An Interview with Mia Marlowe!

MiaMarloweAuthorHeadshotNicola here and today I have the pleasure of chatting to Honorary Word Wench Mia Marlowe about her lovely new novella and her future writing plans. Mia's award-winning historical romances have been praised by readers and reviewers alike and her novella My Lady Below Stairs has been acclaimed as "worthy of Shakespeare!" It's a wonderful story and I was utterly charmed by it. Before we move on to the interview, here is a blurb:

Nobody misses Lord & Lady Hartwell's Christmas Ball, but they all go for different reasons. When Lady Sybil runs off with an Italian portrait painter, her bastard half-sister Jane Tate goes in her place. Lord Eddleton plans on proposing to "Sybil" under the mistletoe. Lady Darvish is on the hunt for her fifth husband.

And Ian Michael MacGarrett, the head groom with more than horseflesh on his mind, is determined to show Jane that love doesn't have to pretend.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B005WCL942/httpwwwmiamar-20 

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/my-lady-below-stairs-mia-marlowe/1106721423

Mia, welcome back to the Word Wenches!

Mia: First, thanks for inviting me to Word Wenches again, Nicola. At the risk of having a gushing fangirl moment, let me share that some of the brightest stars in my romance heavens make their home on this wonderful site. I’m feeling as if I’m in very fast company indeed!

Nicola: I love the idea of the Wenches being fast company! It's lovely to have you back and please tell us a little about your new novella.

Mia: It’s actually a reissue of my novella from A Christmas Ball, an anthology which was released in 2009 with USA Today bestseller Jennifer Ashley. When I moved from Dorchester to Kensington, my agent was able to secure rights to this story again. I’ve become addicted to reading on my phone, so we decided to offer it as an eNovella.

When I wrote My Lady Below Stairs, I wanted to try some out-of-the-box characters. Most RegencyMiaMarlowe_MyLadyBelowStairs_200px stories are peopled with lords and ladies, but I always wondered about the lives of those who toiled for their daily bread instead of being born to the Upper Crust. So I decided to give a Christmas miracle of love to my scullery maid heroine and her head groom hero.

Nicola: I do enjoy a historical romance with a different slant to the characters. Now, I know that we are only in November but Christmas is fast approaching and My Lady Below Stairs is set against a background of Regency Christmas festivities. What sort of research did you do into Christmas traditions and did you discover anything that surprised you?

Mia: Many Christmas traditions harken back to the Victorian era instead of the Regency. There were no Christmas trees during “Prinny’s” time. They didn’t become popular till Prince Albert brought them to England. However, Regency holidays featured a “kissing bough” fashioned of ivy (symbolizing women), holly (to represent men—guess they’ve always been prickly!) and mistletoe (which provided the all important little white berries). When a gentleman caught a lady beneath the kissing bough, he plucked a berry from the branch and when all the berries were gone, there could be no more stolen kisses.

Something that surprised me was the holiday game called Snap Dragon. Revelers actually snatched raisins from burning brandy while the rest of the party chanted a many-versed poem. Needless to say, there were plenty of burned fingers and tongues. These people seriously needed cable TV! 

Nicola: Hmm, I don't think I'll be re-introducing Snap Dragon at my Christmas party this year but I am always fascinated to hear about these old traditions. I must admit that I was already hooked on your story from reading the excerpt on your website. What key elements would you say one gets from a Mia Marlowe story?

Mia: Thanks so much for those kind words, Nicola.  Here’s the link to that excerpt in case your readers would like to take a peek as well: http://miamarlowe.com/books/stairs.php . My novels always include a bit of humor, some dramatic action/adventure, and a deeply-felt, sensual love story. Some of my works also include a sparkle of magic, but not all. Unless, of course, you count love. That’s magic enough for most of us.

Nicola: Lovely and very true! What character did you have the most fun creating and why?

Mia: I actually enjoy playing with unusual secondary characters. Lady Darvish in My Lady Below Stairs has been widowed 4 times and is on the hunt for husband #5. Rumor has it that they all died of exhaustion. This Regency cougar was a hoot to write!

Nicola: I love the concept of the Regency cougar! You write brilliant first lines that grab the reader and pull them into the story. How important do you consider that first line to be and how do you come up with the right one for the story?

Mia: Ever since Barbara Vey crowned me “the queen of first lines,” I do fret over my openers. My goal is to surprise, delight, or befuddle readers with my beginning. It’s very important to me to begin as I mean to continue. My opener is a promise to readers about what sort of story they’re going to receive from me. I don’t want to disappoint them, so I probably revise the first 500 words or so more than the whole rest of the manuscript.

