by Cathy Sova
Welcome to our New Faces column, where you can meet debut
romance authors and discover their books. This time we are visiting
with Manda Collins, whose first book is HOW TO DANCE
WITH A DUKE from St. Martin's Press. Letís meet her.
Manda, welcome to TRR! Tell us about yourself.
Well, I was born and raised in Coastal Alabama, where I'm part
of a large Catholic extended family. I lost both parents while
I was still pretty young, but was brought up by my maternal
grandparents. Though I remember reading my first Nancy Drew
with my mother, it was my grandmother who introduced me to Agatha
Christie. I was an English major in college and went on to earn
and MA in English and later a Masters of Library and Information
Are you coming to romance writing from another job? Do you still have a day job?
I've been a customer service rep, a paralegal and a law librarian.
I am currently working as an emerging technologies librarian
at the school where I got my undergrad degree. Boy is it different
from the other side!
What led you to write romance?
I got my start writing in middle school when I wrote what I
now know to be fan fiction about my little group of friends
and the characters from the television show Moonlighting. Around
that same time I picked up my first romance--I have trouble
pinpointing exactly what book it was. I think probably I started
with the Sunfire romances that Scholastic put out in the late
eighties. Then I moved on to adult Regency trads. I never really
thought of myself as a writer until I took a class called "How
to Write a Romance Novel" during college and something
clicked. I started writing a Regency trad. But the next year
I had some serious health problems that made it impossible to
write and along the way I kind of stopped writing. Though I
never stopped reading. In 2006 I got back into romance writing
through the Avon Fanlit competition.
Tell us about your road to publication.
In the spring of 2007 I started writing my first novel, PORTRAIT
OF A NIGHTINGALE which I finished the next spring. I finaled
in some contests, including the Daphne and the Sheila. I sent
out about forty five agent queries, and in fall 2008 I accepted
representation from Holly Root at the Waxman Agency. We went
out on submission and about a month later, publishing went to
hell in a handbasket. I had some really great nibbles, but with
the market contracting sharply, there was just nobody willing
to take a risk on a Victorian with a Nightingale Nurse heroine.
So, after lots of rejections--and I mean we were rejected by
every major house AND it's brother--I decided to write the kind
of book that had drawn me to romance in the first place. I brainstormed
some trilogy ideas with Lindsey Faber, a great friend, and I
wrote HOW TO DANCE WITH A DUKE, a Regency historical with a
mystery plot. Along the way I got feedback from my friends from
Fanlit, like Tessa Dare, Courtney Milan, Elyssa Papa. I tweaked.
And in October 2010, Holly Blanck at St. Martin's Press made
What kind of research was involved for your first book?
I did a lot of research on Egyptology during the Regency period.
Since Cecily is a linguist, and is conversant with Egyptian
heiroglyphs, I did a lot of research on the Rosetta Stone, and
its translations. The actual "cracking" of the Rosetta
Stone didn't happen until a few years after my book is set,
so I took some liberties with the historical detail for the
sake of the plot.
Tell us about your debut book.
HOW TO DANCE WITH A DUKE is the story of Miss Cecily Hurston,
the daughter of England's most celebrated Egyptian explorer,
and Lucas Dalton, the Duke of Winterson. Lucas is trying to
find out what happened to his brother, Will, Lord Hurston's
personal secretary, who went missing on Lord Hurston's most
recent expedition. Unfortunately, he can't ask the man himself
because he suffered an apoplectic fit (stroke) on the voyage
back to England. Cecily is determined to make sure that the
blame for Will's disappearance does not fall on her father.
So she and Winterson join forces to find out exactly what happened
on that expedition, and in the process fall in love.
Who are some of your influences as a writer?
My biggest influences have been Jane Austen and strangely enough,
Nancy Drew. My favorite bits of Nancy Drew books were always
the parts where Nancy and her friends joined forces with their
boyfriends and solved the mystery. And I loved what Austen did
to the Gothic romance in NORTHANGER ABBEY. I also really admire
the prose of Loretta Chase, Eloisa James, Julie Anne Long, Jo
Goodman--I could go on forever. I also adore the old school
mystery romances of Amanda Quick.
What does your family think of having a published romance author in their midst?
My family is proud. Though with the exception of my sister,
an aunt, and a cousin, they aren't huge romance readers, so
I think they're a little bashful about the sexy parts. Even
so they've been very supportive and talk me up all over the
place, which is pretty sweet.
Tell us about plans for future books.
My next book in the Ugly Ducklings trilogy is HOW TO ROMANCE
A RAKE, which comes out July 31, followed by HOW TO ENTICE AN
EARL, which will be released in February 2013. After those,
I'm contracted for three more books with St. Martin's, which
will be another trilogy, this time following the exploits of
three Wicked Widows and their attempts to elude a blackmailer.
In completely different news, I self-published a contemporary
romance novella this summer, called LEGALLY YOURS, which is
a secret-crush story set in a fast-paced, southern law firm.
How can readers get in touch with you?
I'm on Twitter @MandaCollins
Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/mandacollinsauthor
or they can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Manda, thanks for joining us, and best of luck with HOW
TO ROMANCE A RAKE!
July 17, 2012
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