Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A Very Special Guest Today - and A Giveaway!

Anyone who has read this blog for the last little while knows how much Judith’s first novel, Broken Wing, rocked my reading world. After reading it, I went to rather unusual measures to let other readers know about this incredible book that zoomed to the top of my all time favourite book list; the book that I read five times in a row before I could bear to leave it and move on to another book.

The people of Source books, hearing about how I reacted to her first book, sent me, as well as others, ARC,s of her second book, Highland Rebel. This was a while ago and at this point I have a confession to make. I was so enthralled with the love story of Gabriel and Sarah and so moved by Broken Wing, I was nervous to take up reading Highland Rebel, afraid I wouldn’t like it as much or almost afraid I would. I mean – it took me five rereads to get past Broken Wing. I know – it makes no sense does it?

But with the release of Highland Rebel fast approaching and having Judith visit Ramblings once again, I knew I’d better get to it!!

I admit now that I was very foolish in my worry and my review will be coming up soon, but in the meantime, please join me in welcoming Judith James, an author who can write like nobodies business!

And to celebrate the release of Highland Rebel - TODAY - there is also a give away. There are two books up to win, which means two lucky winners!! Just comment on either this post or the review post and you are eligible. This giveaway in only open to US or Canadian residents.

(note I say this one *g* 'cause I like to put my money were my mouth is - so don't worry)

You may have noticed I don't have very many author interviews here at Ramblings. In fact I think the last one I did was with Judith. But when Source books contacted me to see if I would be interested in having Judith drop by, I said yes with alacrity!

I came up with some questions I was wondering about and Judith was kind enough to answer them for me.


Highland Rebel is set in a very unusual time period, one I’ve never come across in a romance before. How did you come to choose this time period?

I came across a first edition (1680) of bishop and historian Gilbert Burnett’s account of the Earl of Rochester’s recounting of his life while on this death bed, which Burnett attended. I started researching the Restoration for a possible story based on that character, and I fell madly in love with the time period, which I have always been interested in since reading Antonia Stuart’s biography of Charles II several years ago. I know many people prefer the Regency period, but the neglect of the Restoration puzzles me as there was so much going on with politics, religion, philosophy, and thought, including the beginning of the Jacobite movement that is a central theme in so many Highland and Scottish historicals and romances. Cromwell’s regime was a repressive one. Much loved entertainments including gambling, theatre, dancing and even celebrations such as Christmas, were outlawed, and church attendance made mandatory. The Restoration of Charles II, an informal and easy going womaniser dubbed the Merry Monarch, resulted in a kind of social rebellion against the last ten years that reminds me somewhat of the 1960s. The Restoration court was filled with a host of colourful characters and was one of the most bawdy, hedonistic, and lively courts in history. In terms of an explosion in theatre, literature and science it rivalled the Elizabethan period. Women had more freedom during this period than they would for many years to come and there is so much room to develop characters and so much interesting material. Rochester's real life story was just too dark, he died at age 33, but it led me to Cat and Jamie's story which I fell in love with and it pretty much wrote itself. I am working on a story now called Libertines Kiss that features a character inspired by Rochester (but with a happy ending) so I will be spending much of my time in the 17th century over the next little while and right now there’s no place I’d rather be.

One of the side benefits I used to get from reading historical romance books years ago, was learning little know historical facts. I miss that in many of today’s historical romances. Do you like to bring something new to your readers through your stories and research?

Well in retrospect I do, but too be honest it’s more a selfish thing rather than a purposeful intent. I keep finding little gems that delight me, so where appropriate I embed them in the story. Sometimes they seem like gifts that just fell in my lap, like the story of Willie MacBean at Killiecrankie. People who read the book should be able to guess who he was without reading the afterword. Sometimes they move the story in a different direction; like a signpost saying turn here. In all cases they help anchor me in the story, the time and the place, and if my characters can interact with them, for me it adds a level of authenticity that helps me tell the story. That being said, I suppose I am a bit of a trivia buff and do love to share what I think are interesting or fun facts, even if they don’t make it into the story, so I’m going to share just one. During the English Civil War swearing was one of the characteristic that marked opposing sides. Puritans were notably against taking the Lord’s name in vain, while the Cavaliers got in the habit of doing it. The historian Sir Edward Peyton wrote in 1652 “The courtiers garnished their mouths with God-dammes, as if they desired Damnation rather than Salvation.” The cavaliers got the nickname “The God-dam-me Cavaliers” and in later centuries the French called English soldiers the “God dammes” because of this notorious habit.

While both had a tragic upbringing, Jamie Sinclair has a certain “je ne sais quoi” and couldn’t be more different then Gabriel St. Croix in terms of a hero. Did you write an opposite hero on purpose?

