05 December 2010

Guest Author: Michelle Styles

Harlequin Historical author and longtime contributor Michelle Styles is back to talk a bit about her new releases--three books and a free online serial. The online serial, HIS STAND-IN BRIDE is set in Tyne Valley, the same place as her North American releases: A QUESTION OF IMPROPRIETY and IMPOVERISHED MISS, CONVENIENT WIFE. Her UK release is the THE VIKING'S CAPTIVE PRINCESS. Join us on Sunday for an interview with Michelle as well as a chance to win all three books!

The following extract is from A QUESTION OF IMPROPRIETY. The blurb reads:

A very improper seduction...

Diana Clare has had enough of London--the balls, the rakes you can never trust... Now, having returned home in disgrace, she is trying to forget what drove her from the ton.
But rake and gambler Brett Farnham, Earl of Coltonby, seems intent on making Diana remember exactly what it was like to be whirled around the ballroom and seduced by the glint in your partner's eye...

But Brett has 'mistress' rather than 'marriage' in mind, and Diana is not sure her reputation can stand up to another scandal...
Three releases in two months, plus an online serial. Michelle, how did you manage that?

It is all down to scheduling rather than superhuman feats of writing. Last year, THE VIKING'S CAPTIVE PRINCESS was out in the US, and the duo A QUESTION OF IMPROPRIETY and IMPOVERISHED MISS, CONVENIENT WIFE appeared in the UK in November 2008 and April 2009. However to help celebrate that duo's US publication, in September I was asked to write an online serial, HIS STAND-IN BRIDE. It is e-Harlequin's free weekly serial, which started on 15 November. The last segment goes out on 3 January. HIS STAND-IN BRIDE takes place in the Tyne Valley several months before the start of A QUESTION OF IMPROPRIETY and gave me a chance to revisit the world I had created. You can read the result here. The blurb reads:
Tyne Valley, 1813

When her sister eloped with someone other than her betrothed, Lady Anne Dunstan knew two things. One, that she completely supported her sister's making her own choice about who she would marry. And two, that Anne--the responsible one--would have to clean up the mess.

What she didn't know was how her sister's intended, Jason Martell, would take the news. Or how Anne would respond to the force of his presence, his rugged good looks, his less-than-gentlemanly advances.

Or to his proposal of marriage.
How does writing a serial differ from say writing a short story?

When my editor called and asked if I would write it, I knew I couldn't refuse even though the two week deadline was very tight. But it was only when I put the phone down, I thought--oh help! What have I done now? Particularly as I had just signed a new contract for four books which also has tight deadlines.

A serial has its own demands. Each chapter or segment must be a specific length and end with a definite hook or cliffhanger. Because people might start the story in say chapter four, it has to always be comprehensible. And the story needs to be able to stand alone and also be fully developed.

Did you enjoy writing it?

After I overcame my initial terror, it became quite fun. I was able to really concentrate on delivering a punchy story. Thankfully during the Unusual Historical panel at RWA Nationals in July, Carrie Lofty said that I tend to write self-made men. I knew when she said those words that they were my favourite type of hero. Part of my core story, if you will. And so I knew I had to take the opportunity and write a self-made man. And because of that, the story fell into place. I am happy to say that thus far I have met all my deadlines.

Core story?

Just before the Unusual Historical panel at the RWA Nationals, Jayne Anne Krentz gave an inspirational speech about her career. One thing she said was to know your core story. Know why you like telling a specific type of story. So I spent the afternoon wondering and then Carrie said the magic words and I knew.

So you write self-made men?

I am not really comfortable writing about men who have lived a life of privilege and have never had to struggle, who are merely caretakers of inherited wealth. Even the hero of A QUESTION OF IMPROPRIETY, despite being born into the aristocracy, has to struggle and has earned his own fortune. Some of the tension between Brett and the hero of IMPOVERISHED MISS, CONVENIENT WIFE, Simon Clare, is that neither recognises the other's struggle. All of my Vikings, including Ivar, the hero of THE VIKING'S CAPTIVE PRINCESS, have had to earn their place at the top table.

What's next for you?

After these three, my Roman Undone "A PERFECT CONCUBINE" is released in February. It is my first Undone and gave me a chance to revisit the world I created with SOLD AND SEDUCED. It was tremendous fun to write. Again the hero is a self-made man. (And it was written before Carrie gave me the insight!)

I am currently working on the first part of my early Victorian duo about two sisters who were kidnapped in the Sinai. The revisions are due this week and my editor is very excited about the story, provided I do the revisions correctly. The hero is a second son of a marquess who has found adventure and a fortune outside English society.

Are you planning on doing any more Vikings?

I had toyed with doing Thrand's story as an Undone, but I don't think the shorter format would do it justice and currently I am really enjoying writing in the early Victorian period. My current contract calls for more early Victorians in unusual settings rather than more Vikings. But never say never. I may eventually go back and give Thrand his story or I may start a new set of Vikings, perhaps later in the Viking period.

