With Dedication, you've had a chance that many writers dream about. You've revised and lengthened your first published book. Can you tell us how you found that experience? Were there specific changes you'd been wanting to make? Did you encounter any surprises?
I was so happy to revisit Dedication! And as you say, it's something writers dream about. I made a few corrections--I'd made an earl a magistrate which just wouldn't have happened, and fixed that. I did a fair amount of tidying up of the editorial kind. There was one major flaw with the book (or at least one I'll admit to!) which was that there was a hole towards the end. Many reviewers commented on that but were kind enough to assume it was because I'd written it as a full length Regency historical and had to chop of 20k words to make the Signet Regency word count. No, it was just my lack of structure. So I added in a chapter that fills the gap between the duel and the grand declaration that is the end of the book (you'll see what I mean when you read it)--it's a proposal and marriage, without giving away too many spoilers.
The other change I made reflected both the publishers' wishes (LooseId) and my own. When I wrote the book a lot of critique partners gasped in horror and said "You can't do THAT in a romance." "That" being stuff that seems quite tame now--the older hero/heroine and the fairly adventurous sex, for instance. I used to boast that it was the only traditional Regency with two bondage scenes, although both were very playful. I think I made it clear that Fabienne, the heroine, hadn't been living a particularly chaste life since being widowed: at one point she's restless and thinks she needs a new bonnet--or a new lover. So in this version you see her with one of her young lovers, and the first love scene in the book is not, gasp horror, with the hero.
My earliest tagline for the book was Sex, Opium, and the Sonata (like sex, drugs, and rock n roll). I don't believe there's much opium or music in it, but I was looking for conflict between generations and the Regency equivalent of old radicals perturbed by the behavior of the next generation. Adam and Fabienne meet first just after he's been on the Grand Tour and she's escaped from the French Reign of Terror, despite her family having republican sympathies. Adam is of the generation that was blown away by the fall of the Bastille. He seduces her and she knows he isn't going to offer marriage, but she goes along with it because she's young and stupid and fairly desperate. They break up rather badly, and then .... twenty years pass. I really didn't want to have them yearning hopelessly for each other, so Fabienne goes to India, marries twice and holds a London salon where she supports (and sometimes sleeps with) artists she supports. Adam retires to the country, marries, and falls in love with his wife, has a couple of kids, and becomes quite respectable.Adam and Fabienne are mature characters, with lives and loves that occurred after their first meeting years ago. I love this! Will you tell us about them?
Most readers loved them which was great. They didn't always like the younger characters, though. One reader commented on a blog (I'm quoting from memory) "And that daughter!" and went on to say that the book disturbed her. I've always wondered which daughter she meant. There are two and they're both fairly badly behaved.Readers are always asking for something other than a feisty virgin. How have your readers responded to your more experienced protagonists?
I find a lot of depictions of writers in fiction unwittingly (I hope) reveal a sort of desperate fantasy--huge amounts of $ and champagne publisher lunches and surprise bestsellers that sweep the nation (oh, there's 50SOG. I guess it can happen to the worst of us). They make me squirm. Adam is very ambivalent about his books. He writes under a female pseudonym because he feels he's writing silly books for silly women, even though he started out by telling stories to his dying wife in the hopes that she'd stay alive to hear the end. He's bewildered and embarrassed by the enthusiasm for Mrs. Ravenwood's books but he keeps writing. And when he meets Fabienne again and she writes to Mrs. Ravenwood he can't help responding and tells her all sorts of secrets (other than the big one--who he really is!). This is how Fabienne finds out:It's always interesting to me when a writer creates a character who is also a writer. In Dedication's case, it's the hero who is an author--masquerading as a female gothic novelist. How did you come up with the idea? How did you like writing a writer? Did you give away any trade secrets? :-)
Fabienne scraped her boots off and ascended the steps. She grasped the knocker and brought it down hard. There was a pause. She imagined the servants peeping through the shutters, debating whether they should admit a lone woman at this scandalously early hour. She knocked again.
Eventually the door opened.
“I wish to see Mr. Ashworth.” She swept into the house, past the footman. He clutched an apron and duster in one hand, an expression of alarm on his face.
“I beg your pardon, ma’am. He’s not at home.”
“Please wake him. Tell him Mrs. Craigmont is here on urgent business.”
“No, ma’am, I mean he’s not in the house, though I’m certain he’ll return soon.”
That could only mean one thing: he was out and in someone else’s bed, Sybil Ravenwood’s, or someone else’s, the bastard. After his moralizing to his godson, she knew his mistress would be kept in a discreet establishment.
“Then I shall wait.”
“Yes, ma’am. This way, if you please.” He showed her into a drawing room and left, returning shortly to light the fire with a taper. “Would you care for some refreshment, ma’am?”
“No, thank you.”
Alone in the room, she prowled around, too restless to sit, and examined it for evidence of Adam’s occupation. It was disappointingly impersonal, with all the appearance of a room not often used. She imagined he would prefer the library or possibly a study.
The footman came into the room again, holding a silver tray. “Begging your pardon, ma’am. You did say you are Mrs. Craigmont, did you not?”
“Yes, I am Mrs. Craigmont.”
“Well, then.” The man looked thoughtful. “I’ve been cleaning the study and noticed this with some others on Mr. Ashworth’s desk. It’s a letter for you, ma’am.”
Something must be wrong. She broke the seal and unfolded the sheet of paper. It was crossed so tightly, every inch of space covered, that at first it was almost illegible. The familiar hand was scrawled as though the writer were in a desperate hurry, with sprays and sputters of ink where the nib had dug into the paper.
It was Sybil Ravenwood’s hand.
No, it was Adam’s hand.
Adam was Sybil Ravenwood.
If you read this, it means I am dead, with many regrets, the foremost of which is that only now can I tell you in my own voice how passionately I love you. Forgive me…
He knew about Elaine. He knew the deepest secrets of Fabienne’s heart. He had received intimate confessions from her made to a person who existed only in her imagination.
And she had never guessed. She had been duped and fooled by him.
Her vision blurred, and her hands shook.
The drawing room door creaked open, revealing Adam who stood silently watching her. He was dressed in black, and his stillness sent a further icy shiver down her spine. But he’s dead. He says he is dead.The letter slipped from her numb fingers in a long, dizzying spiral to the floor.
I'll give away a copy of Dedication, digital only and in the US. To enter, tell me which fictional depiction of a writer you've most enjoyed.