A Conversation with Jude Deveraux, Author of Days of Gold
Q. Did writing Days of Gold require a lot of research on the period? Describe your process for writing historical romance.
A. Prior to Days of Gold, I’d written several books that took place in that same time period, so I had already compiled a lot of information before I had even started this book. But I had to do quite a bit of specific research, such as about the Ohio Company and markets at the time. And, of course, I had to find places for my characters to live. I have to have floor plans for wherever the people are, whether it’s a mansion, an apartment, or a ship. When they go out the door, I need to know which way they need to turn to get out. It’s the same for roads. If they drive somewhere, what road do they take? What do they see along the way? Sometimes, weeks of work result in only half a sentence of description, but I need the research to be able to visualize what I’m writing about.
Q. Was it frustrating to keep Angus and Edilean apart for so long? Why is Angus so stubborn in allowing his love for Edilean to surface?
A. I felt it was a long period in real time, but not pagewise. Angus truly and deeply loves Edilean, which means that he wants what is best for her, not for him. If it had been up to him, he would have taken her back to Scotland and lived in that tumbling-down old castle. But that would have made her miserable. He just didn’t realize how deep her love was for him. So, no, it wasn’t frustrating at all. They both needed the time apart. And I wanted an excuse for Shamus, Tam, and Malcolm to return to the story.
Q. Which would you recommend reading first in the Edilean series? Days of Gold or Lavender Morning?
A. They are stand-alone books. I don’t like to read books where I feel as though I’ve stepped into the middle of things and don’t know what’s going on. I like to see characters I’ve met before, but I don’t want to feel left out because I haven’t read other books in the series.
Q. Are you working on another book in the series? If so, what period will it be in? If not, what period would you like to write about next?
A. I’ve written two more books in the series, one contemporary, one historical set in the 1800s called The Scent of Jasmine. I just finished Scarlet Nights, which is about Sara Shaw and Tess Newland’s brother Mike. It was great re-visiting the people I’d met in Lavender Morning. Sara’s mother was great fun to write about, and I never did figure out if Mr. Lang was a good guy or a bad one.
I’m now in the middle of a contemporary about Colin Frazier and I’ve written about fifty pages of a historical set in 1893, called The Scent of Jasmine. At the end of that story, Angus’s sons showed up and I was dazzled by them, so I may do some books about them.
I plan to write lots more Edilean books as I really and truly like these people and I want to find out more about them.
Q. Do you feel the women in the story transcend how men perceive them? Was there any sort of historical reference for the Bound Girls?
A. Yes. It always astonishes me that people think the generation before them were chattels to men and never did anything in the way of business. It is so ridiculous! Yes, more women stayed home in the past, but they also ran companies. When a woman’s husband died, whom do they think supported the family?
Q. This story is one of personal evolutions. Do you consider Edilean and Angus to be significantly different by the story’s end? Have they met somewhere in the middle, or simply learned to accept each other for what they are?
A. The big change was that Angus and Edilean had to learn about each other. In a way, Angus was so hung up on Edilean’s background that he couldn’t believe she was capable of loving someone like him. He was a bit of a snob, really. As for Edilean, she thought she was useless, and needed to find out that she could do something other than host a tea party. She needed to transcend her own wealth and beauty.
Q. Shamus, Malcolm, Tam, and Angus all end up in different locales with their respective women by the end of the story. Which is the greater bond: love or clan?
A. Shamus, Tam, and Angus stayed in Edilean and founded the families of the town. Only Malcolm returned to Scotland. As for love or clan, I think they’re both the same. The clan stays together out of love. In a way, the clan moved to Edilean.
Q. Between Angus’s drawings of Edilean’s dream house and Edilean’s renderings of Angus’s shaven/unshaven face, there is a large amount of drawing and illustrating within the story. Do you do any of your own art while writing?
A. My university degree is in art and, yes, I do a lot of drawing for all my books. I have a big drafting table set up in a spare bedroom and I cover it with maps and house plans and sketches that I use in the books. Also, I truly love architecture so that plays a big part in all my books.
Q. Is there more to the reasons behind Angus’s absence in the weeks after James’s death? Are there secrets still yet to be discovered?
A. In a book I finished some time ago, The Scent of Jasmine, about Angus and Edilean’s daughter, I tell that the Ohio Company never paid off. I don’t know if anyone will notice the reference, but it meant that horrible old Colonel Austin went broke.
