Today’s special guest at Reading Reality is Jenna Jaxon, the author of Only Scandal Will Do. Jenna’s latest book is a Regency/Georgian romance about a Marquess trying to live down a family scandal and a sword-swinging heroine who is tailor-made to cause one, or several. It’s also a scandalously fun read (see review).
I had the opportunity to ask Jenna some questions about the inspiration for Kat (that lady with the sword) and the scandalous auction that starts the story, as well as a few other tantalizing things. So let’s hear from Jenna…
Marlene: Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is Jenna Jaxon when she isn’t writing?
Jenna: When I’m not writing–which isn’t often–I’m usually working in the theatre. I teach theatre at a private university and have been directing plays for…quite a while now. I love everything having to do with theatre and the fact my youngest daughter wants to go into musical theatre tickles me to no end. I also read avidly when I get the chance. I’ve got so many books in my TBR pile that I’ve started reading the shorter works first so I can cover more ground. LOL I also love to travel–I’ve been to England, Scotland, Wales. I’ve studied for two summers in Ireland *sigh* and visited a friend in France each year I was in Europe. I also got to go to Egypt for ten days, which was like a dream come true.
Marlene: Only a Scandal Will Do is your first full-length historical romance. What drew you to historical romance?
Jenna: I have always been a history buff. It was my first major in college and I’ve always loved reading about people in other time periods. I’m fascinated at how they lived without our modern conveniences and how they did things. I read my first historical romance (Kathleen Woodiwiss’ The Wolf and the Dove) as a teenager and then moved on to other genres (romantic suspense, historical fiction, horror). But my love of history has always been there and I was very happy to come back to it. I now rarely read anything else!
Marlene: Katarina is the ultimate tomboy! A sword-wielding heroine in an era when women were expected to be something completely feminine and fragile. Was she inspired by someone or something in particular?
Jenna: Having read a lot of historical romances by the time I came to write her, I had an idea of the kind of heroine I wanted to write. I wanted her to be strong, and luckily the 18th century was a period that allowed a few more freedoms to women than later periods. But I wanted her to be able to have fighting skills (I fenced in high school and really wanted my heroine to be able to do that), so I gave her the background of growing up without a mother, in the shadow of her father’s regiment and with her brother for her closest companion. Add the “wild” colony of Virginia as her original home, and you have a very different sensibility for a heroine. Katarina’s not based on anyone in particular, but she does remind me in spirit of Diana, Countess of Arradale in Jo Beverley’s novel Devilish.
Marlene: Kat and Duncan did anything but “meet cute”. Not many romances start with a sale in a whorehouse. Can you tell us a little bit about how you came up with that particular scene?
Jenna: Once I started writing historical romance I started reading historical romances non-stop. And one thing I noticed was the tropes used in the genre. The arranged marriage, the feisty heroine, the rake turned to good man, and, in several novels, the auctioning off of women. These scenes were riveting, because the reader felt so badly for the woman (who usually did this of her own volition to pay a debt for her family). So I began playing with the idea of an auction where the woman was not a willing participant. How could that be accomplished and why? And so I came up with the kidnapping scene that led to the “fantasy tableau” auction. My theatrical background kicked in for that one–I wanted an auction that was more than just an auction and an opportunity to hide Katarina’s identity from the public so the threat of scandal would become a major motivation for both her and Duncan. So the auction became a series of male fantasies–a highwayman, a sultan, a pirate, and a Roman with a slave.
Marlene: And would you like to share your favorite scene from the book with us?
Jenna: I have several favorite scenes in this book and one of them is the “tableau auction.” Madame Vestry is auctioning off four tableaux or “scenes” depicting women being abducted, owned or possessed by men. The man who successfully bids on the scene gets to take over the part of the highwayman, sultan, pirate or Roman senator and continue the scene in private. Sort of a role-playing game with fringe benefits. Duncan’s trying to be good, trying to leave the auction, until Katarina appears. Then all bets are off. He can’t even see her face (she’s masked), but her auburn hair and feisty attitude on the stage mesmerize him and he has to bid on her. I had a huge amount of fun thinking up and describing the various tableaux. I usually don’t like writing description, but I did enjoy it this time.
Marlene: Who first introduced you to the love of reading?
Jenna: My mother. She read a ton of books to me before I went to school and once I could read for myself I never wanted to stop. When teachers would send the papers home from Scholastic to see if you wanted to buy any books, I always had the biggest order. And I still have a lot of those books in my library. My children read them and perhaps, eventually, my grandchildren will too.
Marlene: Who influenced your decision to become a writer?
Jenna: That’s really a tough one because I’ve always been a writer. I started writing stories in 3rd grade and have always loved writing assignments I had in school. I took several creative writing classes and thought several times I should write something for publication. I suppose Kathleen Woodiwiss was the greatest influence in my decision to become a romance writer. I read her final book, Everlasting, and loved it. It was set in my favorite period, the middle ages, and I was so enamored of it that I actually said aloud, “I can write a book like that.” And sat down and wrote.
Jenna: That’s probably the toughest question I’ve been asked to date. My first thought is The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, but that’s drama. I think it might be Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. I absolutely loved this book and I believe it’s a wonderful representation of real life in the old west, a great character study, and a damn fine story. It’s just stunning.
Marlene: What project do you have planned for the future? What’s coming up next?
Jenna: Next is actually another erotic contemporary novella, 7 Days of Seduction, the story of a girl who wakes up from a Friday night party to find out she’s slept with a gorgeous guy she doesn’t know. When he shows up again, he proposes a week’s worth of adventures that’s meant to push her out of her sexual comfort zone. Then I’m planning to self-publish my medieval novel that was inspired by Everlasting. It’s called Time Enough to Love and is broken down into three novellas: Betrothal, Betrayal, and Beleaguered. And of course I’m working to revise the second book in the Scandal series, Only Marriage Will Do, which is the story of Duncan’s sister, Lady Juliet Ferrers.
Marlene: Morning person or night owl?
Jenna: Night owl. I’d love to be able to write all night. How else am I going to keep up with my writing schedule? LOL
I also have some very fond memories of those Scholastic books. Andre Norton’s Steel Magic was one of the first Arthurian fantasies I ever bought with my own money. Probably warped me for life, but in such a good way.
Thanks so much, Jenna, for answering all my questions! It’s good to know there’s more scandal in the future.