Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cecilia Grant Interview and Book Giveaway

One of my favorite moments from Nationals in recent years was having lunch with Cecilia and our editor Shauna Summers. There was some general chit chat some Friday Night Lights gushing and fine food, but at one moment Shauna started to tell me about Cecilia's book A LADY AWAKENED and she absolutely raved! Raved! And watching Cecilia's face as her editor waxed poetic about her book to another author was utterly priceless. I wish all of us could have a moment like that.

Cecilia's moments with this book have just gotten better. Everyone is talking about A LADY AWAKENED. Dear Author, Smart Bitches, Book List - this book is going to be a big deal. And so is Cecilia. And honestly, it couldn't happen to a nicer, smarter woman.
I was thrilled to get a chance to ask her a few questions and the great news - answer Cecilia's questions at the end and you can win a book!

How did the idea for A Lady Awakened come about? Character first? Conflict first? Do you think about things like high concept or hooks? I ask because the premise for A Lady Awakened is deliciously hooky…a great twist on a familiar hook - it's genius!

Sex first! No, seriously, I avoided writing sex for a long time (I was trying to write trad Regencies long after they went out of fashion), and when I made up my mind to do it, I looked for a premise that would require me to do lots of it, so I couldn’t weasel out.

And I didn’t realize, at first, that I had a high concept or hook. Only after I’d entered some pages in a contest, and got feedback that the premise wasn’t original enough, did I realize that this actually was the hook; that what I needed was to embrace the well-worn nature of the premise, acknowledge reader expectations for that premise, and be deliberate about which expectations I’d meet and which I’d try to turn on their heads.

It's obviously working for you. A Lady Awakened is coming out in Jan to some fantastic buzz. Dear Author, Smart Bitches, Eloisa James! First of all - congrats and I am so thrilled for you! Second - how is this messing with your head? Is it? Or do you find you are able to roll with it?

Thank you. It’s funny; the book has not been universally loved by any means (later in my blog tour I’ll be doing a stop at a site whose reviewer DNF’d it), so I’m keenly aware of how lucky I am that it should have found such enthusiastic support in such high places.

And you know what? It does not mess with my head. Not one bit. There is just no downside to getting good reviews.

I suppose I do worry that for a lot of readers the book won’t live up to the hype, and that, for the readers who loved it, my second and third books will prove to be letdowns, but that’s really just a variation on the basic worry of people not liking your book, and that’s a worry I was going to have no matter what. Any way you slice it, “This book sucks; how the heck did it get a star in Booklist?” beats “Booklist was right; this book totally sucks.”

That is absolutely the most mature and sound answer I've ever heard. You must be saving your neurotic writer tickets for something else. You have lamented that you are not a fast writer - what is your process like? If you could change one thing about your process what would it be? You are working on the third book - is this a series? What's next?

If I could change one thing, it would be to excise the perfectionism from my psyche and cast it into the raging fires of Mount Doom.

Have you heard the building-construction writing analogy? You have to put up the building’s skeleton, or whatever it is, before you start fussing over curtains and paint colors? For a perfectionist it’s not like that. Writing is more like building a brick wall: you need to meticulously place each brick, and you need to get it right, if you want the part you’re working on to support the parts to come. Otherwise you eventually have to take it all down and start over.

Enough about my process. Yes, this is a series, centered on family: Martha, of A Lady Awakened, Will, of A Gentleman Undone, and Nick, of A Book Yet Untitled, are all siblings. All tend to excess when it comes to notions of duty, honor, propriety, etc., and all fall for people who turn their worlds inside out.

I don’t know yet what’s next. I’ve tried to stay away from dukes, which maybe means I should tackle one.

You write complicated women, is that something you do on purpose? Or are you just fascinated by the kind of story complicated women create?

Yes and yes. You always hear about these readers who want an essentially transparent heroine, so that they can ignore her and imagine themselves interacting with the vivid-by-comparison hero, but personally I don’t know anyone who reads romance that way. What I want, and what I think most readers want, is a story of two equally flawed, intricate people discovering that they belong together.

And as a writer, I like the challenge of finding my way into characters whose flaws don’t just potentially put readers off, but put me off too. For example, awhile ago I was reading about Byron-mania, specifically about women who’d disguise themselves as chambermaids to get into Byron’s hotel room. My first thought was, “What kind of idiot woman would do that?” And my next thought was, “I need to write a heroine who does that.” Maybe some day.

