Thanks for joining me today on Night Owl Romance.
Tammie King of NOR: To get us started can you please start by telling us a little about what you are working on or have coming out?
Judith James : After finishing Broken Wing I started work on Highland Rebel, a 17th century adventure romance that tells the story of two proud and lonely people whose struggle for acceptance and survival draws them together in a partnership based on mutual interest that will transform them both. In so doing it transports the reader from the Scottish Highlands to the coffeehouses and backstreets of seventeenth century London as it chronicles the beginning of the Jacobite rebellions and the brief reign of England's last Catholic king. Jamie Sinclair is a cynic, pragmatist, and spy who's served three Stuart kings and switches happily from Catholic to Protestant, depending on what best serves his interests. When he encounters Cat Drummond on the battlefield, the serious-minded idealistic daughter of a Highland chieftain turns his life and his well laid plans upside down. Disguised as beggars or glittering amongst the courtiers at Whitehall Palace, Catherine and Jamie join forces in an age where treachery and adultery are the fashion, and cynicism, cruelty, and barbed wit are the qualities most admired, but in a world where family, creed, and princes can't be trusted, and faith fuels intolerance, hatred, and war, they soon find themselves on opposite sides of a growing conflict that will make them question everything they've come to believe, and test the bounds of friendship, loyalty, and love. Highland Rebel is a September release from Sourcebooks
Tammie King of NOR: Could you please tell us a little about yourself?
Judith James : I've worked as a trail guide, a legal secretary, a horse trainer and a clinical psychologist. I'm always up for an adventure and love to travel. I've lived in the Arctic and on both coasts. I love star gazing, never miss the Perseids, and think everyone should go to the arctic to see the aurora borealis at least once if the can. I love music though I've been cursed with far more appreciation than talent. I'm a history buff, and my favourite movies tend to be historicals and action adventures. I've always been a voracious reader and I decided to try my hand at writing about four years ago. Broken Wing is my first novel. Three things I love in a historical romance are a vivid setting that puts me in another world and time, complex characters with real issues to overcome, and hero centric novels (I'm not quite sure why). One of the many things I love about writing is that it allows me to give my characters the happy ending that can be so hard to come by in real life. (It's also very nice to be able to work at home, on the beach, or in an outdoor caf‚ :)
Tammie King of NOR: Who or what influenced you when you wrote this book? Did you have a CD, Songs, environment, etc?
Judith James : When I was working as a counselor I was often struck by the ability of the human spirit to survive and flourish under even the harshest circumstances, and this was what I hoped to explore, acknowledge, and celebrate, in BROKEN WING. I was convinced this could be done as a love story after reading earlier works by people like Katherine Sutcliffe, Laura Leone, and Laura Kinsale. The book is focused on Gabriel's journey from a man who knows nothing of friendship or affection to a man who is able to love and accept love. That was the framework. It's a hero's journey, though perhaps not one typical of most romances. The love story between Gabriel and Sarah is what allows the journey to happen and crucial to Gabriel's redemption, but though it's the primary focus, it's not the sole focus of the story; something I know has and will annoy some readers. I was listening to Bonnie Raitt when I came upon the title, and when I felt a little lost I would listen to Tom Waits (admittedly an acquired taste). For me his voice and songs have a raw edged emotion and yearning that replenished the well. I've tried to give an honest portrayal of the problems and issues many who survive cruelty, abuse and warfare confront. It may be too dark and edgy for some readers and it may not appeal to those looking for a lighter read. Those who like raw-edged emotion and intense romance spiced with high adventure, exotic locales, and an extra dollop of history, will I hope, be in for a treat.
Tammie King of NOR: Can you please give us a sneak peek into the book?
Judith James : This is a sneak peek from the beginning of broken Wing
Gabriel started toward the door, but Sarah moved to block his path. "A moment more of your time, monsieur, s'il vous plait. Our business is not yet concluded. Lord Huntington and I are brother and sister, not husband and wife. I assure you we have no improper designs upon your person either singly or together, as you are no doubt well aware. It is a simple matter, really. Jamie has made it clear to us that he considers you his dearest friend, and you have acted as his protector. We are naturally very grateful. He has also made it clear that he will not leave this place without you."
That surprised him. She noted it in the sudden clenching of his hands and a slight flush to his cheeks. She really must stop staring at the man! It was unforgivably rude. "We could force the issue of course," she continued, "but I am certain you can understand why we are loath to do so." She moved closer to him, her voice becoming husky, soft and pleading, "Surely, monsieur, as someone who's taken Jamie's interests to heart, someone who has sheltered and protected him, you would consider coming with us, at least to help him through this transition."
