Jen: Today we welcome Petie McCarty to Romancing the Book. Petie, will you share a short bio with us?
Petie: Petie spent a large part of her career working at Walt Disney World — “The Most Magical Place on Earth” — where she enjoyed working in the land of fairy tales by day and creating her own romantic fairy tales by night, including her new series, The Cinderella Romances. She eventually said good-bye to her “day” job to write her stories full-time. These days Petie spends her time writing sequels to her regency time-travel series, Lords in Time, and her cozy-mystery-with-elements-of-romantic-suspense series, the Mystery Angel Romances.
Petie shares her home on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee with her horticulturist husband, a spoiled-rotten English Springer spaniel addicted to pimento-stuffed green olives, and a noisy Nanday conure named Sassy who made a cameo appearance in Angel to the Rescue.
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Petie: My January release—Duke du Jour, Book 1 in my new Lords in Time series—is a time-travel Regency romance published by The Wild Rose Press.
In Duke du Jour, Jared Langley, present-day Duke of Reston, tumbles into an abandoned fountain on his ducal estate and travels back in time to the year 1816. There, Reston servants and local villagers think him a dead ringer for his namesake and rakehell ancestor—the seventh Duke of Reston, gone missing at the Battle of Waterloo. Unfortunately, Seven got mixed up with French spies out to assassinate the Duke of Wellington, and an unwary Jared ends up in their crosshairs.
Lady Ariana Hart has loved Jared Langley, the seventh Duke of Reston, since she was twelve years old, until the night the rogue broke her heart. Given up for dead, her rakish neighbor makes a miraculous return from Waterloo—only Jared shows up a changed man and reignites all the feelings Ariana had long ago buried.
Jared is in a race against time. He must waylay the suspicions of his quirky servants and neighbors, get to Wellington before the French spies do, fix his fountain—before Seven shows up—so Jared has a way home, and definitely not fall in love with the irresistible Lady Ariana.
As for where the idea came from, I’m not really sure. *smile* This may sound weird, but I see movies that run in my head. When the beginning, middle, and end of the movie are all there, then that’s the next book I write. The movies can be triggered by anything, I suppose. By the time I finish the book—and if I’m lucky—the sequel movie has already started. =) When the movie starts running, I speed-write scene bullets, so I can begin the sequel whenever I’m ready. The bullets become my outline.
Jared’s lungs seized up, and he coughed hard to get some air.
“Back are ye? Ye should have tol’ someone, Yer Grace,” a feminine voice squealed.
He stared up at the oddly dressed stranger addressing him. “You know me?”
“Know ye? I’ve knowed ye so long, I walked ye on leading strings a time or two when Nurse got too deep in her cups.”
Oh, good Lord. That couldn’t possibly be true.
“Of course, you are Miss—”
“Miss?” She cackled. “Ye always were a charmer. Look at ye now, calling old Cook a miss!”
The woman’s clothes appeared worn—a long flowered skirt with a white blouse and a bodice of sorts and a white mobcap on her head. She looked a couple hundred years out of place. He grinned sheepishly and shifted to glance around. He still sat on the low fountain wall in the secluded back garden, but he must have blacked out from the headache. Only—
He frowned. Everything in the little garden looked immaculate—no weeds—and tiny hedgerows separated groups of delicate plants.
“Are ye feelin’ all right, Master Jared? And what be ye doin’ back here in me herb garden and wif yer head all wet? Did ye dunk yer head in the fountain?”
Herb garden? He smoothed damp hair back from his face for a better look. His hair was indeed soaked, as were his clothes. What the hell had happened to him? And who was this person called Cook? Had Everston hired someone without telling him? That would be the last time his estate manager did so.
“Blimey, did ye fall in the fountain?” The odd woman frowned down at his wet clothes, her hands at her generous hips. “Ha’ ye been drinkin’ again, Master Jared? And what strange clothes be those now? Some sort of Frenchie’s clothes? Good thing His old Grace cocked up his toes, or he would take a strip off yer hide, showin’ up drunk here at Haverly and lookin’ like that.”
“His old Grace?”
“Yer pa,” she said, frowning a bit.
