Manda Collins is the author of The Ugly Duckling trilogy, which kicked off with How to Dance with a Duke. The second book in the series, How to Romance a Rake, will be in stores in July. Manda stopped by the virtual offices to discuss her new series., so read on to see what she has to say.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.
[Manda Collins] A life long reader–okay maybe not lifelong, I mean who has time to read at one month old?–who loves all things English, romance & mystery.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about How to Dance With a Duke?
[Manda Collins] HTDWAD is the story of Miss Cecily Hurston–a wallflower bluestocking–and Lucas Dalton, Duke of Winterson–a former soldier with a sense of humor, who are united in their quest to find his missing brother. Cecily, because she wants to prove her father didn’t kill him, and Lucas, because it’s his brother. They get into all sorts of scrapes and eventually uncover just what happened to William Dalton on Lord Hurston’s Egyptian expedition
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for your Ugly Ducklings series?
[Manda Collins] I was thinking about the Gunning sisters, the famous Regency beauties who came to London with nothing but their looks and took the ton by storm. I wondered what it would have been like if they’d had daughters who were constantly being unfavorably compared to them. So, I hatched the idea of the Fabulous Featherstone Sisters, and their not so fabulous daughters, The Ugly Ducklings. Cecily, Juliet and Maddie just sort of evolved from there. And the idea for a trilogy was born.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What was the most challenging aspect of writing How to Dance With a Duke?
[Manda Collins] Now that I’ve written all three of the books, I have to say that How to Dance with a Duke was the easiest to write. It’s much less daunting to write something completely new than to work with characters that people already know and love. However, How to Dance with a Duke did have it’s moments. I think the trickiest bit was deciding how Cecily and Lucas would unravel the mystery. Planting clues and working out the step by step process of the mystery plot was hard.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Cecily?
[Manda Collins] Brilliant, audacious, stubborn.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Lucas would never have in his pocket?
[Manda Collins] A feather. A quizzing glass. An elephant.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?
[Manda Collins] Gosh, that’s a tough one. I am constantly absorbing other stories–from television, from film, from other authors. But for this trilogy, I’d have to say that Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie were a huge influence. I devoured both of them during my childhood and early teens. And one of my favorite bits about Nancy Drew was how she and her friends were so different, but they got along anyway. I also loved it when they hung out together with their boyfriends. Really the Ducklings and their respective heroes owe a huge debt to Nancy, Bess and George. Then there are Agatha Christie’s Egyptian set books. I remember reading several of them in a row one summer when I was in my teens. Add some Jane Austen to the mix, and you’ve got How to Dance with a Duke.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?
[Manda Collins] A computer. Dr. Pepper. My imagination.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?
[Manda Collins] Nora Roberts’ 200th book The Witness. There’s a reason why La Nora is the queen of romance. Plus it had suspense, one of my favorite romantic ingredients!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?
[Manda Collins] That’s tough, because I honestly don’t remember a time when I didn’t read. But I can vividly remember my mother reading aloud to me from The Secret in the Old Clock, which as any aficionado knows is the first Nancy Drew. Now, if you want to talk about romance novels, that would have to be Minerva’s Marquess by Sheila Walsh. It’s one of the first regencies I remember reading. It had everything I love: an arranged marriage, a sexy ex-military hero, and wise-cracking sidekick. Actually, now that I think of it, it bears a slight resemblance to How to Dance with a Duke. I loved it, though. And it set me on the path to writing my own arranged marriage/sexy ex-military hero/wisecracking sidekick novel!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
[Manda Collins] The usual. Hanging out with my friends. Reading. Watching TV. Playing with the cats and the dog. I used to be pretty crafty (knitting, sewing, decorating, baking), but writing has cut into that. Especially since I still have a day job.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?
[Manda Collins] Readers can find me at my website: http://www.mandacollins.com where they can find my email addy, and sign up for my newsletter.
On Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/MandaCollins
On Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/mandacollinsauthor
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!
You can purchase How to Dance with a Duke and Manda’s soon to be released How to Romance Rake from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below