LNSIt’s tough to write an introduction for someone who is on the very short list of Authors Who Need No Introduction.  And, yes, I’m talking Loretta Chase.

The  wonderful (really) Last Night’s Scandal hits shelves on July 27th.  For those who haven’t heard the news, it is, indeed the story of Peregrine and Olivia and, though my review is still to come, I’ll tip my hat here and say that I loved it.  A lot.

At AAR, we’re celebrating the release with a new interview and a giveaway courtesy of those nice folks at Avon.  To enter for your chance to win one of five advance copies, simply comment to this post by Thursday, June 17th at 11:59 pm eastern time.  Winners will be randomly selected and notified by email on Friday.  The announcement will be made here on Saturday.  The usual caveats apply:  This contest is open only to readers in the U.S. and Canada and, since this contest is designed to get advance copies into the hands of readers who wouldn’t otherwise have access, please don’t enter if you review for another Web site or blog.

But first, sit back, relax and enjoy the interview.

Loretta, you have now delivered the perfect summer reading confection in the long awaited story of Peregrine and Olivia.  Ever since the two appeared as children in Lord Perfect, I’ve read online appeal after appeal from readers begging for their story.  And, I don’t think I’m giving too much away when I reveal that the book includes another road trip.  Could you tell AAR readers a bit about the story?

Thank you so much!  It’s a story I’ve been wanting to deliver for some time, but it needed a while to take shape.

At the end of Lord Perfect, Peregrine Dalmay, Earl of Lisle, then age thirteen, set out with Daphne & Rupert (of Mr. Impossible) for Egypt, on what Olivia—his partner-in-crime—called his Noble Quest.  I knew that a number of readers wanted more of Olivia & Peregrine right away, (I heard from readers on this subject more than any other), but honestly, I had no clue how to do it.  While I’ve done spinoffs, I’ve never faced the problem of taking a pair of youthful characters and working out the psychology of how they grow up, what they grow up into, why they’re meant for each other, and how exactly their relationship evolves from friendship to love.  Given these issues, combined with my usual glacial pace, it’s amazing that it took a mere four years to solve the problem.  An important clue was realizing that Lisle’s been in Egypt ever since the end of Lord Perfect, with a few brief trips back home.

So, after a fast-forward Prologue, the story proper begins ten years after Lisle and Olivia’s first adventure together.  Though they’ve grown up, they’re still very much the people they were, and readers will notice parallels to the earlier story.  As before, it starts in London.  Lisle’s back for a visit, and his parents are still acting like adolescent drama queens, and he can’t wait to get away from them and go back to Egypt where he only has to deal with snakes, scorpions, plague, and homicidal antiquities hunters.  But an Olivia-instigated unfortunate series of events results in a road trip—again—this time to Scotland, a place for which Lisle feels a deep and abiding loathing.  Especially the bagpipes.

Rather than attempt a synopsis—which I’m horrible at and would be stupefyingly boring—I’ll invite readers to go to my Web site, where they’ll find a back-cover type summary as well as an excerpt.  In the coming months, I plan to do some blogs related to the story—bits of history and scenery that didn’t fit in the book, for instance.

Does it put extra pressure on you as a writer knowing that readers have expectations about the characters?

Well, I’d like to pretend I’m so cool that I never trouble my little head about that sort of thing, but that would be a shocking lie.  I’d have to be in a coma not to know there are expectations, and not to feel some pressure to produce greatness.  When you give a secondary character his or her own book, you know that each reader has her own vision of the characters and at least a vague idea in her mind of how the story ought to unfold.  But I have to leave that consciousness outside the door of my work area, because what, exactly, is carrying it inside going to accomplish?  Can I read everybody’s mind?  Are they all thinking the same thing?  Am I so great a genius that I can please every single reader?  I think not.  So I tell myself there are only certain voice in my head I need to listen to, and my job is to write the story the way that feels right and true to me.  Then we (the voices and I) hope no one throws rotten tomatoes.

One of my perennial favorite plotlines is the pairing of an impulsive, fun loving character with one who is far more buttoned up – even if he (or she) only thinks he (or she) is.  You do it so very well, Loretta, and it’s just one of the reasons why Mr. Impossible is my favorite of all your books – and why I loved this one, too.  What do you think is so appealing about this combination of personalities?

