10 October 2010

Guest Author: Jeannie Lin

This week our guest author is contributor Jeannie Lin as she celebrates the release of her debut, BUTTERFLY SWORDS, which is available now. BUTTERFLY SWORDS promises to take Harlequin Historical readers where they've never gone before: to 8th century China!

"If Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon merged with A Knight's Tale, you'd have the power and romance of Lin's dynamic debut. The action never stops, the love story is strong and the historical backdrop is fascinating." ★★★★ RT Book Reviews

"Jeannie Lin will take you on a trip to China you will not forget." ~ Book Lovers, Inc.

Journey to the very edge of honor, loyalty...and love.

During China's infamous Tang Dynasty, a time awash with luxury, yet littered with deadly intrigues and fallen royalty, betrayed Princess Ai Li flees before her wedding. Miles from home, with only her delicate butterfly swords for a defense, she enlists the reluctant protection of a blue-eyed warrior...

Battle-scarred, embittered Ryam has always held his own life at cheap value. Ai Li's innocent trust in him and honorable, stubborn nature make him desperate to protect her--which means not seducing the first woman he has ever truly wanted....

How did you market an Asian story, location and character to mainstream publishing?

Editors and agents kept on saying that ultimately, the one thing that sells any book is the writing. I paid careful attention to developing craft and spent a lot of time figuring out how to write an opening that would market the book.

Other than that, I think you have to stand strong on what you're doing and why. In my head, I saw BUTTERFLY SWORDS as having great crossover potential. When querying, I conveyed the standout elements and tried to give a clear picture of the story. I positioned it as a historical romance to commit to a genre, though I knew there were historical fantasy elements in the book.

Why butterfly swords? Why not some other type of blade?

The moment I dreamt up Ai Li, I imagined the two swords in her hands. The two ideas came together, along with the title, and everything clicked into place.

I chose them because they're the only swords I've ever received any training on so I had some idea of how to use them. The double swords really are great weapons for a woman. They're lightweight and maneuverable. Pitting the more fluid and soft butterfly swords against the harder broadsword techniques that the hero uses seemed like a perfect match.

Tell us a little-known fact about Ryam. About Ai Li.

Ryam was inspired in part by Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride. Ryam's father is a swordmaster who drank his life away and got killed in a stupid brawl. Ai Li was inspired in part by Lady Sun of the Three Kingdoms period, who had five brothers and always carried a sword around with her.

Which scene did you rewrite most?

The first fight scene between Ai Li and Ryam was the one I nitpicked the most. I had to work and rework the lead up for pacing and tension. I made a bunch of tweaks and passes for flow during the choreography of the fight. I believe that you should write an action scene and then go in and hack away a third of it, non-negotiable.

I experimented with both POVs, trying to decide who was the best narrator for the fight. I also went in and edited for sexual tension. This scene was how I wanted them to communicate with each other for the first time. Ryam had already helped Ai Li out, so she was indebted to him, but this "first touch" was so important for establishing why she would trust him and ultimately, be attracted to him.

How many people have you killed? What weapon did you use?

The funny thing is the death count in BUTTERFLY SWORDS is actually low compared to the other books I've written. Butterfly swords originated from the Shaolin temple and are meant to maim not kill. This might cause the book to lose a couple of Sherman tanks on the rating scale. (This was Courtney Milan's question, who seems to be taking a page from Mr. Milan.)

Is there a similar narrative in your next book? Or different here?

What if I told you there were no swordfights in the next book? :)

The sequel is still steeped in warfare and warrior culture, but where BUTTERFLY SWORDS is a sword fight adventure, THE DRAGON AND THE PEARL focuses on long held secrets and the underworld of the empire. My editor described it as "the same elements that made Butterfly Swords a strong submission, but very different."


Since BUTTERFLY SWORDS is a romantic mash-up of Asian and Western heroic fiction, what are some of your favorite mash-ups? Jeannie is giving away an autographed copy of her debut novel along with a souvenir charm and collectible art card to one random commenter. I'll draw the winner at random next Sunday. Void where prohibited. Best of luck!


