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!