DUCK CHAT: Having Some Fun with Sabrina Jeffries!Thursday, August 27, 2009 10:00
Welcome back to Duck Chat!
Today we have a super special treat for you. Sabrina Jeffries is here! How cool is that!
Sabrina, of course, needs no introduction to historical romance readers. Her books and characters are loved far and wide. But if you happen to be one of those who hasn’t read any of her books, you need to take a nice leisurely stroll through her website. Not only will you find terrific reads, but there’s a lot of fun stuff there that can keep you occupied for a long while. But the short story is Sabrina is a New York Times and USA Today bestseller author who writes about 19-Century English life; she has a doctorate in English lit from Tulane and a specialty in Early Modern British literature.
She lives in Cary, N.C. with her husband and son, loves doing dog jigsaw puzzles, and logs hundreds of miles on her treadmill while answering email. Wish I could be that good. For those of you in the Garner, N.C., area, be sure to head to the grand opening of the new Wal-Mart there because Sabrina will be signing books in the electronics department on Friday, August 29 from 5-7 p.m. How lucky are you people!
A meaningful comment or question for Sabrina will put you in the running for a copy of Never Seduce a Scoundrel. Now let’s chat!
DUCK CHAT: In perusing your site, I came across a number of things that made me curious, so I’m going to start with one of those, Sabrina. Though you were born in New Orleans, you were raised in Thailand. How long you were there? Where did you live? Did you go to school there? How is that different from the U.S.? What was the hardest thing to get used to back in the States when you returned? What about the food? (I love Thai food!) LOL, I know it’s a lot of questions, whatever you’d like to tell us is fine!
SABRINA JEFFRIES: I was there 10 years. We lived in Bangkok for most of it, with two years in a little town called Rayong. I was home-schooled in Rayong, but the rest of the time, I went to a private school called International School Bangkok (ISB). School wasn’t much different there, since the curriculum was pretty much the same as any school in the U.S. or slightly better. For example, I took pre-Calculus as a junior in high school. It was a course for seniors in my school in the U.S. (where I spent my senior year).
In fact, THAT was the hardest thing to get used to in the States—the school system. At ISB, clubs and academics were the center of the school’s social life. Since we couldn’t really play much sports (who were we going to play baseball against in Thailand?), sports were very low in importance. The whole jock/cheerleader popularity thing didn’t exist. Our theater department put on four plays a year (my school in the States did one). We had several different choirs. There was no racism, since we were a mix of races and cultures. My two best friends in 8th grade were Indian and Chinese. In a school where African-Americans were no more prominent than any other race, our class president one year was African-American. It was a shock for me to land in a Southern school where sports reigned supreme and racism was alive and well. I didn’t fit in, especially as a senior who hadn’t come up through the schools with all the kids there. I was pretty miserable.
I do love Thai food, though!
DC: If you could retire any question and never, ever have it asked again, what would it be? Feel free to answer it.
SJ: I guess that’s “Where do you get your ideas?” Because I get them everywhere and from everything, and that’s kind of hard to explain.
DC: Since your School for Heiresses boasts your latest releases, let’s talk about that first. There’s now six books in the series. How did the series first come about? Has it evolved like you originally envisioned?
SJ: My publisher said something about wanting a character who went across all the books, and for some reason, I thought of Charlie’s Angels. Weird, I know, but I did love that TV show, and I think I’d just seen one of the movies. Anyway, I loved the camaraderie of the women in the show, and I especially loved the anonymous Charlie. I wanted so badly to find out who he was. So that was in the back of my head when I came up with the series—I wanted an anonymous benefactor who could end up in a romance with the school’s headmistress (whom I subconsciously named after Charlie by naming her Charlotte, even though the mysterious guy is Cousin Michael). Then it went from there, and I’d say it evolved the way I had envisioned it.
DC: I’ve heard writers often say their stories take them in surprising directions, or dialogue flows from some unknown place. Is it the same with you? Do your characters surprise you sometimes?