Gabriel's breath stilled in his chest. Miraculously, he was being offered another chance, and despite his best efforts to strangle it, hope was born again. He knew he shouldn't trust it. Vile temptress, she betrayed him every time, leaving him weak and wounded in ways too cruel to endure without the familiar palliatives of brandy and blood. He also knew, deep in his soul, if refused her now the offer would not come again.
He met her gaze directly, his eyes intense, uncertain, and in that moment Sarah saw past kohl, artifice, and carefully constructed defences, to a heartbreaking vulnerability. Careful not to show it, she struggled to give him what he needed, something he could trust.
"We would pay you of course," she said brightly.
His eyes sparked with sudden interest and leaning in to her he whispered, "And what are my services worth to you, ma belle?"
Tammie King of NOR: What kind of research did you do for this book? Did you enjoy the research process?
Judith James : Oh my, there was a lot! Broken Wing covers a very busy time in history, and Gabriel becomes a professional gambler, mercenary, and privateer who travels to London, France, and North Africa. My clinical background helped me in dealing with Gabriel's history of having been abused and as a history buff, much of the period was familiar to me, but I had to research gambling, sailing, the Napoleonic wars, privateering, the North African white slave capitals, privateering, astronomy, and numerous other areas. I did have the opportunity to visit Paris and London. I also acquired several wonderful reference books, and am lucky to have a maritime museum and tall ship tours (and captains!) just a few blocks away. The good thing is I do enjoy research and will be able to use my materials for other books.
Tammie King of NOR: Do you outline your books or just start writing?
Judith James : I prefer to just start writing, but I find I wake up in the night with ideas, think of things while driving, hear dialogue while doing the dishes or taking my morning walk etc. These bits and pieces may come from anywhere in the story and as they do I place them in the order I think they belong. Sometimes they are so insistent they may become a chapter, at other times they might be just a note. In any case it results in a kind of organic outline that grows and shifts as the story does. Now that I am approaching editors with proposals rather than completed manuscripts the synopsis is of course, much more important, so I am getting used to using a synopsis as a mini outline.
Tammie King of NOR: Is there a genre of book you would like to write but haven't yet?
Judith James : Yes there is actually. I think about that a lot and have some story ideas tucked away in a file. One day I'd like to try my hand at a big gritty fantasy with a heartbreaking love story and a real world feel. I love historicals but sometimes feel constrained as a writer by all those pesky facts. Id love to write a big story with the feel and breadth of a historical but no constraints on time, place, culture or behaviour other than those of imagination and logic. I'd also like to try my hand at a thriller and I have 50,000 words of an urban ghost story locked away for a later date.
Tammie King of NOR: What would you like to tell your readers?
Judith James : A debut novel by an unknown author published by a small independent press can easily sink under the radar and is not always easy to find. I'd like to express my appreciation to all those readers who've gone to the trouble of searching out Broken Wing. It's readers and reviewers who voted for it in the RNTV and AAR polls and bloggers such as Kristie Jenner and many others who started a buzz that has brought it an audience it might not otherwise have had. It recently won the IPPY gold for romance for 2009 and the buzz has lead to further opportunities as well. I've noted some discussion recently as to how important bloggers and internet reviewers are in the success of a book. In my case I believe it's made all the difference. So a big thank you to all the readers, reviewers and bloggers, who have bought, borrowed, promoted or supported this book.
Tammie King of NOR: Can you please give us a sneak peek at any of your upcoming books?
Judith James : I'd be delighted. This is a sneak peek from one of Cat and Jamie's adventures in Highland Rebel
"Why are you dressed so elegantly while I look like one of those prancing fops we saw in Tunbridge Wells?" Catherine asked with displeasure, turning about in a circle, feathers, lace, and ribbons flapping in the breeze. "I swear this suit boasts more adornments than any dress I've ever worn."
"Because you are a prancing fop," Jamie explained patiently, "an untutored young pup, trying to make his mark as daring and original. As such, you must look like all the other fops. You must stay in character, my love. What does a young lad new to London want? What does he fear? How experienced is he? You have to ask yourself these questions. Anyone can don an outfit and play make-believe, but it takes study and practice to become. You must look like all the other rustics trying to impress."
"I should rather be a gallant young spark," she sniffed.
"Excellent! That's the spirit! So would all the other fops. You can go in costume if you like without practicing the rest. I can keep you safe, but they'll spot you quick enough for what you are, a lamb in wolf's clothing, a curiosity and diversion, and you'll soon become the center of attention, the one observed. But if you mark me well and do just as I show you, you'll disappear among them, an insignificant pup beneath anyone's notice, yet privy to their secrets, an invisible traveler in the world of men. It's up to you, Catherine. Would you rather be the watcher or the watched?
