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Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Leigh Michaels Interview, Author of Just One Season in London
Without further ado... I give you the interview...
Eliza: The majority of your backlist is contemporary and non-fiction—a few romance writing books of which I personally have in my library—but within the last year you've had historicals released. Have you always liked writing historicals? What was the reason for the change and why did you choose Regency England? And might I also add, that I am loving them!
Leigh Michaels: I loved writing my sweet traditional contemporary books, but after 80 of them I was getting pretty burned out, and I didn’t feel I had anything new to say. In order to make the job exciting again, I needed a big change – which I got by switching from contemporary to historical, from sweet to spicy, and from short books to long. I’ve always loved reading historicals, especially those set in the Regency period, and I’d been tinkering with a Regency story for years (but I expect that particular book will stay on my closet shelf forever). I’m having a great time, and I’m glad that readers are enjoying the books too.
EK: Your books are very well researched and true to life, but not in a way that readers feel you're trying to teach them a history lesson. Readers get a good taste for history and the real-life settings and only adds to the flavor of the book. You’ve captured the essence of the Regency mentality in your characters, their language, their clothes, their morals, actions. What is your research process like? How do you decide what stays and what goes?
LM: Thank you! I make every effort to create characters who are realistic to their period, and then let them talk and act and think for themselves. I’ve been researching the Regency period forever, starting by reading Georgette Heyer’s novels when I was a teen, and then branching out into biographies and histories and books about the time period. My trips to England have been very helpful in terms of seeing buildings and clothes from that time, and also getting a feel for the geography. I have a good library of Regency resources and when I’m at loose ends I’ll pick up a book at random and refresh my memory – because I don’t always know what detail I want to use until I spot it. Then I keep only the details that the reader needs in order to form a picture in her mind – enough that she can hear the characters talk and see what’s going on around them.
EK: What is your favorite bit of history you learned while researching The Mistress’ House, Just One Season in London and The Wedding Affair?
LM: I learned that corsets in the Regency period weren’t always like the ones we see in the movies – the wearer couldn’t put one on by herself. Later, in the Victorian era, corsets had hooks up the side, so once it was properly laced, a woman could get in and out of her corset without help. Not so during the Regency.
EK: What piece of advice would you offer to writers in the historical romance genre?
LM: One thing that makes me grind my teeth as a teacher and a writer is when a book gets the titles wrong. It’s not that hard to understand the peerage, but it does take careful handling. Another is when characters from Regency or Victorian times think like we do today, complete with all the psychological jargon that comes so naturally to modern minds.
EK: What is your writing schedule like?
LM: I start my day with email and a quick visit to the romance writing classes I teach online for Gotham Writers Workshop, and then I turn to the current story and see what’s happening to my characters today. Early in the process with each book I spend fewer hours a day actually writing and more thinking and planning and researching; later on I’ll write for eight or ten hours a day. Evenings are for relaxing, researching, and commenting on student work.
EK: What writer was most inspiring to you on your career path to becoming an author?
LM: I was a fan of romance from the time I could stretch high enough to pull those books off the library shelves. Emilie Loring was an early favorite, with her romantic suspense. And of course Georgette Heyer – the would-be Regency writer can get a pretty good education on the period just by reading Heyer from start to finish.
EK: On your website you have pictures of a dollhouse you made. I love dollhouses, we had a beautiful Victorian one at my grandmother’s house we used to play with when I was growing up. Did you make your own furniture? And how many dollhouses do you have?
LM: I love dollhouses and miniatures! The Georgian house that’s pictured on my website was a labor of love for my husband and me. He did most of the building, furniture included, and I did most of the finishing. Those walnut floors all have three layers of varnish, sanded between coats and the windows open and close. And even the toothbrush handles are hand-painted. Right now I have a couple of room boxes – an antique store, and a Christmas room – as well as the Georgian house which is my prize piece.
EK: And since you are an author many others look up to, what is your take on the changing industry?
LM: I’m excited by the new developments in publishing. I’ve been releasing the books which have reverted to me as ebooks, and it’s fun to see them gain an entirely new audience. We’ve always been in the business of sharing stories with readers, and only the format and distribution method is changing. I don’t think books on paper will ever disappear, because there are many advantages to a physical book – for instance, it’s so much easier to flip back a few pages in a physical book, to remind yourself what Susie said to Joe. But Nooks and Kindles and Kobos may make us a nation of readers again, because they’re so convenient – and what’s not to like about having more readers in the world?
EK: Is there anything you'd like to share with readers? A question you want to pose to them?
LM: I treasure my readers – many of whom are friends as well as fans – and I look forward to even more friendships. And my question: What Regency romance would you like to read that nobody’s written yet?
Thank you so much for visiting History Undressed! My readers and I really appreciate you taking the time for us to pick your brain :) Best of luck and many well wishes on your new releases!
A family that courts together…
Viscount Ryecroft has a beautiful sister he needs to marry off… if only he had the money for her Season in London.
His family is in financial ruins, and his mother is willing to do anything to help her children, including sell herself to the highest bidder…
Finds passion on their own…
Sophie Ryecroft will sacrifice love to marry for the good of her family… but instead finds passion and solace in an attractive alternative.
With so much riding on their one and only Season in London, Rye, Sophie, and Miranda can’t help but get hopelessly entangled with all the wrong people…
Celebrated author Leigh Michaels effortlessly weaves three tales of unexpected romance with surprising twists you won’t soon forget.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Leigh Michaels is the author of nearly 100 books, including 80 contemporary novels and more than a dozen non-fiction books. More than 35 million copies of her romance novels have been published by Harlequin. A 6 time RITA finalist, she has also received two Reviewer's Choice awards from RT Book Reviews, and was the 2003 recipient of the Johnson Brigham Award. She is the author of On Writing Romance, published in January 2007 by Writers Digest Books. Leigh also teaches romance writing on the Internet at Gotham Writers’ Workshop. She lives in Ottumwa, Iowa, where she is working on her third book from Sourcebooks, The Wedding Affair, which will be in stores in September. For more information, please visit http://www.leighmichaels.com/.