Ask the Author V

As we wrap up the month of January and prepare for The Temptation of the Night Jasmine, let’s devote one more day to Arabella, Turnip, and all things Mistletoe!

Lauren Willig has graciously agreed to return for another session of “Ask the Author.” If you’ve always wondered to yourself, “Why pudding??” now is your chance to ask. Post your questions in the comments section below, and Lauren will pop by periodically throughout the day to answer them.

Also, the Pink Fairy will be rewarding one lucky commenter today with a Mistletoe-themed mug designed by Miss Eliza:

Pink V mug

Isn’t it lovely?  You can see the mugs for all the other books as well on Zazzle’s site.

Big thanks to Lauren for sharing her time with us today!

27 thoughts on “Ask the Author V

  1. Hi! My questions is how was it to write some of the same scenes from a different point of view? Have you ever thought of doing that for some of the other books? Also, did you feel that the book was missing something without the present day characters?

    • Hi, Rebecca! I loved doing the dual scenes. Back in my youth, when I gorged myself on romance novels, one of my favorite pairs of books was Jude Deveraux’s “Twin of Ice” and “Twin of Fire”, which followed the exact same events but from two different sides. I’d always wanted to try something like that. In fact, I deliberately made the end of “Black Tulip” and the beginning of “Emerald Ring” overlap so I could do something like that with Geoff. (It’s been a while, so I can’t quote chapter and verse, but the final scene of “Black Tulip” very deliberately takes place after chapter three or so of “Emerald Ring”– so when we see Geoff at the end of “Black Tulip”, he’s all upset because he’s accidentally eloped with the wrong person. Only we/Miles and Hen don’t know that yet.)

      But I digress. Unlike the “Black Tulip”/”Emerald Ring” overlap, which was planned before I’d written either, I wrote “Night Jasmine” without knowing I was going to revisit that house party. When the chance to write Turnip’s story came up, I had one of those “aha!” moments, as I suddenly realized why he was trying to cut down a tree with the wrong side of an ax.

      For me, part of the delight of writing interwoven stories is getting to look at the same characters in different ways. So Charlotte and Robert look a little different from Turnip’s and Arabella’s viewpoint than they do in their own book and vice versa.

      I haven’t really thought of doing that for the other books, though, largely because of timeline issues. Many of the books are set around specific historical events which have to be at a certain time– or in different countries– so it’s harder to make them overlap.

      • Moving on to the present day question…. Originally, I’d intended there to be an Eloise and Colin frame for MISTLETOE. It was going to be Christmas and Eloise was home in New York and would stumble on the Dempsey papers in the New York Public Library– as well as an encounter with her Awful Ex.

        But then two things happened. One was that my publisher asked me to make this book shorter. I tend, by industry standards, to write long. My books generally run about 120,000 words in manuscript, with ORCHID AFFAIR and ASHFORD both coming in at over 140,000 words. My publisher wanted to do something gift-like and bon bon sized with the MISTLETOE packaging– so they asked me to keep it to 100,000 words. (Which meant, of course, that I turned it in at 110,000 and then had to go through, painstakingly cutting out an adverb here and an extraneous phrase there until I had it down to 100,000.) I felt that I could do justice to Arabella and Turnip’s story in 100,000 words (that’s probably about what the historical bits usually run, without Colin and Eloise), but not in less than that. So Colin and Eloise happened to go.

        That was the main reason. The other was that this was the first time I’d ever written two books in one year. The timing got a little tight. I’d originally intended to write those Eloise and Colin chapters anyway, and post them on my website as an extra, but…. The reality of the calendar interfered.

        All that being said, I’m rather glad that MISTLETOE worked out the way it did. I don’t think it loses anything by not having the modern characters and it makes it easier to recommend to people who haven’t read the other books in the series.

  2. Hi Lauren!

    I have to echo Ashley’s question – why pudding? As a born-and-raised North Carolinian (and southerner), I have to tell you that (in my head) I heard the word “puddin'” every time I read “pudding” which added a whole extra level of hilarity for this novel. I know that’s not how they would have said it, but in my head Turnip and Arabella were dropping ‘g’s all over the place.

    Incidentally, I have no idea how to make a Christmas pudding. I can, however, knock socks off with some bananna puddin’.

    Thank you for the laughs in this one – life with Turnip will never be boring for Arabella!


    • Some items are just inherently amusing. Sheep. Turnips. Christmas pudding. Maybe it’s the shape, maybe it’s just the sound of the words– but it just felt like there was potential for comedy packed in there beneath that pudding cloth….

      Confession: much of my sense of what is and isn’t inherently funny comes of a childhood spend watching endless reruns of BLACKADDER. And, now that I think of it, there’s a pudding bit in “Blackadder’s Christmas Carol”. So that might have had something to do with it?

  3. Another question as I forgot to hit the notify me button! Would you consider adding the Away in a Manger to the “The Mischief of the Mistletoe” book if re-published? I think it was so fun and since that book is the shortest because there is no modern element.


