Thursday, May 28, 2009

Interview with Romance Author Carolyn Jewel

Welcome Carolyn Jewel! Carolyn used to be a Leisure Lady, penning Lord Ruin and The Spare for Dorchester. Now she's moved to Berkley, where she writes historical romances, and Grand Central (formerly Warner), where she has created a paranormal series.

We'll do a giveaway--please post your comments on the interview to enter our drawing for a free copy of My Wicked Enemy, the prequel to Carolyn's brand new release, My Forbidden Desire,

Join me in congratulating Carolyn on her releases this year:

The historical romance, Scandal, in Feb and

a paranormal romance: My Forbidden Desire, which was released this Tuesday (May 26).

Let’s start with Scandal, the historical. I loved many things about this book: first that it was character driven (but with real historical events driving the plot). Second, your terrific sense of the Regency period (in this case spring of 1815), and third, the marvelous detail of London you included.

CJ: Thank you, by the way, for all the kind words, Jennifer. I'm so pleased to be interviewed here!

JA: Tell us a little bit about Scandal and its characters, Bannalt and Sophie.

CJ: Scandal is the story of a couple who must find a way beyond their tumultuous and sometimes unpleasant past if they're to have a future. They've both changed since their initial meeting when they would probably have qualified as the world's most unsuitable couple. But that was then, and 1815 is now, and things are different.

Lord Banallt is a reformed rake. What makes him interesting, for me, anyway, is that at the start of the story, he's already realized he hasn't behaved well with Sophie, or just in general, actually, and he deeply regrets it. As the story progresses, he completes his reformation, but all without any guarantee that he will win his heart's desire. He is, in fact, prepared to live without the woman he loves because there may not be any way to repair the damage he's done.

Sophie is a woman who, at 17, eloped with a man she loved. And she did love him. Though she was unhappy, she remained dedicated to her marriage and her husband. Alas, he was a fortune hunter and once he had her money, he wasn't interested in her. By 1815, she's widowed and a much wiser woman. Banallt, too, is widowed now. Sophie believes she knows Banallt all too well. After all, he's the man her husband aspired to be. She has no interest in being married to another man who won't remain faithful to her.

JA: I enjoyed how you made Bannalt a true rake in the past (not just a misunderstood hero). His initial meet with Sophie was eye opening.

JA: I liked the fact that Sophie was a published novelist. Her “scribbling” called to mind Jo March in Little Women, who also wrote to pay the bills. Why did you decide to make Sophie an author?

CJ: When I was in graduate school I did a research project on Eleanor Sleath, a woman who wrote during the very late Georgian period and the Regency (between 1797 and 1815 or so). Sleath is the author, most famously, of Orphan of the Rhine, which is mentioned in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. (Oh, I'm so very much resisting launching into my exciting discoveries about Sleath!) At any rate, in the course of my research, I learned an immense amount about publishing and writing during the Regency era.

After a bit of math, I found that the economics of writing have changed remarkably little since then. For the most part, the majority of debut and mid-list writers today make about what writers made then, which is to say, not every much. The difference now is in royalties and the licensing of copyright. In the early 19th century, publishers bought the copyright outright. If the book was successful, authors still never saw an additional penny for their work. Foreign editions were common, too, again, with no additional compensation for the author.

There were women (and men) who wrote novels to pay the bills. As we know from Northanger Abbey, the "horrid" novels, such as those published by the Minerva Press, were not held in very high regard. Nor, for the most part, were their authors. And yet, I've seen private correspondence that suggests the attitude was much like it is today; "Oh, you write those kind of books, tee hee!" With an undercurrent of admiration for the endeavor.

In Scandal, when Sophie ended up married to a man who spent all her money and then abandoned her to the country, what could she do? She was estranged from her family so they weren't a source of assistance. Women had far fewer economic opportunities than men. Writing was something that could be done anonymously, as many men and women did during the time. That was a perfect solution for Sophie and since I happened to have learned quite a lot about the subject, it was perfect for me, too!

Sleath, by the way, was a wealthy widow who re-married under scandalous circumstances, so I doubt she was writing for the money. Other than a children's novel (Glenowen) she did not write after her marriage, though there is evidence she was working on a novel set in India. Thus, there are only six Sleath novels, with copies scattered around the world in various libraries. They are findable in Google Books, but there is no preview available (why? oh why?). Sniff. I would love to read all six.

JA: Interesting! I knew about Minerva Press and Ann Radcliffe (Mysteries of Udolpho), which you mention in Scandal, but I didn't know about Sleath. I'll have to check her out.

JA: I loved that I could follow your characters as they walked down each London street. What kind of research did you do to imbibe the story with such detail?

CJ: I have a copy of The History of London in Maps, so I was able to consult detailed maps from the period and use streets that really did exist. Some of those streets have since disappeared, such as Gray Street and Harriet Street, though Harriet Street still exists at the opposite end of where I put my heroine and her brother when they arrived in London.

When I knew I wanted her to walk to a respectable home owned by Lord Banallt (not his primary home, but another, less formal home he used for reasons of politics) out came my London in Maps, and I poured over it until I found just such a location; Charlotte Row.

Of course, I have no idea what Gray Street really looked like at the time -- though the map does show the individual buildings. I took the liberty of laying waste to many homes in order to have my hero's palatial formal home located there. Google maps, satellite view, was very helpful for figuring out if there were front yards, iron fences (no and yes) and determining the size of historic houses and streets still in existence.

JA: I also love maps; I plastered my wall with maps of Regency London while writing my Regency mystery series.

JA: Your hero in Scandal has an unusual first name (Gwilym, though throughout the book he’s always called Bannalt, by his title). A Welsh name, correct? And he has cousins with the surname Llewellyn. Why did you choose to make your hero have Welsh origins? What about that interested you?

CJ: I did make him Welsh. I had originally intended that his being Welsh would matter a bit more to the story, but, alas, it turned out it didn't. I never did get to send Banallt and Sophie to his estate in Wales. And I really did want to! I was also dying to use his awesomely cool first name more, but again, as the story developed, it turned out Sophie and Banallt simply didn't have the kind of relationship and interaction that would have permitted her to use his first name. That would have been bold indeed of her, not to mention invite the kind if intimacy she was determined to avoid at all costs. Calling him by his title name was about as familiar as she could ever get.

Wales is such a beautiful country that I really wanted to use the scenery. And that estate of Banallt's. But that's not what their story called for. As you can probably guess from that, I'm one of those "discover the story as I write" people. For me, there's always a tension between what I want and what my characters will do. There's a point in the writing where any attempt to impose my desires on the characters results in a story that feels dead or forced. Beyond a certain point, if I don't follow them, I'm in big trouble.

JA: Well, we can close the book and imagine them retreating to his estate in Wales to live happily ever after! That's the fun of romances.

JA: In October, you have a release called Indiscreet (with another lovely cover). Tell us a little bit about that book.

CJ: Though you'd never know it from the cover or the back blurb, Indiscreet is a Regency-era story primarily set in Ottoman Turkey -- present day Turkey and Syria. The story begins and ends in England though. To compensate for the exotic locale, the story is in many ways a classic Regency romance. And then again, not. Because they're in the Ottoman Empire, after all.

The hero of the story is Lord Foye, a man who never expected to inherit his title and who is still adjusting to his responsibilities and duties. Foye is a bit atypical for a hero because he's prone to put on muscle without much effort, he's 6'6" (so far he sounds very typical, but wait!) He's not very attractive, and he is aware that his size makes him stand out even more. Having been bitterly disappointed in love, he's decided to travel the world before he returns to London to find a suitable bride. He's visiting a long time family friend who makes his home in Turkey (this was actually not at all uncommon) when he meets Miss Sabine Godard.

Sabine has been raised by her uncle, a former Oxford don. Her upbringing is unusual in that her uncle intended all along that she would spend her life looking after him, and he's educated her accordingly. She's a very pretty woman who is most comfortable in academic circles -- not that she would have been permitted direct participation, but she's intellectually gifted. She's restricted to gatherings that take place in private. Her one visit to London ends in social disaster. Her uncle has decided they should travel while he is well enough and they end up in a city outside Constantinople, just in time to meet Lord Foye.

