Hi, Courtney and welcome to Nite Lite! I read on your website that you stopped writing for awhile but started again by entering some online writing contests contests. Can you tell us a little bit about that? What motivated you to enter and start writing again? Did you find it difficult to get back into the groove of things?
By “a while” you mean… oh, let’s see. Thirteen years or so? I wanted to write books in high school and for the first year of college. I wasn’t very good at it, and more importantly, I took myself way too seriously. I stopped taking myself seriously, changed my major, stopped messing around, got an advanced degree in theoretical chemistry and then went to law school.
I started writing again because I was procrastinating doing other things I needed to do. And because I was procrastinating, I didn’t find it difficult at all. :)
But I should specify that I never stopped writing: I kept writing during all those years, just not novels. For instance, I wrote letters–there are a handful of people who I had lengthy conversations with over the course of many years. I had a blog (not my current one) for years, too. Much of what I think of as my author voice was developed over those years.
You write historical fiction. Have you always been a history buff? Do you do a lot of research when writing your books?
You know I never even took a history class in college. (I got away with that because of AP credit.) What I know about history I learned in law school and then read about. Honestly, I’m just 100% dork. I like learning new things.
It depends on the scene! There are some scenes that are so easy, I write them at the very beginning. There are some that are really hard. There are some I have to write four times before I get it right.
Your first series, The Turners, is about three brothers with…unique names. Did the names come first and then the idea of the series or the other way around?
The idea for the Turners started off like this: I wanted to name a character Smite. The rest of the series came about because I was trying to figure out how to motivate that.
There are things I like about all of them. There are things about all of them that would drive me up the wall. Although I think if I knew them in real life, I would most likely end up friends with Smite. Ash is too sure of himself, and Mark is too sweet.
Ooh now let’s talk about your new series, The Brothers Sinister! I love that it sounds so mysterious and dangerous and I really can’t wait to read it. I just read The Governess Affair, which was fantastic. What can we expect from the rest of the series?
So, the Brothers Sinister! Indeed. It *does* sound mysterious and dangerous! But it’s really about a set of guys who are related to each other and who all happen to be left-handed (that’s where the sinister part comes in).
The Brothers Sinister series takes place about 20 years after the era in which you normally set your books. Can you tell us why you decided to change the time period?
There are some political, scientific, and social elements that have to be in place for the series to work. Some of those things are spoilers so I can’t mention them here, but I can say that the plot of Oliver’s book, THE HEIRESS EFFECT, is tangentially related to the Reform Act of 1867; and Sebastian Malheur, the hero of THE COUNTESS CONSPIRACY, is a famous scientist whose work connects with that of Charles Darwin. There isn’t a more scandalous scientist than Darwin in all of the nineteenth century, and Sebastian’s contribution to Darwin’s body of work is even more scandalous.
You say that as if ruination and strength were opposites. But I actually think they’re closely tied together. Before you’re ruined, you have too much to lose to take risks. And that tells you why I tend to write heroines who are ruined: I like writing women who have to take risks, and who have a good reason not to buy into society’s rules.
I should add that with the exception of Serena in THE GOVERNESS AFFAIR, the heroines of the Brothers Sinister series are not ruined in the conventional way, and alas, I cannot say any more than that. In fact, two of them are virgins! And the other is a widow! This is unusual for me–I’ve written more non-virgin heroines than virgins, and while I’ve written a character who pretended to be a widow, I’ve never actually written a widow.
What are you currently working on/what’s next for you?
The next two things that I think will be out are:
First, a short story in THREE WEDDINGS AND A MURDER, called “The Lady Always Wins”–it’s not connected to anything. And second, a novella that I haven’t titled which may or may not end up being connected to a very minor character in THE DUCHESS WAR, but I don’t know yet.
I say this because I’m not sure which will be out first: that story, or THE DUCHESS WAR. I’m not trying to be cagey; just annoyed and frustrated that some things don’t write themselves.
But I’m going to be working on the Brothers Sinister for some time now.
After that, (but by this point, we’re well into 2013) there’s going to be a stand-alone novel set in 1836 through 1837 (and yes, that time period is exact!) about a girl who is trying to pull off an extremely dangerous heist, and I’m not going to say what that is because it’s a spoiler (am I saying that a lot? I’m saying that a lot), and a guy who was once the assistant to the Greek ambassador (before he was sacked), who discovers what she’s up to and decides to stop her.
I’m not sure what’s going to come after that. I have a bunch of ideas, but they’re still in the percolating phase.