Nicola: That's very interesting and I work in much the same way. So I have to ask… To plot or not to plot? How much of a planner are you?

Mia: To my sorrow, I am a pantser. I so envy those well-organized plotters who plan out every scene and plot point. I follow my characters around and trust them to lead me even if I can’t see how it will all turn out. On the plus side, if I don’t know how to untangle the black moment until it arrives, chances are my readers will be surprised too.

Nicola: It's always reassuring to meet another pantser! If you could describe your writing with a word or phrase, what would it be?

Dunvegan CastleMia: Oh, that’s a terribly hard question, Nicola. Maybe the best answer is the tag line from my website. Timeless Historical Romance. Because I write in a number of different time periods (Regency, Georgian, Victorian, Medieval Scandinavia and 16th century Scotland!) it seemed to fit. I also like the tag because it suggests classic themes in my love stories—betrayal, jealousy, temptation, redemption, reconciliation—timeless elements in the dance between two souls.

Nicola: I couldn't resist slipping a Scottish picture in there. Any excuse! What do you believe are the most important ingredients in a historical romance novel?

Mia: More than getting the costumes or furnishings of the houses correct, I think it’s important to make sure the characters think about themselves and their world in a manner in keeping with their time. If a character does otherwise, there needs to be a reason. For example in My Lady Below Stairs, my hero Ian Michael MacGarrett believes he doesn’t have to be trapped in his current situation. Through his own efforts, he can better himself. He believes this because he regularly reads John Locke and has embraced some rather heretical democratic ideas.

Nicola: I confess I fell for Ian in a big way and he's welcome to discuss his heretical democratic ideas with me any time! Which aspect of your research do you enjoy the most?

Mia: All of it. But travel is the most fun! I’ve visited England a number of times and in my imagination, the cobbled streets are alive with the people who walked them hundreds of years ago. I remember passing a house where Sir Isaac Newton lived and wondering if his world made more sense to him than mine does to me sometimes.

Nicola: What resources do you find most helpful for this period? Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?

Mia: For the Regency period, there are reams of information available, but lately I’ve been enjoying Georgette Heyer’s Regency World by Kloester. As far as tips for aspiring authors go, I’d like to invite them to submit a 500 word excerpt at http://www.miamarlowe.com for my Red Pencil Thursday. Each week I do an online critique for a volunteer and my blog readers weigh in as well. The goal is always to be constructive. I’ve had volunteers at every level of writing expertise, from total neophytes to Golden Heart winners and even one New York Times bestseller! At least one Red Pencil Thursday alumnus has gone on to sell.

Nicola: I've checked out your Red Pencil Thursdays on more than one occasion and they are a wonderful opportunity and I encourage people to take advantage of it. So what’s next for you, writing-wise?

Mia: I’m so glad you asked. In January, my first collaborative novel with New York Times bestsellerSins of the Highlander Connie Mason will be released. It’s called Sins of the Highlander and I frankly LOVE this story. Our hero “Mad Rob” MacLaren is tortured by dreams of his dead wife. She’s alive and vibrant in his dreams. When he wakes, even if it’s hours till dawn, he doesn’t seek sleep. He can’t bear to lose her again so soon. Here’s a link to that excerpt: http://miamarlowe.com/books/sins.php

Thanks again for having me, Nicola. I’d love to give away an advance reading copy of Sins of the Highlander to one randomly drawn commenter.  Since the action in My Lady Below Stairs revolves around a Christmas Ball, let’s talk about holiday festivities. Do you have a favorite tradition in your family that makes the season sparkle for you?  

Mia Marlowe – Honorary Word Wench!

Cartier tiara Nicola here, and it is my great pleasure to confer the title of Honorary Word Wench on Mia Marlowe, who joined us  last month to share some of the fascinating research behind her book Touch of a Thief.

Along with the HWW comes a virtual gift and as Mia’s wonderful book has a bejewelled theme, we though she might enjoy wearing her very own tiara. This is not just any tiara, of course. It’s the 1936 Cartier Halo Tiara from the Queen’s collection as worn by Catherine Middleton at her wedding to Prince William.

Mia, thank you very much for being our Word Wench guest, very best wishes for your writing and we hope you enjoy your virtual tiara!

An Interview with Mia Marlowe!

