Author Spotlight of the Week
August 24th – 30th 2015
Jessica Cale is a historical romance author and journalist based in North Carolina. Originally from Minnesota, she lived in Wales for several years where she earned a BA in History and an MFA in Creative Writing while climbing castles and photographing mines for history magazines. She kidnapped (“married”) her very own British prince (close enough) and is enjoying her happily ever after with him in a place where no one understands his accent. You can visit her at http://www.authorjessicacale.com.
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JessicaCale @JessicaCale
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Jessica-Cale/e/B00PVDV9EW/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9819997.Jessica_Cale
- Describe a typical writing day. Are you a morning, afternoon, or night-owl writer?
I used to prefer writing at night after everyone else had gone to sleep, but now I write any chance I get! It tends to be late afternoon and early evenings, when I get done with work. I’ll make a cup of tea and curl up in bed with my laptop. The trick is to get as comfortable as possible to minimize distractions, so pajamas are essential! I write as long as I can stay focused, and I usually try to complete a whole scene or chapter in one sitting. This can be anywhere from two to twelve hours! I try to have healthy snacks nearby, and I also have a wonderfully patient husband who will periodically check to see that I’m eating.
- Can you tell us about your current work-in-progress?
I’d love to! I am almost done with the third book in The Southwark Saga. This one is set six years after Virtue’s Lady, and follows barmaid Alice Henshawe as she gets lost in France. Jack goes looking for her, and finds her in the last place he would have looked. Alice and Jack are two of my favorite characters and I want so badly to give them the story they deserve, but it’s very challenging given some of their limitations. Still, I’ve had a lot of fun writing this one, and I very much hope that you will like it.
- What inspires you when you’re writing?
Once the characters exist, I kind of let them do what they’re going to do. Music helps, though. Sometimes I’ll hear a certain song and a scene will play out in my head, and then I have to listen to it again when I’m writing. I have whole playlists for every work-in-progress. Sometimes it gets weird. There’s one chapter in Tyburn that I wrote while listening to The Carny by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds on a loop in the middle of the night with no lights on. I think it went on for about six hours. I got the mood right, though, and it’s still one of my favorite scenes.
- What’s your favorite item on your writing desk?
I am going to have to say my cat. He walks all over it, sits on the keyboard, head-butts the crap out of me when I’m writing. Sometimes he’ll sit on my lap and I can sort of type around him. Even when he’s not being super helpful, he’s very cuddly and good for stress relief. I think it helps to have a writing buddy.
- What’s your favorite genre and why?
Historical romance. Big surprise, right? I love history. Historical fiction, non-fiction, romance, suspense, you name it. Any period, any location. I would say that historical romance is my favorite, though, because I think everything’s better with a love story in it. I do also read and enjoy contemporary romance, and I love classics and old-school gothic horror.
- Any advice you have for a blossoming author?
Keep going! When you start writing, it’s easy to look at all of these published books and feel daunted, but don’t. Everyone has to start somewhere. Keep writing and eventually you’ll have a book to work with. It’s more patience and tenacity than anything else, I promise you. Don’t wait to write until you think you have time or until you can afford to do it full-time. Carry notebooks with you and sneak in pages every chance you get, and you’ll be surprised how quickly you finish. Once you do have a draft, ask people to read it and spend time editing, re-writing, and polishing it until it shines. Send it off to publishers when you’re ready or self-publish it if that’s the way you want to go, and get started on the next one. You’ll get there. Good luck!
- When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
I work for a great non-profit company, and that takes up a lot of my time, but I also love to bake. I’m always experimenting with new flavors of macarons. I read a lot, and I love to just hang out with my husband. He’s a pretty cool guy.
- Anything else you’d like to share with your readers?
I love you…? I’m always thrilled silly whenever anyone wants to read one of my books. Thank you for reading them. Thank you for talking about them, thank you for reading my blog posts, and thank you for reading this today. If you feel so inspired, please get in touch on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or anywhere else for that matter. I would love to hear from you!
