Please join me in welcoming author Leigh Michaels to Debbie's Book Bag today. Leigh is promoting her latest novel, The Mistress' House. Sourcebooks is generously offering two copies of Leigh's book for giveaway. Please see Details at the end of the post.
DEB: Leigh, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
LM: I’m a Midwesterner by birth but an Anglophile from my early childhood. I don’t know why I’m so attracted to England, but I always have been. The Mistress’ House is my 81st published novel – I wrote 80 contemporary romances for Harlequin before taking a break from fiction, then turning to writing historicals.
DEB: Tell us a little about your latest book, The Mistress’ House?
LM: The Mistress’ House is a townhouse on Upper Seymour Street in London, purchased by the Earl of Hawthorne with the intention of using it as a hideaway for his mistresses. Instead, the first woman he takes there captures his heart. With the house left empty, the new countess loans it to her childhood friend, who finds love with the earl’s cousin… and then the earl stashes his ward there to hide her from an unwanted marriage, and she, too, falls in love.
DEB: What was your inspiration for these books? Have you always been interested in historical romance?
LM: I’ve always loved reading historical romances and historical fiction, and also non-fiction about my favorite historical periods. My inspiration was actually a contest I was co-sponsoring with a writing partner. The contest challenge was to capture her attention with a 1,000-word opening section of a novel and make her want to read on, and I wanted to see if I could do it. She was the first person who read the entire manuscript of The Mistress’ House – one scene at a time – and cheered me on to write more.
DEB: What type of research did you do for your books?
LM: I feel as if I’ve been researching these books for most of my life. I have always loved English history and have studied the Regency period for years, so when I took a break from contemporary romance it was a natural choice to write about this era.
DEB: What is your normal writing day like? Do you have things that have to be in place to write comfortably?
LM: I start my day with email and a quick check on the classes I teach online at Gotham Writers Workshop (www.writingclasses.com) and then I open up my book and read over what I wrote the day before. I do some polishing, revising, and fleshing out of the most recent work and that gets me back into the flow of the story (and helps to keep the tone and voice consistent). The length of time I work depends on the stage the story’s in – shorter hours at first while I’m still working things out in my head, longer and longer as the book gets closer to the finish line. I take the last few minutes of the writing day and block out the next section – very roughly, just notes and bits of dialogue, with no attention paid to typos or grammar. Then the next day I have a starting place.
DEB: What was it like when you got the word that your first novel would be published?
LM: Even after writing 80 contemporary romance novels, each new book is a kick, and seeing it – holding it in my hands for the first time – is a delight. Because there are so many “firsts” about The Mistress’ House (first historical, first single-title, first sexy romance, first book with a new publisher) it was particularly lovely to get the news that Deb Werksman at Sourcebooks loved it and wanted to buy it.
DEB: Do have any advice for new writers?
LM: Don’t get so caught up in the beauty of your words that you think they can’t be made better. Writers can’t see their own work clearly – when we read what we’ve written, we remember what we were thinking, but the reader can’t see that. The best way to improve your writing is to write a lot – and not be afraid to do it over.
DEB: When you’re not writing, what kinds of books do you like to read? Do you have a favorite author?
LM: I like to relax with mysteries and non-fiction. Margaret Maron is a favorite mystery author. Lately I’ve been reading Donald Harstad who’s a fellow Iowan – he writes police procedurals. I like to read romance, but it’s more relaxing when I’m writing to read something different.
DEB: What are you working on right now?
LM: After writing three 90,000 word books in 18 months, I’ve been lazy for a few weeks. I’m starting a fourth triple story – three heroes, three heroines, three conflicts, three happy endings, all in one interwoven package.
DEB: Tell us one thing that people may not know about you?
LM: I love miniatures and have a 1/12 scale-model house – a Georgian-style mansion – that my husband built for me. There are pictures on my website at www.leighmichaels.com.