Sunday, February 21, 2010

An Interview with Janet Mullany

by Christie Kelley

I have to start by saying I've known Janet for about 8 years now. She is one of my critique partners and one of my favorite authors. Because of deadlines, I didn't have the chance to read her February release, IMPROPER RELATIONS, until a week ago. But once I started the book, I couldn't put it down. I ended up reading it in one day. That pretty much never happens for me any more.

Please welcome Janet to the lair!

What can you tell us about your latest book, Improper Relations?

It’s my latest Regency chicklit, the subgenre I may or may not have invented (I think to truly be a subgenre there has to be more than one of us writing it!). I started off with the title and the first line, My story begins with a wedding because I thought that was such a great opening, and I knew I wanted to write about women’s relationships and family ties. It’s not nearly as dreary or as lit-fic
-y as it sounds. There are many inappropriate jokes.

I would consider Improper Relations a bunch of misunderstandings but it truly works in this book. Did you set out to write the misunderstanding, or did it just happen?

Absolutely I meant to, because the misunderstandings result from deep within the characters and create the conflict in the book. Charlotte, the heroine, has tremendous loyalty to her best friend An
n, even when Ann behaves badly; and Shad, the hero, is ruled by duty to his family and honor (he’s a retired naval officer). They’re both shaken by falling in love despite themselves, and unexpectedly great sex—not what your typical Georgian expected to find in a marriage, particularly a marriage of convenience. Yes, there’s sex in this one, sort of. I’ve always thought it funny that people regard my Regency chicklits as being squeaky clean. They have a very strong sexual subtext.

Will be seeing any more of these characters in other books?

I like the idea of visiting couples after the happily ever after, so yes, and I’m playing around with some ideas.

We lov
e call stories in the lair, so could you tell us yours?

My significant writerly phone calls always seem to involve disasters like low batteries, broken phones, and other mishaps. When my agent called me to tell me that Little Black Dress had made me a three-book offer (a call but not The call which happened in 2003) I was at home with a really horrible sinus infection that made me talk like a baritone and my nose looked like a banana (swollen, not yellow), and it was my birthday. The phone was turned off. On my next birthday I was m
ugged on the way home and got a horrendous black eye (nothing was stolen because I screamed obscenities so loudly they ran away). It keeps things in perspective.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

In no particular order and off the top of my head, Jane Austen, George Eliot, Nick Hornby, Hilar
y Mantel, Pam Rosenthal, Anna Maxted, Jasper Fforde, Julie Cohen, Kate Ross, Terry Pratchett.

You have written in both 1st person and 3rd person, which do you prefer? And why?

It depends upon what I’m writing. First person works really well with the funny stuff, I find, because there’s an enormous amount of author dabbling going on behind the scenes and that works well when a certain amount of choreography is required. It’s much easier to orchestrate a half dozen people behaving badly in first person. With third person I tend to be a bit more serious, although I’ve never really that books have to be either funny or serious, and the ones I enjoy usually have both elements.

Do you find writing comedy difficult?

Not at all. I know I should suffer massive amounts of angst and sweat blood and all the rest of it but I don’t. And I can’t tell you how it happens because I really don’t know, although certainly elements of surprise, subversion, and timing are important. I think either you have a facility for comedy or you don’t, and I don’t know whether it can be learned. There is a certain amount of seriousness behind Improper Relations but it would be incredibly pretentious of me to claim it’s anything other than entertainment. There is one scene that made me cry when I wrote it, and I love to balance that turn from comedy to tragedy and back in only a few words; that, for me, is the hard, crafty part of it. Love is a serious business. It deserves the strategically-placed banana peel or whoopee cushion.

What’s next for Janet Mullany?

This year is a huge writing/publishing year for me. I have an e-novella coming out next month from Loose-Id, Reader, I Married Him, which is a dirty riff on Jane Eyre. In October, I have Jane & the Damned, a sort of speculative historical paranormal about Austen, vampires, and a French invasion (HarperCollins) and a novella in an anthology called Bespelling Jane, headlined by Mary Balogh (Harlequin). Mine, Little To Hex Her, is a contemporary based on Emma, about a dating agency for the paranormal population of Washington, DC. So essentially I’ll piss off all the Jane Eyre and Austen fangirls.

