Joan Grant

I have some exciting news. Dark Angel, the first of four linked historical romances I wrote and published in the 90s, is now available on Nook and Kindle, thanks to my wonderful agent Nancy Yost and the amazing Natanya Wheeler, Director of Digital Rights at Nancy Yost Literary (who also designed the beautiful cover). We’ll be releasing the four other books in the series as ebooks shortly.

I co-wrote Dark Angel with my mom, Joan Grant. It was originally published under the name Anna Grant, but we decided to use Tracy Grant for the reprint to keep all my books together (with my mom credited in the book). It’s an adventure and spy story set during the Peninsular War. Here’s the blurb:

Adam Durward is an outsider in both his mother’s India and his father’s England. Too much of an outsider for his childhood sweetheart, Caroline, who turned her back on their forbidden love to marry the wealthier, safer Jared Rawley. Taught a bitter lesson about not belonging, Adam left England as a diplomat and spy in the Peninsular War. But even then he could not escape Caroline. When he learned her husband, Jared, had betrayed crown and country, he exposed Jared as a traitor despite Caroline’s pleas.

Sheltered, pampered Caroline grew up and found unexpected courage in the wake of her husband’s disgrace. She left her decorous life in England and followed Jared into war-torn Spain. Now a widow with a young daughter, she is trapped behind enemy lines. Adam sets out to rescue the woman who still haunts his dreams. In a landscape set with treachery and intrigue, Adam and Caroline’s only hope of survival is to rely on each other. They brave bandits, enemy soldiers, and harsh terrain, but the greatest danger they face may be navigating the web of love and betrayal that still binds them together.

Any questions about Dark Angel or my other backlist books? If you’ve read any of my Regency or historical romances, how do you think they’re different from the historical suspense fiction I now write? How are they similar? Are there any characters you think are parallels of each other?

I’ve just posted a new Fraser Correspondence letter from Mélanie/Suzanne to Raoul.

I had a fascinating exchange this week on Facebook with a new reader who read Beneath a Silent Moon and now is reading Secrets of a Lady. I’m always intrigued by hearing from readers who read the books in the order in which they’re set chronologically rather than the order in which they were written. I’m often asked which order to read the books in, and I answer that I deliberately wrote them so they could be read in either order, but I think there are differences in how the story unfolds depending on the order in which one reads them.

I’ve always written connected books, and I’ve always tended to move back and forth chronologically, in the Anthea Malcolm books I wrote with my mom, in my historical romances, and in the Charles & Mélanie books. Now with Vienna Waltz I’ve gone back still further in Charles and Mel’s history. Answering reader questions about Secrets and Beneath this weekend, I realized that I’ve also tended to read series out of order. My first Dorothy Sayers book was Have His Carcase, well into the series and the second of the Peter & Harriet books. I then read Busman’s Honeymoon (the fourth Peter & Harriet book, because it was the next I could find, my wonderful father drove me to a bookstore on Sunday, and it was the only one they had), then Strong Poison (the first Peter & Harriet book), and finally Gaudy Night (the third book). I didn’t mind reading the series out of order. In fact, I rather enjoyed getting to know Peter and Harriet, seeing them married, going back in time to when they met, then reading the book where they get engaged. I found Lauren Willig’s series with The Deception of the Emerald Ring, Deanna Raybourn’s with Silent on the Moor, Laurie King’s Mary Russell books with The Moor. I think I actually enjoy starting a series at a point where the characters and their relationships have progressed and then going back to see how it all started.

My friend Penny Williamson started Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles with The Ringed Castle, the fifth book in the series. She says she was very confused but also fascinated. She went on to read the other four books that had been published at that point completely out of order, before reading Checkmate, the final book in the series, when it was published.

How do you feel about the order in which you read a series? Do you tend to start with the first book or in the middle? Do you think you view the story and characters differently depending on the order in which you read the books? Writers, do you like moving back and forth in time or do you prefer to write in chronological order?

Speaking of chronological order, this week’s Fraser Correspondence addition continues in the build up to Waterloo with a letter from Isobel to Mélanie.

photo: Julianne Havel
photo credit: Julianne Havel

Author photos can be challenging. Not only does one have to find a photo of oneself that one likes, it has to somehow convey one’s “writer personality.” There are myriad decisions. Settling on photographer, here to take the picture (indoor, outdoor, setting that reflects one’s books?), what to wear, how to do one’s hair, jewelry, makeup, pose, etc… And then, after one does all the work to get the perfect picture, the photo needs to be updated every few years. When my mom and I were first published, we used a picture of us taken for an interview by the Stanford Dailey as our author photo. Later we had professional photos taken. A particular challenge to settle on a picture in which we both liked the way we looked, but we found one. We got solo shots of each of us at the same time, and I used one of those when I first wrote on my own. When Daughter of the Game (later Secrets of a Lady) was first published I had new author photos taken.

Several years later, a friend saw a framed snap shot of me with my dog Gemma and my cat Lescaut at my house (those who’ve been to my house know I have photos all over the place, framed on the coffee table, pinned to the cork board, decorating the kitchen door). She asked if it was my author photo. Which made me realize that the picture (taken by my friend Elaine Hamlin) would make a great author photo. It’s the photo on my website and in Secrets of a Lady and the trade re-issue of Beneath a Silent Moon.. But it’s now five years old, so with Vienna Waltz coming out, I realized it was time for a new photo. I don’t know that it would have occurred to me to put my pets in the picture in the general run of things, but since Gemma and Lescaut are in my current photo, I wanted them and my new cat Mélanie in the new photo.

Fortunately, my cousin, Julianne Havel, is a photographer and wonderfully agreed to do the photos. Gemma, Lescaut, and Mélanie are used to her house and are quite good sports about putting up with family pictures. But this was going to take a lot longer than a couple of snap shots. Julianne did some practice shots of me without the animals. Then we did a series of pictures, reviewed them (the wonders of digital photography), corrected for the light and the pose, took some more, reviewed those, took a third set. Gemma, Lescaut, and Mélanie were incredibly patient about being told to sit and held while a light flashed in front of them.

The third time was the charm. The problem wasn’t finding a picture I liked, it was choosing between six or so pictures I loved. Finally, after consulting with friends and family (I’ve been emailing pictures and carrying printouts around in my purse), I settled on the picture above.

What do you like to see in author photos? Do they give clues about the author’s personality? What are some author photos you particularly like and why? If you’ve had author photos (or other professional or personal portraits) taken, how did you decide what sort of look you wanted? Was it fun or stressful or a bit of both?

Be sure to check out the Fraser Correspondence. I just posted a new letter from Mélanie to Raoul.

My friend Penny Williamson and I spent Friday afternoon at a matinée of the new Star Trek movie. We both loved it. It manages to simultaneously be fresh and innovative and yet true to the original. The actors do a fabulous job of capturing the characters we know so well, in mannerism and vocal patterns (and the way the writers wrote their dialogue). You can really believe these characters will grow into the characters from the original tv series. And yet the new actors never seem to be mimicking, they make the characters their own. Since I love to move back and forth in time in my own writing and examine my characters at different points in their history, I particularly enjoyed the prequel aspect.

As I’ve mentioned in past blogs, Penny and I both love to talk about favorite series. When we first became friends, we spent endless lunches analyzing and speculating over Dorothy Dunnett’s books (this was in the years when the House of Niccolò series was still being written and published). More recently, we could be found picking apart Alias over lattes in our favorite café. Waiting for the movie to start Friday, we were discussing the season finale of Lost. Penny and I’ve been discussing Lost a lot lately. In fact, we talked about it for the entire five hour plus drive from the San Francisco Bay Area to Ashland, Oregon, on our recent trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Lost fascinates and baffles both of us. Usually we can come up with a theory about where we think a story arc is headed (wrong perhaps to varying degrees but at least a theory that works with the information at hand). With Lost, every time we think we have something figured out, the next episode pulls the rug out from under us.

