Twelfth Night: An interview with Anne Gracie

Cat 243 Doverby Mary Jo 
I always love Anne Gracie’s books, but I especially love this new one, Bride by Mistake, so an interview with Anne about the book is a perfect ending to the Word Wench Christmastide posts about favorite things.
Not only did I hunt Anne down and beg to read it, but here’s a quote I forced on her after I read the manuscript:
BridebyMistake68kb"The always terrific Anne Gracie outdoes herself with Bride By Mistake. When a protective young English officer rescues a Spanish girl and marries her to save her from an abusive suitor, he never expects to live long enough for it to matter. Now the war is over, the annulment is denied, and Luke Ripton has a wife he'd almost forgotten. But at least since Isabella has been living quietly in a convent, she must be modest and obedient….

She isn't! I loved Bride By Mistake. Gracie created two great characters, a high tension relationship, and a wonderfully satisfying ending. Not to be missed!"
The Story

Now that I have the gushing out of the way….<G>  Anne, your Devil Rider books have been quite varied in tone and setting.  (I also particularly like To Catch a Bride, with a good bit taking place in Egypt.  Library Journal listed it among the best romances of 2009.  This is just one among Anne’s many awards and honors.)  What led you to Spain, the setting of most of Bride by Mistake?
AG: Thank you for the very kind words, Mary Jo, and for the interview. The Devil Rufus1Riders books are about four friends home from the war, trying to find a way to live again in peacetime. Luke, the hero of Bride By Mistake, is the last of them. All the way through the writing of the other books, he's been there, and I knew something had happened to him in the war, something that still haunted him, but it only became clear as I wrote this book.
The war was against Napoleon, but much of it took place in Portugal and Spain — and Catchabride40kEgypt— and Bride By Mistake was sparked by an incident in Luke's early days at war, when, as a 19 year old Lieutenant he comes across a young girl — my heroine, Isabella — being attacked. He saves her, then, finding she's fleeing from an unwanted, forced marriage, he marries her for her own protection, and leaves her with her aunt in a convent. As you explained above, he planned on an annulment, but as my story opens, eight years later, Luke's confronted with the unwelcome realization that the marriage is binding and he must go to Spain to collect his bride.

I'm told a lot of readers don't like books set in foreign locations, that Regencies should take place primarily in London or Bath, but there was a great deal of travel in that era, and with the war in Europe and the growth of the British Empire, I simply can't resist the occasional foray into other countries, especially when they connect with everyday Regency people.

The Anne Gracie Heroine

MJP:  Your first Regency romance was called Gallant Waif (I could list more awards Gallant Waifand honors here <G>), but as I think back over your books, I realized they could be entitled Gallant Waif 1, Gallant Waif 2,GF  3, 4….etc.  Tell us about the archetypal Anne Gracie heroine, and about Bella, the heroine of Bride by Mistake, in particular.  
AG: You know, I hadn't thought of that, but I suppose you're right. I tend to choose heroines who are more or less on their own and in a difficult position when the story starts. I like them to be smart, resourceful, loyal and courageous in an everyday sense, as well as vulnerable, with a heart secretly aching for love. They're often ugly ducklings, with the heart of a mother lioness.

Bella, my heroine, is all of these. As heiress to her late mother's fortune, an only child who lacks beauty, Bella was raised by her widowed father to be "almost as good as a son" — his highest accolade.

When the story starts, Bella's been in the convent for eight years. Of course, having been so romantically rescued at the age of thirteen, she's had a huge crush on handsome, Luke Ripton— tall, dark and as beautiful as an angel, a warrior angel — but as the years have passed, the crush has waned. Her school friends think she made him up, and they tease her about her imaginary husband.
MJP:  Excerpt, please!
AG: There's an excerpt on my website showing Bella being teased at the convent. 
     Below is the moment Luke and Bella meet again, after eight years.

