Janet Mullany created buzz two years ago with the publication of her “Regency chick lit” romance, The Rules of Gentility. Now she’s back with a second of that ilk, A Most Lamentable Comedy.
A native of England, Janet lives in the Washington area and I know her from the Washington and Maryland RWA chapters.
Often when putting together an interview, I start with an author’s website, and Janet’s ( www.janetmullany.com ) is so much fun that I could have taken the whole interview right off what she has posted there. But having her here in person is so much better!
MJP: Janet, could you tell us a bit of your background and how you became a writer? In particular, a romance writer?
JM: Becoming a writer. Hmm. I attribute it to menopause. I'd always written a lot of stuff, promotional material, for work, and one day I thought I'd try fiction. I'm not one of those people who've always wanted to be a writer but I've always read a lot and very widely, which I think was my initial training.
After I started writing I thought I'd better check out what other writers were doing, and I discovered Maryland Romance Writers. I was so impressed by the attitude of the members–that they were career-driven and wanted to sell–that I decided I'd like to hang out with them although I wasn't absolutely sure I was writing romance. My characters always seemed to want to have sex and complicate their lives by falling in love, though, so I considered I was halfway there.
MJP: You more or less invented Regency chick lit, I think. Tell us about A Most Lamentable Comedy.
JM: It's a sort-of sequel to Rules. I realized I might have to prove that Rules wasn't a one-off book, so I found a minor character to be my heroine for the next book. She's first caught in a compromising situation with Inigo in Rules and her name originally was Mary. But after Philomena's breathless twittering on about Inigo's trousers and fashion, I wanted to clear my literary palate and write about a worldly, bad girl, so I renamed her Caroline, and she immediately started behaving badly, which was very gratifying.
Six years after Rules, she's a woman who's on the slippery slope to ruin, widowed, seriously in debt and with an absolute talent for getting into trouble, on the lookout for a husband or protector. You can read the beginning here: http://www.janetmullany.com/a-most-lamentable-comedy-excerpt.
She's after money, and she thinks she's found it when she meets a handsome, mysterious stranger, Nicholas Congrevance; but he's a con man who's looking for a rich, gullible woman as his next mark. He's been abroad and so doesn't know about her predicament. They both take refuge at a country house party which revolves around an amateur production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, with some of the characters from Rules.
Now, I should warn you that Caroline and Nick don't reform and become exemplary characters. I really don't write that sort of book. What they find is what they need–love, friendships, community–as well as solutions to their financial woes.
MJP: What was the biggest mistake you made when you first began writing?
JM: I think the biggest mistake I didn't make was listen to people who said "You can't do that in a romance." Other than that, it was fairly typical, boring, craft stuff like run-on sentences and inappropriate jokes, although I think I'm still doing both of those. And I'm still a fairly lousy plotter.
MJP: What do you consider key elements of a great story?
JM: I want to laugh and cry, possibly on the same page, and I want to read a book with complex characters, some ambiguity (I don't want all the ends to be tied up; I like to ponder about what-ifs), and great, clear cliché-free writing.
MJP: Are there any trends you hope to see in romance in the next few years?
JM: I'd love to see the genre stretched and the rules bent a little more. Personally I feel a bit Duked-out at the moment. Since I'm English from a lower upper middle class family that voted Labour I'm not particularly thrilled about aristocrats.
MJP: What are you working on now?
JM: I'm fixing to get ready to start thinking about writing lots of things. I have a two-book contract, Immortal Jane Austen with HarperCollins–speculative-historical paranormal fiction starring Jane Austen, the first of which is set in Bath, where Jane Austen joins up with vampires in defeating a French invasion. My brother, with whom I brainstormed the idea, thought I should call it Austen Powers and I wanted to call it Blood Bath.
I have two more Regency chicklits for Little Black Dress, Improper Relations, which I've just finished and which will be coming out next year, and another tentatively titled Mr. Bishop and the Actress because I think it's a great title. And I'll be writing for Harlequin Spice as Liz Diamond, with the first of two books coming out in 2011. So I'll be very busy. I'm very lucky.
Thanks for having me here at the Word Wenches, Mary Jo!
Janet will be giving away a signed copy of A Most Lamentable Comedy to someone who comments on this blog by midnight Saturday, so chat away!