Cecilia Grant is the author of A Lady Awakened, a Regency romance due to hit store shelves December 27th. Cecilia dropped by the virtual offices to chat about her book, and she brought a surprise! After the interview, one random commenter will win a copy of A Lady Awakened!
[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.
[Cecilia Grant] Romance author. Feminist. Habitual cynic. Mother of daughters. Hoping to one day integrate those components into one seamless identity.
[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about your new book, A Lady Awakened?
[Cecilia Grant] It’s the story of an indecent proposal that turns out to be not nearly indecent enough: when an abruptly widowed neighbor approaches him to help her conceive a fraudulent heir, Theo Mirkwood assumes it’ll be a glorious month-long debauchery-fest, complete with inevitable sensual awakening on the lady’s part.
But for Martha Russell, the arrangement is strictly business – unsavory, degrading business with sky-high stakes. She’ll do what she must to keep her estate, and housemaids, out of a predatory brother-in-law’s hands, but she’s not about to enjoy it.
That’s the starting point. The real meat (heh) of the story is the way they get involved in one another’s lives outside the bedroom, and the friendship that takes root against all odds.
[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?
[Cecilia Grant] It’s fiendishly difficult to come up with an original concept for a historical romance. Much easier is to take a concept that’s been done before, and try to put a new spin on it. “Desperate childless widow seeks virile stranger for procreation purposes” isn’t a new premise, so I concentrated on trying to give the hero and heroine a different dynamic from the insta-passion that you usually see in this scenario.
And I used two of my favorite character types for the hero and heroine. Theo is the sort of golden child who’s sailed through life with a sunny disposition and very little experience with adversity (Elle Woods, in Legally Blonde, is one of the best examples of this type), while Martha is the crusader-with-blinders-on, armed with a purpose and believing she knows best in every situation (Captain Ahab, Emma Woodhouse, and Ignatius Reilly all live at grander heights along this same spectrum).
[Manga Maniac Café] What have you learned about yourself through your characters?
[Cecilia Grant] The full and staggering extent of my appetite for lowbrow humor, especially if it involves puns or other wordplay. These characters, the hero especially, just kept going there in dialogue.
[Manga Maniac Café] What was the most challenging aspect of writing this story?
[Cecilia Grant] Story mechanics don’t come naturally to me. Projecting how much story I need to fill a 100,000-word book; working out turning points in advance; figuring out how to end scenes, chapters, and the story itself – those things were all a struggle.
[Manga Maniac Café] What are your biggest creative influences?
[Cecilia Grant] I’m of the “grain of sand in the oyster’s shell” school, meaning I tend to create in response to things that bug me as opposed to being influenced by things I admire. A Lady Awakened actually owes its existence partly to my longstanding aggravation with Lady Chatterley’s Lover, in particular with passages like this one, in which Lady C takes a good look at her lover’s penis:
“So proud!” she murmured, uneasy. “And so lordly! Now I know why men are so overbearing. But he’s lovely, really. Like another being! A bit terrifying! But lovely really! And he comes to me!” She caught her lower lip between her teeth, in fear and excitement.
I read stuff like that and my reaction is to want to write a stubbornly nonresponsive heroine who’s neither frightened nor particularly impressed by sight of a man’s private parts. Take that, D.H. Lawrence!
[Manga Maniac Café] What three things do you need in order to write?
[Cecilia Grant] A pen or pencil, some paper, and eventual recourse to a thesaurus. (I do a lot of writing on the bus, in the orthodontist’s waiting room, or other thesaurus-deprived places, and those drafts are full of bracketed words that I know aren’t quite the words I’m looking for.)
[Manga Maniac Café] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?
[Cecilia Grant] Ramona the Pest. It was my gateway to Beverly Cleary’s awesome backlist, where among other things I first grasped the startling idea that an antagonist (the overalls-wearing, holy-terror Ramona of the Henry Huggins books; Ellen Tebbits’s gleefully anarchic nemesis Otis Spofford) could later be a hero in her/his own turn.
Also, having read the book to my own kids, I’m happy to report that the “Sit here for the present” episode is just as hilarious as it was in my day.
[Manga Maniac Café] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
[Cecilia Grant] I can hear how lame this sounds but… I really like driving my kids around. They’re both teenagers now, and, as other parents of teenagers can probably attest, that time in the car, chatting about random topics, listening to the radio stations they like, diving for the channel-change button when a song we all hate comes on, is kind of precious. (Both my kids are extremely pleasant company, certainly better than I was at that age.)
Vaguely pathetic. But true
[Manga Maniac Café] Thanks!
You can learn more about Cecilia by visiting her at the following websites:
You can pre-order A Lady Awakened from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the handy widgets below:
Ready for the giveaway? One random commenter will win either an ARC or a finished copy of A Lady Awakened (available around Christmas). To enter, make a comment, and then fill out the form below. You must make a comment to enter.
Contest Rules –
You must be 13 or older to enter.
I am not responsible for lost or damaged shipments.
Open to International addresses.
Contest ends December 11th.