M. J. Putney: Introduction of an Alter Ego

Cat 243 Dover by Mary Jo, aka M. J. Putney

March 21st will be the 25th anniversary of starting my first book, which was published 18 months later as The Diabolical Baron.  It’s time to reinvent myself again. <G>  Hence Dark Mirror, my first young adult paranormal historical, which hit the stores yesterday. 

I’ve always written romance, almost always historical, though some Diabolical Baron--Original contemporaries and historical fantasy crept in.  But YA is a new country, a new genre with new rules.  Though history and romance are still present. <G>

(Note: I am NOT giving up historical romance!  The Bargain will be reissued in April, and Nowhere Near Respectable, the third Lost Lords book, will be out in May, and I’m about to start book 4.)

Dark Mirror is a young adult novel with history, adventure, magic, and a dash of romance.  (Of course romance!)  I’m getting a lot of questions about the difference in writing between romance and YA.

DarkMirror--LOWER REZ The answer is reader expectations.  Different genres have different core stories.  Epic fantasy is the struggle between good and evil.  Mysteries are about justice. 

For romance, the core is the courtship story of the developing relationship, while the heart of a YA novel is the growth and life journey of the protagonist.  (Though lots of other things can be added to those core stories, of course.  Romance is found as a subplot in all genres.) 

But while the core stories for YA and romance are different, good storytelling is good storytelling.  That’s the foundation of all popular fiction,

So why YA?  I love combining history, romance, and magic, and I wrote several adult books of that ilk. But on the whole, historical romance readers prefer to get their fantasy reading kick from the setting, which is why lords and ladies and Cinderella stories are so popular.  When I changed publishers several years ago, I found that all the editors we talked to wanted me to write straight historical romance without woo-woo elements. 

Marriage Spell--300 dpi That was okay—obviously I like writing lords and ladies and Cinderella stories, or I wouldn’t have written so many of them. <G> But I still wanted to write magic!

In particular, I wanted to write a story that connected the Napoleonic period and World War II, because I’ve always been intrigued by the similarities in these two eras.  In both cases. England stood alone against a powerful Continental conqueror, protected by the English Channel, the British Navy, and the stubborn courage of her people. 

From there, it was a short hop to thinking that Regency mages would be drawn to a Napoleon-Bonaparte similar time period where their abilities were be needed.  I had the story idea for Dark Mirror in mind for quite a while before my Del Rey fantasy editor said rather casually that it would work well in YA. 

Bingo!  The heavens opened and the trumpets sounded!  I’d never considered writing YA, even though I’ve read it for years, but I immediately knew that this story should be written as YA. 

DM takes place in a Regency world where magic exists but is disdained by the nobility.  My heroine, sixteen year old Lady Victoria Mansfield, performs an act of heroism that condemns her to the dread Lackland Abbey, where well-born children are “cured” of their magical afflictions. 

Tunnel under Dover Castle Tory chooses to cast her lot with those students who study magic in secret in the chalk tunnels below the Abbey.  One of them is Allarde, the handsome, enigmatic heir to a dukedom.  When a magical artifact draws her through time to a war torn 1940 Britain, she wants nothing more than to return home.  But duty calls, and she and her friends must use their magical abilities to help save their nation from disaster at Dunkirk. 

Mega research!  Especially on the 1940 section of the book, which is within living Dunkirk beaches memory.  But there is nothing like stepping off a creative cliff to get the juices flowing.  <G> 

At least three books will be set in this world.  The YAs will be published under the name of M. J. Putney to indicate that they’re a different kind of book.  (Though you who have long memories may recall I did one historical romantic fantasy, Stolen Magic, under my initials before returning to my full name.)

This is a rather scary leap for me because the YA market and distribution are quite different from adult popular fiction.  Plus—could I fake a young adult voice?  I wasn’t a very good teenager even when I was one!  On the plus side, the readers are wonderfully enthusiastic, and there is a tremendous freedom in YA storytelling.

Besides, I had a story I wanted to tell.  <G>  I’m grateful that so far, the reviews have been very good.  Even from the teenagers. 

Here are a few of the reviews.  I particularly liked the first because it says what I hope and believe: that a fair number of my adult readers will enjoy Tory’s story.

“An amazing young adult novel from an established romance author! Mary Jo Putney’s adult readers will delight in her latest offering.”
 Leah, YoungAdultRomanceWriters.com

“One of the best stories I've ever read that mixes history, magic, and time travel.”
 Angel, 15 years old, from the teen advisory board of New Albany-Floyd County Library in Indiana.  5 star rating.

 “Absolutely riveting, Putney creates a vivid historical fantasy and delivers a page-turning read.  The plot builds slowly and deliberately and then suddenly you're got magic-wielding, time-traveling teens in WWII England, as Putney gives us a magical explanation for an incredible historical event.”
    Raven Heller, 4 1/2 stars, Romantic Times Bookclub

Evacuation_Dunkirk Since I am new to the YA genre, St. Martin’s Press wanted to release the first books close together.  Book 2, Dark Passage, is scheduled for September 2011, and the third book, not yet written, will be published some time in 2012.  (You can see why I’ve been so busy!)  There will also be a free downloadable short story, a sort of prequel, that will be available soon online.  It’s called “Fallen From Grace.” 

I have a basic website up at mjputney.com , and also a Facebook page, though I don’t pay as much attention to the sites as I should.  I can write more stories, or have a great online presence.  Not both unless I figure out how to clone myself. Triplets would be about right.  <G>

DarkMirror--LOWER REZ If the story interests you, or you know a young reader who might be enjoy Tory and her adventures, I hope you’ll give it a try.  Leave a comment between now and Friday midnight and you may win a signed copy of Dark Mirror from me.  So tell me what you think about this latest reinvention!

Mary Jo, aka M. J.