Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Today's treat is a chat with New York Times Bestselling novelist Sabrina Jeffries! She's one of the most likeable people I know and from the moment I met her, it was clear we'd been separated at birth.

She's got a brand new book out and (knowing how she worries) I thought we'd invite her over and give her something to do while her book is climbing the charts.

Debra: First, because I think our peeps will love this story... You told me a story about moving into your new house a couple of years ago. I loved it. Could you tell it again?

I love gardenias, so I was delighted when I first moved into our new house to find that we had two gardenia bushes. There was only one problem—they were down the alley where no one, including me, could see them, not even from the street. I couldn’t figure out why anyone would plant such gorgeous bushes in an alley. Clearly, it was done for a reason, because there was also a hummingbird feeder there. Then I realized that all three sat directly outside a window. One particular window.

Let me back up here. One of the things that attracted us to the house was that it had so many handicapped accessible features, including a double shower. Since at the time, we were still having to bathe our autistic teen, we liked the accessibility of the shower. Granted, we didn’t need the features as badly as the previous owners, parents of an full-grown woman with CP who wasn’t mobile and had to be bathed in a sling, but it was still an advantage for us.
I’m sure you’ve figured out where I’m going with this. The window looking out over the alley was the bedroom window of the previous owner’s daughter. She couldn’t leave her bed, so her mother planted those bushes and placed that feeder in the alley for her to see whenever she looked out.

Every time I think of it I cry. And now, whenever I remember to go down that alley and pluck a few gardenias to put in the bowl in my office, I also think of how much that mother loved her daughter, and I cry again. So yes, those are very special bushes to me.

Debra: Congrats on the new book, LET SLEEPING ROGUES LIE. I just checked on Amazon and the book is #344 overall (Yay!) and # 1 in the Historical Regency category and # 3 in Romance Contemporary. I'm not sure how that works! But congrats! Tell us about the yummy hero of this book.

Anthony Dalton is a rakehell, but not a typical one, I hope. He’s sort of a less cynical, more conflicted version of Gavin Byrne from the Royal Brotherhood series. He was relatively content with his devil-may-care life until his applecart got upset when his brother died and he inherited not only an estate and a title, but an adorable niece. The problem is, his brother didn’t designate a guardian, so his aunt and uncle want custody. And they are really bad people. He knows this firsthand, having lived with them for a few years while he was a child. So he’s willing to jump through all sorts of hoops to get custody of his young niece, including ingratiating himself with Mrs. Harris. He figures the court won’t be on his side unless he can prove he’s the better option, and how better to do that than to show that he got his niece into the most sought after school in London? That’s how he ends up agreeing to teach rake lessons.

Debra: I love the concept of "rake lessons." The perfect gift for the reader who has everything. How did you come up with the idea for this book? (Readers can read a chapter on Amazon.) Click for Excerpt.

Believe it or not, the rake lessons were an editorial suggestion. Someone said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if the hero were a rake who offered lessons to the students at the school?” Instead of just blowing it off, I thought, “Actually, it WOULD be cool.”

But it turned out to be more complicated than that. I had to make sure Mrs. Harris didn’t look like an idiot for letting the cock in the henhouse, and I knew any hero worth his salt had better have a great reason for agreeing to such an outrageous suggestion. So that’s why I came up with the idea of the custody battle over his niece. That motivation ended up playing into his own character as a rakehell so well that it became an important theme in the novel—how to deal with the baggage from our childhood.

Then I had to figure out what kind of woman would get under the skin of a guy who had seen and done everything. That’s how Miss Scientist, er, Madeline, was born. I just loved playing with a heroine who saw life as one big science experiment.

Debra: You've done a couple of short stories for BelleBooks and the first one in A DAY IN MOSSY CREEK just had us all crying. In the second story in AT HOME IN MOSSY CREEK, you returned to familiar territory with a romance story. How hard is it to write short after writing long for so much of your career?

