Here We Go Again

It begins revisePat here, dropping in momentarily to introduce Honorary Word Wench, Eileen Dreyer, on her latest projector is that projects?

   Eileen: I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. Funny how often I say that about a writing project. I think I have a perfectly good idea for a book. One book. One story about a hero and heroine and maybe a nefarious plot against the British throne or a hospital CEO. I actually believe I have a beginning, middle and end. That last part is important. An end. As in, that’s all she wrote.
    And then, before you know it, I’ve created extra characters. A supporting cast, if you will, of people who will confound, confuse, contest and contrast my protagonists. Still going well. There are few books with only two characters. Well, few books I’d read, anyway. It's always much more fun to have our intrepid protagonists play off someone not like them.
    It all starts out so innocently.  I’ll say something on the character profile like, “best friend to hero” or “female spy in guise of abigail.” Again, perfectly innocuous. 
    But that's when I make the mistake. Because I actually allow those characters onto the page. And that’s where I run into trouble. You see, I can’t leave a secondary character alone. I can’t just paint them in enough strokes that they fulfill their function of, say, carrying out the heroes varied and secret orders, or protecting heroine from evildoers. Suddenly, rather than being a two-dimensional convenience, they’re a full-blooded character I want to know better. They might even begin to make demands of me. Demands like, God help me, a book of their own.
    That’s what happened in my Drake’s Rakes series. I knew that Jack Gracechurch was a spy. I knew he had brother spies, because I needed enough heroes for the trilogy I’d planned. That’s right. A trilogy. It was meant to be titled the Three Graces after the heroines. But then, when I wasn’t looking, three heroes morphed into ten. That’s ten. More than the number of innings in baseball. The number of months a woman is pregnant. The number of books that will now be in my series, retitled Drake’s Rakes, after my heroes(actually, there will only be nine books. One of my heroes, Chuffy, adamantly refuses a book of his own).
    I didn’t mean to do it. I only meant to show that the Rakes were a clever and committed bunch of heroic aristocrats. But once I wrote that first scene with them all slumped over the chairs in Jack’s flat at the Albany, I knew I couldn’t take them back. There was Ian Ferguson, a huge, mad Scot who admits that the only Englishman worth the powder to blow him to hell is Wellington. Chuffy Wilde, that pudgy boy-man who loses his spectacles and blurts out the most amazing statements. Alex Knight, who seems too honorable to be true, and Nate Adams, who seems just as dissolute. All with secrets, all with dreams and devils to plague them. Wounded, noble Kit Braxton and grieving Beau Drummond. And most mysterious of all, the leader of the group, Marcus Drake.
    Well, here's the problem. I'm one of those people who hates to read books til the series is finished. And this is nine books. Oh no, I thought, no one would ever read the first ones at all. And then it occurred to me. I did write the first three books as a trilogy, self-contained enough that you don't need to wait for the rest of the books to read it. And unofficially, I still called it the Three Graces.
    So I'm doing it with the whole series. I'm dividing the books up by heroines. And it's time for my second trilogy, which I'm unofficially titling The Last Chance Academy, which is the school my three heroines attended together, a place that should have been safe, but wasn't.
    To introduce the new series, I've written a short e-novellita entitled IT BEGINS WITH A KISS, which is a prequel that introduces the girls, and offers Fiona Ferguson(Ian's sister) the chance to meet Alex Knight. They'll meet again a few years later in their own book. Sarah Clarke will meet Ian, and Pippin Knight will continue her pursuit of Beau Drummond. All while working to prevent the Lions from taking over the throne.
    I love this new set of characters, too. I can't wait to introduce them. I just hope I don't discover too many secondary characters, or we could be at this forever.

Welcome Eileen Dreyer!

Librariangraphic Pat here, playing librarian and introducing you to Eileen Dreyer, author of Barely a Lady, the first book in the Drake's Rakes Regency series. Eileen is a New York Times and USA Today Bestseller with 36 books in romance, suspense and paranormal written as Eileen Dreyer and
Kathleen Korbel. She was the

4th member inducted into the RWA Hall of Fame, so she's been winning the hearts of readers since the beginning of her career.
Eileen always has a lot of fun things to say, so let's dive right in–

How did you start writing?  Were you making up stories in kindergarten with a pencil clutched in one chubby fist, or did you come to the trade later? 

I can actually remember the exact day I started writing. I was ten, and I had just found out that not only
EileenDreyer had I read every Nancy Drew book in the library, but that there wouldn't be another one out for a year. I was devastated. What would I do without Nancy? (my mother wanted me to read Dickens. I was not enthusiastic). And then, the light literally went on. "Wait," I thought, just as millennia of writers did before me. "I can write my own book. And I can make it turn out the way I want." So I did. By seventh grade I figured out that if I wrote adventure stories about my friends and famous people(the Beatles), I would always have somebody looking for me in the morning.