That’s a good question! I suppose in some ways I did. For one thing I didn’t want to repeat the same story using different names and places, but it was more than that. In part, Gabriel and Jamie told me their stories, so if feels to me like they were characters I met rather than made up. They both had difficult childhoods, but Jamie’s was a lot less restrictive and he had people who showed him affection, even if it was serving maids and cooks. As long as he stayed out of the way he had a lot of freedom, and that gave him experiences that built confidence. Gabriel didn’t have those opportunities and though I know it annoyed many people, to be true to the character it was something he had to go out and experience for himself. Jamie’s life shaped him in a different way, making him careful, distant and self contained with emotions, but not really self doubting; in part because he had more escapes, but also due to his personality. He was blessed with a cynical sense of humour that saw him through a lot, but in fairness to Gabriel, you have to be able to step back and see from a distance to find humour, and his early life did not allow at all for that. I hope every hero I write will be different, and every heroine too, but it would be safe to say that I enjoyed spending time with Jamie and his sense of humour after all he intensity that was Gabriel.

Although there is an attraction in both Broken Wing and Highland Rebel, there is a real friendship between the hero and heroine before the romance becomes ‘physical’. I really like this as it makes for a much more believable HEA. What are your thoughts?

Yes absolutely. You’ve put a finger on something that seems to be a theme in all my stories. My characters become very real to me as I write them. I suppose you could say my stories are character driven. They are somewhat damaged by life. Tortured, dark, whatever you might call it. It’s just not real or true to the characters that they could be in a happy relationship after a few spats and some hot sex. In fact, sex too soon might have spoiled things, as is often the case in life. I know this may annoy some readers who are looking for a quick romantic fix with lots of sex from page one, and my books are probably not for them. It’s a great fantasy, one I enjoy too, but my heroes know lust and sex, they are intimate with it, and that’s how they know and relate to women. It’s acceptable to them, familiar territory, and nothing to change themselves or their lives over. The woman who gives in to them just joins one of many. It’s friendship with women they are unfamiliar with, and in large part this seems to have been fairly true to the times. They distrust, and are afraid and uncomfortable with female friendship for good reason. It’s intimate in a way that sex isn’t. It means sharing thoughts and “horrors” feelings. They have few defences and it’s how they get caught. You are easy with your friends, perhaps from the moment you meet, perhaps it grows over time, but a best friend is someone you know and trust and can share your deepest thoughts and secrets with. You like your friends.

I don’t believe you can have true love without friendship, liking, and trust. I think sometimes the heart pounding attraction certain people give us is often mistaken for love but that’s really just chemistry and lust; and it doesn’t tend to last very long and is no basis for a long tern relationship. When you have friendship combined with all the chemistry, then you might just find that wonderful last a lifetime love. Romantic love to me is genuine friendship, liking and respect combined with sublime chemistry. Best friends who’ve seen each other through things as friends have had to trust and learn to understand each other. They are in a way like comrades in arms, soldiers who’ve fought together. They’ve shared things no one else could understand and it binds them in a way that can never be broken. I think the fantasy of a great, once in a lifetime love can be real, when you follow that road, and those are they kind of stories I like to tell.

I know that Johnny Depp from The Libertine was your ‘model’ for Gabriel St. Croix, did you have anyone in mind for Jamie Sinclair?

Actually, no I didn’t. Gabriel, though I don’t think anyone noticed, was actually a twist on beauty and the beast. He was “cursed” in a way if you like, by beauty. His looks were the cause of a great deal of pain and distress, to the point he pretty much hated himself. Despite outward appearances, inside Gabe felt really ugly, and believed he was something of a beast. Sarah helped him realize he was beautiful, in the way we all want to be, the way that’s still there when you’re old. He had to be a beautiful man, capable of appearing both masculine and androgynous, Johnny came immediately to mind. Jamie was very different. He came to me in a day dream, first in a blur of dialogue, and was someone I had never met or visualized before. He’s older, handsome rather than beautiful, and a bit more rugged and dangerous looking, though his charm and humour come through when he smiles. I went backwards for this question, and tried to find a character that resembled Jamie in my mind, which was great fun. I’ve include the closest I could fine for you. One looks a bit like Jamie when he and Cat first met; without the cigarette of course, and one when he’s in a good mood and being his charming self.

How fun was Jamie to write?

Oh Jamie was a blast. He’s a funny guy with a great, if somewhat cynical sense of humour, he genuinely likes and appreciates smart strong women, he tells great stories, and he’s charming, and not at all bad to look at. He enjoys life and takes pleasure from it whenever he can and he’s also a great guy to have your back in a tough situation. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute I spent with him.

