Thursday, May 1, 2008

Eloisa James is in the Lair!

by Anna Sugden

A perennial reader favourite, and an inspiration to many of the Banditas, Eloisa really doesn't need an introduction! But, for those few of you who may not know who she is ...

After graduating from Harvard University, New York Times best-selling author Eloisa James got an M.Phil. from Oxford University, a Ph.D. from Yale and eventually became a Shakespeare professor, publishing an academic book with Oxford University Press. Currently she is an associate professor, Director of Graduate Studies, and Director of Creative Writing in the English Department at Fordham University in New York City. She's also the mother of two children and, in a particularly delicious irony for a romance writer, is married to a genuine Italian knight.

The latest in her fabulous Duchesses series - Duchess by Night - will be available from June 24th. (You can pre-order from Amazon by clicking on the cover, just as you can order any of the books featured on our blog)

You can find out more about Eloisa and her books at

Many of you will remember that last month, I gathered questions from you for Eloisa. Today, we have Eloisa's answers! So, without further ado, over to Eloisa.

Eloisa: I'm delighted to be here. Thank you all for such interesting questions. I’ll be popping in throughout the day to see if you have any follow-up questions, so don’t be shy!

Christine Wells asked How do you go about planning your series books? The Duchesses seem even more intricate than Eloisa's earlier series and I wonder do you know the progression of each thread and how you tie them up before you begin book 1 or is it a more organic process? How do you keep track of all the details? And finally - would you ever consider writing romance set in the Elizabethan age or is that too close to your academic life?

Eloisa: I only wish that I had the time/wherewithal/organizational skills to plan out a series of 6 books. I don’t….they tend to just jumble along. In fact, this series was originally “planned” for 4, and then I had to call up my editor and say, um, it’s turned to six. I keep track of the details by starting a “Bible” with the first book, listing all characters, locations, descriptions. I update it for each book. It’s not fool-proof, but it works!

And you nailed it re the Elizabethan Age – not romantic enough for me, because I know way too much about it.

Aunty Cindy wants to know how you keep writing one great book after another?

Eloisa: I love you, Aunty Cindy! One thing I’ve learned over my career is that some readers will love one book and hate another, and vice versa. But the author has to love them all – or she should revise until she does. It takes hard work.

Annie West asks - how do you plan a series? How much information about future books do you need when you write the first one? How did you meet your Italian knight?

Eloisa: I met Alessandro on a blind date [Anna: some people have all the luck!]

I don’t need hardly any information to start a series, though the more, the better. I just need to know the main cast of characters and have a general idea: ie, I want to write about sisters (Essex sisters) or desperate housewives/bad marriages/duchesses (Desperate Duchesses).

Kelly would like to know about your revision process? How do you create such steaming hot sexual tension?

Eloisa: I write blindly ahead, not allowing myself to revise much. What’s the point of polishing if a scene might get deleted later (and plenty do)? If the sentences were all perfect, it’s that much more painful. As for sexual tension…you have to wait to write those scenes until you really know the couple well. So I might skip an early sex scene and only come back when I truly understand my couple and I (just like a reader) can’t wait until they finally make it work! I have to feel what the reader is hopefully feeling – that’s what makes it work.

Ms Hellion is curious to know what kind of woman it will take to win Villiers? (I was hoping you might give a bit of a character description of her. *LOL*) And I am curious, since you're an English professor and all, who is your *least* favorite literary author and why? (It is my sincere hope that even English professor avoid some literary works...and I wonder what they might be.) *grins*

Eloisa: Ms. Hellion….ha! Never! You’ll have to wait. You might have met the Duchess of Villiers already…and then again, you might not *g*.

And my least favorite author -- Henry James: turgid, self-indulgent, and windy.

Bamabelle is curious to know which of your heroes is your favorite? Who is your favorite literary hero in general?

Eloisa: I’m very fond of Shakespeare’s Benedick (Much Ado About Nothing).

And I don’t really have a favorite hero – though I must say that I have a terrible weakness for Villiers. I think you are all really going to like him in Duchess by Night. He’s everything I like in a man: flawed, beautiful, thoughtful, sarcastic.

Jo asks Eloisa if she could tell us something about her teaching and writing schedules. What courses do you teach? Is the DWGS (Dead White Guy Syndrome) gone from university curricula or are you still fighting the battle? And however do you mesh a full teaching load with an obviously prolific writing career?

Eloisa: I am the “Shakespearean,” so-called, at the Fordham University LC campus. I work together with 3-4 other early modern specialists to make sure that we offer Shakespeare at both campuses, together with other kinds of classes – on poetry, science, culture, other dramatists, etc. Since I mostly teach DWGs, I don’t bother too much with the battle, but I know it rages on, particularly in more modern fields.

I write a lot in the summer. That’s the glory of an academic career – you have a blissful summer, free to do as you wish!

Anna Campbell, knowing that Eloisa is a Shakespeare scholar, wonders what her favorite play is and why? Also, apart from the titles, does Shakespeare influence Eloisa's romance writing?

Eloisa: Measure for Measure – I love the intricate look at government and the question of family values. Shakespeare influences my writing in a million ways: because I teach his plays, day in, day out, I’ll often find myself echoing a phrase I just taught, or just plain borrowing it. Same goes for character. I teach a great deal of other dramatists from the period as well – Affair Before Christmas was deeply influenced by the works of George Chapman, for example.

