Susan Gee Heino is the author of several Regency romances. Her latest, Passion and Pretense, hits store shelves on March 6. Susan dropped by the virtual offices to tell us about her new book.
[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.
[Susan Gee Heino] Susan Gee Heino is a lover of humor, strange creatures, and Mr. Darcy. She writes Regency romance and dreams of magical house elves.
[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about Passion and Pretense?
[Susan Gee Heino] I had so much fun writing this book! It is the story of Miss Penelope Rastmoor, a slightly spoiled rich girl in 1820 London. She’s a little too clever for her own good and frequently gets herself into trouble. Penelope’s brother, Anthony, is tired of dealing with all her drama and decides the best thing to do is get her married off. Then she’ll be someone else’s problem, right?
But Penelope has dreams of her own and they don’t involve marrying some dull dandy and being stuck in England all her life. She wants to travel and see the world–Egypt especially. So, she comes up with a plan. If she pretends to be hopelessly in love with a real loser, someone her brother can’t stand, it stands to reason Anthony might do anything to separate them–even send her off to Egypt.
Her plan backfires, of course, when the scoundrel she selects to play the part of doting fiancé turns out not to be quite the loser she expected. Lord Harry is unshaven, unruly, uncouth and unremorseful. He’s also irresistible. With secrets of his own, he’s been using Penelope just as much as she’s been using him. Danger is afoot, with kidnapping, thievery and deception all around them. It’s beginning to look like this time Penelope has gotten in way over her head. Worse, she realizes the only thing real is the way she’s come to feel about her not-so-real fiancé. Lord Harry, however, is full of surprises.
[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the book?
[Susan Gee Heino] Penelope Rastmoor plays a role in one of my previous books, DAMSEL IN DISGUISE. I really loved her in that story and I thought it was high time she got her own. She’s somewhat older and wiser in this book than she was in that, but still the same sneaky, scheming little charmer. I’ve had lots of fun creating her and watching her finally find a happily-ever-after.
I needed a hero who could stand up to such a feisty heroine, and Lord Harry definitely fits the bill. He’s awesome! In my mind, he’s sort of a Regency Indiana Jones, sans bullwhip. He’s smart, independent, cocky, but is a man on a mission to rescue someone he cares about. Penelope has a passion for Egyptology, and so does he. This is just one of the many things that make them perfect for each other, although it does take them a little while to realize it.
[Manga Maniac Café] What was the most challenging aspect of writing the story?
[Susan Gee Heino] So much research! My other books take place in the English countryside in 1816. That really narrowed down the research for me! (Lazy author in the room? Yes, I’m raising my hand. lol) But PASSION AND PRETENSE takes place in London, 1820. I had to dig up a whole batch of new details to keep the story real and accurate.
On top of that, I had the element of Egyptology to research. Now, we all know how easy it is to find books and articles and websites all about the beautiful artifacts and history of the ancient Egyptians. However, most of what we now know about Egyptology was unknown to the people of 1820. King Tut? Not found until 1922. Reading hieroglyphics? Nope. Though the French discovered the Rosetta Stone in 1799, it was not until 1822 that Champollion published his first translation of the Egyptian symbols. So, not only did I have to research ancient Egypt, but I had to research what people in 1820 England would know of it. That was fascinating, but kind of slow going.
[Manga Maniac Café] What are three things Penelope would never have in her boudoir?
[Susan Gee Heino] This is a toughie! Penelope tends to be a bit unpredictable, so just as soon as I say she’d never have a butterscotch Pekinese wearing a jacket, a geriatric etiquette teacher, or a book about the dangers of world-travel, the dear girl might run out and collect just these items. I’m not saying she’d do it specifically to get on my nerves, but I think I’ll hold off commenting. Just to be on the safe side.
[Manga Maniac Café] What do you enjoy most about romance? What prompted you to try writing your own?
[Susan Gee Heino] I love the happy endings. There’s just something so wonderful, so hopeful, about reading a story where people endure all sorts of hard times only to realize in the end that love is real and it’s worth sacrificing for. Sigh.
I’ve always had stories and characters swimming around in my crowded brain, yelling at me to get them down on paper. It just seemed right to put my efforts into romance. It’s what I love to read and the foundational themes of love, forgiveness, trust, honesty and commitment are things I believe very strongly in.
[Manga Maniac Café] What are your greatest creative influences?
[Susan Gee Heino] I’m a huge Jane Austen fan. Do I write like her? Oh, heavens no! I wish. But then again, I’m not writing to her audience. I’m writing for modern readers. I do love her plot devices and the way she builds characters, playing them against one another for optimal effect. I would love to think a few drops of that have seeped through into my own stories.
Since I have a background in theatre, I tend to create from a staging perspective. How many characters can I fit in this scene? Will the lighting be adequate for the action? How can I use space to keep things interesting? I love farce and absurdism, so undoubtedly elements of those show up in my work, too.
When I read for fun today, I read a lot of Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Kristin Higgins, Julia Quinn, and my wonderful pile of old Traditional Regencies from the 80s and 90s. I gravitate toward fast paced fiction with snappy dialog and quirky characters and storylines. This is what I hope I’m giving my own readers.
[Manga Maniac Café] What three things do you need in order to write?
[Susan Gee Heino] I need my family to go away–all three of them! LOL When my children were small, I could write pages and pages all day long in ten minute stretches, between feedings and naps and diaper changes and conflict negotiations, etc. As they’ve aged and changed, so have I. Now I try to get all my creative writing done during the school day and save my editing and promotional efforts for times when everyone is home. I’m totally ADD and need minimal distractions so I can focus on all my imaginary friends.
That said, the three things I need to have present are my plotting chart, my collection of favorite pens, and lots of coffee.
[Manga Maniac Café] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?
[Susan Gee Heino] The Black Stallion. I was an average reader up until the 5th grade when I got my hands on that book and read it through. I was horse crazy and totally hooked. I made my mom take me to the library so I could hunt down every Walter Farley book ever written. I think I read them all twice. Two years later, I discovered Romance. I never went back to horses. LOL
[Manga Maniac Café] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
[Susan Gee Heino] Um… I can’t remember. It seems like I’ve been on deadline forever… LOL Actually, I do have a few hobbies. I love to sew, scrapbook, garden, fall asleep in front of the History channel, and hang with my kids. My husband is a minister, so I’m also fairly active in church and community stuff. The biggest thing I do outside of writing is care for animals. I’m such a softie, we’ve taken in all manner of hard-luck cases. I get so much enjoyment from all the furry, feathered, finned darlings that I hardly mind all the time it takes to clean up after them. Usually.
[Manga Maniac Café] Thanks!
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