While I adore Sarah and thought her a wonderful match for Gabriel, Cat is a different kind of heroine for Jamie. How do you compare the relationship between Jamie and Cat against Sarah and Gabriel?

Well I describe Cat and Jamie somewhere as in many ways polar opposites, in all ways equal; and more alike than either of them realizes. They both have their own agenda, and although there’s an immediate attraction, neither of them is prepared to give up what they think they want to act on it. Nevertheless they like and respect each other, share a similar goal which is ironically, independence, and have to work together to win it. Jamie is older and he’s pretty much seen it all. He has no interest in proving anything to anyone. He has a conscience and his own values, but he’s pretty cynical and even his humour tends to distance him from the things that might hurt him. He figures nothing can surprise him. He’s got it all figured out. Cat Drummond is totally unexpected and turns his life upside down. He loves novelty and at first she doesn’t bore him. He’s learned to be wary and relies on deception, and her straight talk is a bit alarming. Catherine is used to men, though not in a sexual sense. She’s not sure what’s under the mask, but she knows he’s wearing one. She’s practical, not romantic, so she judges Jamie by what he does, not what he says. She’s also a little defensive, and from being raised with rough men, rather assertive. She’s quick to smack Jamie upside the head(which I grant he needed at times), but if Sarah had ever done that to Gabriel he would have been out the door and gone for good.

Gabriel hadn’t really had a chance to live his life. He had thing he needed to learn. He needed to test himself and gain his confidence, and he needed someone who could love and accept him unconditionally, because there was a lot to accept. In many ways he and Sarah were much alike; sensitive, romantic, and idealistic. Jamie and Cat needed to help each other. Gabriel needed to be healed. Sarah had spent years worried about her little brother. Finding him was her main focus. Her gratitude to Gabriel for protecting him made helping him her main focus once her brother was found. It didn’t matter how he screwed up, or what he did, she was always going to be there for him because of that, even if they had never fallen in love. I know some people felt she forgave him too easily, but my stories are character driven. Sarah owed Gabriel a debt of gratitude, their friendship ran deep, ands he knew him better than he knew himself. There was no way she would ever turn her back on him, abandon him or punish him, and that kind of patience and understanding, that unconditional acceptance and love, was exactly what Gabriel needed. I don’t think a man with his history could have found a happy ending with anyone but Sarah, just as Jamie could not have found his without Cat Drummond.

The ending of Highland Rebel seems a bit open ended (but I Very Quickly add that there IS an HEA for those who just read that). Do you have a sequel in mind for Jamie and Catherine?

I wouldn’t say I have one planned. Right now I’m working on a darker Restoration era story called Libertine’s Kiss that takes place about 35 years before Highland Rebel, but I’ve certainly played with the idea for sequels to both Highland Rebel and Broken Wing. I might run a contest to see which BW character folks who read that book would like to read about next. As for Jamie and Catherine, those who read the book will understand why a sequel would likely begin in France. I suspect Jamie will not be able to leave well enough alone, and would get involved using his skills in the very dangerous business of spiriting Huguenots out of France, as something of a post restoration Scarlet Pimpernel perhaps, with the help of a fellow he meet in Dublin, putting him in hot water with yet another king. If he’s lucky Catherine might use what he taught her to come to his aid. On the other hand, they might just settle down, have a child or two, and switch from making whisky to making love and wine :)

Your books are so rich in detail that you almost feel that you are there. How much research goes into one of your stories and how long do they take to write?

Broken Wing took a while, probably a good four months in research alone and another 10 to write. The period was new to me and I had to branch out to cover tall ships, sailing, the Mediterranean and North Africa, slavery, Paris, gambling etc; Highland rebel was faster, about 8 months from start to finish research included. I was somewhat familiar with the period. I had read Antonia Frazer's works before, and I learned from NANOWRIMO to pencil in things like (look up 17th century Irish castles and layouts) and keep going forward with the story in stead of stopping. Then I could go back and fill them in when the muse was sulking. I did collect some great books on houses, fashion, social history, seafaring etc. as I went; as well as some diaries and biographies. I would say I have a pretty good research library now, I have learned my way around the local library, and I have bookmarked useful research sites on the internet. I’ve become more efficient over time at both research and writing so I’d say that I’ve gone from eight months to a year to write a book, to five to six months. I’m working on something else in the 17th century now, so I already have lots of materials and a better background and it will be much easier, though there’s always something new to learn. It would be the same were I to return to the Georgian period to revisit friends from Broke Wing or do a sequel to Highland Rebel.

