Pink I: Ask the Author

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Good morning! Today is the last day of September, so it is our final day talking about Pink I. Lauren has graciously agreed to answer our burning questions about The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. If there is something you’ve always wanted to know about this book, leave your question in the comments section below. Lauren will stop by periodically today to answer. If we play nicely, Lauren may be willing to come back and do this for each of the Pink books! Try to keep your questions specific to Pink I or the series in general – we don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t read all the books yet.

I will start us off with a question of my own. Lauren, how did you decide that Egyptology would be Richard’s “in” with Napoleon? Does it have anything to do with your love for the Amelia Peabody mysteries?

As a final bonus, there is an epilogue to Pink I that was cut from the manuscript before publication. Lauren has it posted on her website – I think it wraps up our first month of Pink for All Seasons rather nicely.

Release Day Tomorrow, and “Ask the Author” with Lauren Willig

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Tomorrow is the last day of September, so Lauren Willig will be stopping by the blog to answer any questions we have about The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. Then on Wednesday, we’ll start Masque of the Black Tulip. I can’t believe it’s almost October!

Tomorrow is also a big day for book releases. Deanna Raybourn’s latest novel, Night of a Thousand Stars, will be available for purchase. Deanna is another author that I found thanks to Lauren’s website. Her Lady Julia historical mysteries were a treat, but my favorite book of hers is A Spear of Summer Grass – a novel set in Kenya in the 1920s, published around the same time as Lauren’s Ashford Affair. If you’ve never read anything by Deanna, her e-novellas are available on Kindle and Nook at super-low prices.

Here’s what Harlequin MIRA has to say about Night of a Thousand Stars:

On the verge of a stilted life as an aristocrat’s wife, Poppy Hammond does the only sensible thing—she flees the chapel in her wedding gown. Assisted by the handsome curate who calls himself Sebastian Cantrip, she spirits away to her estranged father’s quiet country village, pursued by the family she left in uproar. But when the dust of her broken engagement settles and Sebastian disappears under mysterious circumstances, Poppy discovers there is more to her hero than it seems.

With only her feisty lady’s maid for company, Poppy secures employment and travels incognita—east across the seas, chasing a hunch and the whisper of clues. Danger abounds beneath the canopies of the silken city, and Poppy finds herself in the perilous sights of those who will stop at nothing to recover a fabled ancient treasure. Torn between allegiance to her kindly employer and a dashing, shadowy figure, Poppy will risk it all as she attempts to unravel a much larger plan—one that stretches to the very heart of the British government, and one that could endanger everything, and everyone, that she holds dear.

I’ve got my copy preordered!

Pink 1 Week 4 in Review

Pink Card 1C

Happy Friday, everyone! We can start off today with the last of the beautiful Pink I cards that Sharlene created.  Also, congratulations to Paige, who is the winner of signed copy of Vienna Waltz by Tracy Grant. Paige, if you will email me your address at ashley.pinkforallseasons@gmail.com, we will get your prize in the mail. Thanks again to Tracy for stopping by to chat with us and to all of you who entered. If you didn’t win, never fear – there are more giveaways in our future!

I finished reading The Secret History of the Pink Carnation earlier this week. The funny thing is, I planned to pace myself for a month of reading each book in order to really take my time, read slowly, and make sure I gave myself a chance to appreciate all the detail and humor Lauren includes in her writing. Guess what? I read the last quarter of this book in one sitting. So much for pacing myself! But I think I enjoyed it just as much as I would have if I had made myself stretch it out.

Poor Amy. She was so indignant about Richard not trusting her with his secret identity and so furious that he would compare her with Deirdre, and then she cost him his spying career. She spends several miserable hours berating herself for being worse than Deirdre, because at least Deirdre was innocent of intentionally sabotaging anyone. She just said a few careless words to her maid, who happened to be a French agent. But I think that, in Richard’s mind, Amy’s actions can’t compare with Deirdre’s because Deirdre’s conversation with her maid cost Tony his life. Whatever disappointment Richard feels about having to retire as the Purple Gentian because of Amy, it can’t compare to how wretchedly responsible he feels for what happened to Tony.

More things I had forgotten until this reread:

  • Richard and Amy are able to escape from France because Marston “allows” them to use his boat.
  • Stiles turns in an excellent performance as the ship’s captain.
  • Henrietta has to stay behind while her mother and Amy rescue Richard and while her father, Miles, Geoff, Jane and Gwen intercept the Swiss gold. What a disappointment for her!