That's a great way of looking at character construction - what fascinates you as the writer should fascinate readers as well. You are a Friday Night Lights fan - what are you watching now - anything as good as FNL?

Nothing has come along to take the place of Friday Night Lights. I miss it still. Now I have to spend my Friday nights with creepy Keith Morrison on Dateline, and I think it is warping my brain.

I suppose the show I’m enjoying the most these days is the sitcom Parks and Recreation. If you want to see a beautifully executed romance arc, rent Season 3 and watch geeky, over-earnest small-time bureaucrats Ben and Leslie fall for each other. (Bonus: Leslie’s awesome relationship with BFF Ann.)

Okay - cage match: Meredith Duran vs Courtney Milan and then Joanna Bourne vs Sherry Thomas

Oh, you had to go there.

Courtney Milan happens to be better than pretty much anyone at portraying this one specific thing - men yearning for platonic connection with other people - that I have a huge weakness for. (Think of Ash Turner feeling left out of his brothers’ easy camaraderie, or Gareth Carhart remembering his schooldays, when he could never think of the right thing to add to the other boys’ conversations - oh, the angst!)

However, there’s something about Meredith Duran’s books, aside from the beautiful writing, that just absolutely meshes with my sensibilities. I relate to her characters in a slightly different way from the characters of any other romance writer; I always feel like I could sit down and have long conversations with them. So I give her a slight edge.

The second match-up is even worse. In the past five years there have been exactly two romances that I finished, and then immediately started over again: The Spymaster’s Lady, and Not Quite a Husband. I’d say it’s a toss-up... but I’ve just had a Bourne fix with her excellent The Black Hawk, whereas it’s been a year and a half since the last Thomas book, so... no, actually, that doesn’t help me decide. Call it a draw.

Yeah, it's a draw for me too. All right Drunk Writers answer one of the following questions and you could win a book:

name either a) your favorite flawed heroine, b) your favorite duke hero, or c) the tv show you believe could fill the Friday-Night-Lights-shaped hole in my heart, if I gave it a chance.

And thanks so much Cecilia for stopping by!


M. said...

You're kidding. I'm comment1? Sunday night insomnia paying off!

Thanks Molly for introducing me to this new-to-me author whom I'll put on my Goodreads TBR right after leaving here.

Favorite flawed heroine? Amelia Peabody of 'Crocodile & the Sandbank' (too directive and I love her for it) wins the historical title, and Agnes of 'Agnes & the Hitman' (too accidentally murderous and I love her for it) wins the contemporary title.

Favorite duke? Jervaulx of 'Flowers from the Storm' which I'm reading right now. The author took "make your characters suffer!" so to heart I can only bear to read a few pages at a time, but think about him the whole time I'm away from the book.

Can't help with the TV shows. I'm a reality show girl, myself.

M. said...

Oh, and P.S. : The cage match question was EVIL.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Thank You M. being more evil is my new year's resolution...

Maureen McGowan said...

Great interview! Cecilia, I wish you were in Toronto so you could come to DWT with us. The Spymaster's Lady and Not Quite a Husband are my two favorite historical romances, too. Although I have a feeling that A Lady Awakened is soon to burst onto that list. :)

I have a big FNL hole in my TV viewing heart, too. And share your love for Leslie and Ben. I have yet to find another show I'm as enamored of... Compulsively watched Sons of Anarchy when I discovered it, but it's no FNL...

ClaudiaGC said...

Hi! I've just discovered this cozy blog! :)
My favourite duke isn't a duke but a marquis. I adore Sin and Sensibility by Suzanne Enoch. It was one of the first books I read from her and I reread every year. I love the hero's name, Valentine, already and I also really love Eleanor, the heroine.
Thank you for the giveaway!

claudigc at msn dot com

Anonymous said...

oooh, games, fantastic. My favourite Duke, tough one, loved Flowers from the storm, and he was a Duke.
Favourite flawed heroine, a tie between the heroine from Ain't she Sweet and Jenny Jones,

Congrats on the book release, Cecilia, so excited to read this.

Cecilia Grant said...

M - I'm embarrassed to admit I've never read Flowers from the Storm. I think I'll make 2012 my Year of Rectifying Reading Omissions. Never read any Jennifer Crusie, either, so I'll put Agnes on my list too.

