05 September 2010

Guest Author: Jeannie Lin

This week on Unusual Historicals we're welcoming contributor Jeannie Lin as she celebrates the release of "THE TAMING OF MEI LIN," a Harlequin Historicals Undone set in Tang Dynasty China!

When a corrupt local official wants to take Mei Lin as, not second, but third wife, she rebels and makes an outrageous declaration--she'll only marry a man if he can defeat her in a sword fight. She has managed to fend off the local thugs and village hopefuls, but then a tall, mysterious stranger comes into town...
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What made you decide on the Tang Dynasty as a setting for "THE TAMING OF MEI LIN"?

I explained to someone recently how the Tang Dynasty to Asians is how many people think of the Regency period in England. The Tang Dynasty was a golden era of high culture. It was a time of beautiful art and music, literacy, and diplomacy. The clothes and fashions were lavish as a reflection of the wealth and ministers and courtesans alike were expected to be witty, intelligent, and charming. Most importantly, women enjoyed more independence during this time with several noteworthy women rising to the highest positions in the empire. This was a time ripe for strong, larger than life heroines.

What really attracted me to the Tang Dynasty was the fall of the empire, which actually happened over a period of two hundred years. This was a more tumultuous time when I envisioned the empire still enjoying the wealth of its height, while political skirmishes and the rise of powerful warlords chipped away at its foundation. The inherent conflict there was too rich to ignore.

What were some of the challenges of making such an unusual time period accessible to readers?

I knew that the language and specifically the names could be a barrier. I went back and forth a lot with how much Chinese to insert and also took care to use names that were easy on the ear and the eye. I also knew readers had expectations about China. I received a lot of comments about foot binding and how my heroines could behave so independently in a culture when women were subjugated.

I tried to focus building a vivid and authentic world and hoped that the more readers became engaged in the story and the characters, the less they would doubt the historical details.

Your Harlequin Undone, "THE TAMING OF MEI LIN," features several fight scenes. What sort of research went into that?

I love sword fights! I've always loved watching a hero and heroine duke it out with swords. The duel in Red Sonja between Arnold and Brigitte Nielson is one of my favorites. It just doesn't happen enough.

As to research, I trained for two years a long, long time ago in Wing Chun Kung Fu. During that time, I took several seminars on the butterfly sword form. In that style, the double short swords are an extension of your arms. The sword techniques are extensions of the hand to hand techniques. I thought that style was perfect for my heroine and I understood the principles of the system enough that I felt I could make it authentic.

"THE TAMING OF MEI LIN" is described as a linked short story to your October debut, BUTTERFLY SWORDS. Can you explain the link between them?

Ai Li is the heroine of BUTTERFLY SWORDS. "THE TAMING OF MEI LIN" is the story of her grandmother and grandfather, who I envisioned as having many heroic tales of their own in the past. So the short story is a prequel to BUTTERFLY SWORDS. In it, I got to explore what events contributed to Ai Li's feisty, yet honorable nature and what gave her the strength find love on her own terms.

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Be Sure to join the Sept.-Oct. launch celebration for "THE TAMING OF MEI LIN" and Jeannie's October debut, BUTTERFLY SWORDS, at this special website. Jeannie will be giving away actual butterfly swords, great books, and this original artwork as part of the festivities!

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Thanks for stopping by, Jeannie! The buzz is already huge for BUTTERFLY SWORDS. Jeannie is giving Unusual Historicals readers a little taste of this excitement before her October debut. Leave a comment of question for Jeannie for your chance to win a copy of "THE TAMING OF MEI LIN," a short story from Harlequin Historicals Undone. The story is available in Adobe PDF, Adobe EPUB, Microsoft eBook, or Microsoft MOBI formats. I'll draw a winner at random next Sunday. Void where prohibited. Best of luck!

19 comments:

Deborah N. said...

I love the period you've set your story in and hope more authors choose less familiar settings and cultures. Tang dynasty China provides us an extra level of exotic escapism -- and a chance to learn about another historical era. Readers already know so much about the American West and the Regency periods...

Renny said...

Looking forward to both the new books. Both the setting and Mei Lin's strong character as a swordswomen sound great. I hope to see more China set romances.

Scorpio M. said...

"I received a lot of comments about ...how my heroines could behave so independently in a culture when women were subjugated."

I have to chuckle (otherwise I'd be rolling my eyes) at the above. I didn't realize Regency females weren't subjugated. Maybe someone should inform Jane Austen and the suffragettes movement the world over. Sorry to rant, things like that just irk me. =(

I am *so* excited about Butterfly Swords!

Sonya Clark said...

