In June 2011 I participated in a blog chain with a dozen or so fellow Heart of Carolina Romance Writers. The theme of the blog chain was to have one of our characters interview us! It was great fun. I wrote it just before setting off to pitch my book at the national Romance Writers of America conference. My attendance at that conference would ultimately land me both an agent and a book deal. Needless to say, it’s near and dear to my heart (as is James, as you will see!).
Mr. James Simpson is a secondary character (but please don’t tell him that–after all, everyone is the hero of their own story, right?) in An Heiress at Heart, which is set in 1851. James is London’s most amiably scandalous bachelor. He is so much fun to be around that any trouble he gets into never seems to stick. He’s also a master at witty banter. Although his time period is a few decades before Oscar Wilde’s plays, if you’ve ever seen “The Importance of Being Earnest” you’ll know what to expect from James!
I wait for James impatiently, because I’m leaving for New York very early Tuesday morning and I have a ton of things to do before I go. Finally, James arrives, looking quite dashing in his perfectly tailored suit with yellow cravat and matching waistcoat. He removes his top hat as I let him in. Somehow the hat has not managed to disarrange his wavy brown hair.
His blue eyes twinkle as he gives me a gorgeous smile and kisses my hand. “A pleasure, my dear, as always.”
I can’t help smiling back, even though I try to reprimand him for his tardiness. “You are late, James.”
James takes a moment to check his cravat in the hallway mirror and says with a gleam in his eye, “I apologize. I’m afraid a certain young lady kept me out very late…”
“No doubt,” I reply dryly. I lead him to the living room and offer him a chair.
He looks around with amusement. “What a charming little cottage. Where is the main house?”
I try not to sound too taken aback. “Erm, this is it. It’s only a modest ranch, but we like it. Shall we get right to the interview?”
“Yes indeed!” He leans forward in his chair, his hands on his gold-handled cane. “I have several burning questions to ask you. I confess, I find you extremely fascinating.”
“Me? Fascinating?” I can’t help blushing.
He nods. “You seem to have made some decisions that I consider quite shocking.”
This startles me, as I can’t think of much that would shock James. “I’ve led a fairly tame life, actually. Although I have traveled a lot, and those three years I spent in Montreal and Ottawa, Canada were amazing–”
“No, no, no, I’m not talking about all that,” James breaks in. “What I want to know is, why did you do it?”
“Do what?” I say, not comprehending. “Get married? Move to Raleigh? Decide to become a writer? That last question’s easy. See, my mother was a writer. Margaret Wayt DeBolt — she wrote a wildly popular book called Savannah Spectres, and also Savannah, A Historical Portrait. She was a journalist, but I’ve decided to go the fiction route…”
I stop myself. James is laughing and shaking his head.
“You’re not taking notes,” I point out.
“Dearest, you’re missing the point,” James replies. “What I want to know is, why, oh why, did you make me the secondary character?”
Oops. Somebody told him. Also, I should have known this interview would be largely about James.
He confirms this as he continues, “It hurts my pride to think I am only in the book for comic relief.”
“I’m aware of that,” he says, somewhat pettishly. “The so-called hero and heroine…”
“Geoffrey and Lizzie.”
“Right. They would never have gotten together in the end if it weren’t for me. So why am I not the hero?”
I try to think of a diplomatic way to explain. “You see, James, in my books the hero and heroine get married in the end. You have stated plenty of times that you are not the marrying kind.”
He looks incredulous. “Have I?”
“Remember that conversation where Lizzie asks Geoffrey, ‘How many men would face any obstacle, and go to the ends of the earth for their love?’ Do you remember the remark you made when you overheard this?”
He looks at me blankly.
I try to imitate his joking tone as I quote: “I certainly have never flung myself off the map for another. It sounds terribly uncomfortable.”
James waves a dismissive hand. “That was all in jest, of course. I was merely trying to lighten a very tense situation. Actually, I am a hopeless romantic. Remember the time I told my aunt that I would never marry simply for money?” He adds as an aside, “Even though I could certainly use it…”
I smile. “I remember. You said, ‘I shall wait until perfect love falls upon me. Or knocks me over’.”
“I also said that I have no doubt that I shall succumb in time. In the meantime, I intend to live in the present and make myself merry, rather than worry about whom I shall marry.” He smirks, looking quite pleased with his little joke.
“James, I will let you in on a little secret,” I say with the air of one imparting an important confidence. “An Heiress at Heart is the first in a trilogy. I have big plans for you by book three.”
“Ah, hah!” he says. “I knew you had something up your writer’s sleeve. What is it? You must tell me everything.”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that,” I say with mock seriousness.
His eyes sparkle. “Being coy now, are we?” He considers the information I’ve given him. “Book three. Why not book one?”
“You have to admit, Lizzie and Geoffrey’s story is quite compelling,” I say, in an effort to appease him. “She pretends to be a missing heiress, sort of like the woman in Anastasia. But then she falls in love with Geoffrey, the man who is supposed to be her brother-in-law. And Geoffrey, who is the youngest son of a baron, is dealing with having suddenly been made a baron himself—a position which he did not want and was not trained for. His story reminds me of George VI in The King’s Speech. Except he does not stammer.”
I can see that all of this is not convincing James. So in desperation I add, “You take the lead in a later book because I want to save the best for last, of course!”
“Now you are talking sense!” he proclaims. “That’s what I love about you—you have an innate sense of timing.”
“Speaking of timing…” I check my watch. “James, we’ll have to cut this short. I’m going to New York tomorrow, and I’ve got to get packed.”
“New York? That backwater? Whatever for?”
“I’m going to the annual conference of the Romance Writers of America. I’m looking for an agent and an editor for the book. I want to get it published, so that many more people can get to know you!”
James rises and reaches for his top hat. “Well in that case, what are you waiting for my girl? You must leave right this instant!”