    • That’s a tough one…. I’d say probably not. Partly because these decisions tend to be my publisher’s, not mine, but also because I get the sense that many people care deeply about the book staying PG. Even if the scene were only there as an add on at the end, it would still change the complexion of it– if that makes any sense. This way people can give the book to their young relatives or aged grandparents without fear of offense– and the scene is available on the website for any who want it.

  4. I never understood why Turnip was so popular until I read and loved this book. Enjoyed reading the book as seen through Arabella and Turnips perspective.
    When I think of pudding, I think of Turnip!
    Would you consider writing another Holiday novella featuring the Pink characters in a few years?

    • I’m so glad you loved Turnip! I would love to write another holiday novella. But it really depends on how much time I have around my other commitments. My schedule has shifted dramatically over the past few years. For a very long time, I was writing a book a year (and had no small people in my life), which left a lot of time for fun side projects, such as spur of the moment novellas. Right now, I’m under contract for two and a half books a year, plus a novella and the odd short story, with a small person who doesn’t understand about deadlines– which means that anything that’s not entirely immediately necessary gets pushed aside.

      Right now, I’m trying to cut down and rearrange my calendar so that, eventually, I’ll have time to play with words again and revisit old characters just for the fun of it. But it will take a bit.

      • Hi, Carly! The half is the book I’m co-writing with Beatriz Williams and Karen White– THE FORGOTTEN ROOM, coming out in January 2016.

        So, technically, I’m under contract for three books this year, but my portion of that is less than a whole book, so, what with one thing and another, it comes out to about half a book in terms of writing time.

      • Thanks Lauren!
        I know you are super busy with your new books and the little one. Am not sure how you are able to do as much as you do!
        Looking forward to your new book The Other Daughter and the last (sniff, sniff) Pink book. We’ll have lots of LW books to read in the next few years!

  5. Several people have said that Turnip is their favorite hero. That made me wonder if you have favorites out of all the characters you have created.

  6. I’m curious what determines the heat level of each book. Pink I seemed to be the hottest, or at least most explicit, and Mistletoe the least (or maybe Crimson Rose, kind of a tie). Do you set out with a plan about it, or do the characters take over?

    • To a large extent, the characters take over. For example, I’d intended there to be a love scene in NIGHT JASMINE, as a way of raising the emotional stakes– but Robert just wouldn’t do it. He was too honorable to dishonor Charlotte. So I had to step back and replot it. Likewise, CRIMSON ROSE. There were practical issues (Vaughn had just been wounded, which really put a damper on those plans), and I couldn’t really see either of them risking unintended consequences.

      As for Arabella and Turnip… in their own way, they’re very private people. And the addition of Jane Austen helped set the tone of the book. It seemed inappropriate to have an explicit love scene and Jane Austen between the same covers.

      On the other end of the spectrum, in BLOOD LILY, Penelope tends to express herself through her sexuality, so a love scene was a necessary part of her book.

      So to a large extent, it’s been the characters. But there were also external considerations. When I began the series, I really thought the books were romance novels. For romances, love scenes, as my mother likes to put it when grilled about my writing, “are a trope of the genre”. By the time I wrote “Night Jasmine”, my publisher had been drumming into my head for three books that what I was writing was historical fiction, not historical romance, and while I wasn’t entirely sure I believed that, it did open the possibility of eliminating the love scene if it didn’t seem to work with the plot. So, starting with NIGHT JASMINE, I stopped worrying about tropes and just went with my instinct.

      Would I go back and tone down those first three books? I don’t know. Reckless canoodling was very much in character for Amy– and the physical intimacy was a necessary plot point for both BLACK TULIP and EMERALD RING, so there’s a good shot some versions of those scenes would have made it in.

  7. I am amazed at the comments you make about the characters taking control. I’ve heard one other author say the same thing – starting to go one way, but the character wouldn’t do it. My question would be: Do you become the character as you are writing? And how hard is it to go back and forth between the characters in a book – being Arabella for instance and then Turnip?

    I’m thinking it is your natural talent to see things that way. And by the way, I think the scenes with Mary and Lord Vaughn were pretty hot in his bedroom. Sometimes inuendo can be just as good as explicitness. However, I do agree with Carly that the heat level is different in each book, with Blood Lily being right up there.

  8. My work and commute schedule was impossible today and I missed Lauren, but I appreciate being able to catch up here with reading all of everyone’s great questions and the responses from Lauren. More kudos to Miss Eliza on mug designs, too!

  9. Hi! I loved this book, especially the Christmas pageant scene.

    Is the friend that Darius Danworth mentioned who was going to help them sell the list to the French the Chevalier? And when you wrote Mistletoe, did you know that the Chevalier was the Gardener?

  10. I got busy yesterday and didn’t get a chance to post. However I had more of an observation than a question. I’ve noticed before how Lauren does a great job with the names of her characters. This week I stumbled upon the information that the name Agnes sounds like the Latin word for lamb which makes it a perfect name for Uncle Bertrand to name his youngest daughter! I just love those sorts of details in the books!

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