Monday, August 04, 2008

Guest interview with author Emily Bryan

Hi! Today I'm featuring a very special interview with Emily Bryan, author of the sensual historicals, DISTRACTING THE DUCHESS and this month's NEW release, PLEASURING THE PIRATE.

BV: Readers really love your DISTRACTING THE DUCHESS, the tale of an artistic duchess and an aristocratic spy. But in your newest book, PLEASURING THE PIRATE, I hear your characters don't move in such exalted circles.

EB: That's right, Bonnie. In PLEASURING THE PIRATE, my hero is . . well, a pirate. A prodigal pirate to be exact. He was born the son of a gentleman, but when his naval vessel sank, Gabriel Drake was given the choice to turn pirate or claim a watery grave.

He decided to live and piracy came naturally to him, so in no time, he was voted captain and became the scourge of the Spanish Main as the Cornish Dragon. But his old life called to him. So when he won a royal pardon, he returned home, hoping to square things with his indomitable father. Unfortunately, his father and older brother are now dead and Gabe's suddenly lord of the manor with all the responsibility that entails. Including riding herd on a gaggle of orphaned nieces and marrying well to benefit the estate. My heroine is no lady, but she longs to be.

Jacquelyn Wren is the bastard daughter of a courtesan. Well-educated, but without pedigree, she serves as governess for the Drake orphans and soon finds herself trying to train the piracy out of her new lord. But try as she might to be the prim and proper lady, she can't escape the passion that's her birthright.

BV: DISTRACTING THE DUCHESS was more sensual than your previous novels as Diana Groe. Is PLEASURING THE PIRATE following in that vein?

EB: With a title like PLEASURING THE PIRATE, it about has to! But I didn’t set out to write a sexier novel. My aim is always to tell a compelling story and everything that happens, including the sex scenes, must serve the story. The premise of PLEASURING THE PIRATE lends itself to a bit of sensual adventurism. I hope readers find my love scenes aren’t just side trips along the story’s journey. My goal is to advance the story, to deepen the characters with every scene.
Compared to the world of erotica, my stuff is tame (though RT BookReviews rates it HOT!). However, I do want to move my readers. I want to give them a wonderful love affair to relish. We aren’t just physical beings. We are mind, body, heart and spirit. A true act of love engages all of what it means to be human. Love is my theme. Sex is only plumbing without it.

BV: Did you do any research for PLEASURING THE PIRATE?

EB: Lots! I research the historical period I write about quite heavily. Romance readers are very sophisticated. If I make a mistake, someone will let me know. What I’m looking for is what I call "women’s history," the little details of how people lived their lives. In addition to making myself the bane of my local librarian, I visited a pirate museum in Nassau, Bahamas and I’ve also been fortunate to visit England a number of times.

I’ve spent countless lovely hours in their museums and walking the streets of London, soaking up the history and listening to the stories in the cobblestones. DISTRACTING THE DUCHESS was set in early Victorian times, around 1850. Since piracy in the Caribbean died out around 1723, PLEASURING THE PIRATE takes place in 1720, during the reign of George I. The Georgian era was much bawdier than later periods and my story reflects that. Of course, my husband likes to help me, too. He keeps threatening to have a T-shirt made that reads: MY WIFE IS A ROMANCE NOVELIST. THE RESEARCH IS KILLING ME! (Of course, he always diplomatically adds, "What a way to go!").

BV: How long did you write before your break in publishing with Dorchester (Leisure Books)?

EB: I started writing seriously in 2001. After some fits and starts, I began to win some writing contests. The contest wins attracted my agent, who sold MAIDENSONG (under my real name Diana Groe) to Dorchester in 2005. It takes about a year to bring a book to market so my debut was May 2006.

BV: Are you now concentrating solely on the more light-hearted side of your writing? Or are you also writing as Diana Groe?

