Award-winning author of Regency romances, Vanessa Kelly, joins me today to answer some questions, and to tell us about her newest release, My Fair Princess.
Be sure and comment as she is giving two readers signed, print copies of How to Marry a Royal Highlander, which contains the bonus novella, Tall, Dark, and Royal. (One winner can be international; the other, US; or both US).
First, Vanessa brought readers The Renegade Royals. Now, in a delightfully witty new series, she introduces The Improper Princesses—three young women descended from royalty, each bound for her own thrilling adventure . . .
Despite being the illegitimate daughter of a prince, Gillian Dryden is happily ignorant of all social graces. After growing up wild in Italy, Gillian has been ordered home to England to find a suitable husband. And Charles Valentine Penley, the excessively proper, distractingly handsome Duke of Leverton, has agreed to help transform her from a willful tomboy to a blushing debutante.
Powerful and sophisticated, Charles can make or break reputations with a well-placed word. But his new protégée, with her habit of hunting bandits and punching earls, is a walking scandal. The ton is aghast… but Charles is thoroughly intrigued. Tasked with taking the hoyden in hand, he longs to take her in his arms instead. Can such an outrageous attraction possibly lead to a fairy tale ending?
Read an excerpt:
The next thing Gillian knew, he was shoving her down onto the sand. He came down on top of her, mashing her flat.
It took her a moment to catch her breath since there wasn’t a particle of air between them. She was certainly becoming intimately acquainted with various parts of Leverton’s impressive anatomy.
“Who is it?” She felt a spurt of hope. Perhaps some of the smugglers had returned. Now that Teddy was safely out of the way, Leverton might even help her track them. They might not see eye to eye on everything, but he would be furious that smugglers were trespassing on his lands.
“Wait,” he breathed out.
He cautiously lifted his head to peer over the rise of sand between them and the beach. The sound of a cantering horse, hooves thudding into the hard-packed flats, quickly grew and then faded away down the beach. Leverton still didn’t move, his attention focused in the direction of the mysterious rider.
“Could you please get off me,” she finally said. “You are completely squashing me.”
He looked down at her and frowned, as if surprised to see her there. Gillian raised a sardonic brow.
“I beg your pardon,” he murmured as if they were on the dance floor and he’d simply trod on her foot.
He rolled off, but kept an arm slung across her waist. Gillian tried to push it away, but it felt like a tree trunk was pinning her down. She let out an aggrieved sigh and dropped her head back onto the sand.
“Whoever it was, he’s long gone,” she said. “Why are we still lying here?”
“I just wanted to make sure,” Leverton answered. “I think it’s now safe to get up.”
“I should hope so. I feel like I’ve spent half the night lying on this blasted beach.” With nothing to show for it but sand in her breeches and an irate duke.
Leverton rolled into a crouch and then smoothly rose. He reached down a hand to pull her up. “And whose fault is that?”
Gillian pulled the tails of her coat back in place and started brushing herself off. “Not mine. If you hadn’t shown up, I could have tracked the smugglers back to their lair. That, as you must admit, would have been very helpful.”
“Their lair? Good God, you’ve been reading too many lurid novels. Wait, I forgot,” he said, holding up a hand. “You actually believe you’re living in one. You fancy yourself some sort of heroine, dashing about, trying to right all the wrongs of the world.”
“No, I fancy myself as the hero.” She wiggled a leg, hoping to at least shake some of the sand from her backside down to her boot. “The heroines are always moaning and falling down in a faint, waiting for the men to rescue them. I don’t have time for that sort of nonsense.”
Vanessa Kelly is an award-winning author who was named by Booklist, the review journal of the American Library Association, as one of the “New Stars of Historical Romance.” Her Regency-set historical romances have been nominated for awards in a number of contests, and her second book, Sex and The Single Earl, won the prestigious Maggie Medallion for Best Historical Romance. The Renegade Royals, her last series, was a national bestseller. Vanessa also writes contemporary romance with her husband as VK Sykes.
Why did you decide to write Regency romances?
Like so many writers, I came to Regency romance through a love of Georgette Heyer. Those books were the first romances I ever read, and they were magic to me. I also majored in the study of women writers of the Georgian and Regency periods in graduate school, particularly Frances Burney. I guess it was a natural progression from reader and student to writer!
What was the first story you remember writing?
I was in graduate school and I hadn’t read any romance novels for over ten years. But some of my friends were reading romance novels as part of feminist literature and theory courses, so I started picking them up again. Even though I was immersed in Regency literature and history at the time, I decided to write a Western romance (a favorite genre), in first person, no less. It was…pretty bad, and I didn’t get very far with it. I didn’t have a clue at the time how to plot a novel.
Looking back, what’s interesting is the type of heroine I created. She was truly kickass, and much like the heroine I created for My Fair Princess. I’ve been saying the Gillian Dryden is my first kickass heroine, but that’s not actually the case, I guess!
Fairy Tale or Action Adventure?
Sure, I love fairy tales and happy endings, but I’m a sucker for action adventure stories, both on-screen and in books. When it comes to movies, my husband will tell you that I have the sensibility of a teenage boy. LOL! He’s probably not far off. I love space ships, chase scenes, grand adventures, and when things go boom.
Where do you read and how often?
I read fiction every night before bedtime, in bed or on the sofa in the living room. I read a lot of non-fiction for research during the day, and I also love to read newspapers, especially while I’m having breakfast. But for pleasure, I always read at the end of the day when I can finally wind down and enjoy it.
What’s your favorite movie of all time?
Can I cheat and say The Lord of the Rings trilogy? Let’s face it—it has everything. A corking good story (several, in fact), characters you love, villains you hate, romance, adventure, beautiful settings, danger, and also an inspiring message about courage and honor that resonates on a very deep level. I love that the true heroes are simple Hobbits. There are kings, elves, wizards, and warriors who fight for them, but it’s really the ordinary folk who overcome the worst obstacles and get the job done.
I watch the trilogy every year on Christmas Day, and I’m reminded each time how much I love those movies—and the books.
Be honest, when reading...do you put yourself in the heroine’s role?
I do, and then proceed to rewrite many of the heroine’s actions. LOL! The sign of a truly engaging read for me is when I don’t rewrite the plot or the heroine’s response to events—or when I think, “no, don’t do that,” but also realize that her actions entirely fit her character and story. If I’m doing a lot of rewriting in my head, it often means the story has lost me.
What’s your favorite kind of story to get lost in?
I love romantic suspense and historical mystery. I’m a very plot-driven reader, so that type of book is right in my wheelhouse. Plus, there’s nothing like danger and suspense to evoke heightened reactions and really force characters to confront the best and the worst of themselves.
Do you read reviews of your books? If so, do you pay any attention to them, or let them influence your writing?
I do read reviews—although sometimes I wish I didn’t! When a review is negative, I try to figure out if the reader simply doesn’t like a certain type of story or heroine, for instance. The heroine of My Fair Princess can be quite the tough girl (although she’s got a marshmallow heart), which doesn’t appeal to every reader. If that’s the case, then I don’t worry because I write what I write. If, however, more than a few reviewers mention the same thing about a stylistic element or writing quirk, then I do pay attention to that.
Many good authors suggest never reading reviews, and I think that’s a very credible position to take. Generally speaking, writers don’t need any more negative voices in their head, knocking them down while they write.