*Photo credit: www.raphaelcoffey.com
I first picked up one of Tracy Grant’s books at the Charlottesville “Festival of the Book” three years ago. I was so excited to hear Lauren Willig and Deanna Raybourn speak that I got to the book store slightly (an hour and a half) early. I passed the time by browsing for books, and I happened across a copy of Tracy’s Vienna Waltz. I recognized Tracy’s name for the “If You Like” posts on Lauren’s website, and I read the first two chapters while I waited for Lauren’s event to begin. I was hooked.
Tracy was kind enough to participate in an interview on my blog in September of last year, and I am so glad she is back today! Her newest book, The Mayfair Affair, is now available in the wild, and so we’re going to chat a bit about it, her series, and writing in general.
The Mayfair Affair is your fifth book about Suzanne and Malcolm Rannoch. Do you have a master plan for the series, or are you following your ideas wherever they take you?
I don’t have a master plan but there are certain plot points I know I want to hit. For instance I knew for a long time I’d do a book about Laura Dudley being accused of murder, I knew Laura was hiding things, I knew certain plot developments that occur in The Mayfair Affair. But I’m constantly surprised, in a good way, by how the characters and series evolve, so I keep it flexible. I’m having fun now delving into the next book, which goes in some directions I had in mind and some new ones.
One thing that I really enjoy about your books is the way that you shift perspective. Is there a character whose point of view is easier for you to write than the others?
Both Suzanne’s and Malcolm’s POVs come pretty easily to me and now I know them so well that starting a new books is like sitting down with old friends (though they can still surprise me, which is cool). Laura Dudley was fairly easy for me to write in this book as well. I started out mostly writing Raoul O’Roarke from other characters’ POVs, but I get into his head quite a bit in The Mayfair Affair, and I enjoyed writing from his perspective.
What kind of historical details do you most enjoy researching and writing about? Is it the clothes, the food, the social structure? Something else entirely?
I do enjoy the clothes! I love fashion, both historical and contemporary :-). I also love setting details – sights, sounds, smells, tastes. I love it when I can find a few details that bring a setting to life, like the tang of extinguished candles, the scratchy soot in the London air, the smell of the oranges being sold in the Covent Garden Theatre lobby. I also love writing about the political and diplomatic intrigue.
I play this game when I watch musicals (only that genre, weirdly enough) where I cast myself as one of the minor characters. For example, if I were in Rent, I’d be Mark’s mom. If you could cast yourself as one of the ensemble characters in your series, who would you be and why?
Before The Mayfair Affair I’d have said Laura Dudley, but in Mayfair she becomes a central character. Maybe Juliette Dubretton – she’s juggling being a writer and a mother like me, and she’s definitely one the ensemble characters I enjoy writing.
One of the great things about reading historical fiction is watching the way that authors write interactions between their original characters and historical figures. Your books are full of wonderful moments like this. Has there ever been a historical figure you were excited or nervous about including in a novel?
It’s always both exciting and nerve-wracking to try to put words in a real historical figure’s mouth I was particularly nervous and excited about Talleyrand, who plays a major role in Vienna Waltz and The Paris Affair, because he’s such a towering figure. But I actually found it quite easy to write his dialogue and even the moments I did from his POV. It’s always a bit of dilemma to involve real historical figures in fictional events. I try to only have real historical figures do things they might conceivably have done (for instance I wouldn’t involve someone known to be a faithful spouse in a fictional adulterous love affair). Talleyrand was a master schemer, and I debated how far I could have him go in my fictional schemes. I think I hit on a balance that was true to the complex man he is.
Your series has expanded to include three novellas now. Are there aspects of writing these shorter stories that you find particularly appealing?
I think in terms of complex plots and lots of characters so writing in a shorter form can be challenging for me. But I love writing novellas as part of a larger series. They are a great way to dramatize moments from the characters’ pasts, like Malcolm and Suzanne’s wedding in His Spanish Bride or Suzanne’s first visit to London in the recent London Interlude or to depict important developments that take place between books, like the birth of their daughter Jessica in The Paris Plot.
I know that lots of readers like to imagine the perfect Hollywood cast as they read through a book. Do you think about who you would like to see on the big screen as Suzanne or Malcolm?
When I first started writing the series they were a young David Duchovny (early X-Files) and Elizabeth Hurley (as she was in one of the Sharpe episodes). When I saw Casino Royale, I thought Daniel Craig and Eva Green would work well. If the books were filmed now (well, I can dream :-), you’d need somewhat younger actors. Maybe Emily Blunt and Benedict Cumberbatch? I love hearing readers’ casting suggestions – it’s a way of seeing my characters through someone else’s eyes.
Do you ever get a wild urge to write something from a complete different genre, like a fantasy novel or a modern thriller? If you do, what genre do you think you’d try?
Not really. I love writing mysteries with a strong historical background and romantic elements, and I love my characters and the writing in the world I’ve created for them.
Do you have a favorite “comfort book”?
Venetia by Georgette Heyer, Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers, and The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie King.
What is your favorite aspect of life as an author?
Making up stories and sharing them with readers. Sometimes playing dolls with my daughter I think “this is still what I get to do, only I write the stories down instead of acting them out with dolls.” How cool a job is that?
A very cool job for sure, Tracy! Thank you so much for spending the time with us today and answering all my questions. For more information on Tracy, The Mayfair Affair, and all of Tracy’s great work, you can visit her website at http://www.tracygrant.org/.
And now, dear readers, Tracy has a gift for you. She has agreed to give away an e-copy of her new release The Mayfair Affair to a commenter on today’s blog. If you are the lucky winner, you can let us know what e-book platform you prefer.
You can enter up to three times for this giveaway, and the contest will be open until midnight EST on May 21. Here’s how you can enter:
- Leave a comment below.
- 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.
- 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!