The world of romance novels is crammed with women of astonishing accomplishments and abilities. Sift through the life stories of those who write the books we so love and you’ll find achievers of all kinds.
And then there’s Eloisa James. As I was preparing to interview Ms. James, I checked out her Wikipedia page. The word that came to mind immediately was daunting. Ms. James is a year younger than I am. In the span of less than half a lifetime, Ms. James has attained degrees from Harvard, Oxford, and Yale. She’s a tenured English professor who’s chaired her department and headed its Creative Writing Program. She’s written twenty-four best-selling historical romances (her Desperate Duchesses series was just chosen by NPR as one of the 100 most swoon-worthy romances), as well as a memoir. She married an Italian knight whom she met on a blind date and they and their two children spend their summers in Tuscany. She’s elegant and impeccably dressed.
I was prepared to be intimidated.
Instead, in the almost hour I spoke with her, Ms. James was congenial and funny. We shared stories of our late 70’s era teenage years. She answered every question I asked. She, in the nicest way possible, told me how to pronounce her name correctly.
Readers, I’d start an Eloisa James fan page on Facebook but it already exists… and has 84K fans.
Dabney: Eloisa, thank you so much for meeting with me today. I’ve read all your books. (This is true.) Tell me about the most recent one.
Eloisa: It’s Four Nights with the Duke and it’s about a romance writer. In the 19th century, there were so many romance writers, silver spoon or silver fork writers, almost all who were women who supported their families. They were working romance writers. The whole plot of Four Nights with the Duke is stolen from the romances of the time.
Dabney: What comes out next?
Eloisa: Several things. Seven Minutes in Heaven is the sequel to Four Nights with the Duke. I think it will be released in late 2015 or early 2016.
I’m also publishing a stand alone romance called My American Duchess which will be out January 26th.
I got the idea for it while living in London. It was inspired by a pineapple. In early 1800’s England, pineapples were so expensive they were rented for dinner parties! I started thinking about how pineapples then were less expensive in America. My heroine, an American who’s come to London, makes a terrible mistake by eating the pineapple at the party she’s invited to. She realizes she’s made a grave social error and worries she’ll be ostracized. The opposite happens. My heroine Merry becomes the talk of the town. The story is about showing up in society and not understanding the rules.
The hero is an English Duke who has a twin, a dissolute drunk, who is engaged to the heroine. The hero thinks Merry’d make a fabulous duchess but he can’t take her away from his brother.
Dabney: I love the idea of the pineapple. Who knew?
Eloisa: Yes. I believe you don’t want to add the history onto the plot; you want the history to grow naturally from the plot.
Dabney: How did you start writing?
Eloisa: I started writing when I was eight years old. I started writing romances that were plays.
I wrote my first romance right after college. Passion’s Slave. There were sheep, a lesbian love scene, the heroine got spit in the eye by a camel and went temporarily blind… My boyfriend sent it out to all these publications. My favorite rejection came from the Sierra Club. They said it was frisky but not suitable for their publication.
I quit, went to graduate school in Oxford, and my mother called me and said Harlequin liked it. I didn’t pursue it.
Later on, when I wanted another baby, I decided to write a romance called Potent Pleasures. It sold. I got pregnant, I wrote my second book (Midnight Pleasures), and that began my writing career. It was the perfect antidote to my academic career.
Dabney: I know you teach creative writing. What advice would you give aspiring romance authors?
Eloisa: For me, in romance writing, you take your deepest fear and put into your books. Take something from your own life and put it into your book and it will work.
Dabney: If you were going to give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be?
Eloisa: I get my books done with the help of a lot of editing. It’s so hard to write a book right now in the traditional book world. To succeed, every book needs to be top form.
I’d tell myself: “You could start editing a little earlier.”
Impenitent social media enthusiast. Relational trend spotter. Enjoys both carpe diem and the fish of the day.
Dabney- Thanks for ALL of the interviews so far.
As for the rest of it- how odd.
Yes, I second that. I’ve enjoyed an entire full week of interviews!
Amy Thomas interviews bestselling author Eloisa James on her latest book, Paris in Love, a memoir of a year spent in Paris enjoying the good life.