Oh, and I actually love reality TV. Unfortunately we don't have cable at our house, so my options are limited. When I'm at a hotel I glom on things like Toddlers & Tiaras.

Maureen - Oh, I was hoping another Parks & Recreation fan would pop out of the woodwork! Did you see last week's episode? As if I needed more reasons to love Leslie - she's a Friday Night Lights fan! (Also, I melted a little when Ann's name was bigger than Ben's in Leslie's wordcloud.)

Claudia - I actually have a marquis (or rather a marquess - I kind of get hives over deciding which way to spell it) in my work-in-progress. So far he doesn't even have any lines, but that's the closest I've come yet to a duke.

Sinead - I know Ain't She Sweet is SEP (yet another gap in my reading that I need to address in 2012), but who's Jenny Jones? Must add her to my list!

Stephanie Doyle said...

I'm still thinking about my favorite flawed heroine... very difficult decision.

As for Duke - Flower can't be beat for a serious read. But I'm also go to throw props Julia Quinn's way with her stuttering duke.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Cecilia - you have not read LauraKinsale or SEP? Oh. You have such reading pleasures ahead of you!!!

I'm going to agree with Flowers from the Storm, and how about the hero from the Madness of Ian McKenzie? Did I get that right - he was a great hero.

And I agree with a tough heroine from Ain't She Sweet - she started an amazing trend in difficult heroines.

Anonymous said...

Cecilia, Jenny Jones is from the Promise of Jenny Jones, by Maggie Osborne, one of my fav romances of all time. And Molly is right, there are such reading pleasures ahead of you.

And I'm completely a Parks and Rec fan and as much as I love Ben and Leslie, I'm a devoted Swason fan. And FNL, especially that first season, is perfect TV... Maybe Games of thrones comes close, but in such a different way...

Cecilia Grant said...

Sinead, I love Ron Swanson too. I think he might be one of the greatest tv characters of the decade.

And I go back and forth about whether FNL Season 1 or Season 5 is my fave. I loved, and never saw coming, the growth of Billy & Mindy Riggins into functioning adults and sometimes-viable role models. Also, Vince broke my heart over and over again. That actor just never set a foot wrong. Why isn't he a big star by now?

Molly - The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie is another hole in my reading list! That settles it; I'll spend 2012 ignoring new releases in favor of remedial reading.

Oh, and I vividly remember that lunch at Nationals. Before I ever sold a book, I daydreamed a lot about what it would feel like to sell, to read a good review, to get a fan letter, etc.

But it never occurred to me to imagine the insane thrill of hearing someone who's read and loved your book describing it to someone else. So that whole time I was sitting there going, "Oh my god, this is a pleasure I did not even know existed!" Not unlike a virginal Regency heroine, I guess.

Thanks, Drunk Writers, for having me. I hope we all run into each other at some conference in 2012!

Maureen McGowan said...

You just made me think of a current TV show I like, but not nearly as much as FNL... Parenthood. The creator worked as a writer on FNL (or something like that) and you can tell... Also, the actor who played Vince on FNL was on Parenthood for a while. And Minka Kelly, but she had a really small (but pivotal) part.

Also saw an ad last night that HBO is rebroadcasting The Wire in its entirety starting in January. At least HBO Canada is... If you want your heart broken in a dozen different ways (and by that same actor who played Vince as a little boy) then watch The Wire if you haven't seen it.

Molly O'Keefe said...

As a side note - today I saw Jane from Dear Author tweet that A Lady Awakened was the best book she read this year!!!

Maureen McGowan said...

That's awesome! Congrats, Cecilia!

I'm going to dig up her tweet and retweet it. :)

Cecilia Grant said...

Molly - I think you're thinking of Sarah from Smart Bitches, in her column for Kirkus Reviews. I know Jane liked it but I don't think she's used the word "best."

Maureen - I tried "Parenthood" but couldn't quite get into it. I'll have to rent "The Wire" one of these days, though it sounds depressing as heck. Amy Ryan's in that too, right? Loved her in the movie "Gone Baby Gone."

Eli Yanti said...

Hi Cecilia,

i really so excited with your book ;)

to answer the drunk writer question
my favorite flawed is Qwill from echanting pleasure by eloisa james

my favorite duke is simon basset from the duke and i by julia quiin

tv shows, is gossip girl and supernatural tv shows?

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