Readers, thanks for visiting! Today, Theresa Romain and I are chatting about our January historical romances, which both feature heiress heroines (mine: True Pretenses, and hers: Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress). But as we talked, we discovered many more things we wanted to talk about—everything from character casting to mall singers to “manflirting” as an aristocratic cultural marker.
This is part 2 of 2 of the chat. You can find the beginning on Theresa’s blog. And please stick around to comment, because we’re offering a book giveaway on each site!
When last you saw us on Theresa’s blog, Theresa was talking about the silly plans romance heroes make…
Rose: They really do! They’re like, “Okay, I’ll just do this totally ridiculous thing [like never telling anyone their secret identity or whatever] for the rest of my life and that will be fine. IT WILL BE FINE.” And it’s like, HOW DO YOU THINK THAT WILL BE FINE? IT’S OBVIOUSLY NOT FINE. “No I’m fine. Really. Fine. Back off!” But they have to think it’s fine because otherwise what is the point of life? Making a real change doesn’t seem possible.
Theresa: Right. They’re just getting by as best they can with whatever patched-together methods cover their wounds or poverties or secrets.
Rose: I think what limited Ash the most was that he really, really deeply believed the maxim he made up for Rafe: “We have to take care of ourselves, because nobody else will do it for us.” And it limited him in that he was never able to trust anyone or expect anything from them, and that he was never able to really give anything to anyone outside his family. He got really stingy with his love.
Theresa: But it just got pent up! And he had so much to give! Like I said. Adorable.
Rose: lol, yes, Ash is like a champagne bottle of love! And now I’m thinking about how phallic champagne bottles often are in movies and wishing I hadn’t said that.
Now for something completely different: I consistently really love how you write description. Your books are just a sensory experience. Does that happen naturally as you write, or do you go back and add it in? There were some descriptions of Bath in this book that were just breathtaking.
Theresa: Thank you! That is an awesome compliment. I can’t give a great answer, because the way I write is like making sausage. (Disgusting simile ahoy!) I cram bits of story together and work on them and chop them up in different way and then when I’m happy with the seasoning I move on to the next link. So I try to include as much as I can but every scene evolves before I move on to the next.
Rose: But it’s not like at the end you think, “Okay, now I have to make this not take place in a white room” and go tack on some descriptive passages. Which is what I do.
Theresa: I do have to say that to myself! “Crap. Can’t these characters just sit still in chairs and talk to each other??” The setting doesn’t come naturally to me because I am not a visual person at all. How about you? Were there any bits of True Pretenses that were really aggravating to write?
Rose: Hmm. You know, I can’t think of any! Writing this book was a weirdly smooth process. I never went through that bit in the middle where suddenly I hate everything.
Theresa: How did you manage that??
Rose: I don’t know, but I can think of a few things I did differently. For one thing, this was the first book I actually sent to my BFF bit by bit as I wrote it, and she was very excited about it. That definitely helped a lot. I think casting before I started writing was part of it, too. For the first time, I had a very clear mental picture of both Ash and Lydia. And since I’m not very visual either, that really helped me.
Theresa: I am taking notes. For real. That’s a great idea.
Rose: And the fact that I cast Ash as someone I think is crazy hot didn’t hurt either!
Theresa: Okay, you know I have to ask who.
Rose: Mark Ruffalo. 🙂
Theresa: AAAAAAAAAAAA brilliant!
Rose: Actually, the book was inspired by this con artist movie Mark Ruffalo was in, “Brothers Bloom,” because I was so displeased with the ending. And also because in that movie, Mark Ruffalo’s plan to set his brother up actually works even though the heiress he chooses is totally just like him. And I thought, “Dude, no, you are setting your brother up with the perfect woman for YOU….OH MY GOD I HAVE TO WRITE THAT BOOK.”
How about you? Where did you get the idea for Secrets?
Theresa: It started with the characters. I knew from the previous book, To Charm a Naughty Countess, that I wanted to pair Augusta and Joss, and I had this feeling (based on nothing whatsoever) that the story should be set in Bath. From there it was like, what can I throw at these two that takes advantage of the setting and also their quirks? But if I’m completely honest, my favorite scenes to write were the ones with Sutcliffe and Joss. I had never written a villain(?) like Sutcliffe before and he wound up being really fun.
