I am thrilled to be hosting Emily Bryan today at Penelope's Romance Reviews. She and fellow authors Jennifer Ashley and Alissa Johnson have just released their adorable Christmas anthology, A Christmas Ball. Emily has graciously agreed to share some of her quirky traits, favorite Christmas traditions, and her intriguing elf-y paranormal tendencies. Please leave a comment for Emily and you will be entered to win a free copy of one of her backlisted novels (my personal favorite is Vexing the Viscount!)
Let's get started!
Penelope (P): Thanks so much for joining me today, Emily. As you know, I adored your story My Lady Below Stairs. I was wondering if you approach writing a novella somewhat differently than writing a full-length novel, in terms of pacing, introduction of sexual tension, etc.
Emily (E): First of all, thanks for having me here today, Penelope! Yes, there are some differences in writing when you're going for a shorter format. The pace of necessity has to really pop. It's rather haiku-ish in that sense. No wasted words or fillers.
I handled the introduction of sensual tension by dropping my readers into an already established relationship between my hero and heroine. They haven't "done the deed" yet, but they're both thinking about it when the story begins!
Characters always have to have someplace to go emotionally. If there's no growth, there's no story. They have to learn something about themselves and each other during the course of the novella that changes them from that moment on. In a novella, they just have to be quicker on the uptake!
P: Well, you did a fabulous job with the pacing and sexual tension in your story. I got sucked in right away, and couldn't stop reading until I finished. Love that!
As my fans know, I am a huge sucker for Christmas romantic fiction (and movies and cookies, etc. etc). Do you like holiday stories? What's your favorite holiday romance novel?
E: Love them. I adore The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (Barbara Robinson), and The Other Wiseman (Henry Van Dyke) is a must-read for me every December. Favorite Christmas romance novel: Eloisa James' An Affair Before Christmas, but then I love everything she writes.
P: Oh, thanks for the recommendation! I've never read that story by Eloisa James. I will definitely add it onto my TBR pile!
I am curious if you knew what your co-authors were writing about in this anthology? Did the publisher give you the Christmas ball theme and let each of you run with it?
E: I had no clue. All our stories are completely independent of each other, except for the common place and time. A Christmas Ball is the brain child of my brilliant editor, Leah Hultenschmidt. She conceived the idea of an anthology where all the stories take place, or at least spend part of the time, at the same Christmas ball. We had to coordinate on the hosts of the party, the floorplan of the mansion, the decor, etc. But otherwise, we were given free reign to come up with our own unique stories and I have to say, there's plenty of diversity in A Christmas Ball!
P: Did you plot or pants this?
E: Because this was a "by invitation" sort of contract, I didn't have to come up with a synopsis ahead of time. So, I decided it would be a good time to try my hand at pantsing. It was like flying without a net. I'd get up every morning and wonder what my characters would do that day. However, I found it very freeing and if a writer has a good time with a story, I think it shows. My editor peppered my pages with LOL's and I've never turned in a manuscript that had fewer revisions.
A Christmas Ball was written during a particularly low time in my life. I was diagnosed with colon cancer 65 pages into it. (Don't worry, I'm OK! I had surgery. My prognosis is excellent and I now preach the virtue of a screening colonoscopy-I had no symptoms!-to everyone I meet!) But being able to retreat into the fictional world of A Christmas Ball was wonderful therapy while I recuperated.
P: Oh, Emily! I am so glad your health is better, and totally impressed that you forged ahead with your writing while dealing with all that stress. I must say, that your description of pantsing is exactly why I love writing. It's an adventure everyday to find out what's going to happen with your story. I'm glad that sort of excitement helped with your recuperation, and I agree with Leah about the humor in your story. It is wonderful! In fact, this novella reminds me of a historical farce, which I love! Have you ever read Kate MacAlister's Noble Intentions? It is hilarious.
E: I love Katie's work, but I have to confess I've only read her hysterical paranormals.
P: Oh, you must read Noble Intentions. I know you will love it!
One of the things I love about your writing is your mix of humor with a lusty, sexy historical. Have you ever written anything "serious"-- no humor?
E: Yes, before I wrote as Emily Bryan, I had three historical romances published as Diana Groe, Maidensong, Erinsong, and Silk Dreams. These are dark, angsty tales with Viking heroes set in 9th century Scandinavia, Ireland and ancient Byzantium (of all places!).
P: Have you ever tried a different genre? Paranormal, romantic suspense, etc?
