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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lucinda Brant is my guest today. She  kindly accepted to answer some questions about her DEADLY ENGAGEMENT,  first novel in the Alec Halsey Mystery Series, which I read and reviewed (HERE) not long ago. Join me and welcome Lucinda on Fly High!

When not bumping about Georgian London in her sedan chair or exchanging gossip with perfumed and patched courtiers in the gilded drawing rooms of Versailles, Lucinda Brant teaches history and geography at an exclusive boarding school for young ladies in Australia.
She writes historical romances and crimances (crime with lashings of romance). They are all set in the 18th Century, spanning 1740 to early 1780's Georgian England, with occasional crossings to the France of Louis XV. She pulls up the reins at the French Revolution - where she lost a previous life at the guillotine for her unpardonably hedonistic lifestyle as a layabout aristo.

Let’s start from your writing historical novels. Where does your fascination with the 18th century come from?
It all began as an eleven year old with Alfred Cobban’s History of Modern France Vol. 1 1715-1799. I had an “Aha! Moment” and knew the 1700s were for me. It is the time of the enlightenment, lots of free-thinking discussion on so many topics that in previous centuries had been taken for granted or not thought about – slavery, physics, botany, religious tolerance, dictionaries, exploration, freedom of speech, the American war of independence, gender equality. And I just adore Palladian architecture, Chippendale furniture, teacups with handles and of course those gorgeous embroidered frockcoats and diamond-buckled shoes.
I am sure that in a previous life I was a layabout aristo and that I died at the guillotine – I absolutely loathe the French Revolution - not the ideals it stands for or the eventual outcome of a republic- but the frenzy of the terror and the senseless waste of lives – and beautiful furniture!

Your novels are both romances and mystery stories. Deadly Engagement, the one I‘ve just finished reading, is a blend of the two genres. Who are the authors who most influenced you?
I call my historical mysteries “crimances” – crime with lashings of romance – because it is a more apt descriptor than straightforward historical mystery. There is a crime or crimes, I have an amateur sleuth who sets out to solve the crime, but he does have a life that is romantically fraught and his personal life is just as important to the stories as is the solving of the crime.
Mysteries: Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey books and Kate Ross’s Julian Kestrel novels. As a teenager I loved Antonia Fraser’s Jemima Shore Investigates series.
Historicals: Jean Plaidy, Taylor Caldwell and Anya Seton as a teenager; the incomparable Georgette Heyer – whose books I was introduced to by a friend while at University who saw me rereading for the gazillionth time Jane Austen’s Persuasion which is my favourite book.

Have you got a writing routine? A favourite place where you write?
I teach Senior Geography and History, and as anyone knows who is a teacher, particularly at a girl’s boarding school, teaching is your life with very little time out of school hours to do anything more than get ready for the next day and sleep! I farewell my students on Friday afternoon with “Off to the 1700s, girls! See you Monday!” I’m sure they think I’m bonkers. So I write all weekend, in my pajamas, in my little book-lined study at the back of the house that overlooks a Koala reserve. And yes, I see Koalas lazing about the treetops from my window. Fabulous!

What about you as a reader? Favourite writers? Reading habits?
While I am writing a book I tend not to read fiction. I leave fiction for the holidays between school terms. I do read a lot of non-fiction during the year and all to do with the 18th century (of course!). At the moment I am reading When London was the Capital of America by Julie Flavell, just finished Amanda Vickery’s splendid Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England, and am dipping in and out of Dan Cruickshank’s The Secret History of Georgian London.
My favourite leisure read (I have all the books and the TV Series DVDs) is Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Salvo Montalbano mystery series. Luca Zingaretti who plays Montalbano in the TV series reminds me of my dad!

I love Montalbano and Luca Zingaretti is perfect in that role! It is all so typically Southern Italy! But, let me ask you something about a very English hero, instead, your Alec Halsey in your mystery series. Alec is seriously dangerous. So charming, so smart, so handsome! You must tell us how you came to create such a fascinating character.
Thank you! He is delicious, isn’t he? And what an interesting question and one I had not thought about till now. I had to think long and hard about his “creation” and to be honest I think he is elements of the heroes in my historical romance novels. He is part Roxton from Noble Satyr – cool, calm and all-seeing; part Julian Hesham from Midnight Marriage – darkly handsome with a strong moral code; and then there is Magnus Sinclair, the Earl of Salt Hendon, the hero of Salt Bride who is very physical and brooding, yet caring and deeply committed to doing his duty by his family and his country. And all three are very masculine, devastatingly handsome, utterly charming and each slightly dangerous in their own way - and there you have Alec Halsey, career diplomat and amateur sleuth!
While the heroes of my historical romances are noblemen and have taken their rightful place in Polite Society, Alec has the distinct disadvantage of a questionable background. He has also been brought up by his rabble-rousing MP uncle Plantagenet Halsey to make his mark in the world by his own endeavours – something particularly difficult to do in a society that is rife with corruption at the highest levels and very much based on “who you are related to, not how bright you are”.

