Welcome back to Teatime Romance, Ashlyn! Many of you may not know this, but Ashlyn holds a special place in my heart because last year I won from the Brenda Novak Auction critiques from the Secret Curtsy Society (Ashlyn, Sara Ramsey, Anne Barton, Erin Knightley, and Valerie Bowman—all the 2011 Golden Heart Finalists). Ashlyn took a look at the very first draft of what is now A Dangerous Invitation and really helped me figure out where I needed to go in the story. Not only does Ashlyn write great books, but she’s a prime example of the supportive romance writing community.
As our readers may remember, Ashlyn talked with Amy when her debut novel, A Most Scandalous Proposal, released in February. We learned a lot about Ashlyn then—how she is agented by Sara Megibow and how her first book jumped off from Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility—but today, we plan to delve into the deep, dark secrets of Ashlyn Macnamara. Her second book, A Most Devilish Rogue, released on August 27th with the most scrumptious cover I’ve ever seen.
Ashlyn, let’s start by talking a little about A Most Devilish Rogue. Last visit, you shared with us the official blurb, but give us a quick overview of what this book is really about. Juicy details and all!
It’s partly about one’s place in society. George is just a Mr., so among polite society, he isn’t very highly prized on the marriage market and he doesn’t necessarily wield a lot of social power. Isabelle is from a family of much higher rank, but due to a mistake she made when she was younger, she is now lower on the social scale than George, and indeed even the villagers in the place where she’s settled.
It’s also about trouble, in a sense. George is in a lot of trouble at the outset of the story. The last thing he needs is to fall in love. And Isabelle has learned from bitter experience that someone like George is nothing but trouble—something she hardly needs any more of. So what happens, but she becomes beholden to him and must rely solely on him when the most precious thing in her life goes missing.
It’s also about the mask you put on for society, and the whole of society’s perception of a person.
Oh, and if you want juicy, there might be a scene involving the kitchen table…
Wow! That sounds quite scandalous indeed. I might need a fan! What makes AMDR stand out from other regency romances? Your first book had a pretty scandalous plot for Benedict and Julia. Shall George and Isabelle engage in similar societal shenanigans?
My hero doesn’t hold a title, which makes him stand out among a lot of dukes and such. And my heroine is a Regency-era single mother. Although the setting for most of the book is a country house party, you don’t see a lot of the usual parlor games and such.
Even though she tries to quietly make her way through life, Isabelle’s background makes her pretty darned scandalous. Her family cast her out, and her neighbors don’t treat her very well, either. For George to marry her… well, let’s just say his mother is not very happy with that turn of events, but she has to suck it up in the end.
I love books that set the social norms on edge. Was your process in writing AMDR different than your debut? Many authors talk about the dreaded second book slump—did you feel any of that?
I’m a pantser, and I pantsed this novel pretty much the way I did the first one. That said, yes, I did feel a lot of pressure for the book to measure up to the first one, and that made the writing difficult. And it took far longer for me to finish it than it should have. I drafted A Most Scandalous Proposal in three months. It took me a lot longer to polish it, but I still had the main thrust of the story down in that time. A Most Devilish Rogue took closer to 9 months to get the story down, but due to deadlines, I didn’t have time to go through a lot of drafts.
I will say, I struggled a lot more with my most recently finished work, though.
Sounds like I’ve got to a lot to look forward with my second book…not. How would you best describe your writing?
Smart-mouthed and irreverent. I guess my characters get it from me, but there is always at least one mouthy character in my books. I have to have a little snark, and a little humor in there. Steam, too, hopefully, and somewhere in there a healthy dollop of angst.
You know I love the angst! You started writing later on in life. Did you always want to tell stories, or was writing something that seized upon you and took you by surprise? What did you do before writing?
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always made up stories in my head. It just never occurred to me that anyone else might like to hear the meanderings of my mind. So, yes, in a sense, it did take me by surprise. I didn’t know I could write until I started writing fanfiction, and people generally asked me for more, rather than yelling at me to take that crap off the internet.
Before I began writing, music was my artistic outlet of choice. I sang in choirs and such through high school and university. I took piano lessons for a while, too, but I quit when they started getting too serious. I couldn’t face sitting and playing those Hannon exercises for hours on end to strengthen my fingers.
If you mean career-wise, what did I do before writing—I went to university with the intention of becoming a French teacher. That didn’t last very long though. Something about substitute teaching. And then life and kids kind of intervened. I’ve mainly been a stay-at-home mom and worked retail jobs.
That must be where you get your snark–you need a healthy sense of humor to work retail! (She says knowingly). Tell us five unusual facts about you we might not know. The weirder, the better!
- When I was a kid, my career aspirations leaned to the scientific. At one point, I wanted to become a meteorologist and later a volcanologist. It’s probably a good thing that I changed my mind, though, because me and higher mathematics do not get along.
Another goal I had as a kid was to become an Olympic sprinter. I have no idea how this was supposed to come about. It was just going to sort of happen. If you ever have a chance to see me actually run (or, for that matter, realize how completely unmotivated I am when it comes to getting exercise), you will understand why this is hilarious.
- I took French, German, and Russian at university. The only language I can actually speak besides English is French—which is most likely a product of living in Quebec and being married to a French Canadian than anything else. With Russian, I kinda sorta remember the alphabet.
- Thanks to the magic of the internet, I have critique partners in various countries: the US of course, but also in France, Austria, Hungary, and Panama.
- I learned to knit when I was 9. By the time I was at university, I could make an Icelandic sweater in a matter of days. In fact, I made pocket money knitting people sweaters, and I used to bring my knitting to class.
I am dying at the image of you as a sprinter who studies volcanoes. You recently embarked on a campaign to prove to the world that the name George could be sexy. Tell us all about your sexifying George efforts. I assume everyone will want to name their baby George now?
I have to say, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made a very fortuitous choice when it came to naming their first born. George Upperton, naturally, got his name ages ago—back in 2010 when I originally wrote A Most Scandalous Proposal. At the time, I never stopped to consider whether the name George was particularly sexy or not. I just needed a name for the hero’s BFF, and then the character took on a life of his own. He became sexy to me because of who he was—I’m a huge sucker for a quick-thinking smart-ass. And then my cover artist envisioned something beyond even my vivid imagination.
So when the royal baby’s name was announced and people complained how George wasn’t a sexy name, I begged to differ. I hope I’ve done my small part in changing a few minds. Although I think if we see a resurgence of the name George it will be more due to the Cambridges than George Upperton. Sadly.
If nothing else, it amused me highly. What can readers expect in the future from you? More books in this series?
I just sent a new book to my agent. It’s part of a brand new series, but it’s still set in the same world that George and Isabelle and Julia and Benedict inhabit. In fact, the heroine of this book is George’s bluestocking sister, Henrietta, and she’s taken a job as a paid companion with crazy old Lady Epperley, who appeared in the first book.
Thank you so much for visiting us again! Readers will enjoy A Most Devilish Rogue, which has all of Ashlyn’s wit and cleverness.
Ashlyn has a super amazing giveaway for our North American readers…
ONE COPY OF A MOST DEVILISH ROGUE AND A SPECIAL SURPRISE!
(Seriously, y’all. I don’t even know what the surprise is).
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