I am also working on a few side projects. One of them is an urban fantasy with vampires set in an emergency room. Then there’s a 1910 historical romance that is closer to erotic than not. There’s a YA in which talking rabbits turn terrorist.
I need more time in the day.
What’s the strangest food you’ve ever eaten?
I’ve eaten kangaroo. I’ve had carbonated grapes. I once had a corn soup made with liquid nitrogen. (In fact, I’ve eaten quite a few things made with liquid nitrogen, now that I think about it.) But the strangest thing I’ve ever eaten has to be Graham Elliot’s foiellipop, described here:http://foododdity.com/pop-rocks-dusted-foie-gras-lollipops/
Historical, paranormal or contemporary romance?
Yes, please, to all of the above.
Highly unlikely. I can’t use knives, bombs, guns, or grenades. And I run very slowly. But on the plus side, if I did somehow manage to survive, I could make myself very useful, since I (a) garden and (b) have enough backpacking experience to cook under weird conditions and (c) have spent lots and lots of time reading about Victorian farming techniques.
If you could go back in time (without messing with the space time continuum) and tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?
Buy stock in Google. ;)
Cake or pie and what kind?
I love desserts but most end up far too sweet and rich for my tastes. I will still eat them, but I hate myself when I do. So I’ve been working on a recipe for a light, airy carrot cake–the usual suspects you get from the bakery are dense, sweet, and rich.
I’m still playing with the proportions of carrot to flour and the right proportion of spices, but the current incarnation looks like this:
Author’s warning: making this requires you to have a stupid amount of crap that no reasonable person should keep around the house.
3/4 c canola oil
Enough carrots to make about 3/4 cup when grated with a microplaner.
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
5 large eggs, separated,
1/4 c sugar
Nuts of some kind (walnuts or pecans work well)–appx one small handful’s worth.
Spices to taste: cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger
Microplane carrots until you have 3/4 of a cup. Yes, you need to microplane it and not just use a grater–the regular grater is too coarse and it’ll ruin the texture. Put microplaned carrot into dehydrator on low heat for appx. 2 hours. You want to dry it out, but not completely–it should be very mildly damp.
Chop nuts very finely, until there is no piece larger than a grain of wheat. Mix dehydrated carrot (now about 1/2 cup worth) with flour; add in nuts and mix well. Add spices to the mix. (My recipe notes say: “tiny pinch of cloves, a few gratings of nutmeg, bit of allspice, don’t be shy with the cinnamon,” for whatever that’s worth.)
Juice the other half of the carrot. Beat yolks with sugar until mixture is pale and no longer grainy. Add oil and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the carrot juice; beat until combined.
Mix yolk mixture into flour mixture.
Now grab your egg whites. Throw in a little bit of salt. (a pinch, or 1/4th of a teaspoon, or, five or six good turns of the salt grinder). (If you want to ruin a good thing, you can add another 1/4 cup of sugar here, but that’s overkill).
Fold egg whites into the rest of the stuff.
Put in oiled pan–an 8×8 square pan is about the right size. If you want, drop a piece of parchment paper on the bottom and it’ll come out pretty clean. Whack it against the counter to evenly distribute the batter. Bake at 350 until it’s done, which I’m guessing is about 40-50 minutes, but don’t quote me on that, and don’t blame me if it burns.
Note that this is NOT frosting. Frosting is evil. I hate frosting. This is best topped with a quenelle of creme fraiche ice cream:
1 cup creme fraiche.
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup sugar
little bit of yuzu juice (but okay, you can use lemon or lime juice)
Mix together. Run through an ice cream maker.
Serve right away because (a) it’s awesome warm and (b) it will fall a little after a few hours.
I think next time I make this I’m going to add a pinch of ancho chile powder to the spice mix, because hey, carrot cake deserves a kick.
Insurgent by Veronica Roth.
Favorite guilty pleasure movie?
Oh, this is an embarrassing question. I wish I could explain, but I have real cognitive difficulty recognizing people in movies, and that makes it hard to understand the story since I can’t figure out which characters are which. Long story short, I don’t enjoy watching movies all that much. It’s too much work for me to keep track of what’s going on and who is who. I can never relax.
And finally, are you touring anytime soon? (cause we like to stalk our favorite authors and our readers do, too)
Not really–but I will be in Southern California this July, at the RWA National conference, where I’ll have books on sale.
Thanks so much for hanging out today, Courtney! I really look forward to reading the rest of the Sinister Brothers series later this summer!
Thanks so much for having me–and seriously, thanks for the great questions!