I'd like to thank Judith for her wonderful and thoughtful answers and hopefully she will drop by to answer any other questions that you might have that I didn't think of.

I read and finished Highland Rebel and will have my review up very shortly. All I'm going to say at the moment though is I thought it very good book - a very VERY good book.


Upon reading this and doing what I don't do enough of - editing - I realized that I wasn't clear. The giveaway is TWO copies of Highland Rebel - not a copy of Broken Wing and/or Highland Rebel.

And D'oh - as Cecile pointed out - I didn't put a day the giveaway ends! The giveaway will end Sunday night.


Anonymous said...

Oh, first comment. If that doesn't deserve to win the book!!! :)

I'm looking forward to your review because I have the same concerns that you mentioned in the intro to the interview.

Interesting insights into the writing process and I'm much more inclined towards HR now.

I'm *really* intrigued by the idea of Rochester with a happy ending! I saw 'The Libertine' a while ago and found it deeply disturbing but utterly fascinating. Definitely, one of Depp's best performances.

azteclady said...

Welcome, Ms James! Isn't our Kristie the best of the best?

Kristie! *chuckle* Somehow I'm not too terribly surprised.

Blanche said...

Great interview!!! I've heard so many amazing things about Broken Wing but have not read it yet! I'm looking forward to both of these books!!

Amy said...

Wow, publishers coming to you to host author's on your blog -- you're a star, baby! Great interview too!

Judith James said...

Hi Kristie! It's great fun to be back. Thanks for having me again. Believe me when I say I share your concerns :) In my own humble opinion I write romantic historicals rather than historical romances. It's not a distinction that mattered much when I started reading, but it seems more important today with the focus on defining the genre within the genre.

Growly cub as you can guess, that thought intrigued me as well. I've had to change names and take some liberties with history, but the character of William de Veres is inspired by John Wilmot, right down to the poetry.

Thanks for the welcome Aztec Lady. I have two Fairy Godmothers. If not for KristieJ and Julianne Maclean I doubt I'd be writing full time today. She IS the best of the best, and she has great taste in dancers too. I wonder what she thinks of Nico as Nureyev?

Thanks so much for the kind words Blanche! Maybe you'll win a copy

Amy, now I'll have to try and book a space when Libertine's Kiss comes out with HQN next summer. I hope Kristie's not got backlogs months long by then

nath said...

Great interview ladies!! I'm looking forward to read Highland Rebel! :)

Lisa Marie Wilkinson said...

No need to enter me in a drawing, I already have two copies of Highland Rebel, LOL. Anything Judith James writes goes on my keeper shelf! Judith, great interview! Broken Wing certainly deserves the wonderful support it received from Kristie and other bloggers! Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

Ms. James, your writing is wonderful and I'm so glad you have joined the romantic historical genre. We need more writers with your talent. :)

CrystalGB said...

Great interview. Highland Rebel sounds good. I love the cover.


Anonymous said...

I would love to win either one of these great books. Please enter my name in your draw. Thanks!
wandanamgreb (at) gmail (dot) com

sula said...

oh i love a meaty romantic historical. and this period is one that is so neglected (and so interesting!) Put my name in the hat for sure. :)

flchen1 said...

Thanks for this in depth interview, Judith and Kristie! I've heard raves about Broken Wing, and after reading this interview, I'm definitely going to get your books--the stories sound wonderfully rich and not to be missed! Thank you for the introduction to Judith's work!

f dot chen at comcast dot net

Anonymous said...

I think it's totally understandable to be afraid to read the next book after one that made such a strong impact. Happens to me all the time. I'm glad you got past it and enjoyed the new book. :-) -- willaful

Mary G said...

I tell Kristie she's pulling me back in time kicking & screaming.
She's making me appreciate historicals again. Broken Wing is the first historical I have bought in years!! Best wishes with Highland Rebel.

Leslie said...

Hello Judith and congrats on the release of Highland Rebel. I just finished it and Kristie is right, it's a very good book! :) Jamie is one of my favorite types of heroes - the antihero. He was wickedly delicious!

Judith James said...

Nath, Lisa, Anon, Crystal, Wanda and Fedora, Thanks so much for the kind words and I do hope you all enjoy Highland Rebel. Sula, I couldn't agree with you more!

Maureen said...

This book looks very good. Broken Wing was a great read and I would love to win this one.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful interview. I really enjoyed Broken Wing, and can't wait to read this one.

etirv said...

Absolutely enjoyed the Q&A with Judith James and have enjoyed the Highland Rebel blog tour! Even though I'm the king who just enjoys reading romances and doesn't scrutinize their historical accuracy, I truly appreciate the humongous research authors like Judith puts into their novels. Just my copy of Broken Wing from Barnes & Noble and can't wait to read it this weekend. Next TBR: Highland Rebel!