Looking at Alec on your book cover, it is impossible not to notice a certain familiarity in those features and in those blue- eyes. Is Alec Halsey an 18th century version of Richard Armitage?  (I’d love to see him with long black hair tied in a ribbon, breeches and a frockcoat. But thanks to your novel, I’ve actually seen him in action as a perfect 18th century gentleman. And it was great!)
I wish it was Richard Armitage on the cover! I adore Richard as Mr. Thornton (as anything really!). A fan pointed out the resemblance. The publisher asked for guidance for the artist on what Alec might look like and so I sent back a list of swoon-worthy men - Jeremy Northam, Colin Firth, Richard Armitage, Daniel Day Lewis, Richard E. Grant were at the top of my list. And the cover is the result.
I didn’t have any particular image in mind when I was writing Deadly Engagement – but now as I finish writing book 2 Deadly Affair, it is my cover version of Richard Armitage with a dash of Colin, a pinch each of Jeremy and Daniel, and a splash of Richard E Grant swashbuckling about the countryside in breeches, frockcoat and that wonderful head of thick black curls tied with a silk bow!

Wit and suspense are both ingredients you effectively use in Deadly Engagement. Which do you find more congenial?
Both are difficult and it is a fine balance to get just the right mix of suspense and wit and know when to use either or both. Murder is a very serious business and people cope with such a shocking crime in various ways. And I like to people my books with an eccentric character or two just to take the edge off and to surprise the reader! I hope it works...

If you could time travel and live in the 18th century for a while, you’d be happy of course and find yourself at ease since you know so much about that time, but what would you miss the most?
About the 21st century? Besides the miracle of modern medicine??? Toothpaste, shampoo - and if I can dare say it here – female sanitary products! Although, if I were to go back to the 18th century it would be as a man – I just love the idea of wearing breeches and embroidered frockcoats!

The two heroines of your novel, Selina and Emily, are really different from one another but both attract Alec Halsey. Can you tell us something about them?
Emily St. Neots is young and holds plenty of promise at being her own woman but she has some growing up to do and needs to get past the fact that she is of bastard blood –the product of her mother’s adulteress affair. She is a social pariah as is Alec, and perhaps that is what draws him to her. He sees her potential and the person she can become and knows what it is like to be the subject of gossip and pity by a social class who will never accept them. I think Emily brings out his protective instincts.
Selina Jamison-Lewis is headstrong, outspoken and intelligent – all qualities Alec admires, and of course she is a beautiful redhead. Selina has all the advantages of her class – she is related to Dukes, her blood is noble and her arranged marriage to the grandson of a Duke was the match of the season. On the surface she has the perfect life. In reality, her life is anything but. She was deeply in love with Alec but forced to marry another. Alec thinks her fickle and weak for bowing to her family’s will instead of standing up to them and following her heart. But Selina can’t bring herself to tell Alec the truth about her marriage, and about her husband. George Jamison-Lewis was of noble blood but he was anything but noble in character. He struggled with internal demons that when allowed to surface manifested in ways that has left Selina in her widowhood mentally scarred. It is only after she is widowed that Alec learns the appalling truth about Selina’s marriage, and that she did not forsake him for another. It leaves him devastated.

When will this novel be published (if it hasn’t been yet)? Where can our readers buy it/read it?

Out now everywhere ebooks are sold. Links on my website to the ebook stores 

The hardback will be available within 6 to 8 weeks! How exciting!

Are you already working on its sequel? I’m so curious to know what is going to happen in Paris to Selina, Emily, and Sir Cosmo.
Yes! Book 2 in the series is called Deadly Affair – and takes place 6 months after Deadly Engagement. Alec comes out of self-imposed exile to attend an old school friend’s dinner party only for one of the guests, a nobody vicar, to up and die over the port! Selina has returned to London from Paris, unbeknownst to Alec and for reasons she won’t divulge, leaving Sir Cosmo and Emily to travel the Continent without her.
Deadly Affair should be ready for release by the end of this year. If you can’t wait, the first two chapters are up on my website.

What future mysteries will Alec have to solve?
Books 3 and 4 are in the “pipeline” stage.
Book 3 will see Sir Cosmo and Emily return. In fact, Alec is sent on a diplomatic mission to the small European principality of Midanich – which is experiencing civil war – to rescue them, and becomes embroiled in a “diplomatic incident”. Of course Selina is caught up in it all too.
Book 4 is set in London and Edinburgh and involves a kidnapping and a murder (of course!). Alec also learns a few things about his mother’s past when a “relative” turns up on his doorstep seeking his help and with information that Alec would rather not know but it sheds light on why as a small boy he was given to his uncle Plantagenet to be raised.

Thanks, Lucinda, for answering my questions. You've been extremely kind. Good luck with your writing and teaching careers. I can't wait to read Deadly Affairs!


Readers interested in the giveaway of 2  e-book copies of Deadly Engagement just have to leave their comments or questions for Lucinda here , adding an e- mail address to receive their prize in case they win! The name of the winners will be announced next Thursday 14th April.  Of course, this contest is open worldwide.



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