Was the woman some kind of ghost? And what the hell had happened to the weed patch he had stumbled through? He could not have been out more than a minute or so, and that was if he fainted—which he never did. Ever.
“Where do you live?” he asked suddenly, in case this was a joke played on him by his reprobate friends, Halworth and Bertleven—Viscount and Earl of, respectively.
She did not answer. She marched over or rather rumbled over and pressed a gnarled, greasy hand to his forehead, which he fought the urge to swat away.
“No fever,” she said and grinned, which immediately forced Jared to look away.
The sight of her teeth and gums close up would make him faint for real. Her breath unfortunately could not be avoided, for it lingered in the air and forced him to his feet. The sudden movement had him swaying unsteadily. Had he struck his head? Could he have a concussion and merely be hallucinating?
“See ’ere,” she said and grabbed his arm to steady him. “I’d best get ye into the kitchen and get ye a bite to eat. That is prob’ly what’s wrong. Drinkin’ and no eatin’.”
She tugged him through the arbor gate toward the main garden and then up a side path toward the back kitchen door. She certainly knew her way around his manor for his never having seen her before.
“I knows things are bad ’ere, Master Jared, but I’d not leave ye high and dry without old Cook. I still lives here, I do. Though I wouldn’t mind ye payin’ me the last six months of wages ye owes me.”
“Six months!” he exclaimed and stopped dead in his tracks, which almost jerked her backward as she still had a firm grip on his arm. He grabbed her mushy arm to keep her upright, not totally sure he could heave her bulk up off the ground if she fell. “Steady.”
“I didn’t mean to startle ye.” She tugged at his arm again. “Come along.”
He resisted. “Are you telling me you have not been paid in six months? And you’re an employee here?”
She looked at him as if he had grown an extra head. “I’m a servant ’ere,” she said warily.
“That’s impossible! We’ve never made our employees wait for salary.”
“I s’pose not,” she said. “No one would wait for celery. Leastways not me.”
“Not celery. Salary,” he almost shouted.
“Pay.” He tried again. “Wages. We have never made anyone wait for wages.”
“Maybe nots when ye’re here, but ye’re off in London all the time,” she pointed out calmly.
“Well, of course I am. I live in London, and I have investments to manage.”
She raised her brows, and he bristled. “Come inside. I will give you a check right now for your wages.”
He was twelve steps down the path before he realized he was alone. The woman called Cook stood where he had left her.
“What?” he said impatiently.
“A check?” The ebullient, oversized woman finally frowned. “Ye want to check on me before payin’ me wages?”
Had he fallen down the rabbit hole? He stalked back. “No, not check on you—give you a check.”
“Gimme a check?” she echoed.
Was the woman daft? Everston would certainly get an earful. Forgetting to tell Jared about this Cook woman is probably how her wages were overlooked in the first place. But for so long? Why had she not complained before now? Which he promptly asked her.
She smiled. “I weren’t about to complain about me wages iffen ye were havin’ a bit of a bad spell. I weren’t leavin’ no how. Why, I’ve known ye since ye were a babe.”
He finally understood her leading strings remark, and he stared hard at the woman. No, he had never seen her before. “You must mean my father.”
He sighed. “Come along. Let’s get your check.”
“If it’s all the same to ye, Master Jared, I’ll be waiting till ye can pay me gold sovereigns like always. I don’t know about no check.”
They were almost at the kitchen door, and the side wall of the house caught his eye. The thick coating of moss had recently been cleaned off, and the ancient bricks looked almost—not ancient. Well, at least Everston had paid for upkeep.
“Look, Cook,” he said, since that was the only name she had given, “I am not having financial problems, and I can and will pay you. Today.”
She grinned, and he winced.
“I do not—”
The sound of hoofbeats and wheels churning came from the path to the old stone stable. Seconds later, what looked to be a perfectly restored nineteenth-century curricle pulled up with a magnificent pair of spirited blacks in harness. The young man driving tied off the reins and jumped down, and Jared could only stare in stunned disbelief.
Jen: Do you have a writing routine?
