Pink I: Ask the Author

first ed

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.

26 thoughts on “Pink I: Ask the Author

  1. I have a question for Lauren!

    First, hi! And thank you for writing such a fantastic (and fun!) swashbuckling series! My question is this – how in the world do you keep it all straight? Where characters are, who they are related to, whom they might run into at a ball? In Pink I alone there are so many people, and then we see some of them in the future! Is there a giant magic spreadsheet somewhere where all of this lives?


    • Great questions, Beth! I’ll second them. This time around, I’m catching a lot more references that end up being important later in the series.

      • Thanks, ladies! I wish I had a spreadsheet. That would be the sensible thing to do. Instead I have bits of looseleaf paper in manila folders that are never where I think they are. Because the series grew organically– and largely by accident– I never did any of those sensible things that people writing series are supposed to do, like keep a series “bible” or charts.

        For the most part, all of those details live in my head (who is related to whom, their past histories, their preferences, their appearances, who insulted whom at which ball), although I do occasionally run into the danger of over-confidence, of thinking I remembered something which I actually misremembered (I do this with real people and events all the time, too!). When I know I need to double-check, I wind up going back to the relevant book. Recently, for example, I went back and re-read all the Jack bits in “Blood Lily”– and was pleasantly surprised to find that I’d remembered him as he was.

  2. Hi Lauren!
    This question was inspired by a recent post on your website mentioning female spies during the English Civil War: might you in future write a prequel to the Pink Carnation series, perhaps dealing with one of Jane’s ancestors (ancestress?) during the English Civil War, a la Baroness Orczy and The Laughing Cavalier?

    • I do want to write a vast Civil War epic one of these days (English Civil War, I mean), since I once spent rather a lot of time living in the 1640s. But it probably wouldn’t be a Pink prequel. There’s a real historical personage about whom I’ve been longing to write a book, daughter of Charles I’s tutor, who smuggled the Duke of York out of Parliamentary custody and all sorts of other exciting things. That’s been on the to-do list for a very long time.

  3. Hi Lauren,
    Thanks so much for taking out the time to answer our questions!
    I’d like to ask a question about long term plotting. In interviews, you have indicated that some characters surprised you in finding their match. Ashley and I had a discussion on Friday about an excerpt from the Q&A at the end of Pink I – where you talk about Jane’s romance and how you knew who her hero would be, but that was between you and Jane. I don’t know when that interview was written in relation to the rest of the books, but did that hero stay the same as the books progressed? I have to admit, I thought it would be someone else from books 3-8, but that esteemed gentleman got his story in 9!

    • That interview was written way back in 2005 or thereabouts, so a very, very long time ago (while I was still writing “Black Tulip”). As for Jane’s hero… he is and he isn’t. I knew, from the very beginning, that Jane’s book was going to be set in Portugal. It was just an immutable law of nature. I had an image of her sitting by a hardscrabble fire in the Portuguese countryside, looking like she’d just stepped out of a bandbox, while a man in rough brown pants and jackets said something along the lines of, “You’re not my contact.”

      As a placeholder, I called that man Lucien. I knew there was going to be something vaguely foreign about him and that he was a soldier of fortune, a Han Solo type. But that was all I knew about him. And then, as I was writing “Blood Lily” back in the summer of 2008, Jack Reid strolled onto the scene, and I realized, “Ack! That’s him! That’s Lucien!” Only, of course, he wasn’t Lucien any more. He was Jack. But, otherwise, there he was, the man who was going to team up with Jane in Portugal– and not like it one bit. It fit. And once that fell into place, so did the arc of the rest of the series.

    • This was a big problem for me. I didn’t want to turn Pink XII into a reunion special. I want it to stand on its own as Jane and Jack’s story. But, at the same time, I don’t want to leave all of our other friends without saying goodbye. (That was part of the reason for “Midnight Manzanilla”, so that we’d have a chance to check in with Turnip and Co., who will not be in Pink XII.) I was puzzling out a plot problem when I realized that at least some of our old Pink friends have a very good reason for making an appearance in Jane’s book, killing two birds with one stone for me. But you’ll have to wait and see….

  4. Hi Lauren! Two questions: In your mind how old was Miss Gwen at the beginning of the series? It seemed to me that she became younger with each book And….did you know who Jane’s hero would be from the get-go or did it change mid-series?

    • Vis a vis Jane’s hero…. Check out the answer to Karen’s question, above.

      I did toy with the idea of various other characters along the way. When I began writing “Pink Carnation”, I initially intended to set Jane up with Geoff. But it became clear by the end of the book that there was just no chemistry there. Respect, yes. Chemistry, no. So I scrapped that idea and two books later, along came Letty.

      When I began writing “Black Tulip”, I speculated about the prospect of Jane and Lord Vaughn. Both were so cool, so controlled, so clever. But Jane had a conscience and a very deep streak of earnestness, neither of which are in Lord Vaughn’s vocabulary. That knocked him out of the running before the end of “Black Tulip”. (I briefly considered matching him with Penelope Deveraux, but that didn’t work either– and then along came Mary Alsworthy.)