Judith James said...

Very good point, Anon. I can also tell you it's scary to write it:)

Thank you, Mary. If Kristie grabs hold of you kickng and screaming won't help. Might as well relax and enjoy:)

Thank you, Leslie, that's the word I was looking for, antithero. I know I kept wanting to eat him up

Maureen abd Jessica, I'm so glad you enjoyed Broken Wing and I hope you have a great time with Highland Rebel. Good luck in the contest!

Bless you Etirv, long live the King

RachieG said...

Loved the interview today. :) Love knowing what goes into creating a book...and the story looks wonderful!


rachie2004 @ yahoo (dot) c0m

mindy said...

fabulous interview thanks minsthins at optonline dot net

Morning Glow said...

This book just looks so great, I have to get my hands on a copy! I sure hope I win!!

Thanks for the contest!
Morning Glow

ohmorningglow AT aol DOT com

Karen W. said...

Thanks for the interview! HIGHLAND REBEL sounds excellent, and it's already on my "wish list."

Thanks for the contest. :)

Ashley Danielle said...

Great interview. Kristie is the reason I read Broken Wing, and ever since I've been looking forward to reading Highland Rebel! I can't tell you how good your work in progress, Libertine's Kiss sounds, too!

Cecile said...

Oh Ladies, what an awesome interview this was!! Kristie... you kept us in suspense!! But it was well worth it!!!
Thanks for introducing this new author to me!!!
Count me in!!
I hope you had a great day and a wonderful tomorrow!

Cecile said...

Pimped you at my place honey... Just let me know when the contest ends!!!

Pam P said...

Hi Judith. I liked BW so much, left me waiting for your next book, and I love a story with an antihero.

Tiffany819 said...

I'd love a chance to win. Looks like a great read! Thank you!!

tiffanys819 at gmail dot com

Judith James said...

Rachie, Mindy, Karen, Ashley and Cecile, so glad you enjoyed the interview. Kudos to Kristie for coming up with some great questions that really made me think.

Morning Glow and Tiffany If you like romantic historicals you'll love it. Pam, I expect you will really enjoy Jamie.

Thanks so much to everyone for all your comments and good luck with the contest, and whatever else life brings your way :)

Thanks again to the wonderful Kristie J who brings so much infectious passion to the world of books and reading

Wishing all of you the best

Judith James

SandyH said...

Thank you for the interview. I just recently found this blog. I am going to have to look up this author. I do enjoy learning about new writers.

PeggyP said...

I am so looking forward to reading this whether I win it or not! Like Kristie I considered Broken Wing the find of the year, thanks.

Virginia said...

I have been hearing a lot about this book. I can't wait to read it. It sounds like an awesome read. Thanks for sharing with us today.


M. said...

please don't enter my name, as I'm halfway through my copy - and really enjoying it!
It is a very different story from
Broken Wing. Can't wait to see what happens next.

kalynnick said...

The sounds great..I would love to win the books.

kalynnick AT yahoo DOT com

Sarah Z said...

Love finding great new authors!
believedreamcourage (at) gmail.com

JennJ said...

Wonderful interview!!! And the books sound amazing I have heard many great things now about both and I am dying to get them!


orannia said...

I know I'm very late, but I just wanted to say wonderful interview Kristie and Ms James - thank you so much!

I love the era that Highland Rebel is set in - it's a fascinating period - so I'm definitely going to keep an eye out for it :) Thank you Ms James for the insight into Gabriel & Sarah and all the best with the release!

Kristie - please don't count me in for the giveaway :)

Anonymous said...

Nice interview.

13rubberducks [at] gmail [dot] com

Patti said...

Wonderful interview. I love when stories revolve around actual historic events/happenings. It's obvious Ms. James did quite a lot of research and I'll be looking for both Broken Wing and Highland Rebel at my local bookseller.

Please enter me:
pspinney AT cox DOT net

Shaymless Aymless said...

Sign me up! *g*

PS: You scarves in the mail (I mailed you both because I didn't want to them and move them)

heatherzilla said...

Highland Rebel sounds like a good book. Please include me in the giveaway.

Armenia said...

I've been following you at different blogs and got the heads up from Cecile's blog. Throwing my name in the hat. Would love a chance to win your giveaway.

Great interview.

Brooke said...

What a wonderful interview and how love all the research she puts into her writing.. Would love a chance to win one.. weeshenanigans (at) gmail (dot) com

kathy55439 said...

Great interview thank you for contest