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Books with Buzz: Mary Balogh Interview and Giveaway (Contest Closed)

45021247It’s always a treat to feature Mary Balogh here at AAR and today we have a double one:  A short interview with the author about A Matter of Class, her upcoming release and a chance for a lucky reader to win a signed copy of the book direct from the author.  To enter for your chance to win, all you need to do is comment to this post by 11:59 pm eastern time on December 17th.  The winner will be announced here on Friday morning.

The usual caveats apply.  This contest is open to U.S. and Canadian residents only and, since the goal is to get a book into the hands of a reader who wouldn’t otherwise have early access, if you review for another site or blog, please don’t enter.

But, first, let’s hear from Mary!

Mary, thanks so much for taking the time to answer a few of my questions – and for giving one of our lucky readers a signed copy of A Matter of Class, due out on December 29th.   Could you tell our readers a bit about the book?

Absolutely. It is set in Regency England (no surprise there!) and has a classic plot—a forced marriage between a wealthy man of the lower classes and an impoverished woman of the upper classes. Reggie Mason, educated as a gentleman even though he is the son of a coal merchant, has been living extravagantly, and his father conceives the notion that marriage to a suitable woman will settle him down. Reggie is offered an alternative, but it is an unattractive one—all his funds will be cut off. Lady Annabelle Ashton, has just disgraced herself by trying to avoid marriage to an undesirable nobleman by running away with her father’s coachman. She is now unmarriageable—unless she accepts the unexpected offer from Reggie Mason. Her father, whose poverty persuades him into accepting a course he would normally abhor, does give her an alternative to accepting the proposal—she may be cast into the outer darkness of one of his remote estates for the rest of her life. And so Annabelle and Reggie, most unwillingly, find themselves betrothed. But this, of course, is a well-worn theme in historical romance. Any author worth her salt must breathe something fresh into it if the story is not to be a huge yawn. I think I have succeeded. The story will, I hope, both surprise and delight readers.

It’s been a busy year for you with the reprint of A Precious Jewel, plus the consecutive release of the four books of your Huxtable series.  Readers love the experience of not having to wait for months to read books in a series, but I’m certain it must be a challenge for a writer.  How did you manage to accomplish it and, secondly, do you see yourself taking on such a massive project again?

It certainly is a challenge to produce four books in time for them to be brought out in four successive months. It meant writing almost non-stop for two years. The advantage was that I got so immersed in the lives and loves of the Huxtables that I never got out of the groove, so to speak. The disadvantage was that at the end of it all I felt like a damp firecracker! When one indignant reader demanded to know WHY she was being made to wait a whole year for book number five, I told her I had to be allowed time to write it. I used to be known by one fellow-writer as “Mary of the smoking fingers,” but there are limits even to my endurance! I hasten to add that the idea of bringing out the Huxtable books one after the other was mine, not that of a whip-wielding publisher. Sometimes I have a tendency to masochism! Will I do it again? Who knows? I certainly don’t. But there is a group of three or four or five rambunctious brothers starting to rattle around in the back of my head…

One thing I’ve been happy about lately is the reprinting of classic Mary Balogh titles.  Will that continue in 2010?  And, because we’re nothing if not impatient for more and more from you, what’s upcoming on the new book front?

There are quite a number of the “old” books upcoming. Bantam Dell seem committed to bringing my backlist back especially as all of the old books that have been reprinted so far ( six of them) have gone onto the New York Times list. Not bad for books that were little Signet Regencies in their previous incarnation. Here is what is scheduled, most in 2-in-1 editions: Dark Angel/Lord Carew’s Bride at the end of February, 2010; A Christmas Promise in November, 2010; The Famous Heroine/The Plumed Bonnet and Christmas Bride/Christmas Beau in 2011; A Promise of Spring/The Temporary Wife and  The Counterfeit Betrothal/The Notorious Rake in 2012. Watch my Web site for more definite scheduling.

On the new front, Seducing an Angel (Stephen’s story) will be out in paperback at the end of April, 2010; A Secret Affair (Constantine’s story) will be out in hardcover at the end of May, 2010; and Bespelling Jane, a Harlequin anthology of paranormal stories based on Jane Austen novels, will be out in October, 2010 (with Susna Krinard, Janet Mullany, and Colleen Gleason).

This season seemed to see more Christmas-themed anthologies than I’d seen in years past, including your own entry in The Heart of Christmas.  Your Christmas stories are reader favorites at AAR and you said when you last talked with AAR in 2007 that you didn’t think there was the same level of publisher interest in Regency-set Christmas stories that there once was. Based on my own anecdotal impressions it seems to me that perhaps publishers are recognizing that we all need a little Christmas more these days. Is your perspective any different in 2009?

I don’t remember my comments in 2007. But what I probably meant was that no one is doing the anthologies of traditional Regency Christmas stories any longer because there are no more trad. Regency lines. Christmas stories are always popular and I have always loved writing them. Give me Christmas, a pair lovers, and preferably a child or two, and I’ll weave you a love story. In mine, Christmas is always almost a character. That is, the story happens just because it’s Christmas. Christmas is never just any old setting for the story but central to the whole thing. Bantam Dell are bringing out my old Signet Regency novel A Christmas Promise again next year and a 2-in-1, Christmas Beau and A Christmas Bride the year after.

Have any of your favorites amongst your backlist changed since our last talk?  Back then you told us that Slightly Dangerous was your favorite book and the incredible Wulfric of that same book your favorite hero.  An AAR reader recently started a thread on our message board titled “Is There Anyone Not in Love with Wulfric?” which I thought was both funny and oh so true!

Well, that is funny and also nice to know. Slightly Dangerous is still probably my all-time favorite. But all my books are my favorite as I write them.  If I had to pick a few more that I think are among my best, they would be The Notorious Rake, The Temporary Wife, Longing, A Summer to Remember, Simply Perfect, A Secret Affair (the last of the Huxtable books, Constantine’s story). Of course, as soon as I send this, I’ll think of other books I should have added to the list.

Lastly, Mary, with my tongue slightly in my cheek:  Did you know when you created the character of Vanessa Huxtable in First Comes Marriage that many readers would find themselves humming the theme to The Cosby Show?  (Well, okay, I did, anyway.)

I never did watch the Cosby show and so had no idea what I was walking into. It seems no one at my publishing house could have realized it either. Not to worry. Maybe when people watch reruns of the show in future, they will find themselves visualizing the covers of the Mary Balogh books while the credits roll by on the screen. Anyway, by the start of my series, the former Vanessa Huxtable is Vanessa Dew (okay, that admittedly sounds like an abject mumble-grumble).

To enter for your chance to win a signed copy of A Matter of Class, simply comment to this post by 11:59 p.m., Thursday December 17th.  Good luck!

– Sandy AAR

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