UTC: Thank you Jennifer for taking the time to chat with us today! Let's get started by talking about kilts! MMMMmmm, I love a man in kilts! How did Highland Pleasures come to be? What was the inspiration behind this series?
The family Mackenzie just sort of walked into my head. I remember sitting on the sofa staring out at my backyard at one point, and seeing these guys in kilts tearing up Victorian London. Bad boys, in and out of scandals, untrusted--and they don't care. I always pictured four: The leader (Hart), the dangerous one (Cameron), the charmer (Mac), and the madman (Ian).
These guys stayed in my thoughts, waking and sleeping, and wouldn't let go of me. I couldn't stop thinking about them. I figured, if I couldn't, maybe readers wouldn’t' be able to either.
Coming up with the heroines was much harder. Isabella was always there--the woman who loved the Mackenzies but marriage to one drove her insane. Eleanor was always there too--things didn't work out for her and Hart at first, but she's always loved him and is there for him.
Beth and Ainsley--oh, my, it took forever to find those two! I hired and fired many a heroine before they were right. Oy. But I like Beth and Ainsley came out well, so I'm happy.
UTC: Lord Ian Mackenzie has Asperger's Syndrome. This is a unique characteristic that sets him apart from other heroes. Why did you decide to make Ian have this disorder?
I always knew that the youngest Mackenzie brother would be "mad," or at least different from his brothers. Ian popped into my head that way and never changed (he's stubborn). I realized after watching him a while that he had high-functioning autism, or maybe Asperger's Syndrome. I did a lot of research on Asperger's, and that's what he had. I incorporated much that I learned about AS into Ian's characteristics. I wanted to explore how those in the Victorian world would react to Ian, when AS and autism weren't yet recognized. I'm always interested in incongruities and how people respond to them.
UTC: In Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage, Lady Isabella and Mac Mackenzie have a lot of bitterness towards one another after their divorce. Do you feel that it is more difficult (or easier) to write a rekindled romance?
It was quite difficult to write the rekindled romance, because rekindled couples have so much baggage! The writer has to make it believable that the h/ h had a good reason to break up, but not such a horrific reason that it's unbelievable they can get back together. I did *not* want to write an infidelity story--I wanted to explore their characters and other possibilities. (Marriage is complicated!)
Some readers didn't like or get what I was trying to do with Mac and Isabella's story, but I had quite a few people tell me they'd been through almost exactly what Mac and Isabella went through, that I'd captured it spot on. That's good for me, the writer--though I'm sorry those readers went through the pain!
UTC: You write paranormal and historical romances, which genre is easier to write about?
Neither. Both have their difficulties. With historicals, the trick is not to be too modern: in language, attitudes, knowledge, and the like. At the same time, you can't be so non-modern that the reader can't relate to the characters.
The Shifters series is present day, which you might think is easier--but I have to say that I started writing anything contemporary rather late. I read, wrote, breathed and slept historical novels until about five years ago. Figuring out how to make the present-day, mundane world interesting is hard! How exciting is going for coffee or grocery shopping?
Also in a paranormal series, you have to watch consistency. If the Shifters can only shift this certain way, they can't be shifting any old way because you need it for the plot. Also, my Shifters must always be affected by their Collars when they fight, so I can't have them just start to fight without consequences of that.
So, each genre is fraught with peril, but each is wonderful as well.
UTC: Of all your heroes and heroines you have written, which couple is your favourite and why?
Eee! This is always a hard question! Well-- I really love how Cameron and Ainsley turned out (in Many Sins of Lord Cameron). That said, I had a blast writing Eleanor and Hart (Hart really shaped up to be an amazing man). And then there's Mick and Janet from the Stormwalker series I write as Allyson James. Those two are fiery (pardon the pun), and I love following them from book to book. But then there's the Shifters--Andrea and Sean are wonderful. But then, Wild Cat, out in January, has my favorite Shifter couple--Diego and Cassidy. They're just hot!
