Friday, December 8, 2017

Author Joanna Bourne is my guest today!

My guest today is RITA-winning, bestselling author of wonderful historical romances Joanna Bourne. Joanna lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge with her family, a medium-sized mutt and a faux Himalayan cat. But I know she has also lived in England, France, Germany, Nigeria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. (Whew!)

It goes without saying that I love her work, but let me say it anyway. Joanna writes splendid historical romances set in England and France during the Napoleonic Wars. She's fascinated by that time and place (“such passionate conviction and burning idealism ... and really sexy clothes”). She is so right.

Welcome, Joanna.

For US readers: Do post a comment and leave your email as Joanna is giving one lucky winner their choice of her paperbacks! 

And now for the interview...

What drew you to write romance? And in the genre you write in?

I’ll be fairly frank about this – Of the several sort of books I might have written, Romance seemed to sell the best.  It seemed a more welcoming place. It seemed a practical choice in a wholly impractical endeavor. Is that a terrible thing to say?

[Regan’s note: Not at all; I admire your honesty]

I read Romance genre and loved it, but I’ve always loved and read all sorts of books. If Mysteries had been the major seller in town, maybe I would have tried a Mystery first. If SF&F (Science Fiction and Fantasy) had filled the shelves, I might maybe have turned my hand to that.

Why Romance? I love the optimism and the woman-centric nature of Romance. It lets me say some of the things I want to say. So maybe it wasn’t entirely a practical choice. Because you gotta do what you gotta do.

How do you pick the setting for your stories?

I love the Napoleonic War. Clashing ideals. High stakes. Men and women passionately devoted to their cause. Both sides showing the best and worst of humanity. Heroes and heroines thick on the ground everywhere.  

How could I resist?
As I count them there are seven works in the Spymaster series thus far:

The Spymaster’s Lady (France and England 1802) - 2008
My Lord and Spymaster (London 1811) - 2008
The Forbidden Rose (France 1794) - 2010
The Black Hawk (Paris. Frame story1818 with flashbacks 1794 to 1818) - 2011
Rogue Spy (England, 1802) - 2014
Gideon and the Den of Thieves, (London 1793) ( novella) - 2016
Beauty Like the Night (England 1819) - 2017

Do you have a favorite among them?

The Black Hawk is the book I like best. Well ... Hawker. The Forbidden Rose is maybe the best written and the book closest to straight Historical Fiction.

Will there be more in the series? And, if so, whose story comes next?

At this time I’m not planning on any more complete Spymaster novels. I might do some novellas. The time to stop writing a series is before folks get tied of it, I figure.

What are you working on?

I'm working on the first draft of a paranormal romance with a time travel component. Paris in the 1730s, mostly. If I can manage to sell this, I see a series with the same male and female protagonists and crew of secondaries.

Which of your characters would you most/least to invite to dinner, and why?

I’d be totally intimidated by most of the characters in the books. Maybe Jessamyn would be a good dinner companion. We could talk fabrics and the art of bribing custom’s officials.

I note that Sevie in Beauty Like the Night seems to have no maid most of the time? Didn’t she need help getting in and out of her gowns? Or was that Raoul’s job? (tee, hee)

I’ve taken my cue from re-enactors, who mostly can manage to dress themselves in period costume with a little squirming and stretching and a generous cut. I know I’ve had dresses that button up the back and dealt with them in that fashion.

The whole – “But they wore corsets that laced up the back” – issue has been debated with skill and knowledge by many folks elsewhere. I come down on the side of, “They could get into their clothes on their own. They generally did have a sister or housemaid to do the back buttons but that was convenience, not dire necessity.” And I’m writing well pre-Victorian. No metal grommets, just thread re-enforced buttonholes. No tight lacing that had to be forcibly pulled.

There’s this also ... I figger all of my female folks give some thought to the practical likelihood they’ll have to get ready for action in their ordinary working clothing at a moment’s notice. None of these adventurers drag a maid around with them. 