2.  How did you become interested in writing Regency?

Actually, I came at it via Richard Sharpe.  Years ago I stumbled over the Sharpe series about the
Sharpe Peninsular Wars and was hooked on the period. (I know. Not the traditional route to Regency. I didn't read Heyer til I was 35. But it's important to remember that I was raised in a house with seven men. I can tell you every movie John Wayne died in. I had no idea who Shirley Temple was until she was delegate to the UN.) (Pat note–another wordwench gratuitous photo of Sean Bean as Sharpe!)

  I found it to be a fascinating era. The world was in turmoil, balanced on the edge of the industrial revolution, at war, but still with very definite rules and social mores to define society. There was frivolity, but there was also wit and passion and sacrifice. And they bathed. Very important to me in a romance. I've been wanting to write a book in the period since, but haven't had the chance til now.

3.  What was your first book, and how well do you think it characterizes your latest work? 

KorbelMy first book was a Silhouette Desire entitled Playing the Game that I wrote as Kathleen Korbel. I believe that the main thing that characterizes both that and my latest work is the strong heroine. She's in a different time period and facing different challenges, but she meets them head-on. She's the person I hope I would be in that situation.  And it has a hero I think worthy of my heroine, who doesn't just love her(madly), but respects her.

4.  What was the biggest mistake you made when you first began writing?

 Oh, I made them all. The two that are probably most common were beginning my book three chapters before it really began(I know you've heard it. "This book really starts at the beginning of chapter three, or four. The rest is backstory). I rewrote the opening of the first manuscript I attempted twelve times, until I'd whittled away all that excess exposition, and the book started with the action. The second mistake was that I didn't research enough about publishing before sending my stuff out there. I sent my proposals to the wrong houses, the wrong editors and in the wrong form. There was no RWA near me when I started, and so I was winging it on my own. It didn't take too many terse rejection letters to figure it out.

5.  Which of your characters is your favorite, and why?

  Oh, lord. There have been so many, and I can't even remember all their names. But I tend to love the characters in my most recent works the best, simply because they're fresh and alive, having just
Eileen's cover stepped out onto the page. And while I love Olivia, who I think is one of my most complex heroines, in fact, I just finished the second book in the trilogy, NEVER A GENTLEMAN, about Olivia's friend Grace Fairchild, and right now Grace is my favorite. She is a plain woman. Not the typical romance 'she is transformed into a beauty by a new hairstyle and dress' plain. Fatally and unrelievedly plain. The daughter of a general who's spent her life following the drum, she finds herself coerced  into an untenable marriage with dilettante Diccan Hilliard. She has such quiet courage, loyalty, and, yes, grace. And a surprising sense of humor(at least to me). (Pat note–Huzzah! A plain heroine, finally! Thank you, thank you…)

6.  Which book, if any, was the most difficult for you to write, and why?

All of my suspenses, because although they are also character-driven, they are much more plot intensive. Considering the fact that I only have a vestigial left brain, wherein the linear plot lives, it is much more difficult, especially the middle of the book, which I call, "laying out clues, picking up clues,
SinnersandSaints200h deciphering clues," which by necessity all has to be done with a certain amount of linear logic.

7.  What do you consider key elements of a great story?

Compelling characters caught in a compelling conflict (hmm. I seem to be having an alliterative moment). As Susan Elizabeth Phillips says, create characters you want to root for and put them into terrible trouble.

8.  Are there any trends you hope to see in romance in the next few years?

I love light, frothy romance. But there was a long time when that was all we got. I hope that the industry will support more of a  mix, so that we can also enjoy the more complex, deeper emotional books as well. (I'm sure that's not because that's what I write). After all, romance is a smörgåsbord. Don't limit us only to deviled eggs. (hear ye, hear ye, o gods of fate!–Pat)
9.  What is the best part about being a writer?  The most frustrating?

 Are you kidding? Do you know what my job is? I daydream for a living. And then, when I come up with an idea, I get to go learn about something I don't know, be it Tactical EMS (yes, I am trained to be a SWAT medic) or Waterloo.  And I've been able to travel to great places and learn things most tourists don't know, because I can say, "I'm an author, and I'm researching….". It continues to amaze me how generous people are with information and time.

The most frustrating? I think it's that nobody really understands what I do every day but another writer. Even my husband, who gives me unconditional support, really can't get his head around the fact that I often spend days just wandering aimlessly as words chase around in my head. Once he came home from work. "What did you do today?" he asked.
I was feeling full of myself. "I know why the bad guy did what he did!" I crowed.
He nodded. "What else did you do?"
My face fell. "That took me six weeks!"

When I called my critique partner Karyn Witmer-Gow and told her, her answer was. "Let's drink!"

So let's drink to creativity and writers and new books by giving away an autographed copy of Barely a Lady to a randomly drawn commenter. Does anyone have questions for Eileen while she's here?