Q. Which was your favorite character to write? And will Edilean ever see Morag again?
A. I really liked Shamus and Prudence. I was so glad those two misfits found each other. They could have lived truly awful lives if they hadn’t run across each other. That Prudence, whose father was an earl, would marry a nobody like Shamus said a lot about her. I loved the way at the end that Shamus told Edilean the truth, that he would have stolen her gold—and that he never planned to be nice to Angus.
As for Morag, she stayed in Scotland and I think she was too old to be a continuing character. But she may turn up if I send one of Tam’s kids back to Scotland.
A Conversation with Jude Deveraux, Author of Lavender Morning
Q. Is Edilean based on a real town?
A. Yes and no. It’s a composite of several small towns that I’ve lived in, where everyone knows one another and their business.
Q. Why did you choose to set part of your novel during the period of World War II? What interests you about that time period? What research did writing this story require?
A. I grew up hearing stories about WWII, and when I was a child there were TV series set during the war, so it’s a vivid time period for me. As for choosing it, I needed a time when a young Miss Edi could prove herself. She’d been raised to have tea at Edilean Manor, but I needed for her to do more than that. She learned a lot about herself during the war, one thing being that she didn’t want to live in Edilean with her lazy brother.
As for the research, I spent weeks checking out exactly what was happening on specific days. I studied what was going on in England, even searching out the magazine articles of that week. I studied codes of that time and how messages were passed back and forth. Then there was the car that David drove and the brace that was put on his leg. It was all fairly detailed, but I enjoy research very much.
Q. The women in this novel are all strong female figures with strong personalities. Are these the type of women you like to write about? Do they reflect women you know or have known?
A. I like to write about women who change because of what happens in the novel. I don’t think Joce knew that she was on the verge of depression, but Miss Edi knew it. Edi thrived when she got away from the smothering closeness of the town of Edilean, and she knew that Joce needed that too. Joce needed a family, since the one she had, with the wicked stepsisters and stepmother, gave her nothing. Edi and Joce had each other, but Edi knew that when she was gone, Joce was going to be lost.
Q. What drew you to Miss Edi and Jocelyn? What made their story so compelling for you?
A. I wanted to write a series of books, as I’d done before, but I didn’t want to limit myself to a few families, so I created a small town. The first question was how to introduce the inhabitants. Since I’d never seen the town before, I couldn’t very well start with a person who’d grown up there. I needed an outsider so I and the reader could see the town with fresh eyes. The first thing I saw was that something had happened in 1941 that was still causing problems today. Eventually, Joce came into my mind as the link between the longtime residents and the newcomers.
Q. Do you know who you want your heroine to end up with before the novel is finished, or is it something that develops as you write?
A. For my entire writing career, I have been trying to write a book in which the heroine has a choice between two men. I’ve tried it many times, but haven’t been able to pull it off. Lavender Morning was no exception. Joce and Rams couldn’t find anything to talk about. I put them together at a picnic, but after just a short while they had nothing to say to each other. I wandered about for three days trying to come up with dialogue, but nothing came to me. Then I had Rams visit his secretary and, wow! sparks flew. Totally unexpected! And after Rams left the picnic, Luke stopped by and he and Joce couldn’t shut up.
Q. There’s a Cinderella element to the story, but Jocelyn doesn’t seem to need a Prince Charming. Were you playing with any of those elements as you were writing?
A. Who doesn’t need a Prince Charming? Joce needed everything: a home, a family, friends, intelligent people to talk to. She needed Edilean, and the townspeople needed her.
Q. Lavender Morning includes many elements of a mystery. Are there any mystery writers who inspired the plot twists and turns?
A. I love mystery stories. I love to read them and write them. From the first, I knew that there would be a mystery in Edilean, and I plotted it out over several books.
Q. Luke is an avid gardener, and the book includes extensive descriptions of gardening. Are you a gardener yourself?
A. Yes, I love gardening. I’ve grown orchids for many years, and I nearly always have a vegetable garden. There’s nothing like picking your own tomatoes.
Q. What made you decide to write the Edilean series? What do you like about the format of a series, rather than individual novels?
A. I like to write series because I can’t bear to leave my characters. I want to know what happened to them after they fell in love. And there are always side characters who I want to know more about. I really liked Sara in this book and have written a novel about her.
Q. What are you working on next?
A. I recently finished Scarlet Nights, which is about Sara Shaw and Tess Newland’s brother Mike. I truly loved that book because it was very exciting to write. Right now I have about a quarter of a book about Colin Frazier written. The Frazier family is a bit of a mystery to the town of Edilean, and to me as well, so it’s been interesting to get to know them. I like how their personalities tie into the way they were back in Scotland in 1766 (Days of Gold).