Terrio is crious about where Eloisa gets her ideas for her "not exactly in the bedroom" love scenes. I mean, I don't want to ruin any books for anyone but in a boat?! And in a historical yet! Where did she come up with that one? And Strip Dominoes. The story of where that came from should be entertaining.

Eloisa: LOL – I don’t know! The imagination is a lovely thing. I made up Strip Dominoes as well.

Susan asks - how much research goes into Eloisa's books? Do you do it yourself? Do you hire it out? Does the research inform the plotting, if you're a plotter? Or does the plot come first & then the research?

Eloisa: I generally do all the basic research. When the Duke Returns (my December 08 book) circles around the hero, who’s a kind of Romancing the Stone archeologist, based on a real Georgian explorer. I bought books about him, and ordered his own books off Amazon. But a lot of the smaller research is done by a wonderful research assistant, Franzeca Drouin. She not only helps me as I’m going by answering random questions (what is the name of that pen they used again?), but she reads the entire manuscript once it’s done, several times, making sure that the words I use were in use at the time.

Generally the plot idea comes first and the research follows.

Beth Andrews would like some time management advice?

Eloisa: Type up a long list of all the things you have to do, separated by professional and household. It’s likely daunting and depressing – everything from write a bestselling novel to get the wallpaper off the upstairs bathroom wall. Fine. At least you know the parameters. Now get a small yellow sticky, look at the list, and take a small segment of 3-4 of those and make a new list on the sticky. This list might look like this (because this is my sticky for today):
1) Work on City of Vice article (academic article that was due in October!)
2) Romance Bandits interview
3) Clean basement alcove
4) Work on email/inbox

That’s enough! At the end of the day I tear that sticky off and throw it away, and plan what I could do the next day. That way I get to feel a sense of accomplishment, by chipping away at big tasks (cleaning the basement, writing an article).

Flchen1 asks - do you start off knowing you'll be writing several related books or does the second take off from the first with a life of its own? If it's the former, does that make it easier, to have that in mind as you plot? (Or is it more work, juggling the various plots and characters?) What kind of books do you like to read? And nosy me, how did you and your DH meet? :)

Eloisa: I plan in a series. It’s so much work to create a whole world that I can’t imagine doing it for only one book. Just think of all the servants, addresses, and extra people who appear in even one novel. It’s a lot of work, juggling all the plots and people – and I’ve definitely made errors. Some of my characters have changed age in disconcerting ways. You have to forgive yourself for your mistakes, and keep going.

I like to read romance! I write a romance column for Barnes & Noble review page that goes up every third Monday of the month. That allows me to read as many wonderful romances as I want, without even having to pay for them! And those of you on my Bulletin Board know that I give away all those books every month on my BB, so do keep an eye on the BB and the column.

But I also read all kinds of other stuff – fantasy, mysteries, literary fiction, women’s fiction – I think it’s crucial to bring in new ideas all the time.

And as to how I met my husband…see above. Blind date!

Helen is curious about how Eloisa came to write about the Essex sisters?

Eloisa: These things spring organically from my own life, most of the time. I live in the same town as my sister, and I was thinking about our relationship. I wanted to write about sisterhood, as something that’s vexed and complicated – but in the end wonderfully affirming and loving. So those novels were both about falling in love with men, and realizing that sisters share a deep love as well.

Many thanks again to Eloisa for being here today and for taking the time to answer all our questions.

As Eloisa said, don't be shy about leaving a comment or asking other questions. Two lucky commenters will each win signed copies of Desperate Duchesses and An Affair Before Christmas!


Kim said...

HAHA!! He's all mine*g*

Kim said...

Now, that's just kismet, isn't it?

Anna Sugden said...

ROFL - is that what they're calling it these days, Kim?

Congrats - look after our feathered friend!

Kim said...

Okay, maybe not kismet. It might have been me sitting here just waiting. But still....

I'll take excellent care of our feathered friend. All the BBQ sauce is hidden away and the cat is locked up*g*

Donna MacMeans said...

Eloisa - Thank you so much for visiting us today. I love your lyrical voice in your writing. I'm afraid I'm too tongue-tied to think of an intelligent question *g* but wanted to say thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

Kim - congratulations on nabbing the Golden Rooster!

doglady said...

Kim was determined to have him, now wasn't she? Congrats!

This is a great interview! Of course Eloisa won't reveal who ends up with Villiers. Darn her!

Eloisa, what drew you to the Georgian era? What are you research sources for this period and for the Regency? Do you have any old reliable resources that you return to time and again for research? And, which is your favorite time period to set stories and why?

I am so excited Eloisa is in the Lair. I LOVE your books! I have your postcards framed on my writing studio wall. You share that space with Anna Campbell, Christine Wells, Denise Rosetti, Victoria Alexander, Hope Tarr, Teresa Medeiros, Kathryn Caskie.

Donna MacMeans said...

Just wanted to remind everyone to take a peek at the blog post below Eloisa's regarding the contest we're currently running in the lair to celebrate our one year anniversary.

flchen1 said...

Congrats, Kim! I'm sure the GR's having a terrific time with you!

And thanks so much for taking the time to give us that fantastic interview, Eloisa!! I really enjoyed it all, and getting a peek inside your process :)

Minna said...

Great interview!

Anna Campbell said...

Hiya Kim!!! Congratulations!

