Queen Margaret’s Video

Queen_hereafter_trade_pbkThe trade paperback of Queen Hereafter is available in bookstores and online today from Random House and Broadway Books! There's a beautiful book trailer to accompany the book's release — and I'm delighted to bring you a conversation with Jim Lefter, who created the video.

A few months ago I was talking to Jim, a friend and video producer, about books and ways to promote a new release. He asked if I had ever tried a book trailer. I hadn’t, but I love them–I'm very visual and they can quickly draw me into a story and catch my interest.

JimlefterJim offered to do a video for Queen Hereafter, and I was ready to try something new — so we set out on a creative adventure. Jim Lefter is a video producer with twenty years’ experience doing video and television work for Discovery Network and A & E among other production houses. He now does freelance projects through his own company, Cosmic Stuff Media. Recently we chatted about the experience of creating Queen Margaret's video (this medieval lady has a gospel, a chapel, a reliquary, a loch, a bay, a book – and now her own video!).

Final shot susan-editBut first – click here to watch it on YouTube: Queen Hereafter Book Trailer!

Susan: Hi Jim, welcome to Word Wenches! Can you tell us about the starting point for a book trailer?

Jim: The book! I like to have a good knowledge of the book and a feel for the story, so first I read the book. I love reading, so no hardship there.

Susan: Do you prefer to collaborate, or do you produce what you think works best and then run it past the client?

Jim: It’s a collaborative process if the author wants that. I certainly enjoy that. The outcome is better if the author takes part in the process.

Susan: Could you tell us about the steps involved in creating a book trailer?

Jim: We start with a script — the foundation. I prefer that the author write it for an authentic voice, though I’m open to writing it myself. The script needs to capture the essence of a story in a few sentences — and no one can get inside the story like the author can. And I like to work with a narrator. A voice reading the script carries the viewer into the story more than text onscreen can do. Video is a visual medium, and I want to paint the story in multimedia to evoke mood and tone.

Susan: Do you sometimes use text onscreen instead of narrative?

Jim: Text is appropriate sometimes. It depends on how it works with the story, whether it distracts or enhances, and what the author and I both think works best.

Susan: And after the script comes the image search.

Jim: Right. We discuss what images might work, and then scour the best stock photo houses, tailoring our ideas to what’s available. Great stock photos can be found at reasonable fees, and an image search might inspire new ideas for the trailer.

JThighlanderrnc_bhjt9348hl-wmSusan: For the Queen Hereafter video, we both searched, emailing images back and forth and choosing. For example, Jim found photos of a guy in medieval armor who to me looked like a thug, but Jim liked his toughness for King Malcolm. Good point — but then we found Jimmy Thomas. He’s more a romance hero sort than the real Malcolm Canmore — but what a great stand-in for a medieval Scottish king!

Blond girl horseJim: When a group of stock photos popped up showing a long-haired blond woman in a medieval gown in outdoor settings, we had our Queen Margaret. A variety of images of the same model is very useful. And finding images involves going back and forth, being particular. We looked for naturalness and authenticity, and for visually interesting images. We also used some of Susan’s own photos of Scotland.

Susan: What’s the next step after the images are selected?

Jim: Recording the narration is next. I often work with my wife, Anne, who is a great narrator. The right voice and a nuanced read is essential—the narrator is an artist who portrays what we envision.

Susan: We auditioned a few narrators, but I loved Anne’s warm, rich voice and her natural reading the best! After selecting the images and recording the script with a narrator, what do you work on next?

Dougie in charlottesvilleJim: Music – and that can be the most difficult part of the process. I want to find a sound to match the story and tone. Searching stock music clips – much of which are quite good – takes longer than image searches. Music by the original artists is not always available, but it can be a great element in a video. Susan was able to get permission from Scottish singer/songerwriter Dougie MacLean for his song “The Search," which adds a richness and elegance to the Queen Hereafter trailer.

Once the music is decided, I edit the images to fit the rhythms and pace of the song. The mood of the whole video really comes together at this point. As a producer, I do the editing and production, and I mostly act as a guide, helping to find and blend the elements to create a story. It’s important to communicate and to help the author discover what they want. Using various software, I create a rough cut and run that past the author.

Sue6 001Susan: The Queen Hereafter video took only a couple of weeks or so. Jim worked so efficiently and with real artistry, and has an infallible sense of what works. I was thrilled the first time I saw the rough cut!

Jim: This has been a wonderful collaborative process, with give and take and great communication. My goal as a producer is to create a visual production that is high quality and really enjoyable. And I want the client to be happy with the process as well as the result.

Susan: Even though I changed my mind a lot, you were patient, amiable, and always creative throughout. Thank you!

We had so much fun making this video that Jim and I are now collaborating on a book trailer for Lady Macbeth, and I can tell you that his work in this one is stunning. We'll debut it soon on Word Wenches!

Meanwhile, I hope you all enjoy the Queen Hereafter video -– please share, like, tweet and send to your friends! (If you are interested in talking to Jim about a book trailer of your own, you can contact him at jlefter2@gmail.com.)

Be sure to look for Queen Hereafter in trade paperback and ebook as well.

And speaking of multimedia … Queen Hereafter is now available in audiobook from Audible.com! Click here to listen to an audio sample.

What do you think of book trailers? Leave a comment below to be entered in a giveaway: an autographed set of paperback copies of Lady Macbeth and Queen Hereafter!


Nowhere Near Respectable

Cat 243 Dover by Mary Jo
 It’s been two weeks since Nowhere Near Respectable  (Lost Lords #3, was released, and to all of you who helped put it on the New York  Times list after the first week of sale—THANK YOU!!!! 