I’m curious about those of you who came to Pink by starting with a later book in the series. Going back and reading about the creation of the Pink Carnation’s league, was it what you expected?  If this was your first time around, did you suspect that it would be Jane, not Amy, who would be the Pink Carnation?

The exciting news for next week is that Lauren has volunteered to do an “Ask the Author” Q&A for each of the Pink books as we read along. Since we’re starting Pink II next Wednesday, make sure you check back early next week to find out the details of where and when you can find Lauren to ask her your burning questions about Pink I!

Have a great weekend.

Celebrate Banned Books Week

Banned Books

Did you know that this week is the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week? Some people laugh when they hear a reference to banned books. They think, “Well, thank goodness we don’t do that anymore!” Here is the scary thing – communities may not be turning out to burn books in the town square these days, but there is still a surprisingly vocal contingent of people who want to ban books. According to the National Coalition Against Censorship, there is currently a proposal in Virginia that would require parents to be notified if required reading in their children’s classes covered “sensitive” material. In Pennsylvania, teachers have been instructed to indicate if books in their classroom libraries contain “violence or sexual content” or “racial, ethnic, or religious material” that might be considered offensive. A local school board in Missouri has just removed Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five from their school libraries in response to a complaint that it contained “vulgar language, violence, and sexual content.” Banning books is still a VERY real thing in our world. The American Library Association provides a list on their website of the books that were most frequently challenged, restricted, removed, or banned in 2013 and 2014.

Last week, Hannah from the blog Things Matter extended an invitation to several book bloggers to choose a book from the ALA list of banned books and share a bit about why it’s an important or worthwhile read. Since I just finished reading Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale a few weeks ago, that seemed like the perfect choice for me to write about today.

Since its publication in 1985, The Handmaid’s Tale has made regular appearances on national lists of banned books. It is typically challenged for the following reasons:

  • Explicit, lurid or sexual content
  • Profanity
  • Defamation of Christians and women

For those of you who are unfamiliar with The Handmaid’s Tale, it’s speculative fiction. Atwood’s story assumes that the United States government, in the near future, is overthrown by a totalitarian Christian regime. Everyone is forced to convert to the same denomination of Christianity – those who refuse are executed or deported. Men hold all positions of power exclusively, and all property that women owned before the revolution has reverted to their husband or closest male relative. Women are divided into three classes: Wives, Marthas (domestic servants), and Handmaids (mistresses for the purpose of childbearing). The story is narrated by Offred, although this isn’t really her name. She was married with a child before the revolution, but she has been separated from her family, and she is given the choice between exile and life as a Handmaid. “Offred” literally means “Of Fred,” and Fred is the name of the man she has been assigned to as a Handmaid. She has nothing of her own, no idea if her husband and child are dead or alive, and her every movement is closely watched, both by soldiers and spies for the government. The story is about Offred’s existence within the new world order, and the decision she must make to conform or rebel.

I have to tell you, this book made me uncomfortable. It’s not a happy story. It was strange, frequently disturbing, and hard to follow at times. But it was ENTIRELY worthwhile. The people who argue that it’s anti-Christian are those who have only read the back cover. Atwood is not presenting this futuristic world and saying, “See, this is what life would be like if Christians got their way.” The Handmaid’s Tale is not book that sets out to tear down Christianity – it’s a story about the dangers of fundamentalism in any form. It’s about the ways that good people with good intentions can go horribly wrong when they cling too literally to an ideal. It’s about the ways that we talk ourselves into things, and the ways that we rationalize our behavior to ourselves. Instead of forbidding students to read it, shouldn’t we be encouraging students to read it if they are interested and then talk to someone about it?

Even if The Handmaid’s Tale doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, celebrate Banned Books Week with us! Pick up a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harry Potter, Charlotte’s Web, or any other book on the ALA’s list and appreciate the fact that you can read whatever you want.

I’ll wrap up today by sharing two of my favorite author responses to banned books. First, here is a video of Benedict Cumberbatch at the 2014 Letters Live event. He is reading a letter from Kurt Vonnegut to Charles McCarthy, the chairman of the Drake School Board in North Dakota, who ordered that all copies of Slaughterhouse Five be burned in the school’s furnace because it contained “obscene language.” Vonnegut responds to accusations that his work is evil by stating that, if his accusers bothered to read his books, they would see that they actually “beg that people be kinder and more responsible than they often are.” In his letter, Vonnegut is eloquent, severe, and absolutely right.