Hey, everyone, make sure you check out the Bandita anniversary celebration post before Eloisa's fantastic interview. There are more prizes than you can poke a stick at!

Eloisa, goodness, we really did hit you with the big guns before you even set foot in the lair, didn't we? Thank you for all those wonderful answers. By the way, I LOVE Henry James - although he's not an author you can read on public transport. I don't think his repertoire included the full stop! You'll die, but I think the great master I really have no affinity with at all is Dickens. Or maybe Hardy. Actually, I think Hardy is worse than Dickens. In fact, I'm SURE Hardy is worse than Dickens.

Eloisa, do you have any urge to break out of historicals and write a shock, horror, contemporary or a paranormal?

Jane said...

Woohoo, Kim.

Hi Eloisa,
I loved "Duchess In Love." I'm currently about 100 pages into "Desperate Duchesses." I enjoyed the tabloid descriptions of Roberta. I didn't know the rags back then were just as vicious as they are today.

Christine Wells said...

Hi Eloisa, welcome to the lair! Thank you for answering all our questions. You must have a very intricate mind to be able to write such a complex series as Desperate Duchesses without much of a plan. I wonder how many couples you'll have given a HEA by the end.

I remember reading somewhere that you loved Georgette Heyer's novels. Is that true and if so, which is your favourite?

Big waves, Ms Kim! Congrats on nabbing the rooster today. I think he'll have the mother of a hangover after spending all that time with Amy Andrews.

Pam--I'm so honoured to be in such illustrious company:) Thank you!

Foanna, how can you even write Dickens and Hardy in the same sentence? Wash your mouth out!! Hardy is most definitely the worst, the nasty mysognist. Although I could do without Samuel Butler, too. He made my year 11 Speech exam a severe trial.

Gillian Layne said...

Thanks for taking the time to visit, Eloisa. My favorite is Your Wicked Ways. I never tire of reading about Tom and Lina; they are wonderfully captivating secondary characters.

PJ said...

Hi Eloisa!

You never fail to amaze me with all that you accomplish in your hectic days. Have you ever taught a time management workshop at RWA? You should!

With your family background, did you always want to be a writer or did you have another "big dream" while you were growing up?

~Bon Bon PJ

PJ said...

Congrats on nabbing the GR, Kim!

I wouldn't worry about all that booze, Christine. Knowing Kim, she's already soaking it up by stuffing the GR with all those delicious goodies she makes. :)

Helen said...

Congrats on the GR Kim have fun with him

The answers are fantastic I loved them all you are so busy Eloisa and your books are wonderful reads.
I loved the Essex sisters books I am the eldest of four girls and I know how much fun and tears can be had when we were growing up and now that we have families of our own.
Thanks for wonderful post Anna and Eloisa
Loved the fact that you met your husband on a blind date who organised the date for you a special person I am sure.
Have Fun

brownone said...

First, congrats to the Banditas for an intriguing year in blogs! You all have turned me on to so many wonderful new authors that I don't know how to thank you (although my husband is grumbling!).

Just wanted to let Eloisa know that I've always enjoyed her books and am looking forward to Duchess by Night!

peggy said...

hi eloisa
where do you find your ideas for all the cloths your characters
wear in your books.and how long does your research take finding the

Eloisa James said...

Hi everybody--

I'm going to divide up my answers so this isn't the size of a book!

First, a general thanks for all the kind welcomes!

Doglady, I love the Regency and the Georgian era. I've found the Georgian era really fun to write in, but I suppose if I were truly honest, I'd admit that the Regency era is still my favorite, for one simple reason: the clothes are easier to describe, and easier to take off *g*.

For favorite research books, I love Gerard's Country House Life (veeery useful!), but the book I probably use most is Cunningham's Eighteenth Century English Costume. It's utterly brilliant. And woo-hoo on those postcards! I just ordered postcards for Duchess by Night, so your new one will be on the way.

Anna, Hardy is definitely worse than Dickens -- I adore Dickens. But you love Henry James??? OVER Dickens???? (Eloisa maintains a polite silence...)

Dear Jane,
Those gossip columns were vicious! There are some hysterical plays making fun of them, actually, but it seems as if people snatched them up every morning.


Eloisa James said...

Dear Christine,

I adore Georgette H. In fact, Duchess by Night is dedicated to her -- and in honor of her, I'm running a contest on my website and giving away my 5 favorite novels! I think this contest goes up today sometime, so please do stop by everyone ( The Grand Sophie is one of my absolute favorites.

Hi PJ!
I always figured I'd be a writer, with a little deviation into the idea of being a baby doctor until I discovered you needed (sigh) to do well in math and science.

Dear Peggy,
I partially find the clothes by reading research books such as Cunningham's (mentioned above). But I also buy a fancy magazine now and then -- the English magazine Tatler is perfect -- and rip out pictures of ladies in gorgeous gowns. Then I take those couture gowns and sort of shift them around in my head to match the general line and design of the period in which I'm writing. That way I have a truly vivid sense of cherry velvet cloth and how it drapes, for example, or how taffeta billows.

I'll check back later, everyone!

hugs, Eloisa

Susan Seyfarth said...

Hi, Eloisa! Thanks for joining us in the lair today! I've been waiting with bated breath for Villiers' story. He's just so...deliciously...redeemable. I love that in a man. Not necessarily in a *real* man. I prefer them to do the growing up on their own. But in a romance novel hero? Big happy sigh.