Here is the backcover blurb to get you all excited about the book!

ust a lady always put her husband first?

After losing best friend and cousin Ann Welling in marriage to the Earl of Beresford,
sharp-witted Charlotte Hayden is even ruder than usual to potential suitors. Introduced to Beresford’s wayward cousin, Shad, Charlotte may have met her match in witty repartee–but he’s hardly husband material. Caught in a compromising situation, Charlotte and Shad are forced to wed, resigning themselves to a marriage of convenience. And they aren’t the only ones with marital problems… Have both Ann and Charlotte married in haste to repent at leisure? And where do their loyalties really lie? With their husbands, with each other, or somewhere else entirely?

IMPROPER RELATIONS is published by Little Black Dress but is available through The Book Depository

More fun things can be found at Janet's website (there’s a contest and soundbites of Janet reading bits of the books):

Janet's question for the Bandits: What do you find funny? Tell us a joke or share something, a book or experience, that has made you laugh out loud.

Janet is giving away a copy of Improper Relations to one commenter!


Pissenlit said...

Hiya Janet!
Oooh, Regency chicklit sounds fun!

Lynsay Sands' Single White Vampire had me in stitches at times. There were tears. :)

mariska said...

Hi Janet,

I've been following you again around the blogs :)

What do you find funny?
something that will make me laugh and smile every time i read or see it again and again..

like this one ;

check out the link ! i just found it on a blog..just like to share the 'laugh' when i see it ^_^

Minna said...

What do you find funny?
Well, here are some:
98 and no enemies - human interest story

All women should live so long as to be this kind of old lady!

Toward the end of Sunday service, the Minister asked, ' How many of you have forgiven your enemies? '

80% held up their hands.

The Minister then repeated his question. All responded this time, except one small elderly lady.

'Mrs. Neely?'; ' Are you not willing to forgive your enemies? '

I don't have any. 'She replied, smiling sweetly.

'Mrs. Neely, that is very unusual. How old are you? '

'Ninety-eight, 'she replied. The congregation stood up and clapped their

'Oh, Mrs. Neely, would you please come down in front & tell us all how a person can live ninety-eight years & not have an enemy in the world? '

The little sweetheart of a lady tottered down the aisle, faced the
congregation, and said, ' I outlived the bitches. '

Due South - The Mountie Song Revisited

Lady Gaga - Poker Face - Parody ("Outer Space")

Taylor Swift - Parody - You Belong With Me ("Just A Zombie")

Weird al yankovic - thats your horoscope for today

Maureen said...

Congratulations on the new book Janet! I have a strange sense of humor and very odd things make me laugh. On Christmas Eve our son, who's a senior in high school, came to church with us and actually got all dressed up. We sit down and when I look down I see that he actually had on two different black shoes. I whisper this information to him but then I start laughing until tears are rolling down my face which he did not appreciate at all.

Kirsten said...

On Valentine my sister and I watched her favorite movie Made Of Honor. (Did you see that film?) I had seen it once before but still had to LOL when Patrick Dempsey came out to participate in the highland games. Wearing a short kilt, it's SO funny.

Charlotte said...

The last thing that I found funny was the title of a new book,"Why My Third Husband Will BE A Dog." I have read a few pages and found more to laugh about.

Christie Kelley said...

Congrats on the GR, Pissenlit. Janet's regency chicklit books are fantastic.

I haven't read Lynsay Sands but I've heard great things about her.

Christie Kelley said...

Hi Mariska, are you saying Janet gets around? :0

I agree with you that if something makes me laugh or smile many times, it must be good.

Christie Kelley said...

Minna, I loved the story. It sounds like a good plan!

Christie Kelley said...

Hi Maureen. Your story made me laugh. I went an entire day at work once with two different black shoes on. They must have had the same heel height because I didn't notice until almost lunchtime.