Who are your favorite authors and why?
I have so many favorite authors that I’m not sure I can narrow them down to a reasonable list! To keep this at a sensible length, here are a few of my favorite romance writers today:
The first author I read growing up that really stood out for me was Jude Deveraux. I loved her historicals for the detail and the humor, and I read every book she wrote in a couple of years. My favorites are Remembrance and A Knight in Shining Armor, though I enjoyed all of them whether they were historical or contemporary.
I also love Julie Anne Long. Her historicals are vibrant and hilarious, and I’ve very much enjoyed her Pennyroyal Green series and the way the books work together to build on the story she’s telling of these two families–the Redmonds and the Everseas–and I love that each new book sort of improves the previous ones as new pieces are revealed. I could read them over and over.
I love, love, love Maggie Robinson. Her historicals are funny, smart, and very sexy. Her characters are sometimes a little off-kilter and the stories always surprise me, whether it’s because of an underused period (Edwardian) or setting (Wales!), or a cross-dressing heroine! I still have a few of her books that I haven’t read yet, and I’m rationing them for days I really need them!
My new favorite author has to be Judith Merkle Riley. Her books are quirky, and build up slowly to phenomenal conclusions. Her attention to detail and historical research are humbling, to say the least. Sometime after I read The Oracle Glass, I began researching the Parisian underworld for one of my own projects, and wasn’t surprised to find that every single thing that happened in that book was absolutely accurate. It’s difficult to imagine how much work must have gone into that!
I have recently discovered Rosanna Leo, and although her books are contemporary (gasp!), I love her writing style and can devour one in a single sitting. Her heroes are realistic but totally swoon-worthy, and her heroines are relatable and very sympathetic. I adore her. Amy Quinton is another new author I really like–her first novel, What the Duke Wants, totally blew me away. Her writing style is a bit closer to Jane Austen that many authors writing today, and I’m really looking forward to reading more from her in the future.
Jessica Cales Books
When Survival is Impossible, Love is Everything.
Sally Green is about to die.
She sees Death in the streets. She can taste it in her gin. She can feel it in the very walls of the ramshackle brothel where she is kept to satisfy the perversions of the wealthy. She had come to London as a runaway in search of her Cavalier father. Instead, she found Wrath, a sadistic nobleman determined to use her to fulfill a sinister ambition. As the last of her friends are murdered one by one, survival hinges on escape.
Nick Virtue is a tutor with a secret. By night he operates as a highwayman, relieving nobles of their riches to further his brother’s criminal enterprise. It’s a difficult balance at the best of times, and any day that doesn’t end in a noose is a good one. Saving Sally means risking his reputation, and may end up costing him his life.
As a brutal attack throws them together, Sally finds she has been given a second chance. She is torn between the tutor and the highwayman, but she knows she can have neither. Love is an unwanted complication while Wrath haunts the streets. Nick holds the key to Wrath’s identity, and Sally will risk everything to bring him to justice.
Unless the gallows take her first.
Darkness had fully settled over the forest and he was in no danger of being seen as they headed for the city. There were no new street lamps so far out of town, and as often as she glanced at his face, all she could see was the outline of his profile by the light of the moon. He moved soundlessly through the night as criminals must, the warmth of his hand in hers the only reassurance she had that he was still beside her.
They reached the edge of Hyde Park and Sally felt Tyburn looming near before she saw it, the residual tragedy of the gallows rippling along the field in a mournful, near perceptible howl. Because she could not look away, she turned toward the evil and saw the fearful silhouette of the triple tree dark against the violet sky.
This is your future, they seemed to whisper.
In her heart, she answered, I know.
She heard the brutal crack of Claude’s strong, young neck reverberate through the darkest corners of her memory, felt his cold lips against hers once more in a terrible promise, and in her bones she felt the stillness of one who is certain they are about to die. She was immediately aware of the unique texture of every breath she drew, the sweet sigh of the breeze whispering through her hair, and the dirt, the calluses, the very fingerprints of the hand in hers.
