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Q&A With Manda Collins | Ready, Set, Rogue

Ready Set Rogue
Manda Collins




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Studies in Scandal #1

January 2017
On Sale: January 3, 2017
320 pages
ISBN: 1250109868
EAN: 9781250109866
Kindle: B01H03I984
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
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Also by Manda Collins:
A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Mayhem, November 2020
One for the Rogue, July 2018
Wallflower Most Wanted, February 2018
Duke With Benefits, July 2017


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 exposés 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 balance?

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 – 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 progression.

In your last novella – HOW TO WOO A WIDOW – 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 history?

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 “Studies in Scandal” 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 also—more seriously—think 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 it’s 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 – either the availability or popularity – 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 hadn’t occurred to me that many poisons were readily available in nature. When we see the label “all natural” on foods, I don’t think it ever really hits us that there are plenty of things in nature that are quite deadly! (I certainly don’t want anyone putting arsenic in my “all natural” 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.

I’ve enjoyed reading romances in which the villain’s identity is revealed to the reader but not the hero and heroine, as well as stories in which the villain’s identity is a mystery to both the main characters and the reader. You tend to keep the villain’s 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 I’ve said in other places that, as a reader, I’m not a big fan of villain POV. I can take it in small doses, but as a general rule, I don’t 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 villain’s 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 don’t want to go there. I suppose it does mean that the readers identify more with the hero and heroine—that’s not something that had occurred to me, but it makes sense. I’ll also confess that as a reader, my favorite mysteries are the ones that have a big reveal at the end. Plus, it’s more fun for me as a writer that way too, because I sometimes surprise myself with the villain’s identity.

Will any characters from your previous books appear in this “Studies in Scandal” series?

Manda Collins: I won’t 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 brothers…

While writing this series, has any one character surprised you – 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 particular—the 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: I’m about to start the third book in this series, which features Miss Sophia Hastings, the artist of the group. I’m excited to get to work on this one because I’m quite fond of her hero and I’m looking forward to seeing her set his well-ordered life on its ear. But this one won’t come out until January 2018, so don’t get too anticipatory or you’ll be frustrated!

About Manda Collins

Manda Collins

Manda Collins spent her teen years wishing she’d 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 necessary.

Lords of Anarchy | Studies in Scandal





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