Speaking of that sort of thing, have you ever written a character you absolutely fell in love with & had a hard time letting go of when the story ended?


Dina said...

Hi Eloisa,

Glad you have you her and to learn more about you.

Janga said...

Hi! I am delurking to ask Eloisa if she thinks Villiers can rival Mayne in the hearts of her readers?

I noted on another forum, Eloisa, that your books seemed to me more dramatic than strictly narrative in structure. Do you think that is a fair observation?

Anna, I like Henry James too, but I prefer Dickens. And I prefer Austen, Welty, O' Connor, and Wharton to both. D. H. Lawrence is the one I will pass on--his novels at least. I like the short stories.

Anna Sugden said...

Good morning all - great to see you're all active already.

Big welcome to Eloisa's BonBons.

And, of course we're all thrilled to be able to spend time with Eloisa. Don't you just love her answers?!

Kim - beware - that rooster has had survival training from P226!

Donna - I suspect you aren't the only one who's tongue-tied! I have smelling salts for the really overwhelmed!

Anna Sugden said...

Great questions, Doglady. Hope we'll see your postcard on our walls soon when you make that sale.

Flchen1 - it's always fun to see how the best in the business tackle their writing process, isn't it? I'm always daunted by those seat of the pants writers, though!

Hi Minna - how's things in Finland?

Anna Sugden said...

Anna - both Hardy and Dickens' works are easier to watch than to read! There a few modern authors gracing the NYT I could say that about too - not Eloisa though!

Jane - oh yes - those tabloids were just as bad back then. The no.1 paper in the UK is still the most scandalous of gossip rags - The Sun. Interestingly, on a Sunday a huge no of people in the UK buy The Times and The News of the World - one proper paper and one tabloid!

Anna Sugden said...

Ah Georgette Heyer, Christine - loved her books. She, Anya Seton and Catherine Cookson were my introduction to romance ... along with Denise Robbins and Mills and Boon authors like Robyn Donald.

Thanks to Borders arriving in England, we now have access to all the fab romances that are available here every month. Otherwise, sadly, the selection is dire!

Anna Sugden said...

Oh yes, Gillian! I love stories with great secondary characters.

I agree with you PJ - Eloisa should share her time management secrets in a workshop. I'm also working on her to do her plot threads workshop - which uses a spreadsheet to look at JK Rowling's Prisoner of Azkaban. One of the best I've ever been to!

Helen - isn't the story of the blind date so cute? I never had such good luck!

Anna Sugden said...

Awww thanks, Brownone. Glad you've enjoyed the past year! I've picked up loads of new authors too ... my TBR room is groaing!

Peggy - great question about the clothes! One of my English pals uses the BBC bible for costumes. They are so meticulous in their research.

Anna Sugden said...

Eloisa - that wicked sense of humour of yours has just caused a tea on the keyboard moment! Loved your reply about the clothes coming off!

Trish Milburn said...

Eloisa, thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to hang out here in the lair with us today.

I like your sticky note idea. I'm a list maker, have been since I started elementary school. At this moment, on my desk are lists of things I need to do today, home improvements I want to do to each room in our house, and my open day planner. :)

I believe I remember that you summer in Italy. Do you find that extra inspiring when you're writing?

Anna Sugden said...

Oooh - good question, Susan. I know readers love to hear about characters over and over again - so it'll be interesting to hear about it from the writer's point of view.

Welcome Dina!

Janga - Mayne was certainly a strong favourite on our earlier poll!

Anna Sugden said...

I like the sticky note idea too, Trish. I try to keep lists, but I end up writing stuff on scraps of paper. Must get more organised!

Kirsten said...

Eloisa, I can tell you there were many stunned silences when Anna announced that she'd be bringing you into the Lair! (Followed by loud "SQUEE"s, naturally!) I am a huge fan of your books and the intelligence and wit you bring to your characters. Thank you so much for visiting and bringing your books into the world!

Okay, now I get to ask my questions! First, do you ever feel that the conventions of romance limit you as a writer? How do you make sure to keep growing in your craft?

And second, your DDJ (dreaded day job) actually sounds pretty darn wonderful, but I wonder if you've ever considered quitting and writing full time? Do you feel like your writing suffers from parsing your time between jobs, or perhaps just the opposite?

Oh, and I'm sorry ladies, but I love Hardy--or at least I love Tess. She is one of the characters in literature that has stayed with me most clearly over the years. Talk about a woman who takes matters into her own hands! Hard to say the men or the society came out of that story looking good.

Kim said...

Eloisa said:
I adore Georgette H. In fact, Duchess by Night is dedicated to her -- and in honor of her, I'm running a contest on my website and giving away my 5 favorite novels! I think this contest goes up today sometime, so please do stop by everyone ( The Grand Sophie is one of my absolute favorites.

Sorry, that contest won't be until June 1. The one that went up today is for an ARC of Duchess by Night!

Lexie O'Neill said...

I think I've learned things about you in this interview that I truly didn't know. And, once again, I'm amazingly impressed about how much you do!
Thank you for sharing,
Lexie O'Neill

Thank you, Bandits, for a great interview!

Trish Milburn said...

Thanks for swinging by, Lexie. Everyone, Lexie was one of my fellow AT finalists this year.

Beth said...

