m never quite so blatant. (Well, except for An Offer from a Gentleman, but who doesn’t love a good Cinderella story?) It’s more that I’ll watch a movie or read a book and it’ll inspire a feeling in me that gets me writing. That said, sometimes there are little concrete nuggets that inspire a book, even if no one would see the connection but me. For example, The Lost Duke of Wyndham and Mr. Cavendish, I Presume were inspired by a Dire Straits Song! (“Industrial Disease,” in case you’re interested.)
Eloisa: Hey, I love Dire Straits! I just taught his “Romeo and Juliet” (in Shakespeare class, natch). So that makes me think: you’ve rewritten Cinderella. Have you ever thought of doing a Beauty and the Beast? Because I have the title: The Beautiful, Beastly Bridgerton!
Julia: This is why I don’t turn to you when trying to come up with titles for my books.
Eloisa: Yeah, our publisher rejects them too. I would love to put Bodacious in a title. Bodacious Bridgerton? No? Seriously, do you come up with your own titles? Because all my best titles have come from my editor, who has a positive gift for it. What’s your favorite title?
Julia: I’d say I’ve come up with about three-quarters of them. My favorite is probably How to Marry a Marquis. It was my first really clever title. I actually sort-of kind-of stole it from Candice Hern. She’d written a traditional regency in the vein of Georgette Heyer that she wanted to call How to Marry a Duke. Her editor hated it and they changed to something totally nondescript. When Candice told me about this, I immediately said, “Can I have it?” A little alliteration later and it was How to Marry a Marquis.
I think this might have been the only time I had a title before I had a book idea, and it actually took me several years to come up with a plot to go with it. I was completely at a loss until this book called The Rules came out, purporting to be a modern-day guide to catching a husband. I immediately thought, “A-ha! Jane Austen meets The Rules!”
In retrospect, this was probably my only true high-concept novel.
Eloisa: I’m trying to think if I’ve ever written a high concept novel . . . I don’t think so. My plots usually spring from a funny detail that I somehow turn into a whole book. The idea for My American Duchess sprang from a visit to a British historical house where the dining room table featured a pineapple on a silver platter. The docent told us that pineapples were so expensive and fashionable that people used to rent them for a dinner party! I instantly thought up an American heroine who would horrify high society by asking for a slice of pineapple. From there, I had a wonderful time coming up with more mistakes that Merry could inadvertently make. Did any of your novels spring from one funny idea?
Julia: No, but I did have one novel spring up from an opening line. The first line of To Catch an Heiress just popped into my head fully-formed: “Caroline Trent hadn’t meant to shoot Percival Prewitt, but she had, and now he was dead.”
I have to say, I’m fascinated about that pineapple thing. I’d never heard of that! Food is one of those things I find I’m always researching. That and flora in general. I can’t tell you how much time I’ve wasted spent trying to figure out which flowers are in bloom and when in specific regions of England. My latest research time-sink has been the American Revolutionary War. Because of Miss Bridgerton is set in England, but the hero’s brother is a captain in the 54th Regiment of Foot, stationed in New England and New York. I spent hours and hours figuring out which regiment he needed to be in in order to put him where I want him crazy — since he doesn’t even appear in the book! What about you? What’s your latest research black hole?
Eloisa: After my dissertation-level research into the status of pineapples in the western world (ask me anything!), my most recent foray has been into the world of Registry Offices, from which people would hire servants. The heroine of the book I’m writing at the moment, Seven Minutes in Heaven, owns a registry office for governesses. Even talking about my manuscript makes me nervous, though . . . I should be writing it. Why don’t I ask one last question. What book are you writing right now, and what’s the heroine like?
Julia: I’m putting the finishing touches on Because of Miss Bridgerton. The heroine is the eponymous Miss Bridgerton — Billie Bridgerton, to be more specific. She’s a total tomboy, utterly devoted to her home and village, and about to fall in love with the guy who has been the bane of her existence for years. She doesn’t own a registry office, but she’s really into managing her father’s estate, which means I got to research barley and mulch. I’m thinking pineapples sound like more fun.
Eloisa: OK, I’m off to google wax flowers (every governess needs to know how to make them), leaving Julia to research pineapple stoves (seriously, all the best estates had one!).
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Farewell for now, dear readers – may your future involve many dukes, cads of only the most entertaining kind and a multitude of gilded invitations!
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