Christie Kelley said...


I keep missing that movie. We finally went to netflix so I'll look for it again.

Christie Kelley said...

Charlotte, that is a great title!

Gillian Layne said...

Janet, I've heard nothing but praise for your work, and can't wait to read Improper Relations. I really enjoyed your workshop on servants in the Regency period a few years ago. I love your sense of humor!

Janet Evanovich makes me laugh til I cry. I must look like a maniac, listening to her audio books (I highly recommend Motor Mouth) while I drive.

And I just finished Soulless by Gail Carriger. Here's a few lines from the first scene:

"She whacked the vampire right on top of the head with it as he tried to extract himself from his newly intimate relations with the tea trolley. The buckshot gave the brass parasol just enough heft to make a deliciously satisfying thunk.
'Manners!' instructed Miss Tarabotti.
The vampire howled in pain and sat back down on the treacle tart.
Alexia followed up her advantage with a vicious prod between the vampire's legs. His howl went quite higher in pitch, and he crumpled into a fetal position. While Miss Tarabotti was a proper English young lady, aside from not having a soul and being half Italian, she did spend quite a bit more time than most other young ladies riding and walking and was therefore unexpectedly strong."

Christie Kelley said...

Hi Gillian,

I'm a major Janet Evanovich lover too. Her books always make me laugh out loud.

Janet Mullany said...

OMG, 14 comments already on a Sunday morning and I'm barely out of bed??

Pissenlit, I've said it before, I'll say it again: your blog name makes me laugh. Congrats on the GR.

Mariska, thanks for stalking and the link. Very funny.

Minna, making note of your links and promising myself some time on Youtube later and thanks for the joke.

Maureen, that is exactly the kind of thing I find funny and I too would have been a helpless giggling mess.

Kirsten, I agree that Patrick Dempsey in that silly little kilt had all the right squirm-inducing elements.

Charlotte, great title (I think mine will be too).

Gillian, thanks for the excerpt. I love the cover of that book, too and may buy it now!

Margay said...

The more I read about this book, the more I want to read it! I love books that deal with misunderstandings - as long as they're handled well and I have a feeling Janet handles them well, if her previous books are any indication! As for what I find funny, I find a lot of things to be humorous, but one thing that is sure to make me laugh out loud is LOL cats. I love them!

Louisa Cornell said...

Hey, Pissenlit, the joke is on you! You nabbed the GR !!

Anyone who hasn't read Janet's books is in for a real treat! They alternate between witty, snarky and laugh out loud funny! I would love to see them on film. The Rules of Gentility and A Most Lamentable Comedy are two books that I read when I am having a bad day.

I find the concept of Improper Relations intriguing and I know it will be fun.

My dogs provide a lot of entertainment for me. Especially my two Golden Retriever mix rescued dogs - Clyde and Zorro - The Idiot Brothers. They are the sweetest dogs in the world, but definitely NOT the sharpest tools in the shed. I heard horrendous barking and howling outside one afternoon. I walk out to find Zorro running around his dog run with his feed bucket (did I say these are also rather LARGE dogs?)caught completely over his head. Clyde, ever the good brother, alternates between running around with Zorro barking and then sitting down in the middle of the run and howling with distress. Needless to say I was laughing so hard it took me a few moments to catch Zorro and remove that dastardly bucket. Dogs, however, do not hold a grudge and I receive copious doggie kisses from both brothers for rescuing Zorro from the assault bucket.

Not to leave Clyde out (short for Clydesdale) he loves to lie on top of his igloo doghouse and eventually he falls asleep there. The problem is that the igloo roof is rounded. Once he falls asleep he falls off, jumps up and barks at the doghouse as if it pushed him.

Never a dull moment at my house.

And goodness, Janet, you are going to be on the shelves EVERYWHERE this year !!

Christie Kelley said...

Margay, the book is excellent. I loved it.

And I love LOL cats. I check the website every day for a good laugh.

Christie Kelley said...