Sabine and Foye seem an unlikely couple and they are, but they have quite a bit in common, as it turns out. There's also a rapacious pasha and some traveling through the Ottoman Empire. The research for this book was fun and fascinating. Google books was tremendously helpful, since I got access to period accounts of Englishmen who traveled in the Ottoman Empire and wrote about their experience. After a bit, I learned to recognize sources who were merely echoing things previous authors had said rather than saying anything original. And, of course, I read modern histories of the Empire. Good thing I'm a history junkie!

Europeans had a more or less permanent presence in the Empire, but were not permitted to stay in Constantinople -- they resided in cities at the outskirts. British ex-patriots raised families there, and military men brought wives and daughters, and had children, too. In this period, the Ottoman Empire was showing signs of the stress that eventually brought about its demise about a hundred years later -- corruption, religious fanaticism, insurrections in the outlying provinces. Napoleon was mucking about in Egypt and with the Russians present too, the English were quite interested in maintaining an economic and political rapport with the Sultanate.

The cover, by the way, really is lovely, and I adore the way the Berkley art department made the hero so muscular -- exactly like Foye!

JA: This sounds like a fascinating book. I'm looking forward to reading about the unusual setting!

JA: Now onto your paranormal release My Forbidden Desire.

A blurb I snitched from your website: “Alexandrine Marit is a witch in mortal danager. An evil mage craves the powerful, mysterious talisman that supplies her magic, and the only person who can keep her alive is a dark and dangerous fiend called Xia. With his fierce animosity toward witches, he's hardly the ideal bodyguard.”

CJ: My Forbidden Desire is a sequel (I think that's what you'd call it) to My Wicked Enemy, in which Xia was a major antagonist. In most of My Wicked Enemy, Xia is enslaved by a mage and forced to do some unsavory things.

JA: Tell us a little bit about Alexandrine and Xia. What are Fiends?

Alexandrine is a witch who doesn't have very much power. She manages to get her hands on an amulet that's supposed to amp up her abilities. As it turns out, not so much. She doesn't know the amulet's "magic" is leaking into her and bonding her in a way that may cost her her life. Other mages, including her biological father, want the amulet because they know what it really is and have the power to use it.

Xia is a fiend, a kind of demon, and he hates witches. Really hates them. He was enslaved by a mage for years, after all, and he's seen firsthand what the magekind do to people like him.

After a series of events that I swear aren't as coincidental as it sounds (some of which were set up in the previous book, though it's not necessary to read that one first), Xia ends up with the happy task of making sure Alexandrine doesn't get killed by the mages after her amulet. Did I say happy? Sure, if by happy you mean the exact opposite of happy.

Her amulet, it turns out, contains the tortured life force of a murdered demon and Xia wants to perform a dangerous ritual that will release the demon from its prison to be absorbed into his magic. Despite the risk, fiends consider it an honor to undergo this ritual since it ends the suffering of the fiend who was killed and trapped. Alexandrine's father has other ideas about that, but her bond with the amulet and the growing attraction between her and Xia makes things even more complicated.

JA: Tell us about the world you’ve created in this series, and how the books are connected.

CJ: There's some bad history between fiends and the magekind, and neither side is wholly innocent. There was a time back in the Dark Ages, when fiends and demons were routinely crossing the line with humans, possessing them and ruining lives. So it's no wonder the mages (humans with magic) started fighting back. For quite some time how, mages have been enslaving fiends or simply killing them outright, first in the name of protecting the innocent and then, eventually, to take the fiend's power through a ritual murder and thus prolong the mage's life.

It's no surprise that the fiends are fighting back again -- they don't care for being murdered and enslaved. Fiends are clannish and the various factions are headed by warlords -- demons with more power and abilities. There is disagreement among them about the best course of action against the mages. Some warlords want immediate war and others counsel a more patient, pragmatic approach.