Welcome to the lair, Eloisa!

Thank you for answering my question on time management *g* It's good to know I'm heading in the right direction. I have a daily planner where I jot down my to-do list - one item per line in order of priority. That way I always have a manageable list :-)

Thank you for a wonderful interview, Anna! And congrats on the GR, Kim ;-)

jo robertson said...

Hi, Eloisa, it's an honor to have you in the Lair today.

Shame, shame on you ladies who do not care for James -- The American? Washington Square? Daisy Miller? Tut, tut. Perhaps his realism chafes a bit? After all, it's not the stuff of HEA. My fave is The American. I love his theme of old money vs. new money, crass American vs. suave European.

What's not to love about Dickens? Incredible characterization.

But my all-time favorite is Shakespeare.

I think sometimes we writers can't or don't separate the author's life/life style from his writing. I find myself disliking Hemingway and wonder if it's for that reason. Like, who doesn't love Hemingway besides me?

Eloisa, I'm so impressed by the scope, not only of your writing, but your life. Do you allow/demand alone or me-time for yourself? What do you do to "get away"?

jo robertson said...

Ooops, forgot to say what an incredible job of interviewing Eloisa you've done, Anna! Great questions and answers.

And, Kim, hehehehe -- Kismet, riiiiight!

Anna Sugden said...

More great questions - thanks, Kirsten!

Ooh - I think a view people here will be hopping over to try to win that ARC, Kim.

Welcome, Lexie - great to see you here!

You sound so roganised, Beth - note to self - must do better!

Anna Sugden said...

I see a litereay battle is brewing! James, Dickens,Hardy and now Hemingway are in the mix ... who else?

Good point about lifestyle influencing our perceptions of an author's work, Jo. I know I will not read work by an author who I've met if they're rude! There are a couple of very well-known authors whose books will never grace my shelves!

Maureen said...

I enjoy your books very much. It seems like you spend a lot of time developing your heroines, they seem so real. Do you start with the heroine?

Esri Rose said...

This whole post was great, but I'm glomming on to two suggestions in particular:

Sticky-note subdivision for tasks.

Write sex scenes after the book is done and you know your characters.

Thank you, Eloisa, and thanks for all your great stories!

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

SQUEEEEE! Eloisa said she LUVVED ME!!!

Okay, fan-girl moment over.... Well, maybe not quite. GREAT interview Anna!

Let me add one more huge WELCOME to Eloisa! We are so excited to have you here and are loving all your answers. I especially need to pay attention to the time management tips. :-P

Jo-Mama, I'm raising my hand as one who also doesn't like Hemingway, even though I LURVE his house in Key West. I don't like Faulkner either, after being forced to read him early on in college (a fate I would not wish on my worst enemy). LURVE Dickens, however, even if I had "Tale of Two Cities" jammed down my throat in junior high.

All right, I'm going off to a quiet corner to gloat over Eloisa's affections...

Kim, wtg on the GR. By hook or crook, eh?

P.S. And PLEASE come back for our BIG 1 YEAR celebrations! We Banditas would not still be here if not for ALL OF YOU!

Anna Sugden said...

Oooh good question, Maureen!

Hi Esri - that second one is really good, ins't it. I'd never thought about doing it that way, but it would probably work for me as I don't like writing sex scenes.

Anna Sugden said...

Passing the smelling salts to Aunty Cindy!

One of my dreams about being published is to have at least one fan girl.

limecello said...

Hi Eliosa,

Great interview - thanks for visiting with us today! I absolutely love your books and can't wait for the next "Duchess" one.
I need to read through all the comments, but I think some of my questions have already been answered :).

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

LOL! Thanx VA but Joanie's boy Demetrius was very swift with the smelling salts, or whatever that Roman concoction was that he held up to my face. (Personally, Aunty was oogling his biceps, but that's another story.)

I too am living and hoping for the day when *I* have a fan girl, though Helen is doing a great job of encouraging me even if she's only read brief excerpts of my book!

See, our Bandita Buddies really ARE the GREATEST!

ready to swoon again if Demetrius is nearby

Cheri2628 said...

Hi, Eloisa. I just love your books and I am really looking forward to reading the next ones. I appreciated hearing the news from your BB that you were here today. Very interesting interview!

Eloisa James said...

Yikes! I swear I turned around and suddenly there are 50 comments! So here I am again...

Dear Susan,
There have been SO many characters whom I didn't want to let go of. Sophie and Esme, from my two earliest series, were women whom I adored and wanted to be friends with. Then I fell in love with Mayne...and now (I must admit) Villiers. But I adore Esme too. In fact, I adore all my characters (Eloisa, slinking away in a fit of motherly guilt).

Janga, you are absolutely right, of course. My first draft is entirely dramatic. I think it's because I teach drama on a daily basis -- I write my first draft almost entirely in dialogue. And I see the action in my head like a drama. Then I go back in and layer emotional resonance and description.

I can't say that Italy in itself is inspiring. But we live with my mother-in-law while we're there. So here's my secret to being truly inspired: move in with someone who is a) a fabulous cook, b) likes ironing and washing clothes and c) insists that your children watch TV so that their Italian will improve. Ah...inspiration! The wine at every meal doesn't hurt either.

OK, I'll break this one here and start a new one..

Amy said...

