Last week I attended a booksigning that was part of Lauren Willig’s tour for The Garden Intrigue, the latest in her Pink Carnation series. Because many of AAR’s readers are fans of the series, I decided to focus this column entirely on the event and will be back in a few weeks with my usual Upcoming Booksignings column.
While the event was scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m., by 6:45 nearly all of the seats were full. Showing the broad appeal of the series, the audience – primarily women — ranged in age from teens to 99 years of age. The owner did a brief introduction of Lauren Willig and announced that there was a special guest of honor, the 99 year-old reader who came with her daughter. Ms. Willig thanked her for coming and commented that she is a wonderful role model.
Ms. Willig began by giving a brief introduction to the book. She noted that this is the 9th book in the Pink Carnation series. She said that she feels she’s come full circle with this one. Not only is the historical heroine an American, but the hero is like the Scarlet Pimpernel, a direct reflection of Sir Percy Blakeney.
Eloise (the heroine in the contemporary part of the Pink Carnation books) is facing the impending end of her time studying spies in England. While she knows she needs to return to the U.S., things have just gotten good for her with Colin. Ms. Willig said that the two graduate students Eloise contacts for advice in the book are actually her own best friends from graduate school.
Before taking questions from the audience, Ms. Willig did a reading from the The Garden Intrigue. While I love the audio versions of the Pink Carnation books as narrated by Kate Reading, Ms. Willig did a wonderful job. The personality of each of the characters came to life in her reading.
After the reading Ms. Willig opened the floor to questions from the audience, basically as many as we wanted to ask. What follows are some of the tidbits I picked up from the questions.
- Ms. Willig never intended to write a series. She found the first three books quite easy to write, but when she realized, around book four, that she was writing a series, it became much more difficult. She started thinking about the future of the series and the overall story arc. She didn’t want the Pink Carnation series to stop like Dark Shadows, with major stories left hanging. Since then, she’s focused on creating a proper ending for all of the major characters.
- The hardest part in writing the books is Colin and Eloise’s story. She calls them her “Taster’s Choice,” couple, because their story moves very slowly, much like the couple featured in a series of Taster’s Choice coffee commercials during the 1990s. When she started writing the books, Ms. Willig, like Eloise, was a graduate student. While the author has moved beyond that, Eloise is still working on her dissertation, and she and Colin are still stuck in 2004. Though it’s the “modern” part, Ms. Willig has to avoid putting anachronistic things such as smart phones, Twitter, and Facebook into the world of 2004.
- Ms. Willig has signed for two more Pink books. The next will be Miss Gwen’s story, while the second will be Jane’s. Colin and Eloise’s story will be wrapped up along with the two historical heroines in the final book. She said that Colin and Eloise’s story will probably end in late 2004 or early 2005.
- Ms. Willig hopes to write a Christmas book for Sally Fitzhugh, the younger sister of Turnip Fitzhugh (the hero of The Mischief of the Mistletoe ). When asked, she said that Turnip remains her favorite character to write. She said that his voice is so over-the-top that he almost writes himself. She likened Turnip to a big, bouncy puppy dog.
- While most of the people at the reading are avid fans of the Pink Carnation series, her next book, tentatively due out in January or February of 2013, will be something different. It will be set in 1920s Kenya, 1999 New York, and 1910s London. While a distant relation of Lord Vaughn (the hero of The Seduction of the Crimson Rose) will be in the book, it has nothing to do with the Pink series. In addition to the Kenya book, she will also write a standalone set in the 1830s Cayman Islands.
- When asked about her writing process, Ms. Willig said that she spends one to two months before she begins writing a book in research. Her research consists of immersion reading; she reads everything she can get her hands on that relates in any way to the next book. For The Garden Intrigue, she read books about Americans in Paris, Robert Livingston, Robert Fulton, and Napoleon’s relatives.
- Continuing with her writing process, Ms. Willig said that she always has a notebook with her to jot down ideas. She also said that she sleeps with a clipboard filled with blank sheets of paper by her head in case she has ideas while sleeping.
In her review of The Garden Intrigue, Jane G wrote, “One of Ms. Willig’s greatest strengths as a writer is her distinctive, witty, and intelligent style.” These words fit not only Ms. Willig’s writing, but her public persona. I’ve gone to a lot of author events and signings over the last few years, and rarely have I met an author who so completely sounded in person like she does in print. If you have read and enjoyed the Pink Carnation series, you will love listening to Ms. Willig in person.
– LinnieGayl AAR