Maggi Andersen’s “Spies of Mayfair” series was always going to appeal to my love of historical romance but “A Baron in Her Bed” did much more (review on Goodreads). And Maggi’s choice of star to play her hero seals the deal for me! Welcome, Maggi, and thanks for treading the boards with us today!
Thank you for inviting me, Susanne.
1. Are you inspired most by places, people or experiences and how do these work their way into your writing?
Inspiration strikes at odd times, a vivid dream inspired one novel. But many ideas just float around in my head begging to be turned into stories, it comes from a lifetime of reading I suspect. Art features quite a bit. My mother was an artist, so I grew up around painting and art history. I also studied Fine Arts at university. I have a deep interest in architecture, fashion and design too and like to apply it to my historical novels.
Writing The Spies of Mayfair, however, was a bit different, having decided to write a series, my heroes and heroines leapt out at me and inspired me to write their story.
2. Please share one of your favourite moments of inspiration with us.
While watching a news show I saw a neo-Nazi march, which stirred something in me. I wrote the outline for an English mystery novel, which incorporates stolen Nazi art. “Murder in Devon” became a semi-finalist in the Penguin /Amazon Breakthrough novel contest under another title. It’s published with Black Opal Books.
3. How did you come up with the idea of TAMING A GENTLEMAN SPY?
This one required very little thought, I wish they were all so easy. My hero is an earl and a spy. Lady Sibella sees him, wants him and even though he’s pretty determined not to marry, she gets him in the end. It’s the second book in the series: The Spies of Mayfair, set in Regency England.
4. How do you come up with your characters’ names?
I pick names applicable to the period. I use two very handy books: THE OXFORD DICTIONARY OF ENGLISH CHRISTIAN NAMES and THE WORDSWORTH DICTIONARY OF SURNAMES. I choose a name which appeals and try to ensure all the characters’ names don’t start with the same letter. I’m a bit suspicious though, the characters may choose their own names. J
5. Who would you cast for a movie/TV series as your main characters if given the chance? John Haldane, Earl of Strathairn is tall and fair with blue-grey eyes. I, like many women, sigh over the spy, 007 James Bond, Daniel Craig. Those eyes! I also like Matt Damon. Lady Sibella Winborne has black hair and green eyes. For her I’d choose the lovely Emily Blunt.
See what I mean! My favourite modern actor, Daniel Craig, playing my favourite modern spy AND a Regency spy! I can see him now in Regency attire! *sigh* J
6. What is your favourite holiday?
Roaming the English countryside, visiting heritage listed houses and quaint villages.
7. Do you read reviews of your books? What do you do when you read a not-so-nice one?
I don’t read many. If I get a bad one I ignore it. You can’t please everyone.
8. How many times were you turned down before you finally got published?
Probably about 10 or so for my first book, which I tried to launch in Australia. Not many after that, I stuck with the same publisher for years.
9. What reason(s) did the publishers give for their rejection of your manuscript?
Not what they were looking for. Mills & Boon sent a lovely rejection- if there is such a thing, suggesting how I could improve it and submit to them again. They even sent me a copy of one of their books. I didn’t pursue it, because I didn’t think my cross-genre plots would suit them.
And this is such an important point for writers seeking a publisher to remember. A rejection may simply be that what you are writing doesn’t fit with that particular publishing house.
10. Who is your literary hero?
Rhett Butler, from GONE WITH THE WIND - bad boy makes good. Who can forget, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
11. What is your favourite book of all time that you can reread a hundred times, and it still feels like the first time? There isn’t just one, but most of Georgette Heyer’s novels: Black Moth, Arabella, Frederica and others.
Still on my top ‘go-to comfort’ reads—love GH!
12. What do you need to set the mood for you to write?
Once I’m at my desk, with all my reference books around me, I begin to write and am soon absorbed. I know I can rewrite it if it’s rubbish, but funnily enough the bones are always there for a good scene. The TV can be on a news program. It’s background noise and seldom distracts me. I pop my head up now and then, or make a cup of tea and do some stretches. I like to keep up with what’s going on in the world. Sometimes I’ll play music but I prefer instrumentals.
13. If there is one genre that you have not written in yet, but would love to try writing a book in that specific genre, what would it be?
I like variety. I’ve written children’s, young adult, murder mysteries, contemporary romantic suspense and historical romance. Who knows? Something else may appeal to me in the future. Not horror or paranormal though. I leave them to the writers who can do them justice.
14. How many blurbs did you have to write before the final one?
I work on the blurb I initially come up with, shaping it until I get it the way I want it. My publisher might then change a word or two.
