Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesdays Tidbits with Kari: Featuring Author Mirande Neville

Kari: I see you grew up in Wiltshire in southwest England. That sounds so romantic. What was it like?

Miranda: Naturally it didn’t seem romantic to me as a child, but I suppose it was. The English countryside and the historic sites around certainly inspire my books, which are set in Regency England. We lived very close to a ruined castle where my siblings and I played and made up stories. Here it is, Old Wardour Castle. It appeared briefly at the beginning of the movie Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves.

Kari: You attended the University of Oxford, then spent years writing catalogues of rare books and original letters and manuscripts for Sotheby's auction house in London and NY. With all that reading of personal correspondence of the famous, what's the most shocking or interesting thing you came across?
Miranda: It would be hard to pick one. The best thing for me was the thrill of holding a piece of paper that had been held and written on by a famous person, often centuries earlier. For the most part, the more intimate letters were destroyed, I believe, but sometimes I’d see a love letter or something else very personal. Strangely enough, I had a sense of violating someone’s privacy, even though they were long dead. Something that always entertained me was the way a husband would write to his wife in 19th century England and sign his letter formally. There could be all sorts of passionate stuff then the signature “John Smith.”
Kari: You write sexy, sophisticated historical romance, but your first two books have strong mystery elements. Can you tell us about those mysteries?

Miranda: My first book was sparked by reading about Carême, a celebrity chef who spent about a year working for the Prince Regent. When I learned that leftover food from the royal kitchens was sold, I thought “suppose someone was poisoned by such a dish.” The heroine of NEVER RESIST TEMPTATION has to go on the run when she is suspected of being the poisoner. The plot ended up being quite complicated as, with the help of the hero, she finds the real murderer.
My second book, THE WILD MARQUIS, begins a series set in the world of Regency rare book collecting, drawing on my experience there. This time the clues to the murder of the heroine’s husband are found in books that also hold the key to her mysterious background.
Since both books are primarily historical romances, there isn’t room to include all the elements of a true mystery novel. There’s a limit to how many red herrings one can fit, and the solutions cannot be overly complex. I suspect practiced mystery readers would guess them fairly easily, but I hope the way the plots unwind is amusing anyway. I learned to have a great deal of respect for mystery writers. That’s a lot to keep straight! I shall never forget my panic when, two weeks before my deadline for THE WILD MARQUIS, I found a massive logic hole in the final twist. I thought I was going to have to rewrite half the book, but luckily it turned out to be a quicker fix.

Kari: Your newest release that came out this month is called The Dangerous Viscount. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Miranda: THE DANGEROUS VISCOUNT is a straight romance – no mystery, no subplots, and a pleasant change of pace for me. I call it “Regency Revenge of the Nerd.” The hero, Sebastian, is a shabby, misogynistic bookworm until he sets eyes on Diana and falls hard for her. When he learns she’s playing with him, he gets an extreme makeover and becomes the most desirable bachelor in London, intending to seduce Diana and then reject her. Needless to say, nothing works out quite as either intended. Both characters behave quite badly but they are fundamentally decent people and, of course, made for each other

Kari: What's your writing process and schedule like? Are you a pantser, a plotter, etc.? Do you write every day?

Miranda: Every book has been different. I started out very much a plotter, but I’ve become more of a pantser. I have to produce a full synopsis for my editor, but she accepts that after the initial set up the book may totally change. Once I’m deep in a manuscript I write almost every day, for at least a couple of hours. More time is spent researching, thinking, and planning.

Kari: I love finding new authors and books to read. Any favorite authors or great books you've discovered that you'd like to share with us?

Miranda: One of my favorite writers, and one who is brilliant at blending history and mystery into her romances, is Liz Carlyle. I recently read and loved To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis, a wild blend of science fiction and history.

Kari: Any final words, pieces of advice, or topics you want to share that I haven't covered?

Miranda: In a sense, every romance is a mystery: why the hero and heroine are made for each other, and what do they have to learn about each other and themselves to get to the HEA. As a writer, I’ve found the experience of dropping clues about a concrete mystery very helpful in learning how to time the more nebulous emotional reveals of the romance.
Thanks so much, Kari, for inviting me here today. Now I’d like to pick your mystery-writing brains. Any tips about blending the plot and romantic elements in your books?


Cassy Pickard said...

Mirande: Welcome to M&M. It's so much fun to have authors join us and share their perspective on writing.

Could you tell us a little about how you do your research? I think I'd be overwhelmed with writing something that takes place in such a different time and location. Of course you know Britain, but nevertheless, it seems daunting to me.

I'd love to hear more about your process and research tactics.

Thanks again.

Kari Lee Townsend said...

I agree, Cassy. I always give people who write books that require so much research tons of credit. To me it seems very intimidating. Yet I love reading them :-)

Liz Lipperman said...

Miranda, welcome to M & M. Your books sound wonderful. Since history wasn't my longest suit in school, I love learning about it through stories, and you've picked two of my favorite genres - mysteries and romance.

Thanks for joining us. Yesterday, I had a discussion about plotters versus pantsers. I like your explanation that you write a synopsis but your editor accepts that it will probably change after the initial set-up.

My question is - after he/she approves the synopsis, do you have to go back and get further approval when you change things up?

Miranda Neville said...

Hi ladies. Thanks for inviting me to chat on Mysteries and Margaritas.
Historical research: once you have the basics for the period well grounded, it's not that hard. One reason I'd be scared to move from Regency to another time is that I'd have so much groundwork to do. As it is, things like costumes, language, manners, politics, etc. I know - or I know enough to know what I need to look up.

For individual books I get specific. For Never Resist I spent a lot of time researching food, recipes, dining, etc. The book I've just finished contains some references to 18th century pornography.

I have a constantly expanding reference library and I can find a lot on line (Google books has many 19th century books instantly available). I save up questions for when I get to a research library - which is often the British Library because I go to England to visit family twice a year.

Research can drive a plot. I come across an interesting fact in my reading and think, hmm, how can I fit that in?

Miranda Neville said...

Liz: the answer to that is, depends. The first time I made a big change in the central turning point, I asked her and she said fine. When my next proposal was accepted, she pretty much indicated that she knew things would change and that was OK. After all, how much does one really know about a book that's two manuscripts away.

The books sell on the basic set up and hook and my editor trusts me to turn it into a good story. If I was going to do anything really controversial - or make a fundamental change like the identity of the hero LOL - I'd run it by her.

Lindsay said...

Mirande I'm glad to read that someone has taken up the cause of us nerds. Even if the story is Regency. I look forward to reading The Dangerous Viscount.
I'm a nerd and proud of it.

Miranda Neville said...

Nerds rule! Lindsay! Actually in real life they often do. Think Bill Gates.

Lindsay said...

Of course you're talking about the computer nerd and not the frontiersman.

Mary Martinez said...

Thanks for joining us Mirande, sorry I'm a bit late in the welcome.

What a fun post. I have always wanted to visit your neck of the woods, someday I will.

Lindsay, I had no idea you were a nerd. NOT. LOL.