     This, then was her husband. Isabella tried not to stare. 
     He was even more beautiful than she remembered. Eight years ago she'd seen him with a child's eye, and he was her savior and, she had to admit, she'd confused him in her mind a little with the angel of the statue. She had after all, only known him two days, not even that.
    But she was a child no longer and he was… he was breathtaking. Tall, dark, his skin burnished with the sun, a rich dark-gold flush along his cheekbones and such fine cheekbones they were. His nose was a strong, straight blade, his mouth, severe and beautiful. And his eyes, dark, so dark they looked black, but she knew from before they were the darkest blue she had ever seen. There was no sign of blue now.
     She swallowed and held her head higher, knowing what he would see, knowing they were ill-matched. The girls had done their best to make her look as beautiful as they could. It wasn't their fault she looked as she did. She knew she'd never make a beauty. She desperately wished she looked pretty for him. 
     But she could see in his eyes she didn't.
     Dear God but it was Mama and Papa again, Papa the handsome eagle soaring high and Mama the plain, dowdy little pigeon, bleeding with love for a husband who never looked twice at her.
     Mama's words rose unbidden to her mind. Guard your heart, my little one, for love is pain. Love is nothing but pain.
BrideByMistakeAustFinalMJP:  I understand that besides the American edition of BBM from Berkley, you’ll also have a simultaneous Australian edition, which I gather is unusual for single title historical romances from American publishers.  Can you tell us more about that?

AG: Yes, it's very exciting. Up to now, they've always imported my US editions and put them on sale 6 months after they came out in the US. But a wonderful person at Penguin Australia read some of my books and passed them around the office. They told me they then realized two things: 1) that my books had been selling well in Australia with virtually no publisher support and 2) I was a local author, so they decided to publish me simultaneously, in trade paperback with this beautiful cover. So I'm feeling very lucky.
MJP:  What’s next for you?  
AG:  I had planned to write Marcus's story, an offshoot of the Devil Riders series, and had started on it, with my editor's approval, but then my publisher saw my proposal for a new series and they wanted me to go ahead with that immediately and put Marcus aside. So now I'm working on a new series, about 4 girls in London. That's all I can say at the moment.
MJP:  A big Awwww! about Marcus, but I’m sure the new series will also be terrific!  Anne, thanks so much for letting me interview you, because that way I got to read the book early!  I understand you’re going to give away a copy to one lucky persoln who comments between now and midnight Saturday.
 AG:  Mary Jo, thank YOU for your support and enthusiasm and for the interview and the fabulous quote. Your words of praise mean a great deal to me.

MJP: It's easy to be enthusiastic about your books.  <G>  For you readers–who is your favorite gallant waif heroine?  You can choose one of Anne's waifs, or others that you like.  Smart, resourceful, brave heroines are such a pleasure to read!

Ask A Wench — Secondary Characters

Hi all, Anne here, introducing a new occasional feature of Word Wenchery — Ask a Wench. As many of you know, we invite people to submit questions to the wenches, and if a wench chooses your question to answer, you'll win a free book.  We have a long list of these questions, however some are not sufficiently meaty to fill a whole blog. But we don't want to ignore you, so in "Ask a Wench" we'll pose just one question, and give a variety of wenchly responses to it. CatchBride40k

To start AAW off, we've chosen a question sent in by Susan Klinger: "Has there ever been a secondary character who has surprised you and sprung to life so forcefully that s/he has jumped up, grabbed you by the throat, and demanded his/her own book?"   (For this question Susan wins a copy of my latest book TO CATCH A BRIDE)

So, over to the wenches… 

Rake&refrmr Mary Jo said : Susan, my mental imagery is much less vivid than that—I tend to think in terms of “a secondary guy got really interesting and I wanted to work out his story,” but indeed, it happens regularly.  And it’s always a guy. <G> 

The first time this happened was in my very first book, The Diabolical Baron, when the semi-villainous cousin, Reginald Davenport, showed unexpected signs of decency and humor at the end.  Friends loved him because he was a bad boy, I pondered and realized his bad behavior always came when he’d been drinking, and voila!  I wrote my alcoholic book, The Rake and the Reformer.Shattrdrainbws

On another occasion, the brother of the hero of Shattered Rainbows moved from wallpaper to three dimensions toward the end of the book.  Stephen Kenyon’s story became my death and dying romance, One Perfect Rose.  The whole plotline of running away from home and joining a traveling theater company was inspired by Stephen making a remark about “Shakespearean tragedy” in Shattered Rainbows. Who knew my duke loved the theater? <G>   
And so it goes.  I don’t want to waste a good man! MJP.