So little of Sally’s life had been left up to her.
She might have days, hours, mere moments left, but she would be damned if she wasted them.
Liquid Silver: http://www.lsbooks.com/tyburn-p975.php
Barnes & Noble
All Romance E-Books: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-tyburn-1695993-340.html
Celeste Remi, aka Sally Green, heroine of Tyburn
Where are you from?
Normandy. I grew up in the kitchens of Chateau Lenormand.
What do you want from life?
Nick’s always asking me questions like that. He’s a romantic, and he thinks I have a choice. I suppose if I could have anything at all, I would like a kind husband with a good heart, children, and a home of my own with a working oven! As all that is unlikely, I would settle for good friends and the freedom to live my life as I choose.
Could you describe yourself to me?
I would describe myself as an indelicate-looking French woman, too obviously Gallic to be an ideal English beauty. My eyes are rather large and black, my hair is heavy, dark, and curly, and loves to frizz. I’m taller than average, and my nose is enormous. There are some who maintain that I am a great beauty, but I’m reasonably certain that drink has addled their sight, and I do not take their flattery to heart.
If you were granted three wishes, what would you ask for?
I would erase the last three years. I would still come to London, but instead of getting lost in Covent Garden, I’d run the other way. I’d get a job in a real kitchen, look up Mark Virtue in Southwark, and ask to be introduced to his brother! I would wish to save Bettie and to keep him with me always, and I would wish to find my father.
In your relationship with others, how are you different with family than you are with friends? Why?
I’ve never known my family, so I’m not sure I could answer that. I don’t have many friends, but I love them dearly. It can take me awhile to trust someone, but once I do, I will love them for life.
How do you fall in love? At first sight? Over a long period?
Looking back, I think I fell in love with Nick at first sight. I suppose the first time we met, I didn’t exactly see him, but he was kind to me. Then when I ran into him again in Covent Garden, I thought he was the handsomest man I’d ever seen. I’m not one to be swayed by a pretty face–I grew up with Claude Duval, after all!–but there was more to him than that. He has a goodness to him that you can see in his eyes.
Describe your ideal mate.
He’s about two yards tall, has dark hair and green eyes, and a body so beautiful it would make you weep! (laughs) He’s educated, patient, and very kind, and he looks after those he cares for. He reads to me and the sound of his voice is enough to curl my hair. Oh, did you mean generally?
What parts of loving come easy for you? Hard?
Loving is not difficult. It can’t be helped, I suppose. It’s difficult for me to trust, given what’s happened to me, and it’s painful when you love someone and know that they deserve a future better than the one you could give them. I want to give Nick everything, but there are some things I cannot give, and that’s difficult for me.
When you walk into a room, what do you notice first? Second?
I notice who’s there, how many of them there are, and I look for the doors. I am always watching for danger. Secondly, I notice the food! I trained as a baker, and it’s a habit I cannot break. I am inwardly critical of other people’s bread!
What really moves you, or touches you to the soul?
Kindness, however small. When you have nothing to give, but you share it anyway, that is true goodness to me.
What do you consider are your strengths?
I know I can survive most things, because I’ve had to. I have some useful skills as well. I can bake, sew, curl my own hair, I speak English and French, and when the situation calls for it, I can hide tools in bread. You’d be surprised how often that proves to be useful.
What do you consider are your weaknesses?
I am overfond of gin, so I have to avoid it these days.
What is one physical attribute you are proud of?
I would say my hands and my arms, because I built up my strength over years working in kitchens and now I can bake for hours without difficulty. I’ve come to like my nose, though it has brought me very little good over the years. It is one thing I got from my father, and I suppose I’m proud of that.
What one physical attribute would you change?