15. If you could bring one of your characters to life, who would it be? And why?
Guy, Baron Fortescue from A BARON IN HER BED. He is irresistibly gorgeous. John Haldane, Earl of Strathairn from TAMING A GENTLEMAN SPY can visit anytime too, lol. LOL—if it’s DC in the role, his shoes are welcome under my bed anytime!
16. What are you working on now?
I’m really enjoying writing WHAT A RAKE WANTS. It’s the third book in The Spies of Mayfair Series. The final book, where all the characters come together.
I’m really looking forward to this one! It’s a great series you’ve created!
17. Would you like to share an excerpt from your writing or a photo or music link that inspires you?
I’d love to thank you. Here’s a photo of me with my some of the wild birds I feed, these are kookaburras. Birds are fascinating and can inspire me at times.
And an excerpt from TAMING A GENTLEMAN SPY
Here is the blurb:
John Haldane, Earl of Strathairn, is on an urgent mission to find the killer of his fellow spy. Has the treasonous Frenchman, Count Forney, returned to England to wreak havoc? Or has someone new landed on English shores to stir up rebellion in the Midlands? After visiting the young widow of one of his agents, Strathairn strengthens his resolve. A spy should never marry. And most certainly not to Lady Sibella Winborne, with her romantic ideas of love and marriage. Unable to give Sibella up entirely, he has kept her close as a friend. And then, weak fool that he is, he kissed her... Lady Sibella Winborne has refused several offers of marriage since her first Season years ago -- when she first set eyes on the handsome Earl of Strathairn. Sibella's many siblings always rush to her aid to discourage an ardent suitor, but not this time. Her elder brother, Chaloner, Marquess of Brandreth, has approved Lord Coombe's suit. Sibella yearns to set up her own household. She is known to be the sensible member of the family. But she doesn't feel at all sensible about Lord Strathairn. If only she could forget that kiss...
Lady Sibella is here with her sister, Maria, they are discussing the beau, Sibella’s family want her to marry, and then her brother, Edward warns her off John Strathairn.
“I subjected Lord Coombe to the usual close inspection,” Maria said, winding a piece of pine-green velvet ribbon around her finger, “as I do all of your beaus.”
“He’s hardly a beau. But what did you make of him?”
“I don’t know,” Maria said thoughtfully. “He’s polite and well-mannered of course, but he gives very little of himself away.”
“Dark brown eyes are so inscrutable, aren’t they?”
“You didn’t warm to him then.”
Sibella shrugged. “I neither disliked him nor felt a strong attraction to him.”
“Well we know why that is, do we not?”
The name Strathairn hovered unsaid between them.
As Maria rummaged in her jewelry box, Sibella was tempted to tell her about the kiss. They shared everything, and it felt disloyal not to, but for some reason she wanted to hold the heady, sensory details of John’s kiss in the moonlight close for a while, not wishing the experience pulled apart in the cold light of day.
When Edward returned to the house, Sibella waylaid him in the front hall. “I’ll thank you not to help mother find me a husband,” she said in a waspish tone.
For once Edward didn’t laugh. He grabbed her hand and pulled her down the corridor and into the library.
She spun as he shut the door behind him. “What is it?”
“You need to forget Strathairn.”
He held up a finger. “There’s a very good reason for it.”
“I know. He doesn’t wish to marry. At least me, anyway,” she said ruefully.
“A spy cannot marry. That is, a spy with any integrity who doesn’t wish to place those he loves in danger.”
“A spy?” Sibella’s chest tightened. “Are you sure you’re not embellishing, Edward?” It did make sense now that she thought of it.
“I did not want to tell you. I trust you’ll be discreet. And for heaven’s sake, don’t tell Maria! She’s the worst at keeping secrets.” Edward folded his arms and leaned against the door. “He works for the military.”
So that was why such mystery surrounded him! “But what if a woman was prepared to marry him anyway and face those risks with him?”
“And subject yourself to a life of fear and heartbreak? You don’t know what you’re saying. Forget him, Sib, please.” He shook a finger at her. “Strathairn appears on the surface of things to be an earl with a passion for breeding horses. But he also inhabits another dark, dangerous world, which is beyond your dreams. He resists drawing you into that world and exposing you to possible danger. If you wage a war of seduction, his resolve may well crumble. I’ve seen how he looks at you. Leave the man alone. There are other more suitable men in the world.”
He leaned forward and brushed a kiss onto her cheek. “Do you understand?”
She nodded mutely as she fought to grasp the truth, the certainty that she and Strathairn would never marry.
Edward opened the door to find a footman standing in the corridor trying not to look intrigued.
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