Thank you, Michelle, for stopping by and good luck with all your releases!

You can learn more about my work and read extracts from her releases on my website.

***

For a chance to win all three of Michelle's current releases, please leave a comment or question. Michelle suggests commenting on what you think about the idea of core stories. Do you know your core story? Do you have a favorite core story to read? I'll draw one commenter at random on Sunday, December 12. Void where prohibited. Best of luck!

38 comments:

Nas Dean said...

Hi Michelle, As a reader I would agree and say self made man are more fun and interesting to read rather than heirs with inherited wealth!

Joanna St. James said...

I am looking back at all my WIPs and yeah they all feature main characters who have become self made against circumstances at their births. Hmmn I just got another idea for a new story, thank you and goodbye.

Caroline said...

Great blog Michelle. I'm a sucker for a tortured hero (and heroine) who have to overcome adversity to get their HEA. Have a good Sunday - love Caroline x

Emma said...

Hi Michelle
How long did it take you to write your first book?

Cathy P said...

Michelle, I love your books! Thanks for a great and interesting blog.

I love to read core stories about self-made men and women. I think they make better characters than the ones that don't have demons in their closet.

chey said...

I'd rather read about self made characters.

April said...

Great post. I enjoy reading about Vikings and the early Victorian era.I have read several of your Vikings stories.
tarenn98[at]yahoo]dot]com

Eliza Evans said...

Oh, wow, I really love the idea of core stories. (I wonder where I was during that panel?) Now to think about mine...

Joselyn Vaughn said...

I think the idea of a serial novel is very interesting. How is that going? How long is each episode?

Sheree said...

Characters need to experience some growth throughout the book. A self-made hero would be more open to growth, I would think, since his self-made-ness implies that he can go against what is expected of him (given his birth and circumstance).

ironss[at]gmail.com

Michelle Styles said...

Nas -- It is great to see you here.

Joanna -- I am so glad that it gave a story idea.

Caroline -- tortured hero/heroine is a great core story. The thing to do is to figure out where yours lies.

Michelle Styles said...

Emma --

Did you mean the first book I sold to Harlequin?
The Galdiator's Honour took me about 10 weeks to write. Then I took another 3 weeks to revise after I received my editor's comments.
The shortest time I have ever done is 4 weeks and that was for An Impulsive Debutante.

The thing to do is to write every day and set yourself word chunks. 750 chunks at a time works for me.

Michelle Styles said...

Cathy P --
Thanks for saying that you love my books!

Self made men and people who have had to struggle for their success are more interesting I think. But some people have no trouble writing about characters who were born with gold spoons in their mouths...

Michelle Styles said...

Chey --
Glad you agree

April --
I hope you liked my Vikings. I am really enjoying writing my early Victorians at the moment. There is slightly more scope...

Jen B. said...

I don't know if I have a favorite type of core story for my reading. I like all different types of stories. I have never thought about my personal core story. I'll have to give that some thought.

Laura said...

Michelle,
Great comment on core stories-- self-made men are so appealing even though I enjoy reading historicals about all kinds of heroes, including privileged aristocrats. Watching how the hero deals with his circumstances is what thrills me and your self-made heroes really shine there.
Laura

Michelle Styles said...

Eliza --
The comment about core stories came from Jayne Anne KRentz's inspriation talk at the lunch and then Carrie made her comment and everything fell into place.
Susan Elizabeth Phillips also talked a bit about her core story. Apparently SEP's is Poor Little Rich Girl.

Michelle Styles said...

Jaselyn --

Harlequin does the free online serials and the overall length of theentire story needs to be 10k. The length of each episode varies depending on how many episodes. Because His Stand In Bride is a weekly, there are 8 chapters and so about 1250 words each.
It was fun but challenging as each chapter had to end on a different hook and you did have to write to the length but you do have to pack the story in as it were. And because readers might start the story in a different place, you needed to make that they could without boring readers who have been reading along...

Michelle Styles said...

Sheree --
I think being self made does mena that they can grow.

Jen B -- thinking about your personal core story is really interesting. What are the elements that you really like to have in your stories. Is there a certain type that you are drawn to?

Laura -- I like reading about all kinds of heroes as well. It was when Carrie made the remark, that all sorts of light bulbs went off. Is it because self made men are seemingly more mature than those who have never struggled?

Barbara Phinney said...

I love a wounded hero. I absolutely love atypical settings which will lead to atypical characters because of the times in which they live. The idea of wounded hero trying to settle into post war life appeals to me. But I also want a strong heroine, though one that is true to her time, as well. I want realism.
Barbara Phinney

Bunnie's Mom said...

I agree with the sentiment that the self-made here is more interesting, as well as a bit more unusual. I haven't read a serial, it does seem very challenging to have to keep it comprehensive as well as end each segment so specifically. I will need to check one out, sounds very intriguing.

BlithelyBookish said...

I need there to be a sense of overcoming ones demons, or achieving those things that others told us we couldn't.

D.L. said...

I'm liking this whole idea of a "core story". The self-made hero seems interesting, but most of what everyone is saying seems to focus on monatary value to me- the whole idea that the hero wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth and then worked hard for what he has.

I like stories about heroines who have had to overcome tragic events, and rather than letting themselves become victims they rise above adversity. I see this a lot in the romance genre and it's really empowering :)

Jenny B said...

Hi, Michelle.

I love a hero or heroine with something to hide, probably because I was hooked on Zorro, Batman, and Errol Flynn's pirate movies as a little kid. I never realized how many of my heroes and heroines have secrets (either noble or not!) until I read your blog. What a terrific topic.

Judith Wright said...

Hi! I have recently discovered this site and I must say that I love it and all the work y'all put into it! I have read many of the books you have mentioned and the ones I haven't I immediately add to my TBR list! The books above look particularly great, especially A Question of Impropriety!

LORETTA CANTON said...

I just wanted to say how much I love your Vikings.


loretta

lbcanton@verizon.net

LilMissMolly said...

I like my core stories to be family arches. For example, all of Catherine Coulter's Sherbrooke Bride stories are linked by the family, but each is a stand alone and you do not need to read them in order. There are running jokes (like the topiary garden) in all of them. I guess you could say, I like a little humor with my historical. :)

Caffey said...

Hi Michelle. I so love that UK cover for THE VIKING'S CAPTIVE PRINCESS! I love the online seriels and usually read them when they are all out. Sometimes I can't help wanting to know the rest of the story NOW, LOL. I so understand now about self-made men and realize I do enjoy reading those too. I do enjoy those Undone! too. They make for a great peek into authors I haven't read as well as to read a shorter read on the weekends. For me as a reader, I think my core stories (books) I love reading are those with
heroines that are determined to find love and passion in their marriages or their choices. Its them seeking out finding out what love is and when they do, it was worth all they did to stand up to do that. Even when its arranged marriages and they find that love.

I have loved all I read of Carrie Lofty and so neat to know she's inspiring to you. Is there an author/book from the past that inspired you to want to be a writer yourself?

dlynnpen said...

I love a wounded hero. Self made men.They make no apology and ask for no help.Awesome reads.

Teresa K. said...

Hi Michele,

I only just discovered you early this morning from Blythe's Gifford website. I was looking over your books and Sold and Suduced look so interesting.
When it comes to core stories, I always love to read about a self made person who comes out on top. Usually this person learns to be a person of integrity. I do love a story about the underdog succeeded to the top.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours.

Michelle Styles said...

I am pleased so many people like the idea of core stories. And that it has made some of you think about what you like/instinctively put in a book.
Thank you everyone who said thath they liked my books. It means a lot.

And yes, Carrie Lofty is hugely inspirational.

Sorry to be a bit scarce but my lovely editor was v quick with her revisions for my revised full...Sometimes the solution to the problem is not immediately obvious or the one that my editor thought would be the answer. It is about making the thoughts my own and I ALWAYS have a hard time colouring within the lines...

Samanthya said...

Hi Michelle,
I can't believe you pulled off a two week deadline. Congrats.
Best of luck.
Samanthya

Amy Kathryn said...

A little late to this party but I think one of my favorite core stories is discovery or rediscovery...examples being friends to lovers or second chance loves. I think self-made men fit in since it is about discovery of your own potential.

Daphne said...

I agree with AmyKathryn. Discovery...of self, of growth in unexpected circumstances, of hidden depths. I especially enjoy changing my mind on a character who is unappealing at first. Afterall, if I don't like the character but the writing hooks me enough to give the character a chance, then that's a good story.

Jackie Wisherd said...

I like to read about rugged he-men who have carved out their own path to life rather than about a person who has had everything given to him. Or the same for strong women characters.

kaisquared said...

I think my core story is one of serendipity, or happy accident. Not coming from nobility, my family always emphasized hard work to get ahead, or the idea "you make your own luck", but I also enjoy stories where a small push from fate brings opportunities/relationships to light that no one could have predicted. And in my core story, the hero and heroine rescue each other equally!

KarNot said...

The next UH historical I would love to read is Kismet by Monica Burns because it has a Sheikh in it! :) That to me is like the ultimate in romance which brings to mind things like hot desert nights, mysterious, romantic, ala Omar Sharif's Lawrence of Arabia. My oh my....

Carrie Lofty said...

The winner has been chosen: Bunny's Mom! Details here:

http://unusualhistoricals.blogspot.com/2010/12/michelle-styles-trio-winner.html

Congratulations! And thanks to everyone else for stopping by.