Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Welcome Maya Rodale!

The Lady Novelist is happy to welcome RWA NYC member Maya Rodale, whose first book The Heir and the Spare just came out this month from Berkeley Books.

The Heir and the Spare
All of London is raving about the newly arrived American, Emilia Highhart. She has beauty, charm, wit, and a hint of the exotic.

Unfortunately, grace is decidedly not one of her virtues. Staircases, doors, even floors have proven her enemies, often leaving Emilia prostrate and mortified in a pile of muslin. Nevertheless, at her first ball, her dance card soon fills with the names of highly suitable men. But Emilia’s eyes are on just one man—the one her aunt points out as the entirely unsuitable Lord Phillip…

In fact, he isn’t Lord Phillip. While Phillip, the heir, goes about spending the good family’s funds, his identical twin, Devon, the spare, must attend society functions as Lord Phillip—all because of a few blasted minutes’ age difference. Soon, both twins are vying for Emilia. And, under the not-so-watchful eye of Lady Palmerston, aunt and chaperone to the young lady, Emilia is unknowingly courted by two different men with the same face! But only one of them is the love of her life…

What made you choose romance?

I chose romance because I love the stories, and because I love the community around it. Plus, writing romance novels always makes for good cocktail party conversation.

The Heir and the Spare is set during the Regency. How did you become interested in this time period?

Regency set historicals were among the first romance novels I read, based on book recommendations from my mom. I read them exclusively for my first year of romance novel reading.

What you do love about the Regency period?

I love the corsets, carriages, candlelight…but these are not particular to the Regency. What I love about that era, as opposed to other historical time periods or locations is the role society plays in the novels—the parties, the rules, and that particular regency tone and wit. I also believe that the popularity of this era is due to the fashion at the time—especially compared to say, medieval dress. Plus, I find the aristocracy fascinating, and that is such a huge part of Regencies.

What do you like least about the Regency?

The necessary suspension of disbelief regarding female shaving practices (no leg shaving or underarm shaving!).

Anything that constrained you or that you had to plot carefully around?

One of things I love about the Regency era is the rules of society that are like built in obstacles for the hero and heroine. For example, it was highly improper for a man and young woman to be alone together, and yet such moments are key to romance and falling in love. Thus, my Negligent Chaperone, Lady Palmerston, was born.

Rather than constraints, I see such things as challenges for my imagination. For me, that is all part of the fun of writing.

What sparked this book? Was it a character? An historical event? A scene you just couldn’t get out of your head?

It all started with an idea I had for one scene: A young lady is getting ready for bed one evening when a very handsome man bursts unexpectedly into her room. She thinks confuses him for her betrothed, who is the man’s identical twin. I thought the novel would begin with this scene. And then I thought it would be in the middle and then…basically, what remained from that initial idea was twin brothers and a very confused heroine.

As for what made me actually sit down and write the book: An agent I had previously worked with said that I needed to be writing romance novels now. She said that she would have a look at something I wrote, and consider taking on the project. I told her I would have something for her in three months. I went home that afternoon and started writing…and didn’t stop until the novel was done three months later.

Did you have to do any major research for his book? Did you stumble across anything really interesting that you didn’t already know?

I did a bit of research in the beginning...but I ought to have done more, as one amazon reviewer pointed out— I forget about the war of 1812 and the impossibility of making a fortune in shipping in America during a blockade. Whoops!

Usually, however, I find myself often looking up the same things: forms of address and what would be removed first-a corset or a chemise.

From history classes about that time period, I’ve realized that the world presented in historical romance novels is quite different than what actually was. I doubt any readers want certain things portrayed accurately…the men, particularly the aristocratic ones, were generally not as progressive as they are in romance novels, and it is very unlikely that real women of the era could get away with half of what romantic heroines do. That, and the drafty old houses, chamber pots, and horse manure piling up on the streets are things that I think are best left un-mentioned.

What made you decide to make your heroine American?

In order to be truly confused about the twins, and as open minded as she is about them, she needed to be foreign to England. As for being American, they say to write what you know, so that’s what I did.

Your hero is an identical twin. What made you decide to write about twins? Was that a conscious decision? And what did you find out was one of the problems about writing about twins?

The identical twins came out of the original scene that sparked the novel. I’ve said before that one shouldn’t write a twin novel as their first because it’s hard! The biggest challenge was having the heroine confused, but having the reader enlightened. Maintaining that often determined which POV a scene would be written in.

But identical twins provide a great opportunity to write about learning to see the person underneath external appearances. As one person remarked, one could say the same of all romances. It’s just more obvious with identical twins.

What/Who do you like to read?

For historicals, I love Loretta Chase, Eloisa James and Julia Quinn, among lots of others.
For contemporary set Romances, I love Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Jennifer Crusie. When I’m not reading romance, I read non-fiction. My current favorite non-fiction topics are economics and neuroscience. Go figure.

Care to share a bit about your writing process? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you write multiple drafts or clean up as you go?

d) all of the above!

I do what I call “pre-production”, and that involves some research, writing character descriptions and histories, as well as sitting around “wool gathering” about the story. By the time I sit down to write, I have a pretty good idea of the novel I’m going to create.

Generally, my writing process is the same as if I am traveling somewhere new. I write down the address of my destination. I look at the map. I print directions. And then I leave all of that at home, accidentally, and then I wing it once I am on the road. So basically, I know where I am going with a novel, and have a general idea of how I am going to get there, but I am open to detours, getting lost, etc, just so long as I get there on time.

And, golly, I wish I “cleaned up” as I went along, especially when I print out 300+ pages and then have to revise them all at once. But I don’t because I get too excited cranking out that initial draft to stop and look over it.

What are you planning to work on next?

I’m finishing up the second Negligent Chaperone book, tentatively titled Love Among The Ruined, in which the “bad” twin, Phillip Kensington, from The Heir And The Spare is the hero.

A Rake in an abbey falling in love with a woman he can’t have…A lusty nun who despises him…

There was a recent article called "Harm in reading romance novels." Do you think romance novels harm or empower women?

I firmly and truly believe that romance novels are empowering to women and to men. Frankly, I can’t think of anything more beneficial to humanity as a whole than romance novels.

I literally wrote the book (or a book) on why romance novels are not only not harmful, but empowering, inspiring, promising, and good. The book, It’s My Pleasure, co-written with my mother, examined women, religion, literature and history and found why romance novels are considered bad, and they absolutely are not.

Having said all of that—I have yet to meet someone who reads romance novels and has a poor opinion of them. When I encounter people who do disdain romance novels, I feel sorry for them and think that they clearly need more romance novels in their lives. Heck, maybe they are simply jealous of the rest of us romance readers and our lack of shame about our own pleasure.

Thank you, Maya for stopping by!

Coming up an interview with Cerridwen Press author Patt Milhailoff!

No comments: