SmexyBooks is so happy to welcome author Minerva Spencer to the blog.
Minerva Spencer’s debut historical romance, Dangerous, releases June 26, 2018.
My Journey Down Romance Road . . .
I read my first romance novel—THE DEVIL ON HORSEBACK, by Victoria Holt—in seventh grade. I still remember how deliciously shocking the philandering hero was and how I stayed up all night to finish the book.
I was hooked.
I ripped through all the Holts in the library and ordered the ones the library didn’t have through the mail (yes, that’s how we did it in those days. . . .)
I worked my way through Mary Stewart, Phyllis Whitney, and a few others, but then “life” happened I drifted away from romance.
Over the next thirty years, I picked up a couple of history degrees, taught history on the college level, became a lawyer, left lawyering, and moved to Taos and bought a bed and breakfast (Worst. Job. Ever.)
By the end of 2013, I’d closed my b&b and was taking some time to figure out what was next. I was forty-five.
To give you an idea of where I was “at” mentally after closing my business, I often compare my time operating a b&b to being held hostage for eight years. I needed comfort badly so I turned to Victoria Holt and re-read her books.
When I worked my way through Holt I wanted more. That’s when I discovered Georgette Heyer (I know, I know, what rock had I been living under?!) I blew through her books and still wanted more. By then I’d realized there was a whole world of romance out there I hadn’t even known existed. That should have been a good thing, but I found it daunting and overwhelming: where did a person start?
Luckily my library utilizes Overdrive and part of the service is recommendations based on what you’ve checked out.
And that’s when I discovered Tessa Dare. . . .
Once I connected with a “modern” author of historical romance things got a lot easier when it came to finding new authors. I engaged in an orgy of reading: Elizabeth Hoyt, Madeline Hunter, Mary Balogh, Theresa Romain, and dozens of others.
I don’t know how many books I read before coming up with my first idea, but I do remember the day I came up with it. I was driving my husband to the airport, which is a six-hour round-trip from where we live.
That three-hour drive after dropping him off was when my first book was born. We live in the boondocks and the only radio stations were talk-radio or pop music so I drove home in silence. By the time I stumbled out of my car three hours later my book was written. At least in my head.
Those early days of writing were heady times—I once wrote sixty pages in a single day—and I had the first draft of my book after a couple of months: a 182,000 word monster of a first draft!
I knew how to write, but I had no idea when it came to the actual business of writing. Apparently, publishing houses weren’t looking for 182K word books.
Rather than cut the first book down to size I decided to start on book two and do a better job of coloring within the lines, so to speak. Besides, I didn’t want to edit—I wanted to write. Book two came out just as fast as book one and—lo and behold—a character in book two demanded his own book. So then I wrote book three.
While I was writing book three I had an idea for a science fiction/Regency romance—so I moved on to that. And then another, and another.
I really don’t recall how many books I had either finished or partially finished by the time one of my two wonderful beta readers (the two best “things” that ever happened to my writing) told me it was time to query one of these books.
I’d discovered contests by then and had enjoyed a measure of success, winning first place with four of the five books I entered. But which one to query? By the time I began to consider querying (late 2016) I had all but re-written my 182K monster and had three polished and completed novels ready to go.
It turned out that writing a query letter was more difficult than writing an actual book. I worked on letters for all three books and—five months later—ended up with a decent query for DANGEROUS, the second book in my debut series, The Outcasts. DANGEROUS takes place contemporaneously with BARBAROUS (the 1st book) so I knew it wouldn’t be a problem to switch the order of the books if necessary.
Anyhow, DANGEROUS was an interesting book to write because I knew exactly who both the hero and heroine were at the start of the book. Usually, I have a solid idea of only one of my lead characters and the other develops as the story goes along. But Lady Euphemia Marlington (Mia) had been part of the storyline in book one and I just fell in love with her. And Adam, the Marquess of Exley, was a damaged alpha just begging for a woman like Mia—even though he didn’t know it yet. The Outcasts series grew out of my fascination with the age of piracy in the Mediterranean. These pirates weren’t the “arrgg” cute Pirates of the Caribbean, type of pirate. Corsairs were slavers and kidnapping Christians was big business in the Med. Some historians claim corsair victims number in the millions in the years between 1500-1900. Just think of all those untold stories!
In DANGEROUS I wanted to write a “harem” story where the harem was not the focal point of the book. Instead, I wanted to showcase my heroine: Mia is a pragmatic, intelligent, and persistent woman who bends but does not break. I especially wanted to stay true to the historical era in the sense Mia would have had no psychological support from outside. If she was going to survive, her strength would all need to come from within.
Anyhow, I’m what writers call a “pantser,” which means I write by the seat of my pants. I never have an outline or even a sentence to guide me along my writing journey. The characters really do reveal themselves to me as my fingers move over the keyboard. That can be a wonderful experience but it can also be a chaotic one. Some days the characters behave like ill-trained puppies running in all directions. It isn’t unusual for me to write ten pages one day and need to cut twenty pages the next.
My ending for DANGEROUS was an example of that. The first ending I wrote was completely different than the final version. I have to admit I knew something was wrong with my original ending but I didn’t want to start pulling threads and cause the entire story to unravel. The official term for that is: writer laziness. It wasn’t until a contest judge commented on it (based on her reading of a synopsis, by the way!) that I realized just how poorly the ending “fit” the rest of the story. There was no way around it; I needed to “throw that ending away” and write a better one.
You know those items in your closet you never wear but you refuse to throw away; the ones you hang on to and try on once a year? You keep them because, even though they don’t fit quite right, you paid a lot of money for them and refuse to let them go. You keep thinking: who knows, maybe I’ll lose weight, maybe my bust will miraculously become smaller, or bigger, or whatever. I’ll just hold on to them, hoping. . .
Let me tell you, Gentle Reader, it’s painful to throw away writing, but sometimes making that difficult decision is the difference between a story and a just a lot of words.
So I cut and rewrote the last fifty pages.
It was a lot like getting rid of a too-small pair of jeans: yeah, they were expensive designer jeans, but I was never going to make them fit.
So that is the story of my writer’s journey and also a bit about my debut novel, DANGEROUS, in a nutshell. I’m a big believer in the adage it is never too late to try something new. It wasn’t easy starting a new career at forty-five, but I’m grateful I gave it a shot!
June 26, 2018
What sort of lady doesn’t make her debut until the age of thirty-two? A timeless beauty with a mysterious past—and a future she intends to take into her own hands . . .
Lady Euphemia Marlington hasn’t been free in seventeen years—since she was captured by Corsairs and sold into a harem. Now the sultan is dead and Mia is back in London facing relentless newspapermen, an insatiably curious public, and her first Season. Worst of all is her ashamed father’s ultimatum: marry a man of his choosing or live out her life in seclusion. No doubt her potential groom is a demented octogenarian. Fortunately, Mia is no longer a girl, but a clever woman with a secret—and a plan of her own . . .
Adam de Courtney’s first two wives died under mysterious circumstances. Now there isn’t a peer in England willing to let his daughter marry the dangerously handsome man the ton calls The Murderous Marquess. Nobody except Mia’s father, the desperate Duke of Carlisle. Clearly, Mia must resemble an aging matron, or worse. However, in need of an heir, Adam will use the arrangement to his advantage . . .
But when the two outcasts finally meet, assumptions will be replaced by surprises, deceit by desire—and a meeting of minds between two schemers may lead to a meeting of hearts—if the secrets of their pasts don’t tear them apart . . .
“Minerva Spencer’s writing is sophisticated and wickedly witty. Dangerous is a delight from start to finish with swashbuckling action, scorching love scenes, and a coolly arrogant hero to die for. Spencer is my new auto-buy!”
—New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Hoyt
“Readers will love this lusty and unusual marriage of convenience story.”
—New York Times bestselling author Madeline Hunter
“Smart, witty, graceful, sensual, elegant and gritty all at once. It has all of the meticulous attention to detail I love in Georgette Heyer, BUT WITH SEX!”
—RITA-award winning author Jeffe Kennedy
Here is a little teaser from DANGEROUS
“In short, Sir, I would like a marriage without emotional entanglement.”
The marquess’s eyebrows, his only expressive feature, crept up his forehead as if he had a difficult time imagining something as foreign as an emotion—not to mention becoming entangled by one.
They took each other’s measure before she broke the silence. “What of you, my lord? Why do you wish to marry? It does not sound as if your two experiences with marriage were felicitous.” Mia did not mean to be cruel, but she needed to know what he wanted and why he was here tonight—a place he clearly wished not to be.
“I need an heir.” His pupils flared until his eyes were almost black as if he were imagining the process of getting an heir. With her.
– Where did you get the idea?
My heroine, Mia, was a minor character in another book and pretty much demanded her own book. I really liked her playful, clever, and driven personality and knew she would need a strong hero; somebody who was able to deal with her scandalous past. Adam had been hanging out in the back of my mind for awhile and I decided he was the perfect hero for Mia: a man with a dangerous reputation and even more scandalous history!
– What’s the story behind the title?
I’m terrible at two things when it comes to my books: character names and book titles. I usually just want to get on with the business of writing the book and ignore anything else. I named the books in this series, DANGEROUS, BARBAROUS, and SCANDALOUS. I felt sure they would get changed to something more descriptive, but my editor liked them!
– No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.
Well, the cover just shows you a hot guy and pretty woman. But the book is about second chances. My protagonists are older than the typical romance couple: she is 32 and he is 37. They both have adult children and they’ve both had prior marriages that have not been easy.
– Tell us about your favorite character.
I LOVE Mia and Adam, but I’d have to say my favorite character is Martin Bouchard. He is an escaped slave from New Orleans who has done well from privateering and has an out-of-control personality. He has his own book in the series and gets roles in all the other books.
– If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?
I’d love to go shopping with Mia. She has a zest for life and fun that even seventeen years in a harem could not suppress.
– Are your characters based on real people, or do they come from your imagination?
None of them are real people although there are characteristics that have come from people I know. For example, Martin–who I mentioned above–is definitely a lot like my father, who was a gruff, iconoclastic French-Canadian and had the type of personality that attracted people in drovees.
– How long did you take to write this book?
This one came pretty easy–maybe a couple of months. But then I decided to re-write the entire last quarter of the book. The second ending came out almost perfect on first draft–almost like it wanted to be on the page.
– What kind of research did you do for this book?
I always do tons of research and then use very little of it. This book takes place in England, at sea, and in the port city of Oran, in modern Algeria. I probably spent the most time researching sailing vessels and times and then just ended up reaching out to author Bernard Cornwell to settle my questions. He told me some good “rules of thumb” for calculating sailing times. Thanks Mr. Cornwell!!
– What did you remove from this book during the editing process?
TONS. I type fast–over 100 wpm. With the exception of one book, I usually end up with about 20,000 works to cut. I cut out extra characters and many scenes that were good, but just unnecessary.
– Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Pantser all the way. Sometimes I might just have a character, sometimes an event, I never know. And then I sit down and see who shows up on the page. Some characters tell their story and keep their distance, some seem to want to hang around.
– What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?
That first rush of writing, when I can’t type fast enough to get the story on the page.
– What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?
When I try and make characters do something they don’t want to do. I know it sounds weird, but sometimes I just can’t force them to behave. Usually I let them take me on a journey and then see if that works. Most of the time it does, thankfully.
– Can you share your writing routine?
I write 7 days a week from 7:30-2:30.
– Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?
Not so much a block, but an inability to tell the real story. So then I end up writing 20 pages and then cutting 20 pages.
– If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I only started writing 5 years ago, so it’s not like I’m a really seasoned writer when it comes to managing the ups and downs. I guess the thing I would have liked to know off the bat was how to trust my judgment. But I think that is something you can’t know until you’ve screwed up a few times.
– How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Hmmm. Well, I guess I’ve completed about 11 books and have another 10 or so that are somewhere around the 50%-75% mark.
– Do you have any writing quirks?
I don’t like to listen to writing gurus/self-help speakers–people who try and tell you how to write. Writing is very personal and I feel like somebody else trying to impose their method on me just screws with my mojo. I REALLY enjoy hearing about other writers’ processes, however.
– What did you do before you began writing fiction?
I was a college history teacher, criminal prosecutor, and B&B operator before I began writing.
– How did you get into writing?
I had just closed my B&B after 8 years and was really depressed. I hated operating a B&B and felt drained after we closed it. My husband told me to take a break and think about what I wanted to do. I got an idea for my first book and then sat down and wrote it in about a month and a half. And I was hooked.
– What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
We still live in our B&B, so I have a huge 9 bedroom/10 bathroom/11 fireplace house that needs constant maintenance. Over the years I became an expert on boilers, adobe, and dozens of other repairs. I spend a lot of time fixing things…
– Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?
Not anymore. I used to write legal documents when I was a lawyer, but I no longer practice law.
– Share something about you most people probably don’t know.
I am an excellent roller skater and was asked years ago to join a roller derby club. I declined–those women are mean!
– Which book influenced you the most?
This is a HARD question! I’ll just say the book that immediately came to mind, Kurt Vonnegut’s BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS. I know it is not his best, but it was the first of his I read. I was just blown away–and still am–by his writing and his mental process.
– What are you working on right now?
I’m working on book 4 in The Outcasts Series. The title is NOTORIOUS and it features a character you will meet in DANGEROUS– Mia’s son, Jibril.
– What’s your favorite writing advice?
Just write. You can edit later.
-Do you write in any other genres?
Yes, I’ve written a detective novel, a contemporary fantasy, and a science fiction duology. I’ve also written a children’s book which is being published by crowdfunding.
– The book you’re currently reading
THE PINK CARNATION by Lauren Willig.
Minerva Spencer is a Canadian transplant who now lives in the mountains of New Mexico. She began writing in 2013 after closing her 8-room bed and breakfast (a subject she will never write about. . . ) Minerva has been a criminal prosecutor, college history professor, and bartender, among many other things.
She currently writes full-time and operates a small poultry rescue on her four-acre hobby farm, where she lives with her wonderful, tolerant husband and many animals.
When Minerva isn’t writing or editing she’s playing with birds and dogs or doing a little DIY.
DANGEROUS Minerva’s first book in her Regency Era trilogy, The Outcasts, will be published by Kensington Press June 26, 2018, and BARBAROUS, October 30, 2018.
Minerva is represented by Pamela Hopkins of Hopkins Literary Associates.