Jen: Today we welcome our next Historical Romance Retreat author, Meara Platt. Meara, will you share a short bio with us?
Meara: Meara Platt is happily married to her Russell Crowe look-alike husband, and they have two terrific children. She lives in one of the many great towns on Long Island, New York and loves it, except for the traffic. She has traveled the world, works as managing partner in a boutique law firm in NYC, occasionally lectures and finds time to write. Her favorite place in all the world is England’s Lake District, which may not come as a surprise since many of her stories are set in that idyllic landscape, including her Romance Writers of America Golden Heart award winning story.
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Meara: As in all the Farthingale stories, A Midsummer’s Kiss opens up with the unsuspecting, happy bachelor (ie – the hero) dramatically meeting the Farthingale heroine, and his life will never be calm and ordered again! Chipping Way becomes known as a bachelor trap, and it’s a running gag throughout the stories about the “Chipping Way curse”, because the hero will walk down the street a happy bachelor but he’ll walk out a doomed-to-be-married man. Of course, the Farthingale girls are beautiful, smart and passionate, so the heroes don’t mind being “cursed” with a wife they love.
In A Midsummer’s Kiss, the hero Graelem Dayne has thirty days to find a wife or he’ll lose a vast inheritance, but on his first day in London he’s run over by Laurel Farthingale’s horse and Graelem’s leg is broken. He’s truly stuck, unable to attend any balls or tea parties since he’s recovering in bed. So when a remorseful Laurel promises to do anything, anything to make it up to him, he takes her at her word and asks her to marry him. Now Laurel is stuck, unwilling to go back on her word, but eager to get out of this forced betrothal because she believes that she’s in love with another man. As the days wind down and Graelem’s deadline approaches, can he convince Laurel that he’s the one she is meant to love?
Here is an excerpt. My latest in the Farthingale series is A Midsummer’s Kiss and this is the scene where Graelem Dayne, the hero, and Laurel Farthingale, the heroine, begin to realize they have feelings for each other:
The solution to this problem was so simple that Laurel wanted to grab Graelem by his shirt collar and shake him soundly. “I’ll speak to your grandmother and we’ll arrange a small tea party right here. I’ll also speak to my parents and insist on our hosting a dinner or musicale in our own home. I’m sure you will easily manage to walk next door given a few more days.” The ideas continued to whirl in her head. “I have several friends making their come out this season. They’ll trip over themselves to meet a wealthy baron.”
He arched an eyebrow and leaned closer. “If they’re so eager, then why aren’t you?”
She tipped her chin upward in indignation, the common ending to most of their conversations. “As I said, I’m in love with another.”
“Ah, yes. Devlin, the man who’s kissed you with the ardor of boiled socks.”
Her face began to heat. “If ever he were to kiss me, I can assure you it would be with more ardor than that of boiled socks!”
“If ever he…” He shook his head as though confused, then gaped at her and laughed. “You mean to say that he hasn’t kissed you yet? Not even one stolen kiss under a Yuletide bough?”
She didn’t think that her cheeks could grow any hotter, but they did. “No. Not yet, but—”
“Blessed Scottish saints,” he said in a husky murmur. “Are you saying that I’m the only man who’s ever kissed you?”
“In that crude and plundering way. Yes.” In that wonderful, fires-of-hell-take-me-I’m-yours way that still had her blushing and wanting to rip the shirt off his body and run her hands along his hot, golden skin? She cleared her throat. “In any way at all? Yes. You’re the first.”
A solemn quiet came over him, but he shook out of it quickly. “Laurel, lass.” He spoke with a gentleness not present before. “You can’t possibly love him.”
“I knew you were going to say that.” She curled her hands into fists and returned his gaze with a scowl of exasperation. “I do love him. I don’t love you. The kiss we shared was a mistake. I wasn’t myself. I was distraught and uncertain.”
She paused a moment and swallowed hard. “But thank you for not taking advantage of me. Had you tried, I think I would have let you.” Because she was crazed and hurting. No other reason. Certainly not because she felt any desire for the oaf.
Goodness and mercy! Why would she feel anything for him?
“I know, lass,” he said with a nod. “But I gave you my promise that I wouldn’t touch you against your will and I’ll keep to it. You wanted the kiss and it was harmless enough.” He leaned closer still. “Granted, you wanted more. But I will not have you shamed or living with regrets for your actions on one of the most difficult days of your life. When you marry me—”
“If I marry you. Which I won’t.” Drat! The words sounded uncertain even to her ears.
“I’ll make you a bargain.”
She shot to her feet, instantly wary. “What sort of bargain?”
“I’ll agree to attend these bloody teas and musicales if you stop dismissing the idea of our marriage.”
She nibbled her lip in thought and noticed that Graelem’s eyes darkened as he watched her. Honestly, why did the oaf have to be blessed with dangerously seductive eyes? They should have been watery or rimmed in red. They weren’t. His eyes were clear and magnificent. “No more dismissing the idea of our marriage? I’ll agree not to mention it when we chat”—but I’ll still think it—“so long as you don’t dismiss out of hand the young ladies I plan to invite to said teas and musicales.”