Eloisa, I use you constantly as an example to my 14 year old daughter. I hope you do not mind...LOL The fact that you are a professor and a writer or romance novels and I saw the interview that you did where you did not put your picture on one of your books until you hit tenure!!! Well, I think that makes for a role model. My sissy and I are huge fans, and I am happy to say that I have a 18 month old daughter that I will be able to shout the many praises of reading to as she gets older, to. Congrats on great success, and looking forward to many more books to come!!!!!!!!!

Eloisa James said...


I can't say that I feel very limited by the romance genre. I do feel challenged by it. If you think about it, literary fiction-writers have a really easy road: they can do anything they want, without restrictions and without parameters. don't like a character? Kill him off! It's much more difficult, imo, to write a good romance -- you need to surprise and challenge the reader within the parameter of her acknowledged understanding of the genre and its happy ending.

And honestly, I'm a Shakespearean first and a writer second. I do contemplate quitting writing sometimes (sorry!) but it's generally just when I'm buried in copyedits. I love the actual writing, so I can't imagine not doing it.

Jo, I need to demand more "me" time! Will one of you please come talk to my children and explain to them that I have too much to do, and no one is going to help them with their math tonight? what? silence? no one is coming to help???? Someday things will be easier, but I have the sneaking suspicion that I'll really miss having these hooligans around the house.

Dear Maureen,
You're absolutely right -- the heroines come first. I dream them up long before I think of the heroes, or what sort of story they might find themselves in. In the back of my head, these days, several heroines are shaping up -- for the NEXT series! Never mind the fact that I have 2 more books in this series to write!

Thank you so much for your warm welcomes, all. I'll stop back in again tonight, so don't hesitate to slap down some more questions!

AND -- stop by my website later! I have a creative writing prize up (writing a nursery rhyme) -- and the prize is an ARC of Duchess by Night.

Which just got its first review, by the way. Publishers Weekly loved it (hurrah!). Here's the last line of the review: "James delights with seduction, surpirses and humor on every page."

very happily yours,

bamabelle said...


I'm so excited that you are here! Just excuse me, I'm having a fangirl moment lol. Thanks so much for answering our questions. I enjoyed your responses, and am very much indeed looking forward to reading Duchess by Night!

bamabelle said...


I meant to ask, now that I know your favorite literary hero, I was wondering, who is your favorite literary heroine?

A few of my favorite heroines are Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, all of the Essex sisters (especially Tess and Josie), and Evie from Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas.

Anna Campbell said...

Janga, I LOVE D.H. Lawrence. There was a wild time in my early 20s where I went on an absolute binge of Lawrence. He has such an individual way of looking at the world, it was fascinating to soak that up and look at everything with a tinge of DHL. I agree the short stories are more approachable, though! Hey, isn't it interesting? I describe my wild youth in terms of reading. How tragic! I should have been out chasing boys on motorbikes! I tried Edith Wharton but honestly, the bad endings everyone came to got to me after a while!

Anna Campbell said...

Actually, Anna, your comment about Dickens being easier to watch than to read really rang a bell with me. We've just had the wonderful Bleak House on over here and it was riveting. I also think for a modern audience, the TV writers beef up the female characters. I must say that's one of my major gripes about the Dickens I've read - he doesn't get women!

Anna Campbell said...

Eloisa, huge congratulations on the rave from Publishers Weekly!

Sarai said...

Wow I have always wondered how authors planned their series it's good to finally have that question answered:
I do have another regarding the "Bible" Do you have it organized or is it as the information comes I put it in?

Thanks again

sarah said...

What about writing during Henry VIII's reign or the War of the Roses? Or would that be too close to Elizabethan?

Eva S said...

Hi Eloisa,
thanks for the interview and for your great books, I love the Essex Sisters(I have three sisters) and I'm looking forward to this new series! Thanks for all your answers, I think most of my questions have been answered already.

Congrats Kim!

Elyssa Papa said...

Hi Eloisa,

I just wanted to pop over from the EJ/JQ board and say "hi". I love all of your books, especially PforP.

But I do really like Villiers' and the direction he's headed in. I was very scared he would be killed off in AABC but knew that Villiers needs his HEA.

Can you give us any clues about Duchess by Night? Does the title reveal something about Harriet's character?

jo robertson said...

Eloisa, congrats on your PW review for Duchess by Night.

Hey, I'd come help your kids with their math if it'd mean more of your wonderful books LOL. Of course, they might then actually fail said math class.

I empathize with your being a Shakespearean teacher first. On my campus, I always HAD (read "got to") teach Will b/c the younger teachers felt they weren't familiar enough. Even with the excitement of writing, I miss the teaching.

Cassondra said...

Eloisa, welcome to the lair and THANK YOU for joining us.

I especially grabbed onto the sticky notes for time management of the "big list." My big list is overwhelming. I have a feeling that might just work for me, as I can feel better about my accomplishments as I toss that daily sticky note!

Like Sarai, I have a question about the organization of your "Bible." Do you have individual pages for characters, or places? Is it somehow arranged in a way you can find it easily or is it train of thought or train of "appearance" with things added as they happen or appear in the stories? I do one for each book of course, but I'm needing to do one of these for a series for the first time and your process is most interesting.

Thank you for taking such care with our questions!

Anna this interview is wonderful. Thank you for sharing Eloisa with us.

Cassondra said...

Trish said:

Everyone, Lexie was one of my fellow AT finalists this year.

