Thursday, August 9, 2007

Janet Mullany is in da Bandit Lair!

Interview by Trish Milburn

Today we Banditas welcome the incredibly witty Janet Mullany, whose The Rules of Gentility is out this month. Having just finished reading this very fun book, I can highly recommend it. And if you comment on today's blog, you could be the lucky winner of your very own copy of Rules.

When you began to write The Rules of Gentility, were you aware of anything else like it out on bookstore shelves? If not, did you go into writing it aiming to capture this new niche in the market, or did you just write for fun to see what happened?

A. It was definitely writing for fun, but I did wonder if there was anything else like it out there, and came to the conclusion that there probably was. I remember seeing something at a bookstore that alternated hero/heroine voice in first person — probably by an English writer and a contemporary. A few early readers were absolutely horrified at what I’d done — why present tense, why first person, why doesn’t the heroine’s mother have any punctuation (answer: because she never pauses for breath), and so on. If The Rules does open up the market to more books that play around with tense and voice, I’d be thrilled; and also if it takes some of the fear out of first-person narration. Even reputable reviewers have told me, “I don’t like first-person narrative.” Huh? It’s just another way of telling a story, not the antichrist. And if you don’t read books written in first person, you’re missing some great stuff (Jennifer Weiner, Nick Hornby and Anna Maxted, for starters). What I did do, that I think was innovative, was to write a funny historical; there are lots of books out there with wit and irony and so on, but very few that don’t take themselves all that seriously.

Q. What was your favorite part of writing this book?

A. All of it was tremendous fun. It was like a guilty pleasure — having something in the works that was pure enjoyment all the way. If I found myself running out of steam, all I had to do was switch voices.

Q. I really liked the light, fun feeling of the book, but you also showed some of the “not-fair” circumstances of the time. Was this by design?

A. More by knee-jerk! I’m always aware that the privileged lifestyles of the rich and wealthy are supported by a whole structure of servants and that people with completely different lives exist. I think this comes through in every book I write. I’m always amazed by people who say the Regency period is played out because there’s so much more than just the titled few. I find servants particularly useful as a plot device, too, because they knew everything and could aid or hinder their masters.

Q. How long did it take you to write this book? How does that compare with how long it typically takes you to write a book?

A. On and off about a year. I generally work on a couple of things at once. It’s diffic because generally I spend at least a month just thinking about a book or doing researcult to sayh (I’m a very bad researcher), and then I start on the actual writing process. This book, however, I didn’t think about because initially it was a short, fun project for my entertainment, to see if I could write Bridget Jones’s Diary in Regency times. So I just jumped in and started writing.

Q. What is your writing process like?

A. I can hardly remember (right now I’m in the manic phase of a book coming out and doing lots of blogging etc.)...after I stop procrastinating I put up a folding screen around the computer (my house is very small, and my desk is set up against one wall of the living room). I usually listen to music, usually opera or some other vocal, classical music. Don’t ask me why, but I find Handel’s Messiah great for writing love scenes. If I’m lucky, and it doesn’t always happen, my subconscious kicks in and the writing just flows — that’s a wonderful, addictive, feeling. Otherwise it’s hard work and stopping myself going online every five minutes. Generally, the first scene is very clear in my mind; originally, the ball scene in The Rules was the opening, but my editor wanted me to write something that was more of an introduction of Philomena and Inigo to each other and to the reader.

Q. Do you think your being English is what draws you to the Regency period? Or do you think you’d love it even if you weren’t English?

A. Being English certainly has a lot to do with it. I had two aunts who lived in a Georgian house in Bath and whom I used to visit. They loved all things Georgian/Regency long before it was fashionable and introduced me to the joys of Georgette Heyer. If I weren’t English, I’d probably love it more, because I wouldn’t know how appalling most of the aristocracy were!

Q. Do you have other similar novels in the works? If so, please tell us about them.

A. Not yet. I’m working on another erotic romance (my first Jane Lockwood erotic historical, Forbidden Shores, comes out in October 2007), and I have ideas for a couple of erotic novellas. I have an extremely vague idea for another Avon book that is in the one-month thinking stage.

Q. Has anyone mentioned to you that when they see Inigo’s name, they think of Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride? Perhaps that’s just me. :)

A. You’re not the only one! I was blissfully unaware. I think it’s a gorgeous name, but the only Inigo I could think of was the seventeenth-century English architect Inigo Jones!

Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share with everyone out here in Banditaland?

