I want to give a warm welcome to my friend and colleague, Maggi Andersen, multi-published author of Historical Romantic Intrigue, Contemporary Romantic Suspense and Young Adult fiction. Maggi has rashly agreed to answer my odd questions so here goes:
Whether or not you loved or hated it, is there a book that has grabbed you by the throat and changed the way you write?
Most of Mary Stewart’s, Georgette Heyer’s and Victoria Holt’s initially. They created worlds I love to revisit. More recently, C.S. Harris’s Regency mysteries featuring Sebastian St. Cyr. What Angels Fear was the first in the series. Harris’s accurate historical detail gripped me, and her excellently drawn characters; how she brought the darker side of the Regency world to life making it almost a character in itself. Years ago, Georgette Heyer captivated me for the same reason, although her stories were of a much lighter tone. (JL: Georgette Heyer grabbed me when I was in boarding school and helped me through long, lonely weekends)
You write in a number of different genres. Was this an evolutionary process or did you just decide you like variety? And is there any one in particular you feel is closer to your heart?
I like variety in my reading and in what I choose to write. I was working at finding my writer’s voice in the early years. The basic themes of most of my stories are romances, adventures and often mysteries, although I set them in different periods and genres. I feared I’d get bored or stale and start repeating myself writing too much in one genre, but this Regency spy series has proved me wrong. I’ve enjoyed writing each book very much.
The book that touches my heart more than any other is the teen novella I wrote early in my career: Dog Head Code. At that time, I planned to become a children’s writer, but then I published my first work, a Regency story, and took a different path. Dog Head Code is still available in e-book. I plan to write more children’s stories; I just wrote a short story for my grandson and thoroughly enjoyed it. (JL: I remember when you first had Dog Head Code published, Maggi, and how much I loved the name)
Have you ever written a book you didn’t like? Why didn’t you like it?
I can’t say I dislike any book or short story I’ve written, once it’s finished, although I have favourites. I have hated the odd sagging middle until I found my way through it. And I might scream in frustration and rip out a few chapters along the way! And there’s always that temptation to rewrite the book even after it’s published! (JL: Yes, there’s nothing like happily reading your newly pubbed book and thinking of a much better way to say something – too late!)
JK Rowling spoke about the moment Harry Potter took form in her mind. But she had no pen and had to sit in a train for four hours so she sat and stared and let the ideas tumble around in her thoughts. How do you capture the first ideas for a story?
I can relate to how the process developed for JK Rowling. I do my best brainstorming while driving long distances. Stuck in a car frees up my mind and allows me to focus in a way that sitting in front of a computer can fail to do.
Do you write your first draft with your head or your heart?
A bit of both. I write a scene with an idea of where I want it to go, but often my heart takes over and some surprising things occur between the hero and heroine. I edit each scene as I go and end up with a fairly clean draft. Gone are the days when I have to sort an unruly mess out.
How do you choose your book dedications?
I dedicate my books to my favorite people, or someone who might have influenced the writing of the book. And some are dedicated to those loved ones I’ve lost.
Tell me about your next book – a short excerpt if you want to share.
WHAT A RAKE WANTS is the third book in the Mayfair Spy Series. Nothing here is written in stone. It all may be changed:
Althea Brookwood sat with her Aunt Catherine while the musicians enjoyed a break. Mrs. Maxwell’s ball, always a favorite, was in full swing.
“It has been over a year since Brookwood died.”
Aunt Catherine’s conversation had changed little from the last time she saw her. Her aunt compressed her lips. “You should consider marrying again.”
Althea’s answer remained the same also. “I have no wish to.”
Aunt Catherine eyed her through her lorgnette. “I know Brookwood was a devil. I heard the rumors. I thought it was good riddance when he died in that duel.”
Althea shivered. Aunt Catherine didn’t know the half of it. Brookwood’s obvious dissatisfaction with her had been a torment from the very beginning. Now she was free, and determined to stay that way. No man would ever hold sway over her again, bending her to his will. She smiled at her aunt. “I know you care about me, Aunt, and I’m very grateful.”
“Did Brookwood leave you well provided for?”
“My income allows me to live comfortably.” If she was careful. She had learned thrift living with a parsimonious husband.
The elderly lady touched the brilliants at her throat. “You know the bulk of my estates were entailed, but you will inherit the rest. I’d like to know to whom I’m leaving my money, before I die. Not another bounder like Brookwood.”
Althea leaned across and kissed her aunt’s soft cheek. “Have no fear. I shan’t make that mistake. I had no say in my marriage to Brookwood. Father arranged it.” The possibility of being at the mercy of another like him made her stomach flip over.
“Lord Ingleby has recently been widowed. He’s shown a considerable interest in you and he’s plump in the pocket.” Undaunted, her aunt continued, “Won’t be after my money.”
Another man with more than a touch of violence about him. It was in his eyes and the tight way he held himself. Althea recognized the signs and suppressed a shiver. “I don’t find him attractive.”
“Attractive? That’s of little importance. We are talking about a husband, not a lover.”
Her aunt’s husband had died some years ago. A generous, quiet man, a good deal older than Catherine. She studied her aunt, whom she was said to favor. Catherine was still arresting in a Gros de Naples gown of deep violet, the color of her eyes, which had not dimmed. Might she have taken a lover at some point? Althea dismissed the idea immediately. There had never been a whiff of scandal attached to her.
