Frederick Lisle first appeared in your book WHY LORDS LOSE THEIR
HEARTS. Will we see books featuring Frederick's brothers? The Lisle family
really caught my interest in WHY LORDS LOSE THEIR HEARTS, and would love to hear
more about them.
Manda Collins: It was probably poor planning on my part to make
the hero of the third book in a series have so many brothers. But once I started
writing the Lisles, I just fell in love. So much so that I used Freddy as the
hero of A GOOD RAKE IS HARD
TO FIND. And fans of the Lisles will be happy to know that two of the
remaining three Lisle brothers will be featured as heroes in my upcoming
quartet, the first of which READY SET ROGUE will be
released in early January of 2017. The first two novels of the four book series
will feature brand new characters. But those Lisle brothers have a shocking
tendency to show up where least expected, so readers should be on the lookout
for them as the series progresses. And no, I'm not comfortable telling WHICH
brothers will appear, but rest assured they'll be every bit as delicious as
Archer and Freddy turned out to be.
In your last book GOOD DUKES WEAR BLACK, you
write about lady journalists and insane asylums. How much research did you do
before writing this story?
Manda Collins: I already knew a great deal about the publishing
world of the era from my graduate work in 19th Century publishing. And several
years ago I researched ladies magazines of the time for a novel that never got
written. So, when it came time to write Ophelia's book I was already steeped in
the publishing climate of the time--all I needed was a publication and a
journalist. And a refresher on all the research materials I'd gathered before.
It was fun to look again at the conduct manuals and gossip papers of the day.
The asylums were entirely new to me so I kind of fell into a rabbit hole
researching them. But I found the germ of my story in one book in particular
which I mention in the Authors Note at the end of the book. I knew that asylums
of the era were bad of course. Bedlam, more properly known as Bethlehem
Hospital, is synonymous with chaos and all sort of awful things that happened
there are part of the general knowledge that's taken for granted about the
Regency era. But I didn't know about the reforms in mental healthcare that
happened during the 1820s and 30s that included the sort of practices that
happen to Ophelia's friend in GOOD DUKES WEAR BLACK. Declarations of insanity
could be made during this period based solely on the word of family members and
sometimes, as was shown in hearings that often overturned the declarations,
without the physician ever actually examining the patient. So, you had cases
where a family which stood to inherit an elder brother's wealth upon his death
having him declared insane and locked away because he was spending all of what
they thought of already as their money. Or in the case of an heiress, her mother
having her declared insane when she became engaged to a man the mother feared
was a fortune hunter. There was a very real fear on the part of the general
public that they would, somehow, be wrongfully institutionalized, and the
exposťs of wretched conditions in asylums in the era only heightened that fear.
It was fascinating, and perfect for my story, so I used it.
I'm always impressed by how the romance and mystery in your books are so
perfectly proportioned. As you write, do you always try and maintain a
Manda Collins: As a reader, one of my pet peeves has always
been books that purport to be romantic suspense but give short shrift to the
romance angle. So when I set out to write a book, I always plan for there to be
two plot arcs--one for the mystery plot and one for the romance plot.
Many years ago--I'm not sure where I first saw it--there was a writer who talked
about novelists in terms of core story. That is, a core theme or element that
shows up in all of an authors work. Mine, I think, especially for romance, is
that of a couple working together toward some sort of solution to a problem.
That might be a mystery, or some other issue, but there will always be a romance
that comes about as a result of their teamwork on a shared goal. I'm not sure
why that's so important to my writing, but it is. There's something about a
couple that works together as a tea!m that I find enthralling. And it allows for
both the hero and the heroine to play to their strengths. Romantic suspense,
lends itself to this sort of plot, and so it allows me to give equal time to
both the romance and the suspense.
I think some readers are more satisfied with this combination than others, but
when I try to write just a lighthearted story without a mystery element it falls
completely flat. Let's just say that there is a LOT of idle chit chat and tea
drinking involved. Believe me, nobody wants to read that! At least not from me.
