Today, we’re taking a break from the Golden Leaf finalist excerpts to hear from Julia Quinn, who will be our special presentation speaker at the PYHIAB conference. We spent a little timing talking with Julia and look forward to a close-up chat with her next month.
How did you come up with the idea for “THE SECRETS OF SIR RICHARD KENWORTHY”?
It’s difficult to answer this without a big fat spoiler. Suffice it to say I wanted to explore what happens when good people make bad decisions (but for good reasons).
What was it about your book that made your editor want to buy it?
To be completely honest, it’s probably because it was the 24th novel in a row we’d worked on together.
How much research did you conduct for “ THE SECRETS OF SIR RICHARD KENWORTHY ” and what was the most interesting thing you did while conducting your research?
I don’t generally need to do a whole lot of research before I start writing–a bit about the locale, usually. I’ve written enough novels set in early 19th century Britain that I know the social mores and customs. Most of my research comes up as I’m writing. For example, I had one book in which the hero made a joke about Little Bo Peep. Then it occurred to me–what is the earliest known reference for Little Bo Peep? Could I use it in a book set in 1825? (Turns out it was Shakespeare, so I was okay.) Another time I had the hero and heroine looking at a book about paintings. I’d written several pages before I realized I had no idea what might constitute an art book during regency times. Modern art books are full of high-res photographs; what sort of reproduction might my characters be able to see? Then, for some reason I cannot recall, it became incredibly important to me to know if the hero could ever have seen this painting in real life. So I had to research the provenance. Who owned this painting during the years that the hero was on the Continent? Was it on display somewhere?
I spent at least three hours looking for this information, and let me tell you, that was three hours I did not have so close to deadline. The truth is, neither of these details (the painting’s provenance; Little Bo Peep) were necessary to the overall plot of the book. I could have eliminated either of them and it would have held up just fine. But I like to think that these sorts of details, especially in aggregation, help to build a richer fictional world.
Why did you decide to write romantic mystery?
I don’t know that I’d call it a mystery, exactly, although it definitely has the biggest “big secret” I’ve ever written. I suppose I could have written it so that the reader knew what Richard was up to all along, but I liked the idea of keeping them in the dark and allowing them to fall in love with him along with Iris.
What is your process for writing a book? For example, are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you start at page 1 and write your book sequentially or do you skip around? Do you start with your characters or the plot?
I’m a bit of both. I write a pretty detailed outline, but it’s very heavy on characterization. And while I generally follow most of the outline, I have been known to include the sentence: “Stuff happens.” (Which lends itself to a bit of pantsing.) I usually start and page 1 and move forward from there, but I do occasionally jump forward and write a scene out of order.
Do you write multiple drafts or barely need revisions when typing, The End?
I edit as I go along, constantly backtracking to look over what I wrote the previous couple of days. A few times during the process I’ll go back to the beginning and do a read-through/edit, in part because I need to remember everything I did up to that point. As a result, my first draft is my only draft, and when I’m done I’m done.
What books can we expect to see in the near future?
I’m working on a new series, which will be led off next spring with Because of Miss Bridgerton.
Do you have an ebook reader? If so, which one?
Lately I’ve been using Scribd on both my laptop and iPhone. It’s a great deal. Unlimited books for $8.99/month. They are in the process of reducing their inventory of romance novels, however, because romance readers turned out to be so prolific that they were losing money. But there are still more than enough books on the site to make my monthly fee worth it.
What makes a man attractive to you?
Intelligence and humor. Case in point: my celebrity crush is Jon Stewart.
What is the most interesting thing you’ve ever done?
I went on the game show The Weakest Link and won. ($79,000!)
How long have you been writing?
I sold my first book in 1994. I had been writing seriously for two years before that.
What comes first—characters or the plot?
Okay, get ready, we have our rapid response portion. Don’t think about your answers, just say the first thing that comes to mind. Ready?
Favorite color: Blue
Favorite number: 13
Favorite Actor: Matt Damon
Favorite Actress: Meryl Streep
Wine or liquor? Cocktail
Tea or coffee? Coffee
Decaf or caffeinated? Caffeinated
Boxers or briefs? Boxer briefs!
Chocolate or vanilla? strawberry
Donald Duck or Goofy? Neither
Frozen (the movie) or Tangled? Tangled
Channing Tatum or Johnny Depp? Depp
Want to meet Julia and many fabulous authors? Make sure you check out the information on our conference at http://www.njromancewriters.org. Registration ends October 4th!