EB: My next Emily Bryan book is VEXING THE VISCOUNT, slated for March 2009. It was such fun! Adding comedy to my writing was a reach, but I love it. After VEXING THE VISCOUNT, I’m contracted for a 2009 Holiday anthology as Emily Bryan. The light-hearted, sexy stories are a delight to write and so far, the reading public is receiving them warmly. I would love to write more Diana Groe stories, too. In fact, I have a third "song" book all finished to round out my MAIDENSONG and ERINSONG series. I hope readers who enjoy my Emily Bryan books will try my more serious Diana Groe tales as well. Then perhaps, my Diana Groe title list will continue to grow. I used to sing professionally. My Diana Groe books are grand opera, all angst and drama and passion. Emily Bryan is more Gilbert and Sullivan with a bit of naughtiness thrown in. Light or dark, serious or silly, we all need both to stay balanced.

BV: How easy was it for you to write PIRATE? Did you have to revise anything before sending it off to the publisher? It reads as though you really enjoyed writing it.

EB: I thoroughly enjoyed writing PLEASURING THE PIRATE. I’m glad it shows. That said, I always revise. A lot. There are so many ways to tell a story. I want to make sure I’ve settled on the best one. Revision is actually the most fun for me. Fixing my prose is easy. Ploughing the virgin page is hard.

BV: Given that you had DUCHESS out in March, PIRATE in August and VISCOUNT early in 2009, how long does it take you to write a book? How long is your writing day when you’re working on a book?

EB: I usually play with a story in my head for about a month. I research the period. I flesh out the characters till I know them well enough to tell their story. Then I write a synopsis so I have a road map and it’s off to the races. I write full-time now, so my page goal is 10 a day, 5 days a week. I can have a first draft in two months and plan on taking another month to polish my prose till it sparkles. That’s if everything goes well. Right now, I just turned in VISCOUNT, so I’m fishing for my next cast of characters to take to the Christmas Ball for the Holiday anthology. But I’m heading for RWA Nationals soon, so that means a brief writing hiatus. But my subconscious is still working on the story so when I return to the computer, I’ll be primed and ready to go.

BV: What authors do you like to read yourself? Are you someone who reads only in your own genres, or do you also read thrillers, fantasy etc.?

EB: One of the pitfalls of being a writer is that I rarely read strictly for pleasure. I’m dissecting the book as I read, going to school on how another author handles all the elements of story. When I find a writer who makes me forget I’m a writer too, I treasure them. In historical romance, I enjoy Jo Beverley and Madeline Hunter. I recently read Shana Abe for the first time and was mesmerized by her lyrical romantic fantasy. This year I discovered CL Wilson, Joy Nash, Marjorie Liu, and of course, your Egyptian romances, Bonnie! Outside romance, I enjoy Neil Gaiman, Wilbur Smith and Mary Stewart.

BV: Many romances, yours included, have cover art that is absolutely stunning. Are you consulted about the cover art for your books? Who did the cover art for PIRATE, and will the same artist do VISCOUNT?

EB: Eye-catching covers are so important. Who can resist that gorgeous PIRATE? DISTRACTING THE DUCHESS was the first of my titles to make it into Wal-mart. I credit the cover with its placement in this important outlet. Dorchester sends its authors a questionnaire about each book, asking us to describe the hero and heroine, any plot point that might lend itself to cover treatment. I can’t tell you the name of the artist, but I love all my covers. I just received my cover for VEXING THE VISCOUNT (
Click here to see it ) I think it’s hard to beat my handsome, bare-chested PIRATE, but my VISCOUNT has a Colin Firth-ish look about him. A sort of ‘repressed-sex-is-the-best-sex’ impression that’s very appealing. Of course, when my editor sent me a jpg of MAIDENSONG’s cover (my debut Diana Groe title), I though it was so beautiful, I wept.

BV: What kind of books were you brought up with as a child, and which author in particular (if any) inspired you to be a writer yourself? Do you still have any of those books in your collection?

EB: I’ve always been an avid reader. I used to sneak books into bed and read by the narrow strip of light that shafted in through the crack in my door. I remember being fascinated by Madeline L’engle’s A WRINKLE IN TIME, Louisa May Alcott’s LITTLE WOMEN and the Trixie Belden Mysteries. One of my treasures as a child was a first edition of Bulfinches’ THE BEAUTIES OF MYTHOLOGY. Not only did I drink in those seminal stories of antiquity, it was filled with eye-popping ancient art. I still have it.