My Wicked Enemy is the first book set in this mostly normal, everyday world. As mentioned, Xia is a major secondary character in that book, so the two stories are related in that sense. Tensions between fiends and mages continue to escalate. It's not war yet, but it may be soon.

JA: Very cool! You've set up some great tension between the mages and fiends. Will there be any more in this series?

CJ: Yes! Looks like I'll be lucky enough to write at least two more stories set in this world. The next will be Durian's. He's a fiend who has special abilities as an assassin tasked with taking down fiends who've crossed the line with humans. And maybe some other special assignments. In My Wicked Enemy, Durian makes a mistake that results in him being enslaved by a mage. We meet Durian again in My Forbidden Desire. Of course, his story is early in development right now, but he's going to meet a woman who challenges him in some very interesting ways.

JA: Like I do, you write both historical romance and paranormal romance. What do you like (and dislike) about writing two subgenres?

CJ: Both sorts of stories, historicals and paranormals, offer some very interesting ways to look at social relationships, particularly between men and women. In a historical, a woman very rarely has any economic power. The reality is that the (European) legal system and social system of the past placed that power with the male. Which is not to say women were powerless. They weren't.

But women obtained and exercised power in very different ways, and in a vastly restricted sphere, especially compared to today. For me, the cost those artificial social restrictions placed on women (and men, to an extent) makes for some explosive situations. How do you get on in a culture that assumes your inferiority? Women aren't inferior, and you can be sure that there were men who knew that, even while they lived in a culture that enforced that belief.

I love reading about history and learning about how and why people did things. The clothes are lovely, too.

A paranormal gets me away from the social and legal restrictions placed on women in the past, and yet, there is still (typically) a significantly unequal balance of power between a paranormal creature and a human, or even between different paranormal types. In a paranormal, I don't have to worry about how my heroine will support herself. She can have a job, live by herself, and even have gone to college! Not to mention drive a car and vote. No one thinks her uterus will fall out if she exercises too hard or runs too far (that, I fear, was something still being said by old fogeys when I was a girl.)

In a paranormal, a heroine can actually take power in a way that historical heroine simply cannot. I also don't have to stress about language (oops! Can't say "sexy" in 1815!) Plus, magic is pretty cool.

JA: Ok, I haven't heard the one about the uterus falling out if we exercise too hard. Right. I have heard about reading romances being bad for our poor little vulnerable brains, however. :-)

I like your idea about both kinds of books being about balances of power. Good food for thought.

JA: Where can readers learn more about you and your books?

CJ: I'm on the web at, Twitter at twitter/cjewel, Facebook and MySpace. Email, too:

JA: Thanks so much, Carolyn. You are a powerful writer, and I always love the lush and detailed worlds you create, be they historical or paranormal.

CJ: Thank you!

JA: Please post your comments below to win a copy of Carolyn's first pararnormal My Wicked Enemy! And please check out Scandal, and her brand new release: My Forbidden Desire, .


CheekyGirl May 28, 2009 at 6:35 AM  

Great Interview! Thanks for showing us all three upcoming releases!


MsRed Writing from Twitter May 28, 2009 at 8:19 AM  

OMG Carolyn I never realised you were an author till I read this article! I feel I should bow or something. Will now have to mind my Ps & Ys :-) Well done!!
Sherry (Red)

Christine S. Morehouse May 28, 2009 at 8:27 AM  

Brilliant article Jennifer and Carolyn. I can't wait to get my hands on Scandal. I'm a huge fan of historical romance.

Heck, what am I saying I'm a complete romance junkie no matter the genre. It's just nice to see an author(unknown to me)come up with new and exciting worlds.
Happy Writing,

Arianna Skye May 28, 2009 at 8:27 AM  

Carolyn!!! Awesome interview. I already have a copy of MWE. Great book, BTW, so I just decided I'd make you popular instead.


Gwen Hayes May 28, 2009 at 8:46 AM  

I loved SCANDAL so much because the characters were so different from any other historical I've ever read. I appreciate you keeping my favorite genre so fresh, Carolyn.

Eva S May 28, 2009 at 9:08 AM  

Thanks for the great interview1 I loved Scandal, and I'll be looking for Indiscreet!
Paranormals are my favorites too and I'd love to read My Wicked Enemy!