"The watcher," she said, springing to her feet and swaggering across the room. "There! You see? I can walk like a man."
"You walk like a country bumpkin."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Well, you do, love," he said with a smile. "That's how an apprentice boy would walk, not a young lordling. Now attend me, please, and try to walk like so."
"Is this really necessary, Sinclair?"
"Yes it is, my love. The walk is essential. All the courtiers do it. I would best describe it as an elegant swagger, a graceful strut. Observe if you will." He stood, head held high, one hand on his hip, on leg leading away from his body, with his right hand extended as if holding a mouchoir or cane, and then began to walk in a gliding, rolling stride, swinging his leg out and back round in a circular motion, exposing the inside of his thigh with each step. The sauntering swagger and fluttering handkerchief reminded her of the first moment she'd seen him on the banks of the River Clyde, and she smiled to think what a strange thing was fate.
He stopped in front of her. "Now you try."
"You can't be serious!"
"But I am, my dear. You must practice and perfect it if you hope to pass. If you lurch about like a Highland laddie, you'll be seen as a rustic boor no matter how fine your clothes. A courtier will appear a courtier even dressed in rags, so long as he has the walk and can do like so." He waved the handkerchief in an affected manner, bringing it to his nose. "I should have thought you'd have learned as much at the French court."
"I observed it and thought it affected and ridiculous. I never strove to emulate it."
"Of course not! You were a young lady, but now you're a gallant young spark."
"Is that all there is to it?"
"Well, it would help to affect an air of tremendous ennui," he said with an exaggerated sigh, fluttering the handkerchief again. "You are to be my cousin after all, a step above the average fop."
"Ah, is that what you are?"
He blinked, taken aback, then burst into laughter. "Why no, my dear! I am a practiced rake and libertine. You've a sharp tongue on you, Cat Drummond, and a sharper wit. I predict young Reginald Sinclair will be a great success."
"I detest the name Reginald."
"Very well, I christen thee William. Now watch again."
Catherine burst out laughing. "You look like a peacock!"
"Precisely!" he said, nodding solemnly, "and so must you."
They continued like that for the next hour, laughing and playing like children. Catherine couldn't remember ever having such fun, but there was nothing childish about the thrill that ran through her whenever he smiled, or the way her skin pricked and her heart hammered whenever she felt his touch. Why must he be so charming? She found herself making deliberate mistakes, hoping he'd correct her with a hand to shoulder, elbow, or wrist, but bit by bit her disguise became more natural and her manner more assured. She was somewhat annoyed he didn't seem to notice.
"Sinclair, why are you standing there with your head cocked to one side? Am I still doing it wrong?"
"Good heavens no, my love! You're a remarkably quick study. You nailed the thing a half hour ago. I was merely admiring your splendid arse!"
She blushed and made a face at him. "Well, pray don't when we're out in company, else no one will take me for a boy."
He choked on his drink and put it down, sputtering and laughing. "Good Christ, my love, but you're a God-awful innocent!"
"What do you mean? Why do you say that?"
"Never mind, it's not important." He reached for a handsomely plumed wide-brimmed hat and handed another to her. "Come along, little cous, the night has yet to begin, and London and adventure await."
Tammie King of NOR: What is the best and worst advice you have ever received?
Judith James : The best advice I received was from Julianne Maclean who told me to begin as I meant to continue, write the book of my heart and listen to my instincts. It made all the difference with Broken Wing. The worst advice was from those helpful statisticians who like to tell you the odds of having you query read, then getting a request for a partial or a full, getting an agent, and then actually getting published. After that they will gleefully tell you how pitiful your earnings are likely to be. You have to tune that out early on or you'll never get anywhere.
Tammie King of NOR: Please tell us what you have planned next?
Judith James : I found a great deal to love about the Restoration period, and several wonderful first hand sources, including the diaries of Grammont, Pepys and Evelyn. There was so much going on with politics, religion, philosophy, and thought. The court was incredibly hedonistic, woman had far more liberty than they would for centuries after, and it's so rich with history, personalities and potential. I'm actually amazed this period isn't visited more often. It will come as no surprise then, that my current WIP, tentatively titled Shelter from the Storm, is another Restoration era historical, a dark love story inspired in part by the 17th century court poet Rochester, who was Emily Bronte's inspiration for the character Heathcliff. When that's completed I just may return to visit some old friends.
Thank you for this opportunity!