Second, here is a letter that Pat Conroy wrote in 2007 to the editor of the Charleston Gazette when he learned that a group of parents wanted to prevent a high school teacher in West Virginia from using Prince of Tides and Beach Music in her classroom. Conroy says that of all his books, these two are the ones that he would “place before the altar of God and say, ‘Lord, this is how I found the world you made.’” He makes a powerful argument for supporting English teachers and trusting that they will do no harm when they choose novels for their students to read.

Do you have a favorite banned book?

Falling in Love with Historical Fiction

We’ve talked a bit about genre and the Pink books in the past two weeks. One of the reasons I appreciate genre categories is because once you’ve found a book you love, knowing what genre it is can help you find hundreds of other similar books to try. Today, we have a guest post from Chanpreet, who will explain how reading The Secret History of the Pink Carnation helped her to rediscover her love for the historical fiction genre.

I’ve always loved reading. My memories don’t go back to when I was three years old, the age my mother tells me I first learned how to read, but as long as I can remember I’ve been reading and loving it. The book that started my love for all things historical and romance was a novel titled The Love Stone by Deana James. I read it when I was in the 5th or 6th grade and carried it around with me everywhere. After that, I started actively looking for books like The Love Stone, and I started reading Jude Deveraux, Judith McNaught, and Karen Robards. I read historical romances exclusively until I stumbled upon contemporary romance authors like Rachel Gibson, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Sandra Brown, and then that was all I read.

In 2004, there was an excerpt of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation that I read somewhere. It was a scene with Amy and Richard and featured them in the gondola and I remember thinking, “That’s hot! I want to read more!” I immediately looked up the publishing date and any information I could find on Lauren, which wasn’t much at the time. I started to look for more information about the book. When the book first came out, I was unable to afford buying the book in hardback but was ecstatic when my local library accepted my suggestion that they add the book to their lending selection. I remember checking it out and being so excited! I started reading it the moment I got home and finished it the same day, staying up late at night to finish it. I fell in love with the book. It was everything I’d hoped it would be and so much more. The book was funny, sweet, hot, and so very entertaining! I was so sad when it was over, because I wanted more. I was also pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the action and mystery angle. I wanted more Amy and Richard, Collin and Eloise, to find out how Miss Gwen and Jane were going to stop Napoleon, more intrigue, more drama, more of everything.

All of a sudden, I couldn’t get enough of historical novels again. My passion came back, but differently. I was still enchanted with bygone eras, but I was old enough to realize that what I had read as a teenager wasn’t always an accurate portrayal of the times. I also learned I wanted more to my stories than just romance.  I realized reading a book that was just as much a romance as it was a historical novel or an action/suspense novel was exhilarating and so much more fulfilling.  Since then, I’ve read countless historical novels.  I actively began to look for them when I would have passed over them before.   I own all of Lauren’s books in paperback and always look forward to reading her new books and re-reading and visiting with some of my favorite characters.  I look forward to news about her upcoming books, what she’s reading, and especially what she’s researching.  I’ve been introduced to many new authors and books through my daily stalkings of her website.  So much so, when I met her a few years ago at a singing she recognized my name and this year as well when I got to meet her for 15 minutes at RT.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation was a game changer for me and I think for many others as well.  I noticed that her fans grew with each book. I always get that happy feeling knowing I was one of the lucky ones who found her at the beginning and thinking how lucky the new readers are to have an extensive back list waiting for them.  I’m always very excited to see her books on the shelves and on the table with other best sellers.  It takes someone extra special to be a writer, and I’m hoping Lauren will continue to bring me and other readers joy.

Thanks for sharing with us today, Chanpreet! I’ve found several great recommendations on Lauren’s website for historical fiction as well. Off the top of my head, I know I’ve read Forever Amber, The Far Pavilions, and Shadow of the Moon on Lauren’s recommendation. If you’d like to see a list of some of Lauren’s favorite books by category, she has one posted on her website. Tracy Grant’s novels are on Lauren’s list as favorite historical mysteries! If you’d like to give one a try, make sure to enter the giveaway for a signed copy of Vienna Waltz!

What are some of your favorite historical fiction novels?

Dream Casting: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation

I don’t know about you, but one of the things I always think when I finish a great book is, “That should be a movie!” I know sometimes movie adaptations don’t live up to what’s in my imagination, but it’s fun to think about which actors would play the characters in your favorite books if you had the chance to cast them! On that note, today we have a guest post from Miss Eliza of Strange and Random Happenstance, who is here to tell us about her ideal casting picks for a movie version of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.