“Agreed.” He gave her a heart-melting smile. “Care to seal it with a handshake?”
No, she’d much rather seal it with a kiss. A lips-locked, tongues-plundering string of kisses to be precise. “Blessed Scottish saints,” he said in a hoarse whisper and rose from his chair to stand beside her. “Don’t look at me that way, lass.”
“What way?” She felt her heart beating faster and the heat in her cheeks was now spreading through her body, blazing a fiery trail through her veins. Graelem stood too close. She put her hand on his chest to nudge him back, but somehow her hand curled against the front of his shirt and she found herself tugging his big body closer instead.
Oh, dear. The wrong way.
“What’s it to be, lass?” His mouth felt feather soft against her ear. “Do we seal our bargain with a safe and proper handshake?” His cool breath sent very hot tingles up and down her spine. “Or would you rather we seal it with a dangerously improper kiss?”
She let out a soft gasp. Did the man have no shame?
Jen: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Meara: I’m a plotter-pantser, if that’s a word. I do a lot of the plotting in my head, not just thinking of the premise or the characters, but chapter by chapter, like a mental story board. So by the time I actually start the story, I know what I need to write and I let my fingers fly over the keyboard (but yes, those fingers often stall out if I’m too tired or distracted). I’m a pantser when I write, but a plotter before I write, and before I even plot, I think of the characters – who are the hero and heroine in this book? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What will keep them apart? What will draw them together? The plot naturally starts to form as I answer those questions. Then once I have the characters and the plot, the conflicts come together in my head. Some writers put all this down on paper and this way they can refer to their notes at any point – very wise! Alas, I am not so wise and tend to work from my thoughts and little sticky notes pasted to my writing table. But for those who are true plotters, then successful author Cherry Adair offers a workshop on story board that is amazing. I use her story plotting technique, although I plot it in my head rather than set it down on paper.
As I begin to set the story down, the characters (who are already well defined in my brain) will often take over, sometimes leading me in a surprising direction. For example, in my debut novel, My Fair Lily, my heroine Lily Farthingale is an English bluestocking who is adorable, but a nerd, and she loves all things scientific. I knew that I wanted her to be a mix of Darwin and Einstein wrapped in a yellow silk tea gown, but it was Lily’s voice in my head who came up with the topic for her research paper – dominant males in baboon colonies, and she determined that they remarkably resemble human males in the upper echelons of society. Well, she set the Royal Society, that male bastion of higher scientific learning, on its ear! How dare Lily compare them to baboons! And that played so well into the character of my hero, Ewan, an arrogant Scot who proudly exhibited those dominant, alpha male qualities because he’s a rugged highlander who looks great in a kilt, by the way, and he can’t help but fall in love with Lily and want to protect her from the wrath of others. For good measure, and because this book is also a good natured poke at human behaviors which do mirror animal behaviors, Ewan’s big, lumbering sheepdog falls in love with Lily too. Actually, Ewan’s dog falls in love with Lily first and his love – innocent and pure – is a great counterpoint to the emotions Ewan must struggle through before he’s ready to admit that he loves English bluestocking Lily.
Jen: Is there a genre you’d like to write? Is there one you’ll probably stay away from? Why?
Meara: I love writing Regency era historical romances because that period in England (1810-1820) is a fertile field of delights – chaste heroines wearing beautiful gowns, elegant heroes who can distinguish themselves in wartime fighting Napoleon, the Marriage Mart, debut balls, dukes, earls, and other assorted noblemen, gorgeous country estates and imposing London townhouses, gossip sheets, witty dialogue, proper manners than can mask highly improper thoughts. I love it! My Farthingale series is best described as Pride and Prejudice meets My Big Fat Greek Wedding – I had so much fun setting up a properly mannered society and then these Farthingales come along as the great disrupters. They’re meddlesome, boisterous but loveable, and the beautiful Farthingale daughters are about to take London by storm as they each, in turn, make their entrance into society.
I like many genres, especially mystery and paranormal romance, and would not mind trying my hand at those, but I understand my natural voice and what my readers look for in my stories, so I would have to write a fairly impressive book in that new genre before I’d considered publishing it. What I would stay away from ever writing is not so much a genre as a style of book – I don’t write dark and depressing or graphically cruel or “literary” fiction where the protagonist is flawed, brings down the people around him/her, and learns nothing from destroying other people’s lives. There’s enough selfishness and evil out there in the real world and I would hate to add to it, so whatever genre I write, will be a story that brings a smile or warms a reader’s heart. I do like dystopian stories (like the Divergent series) and I love Lord of the Rings because there’s a hopefulness that runs throughout, even when the characters are facing doom, gloom, and death. There’s a nobility in the protagonists even though their worlds are coming apart. I’d love to write one of those someday but not sure if I can pull it off. Stories where the protagonist has no noble attributes, learns nothing, and cares little for those around him/her are the kinds of stories I will not write.
Jen: If this book was made into a movie, who do you see playing the main characters?