At the same time as I’m working on the book about Colin, I’m making extensive notes about a book on a descendant of Matthew Aldredge, a man from Days of Gold. It seems that Dr. Tristan is in love with a woman who lived back in 1893.
A Conversation with Jude Deveraux, Author of Scarlet Nights
You’ve written several other historical romance novels. Did any of your previous books inspire this story? Are there more books to come in the Edilean family series?
In the past, I wrote a series about two families, but I found that limiting, so I decided to create a town. I came up with seven founding families, showed their personalities and interests in Days of Gold, then carried them forward. Yes, I plan to write lots more books set in Edilean. I truly and deeply love my characters.
I want to write about other characters in the town besides those from the founding families. I want to see how they feel about living in a town that’s run by families that have lived there for centuries.
Who is your favorite character in the story and why? Do you think this is Mike’s story more so than any other character’s? Why or why not?
I think Mike’s life changed the most. He was a very lonely man, but he didn’t know it. His sister, Tess, did and she fought to give him a life, but Mike didn’t know what he was missing.
But I also think Sara’s life changed. She was devastated by the loss of Brian, the man she loved. She had her entire life planned out, knew where she was going and with whom, then zap! it was all taken from her in an instant. It took away her sense of self. I think maybe she felt that all she deserved was a man like Greg.
How did you come to be a writer? What is your background, and who are your influences?
I write because I have stories running around in my head. I never dreamed of being a “writer” per se. I just wanted to put the stories in my mind onto paper. I haven’t changed. I still have characters in my thoughts, and I want to find out what happened to them. I want to hear them talk and see what they do if they are in a certain situation.
Describe the journey you took while writing this book. How many hours of research did you have to do in order to capture the spirit of the Southern town? Is Edilean based on your hometown? Was there any character that you spent more time researching than the others?
Edilean isn’t based on any particular small U.S. town but all of them. As for the research, I spent many, many hours on it. My good friend Detective Charlie Stack helped me with all of it. He directed me to books and websites and he answered all my questions, whether I asked about martial arts or economic crimes.
I spent more of the time learning about the types of fraud that people like my fictional Mitzi committed than I did anything else. It was fascinating to me how women like her work.
You have been praised by Romantic Times magazine as an author who “has always enchanted readers” and who “instinctively knows what every woman is searching for—her own knight in shining armor.” Was your goal to have Sara find her “knight in shining armor”? Do you think this is a correct assessment of what your books aim to do?
I like for my people to find True Love—and that’s not always easy. I have started writing several books in which the hero and heroine disliked each other so much that I discarded the book. It’s okay if they think they hate one another but feel physical attraction, but if there’s nothing between them, then I can’t work with it.
As for Sara, she deeply and truly needed someone to rescue her. I don’t think she realized—but the town did—that she was heading down into a deep depression, one that she probably wouldn’t have recovered from. Even if Greg Anders weren’t a criminal, the truth was that he didn’t needSara. Mike did. Sara gave him a home and a future. They were perfect together.
Why did you decide to tell the story from both Mike’s and Sara’s points of view? What effect do you think this has on the story overall?
Sometimes I need for a character not to know what’s going on in the story, so I write in first person. In Scarlet Nights there was so much going on that I had to keep the reader informed of every change and every secret. When I was first plotting the book, I thought of telling the story just from Sara’s point of view. What Mike was doing and why would be kept a secret, but when I tried that, he came off as a jerk. He was sneaking into the apartment, then staying there even when Sara told him to leave. It didn’t work! I changed it all and told the reader everything upfront. Sara was the one who didn’t know what was going on, not the reader.
Did any real-life criminals inspire the characters of Greg Anders and his mother?
Yes, they did. In fact, everything I wrote about Mitzi and Greg is the truth, based on real cases.
You have a remarkable talent for capturing the description of Southern life, especially the food and the landscape. Was it difficult to bring the South to life? Do you write more from experience or imagination?
I just write about Edilean as I see the town and the people. Since I am Southern, I describe what I know.
I have a passion for old houses, so it’s been fun to find houses that fit my people, then have them walk around inside. If I use an old house as the model, I like to imagine how the residents over the years would have remodeled it. I always have a thick stack of photos of the house, the facade, the floor plan, and the setting. Merlin’s Farm has been the most interesting because there’s so much to it. I have many pages of photos of that place, as it’s based on an actual plantation.
Who is your favorite author? Who are you reading now? What is next for you?
I don’t really have a favorite author. The truth is that I read very little fiction. I read a lot of nonfiction for my research. I have several TV shows that I watch, as I think it’s good for me to keep up with current slang and what’s going on in the world. I also watch a lot of movies and I have favorite DVDs that I play often.