Eliza1
This might shock some of you who know me from my book blog and being one of the moderators for the “That Summer Read Along” but I wasn’t always a book person. Shocking, I know. In fact I kind of came to reading via a back door. I was a movie addict when younger, I still appreciate movies but books have filled what time I had for movies.  I bridged this gap in my adolescence with novelizations of movies, the Willow novelization being my favorite. Mmm, Val Kilmer. I then expanded to Timothy Zhan’s Star Wars books which were continuations of the original trilogy, in particular Heir to the Empire, and well, the rest is history. But that part of me that loved films is still there and because of this I can’t help but cast books as I read them.

Eliza2
If you participated in the “That Summer Read Along” you know I can’t keep these casting suggestions to myself, and I love to discuss them, so as part of Ashley’s year-long Pink Read Along I’ll be popping in once a month to discuss who I think would be perfect for the leads of that month’s book. This being the premiere month with The Secret History of the Pink Carnation I say we jump right in. The year was 2007, and that March I had just watched and fell in love with the newest adaptation of Northanger Abbey starring Felicity Jones and J.J. Feild. Shortly thereafter I picked up The Secret History of the Pink Carnation and I instantly saw Amy Balcourt being played by Felicity Jones. The bubbly personality, the short stature with the enthusiasm to hunt down those laundry lists, or French spies made her a perfect choice.

Eliza3

My main problem was in casting Richard Selwick. Amy came so easy, and so did Richard, to an extent… because, let’s face it, Richard is Cary Elwes in The Princess Bride. Only, well, Cary wouldn’t work, age and food have seen to that, and I try to be realistic in my casting, so I thought of a perfect alternative, his name is Bradley James. Most people will know Bradley from his stint as Arthur on Merlin, but the reason why I chose him is that throughout Merlin he showed he has the same acting chops and comedic timing as a young Carey Elwes, so he makes a perfect substitute.  You can read the full profiles for Amy and Richard over on my website, but I’d like to discuss who your Amy and Richard would be!

So what do you think of Miss Eliza’s choices?  What actors would you like to see take on characters in Pink I?  We’d love to hear your suggestions for Amy and Richard, or anyone else from the book.  I know someone has a good idea for who should play Edouard or Delaroche…

An Interview and a Giveaway with Tracy Grant

Alright, Pink Crew, we have a very special guest with us today! Allow me to introduce Teresa (Tracy) Grant, author of eleven novels, who currently writes a series of historical mysteries published by Kensington Books.

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I stumbled across Tracy’s books on Lauren’s website a few years ago, and I’m so glad I did! They are set in the Napoleonic era, both in Great Britain and in Europe, and they feature a husband-and-wife spy team named Suzanne and Malcolm Rannoch. Malcolm is a British aristocrat working as diplomat and spy, and Suzanne is his war bride with a shadowy past. Their first novel, Vienna Waltz, is set during the Congress of Vienna in 1814, and Malcolm and Suzanne are drawn into an investigation when Princess Tatiana is murdered.

Tracy has stopped by to chat and kindly answer a few questions about herself, her writing, and her current projects. So without further ado, I will give you Tracy in her own words.

Tracy, if I took a sneak peek into your writing space, what would I find?

A latte or a cup of tea. I do a lot of my writing in a Peet’s Coffee & Tea in an open air mall. But as the mother of a small child, I’ve learned to write wherever and whenever I get the chance. Yesterday I wrote in Peet’s, in the children’s department at Nordstrom’s, at the playground, in Pottery Barn Kids, and curled up in an armchair at home late in the evening.

What are five of your favorite things?

Hard to limit the list to five, but a sampling: The X-Files, the finale trio of Der Rosenkavalier, Alice Temperley dresses, my daughter’s rendition of “Let it Go”, Shakespeare’s history plays, pumpkin lattes.

If you stopped writing books (please don’t), what would you do for a living?

I don’t think I could stop writing books any more than I could stop breathing. But I also work part time as Director of Foundation, Corporate & Government Relations for the Merola Opera Program, and I spend a lot of time being a mommy to my two and nine-month old Mélanie.

When you walk into a book store, where do you go first?

To see if they have my books 🙂

If you were having a dinner party, and you could invite 6 characters (other than yours) to attend, who would you pick?