Authors often complain about publishers so I want to say that Kensington is doing a great job on my books.  They even did this fun book trailer with the most GORGEOUS guy. He could be any number of my darkr haired Regency heroes.  <G> 

Books start in different ways.  Sometimes I have a plot and characters must be created to fit.  Sometimes I have a character and need a plot that suits.  (Characters are easier.)

Some characters lurk in the Lizard Brain for years before they get their story. Others just amble into a scene where I need a foil for a protagonist, and suddenly I have a man I simply cannot afford to waste.  (And it’s always a man!)  This is how trilogies become septologies. <g>

In Search of a Hero

Such was the case with Damian Mackenzie, hero of Nowhere Near Respectable.  I was writing the second in the series, Never Less Than a Lady, and I needed the heroine to run into someone when she’s just arrived at a house in Edinburgh and needs a foil. 

My first thought was Will Masterson, who’d already appeared in the first book in the British army uniforms series. (And yes, I have plans for him!)  But Will is a serving army officer and it’s campaign season.  He’d be in Spain.

How about if I give him a “less respectable and much less legitimate half-brother”? Mackenzie was created on the spot.  Mac looks enough like Will to momentarily confuse Julia, yet he’s a mischievous contrast to his quiet, easygoing sibling. 

Will bonded with Mac when both were young and had just lost their mothers.  Since Will refused to be separated from Mac, they were both sent to the Westerfield Academy, a school for boys of “good birth and bad behavior.” 

Crockford's Later, responsible Will joins the army and become a distinguished officer.  Mac joins up and is cashiered.  He now runs a fashionable gambling club and is, indeed, nowhere near respectable.  But a lot of fun.  <G>

In Search of a Heroine

Next step: what sort of heroine should I conjure for my lovable rogue?  There  would be lots of  conflict and contrast if she’s very prim and proper.  A vicar’s daughter, maybe. 

Naahhhh.   Mac thought she sounded pretty boring.  So did I.

How about a heroine who is very high born, but a hellion?  Mac liked that idea a lot a better.  And did I have the girl for him! 

Lady Kiri Lawford is the sister of the hero of the first Lost Lords book.  Like Adam, she is the child of an English gentleman who unexpectedly inherited a dukedom and the Hindu princess he married during his career in India, but Adam and Kiri had very different upbringings. 

Anglo-Inidan lady Raised mostly in England, Adam is an introvert.  Facing disapproval of his mixed blood, he buried the Hindu side of his nature.  In contrast, Kiri was raised in India with wealth, beauty, a loving family, and the extroverted confidence of a golden retriever. 

What Kiri doesn’t have is any interesting marital prospects among the eligible men she’s met in the ton.  Until she meets Mackenzie under highly dramatic circumstances.  By the time they’ve escaped homicidal smugglers, she knows she’s found a smart, funny, brave man who’s a keeper. Yet what can be done with a fellow who may not be respectable, but is too darned honorable?

Parliament state opening Large I needed a reason to throw Kiri and Mac together, and that’s when the royal kidnap plot appeared.  I’d also wanted to write a heroine who was a perfumer, so I made Kiri descendant of a long line of Hindu female perfumers.  I also gave her the equivalent of perfect pitch for scent so she has to be included in the suspense plot.  That gives her the opportunity to practice her wiles.  And Kiri has a lot of wiles!

Prince Regent The Seven Stages of Writing a Book

I am much better known for tortured heroes than lovable rogues, which made NNR something of a challenge to write.  Most books start like a love affair: Angel choirs!  Joy abounding!  This time it will be different!

Alas, that initial excitement rapidly devolves into Disillusionment. Fear. Loathing.  Frantic scrambling as the deadline approaches. Hysterical surrender and submission to editor. 

Ultimately, one hopes, after the sturm und drang of creation, there is Peace.  A belief that the result was all worth it. 

Not least of the problems I had with NNR is that I knew what happened in the first half of the book, but the second half of my synopsis boiled down to “They all go to Bath and Stuff Happens.” 

Princess Charlotte This proved entirely inadequate (not to mention boring), and pretty soon I was researching smugglers, gaming clubs, Princess Charlotte, the Parliamentary Wooksack, royal ceremonies and other fun subjects. And in the end, after the hair-pulling, I like the results.  Peace.

And the crowd goes wild!!!!!!!!

Even better, other people like Nowhere Near Respectable, too.  The book has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal and is a Romantic Times Top Pick. 

“In Kiri, a strikingly beautiful, lethal warrior queen, Putney has created one of her most memorable heroines to date. She pairs her with an honorable, valiant hero and drops them into a fascinating, fact-based dilemma that thoughtfully and realistically addresses some serious social issues and is guaranteed to keep the pages turning. This third “Lost Lords” title is exquisitely and sensitively written. “
    Kristin Ramsdell, Library Journal, Starred review

“With characters so vibrant and real that they leap off the pages and an authentic backdrop, Putney delivers another marvelous, unforgettable story with a clash of the exotic that perfectly merges romance and mystery.  She is one of the brightest of stars in the genre."
    Kathe Robin, Romantic Times BookClub, 4 ½ stars and Top Pick

Naturally, I’m now mired in the murky depths of Lost Lords #4.  It’s called No Longer a Gentleman and it will be out in 2012, probably in May.  (And probably April will see the release of my all time classic book, The Rake, yessssss!) 

NLAG has passed the choirs of angels stage and is well into frantic scrambling to finish the darned thing and send it in.  ‘Twas ever thus in the writer’s life.

Book Giveaway

Woolsack small Here’s a link to an excerpt if you’d like to sample Nowhere Near Respectable. I’ll be giving away a signed copy of the book to one person who comments between now and midnight Thursday.  So comment away!  And tell me if you have some hobby or work that calls forth similar stages of joy and depression to creating a book. <g>

Mary Jo