Ashlyn: I’m not sure I can say I prefer reading to writing. Both are their own forms of escape, and in my case, one led to the other. When a book’s world is really well done, I want to move in and stay there. I love living the characters’ adventures with them, but I also love the unexplored vistas. One of my favorite books ever is the fantasy epic, The Lord of the Rings, and one of the things I love most about it is the deep sense of history and a fully developed world. And there is so much additional material a reader can delve into and create his or her own scenarios. Even if Middle-earth is a dangerous place (and yeah, I know, it doesn’t really exist—but it could have), I would happily go and live there.
Even when I was a kid, I just didn’t want certain books to end. I wanted the world to go on and on, and I wanted to be a part of it. Sometimes I’d convince my friends to play pretend in a given book world, but my friends didn’t always read the same things I did. And then as an adult, I discovered fanfiction on the internet. Here was a way to remain inside a story world, and I didn’t need anyone else to come along with me. I could take characters, invent others and make up my own story set in a world I loved.
Eventually, I found myself writing more and more minor characters so I wasn’t necessarily stuck with the personality traits the author gave them. That was the point where I knew I should start writing my own characters and worlds.
Lisarenee: ’A Most Devilish Rogue’ is your second book to be published and ‘A Most Scandalous Proposal’ is your first. Both are set within historical time periods. When I went to RWA I took a class on how to do research for a historical romance. I knew a lot of research went into them, but I was rather amazed at how much authors do to keep things true to the era. I could see some authors shying away from writing a historical novel because of this. So I’m curious, what is it about the Regency era that made you decide to set your stories there? Is it one of your favorite time periods? Do you have more than one favorite era? What do you love most about the Regency time period that you chose it for your novels?
Ashlyn: You could say the Regency chose me. I don’t actually have a favorite time period. I started reading romances back in the 80s before authors were constrained by the concept of branding and always writing the same period. So authors like Johanna Lindsey and Heather Graham wrote historicals set in all kinds of time periods from the Vikings forward—and Lindsey even wrote some futuristic stuff.
The Regency sneaked up on me when I got a very rabid plot bunny that was born out of two other published Regency novels, an idea that eventually became A Most Scandalous Proposal. I did try to set the first book in Colonial Williamsburg very early on, but the story didn’t want to cooperate until I gave in and let it be the Regency it wanted to be.
The whole research aspect never really daunted me. I’ve always liked history, and especially social history. I never wanted to write any other kind of romance but historical (or possibly fantasy). I love the dresses and the mores and the tension the stricter social expectations create.
Lisarenee: If you could travel to any time period or event in the past and back safely, which time period and/or event would you choose? Is there anything special you’d want to take back with you if you could or is there something you’d like to see or witness?
Ashlyn: Oh wow. If you include fantasy there, I’d go to Middle-earth, hands down. But if you restrict me to the real world, probably Colonial America during the Revolutionary War. I’m really fascinated by that time period. If we’re talking specifics, I’d like to witness the Battle of Saratoga, because I set one of my stories around that, so purely for research purposes. Or perhaps the Battle of Quebec. Yes, the Americans did try to invade Canada. You just don’t hear much about those events because the Americans lost. But I’ve got another story on the back burner set during that time. Yes, in Quebec. Yes, in the middle of winter.
Lisarenee: In ‘A Most Devilish Rogue’, you start off with the main character, George, in a very unexpected situation. His mistress has just announced she’s in the family way. This first chapter shows a very different George from the one we later get to know. In that first chapter, he seems a little naïve as well as a little bit of a cad. I rather enjoyed seeing his world tip on axis and not know what to do. Was that one of several reasons you decided this would be the first chapter--so we could see the contrast of this initial George to the man he grows into at the end? I kind of felt by the end of the novel, his rose colored view of the world was removed and he saw things a little more clearly.
Ashlyn: If you met him in the first book, you know he’s rather devil-may-care and can be generous to a fault.
I most definitely wanted him to start out in a bad place and have it become instantly worse. I also probably shouldn’t admit this, but he was even more of a cad the way I originally wrote that opening chapter. My critique group made me work to soften him up. But I wanted that element in there—becoming a father is the absolute last thing he wants, and he’s struggling not to let it show, and yet I have to clue the reader in to the fact that he has issues with his father and he definitely doesn’t like this most recent turn of events.
All that to set up the situation with the actual heroine who already has a child.
As for the naïve aspect, I’m not sure he completely loses that. He’s still a bit of an idealist even at the end of the book with his plans… well, I won’t say what they are to avoid spoilers. The villain of the story even calls him on it during their confrontation.