Louisa, you're right, they would make great movies. Get on that, Janet!

MsHellion said...

There is very little that doesn't make me laugh out loud (except fart jokes--I'm extremely humorless about fart jokes).

Things that have made me laugh out loud lately:

1.) A conversation with my writing group about vajazzling vs tattooing. And why you can't trust men to tattoo in certain locations.

2.) When I glommed all of the Princess Diaries. Clearly I have not advanced past the age 16.

3.) Sophie Kinsella's The Undomestic Goddess--the scene about burning the chickpeas. (People who can't cook make me laugh.)

4.) Hester Brown: The Little Lady and the Prince. The scene where "Admiral" Nelson saves her from drowning. PRICELESS!!! I was crying with laughter.

Christie Kelley said...

Ms. Hellion, I live in a house of all boys (well, my husband might think he's a man but we're not sure yet). My life is nothing but fart jokes.

MsHellion said...

I know! Men/boys think fart jokes are the creme de la creme of humor. Boys are weird.

Christie Kelley said...

MsHellion said...

Boys are weird.

That they are!

jo robertson said...

Hi, Janet! Welcome to the Lair and thanks, Christie, for inviting her today.

Regency Chicklit sounds divine, entertaining and unique. I can hear your writing voice in your comments, so I'm eager to read Improper Relations (love the double entendre).

Hi, Pissenlit, will you relax with the rooster or put him to work this fine Sabbath day?

jo robertson said...

Oops, forgot to answer the question. I don't find "silly" funny and am not a big fan of physical comedy. I like wry wit with sarcastic underpinnings.

Funny, that's not intentional, I guess, but arises from the situation and the characters' reactions to it.

GG Henster said...

Loved the joke, Minna!

Virginia said...

Hi Janet, your books sound fabulous and I would love to read it. A book I found very funny was Lynsey Sands The Perfect Wife. Its been several years since I read it but have never forgot it. So cute!

Christie Kelley said...

Jo, I feel the same way about physical comedy. I much prefer dry wit.

Christie Kelley said...

Virginia, you're the second one to mention Lynsay Sands. I'm really going to have to check her books out.

Diane M. Wylie said...

Hi, Janet, I think you did invent the Regency chicklit subgenre! I never heard of it until I read your books. I admire the fact that you can write humor and do it so well. There aren't alot of writers who can do that. Congratulations on the upcoming releases!

Christie Kelley said...

Hi Diane, nice to see you here!

Laura said...

Hi, Janet and Christie,

Fun blog. Great way to elicit a bunch of funny stories. I like to laugh at movies and books (Janets -Mullany and Evanovich :D ), but even more at things that happen around me. Unfortunately, that usually means I'm laughing at myself. So, I guess bumbling makes me laugh.

I did the two shoes-different colors bit. And realized it as I LEFT the courtroom! With luck, the judge didn't notice, since I stayed behind the table all morning. But, I'm seldom that lucky. (Ya, I'm a lawyer. Way to impress the judge!)

Janet, somehow I missed the fact that your book is out already! I'm going to go find it. Your last book had me howling! So if there's a giveaway, opt me out. I'll already have it :D

Best to you all,

Christie Kelley said...

Hi Laura,

I was able to stay in my cubicle most of the day when I had the two different shoes on. Nobody noticed it but me.

Minna said...

One more:

Minna said...

Oh, I forgot this one:
Suzanne McMinn tells such funny stories about her animals.

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Pissenlit, good on you with the chook!

Janet, welcome back to the Banditas. Lovely to see you here and the new books sounds fabulous. As you know, I love your other books, starting with THE RULES OF GENTILITY which had me snorting with laughter in a completely disgusting way on a train trip.

Christie, thanks for hosting Janet. She's such a great guest!

Christie Kelley said...

Hi Anna,

I'm so glad I didn't have to see you snorting with laughter on a train trip. :) But Janet's books will do that to a person.

Helen said...

Congrats pissenlit have fun with him

What a great interview Ladies one of the funniest books I have ever read happens to be one of yours Janet Rules of Gentility I remember when I was reading it my hubby kept looking at me with this weird look I don't normally laugh that much when reading a book. I look forward to your new one I will order it with my next order.

As for jokes I have a really bad short term memory and I often forget them even though they make me laugh LOL

Have Fun

Christie Kelley said...

Helen, Rules was a great book too. Can you tell I'm a Janet Mullany fan. (Shh, don't tell her. It will go to her head)

Kim in Hawaii said...

Thanks, Christie, for interviewing Janet - anyone who reads historical romance must read Janet simply to hear a Brit's voice in romance fiction!

Janet, I am not cyber stalking you, but you keep popping up on everyone's blog! Then again, I could read/listen to you for hours!

I agree with the Pissenlit (the first reply) that Lynsay Sand's SWV is funny. It includes a scene where the hero/vampire/accidental romance author is attending the Romantic Times National Convention with the heroine/his editor. Generally he relies on bags of blood from his family's own blood bank but the shipment was delayed. He's getting hungry. So he eyes the veins on Kathryn Falk, founder of Romantic Times, as she makes her rounds at one of the parties. Rest assured, he doesn't bite. The book has other funny scenes that pay homage to the fun chaos that can occur when hundreds of romance fans converge in one hotel with too few elevators.

I asked Kathryn for her reaction to the book. She replied, "I loved it!” Perhaps that’s why I enjoy reading romance – we can have fun in life! And Janet Mullany is fun!

Janet Mullany said...

Hey everyone, I'm back. Sorry about the gap. I was participating in my only non-writing related activity, being a docent at Riversdale House Museum, MD--terrific place. Then went to the grocery store and bought obscene amount of groceries. My thanks to Christie for keeping the conversation going, the teacups filled, and the footmen occupied.

From the top--Margay, I love LOL cats too.

Louisa, hi again! Your dogs sound like real clowns.

MsHellion, another repeat offender, good to see you again. I don't think this particular book has any fart jokes but Rules did, so you and Jo (hi) are safe. My daughter, btw, thinks I have the humor level of a 12 year old boy and I think she may be right. When I'm not being witty and sophisticated and so on...

Hi GG and Virginia. I'm with Chris--I think I'll have to check out Lyndsay Sands too.

Hi Diane--thanks!

Laura, my variant on the mismatched shoes is wearing something wrong side out. It comes from dressing for work in the dark.

Minna, thanks for the links. I'll check them out.

Hi Anna, I love that story about you on the train (and I know of at least two other people who had embarrassing moments on public transport with the book).

Helen, thanks so much and I'm glad you liked Rules.

Ooh, Kim in Hawaii, hi again. And yes, I'm all over the blogosphere like a cheap suit. I think I'm cyberstalking myself. More next week (see my website) and then I'll have run out of things to say.

Christie Kelley said...

Hi Kim!! Glad to see you here. Okay, after your comments, I HAVE to read Linsay Sands. I have a BN card burning a hole in my wallet. It's time for a trip to the bookstore!

BTW, it's still darn cold here. You picked the right year to be in Hawaii.

Christie Kelley said...

Oh, footmen (sigh) Maybe we need a few tall good looking footmen to give the cabana boys a break.

Janet Mullany said...

One day I'm going to use this, but feel free to use it before I do, since I'm not contracted to write any erotic historicals at the moment:

Footmen were hired by the wealthy to look like a matching set, same eye/hair color, and tall men were favored. Now isn't that interesting if you have that sort of a mind...

Laurie said...

I like Jill Shalvis's books and her blog. Hilarious. She makes everyday life a joy. She has run ins with bears, spiders, GS cookies, wears bunny slippers. One of her books "Messing With Max" had a scene on a front lawn with the heroine and hero fighting a hose which leads to instant awareness and a kiss. So funny and romantic!

I also dislike the body parts and sounds jokes. Too juvenile! Poor Taste!

Llehn said...

I love jokes. This is one of my favorites : If exercise is such great exercise, then how come whales are so fat?