My back. I have a great many scars that I am very conscious of. They are proof of some of the things I have lived through, and I cannot change them. There are other scars as well that I would change if I could.
What’s the most important thing in your life? What do you value most?
I value my freedom most of all. I never gave it a second thought until it was taken away from me. I value my freedom, my health, and the friends I have left. Nick is very important to me, but I don’t feel like he’s mine to value. I love him beyond reason, but I would never assume I would get to keep him.
How do you feel about your life right now? What, if anything, would you like to change?
My life is the best it has been in years. Since Nick saved me and brought me to Southwark, I’ve made friends and have started baking again. I have my freedom back and I’ve fallen in love. Wrath may still be looking for me, though, so if I could change anything, I would strike him from this world so he could never hurt anyone else again. If I could do that, that would be good enough for me.
What are you most afraid of?
Wrath. He took my innocence and three years of my life. He ruined me, murdered my friends, and nearly killed me more than once. I’m afraid he’ll find me and try again before I can find him. I will find him, though. If it’s the last thing I do, I will find him and bring him to justice.
From toiling for pennies to bare-knuckle boxing, a lady is prepared for every eventuality.
Lady Jane Ramsey is young, beautiful, and ruined.
After being rescued from her kidnapping by a handsome highwayman, she returns home only to find her marriage prospects drastically reduced. Her father expects her to marry the repulsive Lord Lewes, but Jane has other plans. All she can think about is her highwayman, and she is determined to find him again.
Mark Virtue is trying to go straight. After years of robbing coaches and surviving on his wits, he knows it’s time to hang up his pistol and become the carpenter he was trained to be. He busies himself with finding work for his neighbors and improving his corner of Southwark as he tries to forget the girl who haunts his dreams. As a carpenter struggling to stay in work in the aftermath of The Fire, he knows Jane is unfathomably far beyond his reach, and there’s no use wishing for the impossible.
When Jane turns up in Southwark, Mark is furious. She has no way of understanding just how much danger she has put them in by running away. In spite of his growing feelings for her, he knows that Southwark is no place for a lady. Jane must set aside her lessons to learn a new set of rules if she is to make a life for herself in the crime-ridden slum. She will fight for her freedom and her life if that’s what it takes to prove to Mark—and to herself—that there’s more to her than meets the eye.
She hung up the dress, admiring her handiwork. It was not something she would willingly wear, but she hoped the lady would be pleased with the final result. She heard the front door behind her as she bent to pluck a stray thread from the skirt. “We’ve shut for the day,” she called over her shoulder.
When she heard no response, she turned.
Mark Virtue stood behind the counter, his hand still on the doorknob. His long brown coat hung open over his dusty work clothes, the undyed linen of his shirt straining across his broad chest. That chest, a warm expanse of smooth skin over hard, sculpted muscle, was a work of art. Though she had willed herself to forget him, her hands remembered.
Her lips remembered, too.
She licked them with the tip of her tongue, her mouth gone quite dry.
“I didn’t believe it,” he said, his gaze moving from her shapeless leather shoes to her dirty, gloveless hands. Jane looked down, suddenly aware of her shabby work dress. Compared to the other gowns he had seen her in, it was little more than a rag, really. She had braided her hair over her shoulder to keep it out of her stitching and now she wondered what she must look like to him. She touched the end of her braid self-consciously, a touch of embarrassment coloring her cheeks.
She cursed herself for her embarrassment. She had as much right to be here as anyone, and she was done apologizing to Mark Virtue. She straightened her spine and looked him square in his devastatingly blue eyes.
Her knees may have trembled a bit. She did a good job of hiding it. “Well?”
Mark stepped toward the counter. “I sent you back to your father not a fortnight past.”
She shrugged, borrowing the gesture from Carys. “I didn’t go.”
“I see that.”
He paced around the side of the counter while maintaining what little distance he could in the close quarters of the shop.