Petie: Since giving up my day job and moving to the beautiful Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee, I now have my very own office to hibernate in when I write. I grab a cup of coffee or soft drink and head there, escorted by my writing buddy—Lily, my English springer spaniel—who thinks the spot under my desk is her den. When we can’t find her in the house, we always look there first. Lily’s perfectly-timed requests to go out keep me from hibernating in my office too long and give me much needed exercise.
Jen: How do you remember ideas that come to you at odd times?
Petie: I live and die by index cards. When the movies run in my head, I have to be ready, and they don’t always run when I’m bundled into my home office. I write scene bullets on index cards just about anywhere. I have them in my car console, in my bedroom, in my kitchen, and of course, in my purse. Index cards are great because you can arrange them later in any order you want. Once the rough draft has started, add-on scenes go onto index cards, too, and every character in the story has their own dedicated cards(s). By the time I finish a novel, there will be a couple hundred index cards clipped in separate bunches according to use. The first thing every visitor says when they step into my office is, “What’s with all the index cards?”
Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Petie: I did a ton of research for Duke du Jour. Just to find a way for the seventh Reston duke to hook up with French spies, I spent days poring over maps and texts for the Battle of Waterloo. Eventually, I decided to have him disappear the night before the Battle of Quatre Bras—two days prior to Waterloo—and then I had to search maps of that battlefield location to pick the best spot for the showdown. The same effort was required for my hero’s scenes in London and his midnight ride through Town to catch the spies. I was incredibly fortunate to have an awesome and very talented historical editor at TWRP, Eilidh MacKenzie, to keep me on the straight and narrow.
Jen: If you were able to travel in time, where would you go and what 3 things would you take with you?
Petie: I’d love to visit the Scottish Highlands well before the eighteenth-century highland clearances, and I’d take along a buttload of penicillin, deodorant, and a really warm coat.
Jen: Who are some of your favorite authors? What are you reading now?
Petie: If we’re talking romance authors, then my bestie list would include: Jennifer Crusie, Sarah MacLean, Monica McCarty [Sorry. No relation, though I wish there were], Rachel Gibson, and Cathy Maxwell, which shows I love a mix of contemporary and historical romances. I can’t forget romantic suspense, so add Linda Howard and Suzanne Brockmann to the list.
I’m presently reading Sex, Lies, and Online Dating by Rachel Gibson who deftly mixes humor with suspense. Love her writing!
Jen: Do you have a favorite character or one you most identify with?
Petie: Lila Tumson was my favorite character to write, although—Good Lord!—I hope no one would identify me with her. *LOL* Lila was the town slut in my second release, Catch of the Day. Stuck living in her tiny backwoods hometown of Loon, Alabama, Lila makes a memorable pass at every red-blooded male that passes through town including the story’s sexy hero, Coast Guard Capt. Gage Connor. Lila provides the perfect comic-relief nemesis to heroine Cody Ryan’s burgeoning love match with Capt. Gage Connor.
Here’s a little Lila snippet from Catch of the Day to bring her to life:
Gage couldn’t get Lila back to town fast enough. The woman made two forays across the console in his truck trying to get her hands on him, and the second time she managed to peel his wet tee shirt part-way up. He wondered what had possessed him to go for dry clothes with the town octopus offering her favors if he would just drop out of the tournament.
Give up the opportunity to spend two days straight on a boat with Cody Ryan? Not a chance. He’d been livid when Cody dunked him in the lake, but only because she’d taken the upper hand in their battle of wills. Paybacks were hell, and he could give as good as he got. He grinned before he could stop himself.
“Did you change your mind, handsome?” Lila cooed, and one of her tentacles stretched across the console. “You’re smiling. You must be thinkin’ about lovin’ on little ole Lila.”
He buried his grin with a resigned sigh. The woman’s self-confidence reached Olympic proportions. He caught hold of the tentacle before it could attach to his pants.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Petie: Right at this moment, I am finishing up Par for Cinderella, book three in my Cinderella Romances series. Billionaire Aidan Cross had a big part in the first two books of the series, and he insisted on having his own story—Aidan visits quaint Cypress Key, Florida to build one of his world-famous golf resorts that no one in the small town wants.
After that, I’ll start lining up my movie scene-bullets from Earl Away, the next book in my Lords in Time series. The Earl of Dexter didn’t want to be left out and begged to come next.