The mystery portion of your romances is usually so well done, and the
level of treachery is so enjoyable to read about Ė especially in your Lords of Anarchy
series - that it makes me think of some of my favorite classic mysteries by
authors like Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers? Are you a big mystery fan
yourself? And, if so, who do you enjoy reading?
Manda Collins: I grew up reading Agatha Christie, actually, so
that comparison really warms my heart! Thank you! Now I tend toward stuff that's
a bit darker. Some of my recent favorites have been Jane Casey's Maeve Kerrigan
series. It's set in London and follows a female Scotland Yard detective who is
finding her footing within the department. There's also a great romantic
element, though it's a bit rocky and not always HEA material. But it's mystery
so I know to expect that. And I've got great hopes that Maeves next romance will
be the one I'm currently shipping. Another recent favorite has been S.J. Bolton
(or Sharon Bolton as she's now known) and her Lacey Flint series. This is
another one about a female Scotland Yard detective. With a somewhat happier
romance ARC, but the mysteries are a bit more...I don't want to say fantastical
because they are definitely still in procedural territory, but there's something
a bit more fanciful about them. But they're equally as good, and if you love a
good police procedural with a strong female protagonist, I highly recommend both
Casey and Bolton. Then there are the others I enjoy: Karin Slaughter, Lisa
Gardiner, Tana French. I guess I tend to read more female authors because they
tend to have stronger female characters. For a girl who vividly remembers
watching every episode of Prime Suspect as a pre-teen, I suppose it's a natural
In your last novella Ė HOW TO WOO A WIDOW Ė the hero and heroine had a
history and knew each other prior to this story. Is it easier to write a story
in which the two main characters have some kind of established relationship or
Manda Collins: You've discovered our secret! One of the tricks
of writing a believable novella is to make it about a couple who already know
each other. When you're trying to tell the story of a pair who will need to fall
in love over the space of a small word count, it's definitely easier to make the
reader believe in the HEA if they start out with some sort of prior knowledge of
one another. That can be reunited lovers, or as in the case of HOW TO WOO A
WIDOW, a couple who knew each other before but for whatever reason didn't enter
into a relationship. I personally have a hard time believing in the longevity of
a couple who meet and fall in love and pledge forever in the space of a few
pages, so I wouldn't expect my readers to believe it either. It's as simple as that.
I also loved HOW TO WOO A WIDOW because stories about widows fascinate
me. What kind of heroines do you enjoy writing about the most?
Manda Collins: That's a good question, and not one I think I've
thought of in those exact terms before. I suppose my gut response is that I
prefer to write about heroines who are Cassandra types--that is, they know
what's up, but nobody will believe them, like the doomed prophetess in Greek
literature And that in turn often lends itself to bookish types who for whatever
reason are shut out of the system. It's not a great leap to suppose that I like
writing bluestockings and wallflowers because I am one. Or that I like to write
scholars because I've spent so much time in the academic world. You write what
you know, and for better or worse I know what it's like to devote yourself to
studying one small area of knowledge. I've been fortunate enough to live in an
era when it's no longer frowned upon for women to become, literary scholars,
say. But even the likes of Harvard, Yale, Oxford educated scholar Mary Bly
(a.k.a. Eloisa James) has talked about being delayed in receiving full
professorship because of prejudice about her romance writing career. And that's
nothing compared to the way women are kept out of STEM fields. So, it's not a
great leap for me to imagine what life was like for those women who were
unfortunate enough to have scholarly ambitions in a time when such things were
frowned upon. And if through my books I can give female readers hope and
ammunition to fight the good fight, so much the better.
Is GOOD DUKES WEAR BLACK the last in the Lords of Anarchy
series, or can fans expect more?
Manda Collins: The Lords of Anarchy series itself will
end with GOOD DUKES WEAR BLACK. But that's not to say that you won't see some of
the secondary characters who appeared in those books somewhere else in my books.
I've got a couple of ideas kicking around for two of the club members in
particular. Whether they'll appear in a novella or another novel, I don't know
yet. But I introduced the Lisles several books ago, and they're getting their
own stories in my next series, so there's always hope!