      By “Emerald Ring” (which I wrote in 2005), I knew that Jane had a mysterious Han Solo-like hero who she would meet in Portugal at the onset of the Peninsular Wars. By “Blood Lily” (which I wrote in the summer of 2008), I knew that mysterious hero was none other than Jack Reid.

      And that’s how it all happened.

      • I initially intended to set Jane up with Geoff. But it became clear by the end of the book that there was just no chemistry there. Respect, yes. Chemistry, no.

        This makes tons of sense to me. Geoff, in some ways, is too similar to Jane. They’re the sensible (except for Geoff’s obsession with Mary), efficient foils for the more passionate and reckless Amy and Richard. Emerald Ring is fun, in part, because Letty upsets Geoff’s plans. Can’t wait to see how Jack changes Jane’s world 🙂

  5. In the beginning, I imagined Miss Gwen as late forties/early fifties, but deliberately behaving as though she were older. (Bearing in mind that when I began writing Pink I, I was all of twenty-three, and anything over thirty felt ancient to me!) I revised her age a bit as the series went on, ratcheting it back a few years, as it became clear that her curmudgeon act was very much a deliberate affectation.

  6. Thanks, Lauren for these insights into your character and series development. I have thoroughly enjoyed rereading and as Heather commented, picking up on things of later importance that I hadn’t remembered from the first reading. I am truly amazed that everything resides in your head.

    Since you said the series grew organically and accidentally, I was wondering how many books you originally envisioned, or did you intend a series at all? It just seems so natural, the way each book flows into the other. Also, how did you know when to stop?

    Thanks, also for taking your time to respond to questions. This event is so much fun!

    • Thanks, Betty! The first book was really intended to be a one-off, but while I was writing it, it became quite clear that Henrietta and Miles were meant for one another and needed a book of their own. And if Miles was being married off, then what of Geoff? I couldn’t leave him in the lurch. Of course, by then, I had introduced Charlotte and Penelope, who needed their own books, too. And we’d also met the Black Tulip, who expanded from a one book villain to a multi-book plot arc. You can see how it goes….

      At one point– somewhere around Black Tulip, when my publisher had signed me up for two more books after that, and the idea occurred that I might be allowed to continue to dwell in this world for a bit– I remember thinking how lovely it would be if I could get six books in. Six books would give me time to deal with Charlotte, Penelope, and, finally, Jane. Six books seemed like a very large and unreal number.

      But my publisher kept signing me up for two more… and two more… and two more and a Christmas book… and two more… and here we are!

      • So glad that they kept coming. I think your characters become people that a reader wants to know more about. I have to admit that I always had a special affection for Geoff. I was happy also with what you did with the Black Tulip, but will save that for another book along this journey!

  7. Hello,
    Did anyone ever get the sketches of the tapestries for Jane’s mum? I always wondered. Amy was a bit distracted at the end and I wouldn’t be surprised if Aunt Penelope forgot about it as well. I imagine there could have been a rather funny explanation from the girls about why they couldn’t get the sketches.
    Sorry if this was already gone over.

    • Hi, Ella! I don’t think anyone has ever asked me that before. It is an entirely unique question.

      I am quite sure that Jane arranged it. Because you know she would remember something like that….

      • Excellent! Glad to hear it.
        Thank you for taking the time to do this, it has been quite fun reading all the question and your answers.

  8. Hello Lauren! I must admit that the first book I read was actually the second in the series,The Masque of the Black Tulip and i remember exclaiming out loud about the comment in the book about the scarlet pimpernel and it was that moment i knew i was going to REALLY enjoy reading that book and all the ones that followed. My question is will we ever see the scarlet pimpernel himself in a cameo, and when you think of the scarlet pimpernel do you picture him as Anthony Andrews or one of the other versions of the pimpernel?

    • I will admit, I do picture him as Anthony Andrews. I’d read the book before I saw the movie– but, at this point, I don’t remember what the Pimpernel looked like in my head pre-Anthony Andrews. It’s been so long.

      There is an outtake from Pink I on my website in the outtakes section featuring cameos from both Sir Percy and Marguerite (– just scroll all the way to the bottom), but the Pimpernel will never make an appearance in any of the published books.

      The reason? Copyright. “The Scarlet Pimpernel” is out of copyright in the U.S., but it’s still under copyright in the UK and EU, where my books are also published. (At least it still was back in 2005; I believe it may have expired since.) Copyright law is a strange and slippery beast, and tends to operate on a continuum. A mere mention of a well-known character in a book generally wouldn’t infringe copyright. If there have been appearances of that character in other books or movies (this is called “weakening copyright”, the argument being that if other people did it and there were no complaints, then the character has become part of the public domain), it might be okay to bring in that character but it’s debatable and sticky. Using text or action from the original is an absolute no. There are other carve-outs, for educational purposes or satire, but that’s the general idea. There was only so much gray area I was willing to play with there, which is why the Scarlet Pimpernel is confined to my outtakes section.

  9. Pingback: Pink for All Seasons Month 2 – The Masque of the Black Tulip | Inspiration in Creation

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