I blogged a while back about the delights of speculating over a series. Part of it of course is trying to unravel the plot. When I was a teenager, my mom and I had numerous discussions about Star Wars in the years between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. I still remember the moment when, thinking about Arthurian mythology, I said “oh, I know, Luke and Leia are brother and sister.” Of course, I was thrilled to be proved right when we saw Return of the Jedi (the day it opened). But mostly, I was relieved to see the characters I cared about get the happy ending I so wanted them to have. Thinking about Star Trek and Lost, I realized how much of the allure of an ongoing series is the characters. Characters you care about and root for. Characters who seem to have a rich inner life off the screen/page. Characters you want to learn more about. Characters whose fates seem very real and a matter of great concern (I confess to having tears in my eyes at one point in the new Star Trek movie, and the recent Lost season finale definitely left me choked up).

I returned to the world of another favorite series recently when I read Laurie King’s The Language of Bees. It was a delight to step back into Russell & Holmes’s world. When I finished the book, I didn’t want to leave that world (partly because of the questions left to be answered in the next installment, but mostly because I wanted to spend more time with these characters). I’ve been rereading earlier books in the series since, unable to move on to something new.

What makes you bond with the characters in a particular series? Have you seen the new Star Trek movie? Do you watch Lost? If so, do you have the faintest idea of where the show is headed? :-).

Returning to my own series, this week’s Fraser Correspondence addition is Cecily Summers’s reply to Mélanie’s letter from last week about their children and the Edinburgh premiere of Simon’s play.

As you may know, I began my writing career collaborating with my mother, Joan Grant. We wrote eight books and four novellas together, seven Regencies romances (and four novellas) as Anthea Malcolm, and one historical romance, Dark Angel, as Anna Grant (which is the first of of a quartet that continues with the three historical romances I

As I mention in the long version of my bio, my mother, a social psychologist (as was my father), loved books and read out loud to me a great deal. She introduced me to Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Orczy and the Scarlet Pimpernel world, Sabatini, Mary Stewart, Dorothy Sayers, Margery Allingham, and Ngaio Marsh. I in turn introduced her to Dorothy Dunnett (we used to discuss the Lymond Chronicles and the House of Niccolò endlessly) and Elizabeth George. I think my mom would have loved Laurie King’s Russell & Holmes books. I think the fact that we loved the same books and shared the same literary influences made it easier for us to plot and write together.

In honor of Mother’s Day (a holiday my mom deplored as too commercial :-)), I thought I’d post a video clip where I talk my mom’s influence on me as writer. I still feel her influence when I write. In fact, Charles and Mélanie were inspired by two secondary characters from an unpublished book my mom and I wrote together.

Has anyone read the Anthea Malcolm/Anna Grant books? Do you see an evolution from them to the books I write now? What similarities and differences do you note? Are there other writers you read who are writing partnerships? Writers, have you ever written with a partner? What are the rewards and challenges you’ve found?

This week’s Fraser Correspondence addition is a letter from Mélanie to Cecily Summer, Simon Tanner’s actress friend who appears in Beneath a Silent Moon. Cecily Summers is the only character so far to have appeared in both the Anthea Malcolm books and the Charles & Mélanie books. Cecily appears in my mom’s and my Anthea Malcolm Regency, An Improper Proposal. Readers of both sets of books may have noticed that Simon’s theatre, the Tavistock, is also Rachel Ford’s theatre in An Improper Proposal. It hasn’t been dealt with in the books thus far, but Simon is partners with Rachel and Guy Melchett and Rachel’s uncle by marriage.

In her letter to Cecily, Mélanie writes about the challenges of juggling motherhood and her other work and responsibilities. What do you think of Mélanie as a mother? Where do you think motherhood fits in her complicated life as a priority? How well do you think she manages to juggle the many, complicated (and often contradictory) aspects of her life?

12 May update: I’m guest blogging today on Jaunty Quills about Damaged Characters. Do stop by and comment.