Being a fan of Amanda Quick early historical romances, with her quirky
female scholars, I was delighted that your ďStudies in ScandalĒ series features
similar heroines. What intrigues you about these types of heroines?
Manda Collins: Since I used to BE a quirky female scholar, I
suppose I identify with them! But alsoómore seriouslyóthink that anywhere you
have educated women, especially in the 19th century, you will have ready made
conflict. Even now, there is still sexism in response to women teaching and
learning. So, as an author, I find the world of bluestockings and lady scholars
during the broader Regency period to be full of interesting clashes that make
plotting and writing fun for me. Hopefully itís also fun for readers.
I love the mystery element you inject into your historical romances.
Given that poison plays a huge part in READY SET ROGUE - did you do a lot of
research into poisons Ė either the availability or popularity Ė for the time and
place in which this story is set?
Manda Collins: I certainly did! I knew that the latter part of
the 19th century was really the heyday or poisoning because it had become so
readily accessible in various household products. But it hadnít occurred to me
that many poisons were readily available in nature. When we see the label ďall
naturalĒ on foods, I donít think it ever really hits us that there are plenty of
things in nature that are quite deadly! (I certainly donít want anyone putting
arsenic in my ďall naturalĒ food!) So, without giving any spoilers, I hit upon
one poison in particular that was all natural, readily available as a curative
in small doses, and which the villain of my story was able to use without
detection because the symptoms mimicked those of common stomach ailments.
Iíve enjoyed reading romances in which the villainís identity is
revealed to the reader but not the hero and heroine, as well as stories in which
the villainís identity is a mystery to both the main characters and the reader.
You tend to keep the villainís identity hidden from everyone until the end - do
you prefer that approach in order to get the reader to more easily identify with
the main characters?
Manda Collins: I think Iíve said in other places that, as a
reader, Iím not a big fan of villain POV. I can take it in small doses, but as a
general rule, I donít really enjoy spending a lot of time inside the head of
someone without conscience, or who enjoys hurting other people. There are some
writers who I will follow anywhere though, and that includes inside some very
nasty villainís heads.
As a writer, I tend to avoid writing villain POV, because unlike the reader, I
spend weeks and months inside my characters heads. And I guess I just donít want
to go there. I suppose it does mean that the readers identify more with the hero
and heroineóthatís not something that had occurred to me, but it makes sense.
Iíll also confess that as a reader, my favorite mysteries are the ones that have
a big reveal at the end. Plus, itís more fun for me as a writer that way too,
because I sometimes surprise myself with the villainís identity.
Will any characters from your previous books appear in this ďStudies in
Manda Collins: I wonít say who yet, because I have to hold some
secrets back, but yes, some characters you will remember from my previous books
will show up. There is one family in particular which will play a big role in
the last couple of books. Think a family with lots of brothersÖ
While writing this series, has any one character surprised you Ė either
in a good way, or in a way that you found to be a challenge?
Manda Collins: When I first conceived of the idea for this
series, I envisioned one hero in particularóthe Duke of Maitland--as a strong,
silent, brooding type. Then when he stepped on the page, he was a wise-cracking,
hail-fellow-well-met, goofball. And no matter what I did, he would not shut up
and brood. So, I had to adapt. Hopefully, readers will like the adjustment.
What are you currently working on?
Manda Collins: Iím about to start the third book in this
series, which features Miss Sophia Hastings, the artist of the group. Iím
excited to get to work on this one because Iím quite fond of her hero and Iím
looking forward to seeing her set his well-ordered life on its ear. But this one
wonít come out until January 2018, so donít get too anticipatory or youíll be
Manda Collins spent her teen years wishing sheíd been born a couple of
centuries earlier, preferably in the English countryside. Time travel being what
it is, she resigned herself to life with electricity and indoor plumbing, and
read lots of books. An affinity for books led to a graduate degree in English,
followed by another in Librarianship. By day, she works as an academic librarian
at a small liberal arts college, where she teaches college students how to
navigate the tangled world of academic research.
A native of coastal Alabama, Manda lives in the house her mother grew up in with
three cats, sometimes a dog, sometimes her sister, and more books than strictly
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