Jane stepped back, hiding the toes of her soft leather shoes under the hem of her dress. Her slippers may have been stolen, but she still had her silk stockings. She wore them even now, not that he needed to know that.
He had rather liked them, if she remembered correctly.
She swallowed. “What do you want?”
He raised his eyebrows in surprise. “I’ve come to see the new shop girl everyone’s talking about. You look the part, I’ll give you that. Perhaps a touch more dirt, just here…” He brushed her skirt.
Jane crossed her arms over her chest. “Is that what you think this is? You think I’m pretending?”
“Rather unconvincingly, I’m afraid. All the shapeless dresses in the world couldn’t disguise the fact that you’re a lady. Lowering yourself to wield a needle doesn’t make you one of us.”
Jane clenched her jaw. “I’ve as much right to be here as you do.”
“You have no right,” he insisted. “You can’t play at being poor. This is life to these people. This is my life. You think I ought to stand by while you make a mockery of it by working in a place like this when you can leave anytime you please?”
“I’m not going anywhere,” she nearly shouted. “I told you, Mark, I gave it up. Believe it folly if you will, but it changes nothing. I am never going back.”
Mark looked away. “Give it a fortnight.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Give it a fortnight,” he repeated. “Work, and struggle, and starve with the rest of us if that is what you think you want. You weren’t made for this world any more than I was made for yours. Sooner or later, you’ll be desperate to go home.”
“I am home,” Jane said through her teeth. “I’m staying here.”
“How long do you suppose you can last alone in a bastard sanctuary with no money and no protection? How do you expect to live?”
“I have a job, in case you were not aware.” She threw out her arms to indicate the shop. “I work day and night, and I have a little apartment with a door that locks. I’ll make do.”
He tilted his head, looking at her curiously. “In two weeks on your own? Maybe you’ve got a protector after all.”
Jane might have been naïve, but she knew exactly what he was implying, and she didn’t like it. She felt the anger rush to her face, unbidden and terrifying in its intensity. She took a deep breath. “Get out.”
“Jane, be reasonable.”
Her face burned. “You’d like me to stand here while you question my virtue? You of all people? You had no trouble dispensing with it when you thought me an actress!”
Mark gave a long sigh. “For that I apologize. I was a fool. I never should have thought that someone like you…” He motioned toward her helplessly.
“Someone like me? Who might that be? Am I a lady? Am I a seamstress? Am I a whore? You don’t seem to like me as any of these things, so why don’t you tell me, Mark, who I ought to be. What kind of a woman am I?”
He took her wrists in his hands and held them to his chest, the irritation in his face replaced by something that looked a bit like shame. “That’s not what I meant.” He lowered his voice, his face close enough that she could smell the tobacco in his clothes. “Do as you please. It makes no difference to me.”
Jane’s fingers spanned his chest of their own accord, responding to his warmth. “It doesn’t?”
He shook his head, his eyes settling on her lips. “I don’t want you to get hurt,” he confessed.
She resisted the urge to lean into him with some difficulty. “I’ve done fine this far.”
“Have you?” He took her hand, turning her palm upwards to examine the damage: pinpricks, swollen fingertips, the ghosts of calluses forming where she grasped the shears.
She tugged her hand away from him but he didn’t let go. He held her gaze, his eyes searching hers, and she was struck again by their extraordinary color. Deep blue, green, and grey, shifted across his irises in restless, churning waves, the color of a storm on the river. They darkened as he raised her hand to his mouth and kissed the palm, the touch of his lips like a balm on her sore skin.
Jane held her breath, waiting to drown.
He smiled his crooked smile, a touch of condescension in the corners. “If all you wanted was another night, you didn’t have to go to such trouble.”
Liquid Silver: http://www.lsbooks.com/virtues-lady-p1008.php
All Romance E-Books: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-virtue039slady-1782182-340.html
Thank you so much, Jessica for joining us this week on Duchess of Romance. It has truly been an honor hosting you and your books!