Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Leigh Michaels Interview, Author of Just One Season in London

Today on History Undressed, I am supremely excited to offer you the fascinating interview I had with romance author hall of famer, Leigh Michaels. Leave a comment (and your email address) for your chance to win a print copy of Just One Season in London (a witty, tantalizing, addictive confection for the reader's mind, which I highly recommend!), two winners will be chosen. (US and Canada only)

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.


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/.


RHONDA said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RHONDA said...

One of the things I've always enjoyed specifically about historical romance novels is that they have a way of transporting me into another world in a way other stories do not. I like to get swept away by the elaborate costumes, the stifling customs, and the landscape of European countries. Will definitely grab a copy of Just One Season...on my Nook, of course.

Leigh Michaels said...

Rhonda, isn't it lovely to be able to download a book and start reading instantly? And I, too, love being carried away to another era, another world -- while not having to deal with the drawbacks like no hot water on tap! :)

Anonymous said...

Leigh's book "The Mistress' House" was wonderful. I read it in one night! Fantastic characters who pull you into the story. A must for anyone who loves to read about love. Tuesday032@yahoo.com

Greta said...

Hi, Leigh!

Your new historical sounds really exciting. That's a great cover!

Do you like writing books with several romantic storylines folded in, or do you prefer following a single couple through a book?

Also, would you ever write a series of books about one couple?

Sandy L. Rowland said...

Pleased I had the chance to get to know this talented author better. I've loved her books. Thank you for sharing some tips on writing as well as historical research. Great book cover!

angelyn said...

Sounds like a great book--my favorite genre is Regency. As a new writer, I always appreciate great advice. I'm wondering what error you see the most regarding the use of titles. Cheers!

Anita Clenney said...

Leigh, I've always enjoyed historical romances. Actually, I like lots of different genres. And this is such a great cover.

Unknown said...

Leigh, Historicals have always been fun to read! I think we love to be swept away into a simpler time (except having to wear corsets and sweating under all the layers of clothing in 90 degree weather). Regencies are starting to come back (even though I don't think they went anywhere)as a popular genre for romance. But here is a twist on a regency. We always see time travel romances taking us to medival England/Scotland but what about a modern, tough as nails female detective, being sent to Regency England at the height of season, to solve a crime. Something tells me the English gentry will never be the same. . . I'll have to think on that one. :) LOL
All the best to you!

Eliza Knight said...

Leigh, thank you so much for joining us today!!! Wishing you many sales :)

Janie Mason said...

Going right over to your web site to check out your dollhouse. Sounds awesome!

Leigh Michaels said...

Thank you for the kind words about The Mistress’ House. I hope you’ll enjoy Just One Season in London every bit as much.

I’m very much in love with the cover of Just One Season – the couple just seem to sizzle, and the red dress… yum!

As for my triple stories, Greta – one of the projects I liked most when I was writing sweet traditionals was a trilogy where each book had a separate hero/heroine, and each book stood alone, but the entire series was also a single continuing story with threads which ran through all three books. So it was a natural choice for me to write one long book with three separate romances mingling in one story.

I don’t think I’d ever write a series of books about one couple – I like happy-ever-after endings too much. But I’ve learned never to say never.

Angelyn, the most common error in handling titles is to assume that (for instance) Lady Ryecroft and Lady Miranda Ryecroft are interchangeable. They’re not – Lady Ryecroft is the wife (or in this case, the widow) of Lord Ryecroft – she got her title by marriage. Lady Miranda Ryecroft would be the daughter of an earl or higher rank; she got her title by birth, and she’ll be Lady Miranda always, even if she marries a plain Mister.

(Princess Diana was Lady Diana Spencer before her marriage, because she was the daughter of Earl Spencer…one of the few titles that doesn’t contain an “of”, by the way. She wasn’t Lady Spencer – that was her mother, and later her stepmother.)

Loni, let me know when you’ve finished that book about the modern-day detective swept back to the Regency – I want to read it.

Thanks, everyone, for the warm welcome!

Leigh Michaels said...

You can see the photos of my dollhouse at http://www.leighmichaels.home.mchsi.com/leigh's%20house.htm
Don't miss the link at the bottom to more pictures, of the construction. And yes, in one of those photos it IS masking tape which is holding the whole thing together! I was deciding whether to move walls before we started gluing...

Barbara Bettis said...

Hi Leigh,
Your dollhouse is fabulous. I can't imagine what all it took to get those details and small pieces so precise.

I'm a fan of Georgette Heyer, too, and so glad her list is being re-released. Regency is one of my two favorite periods--the other is medieval (which I write.)

No need to enter my name in the drawing for "Just One Season...." Got it, read it, loved it.:) Looking forward to the next.

Kate maceachern@comcast.net said...

You mentioned the mindset of the times versus contemporaries as being an important element of regencies (and historicals). Are there elements you think need to be present to welcome modern readers? What's the balance between someone who truly accepts values of the time the contemporary world may find unappealing? And what's the biggest challenge (besides historical accuracy) in writing historicals?

Unknown said...

Just One Season in London sounds very interesting! I truly appreciate when an author takes the time to properly research the era in which the story is set. I look forward to this and Leigh's future novels.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Leigh.

Thanks for your answer.

The dollhouse is amazing! Incredible!

I also enjoyed seeing the covers of earlier books on that page.

Greta said...

Oops--that was Greta.

Leigh Michaels said...

Hi, all. Kate, there's a fine balance in writing historicals because the hero and heroine need to have a fairly modern attitude in certain areas like women having the right to an opinion. The historical hero is way more enlightened than the average real man of his era. So the challenge is in making them relatable to the modern reader, without letting them sound like they time-traveled! Actually the same thing is true of futuristic stories --those characters need to sound true to their times, not ours. But when we write, we tend to use our own perspective -- the attitudes and ethics and mores that we've absorbed for how many years -- without thinking much about how that historical character would react differently from us...

One of the things I love about historicals is how many times I go to the web or the encyclopedia and chase down the real story, or find out more. So many questions I would never have asked, if it wasn't for reading a relaxing story!

Rosita said...

Really enjoyed 'The Mistress' House' and very glad you decided to write Regencies !

I'd like to see a regency romance with a clergyman hero...I guess the difficulty of pulling this off is partly why there don't seem to be any out there though !

Love the doll's house. Always visit Queen Mary's dollshouse in Windsor when I get the chance.

Julie Robinson said...

Hi Leigh,
Though I had trouble reading your answers because of the black print on dark brown, I enjoyed the blurb, as well as your answers here in the comments.

You put it well in the last comment about the challenge in relating past heroes and heroines to the modern way of thinking. Just One Season in London sounds like it does just this. Congratulations!

Kate Dolan said...

It's great to see an author make an effort to get the stays or corsets right. They are so different from anything women have worn in our lifetime - and so different from what the cover artists like to depict.

Dawn M said...

I love the regency era, and I really appreciate the work that an you do to keep things accurate. Glaring anomalies can destroy the feeling that you're there watching that makes reading so enjoyable. I also have to say that the three stories in one that seem to be there in Just One Season looks like a lot of fun!

Eliza Knight said...

Winners are Rhonda and Greta! Please send me your addresses via email (writer @ elizaknight dot com) so I can forward them to the publisher.