Friday, October 21, 2005

Interview with Diane Gaston/Perkins

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1) Can you give us blurbs about your current books?

I have two books to talk about. The Marriage Bargain by Diane Perkins (Warner Forever, Oct 2005) is about handsome soldier Spencer Keenan and timid country girl Emma Chambers, who agree to a wedding in name only, in order to rescue Emma from his uncle’s unwanted suit and provide her the home she desperately desires. After Spence leaves for war, however, Emma’s idyllic life is soon transformed into worry and toil, caring for his crumbling estate. Emma’s youthful romantic fantasy that Spence will return to make their marriage real is quickly dispelled. Now Spence has returned, but in a coffin, struck down in a duel. Needing to look upon his face one last time, Emma narrowly saves him from being buried alive. In return she seeks a new marriage bargain – Spence must give her a child. While Spence battles haunting memories and unknown treachery, the one thing he doesn't bargain for is falling deeply in love with his now valiant and captivating wife.

In The Mysterious Miss M by Diane Gaston (Harlequin Historicals, Nov 2005) the Mysterious Miss M is a living male fantasy - alluring, sensual, masked. But when Lord Devlin Steele finds himself responsible for her - and her child - he comes to know the real Maddy: the loving, passionate woman who drives away the nightmares of the Waterloo battlefield. But this aristocratic soldier can’t support his new family. He’ll only inherit his fortune on marriage to a suitable lady - and Maddy is far from suitable. With the dangers of London’s underworld closing in, how can he protect the woman he has come to love?

2) In The Mysterious Miss M, the heroine begins the book as a prostitute. She’s completely sympathetic and I totally adored her, but it seems to break some of the traditional “rules” about what will sell in romance. Did you encounter any resistance from your agent, editors, readers or reviewers on this topic?

Did I! I wrote Miss M in 2001 and, although it made the finals of RWA’s Golden Heart contest, it was rejected by agents and editors, over and over, mostly saying that readers would never accept my heroine. Miss M would not have sold had I not entered the manuscript in the 2003 Golden Heart. It made the finals again, but I had no where else to sell it. I’d tried everywhere.
Or so I thought. Out of the blue one day I received a phone call from the Mills & Boon editor who judged Miss M in the Golden Heart. And she bought it. Her comment was, “She (meaning Madeleine) can’t possibly be the heroine......She is the heroine!” (by the way Miss M won her Golden Heart)

I have had reviewers remark on the dark nature of the story. Kathe Robin in Romantic Times BOOKclub magazine said, “This is a Regency with the gutsiness of a Dickens novel. It's not always pretty, but it's real and passionate.” Other reviewers have called it “gritty.”
Most of the reader comments have focused on Devlin....but that’s because he is such a hunky hero!!

3) You also write under the name of Diane Perkins. What is the difference between the Diane Perkins and Diane Gaston books? Why did you choose to write under two names?

I write Regency Historicals for both, writing as Diane Gaston for Mills & Boon/Harlequin and as Diane Perkins for Warner Forever. Mills & Boon/Harlequin likes me to write about the Regency Underworld, the darker side of the Regency, and, of course, The Mysterious Miss M is a good example of this. In my second Diane Gaston book, The Wagering Widow (Harlequin Historical Feb 06) I explore gambling. In my third, A Reputable Rake (HH May 06), the courtesan life.

The difference between the Gaston books and the Perkins books is subtle. The Diane Perkins’ books are longer and just as emotional, but they don’t address those darker parts of life. They occur in the more traditional world of Regency England--country houses, London. Both The Improper Wife (Nov 04), my first Warner book, and the current one, The Marriage Bargain (Oct 05) are marriage of convenience stories (but, then, so are Miss M and Wagering Widow!).

I’m not sure writing under two names was the right decision, especially because the books are so similar. It means I need two websites, duplicate promotion, and constantly to remind readers that I am both authors. My agent at the time recommended I take two names and I followed the advice.

