Pink XI: Ask the Author

Good morning, and happy Friday!

First things first: Congratulations to Beth F., the winner of a signed copy of The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla! Beth, if you will email me at, I will get your prize in the mail to you ASAP.

And now it is time for our penultimate Ask the Author day. Lauren will drop by throughout the afternoon to answer your questions about Sally, Lucien, assorted Fitzhughs, and Pink XI. As always, a Pink mug will be given to one lucky commenter on today’s post. Here is the design for this month, created by the fabulous Miss Eliza:

pink xi

Remember, the Pink for All Seasons mugs are all available for purchase on Zazzle.

So “Sally” forth and ask your questions! (See what I did there?) Lauren, thanks again for spending time with us today.

33 thoughts on “Pink XI: Ask the Author

  1. Hi Lauren,

    I must admit that one of my favorite things in this book is Sally’s stoat! She makes me want a pet stoat! What was the inspiration for her unusual pet?

    P.S. I’ve already preordered Moonflower

    • I hate to admit it, but… Facebook. I was joking with a friend of mine about something or other, and he dared me to put a stoat in the next book. (I think this may have begun with a P.G. Wodehouse conversation of some kind.) Next thing I knew, about twenty comments down the thread, not only did I have a stoat, but the stoat had a name: Lady Florence Oblong.

      At one point, while struggling with the beginning of the book, I nearly ditched the stoat. But a dare is a dare, so I reworked that material to find a way to keep the stoat– and I’m so very glad I did!

  2. Since this is the second to last book in the series that is about spies, was there a reason for not having any spies in this story?

    • Part of it was pure contrariness: Sally so badly wanted to be involved with spies and so wanted to believe that she was part of the spy endeavor, that I couldn’t resist pulling a “Northanger Abbey” on her and making her think she had spies and then pulling the rug out from under her.

      I’d never thought of it before, but there’s a lot of “Northanger Abbey” inspiration in this book. And the Sally double-fake was a large part of that.

      I’ve also always wanted to write a proper murder mystery and this book gave me the opportunity to do that– it’s a murder mystery disguised as a gothic/disguised as a spy story.

      Originally, I’d intended to keep the spy thread by having Jane pop up in this book, undercover, on a mission of her own, but it was just too much to juggle and took too much of the focus away from Sally and Lucien.

  3. Lauren, in an earlier post, you mentioned that book publishers may be reluctant to publish books featuring older heroines, fearing that they won’t sell well. This seems silly to me…readers want well-written books with interesting characters, and I don’t think an older heroine = less interesting to most discerning readers. Do you think their fears actually play out?

    • I honestly have no idea. I know what I like to read, but I have no idea how my reading tastes/interests mesh with that of the amorphous “general reader” that publishers are so hoping to capture. Everyone tries very hard to guess what sells and why, but it’s unclear whether anyone really has any idea. There are certainly shiboleths one encounters again and again, such as readers preferring younger heroines/dukes/alpha males/books set in England, but whether the sales reflect that because readers genuinely prefer those or because authors think they do and thus those are the books being published/bought… who knows? I feel very lucky that writing within a series has given me a leeway to push the boundaries of some of these industry commonplaces.

  4. Lauren, I just love Sally, almost as much as I do her brother. I relate to her a bit as I also tend to suffer from “Everyone Really Does Need My Help, Even If They Just Haven’t Yet Realized It” Syndrome. It’s tempered a bit with age, I only hope for the same for Sally. Regarding Sally, I find I really must have the chicken back story. I know they are nasty, they are smelly, and they peck, but really, what is up with the chickens?

      • I’m going to go with Miss Eliza here. : ) But I will say, if I ever do a Sally follow-up novella, I will make sure it includes the truth about the chickens….

    • I can’t tell you the Sally chicken story, but I can tell you where the idea came from! When my little sister was in Lower School, she had a classmate who was afraid of chickens. So, every time we had chicken for dinner, someone would say, “Good thing So and So isn’t here!” (In vain did my sister explain that it wasn’t cutlets the girl was afraid of but the actual bird; it was funnier to think that chicken marsala would send her into a swoon.) So the chickens became a running family joke, which wound up popping up out of my subconscious and onto the page years later when I was writing “Mischief of the Mistletoe”. And Sally just took that chicken phobia and ran with it….

  5. I’ll ditto Jennica’s comments here. I’m more intrigued than I should be about that chicken story. If we can’t have more Pink Carnation for now, 😦 let’s at least get the back story about the chickens! (Really counting the days until Pink #12)

  6. I love your Pink series, and am excited to hear that you may revisit some of the characters in the future. I recently read an interview with an author who said that she can’t just write new books featuring characters that appeared in her previous works. The characters “belong” to the publishing house. Lauren, if you don’t mind me asking, are you in the same situation with regard to your Pink characters?