E: Yes, I've tried romantic suspense, but my agent says I have no talent for it. And I've tinkered with a paranormal, but the problem is, I'm not a vampire fan (cold men don't do it for me!) and I'm not really into shape-shifters (don't want to sing "My Guy Has Fleas" when I tune my guitar) either. I tried creating my own brand of hero with something extra (a race called the Firstborn--think Tolkien-esque elves--who are able to harness the power of light and can send a human partner back in time through the "bonding"), but the problem becomes a marketing one. Where does it fit in the bookstore? Who will want to read it if it's not vampires or were-beings?
Think I'll stick with historicals for now. It's where my heart is.
P: Well, to answer your question....I would want to read your paranormal! I think it sounds totally cool, outside of the box, and very intriguing! I think readers are jonesing for new approaches to romance....ergo the new Steampunk trend.
Although I do adore your historicals, I don't think you should give up on your paranormal idea just yet. Screw the market. If you have a cool idea, seize the day. (The Quirky Ladies are laughing right now, thinking....watch out Emily, Penny is going to talk you into writing a novella about the Firstborn!!! hee hee...just kidding....sort of....I can get a little bit bossy sometimes!).
All right, then, back to Christmas! What's your favorite Christmas tradition? Movie? Cookie? Do you sense a theme here? Hee hee....
E: My favorite Christmas tradition is when we all gather around while my dad reads the Luke 2 passage on Christmas Eve before we open presents. If I read that scripture to myself, I always hear it in his voice.
I love A Christmas Story, with Ralphie and the eternal war with the smoking furnace, the major award and "You'll shoot your eye out!"
Oh, let's not talk about cookies. I so need to lose weight!
P: Emily, that is a sweet Christmas eve tradition. I, too, love the movie A Christmas Story (although Elf is now my new fav!), and you're not allowed to worry about calories over the holidays. It is not permitted! I'm going to bake you a batch of Mexican Wedding Cakes and we'll discuss!
Inspired by The Quirky Ladies, tell us 5 "quirky" things about you!
E: I have...
Ridden an elephant.
Driven a snow-machine all the way across Yellowstone Park without freezing anything off.
Learned to surf at Waikiki.
Spent one of the best days of my life at the National Art Gallery in London.
Used to be able to touch my elbows together behind my back. (Ah! The skills that are wasted on the young!).
P: Oooooo....good ones, you are quirky, Em! If you had one of your books made into a movie, which one and who would play the leads? (And you can't pick yourself and Hugh Jackman!)
E: Aw! You're no fun! How about me and Clive Owen? Matt Damon? Orlando Bloom? Seriously none of them can hold a candle to my DH, so I'll have to pass if the casting director ever calls.
Ian Michael, my hero in A Christmas Ball, is a head groom. Well-muscled and rough about the edges, he's handsome but not in the pretty boy way. If Daniel Craig wasn't a blond he'd be a good candidate.
My heroine Jane is sweet, determined, and hard-working. She's got a vulnerability about her, although she's unyielding when she has to be. Maybe Jennifer Love-Hewitt.
P: Are you hitting up your husband for a diamond or something? Seriously? Well, anyway, you can't have Daniel Craig--I've already decided he's going to be Sven Klaus when I make Sweet Inspiration into a cheesy movie. (I also have spots for Hugh, Eric Bana, Viggo Mortensen...um, what were we just talking about? Sorry, just lost my train of thought for a second there....)
Okay, so what's on the horizon for 2010? Spill!
E: In June 2010, Stroke of Genius hits the bookstore shelves. I'm so excited about this story. I had help from my readers in naming one of the characters in a contest earlier this year. You'll be hearing more about it in the months to come. It's sort of Cyrano de Bergerac meets Pygmalion.
Right now I'm a little at loose ends because I just typed "the end." It's time to begin brainstorming a new set of characters. If you'd like to know what happens next, please visit my website and blog.
Thanks so much for having me, Penelope! I'd love to offer one of the commenters here today their choice from my backlist. So let me start off the discussion with a question. I have a "keeper" shelf, even in the limited space in my condo. There are some books I know I'll want to revisit and won't part with. With space at a premium, it takes something special for a book to earn the right to a place on that shelf. What makes a book earn a spot on your "keeper" shelf? (If you're an avid reader, I know you have one!).
P: Thank you so much for hanging out at Penelope's today! Best of luck with your Christmas anthology. And I'm thinking we need to get together, have a cup of hot cocoa, and talk about Firstborns! (I promise I won't harass Emily about her paranormal! Sheesh!). Thanks to everyone for stopping by--don't forget to leave a comment and earn the chance to win a free book.