THE JAMES GANG
Each month, I interview authors or publishing insiders who have some form of "James" in their names or their books. My April James Gang interviewee is HQN author, Judith James.
1. Let’s get the most important question asked first: Why James?
I picked a pen name because I may wish to write other genres besides romance and it seems wise to keep readers expectations in mind. Judith James will always mean rich, vivid, well-researched and somewhat old school historical romance/adventure. I chose the name James because I liked the sound of it, and it's my dad's name. I sometimes tease my mom that if I ever write erotica I will use her name . She doesn't seem to find that funny.
2. What fiction genre(s) and/or sub-genre(s) do you write?
I have written an unpublished paranormal about a ghost-hunting crew and a woman who buys a haunted house. It's been debated by some whether my published stories are strictly romance, and I would have to admit they are genre-bending with a healthy dose of action, adventure, straight historical, and serious drama thrown in; but the love story is always central and they always have a happy ending. I do have a dark gritty fantasy percolating in my brain I have to keep putting a lid on but hope to get to someday.
3. Tell us about your latest release.
My latest release is a 17th century Restoration love story called Libertine's Kiss, inspired by thecharacter of the Earl of Rochester, court poet and favorite of King Charles II. Here is a short blurb:
William de Veres, the handsome son of a hard-drinking cavalier. Abandoned at an early age to a brutal school system and a predatory and abusive tutor, he discovers the escapes of poetry, literature, alcohol and sex, and the defenses of a sharp sword and lacerating wit. As a titanic struggle erupts between parliament and king, William takes up arms in the Royalist cause and pursued by Cromwell’s men finds himself seeking shelter from a sober young Puritan woman in a cottage deep in the woods. The Civil war has cost the once high-spirited Elizabeth Walters her best friend and her father, leaving her unprotected and alone. She flees an unwanted marriage, seeking safe haven, but what she finds there is something she never expected. Despite William’s gratitude and promise to aid her, Elizabeth never expects to set him again, but the Restoration of Charles II to his throne will bring her to the attention of both William and the king. Can a promise long forgotten and a friendship forged in the past help two lonely people find each other and themselves? Can a debauched court poet and notorious libertine convince the wary Elizabeth he is capable of love? These are the questions asked by Libertine’s Kiss…
4. Is there a core story and/or a theme(s) in your books?
My books tend to deal with fairly serious issues. Faith and loyalty. War and violence. Childhood trauma. They do have light moments and humor, but they tend to be rather dark and edgy over all and they are well grounded in the period history. My heroes are to a greater or lesser extent what you'd called tortured heroes. They are also men of their time. Most of my heroes are very familiar and intimate with women in a physical sense. It's emotional intimacy that presents the challenge. Nevertheless, they have a genuine liking and respect for women. They are just very wary of them. My couples all seem to develop a friendship based on respect and trust before the fireworks really begin. My stories also tend to be somewhat epic in nature, in that they take place over the course of months and years rather than days or weeks.
5. Do you have a favorite hero and/or heroine in your books and why?
Gabriel of Broken Wing was my favorite. He was so beautiful and so hurt, and Broken Wing was also my first story. I had just taken a sabbatical from a job working with male survivors, and finding the woman to love Gabriel as he deserved was a form of closure, I guess. But then I started Highland Rebel, and I fell in love with Jamie, the ultimate rogue. A very pragmatic guy with his eye on the prize and a wonderful sense of humor. Cat Drummond, his wife, is probably my favorite heroine. She was a pretty good match for Jamie, I think. I don't suppose I need to say I'm fickle because sexy, dark, sardonic, talented and disillusioned William kept me up at nights in Libertine's Kiss, and I've since grown very attached to Captain Robert Nichols, the hero of The King's Courtesan who knows how to manage men and troops but is still trying to figure out women. I guess the bottom line is my books tend to be more hero centric than some. My men get equal time and equal billing because when I read, I want to fall in love with the hero and when I write, I write heroes I would fall in love with.