A. Actually, I’d like you to share with me... What do you find funny? Since I’m English, all you have to do is say “bum” in an inappropriate context and provide some funny stuff with a dog, and I’m rolling on the floor. And thanks for having me, dear Banditas!

Thanks for stopping by the lair, Janet.


Helen said...

I tried to order this book from Rendezvous Books in Melbourne but they don't appear to have it in yet but I will be ordering it as soon as they do. I am intrigued about the story line in this book I really like humour and am looking forward to reading it. As for what I think is funny I am an Aussie so pretty much anything. I really enjoyed the short story that you sent to me when I joined your email list. Good luck with the book I look forward to reading it and I loved the blog.
Have Fun

Caren Crane said...

Janet, thank you for joining us in the Bandita Lair! I adore Regency- and Victorian-set historicals. I am not particular as to tone, either. I like them light, like Julia Quinn or Sabrina Jeffries, but also dark like Liz Carlyle or Anna Campbell. I can't wait to pick up Rules!

Despite my love of historicals, however, I write contemporaries and the last four have been first person books. I have tried writing in third person (like my first three books) and it doesn't work any longer! Do you think you will write more first person or was this a one-off for you?

Janet Mullany said...

Hi Helen and Caren!

Do you think you will write more first person or was this a one-off for you?

I love writing in first person so I hope I'll do more, but I don't want to limit myself to one voice (I didn't in The Rules). It's interesting how some books demand to be written in a certain way. And there are so many italics in this post it's looking like an excerpt from Queen Victoria's diary.

Cassondra said...

Hey Janet!

Thanks for joining the Banditas to blog today!

I love historicals, and read them exclusively when I'm writing contemporaries, and I'm SO glad you said that the aristrocracy is not the only element of that time period. I think it would take a bit of the "romantic" view off the time period itself to see how the majority lived, but that just makes for more possibilities!

I love both the lighter historicals and the darker ones. I write dark books, so anything that makes me laugh is a good thing. I'm wondering whether first person for this period came immediately and naturally for you, or if it was an adjustment. Is there anything specific you've learned to do when writing in the first person in this way, that is NOT specific to the more common deep third?

Thanks again, and all best with this release!

Kirsten said...


Your book sounds like great fun! I'm a big fan of Regency, but went through a slump where everything started to sound the same. I will be thrilled to see the market widen out a bit.

I also write young adult, and found that first person worked perfectly for that, but have never tried it for an adult book. I find that sometimes when I'm stuck working on a book in third person, I can ground myself by writing a scene in first, and then switching it back to third. Gives you a different perspective.

As for funny? Hmmm. I enjoy a little bit of anything, I suppose. Except for mean humor. I've never enjoyed humor that's really just an excuse to make fun of someone.

jo robertson said...

Great interview, Trish, and, Janet , thanks for guest-blogging with us today. I love how your British "voice" comes through in the answers to Trish's questions. I'm one of those persons who normally doesn't enjoy first-person narratives, but I'll certainly pick up RULES to try it out!

I write suspense, but usually read historical. I think I like the tension between what is allowed to be said or done and what simmers beneath the surface.

Karen H in NC said...

This book sounds like such fun. I just read a review of it on and I especially love the comments about 'Philly's best friend's rascally brother-in-law'. He sounds like my kind of hero!

Janet Mullany said...

I go away for an hour or so and look what happens!
Is there anything specific you've learned to do when writing in the first person in this way, that is NOT specific to the more common deep third?
Aha. Glad you asked. It involves a huge amount of author involvement since I found the tendency is to write blow-by-blow "real time" narrative. For instance, if your character knocks at the door of a house, you know that really they're going to be thinking about who may answer, oh look, someone really needs to water the flowers in the windowboxes, and I hope they'll invite me to dinner because I'm hungry... etc etc. Whereas in reality your reader will scream in frustration because they want to see what happens when the character gets inside the house (or doesn't). So you don't write like a camera or a movie script--you have to really focus the voice.

Kirsten, I sometimes use a method I call "writing sideways" where I take the POV of a character and write his/her take in first person--particularly fun with psychopathic villains--to get the story moving. Very illuminating!

Jo, I think the conflict between surface and substance is one of the things that I love about historicals. Long ago I read something (it was the intro to an edition of Sense & Sensibility but I can't remember who it was by) that said in the Regency acts we'd consider private were public, and vice versa. For instance, how did anyone manage to fall in love when technically they only met in public places? Let alone propose.

AndreaW said...

