Risky Regencies features Julia Quinn

Risky Regencies

Oct 27, 2008

AN INTERVIEW WITH JULIA QUINN BY DIANE GASTON

ORIGINALLY APPEARING ON “RISKY REGENCIES,” OCTOBER 27, 2008

Diane: Tell us about Mr. Cavendish, I Presume? How it is connected to The Lost Duke of Wyndham?

JQ: Some time ago I was humming an old Dire Straits song called “Industrial Disease,” and I got to the line: “Two men say they’re Jesus. One of them must be wrong.” Being the historical romance writer I am, I immediately change that to: “Two men say they’re the Duke of Something. One of them must be wrong.” The trick there, though, was to figure out how on earth the succession to a Dukedom could be in doubt, because that sort of thing was generally well-documented.

Once I came up with a way to make the plot work, I started thinking about the characters. Which would be the bad guy—the current duke or the long-lost duke? Then I thought—wouldn’t it be so much more interesting if they were both good guys?

At that point I realized I’d need two books, since if both were hero material, both would need to their own love stories. At first I thought I would write them sequentially, with one picking up where the other ended, but as I delved into the plotting, I realized that there were so many scenes that were crucial to both sets of characters. I couldn’t bear, for example, to show the big reveal scene (when the characters learn who is the real duke) from only one hero’s point of view. So I ended up with two novels that took place at the same time.

Diane: We’re all about taking risks here at Risky Regencies. What do you think is the greatest creative risk you’ve taken in this book?

JQ: Running the stories simultaneously. This meant I was going to have to write them simultaneously as well. It was a tremendous creative challenge for me—and one that I found very exciting and energizing. I loved weaving two separate and distinct love stories through one set of external events. But at the same time, I risked alienating some readers, who might not like this approach. If you’ve read Lost Duke, for example, you know who the real duke is before you start Cavendish. I personally don’t think this detracts from the novel in any way; the real heart of the story is in the characters and how they adjust to and learn from the events. But some readers didn’t like this; they felt they’d started the story already “spoiled.”

Diane: With Mr. Cavendish and The Lost Duke so intertwined, did you have to do anything different than your usual plotting process?
JQ: Absolutely! In fact, this was the hardest part of the process. I wrote a joint outline for the two books, which was far more daunting than I’d envisioned. Normally when I’m plotting I can make my secondary characters do whatever is best for the main story, but this time I had to consider the other book as well. It took forever. I’m not kidding when I say I went through seventeen versions. (Okay, many of the versions were somewhat truncated, but still.) And I kept switching who would end up with whom!

Diane: What is it about the Regency that keeps you writing in that time period?

JQ: I’m not sure exactly. It just seems to work for me. The witty repartee, probably.

Diane: You’ve won the RITA two years in a row, 2008 for The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever, and 2007 for On the Way to the Wedding. Can you tell us what this has meant to you?

JQ: It’s indescribable. There is something so special about validation and praise from one’s peers. And I had reached the finals so many times that when I finally won, I couldn’t stop laughing. I was giddy, absolutely giddy.

Diane: I’ve heard your excellent workshop on writing dialogue. What is your greatest weakness in writing dialogue, the one thing you find yourself having to fix before turning in that final draft? (Mine is overuse of dialogue tags)

JQ: I find myself deleting dialogue tags, too. But weirdly, I also find that I have to add action tags and emotional tags to flesh things out.

Diane: What is next for you?

JQ: I’m writing a spin-off of The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever. It’s about Lady Olivia Bevelstoke. I’ve paired her up with an all-new character named Harry Valentine. Olivia is such a great character. I think it’ll be a lot of fun!