SPECIAL INTERVIEW WITH SALLY MACKENZIE
USA Today bestselling author, Sally MacKenzie, is well-known for her charming Regency romances. Her 'Naked' series totals nine books and her newest books, the Duchess in Love series deals with a devious, matchmaking mama.
This year, her latest book, Loving Lord Ash, is scheduled to come out in March. Will this be the last book in her series?! I sincerely hope not! This clever author must have more romances up her sleeve.
But will she let us know more? I had to ask her and find out!
1) Wow! Thanks for letting us interview you! :) Your books are so fun and engaging! Can you tell us what inspires you to write your books?
Thanks so much for inviting me to be here. And thank you for the compliment—I’m blushing.
I think inspiration is a bit of a stew—you throw a little of this and a little of that into the creative pot and then see how it all bubbles together. The recipe is different for each book.
The Duchess of Love series began with the not uncommon idea of a matchmaker, but this matchmaker is a duchess, the mother of three sons, who writes an advice “column” for the English aristocracy. That’s where a bit of my own life comes in. I’m not a matchmaker by any stretch of the imagination, but I do have sons—four—who are...well, mortified might be too strong a word, but they turn a bit green at the thought that their mother writes books that include s-e-x. Once at a New Year’s Eve party, the oldest had to leave the room—with his wife—when someone thought it would be fun to download one of my books and read aloud a “good” part. So I was certainly thinking of my boys when I wrote the duchess’s sons’ reactions to Venus’s Love Notes.
Once in a while, inspiration is born of desperation. I’m what’s known as a “pantser,” which means I tend to make things up as I go along rather than outlining or plotting in detail. Or, as I prefer to think of it, I let my characters lead me through the tale. Ash (or Kit as his wife calls him) first appears in Bedding Lord Ned. He’s the duchess’s oldest son and the heir—and he’s separated from his wife. I thought the reason for their separation would come to me as I wrote Ned’s book. When that didn’t happen, I thought surely I would figure it out by the time I finished Jack’s book. Oops. I had to spend some time ruminating before starting Loving Lord Ash to determine exactly what had happened all those years ago.
If we’re talking about inspiration to write at all, then I have to point to my readers. Writing a book can be a hard, solitary task. When I start to tear my hair out and contemplate throwing my computer through the window, I think of all the readers who have written to me or stopped by to chat at book signings to tell me how much they’ve enjoyed my books. It is really, really inspiring to think that I’ve been able to bring a little laughter and fun into other people’s lives.
2) Regency times are my favorite settings for historical romance. What fascinates you in particular about the Regency era? Do you need to do a lot of research for your novels, such excuses to travel?!
I have a simple, non-historical reason for loving the Regency, and her name is Georgette Heyer. A friendly librarian introduced me to Ms. Heyer’s books when I was about middle school age, young enough to find her thirty-something heroes very old, lol. But even with her “elderly” heroes, I still loved the romance and the humor in her books. I’m sure it was very un-American of me, but I longed to be one of her heroines and marry a titled, wealthy gentleman. Now, of course, I realize if I were transported to the Regency, I’d more likely be the Irish maid, and I’d sadly miss my 21st century conveniences like indoor plumbing.
As I writer, I love the opportunity to have lots of quirky secondary characters, some of whom I can use in more than one books. And I love playing with language. Where else but in a Regency novel could I have a character call another an “encroaching mushroom” or a “shagbag” or a “ninnyhammer?”
I do have lots of research books, but because they aren’t written with novelists in mind, they sometimes gloss over the nitty gritty details I need. Being on site doesn’t always help, either. For example, when I was visiting an historical property in Bath, I asked the docents exactly how the bootjack they had on display was used. Even the curator couldn’t tell me.
I do love to poke around London and the English countryside and soak up the atmosphere. And of course I’m eager to visit historic homes. Mr. MacKenzie calls my research “looking at spoons.” On our jaunts across the pond, I decide where we’ll go and what we’ll see, and he figures out how we’ll get there. We both like to hike, so as long as I include some of that, he’ll put up with my spoon gazing.
3) Have you ever thought of trying your hand at a different historical time period or even a pirate romance?!
The book I started writing after I finished The Naked Duke was a futuristic/science fiction romance. I’d reached chapter five or so when I got “the Call” that Kensington wanted to buy the Duke, so I put the futuristic aside and moved fulltime to the Regency. I also wrote picture books when my children were very young. I got some “good” rejections on those, but never made a sale. However, now that I have twin grandchildren on the way (!), I expect I’ll be reading picture books again, which might lead to trying my hand at writing them again. But a pirate romance? Hmm. That’s not on the radar yet, but you never know.
4) What do you find the most challenging and enjoyable about writing romance?
Most enjoyable? The happy ending! Most challenging? The happy ending!
