I caught up with Jess at the Romantic Times Convention where she was hosting a panel on writing erotic historicals.
What inspired you to become a writer?
Oh gosh, I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to write. When I didn’t WRITE. It’s just in my blood and heart in a way that I can’t define. The first time I thought I would be a writer as a job was in 5th grade when I won our school’s Young Author competition.
Your upcoming release, A Matter of Sin, (Book 1 in The Ladies Book of Pleasures series) is set in Regency England. Tell us how the Regency period fires your imagination.
I love the Regency. They aren’t quite as tightly wound as the Victorians, but there are so many rules to break and stake if you’re caught breaking them. I love the clothes, the balls, the titled men, the money, the carriages, the fairytale aspect to it all. I also love to write fallen women, courtesans, forgotten wallflowers and men who want to love them physically and eventually emotionally.
Lady Isabel Avenbury, the heroine in A Matter of Sin, is a widow who’s decided to take a lover after she ensures her sister makes a good match. Were there any real life Regency ladies who took lovers that inspired your story?
Oh I’m certain a good many respectable Regency women (widows especially) took lovers. Once you had provided your heirs and spares, in many marriages you were kind of done as a brood mare. As long as they could meet discreetly, why not pursue a little pleasure. Isabel, of course, has concerns about her respectability and her sister being damaged by an affair, so she hesitates. Until she can’t hesitate anymore. :)
Isabel’s notion to wait to take a lover is waylaid when she discovers a much discussed book, Ladies Book of Pleasures, in the hero’s library. I couldn’t help but draw a modern day comparison to another popular erotic romance that has recently garnered a lot of attention. And yet, despite the popularity of such works, there exists a real uneasiness about the erotic content of romance novels. Why do you think this bias against romance novels exists? And what do you as an author do to promote the genre?
I would say most people who speak poorly of romance have never read one or have only read outdated books from decades ago. I don’t feel like I have to convince them because they are judgmental, closed-minded jerks who aren’t going to do anything besides tell others what they “should” or “shouldn’t” read. The best thing I can do for my readers and the genre is to write the best books I can and not worry about those who are going to say things about what they don’t understand.
You’ve set quite a dilemma for the hero, Seth Rowland, Marquis Lyndham. While he’s attracted to Isabel, it’s his duty to marry and produce heirs. This heightens the stakes for the star-crossed lovers. Give us a little history lesson. Why was this so important in Regency England?
As a titled gentleman, Seth would need to produce heirs in order to pass his title, lands and money to the next person in his line. Inheritance and title was vitally important to those of the “upper ten thousand”. In Seth’s case, he is the only male in his family. If he does not produce a legitimate heir, the title will go to a cousin or his child at Seth’s death. And that may not sound like a big deal to us, but to his family it is.
What research tools do you use? Books? Websites? Have you visited any of the settings in your historical romances?
I have a good base for Regency (since over 2/3 of my 43 titles have been set there) so I do mostly spot research on specific elements in a story.
What’s your writing process like? Do you have a playlist of songs you listen to while you write? Care to share a few of those?
I write every day, I have a page goal every day and write until I meet that. I don’t actually listen to music while I write, even music without lyrics. So I’m afraid I can’t provide playlists because music is too much of a distraction for me.
You also write urban fantasy as Jesse Petersen. How does writing in that genre compare to writing Regencies?
I don’t actually write urban fantasy anymore at this point, though there are 7 books out there (zombies and monsters if you like that kind of thing). Obviously you can use such different language in a contemporary setting and there are cars so travel is more fun to write. But they are very different books. They’re urban fantasy with a romantic element, but they are not romance and they don’t have love scenes.
For authors: You do such a wonderful job promoting your books, hosting contests, and shining the spotlight on the erotic historical genre. Any tips for authors?
For me, it’s all about building my platform. The more readers I touch and have contact with, the more chances I have for them to know my book is for sale and buy it. I work at least 80 hours a week on my career and about 35-40% of that time is spent building my twitter, my facebook, my newsletter, blogging, helping other authors, etc. All those things hopefully spin back around to sales when the book is out. Once I’m back to being entirely indie, I’ll also be able to utilize a lot more options that authors with publishers don’t have, like price control, promotional pricing and a lot of other ways to promo and track promo. I’m excited to get back into that work.
What other books are coming up in The Ladies Book of Pleasures series? And will we see any secondary characters from A Matter of Sin?
A Moment of Passion is about Jacinda and Jason (who are secondary characters) and it comes out October 14. And A Measure of Deceit comes out December 9 and is about Grace and a character you haven’t met yet and I can’t tell you about. But I will say he is Scottish and a self-made man. :)
When and where can we buy A Matter of Sin?
A Matter of Sin is out July 15 and you can pre-order it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Apple, Google and at Samhain.
How can readers get in touch with you or find out more about your books?
My website is http://www.authorjessmichaels.com and you can sign up for my newsletter at http://www.authorjessmichaels.com/join-the-jess-michaels-newsletter/ -- I’m also on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JessMichaelsBks Twitter: https://twitter.com/jessmichaelsbks Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/jessmichaelsbks/
Jess Michaels lives in Tucson with her awesome husband and two old lady cats. When not writing, you can find her reading, playing video games, being the world's coolest aunt and occasionally hiking up her mountain and complaining about how steep it is. Find her at www.authorjessmichaels.com
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