Friday, July 25, 2008

Title Magic meets Louise Allen

Today Louise Allen is with us, talking to Evonne about her linked series for Harlequin/Mills and Boon -- Six books, following the lives and loves of Those Scandalous Ravenhursts. Seven cousins – the grandchildren of the Duke of Allington – are at the heart of six stories charting their sometimes rocky, and always scandalous, paths to true love. Dangerous Jack, Outrageous Bel, Shocking Gareth, Disgraceful Theo, Bluestocking Elinor, Notorious Eden and Piratical Clemence.

The first book in the series, The Dangerous Mr Ryder was published in the UK by Mills & Boon in January 2008 and is out in America from Harlequin this month. The Outrageous Lady Felsham was published in the UK in May 2008 and will be out in America from Harlequin in August 2008.

Louise began her official historical romance career (if you don’t count the medieval drama, penned when she was eight) as half of a partnership that wrote as Francesca Shaw. Now Louise Allen has a string of titles to her credit and is a past winner of a Cataromance Reviewers Choice award.
Hello Louise, and welcome to Title Magic
Hello! and thank you so much for the invitation to the Title Magic blog – it’s great to be here.

The obvious question first - what attracts you to historicals?
History has always been a passion for as long as I can remember and at school I adored historical novels with Georgette Heyer and Dorothy Dunnett as all-time favourites. I love to see the roots of things - where they’ve come from, how they’ve evolved - whether landscape or words or customs or buildings.

Would you tell us a little about your career, and the story of the acceptance of the first book?
It began when I was a librarian, back in the late 1980s. My friend Stephanie and I would watch Mills & Boon novels being borrowed and thought ‘we could do that’. It took a while – and lots of rejections from the contemporary lines to work out that this was harder than we imagined it would be! Then we tried historicals – and realised that not only had our technique improved but we’d found our niche. Our first attempt, The Master of Winterbourn was published in the early 1990s. We wrote eight books together as Francesca Shaw, then Steph moved away and I took the plunge and began writing solo as Louise Allen. After working full time all my writing life it was great to be able to leave my job as a property manager in November 2007 and concentrate on the books. My 25th title will be out in the Christmas volume, Married by Christmas, this year.

You write in several historical periods – is there one that you haven’t covered yet that you would like to explore?
I’m interested in all periods, but the more I find out about the Regency, the more it fascinates me as an era poised on the brink of the modern world.
So far I’ve only experimented with two other periods - the first Francesca Shaw novel was set during the English Civil War and Virgin Slave, Barbarian King, which came out at the end of last year, takes place in AD 410 during the Sack of Rome. I’d like to do a sequel to Virgin Slave and I’ve an idea for the 1920s as well, but I think it will be all Regencies for the immediate future.

Moving to the latest releases – a linked series of six books. Wow! How did that come about?
My editor suggested linked titles focusing on one family, and cousins seemed to give me more freedom than siblings might. I started off thinking about 3, or perhaps 4 – but the Ravenhursts had other ideas, so it ended up at 6. I’ve already had suggestions from readers about other members of the family, but we’ll have to wait and see

What gave you the inspiration for creating the world of Those Scandalous Ravenhursts?
It began with Lord Sebastian Ravenhurst (aka Jack Ryder) who invited himself into No Place for a Lady when the hero of story needed a private investigator. He was such a strong personality I knew that I had to give him his own book and solve the mystery of who he was. Once I began to explore his background I discovered the other cousins as I went.

Will you tell us a little about the six books and the heroes and heroines?
The Dangerous Mr Ryder is an adventure story which pairs Jack/Sebastian with the Grand Duchess Eva de Maubourg, escaping across France one step ahead of a murderous traitor and straying into the battle of Waterloo along the way. Sebastian’s sister Bel, the widow of the most boring man in London, thinks she needs a lover, not a husband, and is set on becoming The Outrageous Lady Felsham when a very tipsy Ashe Reynard trips over her bearskin rug and into her arms. Cousin Gareth is a respectable Ravenhurst – until he has to take shocking steps to avoid marriage to Lady Maude Templeton, steps that involve governess Miss Jessica Gifford, found naked in a brothel, and turn him into The Scandalous Lord Standon. Meanwhile, dowdy Cousin Elinor is tumbled headlong into a Burgundian adventure and lethal treasure hunt with The Disgraceful Mr Ravenhurst, her Cousin Theo. Back in London, Maude is free to pursue the man she loved at first sight, rake and completely ineligible theatre manager, Eden Hurst. The Notorious Mr Hurst proves to have more in common with her friends the Ravenhursts than she imagined. And far away in Jamaica the youngest cousin, Clemence, is forced to become The Piratical Miss Ravenhurst when she has to flee her home and finds herself at the mercy of one of the nastiest pirates in the Caribbean and his enigmatic henchman, Nathan Stanier.