You may not like what I had to say but I thought what I said was straight-forward and to the point. What likely IS passive-aggressive is the blog itself. What interviewer doesn’t take the time to know the name of a well-known author to be interviewed and then proceeds to use limited space about having been corrected, especially after having said she’s read all the author’s works–more than two dozen works in print over the past 15+ years. If a romance blogger/reviewer/et al can comment on an author’s work, why can’t I comment on the work of the that person.
You’re strange. Four paragraphs of snidely insulting Dabney was sparked by her brief mention of mispronouncing the name Eloisa?
It’s not that big of a deal when you don’t know the person and only “”see”” them online. I’ve had people I chat with regularly online ask how to pronounce my full name.
I guess the Internet really is Serious Business.
I’m not going to personally attack you or use swears words in return as you have done done with me. I addressed Dabney’s WORDS and her approach in the blog, generally thought of as fair game in the writing world.
Feel free to attack my words anytime. I’m always looking for ways to improve!
Okay. :) Here are the suggestions:
1. Spend less time in opening to the Q&A and get to the author’s words more quickly, the way you did with Sophie Jordan and Jennifer Ryan. Hearing about her new book and the pineapple was of far more interest than knowing you exchanged teen experiences or reading the bio of this already very well-established author.
2. If you want to change up styles for ending posts or any other thing, that’s fine. Just don’t wait until the fifth one to make the change, such as to stop saying something like “”Great! Thanks for talking with me”” or “”Thanks. It’s always a pleasure.”” It stands out the fifth time around when you leave it out.
3. If you feel obliged as a reviewer to tell the author you’ve read all her books–which is more about you than her–at least don’t add something in parens like “”(This is true.””) At the least it’s a waste of time for this type of short interview, and possibly may sound off somehow. Why would you lie?
4, Other AAR readers may want to hear about you, and we do hear about you in your other blogs, but this type of blog from RWA is by nature rarer and time is of the essence. Get to author more quickly, or to say it another way, save as much space as possible for the author’s words. Others may care about your jewelry or a gaffe in pronouncing a name; I’m not.
I didn’t see any “”addressing”” or even helpful critiques, but I did see rudeness and snideness. But you have a tendency to believe you exist on the moral high ground way above others, so I’ll leave the conversation here.
These interviews are curated. I spoke with Ms. James for almost an hour and included the parts of the interview I thought would be of interest to our readers. Given that I am publishing a series of these, I am trying to pull out different pieces of each so that all the interviews don’t seem the same.
I had a lovely time talking with Ms. James and I remain deeply appreciative that she and so many other authors took the time to talk with me and, by extension, All About Romance’s readers.
Interesting. This is the first article without a thank you and some enthusiasm being noted at the end for the author. Hmm…
Anyone who is a fan of EJ , as I have been for a long time, already knows she has a huge following who isn’t intimidated by her background (which we already knew without having to look it up) because of the funny and casual way she interacts with her readers, either online or in the personal email notes she takes the times to write to her readers.
But, if I were from AAR, I guess I’d be intimidated too given its noted track record for how her books have been rated over time compared to other sites. I think it was gracious of her to give the interview considering that.
BTW, my son who hasn’t read her books, knows how to pronounce her name, as does Wikipedia who didn’t feel the need for giving special instructions.
lol wtf? What is with this passive-aggressive comment?
For the record, I rated Ms James’ most recent two books highly here – one was a DIK and the other was a B grade.
Ah, well that’s how I would say it. Maybe it’s a more common name in the British Commonwealth than in the US…
Now I’m curious–how do you pronounce her name correctly?
El Ouisa. Rhymes with Louisa. I was saying Eloi Sa.
Yes! I also want to know. However, my natural pronunciation is probably very different to people from the US…
“”I love the idea of the pineapple. Who knew?””
When my aunt moved to London in the late 1960s nobody she knew there had ever seen a fresh pineapple.
But then when my family lived in India in the early 2000s, Brussels sprouts were considered to be and marketed as exotic food. So it is really only recently that you could expect to find a range of things in each country…