Today, I’d like to welcome historical romance author Evangeline Collins! I just finished reading her debut release from NAL Signet, Her Ladyship’s Companion, last week, and I loved it. Evangeline has a beautiful voice, and her love scenes are exquisitely crafted and emotionally rich. If you like your romances lush and sensual, you have to give Evangeline’s book a read!
In the Scottish countryside of Selkirk, Lady Isabella Stirling resides at Bowhill Park, serving penance for a sin that nearly ruined her family. For five years she has been condemned to a loveless marriage and confined to the estate where she does little more than tend her rose garden. With her husband absent for months at a time and few visitors, Bella lives a lonely existence, denying the passions that burn within her very soul.
Then her cousin comes for a visit and makes an outrageous suggestion: what Bella needs is a lover. A hired lover. Despite her need, Bella says no. But soon Mr. Gideon Rosedale arrives—and he is at her service for two weeks. Indulging in what she intends to be a harmless flirtation, Bella is overcome by Gideon’s intoxicating presence. And when she at last permits him to satisfy her desires, she discovers she’s done the unthinkable—she’s fallen in love.
Jackie: The hero of your debut release, Her Ladyship’s Companion, is a male prostitute (albeit a very high class one!). It’s not unusual to see courtesans as romance heroines, but male escorts are pretty much unheard of, I think. What made you choose to write such an unconventional character?
Evangeline: First and foremost, I like ‘different’ in romance novels. I like to push the boundaries, to challenge myself to try something that’s not usually done and see if I can find a way to make it work. When it comes to deciding on a hero and heroine for a book, I like to go with opposites – two people who appear totally different on the surface but actually go together perfectly. So when I was mulling over a hero for Bella, a woman who looks like an ice princess but has a heart of a tart, I couldn’t resist giving her a man like Gideon. And well…I have a thing for spice in romance novels, and casting a man like Gideon in the role of hero would be sure to guarantee many opportunities to heat things up.
Jackie: Bella, the heroine, is a rose breeder. Although there isn’t a lot of technical detail about rose breeding in the novel itself, I sense you did a lot of research into that aspect of your heroine’s interests. Could you tell us a little about how you went about it and what you learned?
Evangeline: I’m not a gardener at all. Seriously. I have these two little bushes in front of the house, below a window, and this is the third year in a row where I’ve had to dig up dead bushes and plant new ones. I’m hoping I won’t kill them this year. So I had to do a lot of research to figure out what would be in Bella’s garden and how she would care for them. Primary sources for research include the internet (American Rose Society has a wonderful site) and my mother, who is an avid gardener with a particular interest in roses.
The main thing I discovered was that there’s a big difference between the roses we know today and those in the Regency. While Empress Josephine’s love of roses led to an increase in popularity of roses and to rose breeders developing new varieties, the major advances in hybridization didn’t occur until after the Regency, so with the exception of Chinas, roses only bloomed once a year. China Roses continuously bloom, but are not very hardy to cold temperatures, so they could only thrive in Bella’s hothouse.
Jackie: Madame Rubicon, the owner of the brothel in which Gideon was raised, is quite a ruthless woman. I know you’re planning to do more books that feature her employees. Do you think she has any redeeming qualities or is she just a straight-up bitch?
She’s definitely not the most pleasant individual, but she’s not a straight-up bitch. In Seven Nights to Forever, you’ll see that she treats the female employees a bit differently than her male employees. Rubicon used to be a whore herself, so it made sense to me that she’d be a bit more sympathetic/understanding of women, but not so with the men. Still, she’s not what one would call a genuinely nice person.
Jackie: Can you tell us a little more about your next book, Seven Nights to Forever?
Evangeline: It features another employee from Rubicon’s brothel, except this time the employee is a beautiful young woman named Rose (yeah…I’ve realized I seem to have a thing for roses now). She’s the daughter of a respectable country gentleman who’s been forced by circumstances to find a lucrative line of work to support her younger brother. Rose first tried life in the demimondaine, but after her experiences with an unpleasant protector, she relocated to Rubicon’s, where she works one week out of every month. When she returns from her country home to London to start a new week of work, she meets James, a wealthy merchant who was forced into an aristocratic marriage of convenience to gain entry into the ton. And their seven nights together lead to a chance at forever. ….all right, it’s more than a chance. They will get their HEA.
Jackie: You also write Regency-set m/m romance under the pen name, Ava March. Could you tell us a little more about your Ava March books? How did you get started writing m/m romance and how do you think it differs from m/f romance (if at all)?