Lisarenee: Speaking of George, I was a little surprised by the name choice. I’ve only ever known one George and it seems like forever since I’ve heard of someone using it. Then I read your book and the next thing I notice is that the newest royal to be introduced to the world, born on July 22nd, was named George Alexander Louis, Prince of Cambridge. :) Do you think we’ll see an increase in the use of the name? It seems you’ve got great timing in using it for your character's name. I also noticed that this royal birth inspired you to defend the name choice by writing three, with a possible fourth in the works, blog posts entitled, ‘Reclaiming Sexy’ http://ashlynmacnamara.net/reclaiming-sexy/ and ‘Sexy Men Named George Part 1’ http://ashlynmacnamara.net/sexy-men-named-george-part-1/ and ‘Sexy Men Named George Part 2’ http://ashlynmacnamara.net/sexy-men-named-george-part-2/ Were you surprised by people’s reaction to newest Prince’s name?
Ashlyn: I feel like I ought to thank the Cambridges for such a fortuitous choice, and I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised that people’s first reaction was to the sexiness (or rather lack thereof) of George as a name.
George Upperton got his name back during the planning stages of the first book when I hadn’t even considered the possibility of writing a second. He was the hero’s BFF, so I gave him a nice, solid Regency name. And what was more common back then than being named for one’s monarch? So that was my only consideration when I chose to call him George.
I think it’s quite likely we’ll see more Georges in the latest generation, due to the royal baby. And really, it’s a good name. It hasn’t hurt George Clooney’s sexy factor in any way, shape, or form.
Lisarenee: Do you think authors are perhaps more observant or perhaps have a more heightened awareness of the character traits in other people and, because of this, can create believable characters? When creating character for novels, do you tend to take traits you like or perhaps dislike from people in real life? What types of things do you take into consideration when creating your character’s personalities? Do you get an image of the character in your head or do you evaluate their traits first? Do you zero in on something you find interesting in other people or do the characters just seem to take on a life of their own in your imagination?
Ashlyn: My characters have minds of their own, and they’re quite adamant about getting their way. About all I’m allowed to decide is their physical appearance, but God help me if I try to make one of them do something he or she doesn’t want to. They stop playing with me then, and trust me, these people are stubborn. More stubborn than I am. So yes, they definitely take on a life of their own.
Ashlyn: I don’t know that I can name a favorite of all time. I’ve read many that I love, and many I consider great. My favorite authors all write with lovely, lush prose, a sense of humor and have deep, deep characters who know how to grab you by the heart and squeeze. Sherry Thomas is a master at this kind of thing.
Lisarenee: I’ve heard inspiration can strike an author at any moment. What is the funniest/inconvenient time when you’ve been struck with an idea and just had to write it down?
Ashlyn: A plot bunny almost always sinks its teeth into me when I’m in the middle of working on something totally unrelated. And the darned things don’t leave me alone until I do something about it, because they stand there, mocking me with the idea of a shiny new story, usually at a point where I’m thoroughly stuck on the current one.
“Write me, write me… I won’t leave you in the lurch.”
Yeah, right. I’ve been down that road before. Plot bunnies lie.
I also invariably get smaller bursts of ideas in the shower, and then it’s always a race to finish so I don’t lose the thought. I haven’t yet resorted to writing on the tiles in shampoo, but the day is coming, no doubt.
Lisarenee: Are you working on anything at the moment that you could share and give us a little taste of what we have to look forward to? If so, roughly when can we expect it to make its way to store shelves?
Ashlyn: I am working on something right now, but it’s still a bit of a secret. I can tell you it’s a Regency and it might just involve George’s sister Henrietta, as well as the man who jilted her as hinted in A Most Devilish Rogue. As of now, I don’t have a release date.
Lisarenee: What, in your opinion, is one of the most romantic things one individual can do for another?
Ashlyn: Sacrifice. Giving up what you hold most dear for the other person, because it will better your SO’s life in some way. It’s the ultimate grand gesture.
Lisarenee: What is the best thing, in your opinion, about being a romance author?
Ashlyn: Getting paid to listen to the voices in my head!
Lisarenee: lol Thanks Ahslyn for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions. I loved reading your answers.
George Upperton is a man in trouble with debts, women, and a meddling family. He is, by all accounts, the last gentleman on earth Isabelle should be drawn to. But loneliness is a hard mistress, and caution gives way to desire . . . even though Isabelle is convinced that happiness can’t be found in the arms of such a devilish rogue. Only when Jack is kidnapped does Isabelle discover the true depth of George’s devotion—and how far a good man will go to fight for the woman whose love is all that matters.