 Nicola here! Today I am very happy to welcome as our Word Wench guest historical author Mia Marlowe. Mia tells me that she learned much of what she knows about storytelling from singing. A classically trained soprano, she devised back stories for her characters as part of her preparation for operatic roles. Since she’s worn a real corset, and had to sing high C’s in one (and kudos for that - I used to be able to do one or the other but not both together!), she empathizes with the trials of her fictional heroines. But in Mia’s stories, they don’t die in a Parisian garret. They get to live and keep the hero! For more on Mia and her books visit www.miamarlowe.com.

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Here, Mia shares with us some of the research that has gone into her latest release, Touch of a Thief:

 “First, thank you for having me here today, Word Wenches. Since I adore history, I love your blog’s attention to historical detail. I'm a frequent lurker, so when Nicola invited me to guest blog I was thrilled.

Not all my research ends up in my novels. All the little tidbits are delicious, but what really fascinates me is learning how people thought about themselves and their place in the world and how these things change over time. Now, for example, adoption is lauded as a way to form families where none existed before. It was not always so. Adoption was unknown in England until the mid 20th century. Fostering, yes. Adoption, no. This is apparently a little known fact because I’ve read several highly acclaimed authors whose characters are supposedly adopted in the 19th century and go on to inherit titles and lands. Hereditary titles were all about bloodlines, so this could never have actually happened. The family to which a person was born, who his progenitors were, determined his place in the world. “Blood will out,” meaning a person’s lineage will show in their subsequent behavior, was taken quite seriously.

Because the idea of adoption was foreign to the Brits, it’s not surprising that they set aside the Indian custom of adopting a male heir when one was not born to a ruling potentate. According to British India's Doctrine of Lapse, any principality in which the ruling line failed to produce a male heir would be considered "lapsed." The kingdoms were stripped from their hereditary rulers and claimed by the British Crown. I used this inflammatory policy to set up a conflict in Touch of a Thief. My hero's best friend is Prince Sanjay, whose fictional Indian kingdom was lost to him because he was an adopted heir. In real life, Lord Dalhousie added in excess of three million pounds sterling to the Crown’s coffers with this policy. Per annum. The kingdom of Amjerat in Touch of a Thief is my own invention, but plenty of real cases of usurpation occurred. In one princely state, when the Rana died without a son to succeed him, his queen Lakshmi Bai adopted an heir in defiance of the British. Not to be set aside lightly, Lakshmi Bai donned warrior’s gear and led her people in armed rebellion. The uprising was put down, but she died fighting at the head of her force and has become an icon of feminine courage in India.

Though the action in Touch of a Thief takes place in London, Paris and Hanover, what happens in Delhi has a big impact on the main characters. My hero is trying to recover The Blood of the Tiger, a red diamond that was stolen from an Indian temple and is now en route to the Queen’s collection. He hopes returning the gem will help cool the tempers of the natives and diffuse a powder keg of unrest. Unfortunately, the Doctrine of Lapse has already upset the populace of India. When the new Enfield rifle is introduced to the Indian army and rumors fly that the cartridges are greased with pig or cow fat (anathema to both Hindus and Muslims), it’s the tipping point that leads to the disastrous Sepoy Mutiny. But that’s a subject for another blog…

Starred Review from Publishers Weekly for Touch of a Thief : “Marlowe weaves a gentle paranormal element into this delightful 19th-century romance. When a cursed red diamond is stolen from a temple in Amjerat, India, Capt. Greydon Quinn travels to London to recover it, accompanied by incognito crown prince Sanjay. They set a tempting trap of gems to catch the Mayfair Jewel Thief and force him to help them–but the thief turns out to be penniless Lady Viola Preston. Traveling to Paris uneasily posed as newlyweds, Viola and Greydon indulge their powerful lusts until they discover that Viola's supernatural gift for hearing jewels speak their histories lets her in on Greydon's secrets. The likable and quick-thinking protagonists sail through the challenges of both court and crime, swapping witty, sharp dialogue. Marlowe perfectly integrates Viola's paranormal sensitivity, with real problems balancing its obvious benefits. Both historical and paranormal readers will love this crossover tale.”

Touch of a Thief will be released on April 26, but I'm pleased to offer an advance copy to a randomly selected commenter. I love to talk with readers so if you leave a question, I will be by to answer. Thanks again for having me today!

Thank you to Mia for such a fascinating glimpse into the background to Touch of a Thief! Her question for you is: One of the themes in Touch of a Thief is injustice. What inequity makes your blood boil?