JQUpdate: Due to a miscommunication, the wrong prize was originally listed for this giveaway.  One winner will receive an (early) signed final copy of Just Like Heaven. This is the same book that you would find in stores; however, it will be autographed by Julia Quinn and you will probably receive it before the on sale date.  Julia Quinn and AAR apologize for the error.

Was there ever any doubt that the Smythe-Smith girls, those lamentably untalented victims of their mother’s ambitions who cropped up so often (and so memorably) in Julia Quinn books, were going to get their own HEAs?

On May 31st the author begins a new series with Just Like Heaven. And, to commemorate the occasion, we’ve got a brief interview with the talented Ms. Quinn and, courtesy of the lovely author herself, a signed book to give away to one lucky reader.  To enter all you need to do is comment to this post by 11:59 p.m. eastern time on Thursday, May 12th. The usual caveats apply:  This giveaway is designed to get an early copy of the book into the hands of a reader who otherwise wouldn’t have access, so, if you review for another Web site or blog, please don’t enter.  Unfortunately, due to high postage costs, this giveaway is open only to readers in the U.S. and Canada. You may comment multiple times (and we hope you do!) but you will be entered only once.

Julia, I see that the Smythe-Smith girls at last get their stories!  I’ve always had the feeling that at least a few of those poor young women knew how awful they were at the annual Smythe-Smith musicales where JQ heroes and heroines were tortured in previous books.  Please tell us a bit about the story and about your new quartet of stories.

Honoria Smythe-Smith is a terrible violinist, and she knows it, but her family means so much to her that she manages to grin through all of the family performances.  In fact, she’s the one who corrals her reluctant cousins and insists that they practice:

Honoria looked at all them, aware that her voice was rising with feeling but completely unable to modulate it.  “I may not like performing in musicales, but I love rehearsing with the four of you.”

Her three cousins stared at her, momentarily nonplussed.

“Don’t you realize how lucky we are?” Honoria said.  And then, when no one leapt to agree, she added, “To have each other?”

“Couldn’t we have each other over a game of cards?” Iris suggested.

“We are Smythe-Smiths,” Honoria ground out, “and this is what we do.”

It’s no surprise that Marcus Holroyd, who has never had a family of his own, would fall in love with her.  But it takes him a while to realize this.  He has known Honoria since childhood, when he became best friends with her older brother Daniel.  He saw her first as a bit of a pest, and then later as a responsibility, when Daniel is forced to flee the country due to a scandal.

My job, obviously, was to shake things up and make them realize they are perfect for each other.

Was it a challenge to write about characters who had appeared (albeit briefly) in so many other books?

You have no idea!  The first time I featured a Smythe-Smith musicale was in Minx, which came out in 1996.  I think it’s fair to say that I don’t remember every word I wrote in 2006, much less 1996, so I had to go back and take notes on everything I’ve ever written about the Smythe-Smiths, in any book.  (There was a lot of word searching for “Smythe” in all of my computer files.)

Once I had my information compiled, I had to decide when I wanted to set my new quartet of stories.  I had written about the 1816 musicale, the 1819 musicale, the 1824, and the 1825.  I decided to start with the 1824 musicale because I had mentioned one of the “musicians” getting her violin broken by Lady Danbury (another of my on-again-off-again recurring characters) and that was a scene I could not resist.

But once I’d figured that much out, I had to shape all my characters.  And to do that, I needed to know a bit about their families.  Which meant that I had to know which of their siblings might have played in previous quartets.  Which meant that I had to recreate nineteen years of Smythe-Smith Quartets, complete with who played which instruments.  (I am not kidding.  I have a monster-sized document with all of this in it.)

Where are you taking the series from here?  Who’s next?

Daniel!  I have a feeling readers will figure out who the heroine is when they read Just Like Heaven.

Julia, you were something of a pioneer in digital publishing with the Bridgerton epilogues you did a few years ago. Are you surprised at how fast the digital market is growing?  Any predictions about what’s to come?

You know, I’m not surprised.  I always had a feeling that eBooks would have a watershed moment.  We saw slow but steady growth until the end of last year and then—boom!—sales went crazy.  I suspect it is due to the price in eReaders coming down.  Not to mention the hardware improvements.  I have a first generation Kindle, and it’s a dinosaur compared to my husband’s shiny new iPad2.  Not to mention my mom’s brand new Kindle, or my sister’s Nook Color.

Right now my older books are selling more electronic copies than print, but for my new books, print still dominates.  As for the Bridgerton epilogues, we’ll be publishing them in a collection within the next year, and I suspect they will see higher numbers in print than electronic, at least at first.

And let’s wrap up with a perennial Sandy question:  What authors and books have you enjoyed recently?

I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.  No, seriously, almost everything I’ve read in the past few months has been as a Rita judge.  I’m judging the finals this year (I can’t tell you which category), so I’ve been reading Rita books since January!

I am, however, very excited about the release of two books I had the good fortune to read over a year ago.  The first is The Devil in Disguise by Stefanie Sloane.  Stef is my very best girlfriend; we met years ago when she worked at Amazon, and she has been there for me through some really tough times.  When she decided to write a Regency historical romance I was nervous because seriously, how awkward would it be for me if her book sucked?  You can imagine my delight (and relief!) when I read the manuscript and it was terrific!  No one was happier than I was when Stef got a three-book deal with Ballantine; The Devil in Disguise is being published this month, closely followed by The Angel in My Arms and The Sinner Who Seduced Me.

cheesieThe other book I’m giddy about isn’t a romance.  In fact, it’s a kid’s book, and it’s written by Steve Cotler, who happens to be my dad!  Cheesie Mack isn’t a Genius or Anything is a fabulous middle grade read–super-smart and funny, with a lot of heart.  My dad is an interesting guy—he majored in organic chemistry, then got an MBA.  He’s been a stockbroker and a screenwriter.  He’s taught high school English and he’s been on The Gong Show.  But through all this it’s been completely obvious (to me, anyway) that he was born to write children’s books.  It’s been such a treat for me to be able to offer him advice, to have him follow me into something.  And I think it’s been a treat for him, too!

And cool cover, too! Remember, to enter for your chance to win a signed copy of Just Like Heaven, comment to this post by 11:59 p.m. eastern time on Thursday, May 12th. Good luck to all!

– Sandy AAR