Madeline Hunter is two- time RITA winner and seven-time finalist, and has twenty-five nationally bestselling historical romances in print. A member of RWA’s Honor Roll, her books have been on the bestseller lists of the NYTimes, USAToday, and Publishers Weekly. Over six million copies of her books are in print and her novels have also been translated into thirteen languages. She has a Ph.D. in art history which until recently she taught at the university level. Madeline’s last romance, The Accidental Duchess, was published in June, 2014.
Jen: Will you tell us a little about your newest release?
Madeline: Let’s have the blurb for The Accidental Duchess tell the story…
When Lady Lydia Thornton is blackmailed over the shocking contents of a manuscript she once wrote, she must go to the most desperate of measures to raise the money to buy back the ill-considered prose: agreeing to an old wager posed by the arrogant, dangerous Duke of Penthurst. At least Penthurst is a man she wouldn’t mind fleecing—and she’s confident she’ll win.
Penthurst long ago concluded Lydia was a woman in search of ruinous adventure, but even he is surprised when she arrives at his house ready to bet her innocence against his ten thousand pounds—a wager he only proposed to warn her off gambling.
When she loses to a simple draw of the cards, Lydia is shocked. Now, her problems are twofold: a blackmailer determined to see her pay and a duke determined to tame her rebellious ways. One misstep and Lydia could find herself ruined—or bound to the seductive man who would make her his duchess.
Jen: How do you find time to write while working outside the home?
Madeline: When I had a day job (I stopped having one about a year ago) I would write in the evenings, mostly, and sometimes on the weekends. It required pretty strict compartmentalization, and there could be no waiting for inspiration! When I sat down I usually knew what would happen in the scenes I would be writing—I had plotted it out in my head while cooking, or doing other things.
Jen: Most of your books are part of a series. Do you plan a series before you start to write or does it just happen?
Madeline: Only recently have I planned my series. Only the last two were developed that way. Prior to that my series evolved as I wrote. Characters would show up in a book and I would decide they needed their own books, so I would write them. As a result, my earlier series are more loosely connected than a typical series might be. Even now, I do not plot out the entire series at the beginning. I identify the main characters and the world, but not the story each book will have. In each series there is usually a wild card—a book where I do not know who one of the main characters will be until the series is well underway. The Accidental Duchess was like that. I had not planned on a book for Penthurst, because Penthurst did not exist until I wrote the first book.
Jen: You write over a variety of time periods. Do you have a favorite? Why?
Madeline: I have written in the 14th century and the late 18th/early 19th period. I don’t really have a favorite. When I left the middle ages, I was ready to try something different. I suspected, however, that the market would evolve in a way that meant I probably would not be able to go back. That makes me nostalgic sometimes, but it is not a matter of preferring one period to the other. What I learned as my career progressed is that the stories I tell are human stories, and most of them could be set pretty much in any period. The human heart did not change much over time.
Jen: How do you research the various time periods to make your books more authentic?
Madeline: Prior to beginning a series, I do a lot of research. I have an extensive library, and also access to an academic library where I can dig deeply. Much of that research does not end up on the page, and is not a matter of lists of food people ate, or fabrics clothing used. It is more about the social, political and economic realities that would fill the world in which my characters act and live. The rest—those lists and colorful details—are like dessert when it comes to research for me, and I often dip into researching such things even as I write. I also try to find historical maps on the web, so I have a sense of the region’s terrain, and I often research houses and sketch out the house and garden where a lot of action will happen.
Jen: How do you name your characters?
Madeline: I have learned to keep a file of potential names. I just brainstorm possibilities until a name sounds right. It has to sound right, or it bothers me while I write until I change it to sounding right! To build that file I will often go on the web and search for names in a particular English county. Believe it or not, you can find lists like that— All the surnames in Kent in the 19th century, etc.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Madeline: I am beginning a new series. It will be a trilogy,and the core characters will be three brothers, all sons of a duke, one a bastard brother of the others. The bastard’s story will come first. The female leads have not been chosen yet, except for book one. I wanted to allow that to be organic again, instead of planned in advance.