What were your work methods – charts, diagrams, maps?
The backbone was a detailed family tree backed up with a spreadsheet with columns for all the characters against the dates. I planned research trips to Waterloo (for Dangerous), Burgundy (for Disgraceful), Margate (for the seaside scenes and bathing machines in Outrageous) and caused major marital disharmony by not booking us on a flight to Jamaica for Piratical. The study is buried under books on Regency theatre and life in Jamaica in the 1800s.

I imagine that creating the characters was fun, particularly having the space to develop them, but that keeping hold on all of them might have been a bit of a challenge. What was it like, staying on course – what were the highs and lows?
It was surprisingly easy to manage the continuity, but as usual I found some of my characters – especially the heroes – were prone to take off and want to do their own thing and developed sides to their character I wasn’t aware of. Eden, for example, turned out to be darker and more complex than I’d imagined, Gareth, once he’d gone off the rails, was more sensual and Theo, more dashing.

Two of the books are out – how long do we have to wait for the others?
Dangerous was out in the UK in January and in North America in July. Outrageous was out in the UK in May and North America in August. Scandalous is out in both in September. The other three are due in 2009.

One of the Title Magicians has already confessed to having a weakness for pirates, so is looking forward to Clemence’s story. Do you secretly have a favourite amongst the Ravenhursts?
All the pirates are very nasty indeed, I’m afraid – Captain “Red” Matthew McTiernan doesn’t fly the skull and cross bones flag, he hoists the real thing - but I hope she likes ship’s navigator Nathan Stanier, who I’m determined is going to do that thing involving sliding down the mainsail by sticking a dagger in it!
As for a favourite… that’s really difficult, because I love them all. I want to be friends with all the heroines and as for the heroes – it was like having the biggest possible box of chocolates to be able to discover six gorgeous men all at the same time.

It must have felt strange, coming to the end of a project of this size. How did you feel at the end? And what’s next for Louise Allen?
I don’t know how it will feel yet because I’m still writing Piratical with a deadline of the end of July, (I’m not panicking, of course I’m not…), but I’m really looking forward to bringing them all together at the end – plus the Ravenhurst babies who have arrived along the way. I’ll miss them, but I’m pretty certain I haven’t seen the last of the Ravenhursts.
And what’s next? There are a couple of schemes still under wraps and lots of plots and characters buzzing around at 5am – I’m not expecting to be bored!

Thanks to Louise for a great interview about a fascinating project.


Evonne Wareham said...

Thanks Louise for being with us today and giving us such a great interview.

Jen Black said...

Love the humour in your books Louise!

Helen Scott Taylor said...

Louise, thank you for joining us on Title Magic. Sounds like a wonderful series. After trying many genres of romance, Regency historical is still my favourite. Must be a lot of fun writing a linked series with the family tree etc.

Liz Fielding said...

That sounds the most exciting series of books, Louise. It's been ages since I've read an historical but you're really whetted my apetite.

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Thanks for joining us today and for all the juicy details on your books! It's funny but I've been reading more regencies lately, mainly because the plot lines and characters really appeal to me. I can't wait to add yours to my TBR pile. :)

Also, just curious, but why do your books release first in the UK then here in America?

Savanna Kougar said...

Hi Louise, I can see why you'd need a family tree chart, just to keep track of everyone.
Very impressive series. Being a lover of history I can understand your author's passion for writing in the historical genre.
Dagger down the mainsail, I haven't seen that forever...was it in an older swashbuckling movie? Erol Flynn...I don't think I'm spelling that correctly. I vividly remember the scenes, names I'm not so good with.
Do your novels contain swashbuckling scenes?

Mai Christy Thao said...

Hi Louise, welcome to Title Magic. Wow, congrats on the six-book deal. Also, a huge congrats to your 25th title coming out. That must be really exciting. It's one of those huge milestones, so I definately say a celebration is in order! Thank you for introducing us to Those Scandalous Ravenhursts. I love historicals, so I'm alway open to hearing about authors I'm unfamiliar with. Looks like I'll be making another trip to the bookstore soon, lol.

Louise Allen said...

Thank you everyone for your kind comments!
Anitra asked about release dates - I suppose they come out first in the UK because that's home for me and they are scheduled from the Richmond, London office. The programme in North America is different from the UK one and it seems that North American readers like continuities to come out close together whereas the UK readers like them spread.
I don't think it was Errol Flynn, Savanna, but I can't recall which of the 1950s pirate epics it was. I do love a bit of swashbuckling, I have to confess!