“You can’t say that Irishman, Montsimon, isn’t attractive,” Aunt Catherine said with a nod of her head.
Althea turned to see his lordship’s sleek head above the crowd. He was part of the Regent’s fast set. “Yes, he is, and a rake.”
“Some woman will tame him. Rakes make the best husbands once they settle down.”
“If they settle down.” She didn’t tell her aunt that Montsimon had attempted to woo her into his bed. Since she had been widowed, many men pursued her. Widows were seen as fair game. Men assumed she was dying of frustration! She supposed she was an oddity. Younger widows often remarried after a year of mourning. Others found suitable arrangements outside marriage. She curled her fingers tightly into her palm. After her marriage ended as brutally as it began, she had wished for neither.
Her aunt’s bright violet eyes fastened on hers. “See the way Montsimon looks at you. If you play your cards right, you’ll be the one to tame him, my dear. Well worth the effort, I’ll wager.”
“How do you suggest I do that?” she asked, surprised and curious despite herself.
“You take him into your bed. Eventually. But first, you play him like a salmon on a hook. You never promise what you won’t deliver, mind. That would not be sporting.” Her aunt fluttered her fan as if the thought made her too warm. “At first let him get to know you. Let him begin to want more from you than merely someone to warm his bed. When he can’t live without you, then….”
Althea gasped. Perhaps she’d misjudged her relative. “Aunt…”
Her aunt laughed. “You’re surprised?”
“I knew you to be wise and somewhat shrewd, but I never suspected you capable of such….” She fell silent.
Snapping her fan shut, her aunt nodded with a wink. “I’m as crafty as a fox, my dear. And you are my niece, just as intelligent and smart yourself.” She gazed over Althea’s shoulder. “The prey advances. No doubt to ask you to dance. I would advise you not to shun him.”
Althea turned to see Lord Montsimon making his way purposely towards her. She could not refuse his request to dance, for it was bad ton when she’d been seen to be dancing earlier. Could she keep a man such as him at bay? He had all the charm of the Irish in his soft burr and the looks to go with it, a kind of loose-limbed grace and elegance. And he had intriguing smoky grey eyes, which often held a spark of humor. She found humor attractive in a man and had decided it wise to avoid him. He bowed over her hand. “Might I have the pleasure of this dance, Lady Brookwood?”
His eyes held a gleam, which defied her to refuse. She lifted the corners of her mouth in a polite but distant smile. “Yes, my lord.”
If he were surprised she had accepted him so readily, he had the grace not to show it. The last time she had pleaded a headache.
Leading her onto the floor, he clasped an arm around her waist as the musicians began to play. Althea marveled that in spite of his long list of lovers, no serious scandal had attached itself to him. Women did talk, but only praise and regret had reached her ears. Silver tongued, he bewitched them, and she needed to develop some kind of armor against him, for they met often during the Season. Montsimon no doubt looked upon her as a challenge; for few women would refuse him and she quite deliberately had done so. To keep a grip on her emotions, she gazed around at the other dancers, and imagined she danced with the king who held no attraction for her. But it was difficult; Montsimon’s wide shoulder felt hard beneath her gloved hand. He was slim, but she’d guess his body would be sinewy and strong. Her eyes drifted downwards.
She looked up to find him watching her with a smile lurking on his lips. As if he could read her thoughts. The invitation in his gray eyes almost robbed her of breath.
“You are silent this evening, Lady Althea,” he said, as he swept her expertly around the floor. “I am used to at least a spirited exchange from you. My dancing displeases you?”
“Not at all, my lord. I’m enjoying the music. You dance extremely well.” As he did most things, no doubt.
He smiled. “An accomplished partner makes a man look good.”
“You are too gracious.”
His hand in her gloved one tightened, settling her closer. “Too gracious? Would you prefer me not to be? I am of a versatile nature. I can be whatever you wish.”
She glanced up through her lashes. “I am gratified, my lord, that you desire to please me.”
“You have only to tell me what it is you wish of me,” he said in a honeyed tone, his eyes twinkling.
The music ended and couples began to leave the floor. “I wish only for you to return me to my aunt, my lord.” Unaccountably hot, she tucked her hand into his arm. How smug he looked. She would love to take men like him down a peg or two. Could she ever embark on such a scheme as her aunt suggested? It seemed remarkably dishonest. She liked few men, and as for rakes, they deserved all they got.
He led her from the floor. “Ah, Lady Althea, you disappoint me. Here I was thinking there was more to you than being content with the dull life you appear to lead. I sensed a desire for adventure, romance. I’m sure I glimpsed it in your eyes.”
“I am most concerned for your sight, my lord. Perhaps a physician?” she said crisply, stung by his assumption that her life was dull.
He chuckled as they reached her aunt. Without further ado, he bowed to them both and left her.
“Well?” Aunt Catherine leaned forward.
“Did you make an assignation?”
Althea took up her fan and waved it in front of her hot face knowing it lacked any semblance of grace. “Of course I did not. It would have been most improper.”
“I declare you wish to live vicariously through me, aunt.”
Her aunt snorted. “A widow must make her way in the world. He talks now to Maria Broadstairs. See how she laughs with him and has placed a hand on his arm.”
“The Duchess is happily married. She likes to flirt.”
“At least she knows how.” Aunt Catherine shook her head despairingly. “I believe you need lessons, Althea.”
As usual your writing has me hooked from the start, Maggi – look forward to its release! To find out more about Maggi find her at: