Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Interview and Contest With Emily Bryan!

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.

To read an excerpt from A Christmas Ball, please stop by Emily's website.



Penny Watson said...

Hi Emily! I'll be first!!! Me first! I am a big fan of "re-reads"--there is nothing more comforting than revisiting an old favorite novel. I NEVER (let me repeat that...NEVER!!!) give away my books. I have hundreds of pastel-colored romance novels in my basement, and I re-read them all the time. My favorites are the sweet, loving, light-hearted, lusty stories. Better than a snuggly blanket and a bowl of chicken noodle soup!

Thanks so much for visiting today!

Patti (@TheLoveJunkee) said...

Hi Emily - I love your quirky facts! (and my son has the same name as the hero in your hero in ACB,funny). For a book to go on my keeper shelf, as I'm closing the book at the end, am I disappointed to be leaving that author's "world"? If I am, it's a keeper! Also, I'll find myself counting how many pages before it's over and wanting it to last longer.

pspinney AT cox DOT net

EmilyBryan said...

Penelope--Space is a premium in my condo, so I have to "cull the herd" from time to time.

But when I lived in MO, I knew woman who rented a climate controlled storage unit for her collection. When she discovered a new author, she tracked down all of her backlist and lined them all up in her private library of several thousand books.

Patti--I find myself reading slower as I near the end, because I can't bear for it to be over. That's a keeper.

Heather D said...

Hi Emily and Penelope!

Unfortunately for me I don't have a real book store in my town and A Christmas Ball was not at WalMart so I wasn't able to get it yesterday as planned, nor will I be able to get it today. Sigh... My husband might just wring my neck if I ask him to stop by the mall on his way home to pick it up for me. So I am going to have to wait until later in the week before I get to the book store in Kennesaw.

Great Interview!

I have several books that I just won't part with. I sent some to my mom to store for me for a little while. It made my husband happy. For me, the story has to be really good. The book must have memorable characters that I fall in love with. It has to touch me in some way. One I don't own anymore but have read several times and will eventually find again is Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey. I love all of the Mallory books but there was something about Georgie and James that has just stuck to my bones. I loved the family dynamics, the relationship between the two. More current would be the entire Black Dagger Brotherhood series. The alpha males in this series are to die for and the story moves pretty quickly. There was only one in the series that I could actually lose and not have a broken heart. Then we come to Vexing the Viscount, I loved the humor in it. It was also the first book that I have read by you.

Christie Craig said...

Great post!!!

Love your sense of humor, girl!


Penny Watson said...

Hey Patti! How's it going?

Heather D--Amazon delivers, baby! My UPS guy LOVES me! I have a love/hate relationship with the Brotherhood series...some I love, some I hate, but I could re-read Zsadist's book over and over again. Just read Father Mine this week...soooooo good.

CC- Thanks for stopping by!

Emily- hmmm...love the idea about a climate-controlled locker. gotta look into that business!

Anna Carrasco Bowling said...

Do I get brownie points for pointing at all of Emily/Diana's books on that very keeper shelf? Space already reserved for A Christmas Ball, so I won't need a place in the drawing, but this is an interesting topic.

The one thing I need most in a keeper is a couple that will stick with me after I've closed the covers with a satisfied sigh. Hero and heroine have equal importance for me, and I want that HEA to be hard-won. The greater the obstacles, the greater the joy in overcoming them.

Leontine said...

I enjoyed this interview and gets me all in the christmas spirit :) What does a book need to have to earn a spot on my keeper shelves? Well characters who can tug at my emotional strings. The background, plot, villain, or secundary characters all add to the impact of a novel but it is the leading characters who need to deliver that ultimate high I am rolling on from the first page. That in the end makes me grab it for a re-read and earns a spot on my keeper shelf, the longing to take that journey again with the characters.

Penny Watson said...

Hi Anna! I think you should get brownie points from Emily, and maybe a platter of brownies, too! (Shaped like a Christmas tree?)

Leontine-welcome! I agree....it's all about the characters!! Who needs a plot? (Think Julia Quinn!) Characters will make or break a romance.

Sandy said...

Great interview Penelope.

Emily, I'm not that woman in Missouri, but I wish I had that kind of storage for my books. I still have books from my grandmother's library. lol

For me to keep a book there has to be something there that grabs my heart and my mind. Whatever it is I can't stop thinking about the characters and what they've gone through.

Michelle Picard said...

Great interview Emily and Penelope! I love the idea of the stories in this anthology taking place at the ball.

What's a keeper for me? I tend to be very gracious with space for the books I've read as long as the majority of them don't mind living in storage boxes. However, to be very special a book has to have dug hard into my emotions. I need to have cried at least once, maybe several times, and be releasing a long sigh on the last page. And then I need that immediate itch wondering when the next book by that author will be released.

And thanks for sharing your quirks. We Quirky Ladies are particularly fond of sharing peculiarities.

Penny Watson said...

Thanks, Sandy! FYI, my romance novels were banished to the basement, because they were not deemed "worthy" to co-habitat with The Annals of Medicine. There may be a book snob living in my home, but not me!!!!

Michelle--greetings, Oh Quirky One! Glad to hear I'm not the only one crying when I read my romance novels. Just about to re-read an old favorite, Ruling Eden! by this author Michelle Picard, ever heard of her? Hee hee!

Ilona Fridl said...

Hey, Emily, A Christmas Ball sounds like a good seasonal read. Looking forward to getting it!

mrsshukra said...

Another fun interview, Emily! I just realized a keeper for me has been those that have made me cry the most or laugh the most.. or both! OK, since I was unsuccessful getting ACB yesterday at Borders, off to B & N today at Ala Moana!

EmilyBryan said...

Heather--I used to not have a big box bookstore in the little MO town I lived in, but there was a very good indie bookstore that sold used books and always stocked my new titles. If you have a used bookstore, they still may be able to order for you.

Christie C--Back at you, girlfriend!

Anna!--Yes, absolutely! You get double browning points for having my Emily and my Diana Groe books on your shelf. Thanks sooo much!

Leontine--I agree! If an author involves my emotions, if I laugh and cry with her, she's got me for life!

Sandy--After I read a keeper, I always imagine the characters continuing their adventures without me. They've taken such a firm hold in my mind, they seem to have an independent life.

Michelle--I think we're all quirky ladies, if we'd only admit it.

Penelope--Thanks so much for having me here today! I love visiting your site.

Ilona! Hello. Is fall on its way in Wisconsin?

Etirv--Did you see that I posted the pic you sent on my blog today? Thanks!

mrsshukra said...

Emily! I will check it out! I've had to order your books online because I couldn't find them here so I got excited when I found a couple yesterday at Borders Ward Center, just had to take a photo with my iPhone!

Dalton Diaz said...

Fabulous interview!
I never could touch my elbows behind my back, but my kids say I have eyes in the back of my head and can hear a pin drop from a mile away. Who am I to tell them it's not true?
My keepers are books that move me. I have three huge shelves, able to hold 3 deep, and I can tell you scenes from each of them. I still re-read them all.

Penny Watson said...

Hi to Ilona, etirv and Dalton! Thanks for stopping by today! I've seen Dalton's shelf...it is impressive, and ridiculously neat and organized. Mine...not so much!

Anonymous said...

Have been looking forward to the release of Christmas Ball. We are on vacation and haven't hit any bookstores yet. Will be getting it as soon as I find it.
Love the 5 quirky things.

Chelsea B. said...

On man, different things! It suprises ME sometimes the books I love and can't part with!

Fantastic interview!!:)

Stacey Smith said...

Hi Emily Glad your better.Ok It Has to be one of those books you can't but Down and you want to go out and buy all the outher books by that Author Because of it.

lindseye said...

If it is part of a serie by an author I love it usually stays on the keeper shelf. SOmetimes before a new book comes out the rest of the series need to be skimmed over so the story is fresh. Do not reread as much now that I have so many books I follow but it is like having a security blanket to have the books on a shelf and know I can look up something at 1AM.

Penny Watson said...

librarypat, Chelsea, stacey and lindseye--thanks so much for stopping by! hope you enjoyed the interview!

EmilyBryan said...

etirv-Thanks so much for your determination to find A CHRISTMAS BALL!

Dalton--Do you ever forget what's hiding three deep on those shelves?

LibraryPat--Hope you're having a wonderful vaca! I'm getting ready for a roadtrip myself. We're taking my parents down to NC for a wedding. Leaving at oh-dark:thirty tomorrow morning.

Chelsea--My tastes are eclectic, too. My keepers come from lots of different genres.

Stacey--When I find a new author, and then make the happy discover that she'd prolific as well, I'm thrilled just imagining all the hours of pleasure I have before me!

Lindseye--I don't re-read as much as I used to either, but there are a handful of books I have to revisit ever few years.

Penny Watson said...

Congrats to Sandy, our book winner! Sandy, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment for Emily. Please email me at penelope.romance@gmail.com and include your snail mail addy and choice from Emily's backlist, and you will receive a shiny new book from Amazon shortly!

Thanks to everyone for checking out the interview. Ciao! :)