UTC: What can readers expect from Lord Cameron in The Many Sins of Lord Cameron?
Frustration, passion, laughter, tears--you find out what happened in Cameron's first marriage, and why he's both so protective of his son Daniel but still doesn't really know what to do with him. Cam has a lot of healing to do, and Ainsley helps him do it (while driving him nuts at the same time). You'll learn about Ainsley and her four brothers (The McBrides), and see what's up with the Mackenzie family as a whole.
UTC: Hart Mackenzie's book is out April 2012. When will the cover be revealed?
The cover for The Duke's Perfect Wife is being worked on as we speak. I saw a draft of the cover art. It's a clinch, with a cute red-headed Eleanor, and Hart--hunky, shirtless man in a kilt. :-) I'll post the cover as soon as it's final. Usually it's a month or two from draft to final cover.
UTC: If you got transported back in time and landed in the Mackenzie's time, which brother do you think you would fall in love with?
Wow, that's a hard question! I wouldn't mind sampling each of them. But I might settle on Mac--he's full of fun and so sexy, but also so gentle and protective. But then--Cameron. Hart. Ian. Can I have all of them? I don't mind.
UTC: By all means, go ahead! Without you, we wouldn't have these men to drool over! Do you find that there is a difference while writing your Shifter Unbound series and your Highland Pleasures series?
I personally don't *feel* different, but I do have a different approach to each series. Highland Pleasures is very character-driven, with some plot, much heat, and lots of romance. I try to focus mostly on the hero / heroine and the development of their relationship.
In the Shifters series, there's more plot and action in addition to the romance. Not only am I telling the characters' stories and taking you through their romance, but there are problems the Shifters as a whole have to face. I like to enlarge the story to the other Shifters as well as the main couple. And there's plenty of heat!
UTC: What made you write about Shifters rather then vampires? Have you always preferred furry over fanged?
Before I wrote the Shifters, I told my publisher I wanted to write a vampire series (and I have one percolating in my head even now), but my publisher basically said no. I think they were dismayed by the thought of yet *another* vampire series on the pile (and I can't really blame them).
I decided to do shape shifters instead, because I'd also had an idea for a shapeshifter world (starring the Morrisseys, those Irish wildcats, a family of bachelors living together), so I didn’t mind at all putting vampires on the back burner and starting the shape shifters. I'm very glad I did, because I love the Shifters! But I'll get to the vamps eventually.
UTC: Let's say you had the chance to drop your characters into another author's world. Whose worldbuilding fascinates you and why would you choose this author?
Hmm. Good question. I might pick the Sookie Stackhouse universe, which is funny but edgy at the same time. I could imagine my Shifters hanging out there, thinking their shifters were crazy. But still getting in on the action, not to mention the heat. I think Charlaine Harris did a fabulous job with that series (and will I be smacked if I say I think the books are better than the television show?)
UTC: If you could pick three fictional characters to attend your dinner party, who would you choose and why?
This is a tough question, because the fictional characters I am most fascinated with are not necessarily ones who are particularly nice or likeable (e.g., Sherklock Holmes). They're interesting, but in real life, probably too obnoxious for my taste. I have a low tolerance for bad behavior (especially at my dinner party!)
However, I wouldn't mind inviting Paola and Guido Brunetti from Donna Leon's fabulous Venice-set mystery series, as long as Paola cooks. That series is good for the food descriptions alone! (mmm, risotto).
UTC: Tough question coming up....who is hotter? Shifters or Highlanders?
So not fair! They're both scorching, and I wouldn't mind being swept away by either one. It's a tough call! I think it has to do with the characters themselves--my Shifters and Highlanders are similar, they just live in different times and places (and the Mackenzies don't shift--that I know of!)
Again, can I have them both? I'll take them . . .
UTC: Thanks so much for chatting with us today! It was so much fun! And now, maidens, Jennifer Ashley has a treat for you!