After finishing The Legend of Lyon Redmond, I cried. I’ve read all the Pennyroyal Green books several times. What I Did for a Duke garnered the first A grade I gave a romance here at AAR. (It, along with I Kissed an Earl, have remained my favorite books of the series.) Saying goodbye to the Everseas and the Redmonds as well as all the denizens of Pennyroyal Green is hard.
What wasn’t hard was reading, in The Legend of Lyon Redmond, Olivia’s and Lyon’s story. (The book comes out on September 29th.) Olivia and Lyon have been separated for reasons only they really knew for the entire series. Reading their love story, which Ms. Long recounts in both the present and the past, was deeply rewarding. I have met Julie Anne several times now at conferences and we are friends on Twitter. At this year’s RWA I asked if she’d let me interview her about The Legend of Lyon Redmond and she, ever gracious, said yes.
Dabney: Eleven books later and Olivia’s and Lyon’s story is finally told. Their estrangement has been mentioned in every Pennyroyal Green book, has it not?
Julie Anne: I think if the series has a current running through it, it’s the disappearance of Lyon Redmond and how it has impacted every single one of the Redmonds and Everseas—not only in stirring up an ancient enmity that’s basically in the DNA of both families, but in shaping the destinies of every character in the series. In many ways, Lyon and Olivia are the reason each of the characters in each of the books comes into their own—Violet declares independence and goes in search of Lyon and finds love with a man whose goal is to make sure her brother hangs; Jonathan Redmond, always casually dismissed and underestimated by his father, steps up may in fact become the most formidable and powerful Redmond of them all. And Colin Eversea, who is essentially framed and nearly hung for a murder thanks to Isaiah’s thirst for vengeance, is transformed as a result of that into a formidable man instead of a reckless rogue, a man capable of loving a wounded woman like Madeline. Every single character is touched, if tangentially, by Lyon and Olivia in some way. But the series was always meant to be about the families and the interplay of their relationships, not necessarily just about Lyon and Olivia. Lyon and Olivia were the engine.
Dabney: When you wrote the first Pennyroyal Green book, The Perils of Pleasure (2008), did you know it would be such a long series? What was your inspiration for the town? The Everseas? The Redmonds?
Julie Anne: I knew it would be long running and character driven. I do love family sagas, particularly because you get to experience each family from the point of view of the other family, and watch various characters (e.g., like Jonathan and Violet Redmond) really come into their own as the series progresses. And I think when you follow characters through books and see them through the eyes of other characters, you become that much more invested in the stories. I wanted to write something that felt panoramic in scope and multi-dimensional, because I think it makes the stories feel that much more real to the reader. I also find real pleasure in character development, and the feuding families gave me a rich playground for that sort of thing. And as for the town…as a reader, I’ve always found a sense of place really helps invest me in a story, too, and I’ve always loved small town series. Many of my favorite authors have created stories where the setting, whether it’s Scotland, Botswana, Venice, or Regency England, is practically another character in the story.
Dabney: How did you keep track of all your characters?
Julie Anne: Actually, I just file it all away in the memory banks. I seem to have have a pretty good memory. I didn’t know this was unusual until people started remarking on it. :) I don’t really have a series bible. I just think after a while the Everseas and Redmonds start to feel like family, so it’s easy to remember details about them, the way you remember details about people you live with day to day.
Dabney: How did you decide whose story to tell as you wrote?
Julie Anne: It happened pretty organically, I think. I knew which stories needed to be told, and I made decisions based on previous books in the series and how powerfully a given story was speaking to me at the time.
Dabney: Did you always plan to tell Olivia’s and Lyon’s story last?
Julie Anne: I knew their story was a critical destination for the series, and since it’s the main through line, yes, it was always going to be the final book. I didn’t anticipated quite how passionately readers would respond to Lyon and Olivia, particularly after I Kissed an Earl—that’s when the clamoring for their story really kicked in. So immensely flattering and gratifying to me as an author to know that readers cared so much about them! But other stories needed to be told to get us to that destination. Olivia and Lyon’s arc unites the entire series.
Dabney: Have you always known their story?
Julie Anne: Hmmm…I knew…parts of their story. I knew how it ended. I knew how it began. I knew a bit about the middle of it. And the other things…the bridge between the ending and the beginning…sort of revealed themselves to me as I wrote it. I think it’s always been humming away like background music in my mind as I wrote the other books.
Dabney: Isaiah Redmond has three sons all of whom have married women he absolutely forbade them to. Isaiah is a hard and ambitious man. If there is a consistent villain in the Pennyroyal world, it’s Isaiah. And yet, by the end of The Legend of Lyon Redmond, I found myself feeling sorry for Isaiah. How do you see him? Will you ever tell more of his story?