Welcome to the lair, Lexie! And congrats on the AT final.

jo robertson said...

Well, AC, now you've opened a whole new can of worms with Faulkner, who is equally unappealing to me as Hemingway even though they're polar differences.

Another question, Eloisa. Why do you start with the heroines as opposed to the hero? Can you pinpoint your thinking on that?

I confess to starting with the male protagonist (yikes, maybe that's my problem!). I think it's b/c I like to define and anchor his character and then use the female as a foil.

Anna Campbell said...

Nah, Jo, I come up with the heroes first too! You're OK, my friend!

Anna Sugden said...

Hey limecello - good to see you - hope you enjoyed your prize!

Uh oh AC - does Joanie know you're hanging with her gladiator? The woman has access to scalpels!

Welcome Cheri2628 - we seem to be following each other around today!

Anna Sugden said...

Eloisa - your MIL sounds fab - just like mine! (What's more she taught my hubby how to cook, clean and iron!)

And you know - maybe I'd write faster if I just wrote down the story like you do, instead of self-editing all the time ... hmmm. I always learn good stuff from you!

catslady said...

Loved the answers and have to say I've been meaning to pick up one of your books!!!

Anna Sugden said...

Amy - how cool that you use Eloisa as a role model for your daughter. Romance writers have come a long way, baby!

Bamabelle - we all love seeing fangirl moments. It's what we almost pubbeds dream of!

Foanna - for once we'll have to disagree! I couldn't stand DHL. Mind you, I had to study him for a term at school ... and I didn't manage to read the book before studying it (my usual trick for avoiding book study torture).

Anna Sugden said...

Welcome Sarai - great question about 'the Bible'.

Ah, the time of Good Ole Henry VIII - interesting choice, Sarah. I'm keen to know the answer too.

Hi Eva - how are you doing?

Welcome Elyssa - Eloisa has been really tight-lipped about Duchess by Night. Maybe we can find a way to bribe her?!

Carla Capshaw said...

WOW, Eloisa, just your credentials make my head spin. :-) What a fabulous interview. Thanks for visiting the lair today!!

Anna Sugden said...

Cassondra - I got so scared by the sound of Suz Brockmann's bible (mine is so haphazard and higgledy-piggledy!) I'm hoping to hear a good way to organise things.

Jo - I'm another one who usually starts with the hero ... although my latest ms is the first one in which the heroine spoke to me before the hero. (This is the puck bunny book *grin*)

Eloisa - so glad that PW has the good sense to give you a great review (your readers already know how great your books are)! YAY!

Cherie J said...

Enjoyed the interview! Thanks for being here Eloisa and answering all the questions.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Count me in as somebody who needs a better way to organize her "bible." Oh all right. As somebody who needs a bible in the first place. And okay, some organization. And ideally both at once. :-)

How do you all organize yours??


Lexie O'Neill said...

Thanks for the introduction--and the welcome! I can now reply because I am finished grading (pause for the happy dance)!

Anna and Cassondra,
Thanks for the welcome, too! I
love the blog--have lurked around before--and will keep coming back!

Congratulations on the PW review. Funny, you think of quitting writing sometimes and you are so good at it!! I would love to quit teaching sometimes--could it be you don't have the annoying students I do?
Congratulations again--I can't wait to get the new book!

Caren Crane said...

Eloisa, welcome to the Lair! Since you have been so coy about Villiers, I am mad to know who in the world could match him. I'm tempted to run off and re-read everything now to try and figure it out! *g*

Thank you for all the great insight into your process. As a pantser with only minor plotting tendencies, it's nice to hear that you just go with the characters you love and trust the plot will follow. The Banditas here who have plotted with me will tell you, I have NO CLUE what my characters will do in their stories. I only know two things: where they start and where they end up.

Thank you so much for visiting with us. I still miss Squawk Radio!

Caren Crane said...

Kim, has the GR EVER visited with you before? I think he may find he likes it at your place - er, until the cat gets out and the grill gets fired up. *g*

Anna Campbell said...

Oh, yes, Caren, I miss Squawk too! I loved that blog!

Janga said...

Anna, I admit Wharton's endings are depressing, although not as depressing as Hardy's surely. But isn't nearly all "literary fiction" depressing as far as women's roles are concerned. That's one of the reasons we need romance; it's our antidote.

I love Jenny Crusie's take on it: "I write romance novels because of my great education; it's the best antidote I know for a graduate degree in literature. I spent years reading about miserable women like the one who pursued the life she wanted, had great sex, and then ate arsenic; or the one who pursued the life she wanted, had great sex, and then threw herself under a train; or my personal fave, the one who pursued the life she wanted, had lousy sex with a masochistic dweeb, and spent the rest of her endless life atoning by doing good works in a letter sweater. What a great literary education gets a woman is depressed.Very, very depressed. Not to mention very reluctant to have sex."


Kim said...

Caren--Yes! This is actually the GR's second visit to my humble abode. He's safely enscounced in his own little guest crate with a lovely little plump breasted hen *g*

Christine Wells said...

Eloisa, I'm not surprised that you loved The Grand Sophy. I can never choose which GH I like best. Sophy, Devil's Cub, Sylvester and Venetia are all high on the list. Sadly, I don't read them any more because I'm afraid all of those wonderful phrases will stick in my brain and come out on the page.

Congratulations on a fantastic PW review! It sounds spot on to me.

