Victoria Janssen edited the summary of Victoria Janssen Wednesday, January 14, 2009.
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- Victoria blogged at Lust In Time in December 2008. Here are some highlights:
The inspiration for The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover was in a contest; I think it was in 2001. I am often inspired to write something by a call for submissions, even today. There was a five dollar fee, and you had to submit the story on a diskette, so it was rather a pain, but the prize was $1000. I believe the theme was "danger," though I might be remembering wrong; it doesn't matter now, because the story didn't make the final cut, and then the contest folded before final judging ever began, and I was left with a story on my hands, about an Empress and a stableboy named Jirin.
In 2004, I finally sold the story to Jim Brown at LL-Publications for an e-anthology titled Eternally Erotic. Jim worked with me on the story, and it's thanks to him that the setting became less fantastical and more like eighteenth-century France. The Empress became a duchess and the stableboy's name changed to Henri. Perhaps most importantly, I added the possibility of a happy ending, when the original story had ended on a cliffhanger.
Over a year later, Cecilia Tan was co-editing an anthology about older women with younger men, which fit the story's plot. I realized I'd never submitted a story to her before, so I sent it off, in the hopes that the fantasy setting would be unique enough for a sale. She bought it, and soon after I had an enquiry from her co-editor, Lori Perkins: would I be interested in shopping a novel proposal, based on the short story? I said, sure. We exchanged a few emails, Lori agreed with me that Emma Holly's erotic novels would be good models, and I went off to write another couple of chapters and an outline.
A side note here. Lori was Cecilia's agent, and I had once been briefly introduced to her, but it had been so many years before that I'd completely forgotten even her name. Even though I had now been reminded she was an agent, it took several hours for me to put the pieces together. I was riding the bus home that evening before I began to wonder if having an agent shop a proposal for me meant that I had an agent. It doesn't often work that way, but in my case, it did. I had completed a novel at this point; it didn't sell, but it did establish that I could write an entire novel; otherwise, selling on proposal would have been much more difficult.
In May 2007, thirteen months after my agent first started shopping the proposal, I heard from an assistant at Mira Books, who was interested in seeing the full manuscript. I let Lori know, and she called Susan Pezzack <now Swinwood>, editor of the Spice imprint. By this point, I had seven additional chapters, roughly half of the manuscript, and feverishly began writing more. I forwarded those to Susan, and based on those chapters, she went to Acquisitions. By early September, the book was sold, along with an untitled second book. The completed manuscript was due the end of October, for publication the following December.
The book released in December 2008. My second book for Spice, The Moonlight Mistress, is due out December 2009.
Here are some details on my second book: When I sold The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover, the contract was for two books. I'd submitted several brief ideas for the second book, but didn't think about it too much until after I turned in the duchess manuscript. All I'd decided was that the story would be set during World War One (a research interest of mine, so I already had a library), and that it would have werewolves. I actually had the beginnings of a werewolf novel set during WWI, but after pondering for a few weeks, I realized that story would not work as an erotic novel. It was entirely too grim.
World War One is not the first setting one thinks of for an erotic romp; a dark, serious novel, yes, but I didn't want to write that kind of book; I wanted something fun, or at least mostly fun. So I came up with the idea of melding pulp adventure novels with the early days of World War One. In a pulp adventure novel, werewolves wouldn't be strange at all, and rather than make the war itself a villain, the force opposing the characters could be a classically cruel and amoral scientist. Overall, I wanted to work in two themes: differences between appearances and reality in relation to self, and technological warfare and a changing world affecting creatures of nature. My original title was Other Skins, to reflect those themes. Though I considered Sweet Savage Werewolves, too. *heh*
I would be writing something along the lines of Doc Savage, only set in an earlier period (interestingly, the characters in that series had the backstory that they'd fought in WWI). I began to think about the characters, initially, in terms of their roles. Once I had the types, I gave the characters names, and began to figure out who they were by writing scenes. I didn't complete a synopsis of the book, to turn in to my editor, until I had a significant amount of draft completed. Unlike the duchess novel, I never completed an outline, though I did make a list of scenes I wanted to write or felt I needed.
For a historical novel, the research is the best part, because mostly it involves reading. I searched out various bits of data online, but for the most part I read books, or read the parts of books that I needed. However, I didn't have time to do all the reading before I began writing. And no matter how much I knew before I began writing, I would definitely need to research more things as I went along and saw what the story needed.
The best research tool I had was a sheet of tiny stickies, which I used to mark pages in books that held useful information. This saved me from having to spend time making notes, and I could read whenever I was unable to write (for example, while riding the bus). The second best tool I discovered was keeping a list of research questions, as they came up. I wouldn't stop my writing session for research on these tiny items; I would make a note and go on, and later look up several answers at once. Examples of these questions are "list of period Anglican choral composers" and "car available with self-starter in 1914?" and "area of chemical study appropriate for time period."
The details go by in an instant when reading, but they contribute a lot to the historical feel. If a detail is needed, I always try to make sure that detail is one that points up the differences between now and then, just enough to snag the reader's attention and show them the book's world is different from her world, but not enough to make her feel I've been dumping information for the sake of showing off my research. I hope I was successful! I guess I'll find out in October 2009.
You can have a look at my personal research library for World War One at LibraryThing:
You can find Amazon links for some of these sources compiled at my website: