WEEK-LONG CONTEST: An Interview With Author Joanne Renaud

This week you have the chance to win a digital copy of Joanne Renaud’s A Question of Time as well as an awesome Baggu bag. [NOTE: The winner of the bag is restricted to readers in the continental US due to cost of shipping overseas]


This week, there will be four posts related to this contest (one each day, Monday – Thursday). They will all be labeled “WEEK-LONG CONTEST” in the post title. As long as you leave one comment on one of the posts before Thursday night at midnight (central time US), you will be included in the contest. Joanne will randomly pick on one of the names on Friday morning and we will announce it on the blog later that day.

Monday’s post introduced the contest and has an image of the bag.

Tuesday’s post was Renaud’s review of Judith O’Brien’s Ashton’s Bride.

After reviewing Renaud’s book, I had some questions for her about how she went about writing the story.

1) How did you decide to time travel back to the late 80s instead of another time period? 

Well, I’ve had a lot of trouble finishing stories– mainly because I spend too much time on research and run out of steam on wrapping up the actual manuscript.  I was in the middle of one of these research black holes in the fall of 2010, and I decided I would take a break and work on something quick, easy and familiar.  I settled on a time travel story because I love anything to do with time travel, and I chose the late ’80s since I was in my early teens then, and I remembered the whole time pretty vividly.  As they say, the rest is history…

Originally the story was set in 1990, but a friend of mine kept characterizing the story as something set in “the ’90s,” which made me realize that this wasn’t what I wanted. I pushed the action back a year, so I could emphasize synthpop over hip-hop, and have New Order and Duran Duran instead of the likes of Vanilla Ice. AQOT was really meant to be set in the ’80s, and I’m glad I made that decision.

I think mainly I wanted the heroine to see her childhood through the eyes of a more experienced adult. If she went back to a more, distant, exotic time period, I don’t think it would be as visceral, in my opinion. My childhood was in the ’80s, so I wanted to write about something I had directly experienced.

2) How did you remember or find the details about 1989? A lot of research? Were there certain bits you included specifically because they meant something to you when you were younger?

There’s quite a few things in AQOT that made it in there because I remembered them. The fictitious “White Springs library” was based off my old library in south King County, near Seattle. I used to hang out in the science fiction and fantasy paperback section, and I was really into all the cheesy art that was on the covers.

Omni magazine was name-dropped because, when my family moved to Seattle from rural Oregon in 1986, we first moved to an apartment building with a lobby which looked, to my eyes, like something out of Miami Vice, complete with white walls, gleaming glass windows, and towering potted palms. There were plenty of Omni magazines there, which just seemed the last word in cosmopolitan sophistication– and yes, there were plenty of airbrushed lady robots on the cover.

As for the boutique, “the Brass Cube,” which shows up in AQOT, it’s kind of portmanteau of two popular department store teen shops that were around in various Seattle area malls at the time. The Brass Plum was Nordstroms’ teen boutique (now it’s just called BP), and the Cube was the young fashion shop at the late, great Bon Marche, a store that died many years ago. For some reason, the Cube jingle from its radio ads stuck in my head. It ran, “Fashion is my passion, when I’m shopping at the Cuuuuuuuube!” I managed to stick that in.

3) Celia is a science fiction writer in 2010. How much of her is you?

A pretty good amount, though it’s not exact. We’re both introspective, geeky sorts. She’s successful in a ‘struggling newbie midlister’ sort of way; she’s won awards, but it’s not reaping tons of financial awards for her (she lives in a somewhat rough neighborhood). I can kind of relate to this. But she has the patience to write an epic trilogy, which I don’t have.

I would say that Celia probably tends to be more melancholy than me. She grew up without supportive parents, which was something I (thankfully) didn’t have to experience. If I became good friends with someone like that, I’d probably recommend at some point that she find a therapist, since she has a lot of unresolved issues.

If I were in Celia’s shoes, I don’t think I’d be able to keep my cool. In fact, I shudder to imagine how I’d react to meeting Alan. I’d probably say something like, “Dude, I remember you! Didn’t you die in that car accident!?” I’m sure that would go over well.

4) What are your 3 favorite romance novels and why?

I would say my top three romance novels are City of Forever by Barbara Blackburn, Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Devereaux, and Promise of Summer by Louisa Rawlings/Sylvia Halliday.

Cover of the City of Forever: the woman with the bouffant and the gloves, the man in the skinny tie!

I discovered City purely by luck, as I often do, in the stacks of Cliff’s Books, a great bookstore in Pasadena CA. I had no idea what to expect, but I liked the early ’60s cover art (the woman with the bouffant and the gloves, the man in the skinny tie!), and so I got it.

It’s too bad this book is so hard to find, because it’s great. Sheltered English girl Miranda leaves her home for a job in Rome to forget wealthy playboy Tony, who is clearly miles out of her league. And who should she run into Rome but Tony, who’s there on business! The writing is graceful and assured, the romantic tension builds nicely throughout the story, and there’s a little suspense too, even if it’s not the Gothic thriller the cover would have you believe. It’s more of a character piece, and the atmosphere of early ’60s Rome is nicely evoked. Miranda and Tony are great characters– Miranda is serious, earnest, overly sensitive, but she has a lot of male friends and is comfortable hanging out with men. In some ways Tony reminds me of an updated Viscount Desford from Georgette Heyer’s classic Charity Girl— he’s a humorous, charming blond guy who knows everything about sports cars, and never appears to be serious, although he turns out to be quite serious about Miranda.

As for Knight in Shining Armor, what can I say about it that hasn’t been said before? It’s not only my favorite time travel romance ever, but I love it as a romance, period. I love the character arc of Dougless the heroine, and the bizarre timey-wimey stuff she experiences. The historical detail is solid too, but after her many adventures the heroine comes to the welcome realization that she’d rather be back in the 20th century.

Nicholas the hero is pretty dishy too, without being overly un-Elizabethan. I was actually inspired– heh– by the shower scene in Knight to some extent (there’s a steamy shower scene in AQOT too).

But my favorite romance is Promise of Summer, by Louisa Rawlings (aka Sylvia Halliday and Sylvia Baumgarten). Rawlings/Halliday was an award-winning midlister back in the ’80s and ’90s who wrote books that read like Georgette Heyer’s Georgian novels, “but with more sex.” Promise is quite possibly my favorite read by her. It’s a rollicking adventure story set in 1730s France about a streetwise young urchin named Topaze who’s hired by an embittered, disinherited young gentleman, Lucien, to scam his estranged provincial noble family out of an inheritance which rightfully belongs to him. Lucien’s young lady cousin has been missing for years, and Topaze, who bears an astonishing resemblance to her, is hired to act her part, infiltrate the family, and get Lucien his inheritance back. Of course, the family has deep dark secrets, and Topaze wonders why she is so strangely drawn to them. And what about her growing love for Lucien? And is someone trying to kill her?

There’s so much great stuff going on in this novel, I don’t know where to start. It takes a lot of well known tropes, like the Pygmalion plot, Identical Stranger, and Becoming the Mask, just to name a few, and mashes them all up into something unpredictable and fun. Topaze is tough, strong and smart, Lucien is brooding (but not too brooding), sexy and clever. There’s terrific period detail too, and a host of well-drawn minor characters.

Sylvia is still working today.  In fact, I’ve just found out that Promise of Summer is going to be republished by Samhain later this year, and I’m very excited for her!


4 thoughts on “WEEK-LONG CONTEST: An Interview With Author Joanne Renaud

  1. As always, Joanne, thanks for your support. Very excited that Samhain is going to publish Promise of Summer in e-book format in September.
    I also always loved the cover quote Affaire de Coeur gave the book: “Louisa Rawlings delivers a book that is not all it appears to be. It’s more.”
    I should also note that I’m not sure what pen name Samhain will be using, though I think it will be: Louisa Rawlings writing as Sylvia Halliday.
    Again, luv. Thanks for the kudos.

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