There are objections. There’s difficult, beautiful clothing that takes a team to assemble. When Sevie is to wear a red silk evening gown and priceless jewels, I see the nanny tuck her into that gown with the youngest kids watching. The most skilled maid in the house puts up her hair. (That’s not the ferociously skilled dresser Sevie shares with Maggie. That maid is in Scotland at the time, freezing her long-suffering butt off.)

If you were given a chance to travel to the past where would you go and why?

I’d like to be rich and beautiful in Paris in the 1920s and 30s.  Fabulous music, gorgeous clothes, exciting ideas, great food ...  (sigh).  Now I want to go there.

I once recall you saying that you can write in a coffee shop… is that still true?

I love writing in coffee shops.  There’s just enough distraction of just the right kind. Interesting people to watch, too. I’m a shameless eavesdropper.

What would you say is your most interesting quirk?

Quirk? I haz no ... what you call them? – the quirk. What is this quirk you speak of?

I will say this -- I’m old enough and have lived long and well enough that I’ve discarded lots of unnecessary concerns. I’m quite sure nobody notices or cares what you look like or what you do. Folks submit themselves to a tyranny of “What will people think?” when it’s really unnecessary.

So I pretty much ignore other folks opinions and do what pleases me.

[Regan’s note: Ah, ha! Is that a quirk?]

What do you love most about the place where you live (not the house but the setting, the town, the area)?
I live on the top of a mountain in the middle of a National Park far away from everyone. It’s very quiet, (though the road can be a bit challenging in the middle of the winter.)  A good place to write. A good place to kick back and think. And the view is splendid. I get up in the morning and watch the sun rise and the beauty of that lasts me the whole day.

Jo's backporch

I had a pair of Eastern bluebirds on my back porch today. Sometimes I need stuff like this.

Joanna’s latest is Beauty Like the Night (reviewed in my post below and highly recommended!)

  He doesn't trust the woman who sent him off to be hanged
She doesn't trust the man who showed up in her bedroom with a knife

Severine de Cabrillac, orphan of the French revolution and sometime British intelligence agent, has tried to leave spying behind her. Now she devotes herself to investigating crimes in London and finding justice for the wrongly accused.

Raoul Deverney, an enigmatic half-Spaniard with enough secrets to earn even a spy's respect, is at her door demanding help. She's the only one who can find the killer of his long-estranged wife and rescue her missing fourteen-year-old daughter.

Severine reluctantly agrees to aid him, even though she knows the growing attraction between them makes it more than unwise. Their desperate search for the girl unleashes treason and murder. . . and offers a last chance for two strong, wounded people to find love.

See it on Amazon.

Keep up with Joanna on Facebook, her Website and sign up for her Blog where she writes about all sorts of fun stuff. And don't forget to leave a comment!


  1. So happy to have found this post! Looking forward to checking out your books😉
    Kelly Braun

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Gaelicark!

    2. You're very kind.

      The first one, The Spymaster's Lady, is the cheapest, $3. Some of the others might be available at your library.
      The audiobooks are a hoot. If they're at your library, given 'em a try.

    3. If the audio books were available for download at Audible UK I would definitely buy. I read the e-book of 'The Spymaster's Lady' when it was first published and loved it ... especially the British
      bath interrogation technique! Deteriorating reading vision turns me to audio books now and I find that a good narrator can add value and enhance enjoyment.

    4. I'm 100% behind you on the value of a good narrator. I have the best. Just the best.
      I didn't know the download audobooks weren't available in the UK.

      Both the Book Depository and seem to have the audiobooks -- but only on CD. And thus expensive. I cannot for the life of me imagine why they don't have downloads.

      Is this something your local library might be enticed to buy? Sometimes folks can put in requests at their local library and get a little traction.

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you.

      I like to think they're a combination of Adventure plot and Romance. If that sounds good ...

    2. Oh - her books are more than interesting! Betcha can't read just one!

  3. Thanks to you both for this lovely interview. I am reading Beauty Like the Night right now, and am quite intrigued at the prospect of 1730s time travel. Best wishes and happy writing.