Evangeline: The main differences between Ava and Evangeline are that my Ava books are significantly hotter, they are all novellas, and the books feature two heroes instead of a hero and a heroine. Other than that, I think the writing feels the same – same time period, both character driven, and heavy on the sex and angst. Well, Ava’s a lot heavier on the sex. *g*
The heroes are always my favorite characters in romance novels. I’m a woman and I know how a woman thinks – no great mystery there – but men are a different beast all together. I find them very fascinating. I also am quite the fan of m/m romances. So one day I decided to try to write my own. Well, it actually was a bit of a dare between a friend and I – we each started writing m/m books at the same time (there is definitely courage in numbers. LOL). I think the main differences between m/f and m/m are in the character and power dynamics, and that’s why m/m romances appeal to me. In them, men can be more…vulnerable, I guess is the right word. You can see a different side of a man in a m/m relationship than in a m/f relationship. It’s hard to explain, but once you’ve read a couple m/m books, you’ll see the differences and they are not just physical differences (…get your mind out of the gutter!*g*) – it’s in the way the men relate to each other. I love the challenge of keeping my Ava heroes strong men who fall in love with each other, in the Regency era when such love was punishable by death.
But my first love was m/f historical romances, and I love to write m/f romances which aren’t quite as heavy on the sex. Hence why I have both Ava and Evangeline.
Jackie: What draws you to the Regency period? Are there any other historical time periods that interest you as settings for future books?
Evangeline: It’s hard to define exactly what draws me to the Regency period. Maybe it’s because the first batch of historical romances I ever read were regencies. I do adore the adherence to proper behavior coupled with the element of indulgence. I also enjoy reading medieval and Victorian romances, but I don’t think I’d ever write outside the Regency. For some reason, all my ideas for books and characters take place during the Regency.
Jackie: How and when did you start writing “for real”? I think all authors can divide their careers into “before I got serious” and “after.” When and how did you cross that divide?
Evangeline: When I joined my local RWA chapter. I had been writing in complete and utter ignorance for about a year, just scribbling in my notebook with the vague idea that I’d try to write a book, and then I discovered there was a local romance author group in my area, and from there discovered RWA. Talking with other writers about writing really gave me the drive to get serious about it.
Jackie: As an author who’s both epublished and NY print published, can you tell us what you see as the advantages (and/or disadvantages) of both? Do you recommend starting in epublishing as a step on the way to a print career, or do you see it as a goal in its own right?
Evangeline: I actually sold to Berkley before selling to Samhain and Loose Id – it was when I was submitting HLC to agents that I decided to try to write the Ava books. I truly see e-publishing as a goal in its own right. In fact, I see them both as very worthy avenues for an author’s career. It all depends on the particular author and where they want their career to go, and what fits best for them. Some authors use e-pubs as a step to a print career, some use them as their end goal, and others, like myself, would like their career to include both.
Jackie: Our readers may or may not know this, but it just so happens that we share an agent, Kevan Lyon of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. I’d love to hear how you landed her as an agent and also a little about your sale of Her Ladyship’s Companion to Berkley.
Evangeline: Quite honestly, I’m still amazed that as a newbie, unpublished author, I was able to land her as an agent. I sent her the first 50 pages and a query for HLC, and she replied back with a request for a full. Six weeks later I got a request for some revisions. We talked on the phone about the book, about the agency, about her and how she works – pretty much the conversation gave me a good feel that we’d work very well together. I revised a couple chapters and sent them to her, to make sure I was on the right track. And that evening I got an offer for representation. It was March 17th – yes, it was a very good St. Patrick’s Day! I, of course, accepted her offer and went back to work to finish the revisions.
Once those were done, Kevan gave the book another read and then she sent it off to editors. And on May 15th, I accepted an offer from Berkley. I know I’ve been very lucky to have landed an agent with the first book I ever queried, and to have made a sale with that same book. That’s why when asked to sum up my path to publication with one word, I always say ‘lucky’.
Jackie: What’s the best thing about being a writer? And what’s the worst?
Evangeline: The best part is coming up with new book ideas. I love mulling over concepts, fleshing out characters, plotting out books. I was one of those kids who could play with my Barbies by myself all day and be happy as a clam, so I love to just think up new books. I also love having written those books I was excited to write. But actually writing them…not always the height of fun. Weird, I know. I love writing, but I hate writing the first draft. Sometimes it can be painful to get the words to go onto the page the way I want them to. But once the words are there, it’s back to being fun again and I can edit and tweak and mold the thing into the book I envision it to be.
So, if you didn’t want to read Evangeline’s book before, I’m betting you do now! Lucky for you, she’s generously agreed to give away a copy to a random commenter. You have until next Monday (when I want the blog back because it’s release day…whee!) to post your comment and be entered into the drawing.
Also, if you have any questions of your own for Evangeline, rumor has it she’ll be around to answer periodically.