Something I've often wondered--have you or do you know of any historical romance writers who have had their novels optioned for movies? I've never heard of that happening and it's a shame--maybe due to production costs involved in period pieces? I'd love to see historical romance on the big screen. I see they're bringing out a movie about the Duchess of Devonshire which should be great, though.

Anna Sugden said...

Hey Cherie J - glad you're enjoying Eloisa's visit!

Yay Lexie on finishing the grading - know how that feels. And the only thing that used to get me about teaching was the bureaucracy - just let me teach!

LOL - Caren I don't know much more than that ... three or four key turning points ... otherwise it's let the characters loose and let's see what they come up with. And they always manage to surprise me!

Janga - love that Jenny Crusie quote!

Kim - hope that pesky rooster isn't ODing on chocolate!

Anna Sugden said...

Christine - great question. Especially as the Beeb is so great at the costume dramas. I wonder if not having access to all the great historicals in the UK could be the cause?

Eloisa James said...

Hi Bamabell!

I'm trying to think who my favorite literary heroine is... I don't know! Women are so intricate and intelligent in literature. I love pretty much all of the Bronte heroines, and many of the Austen heroines.

Sarai, I'm on my 3rd or 4the bible, so I have the basic organization in mind. At the front, you need to put the main characters--the hero and heroine in each book. Then follows lists: "servants," "aristocrats in London," "places."

These lists are updated all the time, as I progress in the various novels. Cassondra, there aren't individual pages for main characters in the bible -- just paragraph-long descriptions that include the name of their parents, their birthday, their hair color, etc. When I'm almost done with a book I often write a paragraph of motivation and character description for a character, but by then it's not part of the bible, but part of the book prep.

Jo, I think it's because my heroines are my friends. And let's face it, without friends, what's the good of a relationship with a man? I think that men are necessary, but friends are more necessary, because they keep a woman sane enough to keep going in a marriage...

yes, I'm cynical! But only because I have a happy marriage (and a ton of girl-friends). Squawkers among them. We miss all of you too, guys, but geez, we have so much more time to chat amongst ourselves now *g*.

Good evening, everybody! It's been a lovely day. Thank you for all your wonderful comments and questions. Please -- please! -- try out my contest writing a nursery rhyme. It's a good way to flex your creative muscles!

And the "extra" chapter for Affair Before Christmas just hit the website too -- please check it out!

hugs all,

Hi Sarah,
And yes, Henry VIII and VII are definitely too close to the renaissance. Plus (alas) medievals aren't selling. Which bums me out, because some of my very favorite romances are medieval.

Elyssa...there's a new update on my website! A clue: Harriet is a duchess "by night" because she's something else "by day"!

Eloisa James said...

Eloisa again...
something got messed up in the way that last column organized itself!

OK, goodbye! Please stop by my BB and say hi now and then!

Anna Campbell said...

Janga, I loved your post! You're SOOO right. And people make fun of romance because we have a happy ending and that's meant to be banal. But surely a sad ending for the sake of a sad ending is just as banal and doesn't have the advantage of leaving you with a smile! Actually, I despise Hardy. I admire Edith W but she's just a bit too much of a downer for regular reading. One of the things I love about Jane Austen is she doesn't do the downer endings! Actually a lot of 18th century fiction doesn't either - they liked happy endings then too.

Anna Campbell said...

Anyone who hasn't visited Eloisa's Bulletin Board is missing a treat. There's a wonderful range of discussions on all things romance and the atmosphere has a real sparkle. It's strange how every site develops its own personality, isn't it? Someone once described the Banditas as rowdy! SURELY NOT! Snort!

Eloisa, thank you so much for taking so much time and trouble answering all our many questions. As you can tell, we find you absolutely riveting!

Joan said...

He's safely enscounced in his own little guest crate with a lovely little plump breasted hen *g*

Go, GR!!!!

Late to the party as usual but thanks to Eloisa for taking time out from her busy list to visit with us!

What a great day to start the Bandita celebration!

Kate Carlisle said...

Eloisa, welcome and thank you for being here today. I'm horribly late but just had to stop in and say how much I LOVE your books. I'm also a fan of your workshops and your website. Can't wait to see the updates! Thanks for all the great answers and info today.

And congratulations on the fabulous PW review!

Anna, wonderful interview!

Kim, congrats on snagging the bird!

Suzanne Welsh said...

Good morning, Eloisa and welcome to the Lair. We're very glad to have you visiting us! It's morning to me as I'm just now climbing out of my!

I love your sticky notes with the day's "to do list". And I'm really glad I'm not the only one with a non-romance article that's been waiting to finish for months now!

Aren't sticky notes the greatest invention ever? They stick to computer screens, notebooks, microwaves....heck I even carry one with line on it in my purse to write down story or scene ideas I get while driving. Okay I don't WRITE while driving...I do wait until the red light. :)

Anna Sugden said...

A-ha our nursing angels have appeared! Hope you're resting those tired feet Joanie ... have a good night, Suz.

When I was teaching, stickies and my arms were the place for all notes.

Kate - as long as you're working on your bibliophile mystery series - you're forgiven!

Anna Sugden said...

Eloisa - thank you once again for a wonderful interview and for answering all our questions. You're the best!

I'm off to bed now - will let my kitties draw the two lucky winners of the prizes, so don't forget to check back for the booty announcement.