Note from Anne: (There's an excerpt here from Shattered Rainbows)

Spywrsilk  Andrea said:

You would think that we could make our secondary characters behave, but against all reason, they often manage to take on a life of their own. In my most recent trilogy, the three heroines—who were all trained at a secret school for female spies— were the stars. Or so I thought. However, Alexandr Orlov had  other ideas.Seduced By A Spy

I had fully intended to keep him in the shadows, playing the role of a cynical nobleman whose motives are shrouded in mystery. He was meant merely to tease, to tantalize the heroines with hints that he might be in league with the villain they sought. Did he stay in character? Hell, no. He displayed such rakish wit, seductive charm  and swashbuckling charisma that when it came to writing the second book of the series, I simply couldn’t refuse his demand to strut his stuff (he’s a rather cocky fellow) as the leading man.

As it turned out that I was wise to listen to his husky murmurs—he’s turned out to be one of my favorite heroes. (You may read his story in ‘Seduced By A Spy’, written under my Andrea Pickens nom de plume. There's an excerpt here.)

MagicMan200 From Pat

Over the years, I’ve had a number of secondary characters spring to life and demand their own books. Sometimes I could oblige. Others, I unfortunately could not. I’d have to say one of the most forceful of those characters was Aidan in my MAGIC series. He simply walked out of the mists, onto the page, and completely took over a scene I was writing. I had no idea he existed until then, and over the course of the six-book series, he was enigmatic, mysterious, and thoroughly fascinating until I had no choice but to tell his story.  I love it when that happens!

From Anne:

I always have trouble with secondary characters wanting to take over a book or a scene and I usually have to prune them b
ack. I have particular trouble with eccentric dowagers, although they don't usually demand their own stories.  But I have had secondary characters demanding their own stories, and, as Mary Jo said, it's usually a man who does it, though not always. (I once had a small girl who wanted her own story once she grew up. She got it in Perfect Kiss, the fourth book in a series advertised as a trilogy.)The Perfect Kiss

 It even happened with the very first book I wrote (Gallant Waif) when the hero's best friend arrived on the scene and started to act heroic. In fact I had to prune him back quite severely so he didn't out-hero the hero!

I went to write his story in the next book, but the heroine I'd picked wasn't right for him and that hero morphed into someone different. I tried several more times and each time, because the heroine wasn't right for him, he morphed into someone else. It was very annoying because at the same time he (and readers) kept asking for his story.

Waif_us I was talking about this with a writer friend of mine and she said: "Francis is so self-assured and in control — what he needs is a heroine who doesn't play by his rules." And she was right.  Almost instantly a heroine popped into my head; a dusty little street-urchin who was a long lost daughter of an aristocratic family. And when my cool, in-command hero attempts to rescue her, she refuses — for very good reasons. So I had my heroine and the bones of my story, but I'd left that publisher and had started a new series by then.

However that story and that hero and heroine kept nagging at me to be written, so I changed his name, gave him a slightly different background and friends, and put him in my new book, with the heroine I'd dreamed up for him all those years ago. The book is called TO CATCH A BRIDE, he's now called Rafe, but in many ways, he's the same character, and finally his story has been told, and I'm so pleased it has. If you want to read an excerpt click here.

So it seems a number of us have encountered secondary characters who demand a book of their own, contrary to our initial plans for them. And some of those characters have got their books, others haven't.

What about you? Have you encountered (or written) any secondary characters who you'd love to see in a book of their own? And which is your favorite secondary-character-to-hero story? I think mine is Dancing With Clara, an old Mary Balogh book, where Frederick, the bad guy from Tempting Harriet becomes the hero.