LorettaChaseThe way they aggravate each other.  That’s an endless source for comedy.  One of my favorite screwball comedies is Bringing Up Baby—Cary Grant, the single-minded scientist, and Katherine Hepburn, the free spirit who turns his world upside down.  I love the way the nutty one drives the straight one crazy.  And I love the gradual unbuttoning, literal and figurative, of the buttoned-up one.  What was so much fun in writing Mr. Impossible was having the guy be the free spirit and the girl be the I-Am-In-Control intellectual.  Thank you for saying it’s your favorite:  I loved doing the research.  It was a great opportunity to explore an aspect of history that had always fascinated me.  It was a joy to bring the research to life in that story, and to be able to extract humor from it, too.  Plus, I was thrilled about setting an entire story in Egypt—and getting away with it!

In 2000, 2004, and 2007 Lord of Scoundrels came out at the very tippy-top when we asked AAR readers to rank their top 100 favorite romances which, considering the diversity of tastes exemplified by AAR readers, is impressive, indeed.  Why do you think the book has proved so popular with multi-generations of readers?  (Okay, maybe multi-generational is a bit of a stretch, but LoS was first published in 1995 and that repeated first place showing proves that new readers are still discovering – and loving – the book.)

I’m still waiting for someone to explain it to me.  The first win astounded me, and the repeats even more—and no, I don’t have an answer.  Um..because it’s funny?  I asked my husband why it’s so popular, and he said, “The glove scene.”  But you know, when readers email me about it, they don’t all mention the same scenes or story elements, though Jessica is cited quite frequently.  They like her attitude.  But she works because she’s so extremely balanced and Dain is so extremely unbalanced.  If he weren’t as screwed up as he is, I’m not sure she’d work as well.  But really, analysis is not my forte.  I write intuitively.  Which means that, when I wrote Lord of Scoundrels, my intuition somehow worked everything out in a special way.  Another way of putting this is, Gift from the Writing Gods.

What’s your favorite of all your novels and why?

Are there authors who can actually answer this question?  Because it freezes my brain.  I can’t even choose a favorite book or movie by someone else, let alone decide among my own, each one a product of blood, sweat, tears, and jokes of varying quality.  Oh, I say Bleak House is my favorite Dickens, but then I think, well, Great Expectations is pretty amazing—and what about Our Mutual Friend?  But—wait—isn’t Pride and Prejudice my favorite novel?  On the personal page on Blogger, where you list favorite movies, my list goes on forever, and I keep thinking of movies I should have listed.  So what happens is, my favorite of my own books is the one I just finished because it’s still fresh to me, and I have that delicious feeling of accomplishment, and it’s supposed to mark a stage of development and improvement in me as a writer.  But no—wait—my favorite book, I just realized, is also the one I’m working on, because it’s really fresh, with miles and miles of uncharted territory—and who knows, maybe this will be my greatest achievement, ever.

I know you are modesty personified, but when those of us who love romance discuss the greats, your name is always on the list.  Who do you think are the greats?

Wait a minute while I squirm.  OK.  On to the question.  You could hardly find someone less qualified to talk about who’s great in romance.  I read very little, for several reasons.  It’s my job, and it’s hard to read a romance without working, on some level:  analyzing, criticizing, getting extremely annoyed with myself for not having been the one to come up with this kind of character or that kind of plot, or fretting about what’s hot now and what isn’t, and so on.  That just takes all the fun out of reading, and it’s definitely not healthy for my writing.  So I tend to read completely outside my genre.  When I do buy romance, it’s usually contemporary, and from a very short list of authors: Jennifer Crusie, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Susan Wiggs.  And I’m always years behind with them.  I hear about books that sound terrific—like Joanna Bourne’s—and add them to my lists, but I still haven’t actually read them.  I did finally read one of Sherry Thomas’s books, and she definitely got my attention—a distinctive, powerful voice.

And, finally, what’s next for you, Loretta?

On the book front, I’m developing a new series, which will be set in England (mainly) in the 1830s and deals with three sisters from a ramshackle family.  The first book of the series will probably be out late in the summer of 2011.  Meanwhile, readers can stay in touch via my blogs, especially Two Nerdy History Girls,  where historical novelist Susan Holloway Scott and I take readers behind the scenes of our books, to that dusty, spooky world of historical research we love so very much.

Thanks to Loretta and to Avon for the giveaway.

You’ll have a little more than a month to wait until Last Night’s Scandal is released, but five lucky readers won’t have to endure the wait.  To enter for your chance to win one of five advance copies, simply comment to this post by Thursday, June 17th at 11:59 pm eastern time.  Good luck to all!

– Sandy AAR