4) The Regency period is a very interesting time period, and I love to read romances set in that time, but I can’t imagine the amount of research which must go into your books. Do you have a background in this time period, or did you just learn it all by doing research? How much research do you have to do on each book?

I don’t have any background in studying the Regency period. I think I managed to get out of college without ever taking a history course! I was an English major, though, and I took all the English Literature that I could, but even so I preferred Regency Historical Romance. If you can believe it,I never knew about the traditional Regency genre or Georgette Heyer until I started writing and a friend recommended them. But I was hooked! I inhaled books like The Rake and the Reformer, Flowers from the Storm, A Precious Jewel (Mary Balogh’s Regency about a prostitute), The Last Frost Fair. I also loved Heyer, whom I listened to on audiobooks, Venetia, Bath Tangle, The Unknown Ajax...

So my first knowledge of the Regency came from Regency novels, but I was afraid to write one because I thought the research would be too difficult. I took the plunge, though, and discovered I love the research. I have amassed an embarrassing number of books on the Regency or written in that era (including my treasure--the entire set of 1815 La Belle Assemblee, a ladies magazine--the real thing!). Another invaluable book I own is an 1815 Dictionary. If a word is in it, I can be certain it was used in the time period! With each book I write, I add more books to my collection, because there is always something new I’m needing to know about. Another great help is the Beau Monde, RWA’s chapter for Regency writers. These ladies are generous in sharing their knowledge. I’m in kindergarten compared to them!

So by now I have a good foundation on the Regency, and for new books, I just have to find out what I don’t yet know. I dip into my book collection or order new books as needed and mostly research as I go. I also use the internet a lot. is very useful, and I google everything! One of the things I try to research carefully is the location of my characters in London. I have two websites bookmarked- one is an online 1827 map of London and the other is a modern street map of London. So I can see where my characters, live, walk, and seek entertainment.

5) When you read for fun, do you evaluate the books you are reading? What do you look for?

I try not to evaluate the books I read. I try to read for pleasure only. The problem is, I get stopped by my critical brain. I see word usage problems, note modern words in Regency novels. I see grammatical errors, and plot problems. But I really try not to see those things and to just enjoy what I’m reading.

One sad thing about writing is I don’t read as many Regency romances as I used to. I try to read all my friends books but I even fail at that. Most of my reading these days is non-fiction history of the Regency period. I often say I’m the world’s worst read Romance novelist.

6) Before you sold, were there ever times when you wondered whether you would ever make it? If so, what did you do to pull yourself through the tough periods?

When Miss M was getting rejection after rejection, it got discouraging for me. I wrote two more books before Miss M sold (One of those became The Improper Wife, my first Warner book). I boosted my confidence by listening to motivational audiotapes to and from my work (I now write full time). I decided that I had to think positive about this business. I decided that everything that happened was one step closer to publication. So every rejection I received, I told myself was one step closer. Every contest I didn’t final in brought me one step closer. When my friend Kathy Caskie (A Lady’s Guide to Rakes Sept 2005) sold her Regency Historical to Warner, rather than feel the green fingers of envy, I told myself her good news was my good news, too, and I allowed myself to be truly happy for her. In some way her selling was going to be good for me. It was, too. When I sold to Warner, Kathy helped me in so many ways, especially showing me how to promote my books. She still does!!.

The support of friends has been invaluable in when that sale seemed like it would never happen. At one low point, my friend Mary Blayney (soon to be in an anthology with Nora Roberts!) gave me a needlework pillow upon which was stitched Never Never Never Give Up. I made that my mantra. Another place for terrific support is from the Wet Noodle Posse, the 2003 Golden Heart finalists who have banded together to support each other. But you know that, don’t you, Steph?
By the way, a couple of weeks after Kathy Caskie sold, I had my call from Mills & Boon.

Buy The Marriage Bargain

Buy The Mysterious Miss M

Visit Diane Perkins or Diane Gaston on the web


At 10:59 AM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

Oops, Steph, you've been spammed again. Diane, I always find your story of publication very inspiring.


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