SJ: My characters surprise me all the time. I plot a book thoroughly at the beginning. Then I write what I want. Seriously, though, I have certain things I know I want to happen and those always do, but I make a lot of changes in plot as the story goes on, largely because I just CAN’T know my characters until I start writing the book. It takes me a few chapters to really feel like I know them, and those first few chapters get rewritten 10 and 11 times until I do. That’s why I find myself discovering stuff around every corner. My heroine will blurt out something to the hero, and I’ll think, “Wow, didn’t know that. That changes everything.” I’m a firm believer that the Subconscious acts as a silent partner in every author’s writing.
DC: Wed Him Before You Bed Him and Don’t Bargain with the Devil are your latest releases. First, who came up with the titled for Wed Him? Great job! Would you give our readers a little insight into each book?
My editor came up with the title for Wed Him Before You Bed Him. She’s brilliant that way. As the last book in the series, it’s Charlotte’s story, which finally answers the question running through all the previous books, “Who is Cousin Michael?” Don’t Bargain with the Devil leads up to it with the story of Lucy Seton, who was a secondary character in Let Sleeping Rogues Lie. Lucy goes to war with the school’s new neighbor, a Spanish magician who appears to be jeopardizing the future of Mrs. Harris’s finishing school. But he’s really trying to return her to her Spanish grandfather without her adoptive father’s knowledge.
Excerpt from Wed Him Before You Bed Him:
He certainly seemed impatient for Charlotte to be gone, given how he hurried her out of the ballroom and down the stairs. But when they reached the bottom of the staircase, she realized his impatience was not for that. Before they could head for the entrance or attract the notice of the footmen at the far end of the passage, he pulled her into the nearby library. Then closing the door, he hauled her into his arms.
“Not one word, Charlotte,” he murmured. “Not now. Just let me have this.”
Then he kissed her with such fierce intent that her toes curled in her slippers. Oh, heavens, what the man could do with his mouth. It was tender and bold all at once, and so needy it made her heart ache for him.
When at last he drew back, she dropped her reticule to grab his lapels and tug him down to her again, not ready to end their interlude.
That was all the encouragement he needed. With a guttural moan, he shoved her against the door, his mouth savaging hers, his tongue thrusting deep as his lean body slid against her in a motion that was unmistakably intimate. Already she felt the ridge of his flesh pressing insistently against her belly. His hands roamed up and down her sides, over her hips and up to her breasts.
But when he filled his hands with them, she pushed him back. “No,” she said softly. “Not here.”
A dark knowing flared in his face. Oh, Lord, she’d as much as said that elsewhere would be fine.
Unfortunately, that was true. She wanted him. She had always wanted him. And would it be so very bad to have an affair? She was a grown woman. She could do as she pleased. And so could he.
He bent his head to her cheek, dragging his open mouth along her jaw to her ear. “Then where?” he murmured. “When?”
She could hardly think with him still cupping her breasts. “We ought to wait until after—”
“No, damn it.” He nipped her ear lobe with his teeth. “I won’t. And you don’t want to either.”
A pox on him for being right. “Well … then … we must be discreet.”
“Discreet, yes,” he breathed in agreement against her ear.
Her mind was swimming, her body alive to the feel of him. “I just know it cannot be here.”
“Right.” Yet he reached for her leg and pulled it up, pushing into her, mimicking the act he wanted to perform. “Not here.”
She must be mad, both to be considering this, and to be letting him touch her now. They could be discovered at any moment. “We have to stop.”
“Yes.” Still, he tried to take her mouth again.
This time she shoved him hard enough to make him fall back. His gaze burned into her like a brand, sparking a fever in her chest.
“Not here,” she said firmly. “Not tonight.” She had to escape him, to think about what she was doing. Before she fell into something she regretted. “I have to go. We can talk about this later.”
“Tomorrow.” His eyes glittered in the firelight. “We’ll discuss it tomorrow when I take you to see those properties.”
“Properties?” she said inanely.
“The ones for the new school building? Remember? So you don’t have to deal with a race course next door?”
“Oh. Right.” She had completely forgotten about that. At the moment she could hardly think.
Still trying to catch her breath, she bent to retrieve her reticule, then remembered something else. “Didn’t you tell my personal footman that you would give me a list of those properties tonight so I could look it over?”