BV: You’ve started selling rights for foreign editions of your books. Do you think your books will get different cover treatment elsewhere?

EB: Undoubtedly. Each house uses its own covers. They know their own market well enough to choose something that will be appealing. I’m delighted to know my work is traveling the globe. I’ve posted my German MAIDENSONG and Italian ERINSONG (Click
here to see them). I haven’t seen the Dutch covers yet. SILK DREAMS recently sold to Moy Mir, a Russian publisher. Wonder if they’ll feature a half naked woman and a big snake, like your Russian book, Bonnie. LOL!

BV: Finally I’d like to ask what five books you couldn’t do without on a desert island? Series count as one choice, of course – they’re part of the same story!

EB: This is a tough question, but I’ll try. I adore THE FAR PAVILIONS by MM Kaye, The Merlin Trilogy by Mary Stewart, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, The complete plays of Shakespeare (I’m trying to sneak them all in as a series!) and the Bible. (I might have to sneak in my BEAUTIES OF MYTHOLOGY as well) Great literature is a treasure to be revisited again and again. If I had those, I’d have stories to keep my mind busy for quite some time.

Thank you so much for your kind words about PLEASURING THE PIRATE, Bonnie. I’m delighted to be a guest on your excellent site. And while we’re on the subject of websites, I’d like to invite your readers to visit mine.

Click here to visit Emily's website.

There are excerpts of all my work, contests, writing advice, and a way to sign up for my newsletter and contact me.

Thanks so much, Emily! Wishing all the best for your new release, PLEASURING THE PIRATE!


Gillian Layne said...

Emily, I really love your sophisticated sense of humor in DtD and am very much looking forward to Pleasuring the Pirate. (It's a fun title to say-rolls right off the tongue!)

Bonnie asked all the right questions, but I'll add one of my own: Do you have any research books you just can't live without, either for the Regency or the Victorian period?

EmilyBryan said...

Thanks so much, Gillian! I don't know how sophisticated the humor is in PLEASURING THE PIRATE, but I had a ball writing it.

About research: I really made use of INSIDE THE VICTORIAN HOME by Judith Flanders. It's filled with the women's history of how people lived their day-to-day lives.

I also found a biography of Queen Elizabeth I checked out of the library fascinating. Sorry I can't remember the title. Apparently, the queen was a disciplined journal keeper, at her mother's insistence. In fact, everything during her formative years was at her mother's insistence. Then on the day Elizabeth I was crowned, when her mother sent her a note bidding her to come to her chamber for supper, the young queen sent back this cryptic reply: "The queen will dine alone."

Talk about snipping the apron strings! She definitely asserted herself once she got the chance.

What research books have helped you?

EmilyBryan said...

Boy, am I punchy! Did I mention that I got in at 2 AM from RWA Nationals in San Francisco last night?

I meant to say Queen Victoria, not Elizabeth. Duh!

Velda Brotherton said...

Hi Diana, glad you're home. Bet you had a good time, even if you were punchy. We had a great time Saturday with ORA and I'm catching up. Congratulations on your books. And thanks again for hosting my tour.

Colleen Thompson said...

Emily, It was so nice seeing you in SF. Hope you had a great trip. All the best with Pleasuring the Pirate!

Waving hi to Bonnie, too!

EmilyBryan said...

Thanks, Velda and Colleen!

It was lovely to see you in SF, too, Colleen. Best wishes for your new release as well. TRIPLE EXPOSURE is a taut mystery with plenty of sizzle.

Renee Knowles said...

Hi Emily! Great post! Thanks for sharing with us.


Ashlyn Chase said...

Hey Emily!

It's nice to see so much success happening for you. Well deserved.


Colleen Thompson said...

Thanks so much, Emily!

EmilyBryan said...

Thanks for having me on, Bonnie! Catch you later,