    • Thanks so much, Renee! I’m so happy you’ve enjoyed the Pink books.

      The quick disclaimer here is that I’m not a copyright specialist, my memory of this stuff being limited to that copyright class I took my 3L year that I might have paid more attention in if there hadn’t been a mid-class coffee break that I sometimes forgot to return from because, well, gossip. But I digress.

      With that caveat, as I fuzzily recall from the pre-coffee break portions of class…. Whether or not the author or the publisher owns the characters depends on a lot of things, including whether the work was a “work for hire” (in which case, the publisher definitely owns the characters), the specific contractual relationship between the author and the publisher, and that wonderful, fuzzy legal concept, “the totality of the circumstances”. When in doubt, when this stuff has come to trial, the courts tend to tilt pro-author, and will go through some rather spectacular legal gymnastics to argue that characters belong to the author. (This was a particular peeve of my copyright professor, who thought it was good outcome but sloppy law. There’s a very famous lawsuit between Warner Brothers and Knopf against Columbia Broadcasting and Dashiell Hammett which Hammett won, which set a strong precedent for characters, unless otherwise contractually arranged, remaining the property of the author. “Thus it became custom that, in the absence of express agreement to the contrary, an assignment of copyright in this field of writing did not include the right to exclusive use of the characters portrayed in the copyrighted work. In other words, the author customarily retained so-called character, series or sequel rights in the copyrighted work.” But I digress again.)

      In my case, these are my characters. They belong entirely to me. (Insert evil laughter here.) My publisher has what is known as an option, i.e. they get first crack at making an offer for any subsequent Pink Carnation book. But that option is time limited, so, if the option expires, or if they decided to turn that book proposal down, I would be totally free to take myself and my Pink people elsewhere. That option is also limited to book-length fiction, so, regardless of whether they decide to exercise their option, I can write Pink short stories, novellas, etc., until the cows come home. If I had cows. Or time.

  7. I really loved this book, I think it’s my favorite so far! Lucien and Sally were just too much fun (I did quite nearly burst into laughter on the bus a few times, as I mentioned on twitter. Close enough to get a few strange looks). But the question I have relates to Eloise’s arc. Having decided to not go for a second MA (or a PhD) in history for some of the same reasons that Eloise is encountering in her thesis (I am so much more interested in the story than in finding the “so what” and apparently “Well, the STORY!” is not a valid “so what?”) the encouragement from Colin to write fiction really resonated with me.
    I was wondering what made you decide to take her in that direction?

    • Thank you so much!! On the Eloise front…. The truth is that I hadn’t intended this twist. I’d always thought that Eloise was going to take the path I hadn’t and be a good little academic and do the whole junior faculty route and that she and Colin would just have to figure out how they were going to juggle his obligations and hers.

      Basically, the whole Eloise and Colin plot of “Moonflower”? Flipped itself upside down as I was writing it. I’d thought that what was going to happen was that Colin wasn’t going to propose– but that, instead, they were going to have a serious and grown-up conversation about their lives being in different places that would result in his offering to rent out Selwick Hall and move to the States for her (which, of course, from Colin, means even more than a proposal). Then the final Pink book would have Colin and Eloise finally getting engaged at the end of Colin’s year in the States when Eloise would get a teaching job at the University of Sussex.

      I do so love it when my characters are smarter than I am.

      That wasn’t their story and they weren’t going to go there. They pretty much wrote their bits for me– and made it turn out a whole lot better!

      • Sorry, that’s a rather vague answer, isn’t it? More specifically, by the second Eloise chapter, it became pretty clear that she wasn’t as happy to be back in academia as I’d thought she would be– and it was around then that it hit me that it would be rather neat if the story went meta and Eloise “wrote” “The Secret History of the Pink Carnation”, which would, incidentally, solve the “how do I mesh her career goals with Colin’s geographical constraints?” issue. But I really didn’t know Colin was going to propose until the last paragraph of that last chapter. (I still thought they were going to have a serious grown-up conversation and leave it at that.) That ring came as a surprise to me as well as Eloise!

        I was a very happy author when I stumbled home from Starbucks that day.

  8. Pingback: Weekly Reading Round-Up and Ask the Author and Podcasts, Oh My! « Lauren Willig – News and Events

  9. We were discussing how we missed the spies, and you have already answered my question about why this book didn’t have one (and about the chickens- I’m still dying to know that story), but I wondered was Lucien’s mother really involved with the French spies and passing them information from her husband?

  10. I was just re-reading one of the other books (Temptation of the Night Jasmine) and Eloise mentioned the Victorian lady who created the archives that Eloise was looking at Sedgwick Hall and she mentions the diary. Who was she descended from? Did you ever say and I missed it? I bet that would make a good story 🙂 now for a question on Sally and Lucien, where did they end up living, England or somewhere else? Did they have any kids?

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