“Of course.” Delving inside his coat pocket, he drew out a folded sheet of paper, but when she seized it, he grabbed her by the wrist. “You must promise you won’t go tour them without me.”
“Because it’s dangerous for a woman to do that sort of thing alone. Some sellers are unscrupulous, and some of the vacant properties could have vagrants—”
“I have Terence.”
With a scowl, he tightened his grip on her wrist. “I’m not giving you the list unless you promise.”
“Oh, very well. I promise.” As he released the list, she tucked it into her reticule and opened the door to peek out into the hall. Fortunately, the footmen were involved in a heated discussion, leaving the two of them free to slip out and head for the entrance as if they’d just descended the stairs.
While waiting for her carriage to be brought, they said very little, but she was painfully aware of his body beside hers, of its heat and strength, which could be hers whenever she wanted. The knowledge was as exhilarating as it was terrifying. Merciful heavens, when had she turned into such a wanton?
DC: Do you ever argue with your characters while you’re writing? Who usually wins?
SJ: I don’t argue with them much, but they usually win. Once in a while I have to slap them around, but not too often. I figure the characters know better than I do what will work for them. (Yes, I realize that all of that is in my subconscious, but it manifests itself as the characters talking to me.)
DC: What is sure to distract you from sitting down and working/writing?
SJ: Checking my E-mail, surfing the Internet, Spider Solitaire, family stuff. Fortunately, I don’t have the first three distractions on the computer where I do my writing. I deliberately write on an internet-free computer.
DC: What’s it been like having your books reissued with such different covers? The Forbidden Lord had a gorgeous cover before, but, heavens, the new one is terrific!
SJ: It’s cool! I like the new cover of Forbidden Lord better than the original, but I didn’t like the original much. They’re reissuing The Dangerous Lord next year, however, and I LOVED the original cover for that one, so it will be interesting to see if they can top it.
DC: What has been your favorite book cover from all of your releases and why?
SJ: It was probably Dangerous Lord, come to think of it. I love the mysteriousness of it and the moonlit night and the dark blue. Or maybe Beware a Scot’s Revenge, which has such a gorgeous stepback and evocative front.
DC: How about your least favorite cover? Why?
SJ: My least favorite of my Sabrina Jeffries covers is probably In the Prince’s Bed, because the heroine looks like she’s wearing a diaper.
But my least favorite of all is my Deborah Nicholas cover for Night Vision. The hero looks anemic, the angle is all wrong, and it has a clown doll on it when the doll that figures in the book is a Barbie!
SJ: I don’t write under them anymore. I wrote as those two in my “first” career. Basically, pseudonyms are meant to distinguish between different styles of writing. In my case, my Sabrina Jeffries books are lighter, sexier historical romances than my Deborah Martin books were. They have more dialogue and more sensuality, but less density and complicated plots. What can I say? I always preferred to read that sort of book, and I finally decided to try my hand at writing it.
My Deborah Nicholas books were contemporary paranormal romantic suspense books, so they’re miles apart from my current books, and from my Deborah Martin books. And all my various publishers preferred that I take pseudonyms to make it easy for readers to know which sort of book they were getting. It’s used more for authors before they become successful. Publishers are afraid that a book written in one subgenre will affect the sales of one written in another subgenre if they are published under the same name. So they suggest you take different names. In my case, my Deborah Martin books weren’t terribly successful, so they asked me to take a pseudonym when I started writing a different type of historical.
DC: Can you suggest a title or two from the under those two names for someone to pick up if they haven’t read anything by you there?
SJ: Since I haven’t written as Deborah Martin or Deborah Nicholas for years, the books are unavailable new, but you can still find copies in used bookstores and online used outlets. Storm Swept is probably my favorite of my Deborah Martin books, and Silent Sonata for my Deborah Nicholas, but everyone has different favorites. I do have some fans who like my books regardless of pseudonym.
DC: How do you feel your male or female characters have evolved over your career? Do you think you write them differently now than you did when you started?
SJ: I really don’t think I write them any differently than I did early in my career, though. Well, except in one respect—they’re both wittier and less predictable in dialogue, IMO.