6. What do you enjoy most about being an author?
I love sharing stories that make readers feel good. I've been inspired by so many Well, as I said above, spending time with all these lovely men is a treat as I tell myself stories that excite and engage me. I love time-travelling and visiting places and doing things in my head I couldn't otherwise experience. And of course, sitting back in my pajamas with a coffee on a snowy Monday morning, watching the traffic as I pull out my laptop and get to work.
7. Do you have any awards, reviews or kudos you’d like to tell us about?
Well, so far my books have been well received, and of course I have the reviews, etc. on my webpage. Broken Wing was named a Desert Island Keeper by AAR, was a Romantic Times Book Reviews Top Pick, and named a debut of the year by Romance Novel TV. It also got a stellar review from Publishers Weekly, which was pretty good for a small release from an independent press. It was also an editor's top choice for Historical Novels Review and won the IPPY Gold for Romance in 2008. Last but not least, Kristie Jenner, a wonderful romance blogger, took it up on her site, Ramblings on Romance, and made a quest of getting people to read it. I owe a lot to her.
Highland Rebel was also an Historical Novels Reviews editor's pick and picked as a book of the year by Michelle Buonfiglio of Barnes & Noble. Finally I am very excited with Libertine's Kiss. It received a starred review from Booklist, an All About Romance Desert Island Keeper, and a Romantic Times Book Reviews Top Pick, and has been nominated for an award in the "European Historical" category at this year's Romantic Times Booklovers Convention, which I am planning to attend.
8. How do you promote your books and your author brand?
Not as well as I should, to be honest. Despite the kind words, to most people I think I'm still "Judith Who?" I'm not terribly media savvy, don't have a large promotional budget and find it hard to make time to write and promote. These are things I have to get around to learning. I am going to the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in Los Angeles, which will be my biggest promotional activity yet. I am doing signings for all three books and will be sitting on a panel with Sabrina Jeffries, Sally MacKenzie, Amanda McIntyre and Elizabeth Hoyt, so I am very excited about that.
9. What is your next project?
I have recently finished a story called the The King's Courtesan, which tells the story of one of the King's courtesans and Captain Robert Nichols, a character from Libertine's Kiss. Here is a brief blurb.
Captain Robert Nichols, a seventeenth century parliamentarian soldier and baronet introduced to readers in Libertine’s Kiss, used to believe a thing was right, or it was wrong, but his own failure to save his sister from a tragic death at the hands of a group of drunken cavaliers changed everything, waking something savage inside. Haunted by the past and hardened after ten years of fighting a fierce civil war, all he wants now is a little peace, something he hopes to find on his estate, Cressly. When King Charles II decides to confiscate it to reward one of his backers, it seems that all is lost, but Elizabeth de Veres, a woman the captain aided in the past, intervenes with the king, who makes him an offer. Marry his mistress, a beautiful courtesan with humble beginnings, and provide a respectable cover for an illicit affair, and he will keep his lands and be richly rewarded. The woman’s name is Hope, and in more ways than he can possibly imagine, she may be the only hope he has left.
It will be a late summer or early fall release. I'm currently working on a story about a highwayman who attempts to steal the crown jewels from the tower of London and has his heart stolen along the way.
10. Do you have a bit of wisdom you’d like to impart or a favorite quote?
Well, my observation has been that there is no right or wrong way to do things; there is just the way that works for you. I broke a lot of rules in my writing and on my road to publication. I wouldn't advocate it for anyone else, but it worked for me. To that I'd add: don't give up. It took me a year to find a publisher for Broken Wing and there were many ups and downs along the way. Develop a thick skin and don't take things personally. As for me personally, I don't let other people read my work until I have the concept down and the story laid out according to my vision. Then and only then am I ready to hear input from others. As I said though, this might not work for everyone. Embrace whatever keeps you writing!
Judith's website: http://www.judithjamesauthor.com/
Her personal Facebook page:
Her Facebook "Like" page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Judith-James/124405324260355
Thank you, Judith! My May James Gang interviewee will be Dorothy St. James, author of the White House Gardener mysteries.
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