Rose: Sutcliffe was great. I just felt SO BAD for him. Like, a person does not behave like that if they aren’t really unhappy.
Theresa: Right! He was a really thwarted guy, but he’d never see himself that way because he was rich and titled. He’s like a grown-up toddler. Breaks stuff, doesn’t understand consequences, desperate for attention…
Rose: Now I am imagining Lord Sutcliffe as a Justin Bieber-type teen idol. It’s pretty sad.
Theresa: He would LOVE being a teen idol. But eventually he would be reduced to the Regency equivalent of singing in malls.
Rose: I feel like Sutcliffe wouldn’t even really mind singing in malls, so long as he got enough attention from the event organizers…Ugh, but deep inside he would sense that something was wrong and would just do more coke. (Speed?) Meanwhile Joss is his long-suffering cousin/manager.
Theresa: You’re so right. Sutcliffe would be all cool with any attention, as long as he had his pouch of dried somalata.
Rose: Oh, can I also mention how much I loved “manflirting”?
Theresa: Oh, yay! Mr. R tried to get me to take that reference out, but I disagreed.
Rose: I loved it a LOT. It was a really interesting culture-clash moment, because it’s a behavior that’s quintessentially masculine and bro-ish in Joss’s world. But in Augusta’s it’s sort of frivolous and showy and that makes it seem feminine/flirty. Also it was hilarious.
Theresa: Yesss! Joss is used to being indispensable to Sutcliffe, so it’s weird for him to find something he’s not good at.
Rose: And it was another moment where you see that even though Joss doesn’t see himself as an aristocrat, he looks like one from the outside. It was a neat little counterpoint to all the times Augusta didn’t notice how rich she was being.
Theresa: I’m glad it came across that way. He feels hampered by his poverty (more so than being mixed race) but he takes social cachet for granted. He and Augusta both have reasons to side-eye each other and tell the other to check their privilege.
I like all the playful names you use to give the whole village of Lively St. Lemeston a personality. How did you choose Lydia and Ash’s names? Or did you just like them?
Rose: Well, Lydia looks like Holland Roden who plays Lydia on Teen Wolf. After I cast her I tried to pick a new name for her, but I just couldn’t find one that suited as well as Lydia, so I kept it. For Ash…I really like the name Asher, and it’s a name that can be disguised as Gentile and aristocratic very easily. It happens to be a fashionable hero name at the moment—clearly it’s something in the water because I chose it a pretty long time ago and so, presumably, did all those other writers. Name fashions are fascinating to me. I don’t understand how they work.
Theresa: That’s true, character names seem to go in and out of fashion just like real-life names. Wonder what all the heroes will be named in 2016?
Rose: Something I worried about while writing the book is that I’m not sure how many Americans would immediately realize that “Ralph” and “Rafe” are pronounced the same in England. Hopefully a lot! But I really have no idea.
Theresa: More since Ralph Fiennes played Voldemort!
Rose: Yes! Thanks, Mr. Fiennes, for everything related to that performance.
So how did you pick the name Joss? I feel like that’s one I haven’t seen a lot and I really liked it.
Theresa: Joss was the best nickname I could think of for Josiah, which is his full name. He got named before he became a hero, and then when it was clear he was going to get his own book, I wanted to call him something more casual. I can’t remember if this made it into the final draft of Secrets, but I at one point had his mother choosing his name because of its meaning—God supports, or similar depending on translation. Because she felt so alone.
Theresa: But that would have come after he was already named and I was just trying to make it make sense in the story. Like Augusta’s parents coming from Portsmouth. Her surname was Meredith and I needed a hometown for her, so I looked up where the writer George Meredith was from. Ta da! And as it turned out, Portsmouth inspired her parents’ business AND later provided a way to kill them off.
Theresa: It really is.
In Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress, a wild heroine creates a false identity for herself in Bath, where she meets her match in an Anglo-Indian hero with secrets of his own. Read the first chapter here: bit.ly/1qOjyAU
Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress is available now! Get your copy from your favorite retailer:
And that’s all, folks! Remember, you can read part one at Theresa’s blog (and comment there to win an e-book of my True Pretenses).
Here, commenters are entered to win a copy of the first book in Theresa’s Matchmakers Trilogy, It Takes Two to Tangle (it’s so good)! The giveaway is open internationally, and the winner can choose a print copy, Kindle book, or Nook book.
What’s your favorite hero name?