It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a historical romance writer in possession of a great wealth of talent, must be taken seriously by The Washington Post. Except, historically, the WaPo, like much of America’s serious press, treats romance writers rather like boxed wine: Something never to be publicly praised even if, upon occasion, she imbibes with gusto.
At least that’s how The Washington Post used to treat romance. These days, The Grey Lady publishes a monthly column about romance. And for that we must thank Sarah MacLean.
I’ve interviewed Sarah before and enjoyed it every time. She’s funny, fearless, and feminist. She laughs a lot. She loves Romanceland. When her publicist at Avon asked if I’d like to check in with her at RWA, I of course said yes.
Dabney: Hi! So to begin, tell me about your new book.
Sarah: The Rogue Not Taken is my first in my Scandal and Scoundrel series. I wanted to do a series about celebrity gossip with a historical twist. My editor said, “Like the Kardashians?” And I said “Yes, just like the Kardashians!” Interestingly, celebrity gossip really does translate. In pre-Victorian society reputation, scandal, and gossip were so important. One’s reputation was everything. I spent a lot of time thinking about it.
I knew the first scene would be my take on the Jay Z, Beyonce, Solange Met Gala scandal from two years ago. (Solange punched Jay Z in the elevator.) I wanted to know what happened. So, I came up with what I thought might have happened and my heroine became the Solange character who caused the scene and she has to run. She stows away in the carriage of a handsome future duke and it becomes a road story.
Dabney: Have you ever done a road story before?
Sarah: No. It’s hard. Road trips are tough. You spend a lot of time asleep in an inn. You have to do a lot of work so you’re not always sleeping in an inn. It’s fun because there are so many characters—there’s always new faces at the inn.
Dabney: How many books are planned for the series?
Sarah: The Scandal and Scoundrel series will be a trilogy. They’re linked by the theme of scandals.
Dabney: Will readers recognize the scandals?
Sarah: If they read US Weekly, yes.
Dabney: What’s your favorite recent scandal?
Sarah: Right now I’m very sad about Bennifer. We were friends in my heart. I did think to myself: How would I write that? It’s tough to write a reconciled marriage.
Sarah: The heroine of The Rogue Not Taken was in Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover. To some extent, it’s all the same world.
That said, this series is much more romp than the last series. I think readers will enjoy it.
Sarah: I published my first book in 2009. I wrote it on a dare. It’s titled The Season and is a historical YA.
Dabney: If you were going to give your younger self a word of advice what would it be?
Sarah: Don’t worry so much.
Dabney: Thanks. It’s always a pleasure.