I have a real treat for you today. Jennifer Ashley is here with us. Jenn is a USA Today Best Seller, a RITA winner and the author of over 40 books in several different sub-genres: historical romance, paranormal, straight historical, erotica, mysteries and I think I even saw a chicklit on her backlist! This talented author writes as Jennifer Ashley, Allyson James and Ashley Gardner, and is the driving force behind the fabulous IMMORTALS series with Joy Nash and Robin Popp.
But today, we'll focus on her historical romances and she has new one coming for us called THE MADNESS OF LORD IAN MACKENZIE. Here's the blurb:
The year is 1881. Meet the Mackenzie family--rich, powerful, dangerous, eccentric. A lady couldn't be seen with them without ruin. Rumors surround them--of tragic violence, of their mistresses, of their dark appetites, of scandals that set England and Scotland abuzz.
The youngest brother, Ian, known as the Mad Mackenzie, spent most of his young life in an asylum, and everyone agrees he is decidedly odd. He's also hard and handsome and has a penchant for Ming pottery and beautiful women.
Beth Ackerley, widow, has recently come into a fortune. She has decided that she wants no more drama in her life. She was raised in drama--an alcoholic father who drove them into the workhouse, a frail mother she had to nurse until her death, a fussy old lady she became constant companion to. No, she wants to take her money and find peace, to travel, to learn art, to sit back and fondly remember her brief but happy marriage to her late husband.
And then Ian Mackenzie decides he wants her.
I'm already hooked. I sat down with Jennifer for a cyber-chat recently. As always when I have a guest, my words will be in bold. Jennifer will speak in italics.
The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie features a hero with Asperger's Syndrome. Can you tell us about this condition and what prompted you to tackle it in your story?
Asperger's Syndrome is a form of "high functioning" autism. Symptoms can vary widely from person to person, but typical characteristics are: inability to make eye contact, obsession with details while ignoring overall concepts, obsession with routine, inability to read non-verbal cues, and not understanding subtext (e.g., sarcasm, jokes, or teasing). Not all people with AS have all symptoms, and they might have other difficulties than I list here.
What prompted me to tackle it in my story? Many people these days either have AS or know someone who does (family member, child, friend, child of friend). I write historicals, so I'm always looking for good historical ideas. I wondered, what did people with autism face in past times? AS wasn't identified until the mid-twentieth century, and even now it's not well understood. How did an autistic person function in Victorian society, when psychiatry was in its infancy? And the story was born.
It was a difficult story to write. It went through many drafts before it reached its final state.
Sounds fascinating, Jenn. What does your heroine love most about your hero?
What Beth loves most about Ian is... well, everything. Ian is such a complicated character that no one characteristic stands out. He's honest (painfully so), charming, sexy, stubborn, single-minded, and vulnerable. She feel protective of that vulnerability, but she doesn't pity him.
One question I've had already from readers is: Is Ian a virgin?
No. Decidedly not! Ian has no trouble enjoying sex, and in fact, courtesans like him because he's charming, kind to them, and very, very generous.
Of course, once he meets Beth, Ian turns his single-mindedness to getting her into his life--permanently.
Ah, single-minded! Just the way we like our men! You and I are part of the same Christmas anthology coming out September 29th. Can you tease us a bit with a blurb of your story?
Yes, A Christmas Ball features three stories based around a ball in one of the most fashionable houses in London. In mine, "The Longest Night," Mary Cameron (sister of Egan Macdonald in Highlander Ever After) encounters Baron Valentin, an exotic Nvengarian she met (and was dazzled by) the year before.
Valentin has returned to England as aide to the new Nvengarian ambassador, and he and Mary run into each other at this Christmas ball. Valentin has a mysterious and dangerous mission to perform, but it doesn't keep him from testing out the legend of the Longest Night. Will the lady he spends the Longest Night with (i.e., Mary) be with him for the rest of his life? He's willing to find out.
It's a fun, romantic piece that rounds out the Nvengarian (historical/paranormal) series.
So The Longest Night in A CHRISTMAS BALL features a character your readers have met before. It's always fun to meet an old friend in a new story.
Back to the one that's out now. I understand Lord Ian is the first in a new historical series. What's coming next?
I will write books about all four brothers (Ian, Mac, Cam, Hart), in order from youngest to oldest. Book 2, Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage features the second oldest Mackenzie brother, Mac, and his estranged wife, Isabella. You encounter this couple in Lord Ian, where they play a pivotal role in bringing Beth and Ian together.
Now Mac (based on advice from Ian) has decided to try to save the marriage he wrecked. Isabella, who caused scandal by eloping with Mac then leaving him, is not certain she wants him back. It will be an intense and sexy tale.
I'm also working on a new paranormal series based around shapeshifters, but with a twist. The first book, Pride Mates, is out in January 2010. The premise is that Shifters "came out" twenty years ago, were rounded up into internment camps (Shifter-towns), forced to wear collars that suppress their violent instincts, and made to obey a set of restrictive laws. Humans believe the dangerous Shifters have been suppressed and tamed. Or have they? Kim Fraser, a lawyer defending a Shifter on a murder charge, is about to find out.
While we're on the subject of paranormals, I have to ask: Will there be more Immortals books?
At this point, we've finished the Immortals stories. Immortals: The Reckoning, an anthology of three stories set in the Immortals world, came out this March, and pretty much wrapped up all the threads.
I never say never-who knows if Joy or Robin or I will come up with another tale from that world? But for now, there are no plans to continue the series. My contracts are for the Mackenzie series and for the Shifters series.
Thanks for being with us today, Jennifer.
See her website (http://www.jennifersromances.com) for information on upcoming books and other fun things, plus links to her other psuedonyms (award-winning authors Allyson James and Ashley Gardner).
Jennifer is giving away a book today someone who leaves a comment or question. Which book are you offering, Jenn?
Thanks for having me, Emily. I will allow the winner to choose which backlist book they want, from any pseudonym (anything besides Ian).
April 28th Update--Great news! I talked Jennifer into hanging around for another day so there's still time for you to comment for a chance to win one of her books! Good luck!