Julie Anne: Isaiah is one of my favorite characters, I think, because he’s powerful, complex and tragically flawed, and if you’re a compassionate person, it’s hard not to have at least a little pity or sympathy for him—and if a reader doesn’t right now, I suspect they will understand him better by the end of The Legend of Lyon Redmond. If there’s a powerful theme throughout the series, it’s that love always wins, no matter what you’re up against, even if what you’re up against is Isaiah Redmond. I think Isaiah surrendered his essential nature to a sense of duty a long time ago and he, and his children, have paid the price ever since—victims of his attempt to rationalize his choices. There’s more to Isaiah’s story that remains to be told, and I’ve actually begun writing a novella (a prequel) to the series that addresses Isaiah and Isolde Eversea. Some day I hope to finish it! It’s a fairly intense story. I’ll have to commit time to it in order to do it justice. It’s always about the time. :)
Dabney: Between the two families, there are ten children, six Everseas and four Redmonds. You’ve told the story of the love affairs of nine of the ten children. Why did Marcus Eversea not get his own story?
Julie Anne: Well, Marcus gets his story inside The Perils of Pleasure—and I think he didn’t get his own book because his love story is one of the things that helps propel the series forward, since he and Colin are at the center of the first story’s conflict. We get his point of view in The Perils of Pleasure, as well as Louisa’s, so I kind of feel he did get his book, even if he wasn’t the star of it. :)
Dabney: In this book you write that no one from Pennyroyal Green (in Sussex) had seen Lyon since the night he left home five years ago. I’d thought he’d seen Violet in Cádiz. Is that not the case?
Julie Anne: No, they never saw each other. They did communicate with each other, however, via messages.
Dabney: In the books, you mix real places and people with those you’ve made up. How do you think about when you write? Do you make up a place when there isn’t a real one that fits your prose?
Julie Anne: Well, naturally, like most authors, I think it’s awfully fun to make stuff up. And yes, that’s exactly what happens—if the story that’s unfurling seems to require a place or circumstance that doesn’t exist, I will take liberties and create it, but then, that’s the beauty of fiction. For it to be convincing, it should contain elements of the real and the invented.
Dabney: In The Legend of Lyon Redmond, the real life reformer Hannah Moore becomes part of the plot. Why did you pick her?
Julie Anne: Hannah More was a remarkable person who lived the kind of life that Olivia Eversea admired fiercely—a woman who was a fearless, admired crusader for the rights of the poor and intelligently, eloquently anti-slavery, both issues that Olivia cared passionately about. Olivia knew she probably wasn’t destined for that sort of life, given her wealth and position, but she always strived to do what she could.
Dabney: Lyon’s favorite author is Marcus Aurelius and his favorite quote is “Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.” Is that a quote you love? How did you pick it for Lyon?
Julie Anne: Much of Marcus Aurelius resonates for me, but interestingly not that quote in particular. But it’s perfect for Lyon. It resonates so strongly for him because “duty” is such a theme in his life—his duty as an heir to the Redmond name and fortune—and he’s never allowed to forget what is expected of him. I think for this reason the word “bind” is the word he’s drawn to as strongly as the word “fate.” He can definitely never shake his destiny as a Redmond fully. And the quote takes on different shades of meaning after he meets Olivia.
Dabney: Lyon’s and Olivia’s love story has defined them since they met. Theirs is a story of love at first sight. You write of them (and this is one of the best descriptions of true love I’ve ever read) “At the quiet heart of the storm of sparks around them was a strange, peaceful certainty. This person was meant for me.” Olivia is the only woman Lyon believes he’ll ever love and, despite being engaged to another, Olivia believes she’ll never give her whole self to anyone but Lyon. What is the thing in the other that makes them feel that so strongly?
Julie Anne: I’m not sure you can name or define that thing anymore than you can, say, hold the eye of a hurricane in your hands. I think it’s possible for one soul to recognize another soul (or heart to recognize another heart, if you will) and know somehow they just belong to each other. I’ve always thought that love at first sight was less about sight (e.g., it’s not the hotness of said person that makes you fall in love), than finally seeing that person you’re meant to be with—that coup de foudre we’ve all heard of is a piercing recognition, if that makes sense. Maybe it’s based on something eternal, and two souls are picking up where they left off, who knows? Whatever it is, I think some people just do strike our inner gongs, if you will. And this is what happened for Lyon and Olivia. That doesn’t mean destiny is always easy. Just ask any Redmond or Eversea.
Dabney: Was it difficult for you to say goodbye to Pennyroyal Green? Do you think you’ll ever revisit it?
Julie Anne: I’m not sure it IS good-bye, per se. From a personal standpoint, it’s more like I have a permanent residence there that I can return to whenever I please, but my main business there—leading readers through the family stories and culminating in The Legend of Lyon Redmond—is finished for now. But now it’s time to visit other countries and villages and eras. I have soooo many ideas for stories of all kinds, and writing is so delicious that I hope to indulge as many as possible while still keeping readers happy. Some may indeed involve Pennyroyal Green in some fashion. I’m excited to be writing my contemporary series—the first book in it, Hot in Hellcat Canyon will be out in June 2016. It’s a blast to write in a contemporary voice, and my editor says it feels like I’ve been writing that way my whole life! I’ll tell you all more about in the days ahead.
Dabney: Thanks for talking with me, Julie Anne. It was a pleasure.