Blythe Gifford said...

Jeannie - Loved your Undone short prequel and have Butterfly Swords at the top of my TBR pile. Craft, craft, craft. Write a good book. Isn't that always the answer? Easy to say, hard to do.
Best of luck with your debut!

Jeannie Lin said...

Blythe, I'm glad you liked The Taming of Mei Lin.

I always feel so unequipped when people ask how I sold. There's no magic password, is there?

Cid said...

Oooh, this sounds really cool. I'm a little brain dead right now so I'm not recalling many mash ups right now, but I'm really interested in this book. I'll have to check it out!

Verona St. James said...

Had my eye on this book for awhile. It looks so good!

Barbara E. said...

I recently received a little booklet with an excerpt for Butterfly Swords and after I read it I was hooked. I'm looking forward to picking up the book and finding out what happens to these fascinating characters.
Right now I'm reading Zoe Archer's Warrior - which is a mash up of adventure, magic, steampunk and romance and I'm enjoying it very much.

Julie said...

I love mash-ups in my music! Especially ones involving classical instruments and doing something entirely untraditional with them.

Apocalyptica - classical cellists who play thrash metal
Il Divo - opera-trained voices singing pop songs, but in romance languages
..etc. :D

Scorpio M. said...

Steampunk & romance is a good mash-up. Historical fantasy is another great one.

Butterfly Swords sounds amazing!

M. said...

You had me at 'inspired by Inigo Montoya'. I'm also intrigued by the implication that Lady Sun wore a sword at all times somehow as a result of having five brothers - because they taught her? Because she thought they might like to be rid of her?

And, how delicious - contrast between the delicate, harmless, beautiful image of a butterfly and the purpose of a sword.

p.s. - my capcha is 'unfabio' - how fabulously apropos!

Chelsea B. said...

I've heard nothing but great things about this book. And how can you not read a book that you've heard nothing but great things about? :-)
I like Historical/Fantasy/Romance mash-ups

Jeannie Lin said...

@Cid - Thanks for coming by.

@Verona - I'm glad to hear it! It is some nice eye candy.

@Barbara - Oh, I'm glad to hear the excerpt booklets are getting around. Zoe Archer's Warrior is a fabulous mash-up of gadgetry, romance, and adventure! I thoroughly enjoyed their adventure through Mongolia.

@Julie - I like how you brought music into the mix. I think that's the beauty of mash-ups--something unexpected into the mix.

@Scorpio - I just read my first true steampunk romance-Meljean Brook's Iron Duke. Hooked beyond belief!

@M - I'm glad you liked the Inigo reference. I just watched that swordfight again last night. Lady Sun came from a warrior family and trained with the rest of her brothers. From their history, it appears like she worked with them hand in hand in their plans and schemes. She proved to be a valued asset.

@Chelsea - Aw, thanks Chelsea. It's good to hear that the buzz is positive.

dutchoven said...

Asian and Western period mashups are wonderful. I also like space opera and westerns...asian x western, samurai x kungfu, fantasy x superpowers, steampunk x anything, WWII x romance with focus on the villain, musical x superpowers, high school romance x superpowers, time-travelling x fantasy/scifi adventure, angels x aliens, throw in mystery and/or post-apocalyptic drama with any of the above....

I just really love genre, especially with a twist.

Jeannie Lin said...

@dutchoven - Wow, anyone hurting for ideas needs to come read your comment! Plot bunnies abound.

M. said...

@dutchoven - do you participate in NaNoWriMo? Sure sounds like you might be someone gearing up for the November 1 starting gun!

Emily said...

I loved Inigo in The Princess Bride! I'm in to win!

Victoria said...

Butterfly Swords sounds so interesting! You must have done some major research! And very creative too!
My mash-up of all time has to be Svaha by Charles de Lint. It is set in the future, after minor nuke exchange (ie still city standing, but bad lands outside of that), Major Asian influence on our lives, and main character is Native American with a little magic (we think). As messed up as I make the book sound, it really is a Great read! (I had to replace my first copy from reading it that much.)
Good luck with your book!