Jen: Today we welcome Julie LeMense to Romancing the Book. Julie, will you share a short bio with us?
Julie: I write under my maiden name so that my three teenage sons have a degree of separation from their romance writing mom. Unfortunately, my oldest son’s fraternity discovered this and, during the pledge process, he was forced to read the “smexy” parts of Wager in front of the entire fraternity. I live in Pennsylvania in a haunted family home. I didn’t believe in ghosts…until I moved in. I graduated with an English Literature degree from Georgetown University, but historical romance has always been my favorite genre. Oddly enough, my favorite writer is William Faulkner, who could never be described as a romantic. I can be found online at www.julielemense.com, on Facebook, and on twitter @julielemense.
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Julie: Once Upon A Scandal is the sequel to my debut novel, Once Upon A Wager, and it’s a book I really didn’t expect to write. I was already several chapters into what I’d planned next, a historical romance set in New York during the Gilded Age, but readers of Wager started asking for Jane’s story, for Benjamin’s story, or preferably, a story that brought them together. It was such a thrill to have people connect with those characters that I had to write Scandal. And I’m so glad I did. It was a ton of fun!
Jen: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Julie: Most definitely a pantser! It can be so fascinating to see how characters develop. They really do take on their own personality, and they pull you in the direction they want to go. Not that it’s the most efficient way to write… A lot of verbage ends up in that little trash can at the bottom of my laptop.
Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Julie: One of my favorite things about the Regency era is the history of the period. From the drama of the Napoleonic Wars, to the very real societal and social struggles of the age, I find all of it fascinating, so I try to authentically ground my stories. Most of the secondary characters in my books actually lived during the era, and their homes are real. For example, Arbury Hall, the home of Alec Carstairs in Wager, still exists today. One of my great thrills was having Lord Daventry, the current resident, request a copy of the book for his library there.
Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest? Most rewarding?
Julie: It’s a challenge when you spend eight hours writing, and you end up with fewer words than you started with. I continuously self-edit, and I can’t move on with the story until I like what I already have. As for the easiest thing, I think it’s writing the very end. By that time, you’re so in the heads of your characters you know exactly how they’d act. And as far as the most rewarding, far and away it has been the readers who took a chance on my book, and then took the time to reach out to me with their thoughts. Even when they didn’t like Wager, I learned something, and tried to use it to improve my writing.
Jen; If this book was made into a movie, who do you see playing the main characters?
Julie: Wouldn’t that be fun! I could see Anne Hathaway as Jane, because even though Jane is starchy, she’s also quite vulnerable. She’s been a pattern card of propriety all her life, expecting it will see her through any situation, until quite suddenly, it does not. And Anne Hathaway communicates vulnerability so well. After balling into my handkerchief throughout her performance in Les Miserables, I said to my husband, “And the Oscar goes to…”
As for Benjamin, he’s absurdly handsome, the man everyone wants to be (with the exception of Benjamin himself.) He has complex motivations for his behavior, which makes me think of Jude Law in Cold Mountain. But my all-time favorite romantic lead is Carey Elwes from The Princess Bride. Really, does it get any better than The Princess Bride?
Jen: Who are some of your favorite authors? What are you reading now?
Julie: Scandal was the first book I’ve written on a deadline, and I was so busy writing, I didn’t have the chance to read much of anything. The minute it was done, I dove into the latest Julie Anne Long novel. I adore her books. I also love Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran, and Courtney Milan; they write such rich and evocative stories. And I’ve been exploring some self-published authors. I’ve been really impressed by the quality out there. The Duke’s Holiday by Maggie Fenton, was laugh out loud funny. I’m so glad it has found a wide audience. It is not to be missed.
Jen: What’s the most interesting comment you’ve received about your books?
Julie: I can tell you my favorite. It came from a reviewer on Amazon, an English teacher who said my writing was reminiscent of Jane Austen’s, without being a cheapened imitation of it. That made me cry, though it would have been far more appropriate to swoon theatrically, like Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Julie: I’d like to return to my Gilded Age story, but I’m a lifelong Regency romance fan, so I might linger in the era for a while. I’d also like to get know Scandal’s Lord Winchester better. I have a feeling he has a lot to say.