One of the hottest writers out there, Jean R. Ewing, talks intimately about her new name, and her new book MY DARK PRINCE.
An Interview with Jean Ross Ewing
by Cybil Solyn
NAME: Jean Ross Ewing
PEN NAME: Julia Ross
BOOK(s): MY DARK PRINCE (Aug 2000 Jove Historical Romance) as Julia Ross FLOWERS UNDER ICE (Sept 99 Berkley Historical Romance) as Jean Ross Ewing ILLUSION (Sept 98 Berkley Historical Romance) as Jean Ross Ewing Six Regencies for Zebra as Jean R. Ewing: the "Reward" series (ending with LOVE'S REWARD, the 1998 Rita Winner for Best Regency )
Q: If you could meet anyone who ever lived who would it be and why?
A: Do I have to pick just one? OK, how about Lord Byron? He's always fascinated me and he certainly fascinated everyone who met him in Regency London. Byron essentially "invented" himself as a romantic heroic figure – "mad, bad and dangerous to know" said Lady Caroline Lamb, one of his lovers – but he was also known as a good friend and a great conversationalist. Folks also found him very, very sexy and said he was the handsomest man they'd ever seen I'd love to know what he was really like!
Q: How do you go about mixing history with your stories?
A: My stories really just grow out of my sense of the period, so I don't think very much about how I mix the elements. History is such an integral part of character, setting and plot. I don't think you can conceive of a story and characters in a vacuum, and then blend them randomly into history. I hope readers feel almost as if they've been magically transported to that other place and time, because that's often how I feel when I'm writing!
Q:You have quite a knack for blending history and fiction together. Have you ever run across a piece of research that has screamed 'USE ME! USE ME!'? If so what?
A: Yes, many, many times! Sometimes research presents me with something so wonderful that – if it fits the story – it just begs to be used. One example would be the earthquake in FLOWERS UNDER ICE. I had no idea there had been an earthquake in Regency Scotland, but there it was in the 1816 Inverness newspaper. Exactly what I needed for my story on exactly the right day! In MY DARK PRINCE, there are some other examples, but I don't want to give away any spoilers
Q: I enjoy books that have fiery women who don't necessarily need a man, but sure do like having one! How do you go about creating such fully developed and unique characters?
A: By living and breathing them day and night! Characters often just seem to appear in my mind and demand my attention. Then, as I begin writing, I start finding out more and more about them. The really fun part is when I toss them into some exciting, challenging situations and see how they cope!
Q: This is your first step away from the strict Regency, am I right? What made you decide to do it, and how did the writing of it compare for you?
A: Although all my books so far have been set in the Regency period, I'm not sure that I've ever written a "strict Regency" *grin* Even the six books I wrote for Zebra strayed outside the traditional boundaries of Regencies! My historicals have definitely delved into all kinds of further territory. ILLUSION was a complex adventure filled with intrigue, where the heroine had been trained in a harem in India. Not only was Frances familiar with the secrets of the Kama Sutra, but she introduced some interesting spiritual elements into the story as well. Some readers thought ILLUSION strayed too far from their romance expectations, but Romance Communications called it "the decade's most spell-binding novel," and lots of readers wrote to say it ranked on their bookshelf with their very favorite romances of all time. But definitely not a "strict Regency!" *grin*
FLOWERS UNDER ICE was equally "different" – it's a passionately written story involving the Regency Scottish Highlands. I made it as true to that culture and history, as learned from my family, as I could. Mary Jo Putney recommended it as "one of the most powerful voices in historical romance," and Mary Jo chooses her words carefully *grin*. It's a book full of humor, but the power is always there underneath *grin*
MY DARK PRINCE has a hero who's actually a reigning sovereign – an earl's son who inherited the throne of a little country in the Alps as a boy. As the story opens, he comes back to Regency England for his state wedding to a princess, and gets involved with an illegitimate English lady instead (someone, obviously, he can never, never marry *grin*). I was fascinated by what such absolute power would be like for him and how an "ordinary" woman would deal with it. Then all kinds of other elements started creeping in . . . but does he find a way to marry the heroine in the end? Of course *grin*
So, though I grew up on Georgette Heyer, I don't think I've ever written a "strict Regency." From the beginning I've just followed my muse wherever she wanted to go and I haven't regretted it yet *grin* As for the actual writing, it's always very, very hard work, but it's incredibly satisfying in spite of that. Yet each book is a new experience, where I feel as if I have to learn how to do it all over again!
Q: There has been this big to-do over authors leaving the Regency genre. Have you ever considered writing in another genre?
A: I think I always have written rather outside the genre! Any author who is true to her muse must go wherever that takes her, and sometimes we get dragged – kicking and screaming – in the new direction! I've been very lucky to have had fabulous editors who haven't wanted to limit where I go, and I hope I'll always get that chance!
Q: You have mentioned that you really like the cover of this book. What is it about this cover that made you mention that?
A: Because IMHO it's just beautiful!! I love the colors, silver and turquoise (like a lovely piece of jewelry), and I think the artwork is outstanding – a fabulous silver horse leaping out from a magical landscape. It also reflects something of the feel of MY DARK PRINCE, because there is a bit of a fairy-tale aspect to this story, though it's still a powerful, sexy, (even fairly gritty *grin*) romance! I'm also delighted because it's my first step-back (with a "hero" painting inside). Not only is it fun to see the artist's idea of my hero (a dark-haired stud on a rearing black horse *grin*), but it's also an important statement from my publisher. Step-backs are very expensive, so it tells readers that Jove is really excited about MY DARK PRINCE and I'm very flattered by that *grin*.
Q: Who are some of your favorite authors? Or name a few of your "keeper" books.
A: I love all romances with sweep and style and emotional depth. A few favorite historical authors would be: Mary Balogh, Jo Beverley, Judith Ivory, Laura Kinsale, Mary Jo Putney, Barbara Samuel. I've just read my first Robin Schone and will definitely add her to my list! I'm also a huge Dorothy Dunnett fan and her Lymond series are top "keepers" for me.
Q: Why did you decide to use a pen name for this book? I know that for me your name is synonymous with "automatic buy." So why the use of an unrecognizable name? Are you at all worried that your fans won't know to look for this book?
A: Yes, I *am* a bit worried that "Jean Ross Ewing" fans won't know "Julia Ross" is me, but let's hope they'll find out!! This was a publisher decision, made when they decided to promote MY DARK PRINCE to a Jove lead. As part of a whole new "look" for the Jove leads, in the hope of attracting lots of new readers, they thought a shorter name looked hotter on the cover. With this kind of publisher support, I'm not complaining!
Q: Your books are well known for having witty dialogue, and funny characters, yet humor is one of the hardest things for a writer. How do you tackle that challenge?
A: My stories usually have very powerful and serious emotional underpinnings, where truly major issues are at stake for the characters, so humor keeps things balanced. When my heroes and heroines take a witty approach or find humor even in problems, I think it really reveals character – shows intelligence and bravery. Besides, a man with good sense of humor is very sexy *grin*
Q: We all know that everyone loves a Rakehell, but I've been wondering what quality makes the best rake? What do you think makes for the perfect rake?
A: Courage, dash, flair, humor, and a true love for women! All with an underpinning of honesty and honor, of course, and a valid reason for him to behave as disgracefully as he sometimes does *grin*. A perfect rake adores sex, but he also truly *likes* women – loves female company and conversation. It also helps if he has fabulous looks and a body to die for! Of course, not all my heroes are rakes. Nicholas in MY DARK PRINCE isn't – as a reigning sovereign, he doesn't have to be! Being royal offers enough power and attraction by itself *grin*
Q: I noticed today that you want everyone to buy their books from Amazon on August 1st, Why is that?
A: I'd be just as equally delighted if readers buy my books anywhere – whether on-line or from their local bookstore! The request about Amazon is only for those readers who intend to order MY DARK PRINCE from Amazon.com anyway. My agent wants to see whether a little "clump" of orders at Amazon all on one day will change the way they 'rate' a book. We'll see!
Q: Obviously since we are on Rakehell.com, a community designed solely for romance readers, I think the Internet is a very (and getting more powerful by the day!) resource for romance readers, but many people have the misconception that women, especially romance readers aren't online. What do you think about that?
A: I think women are a very powerful force on the Internet. It's also true, of course, that lots of romance readers aren't online yet. But Internet fans who find out about a new book online really help spread the word to friends who may not have access to all that fun book talk! The Internet is also a great place for authors. No one is more important to us than readers, and it's wonderful to see what readers have to say about romance (even if we don't always agree *grin*)
Q: It will be very interesting to see how many women show up for your online chat at the end of this month.
A: I'll be happy even if it's just one *grin* Each reader is equally important to me!
Q: Is there anything else you wanted to say? Add?
A: Only a big thank you for your support and interesting questions! I hope my books bring a few hours of pleasure to readers. I hope they're always entertaining, intelligent, exciting and worthwhile. And I hope over time I can do that job better and better *grin* Oh, and don't miss MY DARK PRINCE, of course. On-sale August 1, 2000 (ISBN: 0-515-12883-X)
Q:Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule. I have loved all your books, and I am very excited to see you moving into other areas of romance!
A: Thank you, Cybil! My pleasure!