This blog is basically about how good books are nice and bad books are the pits. And then I get grumpy.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Q&A with author of the Pink Carnation series, Lauren Willig

Here is the very first of GBBS's Q&As with some very fun and talented writers! First up is Lauren Willig, the author of the Pink Carnation series. For much more on Lauren and her novels follow this link. And for a GBBS review of the first book, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, click here. Many thanks to Lauren for responses that are super thoughtful and as entertaining to read as her books!

GBBS: What is the one book you'd take to a deserted island?

LW: The idea of only having one book… agh. I’m usually a five book a week girl. Fortunately, I am a re-reader and the book I’ve probably re-read most over the course of a lifetime would have to be Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind. Even after five different copies and roughly fifty readings, I still find something new every time I open those covers. Her eye for detail, her ear for dialogue, the subtleties of characterization, and the sheer appeal of Rhett Butler just can’t be matched.

GBBS: If you could, which fictional literary character would you date?

LW: It’s so hard to narrow it down! The heartthrob of my teen years was Ian Thornton from Judith McNaught’s Almost Heaven. By the time I got over him, there was Jamie from Outlander to be drooled over, Lovelace from Clarissa (I know he’s an evil rake, but, oh, the challenge!), Orlando Rock from Love: A User’s Guide, and, of course, those traditional swoon-worthy souls: Mr. Darcy, Mr. Rochester, and Rhett Butler.

If I had to choose now, I might go for Rory Frost, from M.M. Kaye’s Trade Wind. Rory is the classic black sheep hero, an unrepentant rogue running guns in mid-nineteenth century Zanzibar, always ready with a quick quip, cynical to the core—but with his own sense of honor. Think Errol Flynn crossed with Rhett Butler (which mixes genres a bit, but you get the idea).

GBBS: What's your preferred method of book-buying -- internet or old-fashioned bookstores?

LW: Bookstores are my mothership. Whenever I’m bored or cranky, nothing cheers me up like taking a long stroll through the new book tables. There’s something infinitely soothing about it. I’ve found some of my favorite books that way, just randomly roaming along with my head angled awkwardly sideways, never knowing quite what I might find. If I can’t find a particular book in the store (or three or four stores, since I’m lucky enough to live near a Borders, two Barnes & Noble, Bookberries, and Shakespeare & Co, all in a thirty block radius), then I do resort to ordering online. But nothing can possibly replace the sheer joy of being entirely surrounded by books. Books, books, books, and more books, all waiting to be read.

GBBS: Which writer is so great that it's hard to tear yourself away from his/her writing so you can get stuff done?

LW: Actually, there are a lot of those. (As you might have guessed, I’m very susceptible to distraction!). Even though they’re all very different, Susan Elizabeth Philips, Tracy Grant, Robin McKinley, and Georgette Heyer all have that effect on me. Once I start reading any of their books, I fall prey to Just One More Chapter syndrome and have to keep going until I’m done, even if it’s three in the morning and I know I’m going to be useless the next day because of it.

GBBS: Your books are so detailed (I'm thinking of Amy's sneaking around the passages of her brother's huge house in Paris), how are you able to imagine so much so vividly?

LW: Thank you!! Part of it comes from having spent most of my youth being steeped in other centuries. When I was little, one of my favorite treats was being taken to the period rooms at the Met. Other little kids might clamor to go to the park; I just wanted eighteenth century interiors. Family vacations generally involved roaming around old castles. And let’s not even discuss the sheer number of costume dramas I’ve watched over the years. I managed to put my college years to good use by taking classes on seventeenth and eighteenth century art and architecture (Amy’s brother’s house had its inception in a junior year art history class, for which I had to design a seventeenth century French house) as well as literature and history. By the time I sat down to write Pink Carnation, the vistas of the past were often more vivid to me than the workaday world around me; looking out my window in London, I could picture carriages rather than cars, street vendors hawking their wares, dandies tooling their phaetons to Hyde Park. The hard bit is dragging myself back to the present day.

GBBS: I suppose that, unfortunately, the Pink Carnation must end at some point. Do you have any ideas on the backburner for other series?

LW: So many ideas! I don’t want to jinx any of them by saying too much (I get superstitious about these things), but I’m a little obsessed with a pirate project I’m working on right now. I also have vague plans for an eighteenth century series, involving a husband and wife team immersed in international intrigue in the 1770s. Of course, nothing is set in stone—or paper—until I actually sit down to write it.

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