by Anna Campbell
I'm delighted to introduce debut Avon historical romance author Miranda Neville. English-born Miranda has a delightful sense of humor and a wonderful take on history and life. She should fit in with the rowdy Banditas like a gladiator fits into JT's suitcase.
Miranda's first book, NEVER RESIST TEMPTATION, which sounds like a delightfully luscious read, has just been released. You can find out more about Miranda and her books at her website.
Miranda, welcome to the lair. Pull up a cabana boy! Let's start at the very beginning - can you tell us about your writing journey?
My jobs always involved writing and deadlines, first catalogue descriptions of books and manuscripts, later reporting and editing for a small Vermont newspaper. I always had a hankering for fiction, especially historical romance. My first effort, started about six years ago, had major problems that I only discovered after I joined the New Hampshire RWA chapter and a critique group. Back story dump anyone? And where was the conflict? Applying what I learned, I wrote NEVER RESIST TEMPTATION. It took less than a year to find an agent and sell it to Avon. Last year my father moved out of my childhood home and I found a box of my papers, including several unfinished Regency romances I’d completely forgotten. Interesting to discover many of the same issues back then. I cannot overestimate the importance to an aspiring writer of getting knowledgeable help.
Congratulations on the release of your debut historical romance NEVER RESIST TEMPTATION which is out at the end of February. Can you tell us something about this story?
Jacobin, my heroine, runs away from her uncle when he loses her in a game of cards. She’s learned to be an expert pastry chef and she gets a job in the Prince Regent’s kitchen, disguised as a young man. That’s all fine until her uncle – one of the Prince’s friends -- is poisoned by a dessert she made. Someone’s setting her up to take the fall so she escapes again and ends up working for – the man who won her in the card game! Anthony, the Earl of Storrington wants to use her as an instrument of revenge but he’s soon torn between his attraction to her and his other goal.
Sounds great! Did you have to do any special research for this story? Did any odd facts turn up?
Because my heroine worked for Antonin Carême, history’s first “celebrity chef”, I spent a lot of time reading his cook books and learning about banquets of the period. A dinner in honor of the Tsar of Russia featured 127 different dishes. Of course everyone wasn’t supposed to taste every dish, but there’s little wonder the Prince Regent grew to be so fat.
What draws you to the Regency period?
The early 19th century was the time England became the richest and most powerful country in the world. At the same time there was a transition between the freer morals of the Georgian period and the more uptight Victorians. So there’s lots of scope for romantic shenanigans among the wealthy leaders of the ton in fabulously luxurious settings.
I know you once worked at Sotheby’s auction house in both London and New York. What a great job! Can you tell us about that?
I had the amazing task of reading and cataloging original letters and manuscripts written by famous people: monarchs, writers, composers, artists. You name it, we sold it. In the past people wrote letters like we make phone calls and send emails so the volume of correspondence they produced is incredible – and all handwritten. You wonder how they had time for anything else.
I got to visit some great houses too. One time I went to Welbeck Abbey, the home of the Dukes of Portland. No, I didn’t meet the gorgeous duke and get swept off my feet. If that had happened I wouldn’t be here. In fact the dukedom is now extinct and everything had been left to a daughter. The huge mansion was empty and the heiress had built herself a cozy little house in the grounds --couldn’t have had more than ten bedrooms, poor dear. A 19th century Duke of Portland was an obsessive recluse. In addition to the main mansion there is a huge underground system of rooms, built so that he’d never have to see anyone. It turned out this duke had led a double life and was actually married to a woman who had no idea who he really was. Might be a romance plot there. The Portland archive had all been given to a museum but they turned up a volume of letters that needed to be appraised. A daughter of the house had decided to collect “autographs.” We’re not talking signatures of movie and sports stars here, folks. She’d combed the family archives and put together a nice collection of letters addressed to various ancestors. Letters from kings, queens and prime ministers. The prize was a long letter from the Duke of Wellington to the Duke of Portland, written a couple of days after Waterloo, describing the battle.
What's next for you?
Returning to my roots, I’m working on a two book series (hopefully to become a trilogy) featuring book collectors in Regency London. And if this sounds a bit dry let me mention that I just spent a few days in the British Library reading rare early pornography.
Tell us five quirky things about yourself.
I love fruit cake. So send me your unwanted fruit cake and I will eat it. Or don’t, because I will eat it.
Although I know I’m an excellent driver, no one else agrees with me.
I cry at the movies. I’ve even been known to cry at commercials. Does anyone recall the Folger’s ad where the couple wake up and smell the coffee and find their son downstairs, unexpectedly home from the military? Floods of tears. (Of course I am addicted to coffee so maybe that was it)
When I read LITTLE WOMEN, I always wanted to be Amy. I’m the fourth of four girls so I identified. Also she got to marry the cute rich guy.
The older I get, the blonder I get.
Love those quirky things, Miranda. And I HATE fruitcake so you should move next door! Is there anything you'd like to ask the Banditas and buddies?
It's often said that novelists always write about themselves. Life in 21st century Vermont is quite different from life in Regency England so I can't say I've drawn much directly from my life in my writing. But I don't think I could have written about the chef heroine in NEVER RESIST TEMPTATION without being interested in food and cooking. My next book is about Regency book collectors so my years in the rare book auction world have definitely been relevant. How much do you use your own experiences to color your characters? Have you examples of things you've written that are straight from life? And can you think of examples of romance writers who are obviously using their own lives for inspiration?
Miranda has very kindly offered one lucky commenter today a signed copy of her debut Avon release NEVER RESIST TEMPTATION. Good luck!