Meara: As writers we all have our favorite real life hunky heroes, and many of my friends will pull out a photo of an actor to pin by their computer. Right now, my favorite is Chris Hemsworth with Chris Evans a close second. Chris H has good looks, expressive eyes, and is a great mix of brawn and thoughtfulness that makes for a great hero. Chris Evans’ look is a little more refined, perfect for a handsome, muscled duke, while Chris H would make a great highlander or pirate rogue. My heroines are spunky and sparkly rather than supermodel beautiful, so someone like Amy Adams or Meg Ryan or Goldie Hawn would be what I looked for in a heroine.
Jen: Do you have a favorite character or one you most identify with?
Meara: I love this question because it made me think of each story and what made that particular hero and heroine fit together so well that readers were engaged and cheering for the happily ever after ending. I admit to falling in love with my heroes as I create them because if they aren’t wonderful and special to me, they probably won’t be to my readers either. My heroes are not perfect, they tend to be arrogant alphas but with good hearts and a strong sense of honor. If I had to choose one favorite character out of all of them, I’d have to choose Ian Markham, the Duke of Edgeware who is Daffodil Farthingale’s hero in The Duke I’m Going To Marry. I gave him a horrible family and a childhood tragedy that haunts him into adulthood. He’s considered a war hero for his bravery, but he isn’t impressed with himself – he only took on those dangerous assignments because no one would miss him if he died. On the outside he seems to have it all: wealth, title, good looks, intelligence, but inwardly he was raised by cold and abusive parents, blamed for a childhood tragedy, and has never known love. Then he meets Daffodil and can’t get her out of his heart.
I also do have a character I most identify with and that’s Lily from My Fair Lily. She’s an English bluestocking, basically a Regency nerd, who knows all about books and nothing about men, so when she meets her hunky, alpha male Scot, Ewan Cameron, she doesn’t quite know what to do with him. So to the extent that Lily’s bookish, that’s me. And I did marry a hunky, alpha male Scot (with enough beta-male qualities to make for a happy marriage!). I do have a small, running gag throughout the series about Lily and her horrible harp playing – that is also me with a violin. I was so bad at playing the violin, not even my mother could stand it!
Jen: What’s been the highlight of you career to this point?
Meara: My career is fairly new, I’ve been published less than two years, but I have four books out in the Farthingale series and two novellas, one a part of Once Upon A Regency and the other a part of Kathryn Le Veque’s Kindle World of the deWolfe Pack (my story in there is called Nobody’s Angel), and they are all bestsellers. So a definite highlight for me is the immediate and positive response from readers around the world because they are not only US, but international bestsellers as well (except Nobody’s Angel which is sold only in the US). The reader support and acceptance of my stories and of me as an author is fantastic and beyond anything I ever dreamed possible. I hope it serves as an example to anyone who wants to reach for the stars but is afraid to try – go for it, please! Follow your heart and follow your dreams and be proud that you tried. As a thank you to my readers, I wrote a freebie Farthingale novella called If You Kissed Me that they and anyone interested in learning more about my writing can download – it isn’t sold anywhere, and is accessed on my website www.mearaplatt.com
My writing style is humorous and my goal is to leave my readers feeling happy and their hearts touched with the enchantment of true love. Getting those emails from my readers is another of the highlights of my career. Knowing that these stories have the ability to make them smile and laugh and has helped some of them through hard times is so amazing to me. Their support and encouragement, and the fun or relief I can bring to them through these books is very personal and important to me. It is hugely rewarding and gratifying to know that my words can make a positive difference in someone’s life.
Another highlight is the incredible friendships I’ve made with other historical romance authors. We should be competitors, but in truth, we all support each other and cheer each other’s successes. My father taught me that you never elevate yourself by stepping on others, that the better person is the one who reaches down to lend a helping hand to lift another. Big names like Christi Caldwell and Kathryn Le Veque and Julie Johnstone reached out to me when I was just starting and I thought that was amazing. So I will love them always, not only because of their great books, but because they are kind and decent people.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Meara: Next I’m working on Rose Farthingale’s story, she’s the eldest sister and finally gets her say. It’s a prequel because I wrote this series backwards. I didn’t mean to, but the youngest sisters, identical twins Lily and Daffodil hijacked my brain and would not leave me alone until I wrote their stories. So I gave in and wrote from youngest to eldest and finally get to tell Rose’s story. She makes me proud, leading the way to mayhem and disaster in her debut season. It happens with the best of intentions, and she can explain why she abducted handsome Viscount Julian Emory – she was only trying to keep him safe from the clutches of a wicked and unsuitable woman. After all, Julian rescued Rose when her ceramics kiln exploded (shades of Animal House!). Can she turn her back on his family’s pleas when he is about to make the worst mistake of his life? Of course not! Oh, Rose stole his clothes. And now she’s really in a mess because she didn’t count on being abducted along with him (a little twist his family neglected to mention). Her clever plan has gone awry and now she must find Julian’s clothes and pray he never finds out her involvement in the scheme – which, of course, he will.
I also have a paranormal Regency series soon to be released involving an ancient Fae prophecy, a desperate (and hunky) Fae king who must find the mortal girl (sweet and innocent Regency heroine) who will fulfill the prophecy and save his subjects from the demonic Dragon Lords. Readers can find out more about this paranormal series and all my books by going to my website at www.mearaplatt.com.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my books with you!