    1. Anna, Beauty Like the Night is set in 1819 (see the review below this post on my blog). Did you mean Jo's other books?

    2. Hi, Regan,. I was referring to the book Jo mentioned she is currently writing.

    3. I have this set of French TV shows that I watch. Nicola Le Floch. It's set at the end of Louis XV, beginning of Louis XVI. I've always been interested in the period.

    4. Jo, I have Nicolas Le Floch, too, and love it. Well, all except for how he treated his mistress. Whatever happened to her, anyway?

    5. Ah, Anna, I see. Yes, it sounds intriguing.

    6. It's probably somewhere in the books ... but I work through those so slowly ...

  4. You are a new author to me! don't know how I missed your books!..... I look forward to discovering your work! I wish you continued success!

    1. They're or people who go for the adventuring stories. Not thrillers, exactly.
      Maybe ... grown up Nancy Drew.

  5. I first chanced upon Ms Bourne in a Christmas short story anthology, loved her characters and style, and purchased The Spymaster's Lady. Then I promptly bought every book she's written, although I didn't know about Gideon. I'll order it immediately! I had a feeling of "Where have you been all this time?" after reading her first book, and the last year has been a lovely discovery of her work. I highly recommend her books to readers who appreciate authenticity in their historicals as well as a true romance. Delicious books!

  6. I've loved this whole series. In this interview, I love your answer to your most interesting quirk. Thanks for an awesome, memorable series.

    1. Folks who say they like the books make all the work and worry worthwhile. Thank you.

  7. I was once trying to explain Point of View to my husband, who kept insisting that I was talking nonsense and that books were always written in the author's point of view, so I pulled out one of your books—the one with the ferret (I forget titles)— and made him read a couple of passages. He said, "Well, okay, I guess."
    Aside from loving your books, I treasure the blog pieces you have written about writing. Invaluable.

    1. I am happy to have the book thought of as "The one with the ferret"... especially since that's the way I think of it myself.

      Ideally, the characters are supposed to sound like themselves all the time and that's not generally the way the author goes around talking.

  8. Hello Jo and Regan! So glad I saw the link to this post. Loved your interview and especially you “quirks@ comments. I have found that true as I have gotten older. I have your first couple of books in paperback and I loved them. There is something about Spy that are fascinating. Look forward to reading more by you and thanks again!!

    1. I dream of a society in which all older folks just go around thumbing their noses at the general rules of behavior and doing their thing.

      Little Old Men and Old Women with protest signs, demanding better food labeling. Staid, respectable middle aged people dressing up in animal costumes to support the ASPCA.

  9. I bet the Eastern Bluebirds have taken shelter. I live in NE TN a little further East than you likely do. We got 2 to 3 inches of snow today. I'm sure your area did also, if not a bit more since you are on top of the mountain and we are in the foothills. It sounds like you live in a wonderful spot, perfect to concentrate and write.
    I love historical fiction, especially when the details reflect good research. I need to catch up on this series. The blurb for Beauty Like the Night sounds good. The cover is perfect. I have enjoyed your books and look forward to reading many more.
    I hope the road to your house isn't too bad. Have a wonderful holiday season.
    (Sorry I have to use anonymous, but for some reason google won't let me sign in.)

    1. I've seen so few Eastern Bluebirds in my county. I saw one down by the dump -- which is surprising since it's not precisely a lovely venue.

      I feed the birds, but can identify only a few of them. Thing is, I keep my distance glasses in the car. *g* The Eastern Bluebirds were spotted by my sister when she visited. Who knows hoe long they've been hanging about.

      My road --than you for the concern -- is steep and windy and not yet plowed, so I'm staying in today with a fire and the cat and dog and some chicken soup.

  10. Janette GryniewiczDecember 9, 2017 at 2:08 PM

    I've heard great things about this series. I will have to check them out!

  11. Thanks to all who commented! We have a winner for one of Joanna's books... Congratulations to Janette Gryniewicz! Janette, let us know which book you want. You can send me a message if you like via FB.