Actually, the experiences of writing those two were vastly different. The first one kind of poured out of me, so it wasn’t hard at all. I think it took me a few days. Plus, I got the plot first, which is the linchpin for me. The SECOND story…oh, my God. I worked and worked on it, for three weeks. Part of it was the stricter parameters y’all had set, but most of it was that I’d started with a character and nothing else. For a plot-driven person like me, that’s a recipe for trouble. The thing is, I CAN write short, but I don’t like to, except maybe in novellas. That’s long enough that I can feel comfortable. But trying to squeeze a romance into 30-odd pages is very hard.

Debra: What's your LEAST favorite thing about being a novelist?

The lack of structure in my life. As a person diagnosed with ADD, I need some structure. Without it, I sometimes have trouble carving out time to write (unlike all the other writers I know). The other demands of the business draw me away, especially in the early stages of a book, when the writing is so hard for me.

Debra: What's in your reading pile?

I’m presently reading The Bestseller by Olivia Goldsmith (fabulous book!) AND Joan Didion’s Slouching Toward Bethlehem. Yes, both of them. I’m too ADD to read one book at a time. J Actually, though, I picked up the second one free in a coffeehouse and found it so engrossing that I decided to read the whole thing. It’s very dated, but that in itself makes it fascinating. Aside from those two, I have a stack the size of Mount Everest, including books by several of my fellow goddesses from The Goddess Blogs, assorted other friends’ books, several new history books, Johanna Lindsey’s Angel, random titles I took from conferences because I wanted to try the authors (still haven’t), and several anthologies. I love anthologies because I can get a taste of an author without committing to a full novel. But not everyone writes them well. I try to keep that in mind and not judge too harshly.

Debra: And last, but most importantly, give us a tiny peek and insight into the next book we'll be seeing after LET SLEEPING ROGUES LIE.

Well, the absolute next is a Christmas anthology story that comes out in November. I think it turned out really well. After that comes the novel I just started writing, so I can’t say much, but it’s about Lucy Seton from Let Sleeping Rogues Lie and Rafael Montega, a Spanish magician (not the paranormal kind, but the illusionist, David Copperfield kind). I’m serious. Ever since I read Nora Roberts’ Honest Illusions, I’ve had a thing for magicians, and I finally decided to write one. The magic act doesn’t play a huge part—it’s more like flavoring. The more significant part is that the hero and the heroine were in Spain during the Peninsular Wars. The heroine’s father is British and her mother Spanish; the hero is the son of wealthy Spaniards who fell on hard times after they lost everything to looting British soldiers at the Battle of Corunna. That’s why Rafael became a performer—to survive at a young age. He prospers, and when the book opens, he has just moved next door to the school to turn the adjacent property into a pleasure garden that will rake in the big bucks. Needless to say Lucy and Mrs. Harris are a little perturbed at the idea of a Vauxhall-type operation next door to the girl’s school. Cousin Michael gets clandestinely involved, Lucy gets not-so-clandestinely involved, and as usual in my books, things turn out to be not quite what they seem.

Part of the story is influenced by my absolute adoration of the Sharpe series, which I watched for the first time last year. I loved the insight it gave me into the Peninsular Wars. Plus, I just love Spanish guys. So there you go.

And yes, right after that comes Charlotte and Michael’s book, for those following the series. So y’all can all stop writing me to ask if they’re ever getting a book!

Debra: Okay guys! Now's your chance to ask those probing questions your momma told you never to ask.


Debra Dixon said...

Sabrina-- We're so glad to have you here. Can't wait to read the book. It arrived with my Amazon order yesterday. :)

Sonja Foust said...

Let Sleeping Rogues Lie came from Amazon for me this week too! Can't wait to get to it!

Loved reading your interview, and it was so much fun to hear about the next ones in the series!

Sabrina said...

Hi, Sonja, and thanks for coming by (and for buying the book). Deb, thanks for having me (and for buying the book *G*). Today is bestseller list day, so I'm spending the day chewing my nails.

Actually, I'm not. My deadlines are so tight for those two last back-to-back books that I'm working hard today. I spent last night researching the Peninsular Wars. Again. I've got to stop doing that! I pretty much know everything I need to know for the book, and I just get sucked in to following interesting tangents that turn up in my searches. Ever heard of Lola Montez? No? That woman was a psycho. One day I will HAVE to put her in a book somehow.

Betina Krahn said...

Sabrina, welcome to the convertible! Your new book sounds yummy-- can't wait to get my hands on it!

My personal opinion is that men-- baring major mental health issues-- always come to a place in life where they wake up (I call it "hitting the wall") and look at their lives and say-- "what the hell am I doing?" That's the choice point where rakes, yuppie horn-dogs, and "players" turn into responsible, lovable men.

In our day and time, it's often in the early 40's. In earlier days, it was probably earlier. . . and the province of men who were affluent enough to have some choice in how they spent their lives.

Guys at that choice point make terrific heroes! And Anthony Dalton sounds like a prince among heroes.

And woo hoo for the Sharpe series! Isn't that fabulous? I bought it all on tape some years ago and now am trying to figure out if I'll have to buy it again on DVD so I can play it! Grrr. I hate technological paradigm shifts!!!

Oh, and hubba, hubba on the cover for Sleeping Rogues! Great stuff!

Betina Krahn said...

Ackkk! Who says "hubba hubba" anymore? I must be channeling my Great Aunt Fannie!

Helen Brenna said...

Hey, Sabrina! Thanks for coming to visit!

The hero in the book I'm starting right now is a modern day rake - playboy - and I've never written anything like him before. Agree with you, Betina, on most men going through that phase. I wonder how much of it's tied to their hormones? LOL

Sabrina, you mentioned you were plot driven. Do you write expansive outlines for your books?

And what Sharpe series are you guys talking about? Sharpe's Rifle with Sean Bean?

Sabrina said...

So glad to hear you say that, Betina, about the rakes! I do think some men reach a point. Some don't, but I just choose to write about the ones who do. *G* And actually, I don't do a lot of rakehells--I find them hard to motivate. I resist them for as long as I can until they just beg to be written, and then poof! One comes out. :-)

Sabrina said...

Helen, I write a synopsis that serves as an outline. It's pretty thorough--about 15 to 20 pages. But I plot intuitively. It's the character stuff that takes work for me.

Betina Krahn said...

Yeah, Sabrina. Make 'em beg for it!



Cindy Gerard said...

Hi Sabrina! Welcome and thanks for taking time to visit us. It was wonderful meeting you in Dallas last July at the Pocket party. Outside. In the heat. :o) Lord, it was hot, remember? But fun. I'm still the new kid on the block at Pocket but I'm thrilled to be part of the 'family'. Hope you hit all the lists with LET SLEEPING ROGUES LIE!!

Deb Marlowe said...

Mmm...Sharpe. Mmmmm...Anthony.

Now I'm wishing for a total "Me" Day. Curl up with LSRL, then watch hours of Sharpe. Sounds like the perfect day!

Congrats on a fabulous book, Sabrina!

Keri Ford said...

howdy sabrina! I love that story about your house and you should sooo tell it to your goddesses. Course you might have and the way my internets been treating it I missed it *ahem* different story.

I'm going to have to shoot over to amazon and pick up this book! I'm finishing up the swanela series now and am up to date on the school for heiresses! Can't wait for it to come in the mail. good luck with the lists today and with those deadlines!

Sabrina said...

Helen, the Sharpe series includes Sharpe's Rifles, but also has several other episodes with the dreamy Sean Bean. Hubba-hubba! (see, Betina, other people DO use hubba-hubba--but then, you and I are probably about the same age).

Hi, Cindy! It was great meeting you--I've been seeing your books everywhere! And I'm sure we'll cross paths again this year at the Pocket party. :-)

DebM and Keri, thanks for coming by! Always love to see other goddesses around the web.

Kay said...

Hi Sabrina. *waves from Mt oly*

Great to see you in the convertible. I hope the wind doesn't muss the toga. :-)