Romance readers know how a romance is going to end—happily ever after—so the trick is to make the journey so much fun they keep eagerly turning the pages. And after you’ve written more than one book, the added challenge is to give your readers the kind of story they expect while still making it fresh and as good as or, hopefully, better than the last book.
I also love the challenge of creating story people—or animals—that feel real to me. I love it when my characters start talking to each other. And I love it when things fall into place, when the bits I wrote somewhat blindly at the beginning of the book suddenly come together at the end.
5) Can you tell us more about your Duchess in Love series? What makes your latest hero, Kit so special?
The series has four parts: a prequel novella called “The Duchess of Love,” which happens thirty years before the books and tells the story of how the duchess met her duke, and then the three books, one for each of the duchess’s sons.
Kit—by title Lord Ashton or “Ash”—is the heir to the duchy, so he has to have a legitimate son to ensure the succession, but the only woman who can give him his heir is Jess, the wife from whom he’s been estranged from the moment they said their vows. So he’s trapped. It’s not that he doesn’t love Jess—the damnable thing is, he does. He just can’t bring himself to trust her, and for good reason. But time is passing. He’s been in limbo for eight years. So at last he forces himself to seek her out—and finds her in the arms of a naked footman. He’s so angry and hurt. Add to this the fact that he’s kept his wedding vows all these years—he’s nothing if not honorable—so he’s sexually frustrated as well. It’s a wonder the poor boy doesn’t explode!
Nothing is quite as it seems, of course. Jess does love Kit. She just has terribly bad luck. He keeps finding her in innocent, though extremely damning, situations. But she realizes she has to go after him and persuade him to spend time with her if she has any hope of saving her marriage. And, because he loves her, he agrees to try again. And so he adds Jess’s nearness to his torture. He wants her, but he can’t have her until he’s certain she hasn’t played him false with the naked footman. But he wants his marriage to succeed so much, he brings himself to read his mother’s new advice pamphlet, How to Woo Your Wife. Now there’s desperation!
6) After the third book, all the Duchess's sons will be married. Does mean the series will be over?! Do you have plans for spin-off books or another new Regency series?
I don’t have any plans at the moment for more Duchess of Love books, but I’m excited to say I’ve just agreed to write a new series! It’s in its very early stages, so I’m still feeling my way, but it’s set in a village that was inspired by the villages we saw when we visited England in September. And I think there may be a village cat, named for and modeled after Poppy, a calico cat we met on our travels.
7) Your Naked series has been so popular. How did you get the idea for the 'Naked' part of the title? It is sooo risqué!
I’d like to say I knew exactly what I was doing with that, but it was pretty much crazy luck.
When I was writing The Naked Duke, I hadn’t yet joined any writers’ organizations, so I didn’t know much about the business side of writing. But I did have a friend—a mom with daughters on the local swim team—who’d once worked as a New York editor. She read my manuscript, and one of her many suggestions was that my working title was pretty awful.
I thought about that. Somewhere I’d heard that sex and power sell. So... My hero is a duke—that’s the power part. And it just so happens that, through a bit of misdirection, he’s naked when he first meets the heroine. It’s all completely innocent, of course. Just a misunderstanding. But that was the “sex” piece, even though, I assure you, there was no sex involved. At least not then.
Then I wrote the second book, this one about one of the duke’s two friends. I came up with another title. This time my editor—by this time I had an editor—told me the title was pretty awful. And here perhaps desperation gave birth to inspiration again. I had zero ideas. I was banging my head against my keyboard when suddenly I thought, well The Naked Duke worked, so why not keep to the pattern? The stories are connected, after all. I had to revise Duke to make my new hero a marquis, since the third friend was already an earl. Thus, The Naked Marquis was born—and a Naked series.
8) Of all the books you have written, do you have a favorite book or character? Is there one character you feel you relate most to?
Sally MacKenzie: Oh, I can’t choose a favorite! They are all a bit like my children. I love them all—and they all have their special ways of driving me crazy. But I suppose I most relate to the duchess in Duchess of Love series. As I say, I’m not a matchmaker, but I do have four sons. I can empathize with her. You love your boys so much, but once they become men, you have to step back and hope for the best. However, the duchess is much braver than I am—she’s not afraid to nudge things in the direction she wants them to go.
Throughout the series, the duchess talks about being a grandma. Two of my sons are married now, so I’ll admit the thought of grandchildren has crossed my mind once or twice. I explored my feelings about that a bit through the duchess. And then once Loving Lord Ash was written and handed in, my oldest informed me I am going to be a grandma! And a few months later, we discovered the “baby” is twins!!
9) Okay, I have to ask. Why does it take sooo long for your books to come out?!
Sally MacKenzie: When I sold The Naked Duke, the contract was for two books. The Duke was the first manuscript I’d written in years, and it had taken me a long time and many drafts to write it. So I was a little, er, anxious about writing a second book—and, to make matters more frightening, on deadline! So when I negotiated the contract, I pushed the due date for the second book back as far as I could—a year. And that set the pattern.
However, I do seem to be a slow writer. I need to see the story details, hear my characters speak, feel what they feel. It doesn’t help that I agonize over every, single word. And I think humor can’t be rushed; it depends too much on word choice and timing and visual details. Plus I’ve also found that I need time between books to recharge.
I really wish I wrote faster, so I’m sorry about that. I’ll try to improve—but don’t hold your breath.
10) Thank you so much for your gracious time. It has been such an honor having you on our website!
Sally MacKenzie: Thank you so much for having me here, Steph! It’s been fun.
Interviewed by Steph from the Bookaholics Romance Book Club
For Additional Information about Sally MacKenzie check her out at:
Recent and Upcoming Romances by Sally MacKenzie
Loving Lord Ash, The Duchess of Love Series, Book #3 -March 4th, 2014
A Little Misunderstanding...
Kit, the Marquis of Ashton, is in a sticky wicket. He married young and for love--how naive. He discovered his mistake the very day of his wedding, but he is saddled now with a wife he's reluctant to trust. And however much evidence he gathers against faithless Jess, he can't seem to prove her guilt to the final judge--his foolish heart.
Jessica knows she's bobbled her marriage, however innocently. A fairytale wedding makes no difference if she hasn't got the marquis charmed to show for it. Well, she's had enough of accidental encounters with naked gentlemen and near misses explaining things to her husband. It's time to buck up and go win her man back--even if she has to fight very dirty indeed.
The Naked Laird re-release e-book - Nov. 5th, 2013
Naked Nobility e-novella, originally published in the "Lords of Desire" anthology
The viscount's house party promises to be one of the Season's highlights, and Lord and Lady Kilgorn are delighted to attend. If only the long-estranged couple had realized that they were both invited--and assigned to the same bedchamber...
Josephine Atworthy is shocked by the goings-on at her rich neighbor's house party. Quite shocked. But her demure charm beguiles a mysterious nobleman, who begs a kiss--then another. And in a twinkling they fall head over heels in love...
Surprising Lord Jack, The Duchess of Love Series, Book #2 -March 2013
Frances Hadley has managed her family's estate for years. So why can't she request her own dowry? She'll have to go to London herself and knock some sense into the men interfering in her life. With the nonsense she's dealt with lately, though, there's no way she's going as a woman. A pair of breeches and a quick chop of her red curls, and she'll have much less to worry about...
Jack Valentine, third son of the famous Duchess of Love, is through being pursued by pushy young ladies. One particularly determined miss has run him out of his own house party. Luckily the inn has one bed left. Jack just has to share with a rather entertaining red-headed youth. Perhaps the two of them should ride to London together. It will make a pleasant escape from his mother's matchmaking melodrama!
Bedding Lord Ned, The Duchess of Love Series, Book #1 -June 2012
Pleasure is in her future...
Ellie Bowman is determined: during this year’s Valentine house party, she will choose one of the men the matchmaking Duchess of Greycliffe--aka the Duchess of Love--has invited for her. Unfortunately, that man will not be Lord Ned, the duchess’s second son. Ned is still mourning his wife and will never see “trusty” Ellie as anything other than a childhood friend. Now if only she could convince her heart of what her head already knows--and persuade the duchess’s thieving cat to stop stealing her red silk drawers and depositing them in Ned’s bed.
Lord Ned arrives at Greycliffe Castle vowing to finally cooperate with his mother’s matchmaking efforts. He’s been a widower for four years; it’s time to put his past behind him. He wants a family; he needs an heir. Ergo, he must get a wife--and this year’s candidate even looks like his lost love. But his old friend Ellie is behaving strangely, and Reggie, Mama’s cat, keeps bringing him a pair of shocking red underwear. This outrageous, alluring scrap of silk couldn’t be Ellie’s, could it? Suddenly his respectable old friend is invading his dreams in an utterly scandalous manner.
The Duchess of Love, The Duchess of Love Series Prequel, E-novella -April 2012
A DUKE IN DISGUISE…
The day was as hot as the pond was inviting. It's not as if anyone in Little Huffington was going to happen upon a secluded vale on the Duke of Greycliffe's lands. And Venus Collingswood didn't want to get her shift all wet. It was the perfect setting in which to plan her lovely bookworm of a sister's betrothal to the mysterious new duke arriving seven days hence. If only she had a suitable accomplice…
Andrew Valentine, Duke of Greycliffe, never thought arriving at his own household a week early would cause so much trouble. The housekeeper thinks he's his own cousin. Actually, the chance to not be the duke for a while is a pleasant opportunity indeed. It might even help him interrogate the delectable little nymph he's discovered swimming in his pond-if he can manage to get a word in edgewise…