Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Jo Beverley Interview and A Scandalous Countess

Jo Beverley
Joanna here, and an interview with the illustrious Jo Beverley, bestselling author of over 30 Historical Romances, one of 12 members of the RWA Hall of fame, and just a really cool writer.

Her latest book,  A Scandalous Countess, came out yesterday and she's agreed to talk about it a little, down there at the bottom.

Me:  A Historical Romance novelist needs to be a historian, a storyteller, and a technically skilled writer. Tell us a little about how you balance these three parts of your writing.

Jo Beverley:  What an interesting question! The historian side can be the most  dangerous. It can suck me into research for the sake of research (and what's wrong with that? it protests) and used to tempt me to structure a book around some neat knowledge instead of the characters and the love story. I think I've won that battle, at least. I don't see a distinction between technical skill and storytelling, because I believe that anything that enhances the story, even incomplete sentences, dangling participles et al, is excellent technique for storytelling.

Me:  Did you come across any new and exciting historical tidbits while you were researching *A Scandalous Countess*?

Jo Beverley:  That fish could block London's water system!

I simply wanted to show Georgia being practical in her position as a patroness of a charitable home, but doing what? The water supply seemed a nicely down-to-earth one, but I had to research it. (And wasn't that fun, whispers the research demon.) Most prosperous homes had water supplied a few times a week, but it came from the minor rivers, so sometimes a fish or eel blocked the pipe. Of course people didn't drink water unless they could afford to have it come by barrel from a pure source, like the chalk Downs.

In the 18th century they drank small beer and later they drank tea. The secret? Both involved boiling the water. I remember my grandmother insisting that the steam must come out of all the vents on the kettle for at least a minute before pouring the water into the pot. I just put it down to an obsession with the water being hot enough, but now I think perhaps it was old wisdom of how to be sure the water was safe.

Me:  Your next book, A Scandalous Countess, is set in 1765.  Why do you choose to write in the Georgian period?

I fell in love with the Georgian period through Heyer's Georgians. Above all, it's the Georgian men I love. Strong men in plain dark clothing make me yawn, and I wrinkle my nose at stubble, but put them, well polished, in silken finery and I melt. Put them in high heels and they're even yummier, especially when they're carrying a sword and will kill with it if they have to.

It's also an exciting period all around. It's the period of the Enlightenment, when any idea was to be analyzed, questioned, and if necessary discarded for a better way, and I'm talking about the upper classes here, who led the explorations. The Georgian aristocracy could be wild, greedy and corrupt, but in general they weren't lazy. Intellectual curiosity was fertile ground for the age of revolutions -- the agricultural and industrial as well as the political.

What do you like least about this era?  What are the hardest realities you find yourself 'writing around'?

You ask devilish questions! It was harsh for the weak and vulnerable, though to be fair many of the wealthier people worked hard to help. Politics was dirty and at times chaotic, which can be great for plots, and in fact, though the surface is smoother now, has much changed? Women lacked many rights and were vulnerable to abuse.

The area I write around is medical. That's not the fault of the Georgian age and things don't improve much for the next century or so, but my characters in all periods have good teeth and good health. If they get wounded I try to make it plausible that they can recover without lingering effect.

The greatest danger from lesser wounds was infection and sewing a wound would have horrified a doctor of the time as it hid any infection. The wound was, if necessary, held open until safe. That's from the first edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, 1768, which is available as a replica. I keep promising myself I'll read it cover to cover. It's fascinating.

Me:  In A Scandalous Countess, your heroine has unfairly lost her reputation in 'Society'.  Why does this matter?  How important was this reputation thing, really?

In my opinion many historical romances overplay the lost reputation card by using it to force marriages over a kiss, for example, but a real scandal definitely left a stain, on men as well as women. There would be places where they weren't welcome and many people who would avoid them. George III was quite sticky about who was welcome at court, and access to court was seen as crucial in the beau monde. Some people wouldn't care about that, but others would be devastated, which is true today. Some in that situation chose exile.

Georgia has been accustomed to a very high and very comfortable position. She's not willing to contemplate exile and is focused on proving her innocence and getting her life back.