Harriet Vane & Lord Peter Wimsey, Elizabeth Bennet & Fitzwilliam Darcy, Lord Vaughn & Mary Alsworthy

What sparked your interest in the Napoleonic era?

Seeing the Greer Garson/Laurence Olivier film of Pride and Prejudice when I was six and then asking my mom to read the book to me. Followed by the rest of Jane Austen and then Georgette Heyer starting when I was nine or ten. I was intrigued by the Congress of Vienna from the references to Sophy’s time there in The Grand Sophy, the first Heyer book my mom read to me. Heyer’s An Infamous Army got me fascinated with Waterloo and the Napoleonic Wars. It such a fascinating time period, on the cusp of change between the Enlightenment and French Revolution and the Victorian Industrial era.

What was your inspiration for Malcolm and Suzanne?

I think the first inspiration was watching the Anthony Andrews/Jane Seymour film of The Scarlet Pimpernel and thinking during the wedding scene “what if she really was spying on him when they got married?” Not long after, my mom and I began co-writing Regency romances together as Anthea Malcolm. In our second book, which was never published, we had two secondary characters who almost ended up married. I remember thinking “if these two people did get married, it would be really interesting to see what happened to them in five years or so.” Years later, that sparked my three books about Charles & Mélanie Fraser. When I changed publishers and my new publisher wanted new names, I decide to write a sort of “parallel universe” changing their names to Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch and beginning with their history at the Congress of Vienna, which I really wanted to dramatize.

How important are the names of the characters in your books? Do you choose names based on their sound or meaning, or something else entirely?

I love naming characters! Sometimes a name just pops into my head and feels right. Other times I think about it and make lists. I try to think about who the characters’ parents are and what sort of name they might have chosen – aristocrats concerned with the family lineage which might pick the name of an ancestor; classical scholars might pick a name from classical history or mythology; a romantic might pick a name from a contemporary novel. I have The Oxford Book of English Christian Names which has origins and historical usage info on names, which is a big help. One of the challenges is that the British upper classes tend to use a fairly small number of names over and over, and there’s a limit to how many Georges, Williams, Carolines, and Henriettas one can have in a fictional world without hopelessly confusing the reader. With Harry and Cordelia, I actually posted possible names on my blog and on Facebook to get reader input. I decided on Cordelia when my friend writer Deborah Crombie said she’d always loved the name. I also ended up giving it to my daughter as her middle name as well.

What are you working on now?

A book set about three months after The Berkeley Square Affair. It begins with Laura Dudley, the nanny/governess of Malcolm and Suzanne’s children, being found holding a knife in the study of a duke who has just been stabbed to death. Malcolm and Suzanne believe she’s innocent, but Laura refuses to talk. And they quickly learn there is a great deal they don’t know about her. It’s a challenging investigation for Malcolm and Suzanne since it’s the first time they’ve been embroiled in a mystery since Malcolm learned the truth of Suzanne’s past.

What books do you recommend to readers who enjoy your work?

Lauren Willig, of course. Tasha Alexander, Deanna Raybourn, C.S. Harris, Deborah Crombie, and Laurie King. All write wonderful stories with strong mysteries and fascinating relationships among the characters. Also a wonderful book called Freedom and Necessity by Steven Brust and Emma Bull. It takes place in the Victorian era has an amazing mix of suspense, adventure, and history, and one of the best love stories I’ve ever read. And going back in time, I was strongly influenced by British “Golden Age” mystery writers, particularly Dorothy Sayers, and also Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh. They write great mysteries that also have wonderfully rich ongoing love stories for the detectives.

If readers would like to learn more about you and your work, how would they do that?

My website is at http://www.tracygrant.org. You can follow me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/tracygrant and on twitter at https://twitter.com/tracygrant.

In addition to answering all of my questions, Tracy has also agreed to autograph a copy of Vienna Waltz for a commenter on today’s blog post! Isn’t she wonderful? To enter yourself for this giveaway, just leave a comment below. You have until midnight EST on September 25 to enter. I will announce the winner on Friday.

Want to earn extra entries for this giveaway? You can enter up to three times. Here’s how:

  1. Leave a comment below.
  2. Follow the blog! If you are already a follower, just mention that in your comment. There are links in the top right corner of this page to become a follower.
  3. Post a link to this giveaway on Facebook or Twitter. Again, you can just let me know in your comment that you’ve done this. I trust you.

On Friday, I will use the Random Number Generator to pick a winner. Good luck! And thank you again, Tracy, for sharing your time with us today.