This sounds like a great read - swordfighting! - and I'm glad to discover romances are branching out to something other than the ubiquitous Regencies and highlanders.

Jeannie Lin said...

@Deborah - I love reading Regencies and westerns, but I do love to see other settings. It's a funny world where France and Italy are sometimes looked at as being as "far out" of a location as China.

@Renny - I hope to see more China set romances too, and not just to be self serving. I've enjoyed Marjorie Liu and Jade Lee's books and I'd love to see other authors as well. There are so many untapped possibilities.

@Scorpio - My thoughts exactly! Heroines in historical romances do tend to go against the grain, demanding love and respect. This is true whether you're wielding a sword or sharp wit.

@Sonya - Swordfighting always seemed so romantic and dramatic to me. I hope readers think so as well.

FredTownWard said...

I would love to win this story because it sounds like something I would like, and if I win it, I will read it promptly and review it on Amazon, despite the fact that I don't read romance novels,...

as far as you know.

Tracey Devlyn said...

Hi Jeannie!

I love all the promotion and branding you've done for Butterfly Swords. I've seen some really unique and fresh marketing tools.

Can't wait to see your book on the shelves.

I wish you many happy sales. :)

Tracey

Rita said...

I had to look up Red Sonja on youtube and ...ahahahhahahah

*ahem*

I think I prefer watching Madmartigan and Sorscha in the movie Willow, but it's all good. I saw Butterfly Swords in ebook on the Harlequin page, so irritated to have to wait because I want the paper version!

Julie said...

That artwork is gorgeous! And I love that we're branching out from European-based historicals.

Sword fights are amazing to watch; I wish I'd kept up with my (very short-lived) lessons, but I think I was a bit too young to appreciate what I was learning. On that note, I can't wait to watch Alice kick butt, double-katana style, in the newest Resident Evil movie. \o/

Jeannie Lin said...

@FredTownWard - Well, this would be a romance short story, so maybe your reputation could remain intact! Thanks for the comment.

@Tracey - Thanks! I've had a lot of fun trying to think of creative ways to market. I figured why write such an unusual book and stop there, right? Plus it's a labor of love since Butterfly Swords is my first book. :)

@Rita - I stand by Arnold & Brigitte! There was a day when the Conan movies were the only fantasy movies you'd see on the screen. I'll always remember them fondly. October is coming fast so hopefully we won't have to wait much longer.

@Julie - I didn't realize that Carrie had gone out to grab the deviantArt picture. I love both the cover art and the painting! I'm also looking forward to Resident Evil. As you may guess, I have a weakness for women with swords.

Walt M said...

Jeannie, I'm looking forward to the prequel and the book. I had not realized Butterfly Swords was a technique of fighting. That's interesting.

Alison said...

What a lovely cover - and fascinating story!

Victoria Dixon said...

I so look forward to these stories! I'm shopped out of western settings and that's almost all you get in fantasy, which is my big love. I have longed for unusual settings for a long time. I think a lot of readers have.

Jeannie Lin said...

@Walt - I'm posting more information about butterfly swords and Wing Chun this week, along with an interview with a female instructor (who used to be my classmate) She was a lot faster, stronger, and more dedicated than me and I hope she'll be able to answer any questions people have about the form.

@Alison - I'm quite thrilled by the cover and thought the hero looks a lot like Daniel Dae Kim from lost--which pleases me greatly.

@Victoria - I'm hoping readers will find something new and interesting in my books. I'm drawn to all sorts of settings myself, which is why this blog is such a nice place to hang out and find books!

mothella12 said...

This sounds like a great story, and a wonderful depature from the usual ho-hum Regency setting which I, for one, am getting really sick of.

Can't wait for Butterfly Swords! :)

Jeannie Lin said...

@mothella12 - I'm quite fond of Regencies, but like you, I like a change of pace. I think part of it is because I love to travel and just don't have the budget for it so I like to live vicariously. And if you're going to travel through space, why not time as well? :)

Thao said...

I can't wait to get my hands on Butterfly Swords in October. Why, oh why is The Taming of Mei Lin only available as an ebook? I like having a physical book.

Jeannie Lin said...

@Thao - Physical books are nice, but I like that the e-market is giving a chance for short stories and novellas to get an audience where they were hard to come by before. Cross your fingers -- occasionally Harlequin does compile the most popular Undones into a print book. This is a far off fantasy right now for me though.

Carrie Lofty said...

We have a winner: Walt M.! Congratulations!

Details here:

http://unusualhistoricals.blogspot.com/2010/09/taming-of-mei-lin-winner.html

Thanks to Jeannie and to everyone who stopped by.