 If you were to join your fictive world; if you could become one of your characters -- even a minor character -- who would you be?

Temporarily or permanently? I think I'd be Elf Malloren for a while -- Lady Elfled Malloren as was, now Lady Walgrave, heroine of Something Wicked. She's fun, active, and would take me into the heart of the Malloren family as well as all over fashionable society.

Me: Tell us about your latest novel, A Scandalous Countess, that hit the stands yesterday.

As I indicated above, it's about a young, beautiful countess who wakes up to find her delightful life in ruins. Her husband has been killed in a duel and rumor whispers that it was fought over her. In addition to the scandal, because she hasn't borne an heir, she's lost her homes and her husband's wealth.

Her powerful family whisk her back to the family home for a year of demure mourning, but the scandal won't die, so in due course she determines to return to London, establish her innocence and get her life back -- ie find another rich, highly titled man to marry.

But then there's Lord Dracy, a scarred ex-naval officer. Georgia's father has asked her to help Dracy adjust to society, and she agrees out of kindness, but he's not the "beached tar" she expects. Instantly she likes him and soon she's attracted to him. There's no future in that, however, because he lacks a high title, money, and perhaps worse actually enjoys living in the country!

When it becomes clear that someone won't let the scandal die Dracy is her strongest ally. But how can they have a truly happy ending?

Thanks for much for dropping by the blog, Jo.  A Scandalous Countess, takes place in the Malloren Fictive World.  I'm looking forward to reading it.
Buy A Scandalous Countess at Amazon, B&N, kindle, nook, or Powells, and wherever fine books are sold.

Jo Beverley is GIVING AWAY a hot-off-the-presses copy of A Scandalous Countess to one lucky reader in the comments field.  Come tell us what you think of Scandal in the world of Georgian England.


  1. Just downloaded 'A Scandalous Countess.' Always so thrilled to get another great Jo Beverley romance. Cheers!

  2. Robin Greene11:56 AM

    I bought my copy yesterday at B&N and am reading it now. It's great so far.

  3. Fabulous story so far. Thoroughly enjoying it. And the pace and storytelling style is different in this book than others I'm used to from Jo, so I'm highly intrigued how it will go.

  4. Hello to two of my favorite Jo's!

    I love you both and have every book you have ever written :)

    I understand your love of Georgian era and agree with your assessment of 'real scandal' VS. 'not-so real'.

    Just recently I re-watched one of my all time favorite movies "Barry Lyndon" with Ryan O'Neal in which your point in regards to how much can a REAL scandal affect one family. If you haven't seen it, please do. You'll love the costumes, drama and the love story. I believe that it was one of the best movies Ryan O'Neal ever did.

    I am looking forward to reading (win or no win) 'A Scandalous Countess' and it will be joining my Keeper shelf for certain :)


    BTW: If you're doing a book tour Ms. Jo Bev, we would love to have you over ANY TIME on b2b.

    Jo B. as usual you take my breath away even with the interviews you do!


  5. April Larabee12:21 PM

    I haven't read many books set in Georgian England, but it sounds like a lot of fun! I'd love to receive a "hot off the presses" copy of "A Scandalous Countess".

  6. Thanks for the comments, everyone.

    Keira, I'm intrigued that you find the style a little different. It may be because I have a young heroine, and one who's quite frivolous in the beginning. In Unlikely Countess Prudence was older and toughened by life. The letters may affect things, too. I found letters brought out the character's voice.

    Anyone else have an opinion on this?


  7. Great interview! Joanna has the toughest questions, doesn't she?

  8. Deborah Anderson comments:

    I just "found" Jo recently via An Unlikely Countess--which I loved--and I am soooo looking forward to A Scandalous Countess. Just as I can't wait for your next one Joanna. You're both very talented ladies.

  9. I love Georgian era books. There's something about a manly man wearing wigs and makeup and red heels that just floats my boat! :D

    Is there any Rothgar in this book? (I have a thing for him).

