Wednesday, June 01, 2016

The Author Is...Gambled Away

I usually do The Author Is.... interview series in my newsletter and I'll get back to sending it out in my newsletter next month (Skye Warren, anyone? Sign up for my newsletter at if your answer to that question was YES! PLEASE!) But I wanted to share my fellow Gambled Away author's answers to the questions I had after reading their amazing additions to the anthology.

The first story in the collection is All or Nothing by Rose Lerner.  

England, 1819 – Architect Simon Radcliffe-Gould needs someone to pose as his mistress so he can actually get some work done at a scandalous house party. Irrepressible gambling den hostess Maggie da Silva would rather be his mistress, but she’ll take what she can get… 

Rose's story is a total revelation. Even if you've read her books and you're familiar with her nuanced characters and radically different plot lines, this story just feels different.  We have a bisexual hero trying to get his business started, a Jewish heroine with her own sense of style and a house party - can it get any better? No. Not in historical romance. And as reviewers have noted, it's so sexy. Like it's completely drenched in eroticism. 

So, I had to ask her: 

Rose - this story is very hot. Was that intentional or did the story just take you there? Did you like pushing those envelopes in your own writing? 

Rose: Huh, I hadn’t really thought about that! I think the “gambled away” trope did a lot of the work for me--it's a very hot premise--and then I got to write power-exchange kink, which I love. Maggie’s 1790s vintage wardrobe is very sexy and gave a frisson to everything. It's a scandalous house party story, so I did try to dial it up a little. And I think my books have been getting hotter since I started casting my main characters with favorite actors (True Pretenses was the first book I did that for).

The truth is, I love writing sex! In fact, I think "hotter than my previous books" may be slightly deceptive. Except for my debut, all of my books have had sex scenes cut during revisions. Look at the "deleted scenes" tag on my blog and you’ll see what I mean! I was working to publishers’ length constraints, which I didn’t have on this story. I’m pretty sure All or Nothing ended up with about the same amount of sex as Sweet Disorder or True Pretenses: a kiss, a intermediate scene that gets interrupted, and two longer scenes. I make my sex scenes do a lot of emotional work so I’ve learned that that’s about the minimum I need—but it feels like more crammed into a novella than it does spread out over a full-length book. 

Next up we have Jeannie Lin's fabulous story “The Liar’s Dice” 

Tang Dynasty China, 849 A.D. — Lady Bai’s first taste of freedom brings her face to face with murder. A dangerous and enigmatic stranger becomes her closest ally as she investigates the crime, but can she trust her heart or her instincts when everyone is playing a game of liar’s dice? 

This story reads like the introduction to an exciting and epic historical mystery in the lines of the Timothy Wilde books. But with an amazing female lead. The possibilities are literally endless. 

So I had to ask Jeannie:  

Are you planning on creating a historical mystery series with these characters - because if you are let me just give you my money now… 

Jeannie: Wei-wei is the character I get the most reader mail about and I've been pondering her story for a long time. I realized the problem was I couldn't visualize a single book that would encompass her story. I knew in her first adventure she would meet the seemingly unscrupulous Gao, but the rest of her story is still unfolding in my head.

So in short, yes! The Liar's Dice is a lead in to a mystery series with our own Wei-wei at the center of the ensemble cast introduced in the Lotus Palace series. (Ensemble casts being one of the features I really dig about Joanna Bourne's Spymaster series.)

Well, interesting she should bring up Joanna Bourne!! Here's a little bit about her story: 

London, 1793 – Soldier of fortune Gideon Gage has come home from halfway around the world, fully prepared to face down a ruthless gang to save his sister. But there’s one member of the gang he could never have been prepared for: fascinating Aimée, driven from her own home by the French Revolution and desperately in need of his help. 

Gideon and the Den of Thieves is full of all the amazing language and characterizations that Jo is known for. And I could ask her about all of that. But...Hawker plays a pivotal part in this story. He’s the youngest we’ve seen him in her books and all the more fascinating because of it. We’ve seen him in several books now and so I had to ask her:

Did you have any idea he would be such an important piece of so many books? Did he come to you fully-formed and demanding some word count? Have your fans demanded more of him? Do you have any more of Hawker to show us?

Joanna: I created Hawker as a sidekick, and only a sidekick. He walks onstage in Spymaster's Lady, a mouthy nineteen-year-old with a bullet hole in him. He gets saved a couple times in the book. I needed him for the role of 'plot moppet in distress'. (Yes. Really. With all his deadliness, that's his function in the plot.)

He's there to provide comic relief. He plays off the grim and serious alpha male protagonist. He's a fourth corner to the dialog. He feeds in backstory.

When an author creates a secondary character they intend to use as protagonist in Book Three, they write a hero because he has to be a hero in that future book. So he's tall, physically strong, socially elite, handsome, fearless, and an all-round honorable guy.

Hawker, because I didn't intend to make him anything but a sidekick, ever, was allowed to be underage, wounded, short in stature, unethical, genuinely lower class, pretty much dishonorable, and perfectly willing to be cowardly if the situation called for it.

I wrote him as kinda a sociopath. At least, he feels no particular remorse in killing which strikes me as a definitive sign thereof.

Who did readers want to see more of? The sociopath.

In Forbidden Rose, Hawker is even younger, cruder, more foul-mouthed, more violent, more ready to do murder.
Readers really wanted to read his story.

There is just no accounting for readers.

I thought Hawker's misspent youth in the padding ken would make a good setting for a novella that had gambling at the core. What was he like before he ended up in the British Service? I've shown where he ended up in Black Hawk. This is a look backward to where he started out.

Will I write again in the Spymaster's Fictive universe?
Who knows. Maybe.

Isabel didn't get a chance to answer my questions about her amazing world-building in her story "Raising The Stakes." Here's a little taste: 

California, 1938 — When the flute she won in last night’s poker game unexpectedly summons an elven warrior bound to her service, two-bit con artist Sam takes quick advantage. With Talathan’s fairy powers at her command, her shakedown of a crooked preacher is a sure thing…but would she rather take a gamble on love? 

There's a magical flute, a warrior elf and a tough-talking con woman. Do you need to know any more? I sure didn't. It's charming and funny and exciting!

My story, Redeemed is the third in my Into The Wild Historical Western Series. 

Denver, 1868 — After agonizing years in the Civil War’s surgical tents, Union doctor James Madison has nothing left to lose. But when beautiful, tortured Helen Winters is the prize in a high-stakes game of poker, he goes all in to save her—and maybe his own soul. 

Gambled Away is on sale for 2.99 on Amazon and free on Kindle Unlimited.  Buy it here. And talk about it  here.