Jennifer Ashley/ Allyson James / Ashley Gardner May 28, 2009 at 9:20 AM  

I'm thrilled I could talk Carolyn into the interview. :-) I too liked the unusual characters, esp. that Bannalt truly was a baddie. But his love for Sophie rang out. I liked that.

elaing8 May 28, 2009 at 10:32 AM  

Great Interview.Her books sound awesome.
I'd love a chance to win this book.

Bucky May 28, 2009 at 10:40 AM  

Good interview! I like having books recommended by authors I read and enjoy, THANKS!!

News From the Holmestead May 28, 2009 at 10:51 AM  

Hi, Carolyn. Thanks so much for posting this link on Twitter. I loved your interview and feel I know you a little better now! *g*

I love Bad Heroes, ones who truly are bad, but have a good reason for their badness. My kinda guy! It makes their downfall/redemption so much more satisfying.

Thanks also for the link to The Chatelaines. Great site! (waving to Gerri!)

sonomalass May 28, 2009 at 10:52 AM  

I loved Scandal and can't wait for Indiscreet. Fond as I am of Carolyn, I have to admit that I haven't yet read My Wicked Enemy. It's on my list, but of course a free copy would move it to the top!

Great interview. It really shows how smart a good writer has to be, and the kind of thinking and research that go into good historical romances, in particular. Love the one about the uterus -- the one I kept coming across was how women who had "too much education" (i.e., went to college) couldn't have children, because too much blood went to their heads and their "lower parts" atrophied. A claim made with a straight face, and accepted by many as absolute medical fact. Sheesh.

Thanks for featuring this terrific interview!

Cybercliper May 28, 2009 at 2:05 PM  

Jennifer and Carolyn...great interview. No need to enter me for My Wicked Enemy - already own it and guess what I have in my possession as of today!!!! For some reason I through My Forbidden Desire released June 1st, so imagine my surprise when I found it today!! ((happy dance))

I knew it was hard work to write a book - but wow, the research alone boggles the mind. Congratulations on all your releases Carolyn. I'll have to check out your historical novels. My first one was Jennifer's The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie and I loved it.

Carolyn May 28, 2009 at 2:42 PM  

Thanks everyone for all the great comments! Waving to all the twitter folks, too! I feel so popular. Jennifer did a fantastic job with her interview questions and hey! She even got an image of The History of London in Maps which is awesome indeed!

And, obviously, the Chatelaines rock. I love their books.

Gwen Hayes May 28, 2009 at 2:47 PM  

oh..also, I already have a copy of the giveaway book so don't enter me in the drawing. :)

Maija P. May 29, 2009 at 5:48 AM  

I've heard such good things about your books, especially Scandal. Still, I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't read anything by you - yet. I love historical and paranormal romance, so I'll have to give them a try.
It's nice to know that the heroine in Scandal is an author. I have a tender place in my heart towards historical books that have women in some sort of occupation.

RachieG May 29, 2009 at 6:12 AM  

Hey Carolyn! :) I really enjoyed "My Forbidden Desire" It was a bit different from other things I had read and really really enjoyed it!

Keep up the awesomeness!

Jennifer Ashley/ Allyson James / Ashley Gardner May 29, 2009 at 12:33 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jennifer Ashley/ Allyson James / Ashley Gardner May 29, 2009 at 12:37 PM  


BUCKY, please email me at:

jenniferashley @ (no spaces) with your snail mail addy and we'll get you fixed up with Carolyn's book, My Wicked Enemy.

Thanks everyone!

(Deleted comment above due to boo boo.)

Amanda McIntyre June 3, 2009 at 6:06 AM  

I was wondering if you might give us more information on the book, "The History of London in Maps" in particular the order information? I would LOVE to have this resource if you're willing to share!

Amanda M.

Amanda McIntyre June 3, 2009 at 6:47 AM  

Hi Carolyn;)
I managed to find an obscure copy of the History of London in Maps! thanks! Not as easy as I thought it might be!

Amanda M

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