    Congratulations on the new release Jo. I'm looking forward to reading it. Thx for hosting Joanna.

    hankts AT internode DOT on DOT net

  10. enjoyed the interview & interesting tidbits :) the book sounds interesting & I think the Georgian period is such a nice change from so many regencies (though I do enjoy regencies plenty). quite glad I don't live in a period where one scandal could ruin you completely even if I don't do anything scandalous myself. I tend to be somewhat oblivious of the "rumor mill" so would prob end up associating with someone who is suddenly on the outs & end up there myself because of it :)

  11. I'm a HUGE fan of Jo Beverley's books - the Mallorens being my all-time favorites. Her storytelling contains a certain sweet elegance. There isn't a single Jo Beverley book which I haven't enjoyed and that is a rare thing!

  12. Grace Burrowes9:06 PM

    It ought to be illegal for Jo and Jo to put their heads together like this--great questions, great answers. I've already ordered the book, which I will devour in about half a day (while the dust bunnies, alas, proliferate), but I'm going to ask: What's the next book for you, Jo Beverly, and WHEN IS IT COMING OUT???

  13. Wow. Oh wow! Two of my favorite writers in the same spot (excuse me as I indulge in a fangirl moment)! Both of you are such masters of characterization...your people *stay* with me long after the book is reshelved. Your nuances, the interplay of nonvebals, just so much fabulous subtext. Ahhh. Ms. Beverly, in your books the sexual tension is so taut, so rewarding, I never miss the more revealing encounters offered by other talented writers. Ms. Bourne, your prose makes me ache. So good. So damn good, both of you. :)

  14. Anonymous12:33 AM

    Hi Joe and Joanne ! for me scandal means everything that is not appropriate and out of ordinary could be considered scandal in the world of georgian england. For example a daughter of a duke wants to become a writer or actress could be considered very scandalous during that era. Thx:),

  15. Jo Beverly's description of Georgian men's dress is exactly why I'm NOT attracted to that time period like I am the Regency period. But after hearing more about the story line of The Scandalous Countess I'm intrigued and want to find out how the dilemma is resolved!

  16. SOME FOLKS are having trouble getting their postings to 'stick'. I don't know why. It's just Blogger craziness.

    Send me your message at 'jobourne at gmail dot com' and I will post it.

    I am so sorry for my technology.

  17. Kate Pearce writes:

    Love the Georgian period too! And love everything both the Jo B's write :)

  18. Nancy Mayer writes:

    I agree with Jo Beverley that there is something about the man dressed in silk, satin, shoes and sword that is lost when their clothes became more sober. On the other hand, women's clothes of the Regency were sane and reasonable as opposed to the hoops and cages iof the Georgian and Victorian eras.

    Jo Beverley's books are always great, I think the Georgian women had more freedom of action than they did later. I also agree that one wants to have a real scandal before someone is ruined .

  19. Hi. everyone. Today was a travelling day -- coming home to Devon from Spain -- so I've been off line.

    Kaetrin, yes there is a little Rothgar in A Scandalous Countess, but only a little. We see a couple of other Mallorens as well.

    Grace, I'm pretty well a one-book-a-year writer at the moment. This moving countries and buying houses takes a lot of energy. I know, I'm a wimp, but that's the way it's working out. I'm hoping to up the pace a bit now we're settled.

    We're hunting around for a title for countess #3 at the moment. It'll be out next February.

    Thanks for all the lovely words about my work. And I agree, the other JoB is a fabulous writer, isn't she? I got to present her with a RITA, which was a lovely moment.


  20. Wonderful interview. I was led to your books by way of Joanna's list of hundred favorite romance novels (which seems, alas, to have mysteriously disappeared from the site). It was lovely to have so many unread novels waiting for me, but I was soon in the position of having to wait a year for one to appear -- I don't see how anyone could write books as good as yours more quickly. I reread my favorites while I'm waiting.

    Please take me out of the running for a copy of A Scandalous Countess. I already have the e-book and was fortunate enough to win a copy of Devilish over at Word Wenches.

  21. Oooh, this does sound like fun! Have just gone to the library in search of more Jo Beverley.

  22. Just came over to wish everyone a happy Valentine's Day. We'll be picking the winner soon.


  23. Announcing the winner! All the names were tossed into a hat and the lucky one pulled out is Carole St-Laurent!

    Congratulations, Carole. I'll be in touch by e-mail.

    Best wishes,