DC: LOL, your Will & Jane page on your site is just great. How did you get into doing comics in the first place and then tell us about Comic Life, please.
SJ: Two years ago for Christmas, my agent gave me a Jane Austen action figure. Then I bought a Mac, and my brother introduced me to the software Comic Life. I thought it was fabulous. I’d already done handmade cartoons on my site, but Comic Life made it so much easier. A while later, my husband bought me a Will Shakespeare figure for yet another Christmas present. Except this time Will was more of a caricature. And he was short. When I put the two figures next to each other, I flashed on how they would interact as action figures. And that was it! Will and Jane were born.
DC: Is there a genre you haven’t tackled but would like to try?
SJ: I have a couple of ideas for books of a different subgenre—mostly suspense, mainstream, and time travel—but haven’t had the time to pursue them. The more successful you become as a novelist, the more frequently your readers want books, which makes it difficult to justify time spent experimenting in another area or genre.
DC: What advice would you give to your younger self?
SJ: Probably the same advice I would give anyone. Perseverance is the key. You must keep writing, keep putting your work out there, and keep learning before AND after you get published. Never think you’ve come too far to learn.
DC: You have more than 3 million books in print. 3 million! That’s a staggering number. When you really think about that, well, what comes to mind??
SJ: Most of the time, I don’t really think about it! But yes, I guess it really is a lot (and it’s more now, closer to 4 million). I AM thrilled, though, to think that so many of my books are available. I never dreamed I’d get this far in my career.
DC: If you were a book, what would your blurb be?
SJ: A wacky author finds friends and a fruitful life in the world of romance novels. Sounds pretty boring, huh!
DC: What would be your “voice’s” tagline?
SJ: I have NO clue. I’m not very good at assessing my own voice, I’m afraid.
DC: For those one or two people out there who have yet to read your books, where would you suggest they start to first get a flavor of your writing?
SJ: That’s hard to say. To Pleasure a Prince and Wed Him are two of my more emotional books, Let Sleeping Rogues Lie is one of my more unusual books, and I think Never Seduce a Scoundrel and One Night with a Prince are two of my wittiest books. It kind of depends on what the reader is looking for. All my books are not the same, by any means. Just read the reviews for proof of that!
DC: If you had never become an author, what do you think you would be doing right now?
SJ: I’d probably be a teacher. I taught college for a while.
DC: What’s on the horizon for Sabrina Jeffries?
SJ: The first book of my new series, The Hellions of Halstead Hall, comes out January 19, 2010, and is entitled The Truth about Lord Stoneville. It’s about a character from the Heiress series, Lord Stoneville, who captured the imagination of my readers (and whom a lot of people expected to be Cousin Michael). The series is about him, his two brothers, his two sisters, and their cranky grandmother. They’re a family in crisis, thanks to an age-old scandal in their lives, and now their rich grandmother has issued an ultimatum—marry or be cut off. And not just one of them, but all of them. Some of the Heiress characters will show up from time to time (his friends, after all, married heiresses or teachers from the school), and some of the characters from the Heiress series are sure to have a place in this series, and perhaps even books of their own.
- dark or milk chocolate? – Dark chocolate
- smooth or chunky peanut butter? – Chunky
- heels or flats? – Flats
- coffee or tea? – Coffee
- summer or winter? – Fall (I’m contrary that way)
- mountains or beach? – Mountains
- mustard or mayonnaise? – Mustard
- flowers or candy? – Flowers, unless the candy is dark chocolate
- pockets or purse? – Purse
- Pepsi or Coke? – Coke
- ebook or print? – Print, but that will change if I get a Kindle.
And just because:
1. What is your favorite word? – Love
2. What is your least favorite word? – Retard
3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – Music
4. What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – Sports
5. What sound or noise do you love? – Hmm, there’s so many—the wind in the trees, waves crashing, soaring violins … hard to choose one.
6. What sound or noise do you hate? – Cars crashing
7. What is your favorite curse word? – Um, do I have to answer that? I have a bit of a potty mouth
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? – Actress
9. What profession would you not like to do? – Golfer
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “Well done.”
DC: Sabrina, what a joy it was to have you here today. Thank you!