Great interview! I still have not found this one, but not for a lack of trying. I've heard nothing but good things about it and can't wait to get it. :)

Sonja Foust said...

Ooh, looking forward to picking this up. Sounds like great fun! I have so much fun with Regencies, mostly because all the naughtiness is forbidden, and what's hotter than forbidden naughtiness?

What's funny to me? Hmm... Well I'd love to say that my favorite kind of humor is witty banter between two incredibly intelligent adults, but more often than not a good fart joke is all it takes. I'll blame it on the fact that I'm an American, but it's probably more due to the fact that I'm low-brow. ;)

ellie said...

Hi Janet,
I have always enjoyed historicals and find them fascinating. Your interview provided me with much needed background for this lovely book.

sharon said...

What a great interview! Thanks so much. I read contemporary novels but have a special place in my heart for historicals of various periods. They kept me company many times when I felt a need for something special.

anne said...

Whenever I read historicals I feel that I am escaping into another world. I love it. Your interview was interesting and gave me insight into this book and your writing.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hi Janet and welcome to the Bandit lair! I can't wait to read Rules! It sounds wonderful. After having met you at the MRW crime day and then seeing you again at National, I have even MORE reason to buy! Ha! I giggled over the "use bum in an inappropriate context" line. I'm the same way, I find humor almost everywhere, even though I don't write toward the humorous side. And I love British comedies and the American spinoffs thereof - AbFab, Fawlty Towers, Whose Line, etc. Fall off the chair funny. :> Loved the blog, come back again soon!

diane said...

Historicals are my favorite reading matter. Your interview was simply delightful and I look forward to reading this new release.

Janet Mullany said...

Sonja, you're right, forbidden naughtiness is much more exciting.

but more often than not a good fart joke is all it takes.

For some reason Avon didn't include this in the back cover blurb, but I believe it's the first historical to include a fart joke. I can't remember the circumstances, but I think I wrote it in response to something someone said online (something like "I bet you couldn't get a fart joke in a Regency").

Trish Milburn said...

This book truly is a hoot. And perhaps it's because I know Janet, but I could just "hear" her saying everything that was in the book, like she was reading it to me in her British accent.

Keira Soleore said...

Our Borders store has the most wonderful Romance bookseller. She has a personalized list of readers she's in touch with whenever new romance books in their area of interest are out. A labor of love!!

It sure is good to be home.

So this morning I got my copy of "Rules." I'm a quarter of the way into it already, and it's laugh-out-loud funny, Janet, thanks for a great morning.

So, Janet you've heard the little story about the woman who owned a dog named Bum? He ran away, and she ran after him, shouting to everyone in the street, "Catch my Bm, catch my Bum."

Cherie J said...

Historicals are wonderful because they give you such a different perspective about life in that time period. I enjoyed your interview Janet. Thanks for being here.

tetewa said...

I've heard many good things about this book and I'm looking forward to adding it to my TBR pile. Good luck on the release.

Beth said...

Thank you for joining us, Janet. Your book sounds wonderful! Can't wait to get a copy for myself *g*

Sue A. said...

I wasn't aware of this book before today, but you can be sure that I'll be seeking it out now. Thanks for the great interview.

Janet Mullany said...

Hi Jeanne (and everyone else who popped in when I was commuting home)--didn't realize you were a member of the aristocracy. Ladies, here is someone who truly has a wealth of stories in bad taste and gets to tell them at workshops!

sabrina said...

Thanks for introducing me to this new novel. I am intrigued with the concept and love the idea. Hope to read this novel this summer.

Joan said...

Hi Janet!

A late "have to work 12 hours for a living" Bandita here. Thanks for spending the day with us.

I have found over the past few years a good many books that were expertly told in first person.

Can't wait to read yours!

Christie Kelley said...


I'm sorry I'm posting so late on your day to blog!!! It's my mom's 80th birthday and I'm in NY.

I loved your interview. I'm reading the book now (again :))

Kimberly L said...

Great interview. I can't wait to read Rules and Rules of Gentility. I'm a big historical fan. I like reading Robyn DeHart and Jenna Perterson and Anna Campbell.

Anna Campbell said...

Hi Janet!! I'm at our local conference so haven't been on the net much but couldn't let you visit without waving and saying hello! Can't wait to read the Rules of Gentility!

Anna x

KimW said...

Coming in after a very long and hopefully forgettable work week to say "hi". lol Happy Friday! I think the Rules of Gentility sounds so good!

I find silly things funny. Mostly when they are completely spontaneous. I'll often laugh till the tears come out of my eyes.