Yesterday saw the release of our own Jennifer McGowan’s Maid of Deception, the second installment of her Maids of Honor series, and we’re as proud as can be. In typical Corsets, Cutlasses, & Candlesticks style, we’re grilling Jenn with questions about her newest book, her characters, her writing methods, and her own special skills that would make her a fantastic Elizabethan spy. Let the celebrations begin!
First, a little intro from Jennifer McGowan herself:
Thanks so much for hosting me today to celebrate the launch of Maid of Deception! Though it seems like forever since the first book, it still is surprising that the launch is finally here!
Everyone asked such great questions, so I’ll dive right in!
From Katherine Longshore:
You have obviously spent a great deal of time and energy creating a cast of unique and carefully-depicted characters, which promises powerful stories for each of your maids-in-waiting. Does this make it easier to write the companion novels because you know them all so well, or more difficult because former narrators try to take over? And which scene in Maid of Deception was the most difficult to write?
Katherine, GREAT question! Writing the subsequent Maids of Honor books after Maid of Secrets has been easier, in the sense that the setting remains the same and the primary cast of characters remains the same. However, what has been harder is to ensure each Maid’s voice remains distinct and authentic. With Maid of Deception, this was fairly easy to do, because Beatrice has such a clearly defined personality. However, as I began work on Maid of Wonder, Sophia’s story, it took awhile for me to find her voice—she’s used to being behind the scenes, after all! The scene in Maid of Deception that was the most difficult to write was when Beatrice believes that she is really alone in the world, unwanted and unloved. For such a proud, bold young woman, this is a humbling realization.
From J. Anderson Coats:
How long do you typically research before beginning to draft? At what point do you feel comfortable beginning to draft? How does your research continue once you begin writing?
Jillian, researching these books seems to happen organically. There are some things that I learned a decade ago that I can finally put into a book, and other things I’m learning just because the current story requires it (like details of the Scottish rebellion!). I typically research as I write, though I spend about a month before drafting really pulling together the information I need. And then I research more during revisions. The post-draft research is generally highly specific, focusing on recorded events in history or any contemporary accounts that can help add life to the story.
I love this question. :) Meg was very much a fish-out-of-water, an independent young woman who was ready to take on any challenge with pluck, wit and a can-do attitude. Beatrice is more of a jaded insider, a grown-up Mean Girl who has seen and heard it all—the betrayals, the lies, the short-comings of everyone around her. So Beatrice has a more mature outlook, and a grimmer one, too. She’s naturally less-hopeful, always waiting for the other shoe to drop. That’s why, when she falls in love, it was really very special for me. :)
From: Sharon Biggs Waller
How do you keep the overall story arc flowing through all the books? And as a follow up, how do you keep track of all those details? Index cards? Notebooks?
Sharon, I confess—there are things with this series that I didn’t know when I started writing Meg’s book, that really came into focus for me during Beatrice’s book. And now, having just drafted Sophia’s book, I can see how the full series arc will conclude, and it’s a little overwhelming (though in a very cool way!). And, sadly, I don’t keep notes or index cards. I hear of people creating a “series Bible” and I go all glassy-eyed… that would be so wonderful! But I seem to be writing the books so quickly that I just have to have the actual stories as a resource. Fortunately, with everything in digital format, “search” has become my favorite tool in Word!
From Susan Hill Long:
Can you tell us how you came up with the names of the Maids? Do they just appear on the page for you, or do you struggle to find a name that particularly suits each Maid and her background and special skill?
Sue! This is the first time I’ve been asked this. I would say Meg Fellowes’s name came to me first and rather easily, as she was the heroine of Maid of Secrets and I needed a good, sturdy, practical name. Then there was Jane Morgan the assassin. Jane Morgan was the name of my very first heroine of my very first historical romance manuscript—a young woman who dressed as a knight to avenge her brother. :) So it was fitting for her to play the role of the assassin for the Maids of Honor. Beatrice came next—I wanted a sophisticated and vaguely haughty sounding name, and it fit the bill! Anna, the genius of the Maids, I love because my older sister is named Ann, and she’s a hydrogeologist and one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. :) And then there was lovely Sophia, the youngest and most ethereal of all the Maids, with her fledgling psychic abilities. Sophia just seemed right for her.
From Cat Winters:
Your Maids have their own special skills to help with their job protecting the queen. In Beatrice’s case, persuasion is the tool she uses to try to thwart a Scottish rebellion. If you were personally hired to protect Queen Elizabeth I, what would your special skill be?
Cat, what a great question! If I were hired to help protect the Queen, I would probably be charged with ferreting out secrets of her court and the foreign delegations. I have the kind of face/demeanor that seems to get people to open up and tell me things, and if I wasn’t a tavern keeper in Elizabethan England, well, I certainly could bend my abilities to serve the Queen!
Thank you for answering our questions, Jenn. Huzzah for the release of Maid of Deception!
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