About the Book:
She was unlike any woman he’d ever met in the ton or the demimonde. But Sir Gerald Stapleton frequented Mrs. Blyth’s euphemistically dubbed “finishing school” for pure, uncomplicated pleasure—and nothing else. So why was this confirmed bachelor so thoroughly captivated by one woman in particular? Why did he find himself wondering how such a rare jewel of grace, beauty, and refinement as Priss had ended up a courtesan? And when she needed protection, why did Gerald, who’d sworn he’d never get entangled in affairs of the heart, hasten to set her up as his own pampered mistress to ensure her safety—and have her all to himself?
For Priscilla Wentworth, the path leading to Sir Gerald’s bed had been as filled with misfortune as it suddenly seemed charmed. But Priss couldn’t allow herself to believe she’d ever be more to a man like Sir Gerald than a well-cared-for object of pleasure. Now, despite Gerald’s deep distrust of marriage, neither scandal nor society’s censure can keep them apart—only the fear of trusting their hearts.
Hi Mary Balogh,
Welcome to Paperback Writer
Thank you for having me!
Q: Will you share with us how you came up with the idea for this book?
A: A PRECIOUS JEWEL is a Regency-era romance with a difference. The hero, Sir Gerald Stapleton, is a beta male whose self-esteem was taken from him during childhood by a cold, insensitive father and a stepmother who betrayed his love and trust. He is afraid of relationships and so satisfies his needs with frequent visits to a high-class brothel. The heroine, Priscilla Wentworth, well-born but forced by circumstances into prostitution, becomes his “regular” and later his mistress. It is not an auspicious beginning for a love story, but that is exactly what their story becomes. I love to take on a challenge as a writer, and there was none greater that this.
Gerald was a minor character in THE IDEAL WIFE (re-published in 2008 by Bantam Dell), best friend of the hero. In that book he was struggling with the loss of his long-term mistress (Priscilla), who had left him to marry a former beau. My mind played with the usual what-ifs as I wrote THE IDEAL WIFE. What if Gerald really loved Priscilla? What if she really loved him? What if the former beau and impending marriage were fictitious, an excuse to get away from a liaison that had become intolerable to her? What if…
Gerald intrigued me to such an extent that I had to tell his story. Actually, it became an obsession with me. I knew I could not write it. He was not the alpha male readers expect their heroes to be. Priscilla was a working prostitute. It was all quite impossible. A few fellow writers on whom I tried the idea agreed with me. I did not even ask my editor about it. But those two characters would not let me alone. Finally I wrote their story during a hectic two-week period and put the manuscript up on a shelf in my office for a long time before deciding to send it in just to see what the reaction would be. When I phoned about it some time later, I discovered that the book was in copyediting! All this was back in 1993. Now Bantam Dell has republished A PRECIOUS JEWEL.
Q: Do you plan your stories first with an outline or does it come to you as write it?
A: I try to plan. How relaxing writing would be if I knew in advance exactly where a story was going! Or so it sometimes seems. But perhaps the story would be less dynamic if it did not constantly unfold on the screen before my very eyes, often surprising even me! My stories are character-driven. And because characters reveal themselves to me gradually as the story progresses, I can never decide in advance what they are going to do in a given situation. Sometimes I think I know, but when I get to that part of the story I realize that the characters as they have become would never do that particular thing. Planning ahead is a little like trying to plan out the lives of one’s children as soon as they are born (or conceived). It can’t be done!
Q: Do you know the end of the story at the beginning?
A: I write love stories. I write happy endings. I always know who the hero and heroine are, and therefore I know that they will end up together facing a lifetime of potential happiness and love. It is the road to that ending that I do not know. I may have some idea of the scenery and various road blocks along the way, but it is all pretty hazy.
Q: Do you have a process for developing your characters?
A: I like to know my characters soul-deep. It is not enough to know about them, no matter how long the list of facts and characteristics may be. I could list for you a hundred things about myself, but you still wouldn’t know me. Sometimes I don’t even know myself. I’ll do or say something and then go “Huh? Where did that come from?” I struggle with my characters all through a book, especially at the beginning. I always feel that I know them well enough to make a start, but they constantly flummox me. I find myself staring at the screen and asking them aloud, “Who are you?” And if that doesn’t work, I jump inside their head and ask, “Who am I?” Experience has taught me that the answer often lies in another question, “Where is your deepest pain?” Once I know the answer to the questions, especially that last one, I can go back and adjust the character and his behavior accordingly. I hope the whole thing seems seamless to the reader who reads the resulting story, but the creation is certainly not seamless!
Q: It is said that authors write themselves into their characters. Is there any part of you in your characters and what they would be?
A: Oh, yes, it is inevitable. What I find admirable will appear in my heroes and heroines. What I find despicable will not—not as they are by the end of the book, anyway. Their philosophy of life will often be mine or at least one of which I can approve. Just a few minor examples: None of my heroes enjoy hunting even though hunting and shooting were favorite pastimes of Regency gentlemen. Few of my heroines like to have cut flowers in the house—they would prefer to see them to live out their span in the garden. Most of my heroes and heroines make a distinction between being in love (romantic, euphoric, ephemeral) and loving (a deep, lasting commitment that embraces romance and friendship and is unending and unconditional).
Q: What is your most favorite part about this book?
A: It is difficult to pick a favorite part, because that implies that the rest of the book is less favorite and therefore inferior. However, the part I enjoyed writing most and enjoy rereading most is the middle (unusual when many books suffer from the dreaded sagging middle). Priscilla and Gerald, alone together in the country, fall in love even though neither says a word about it to the other. Disaster looms and is surely felt by the reader—it is too soon for happily-ever-after to dawn. But the calm before the storm is tender and beautiful. Or so I believe.
Q: When in the process of writing your book did you begin to look for a publisher?
A: I already had a publisher. The only question was—would that publisher accept a book that was so radically different from the norm? And I have a publisher now. A PRECIOUS JEWEL was one of the first of my older books that I suggested for republication, and it has become a particular favorite of my editor at Bantam Dell.
Q: What struggles have you had on the road to being published?
A: It was a long time ago! My struggles were few, all thanks to the fact that I was such a greenhorm I had no idea how to go about getting published. When I had finished my first Regency romance, A MASKED DECEPTION, I bundled up the whole manuscript and sent it off with a very brief letter to a Canadian address I found inside the cover of a Regency romance I had enjoyed reading. That address turned out to be a distribution center! However, someone there read the manuscript, liked it, and sent it on to New York. Two weeks later I was offered a two-book contract. I never looked back after that.
Q: What has been the best part about being published?
A: It was (and is) the fulfillment of all my dreams. From childhood on I wanted to be a writer. As a child I used to write long, long stories. Being published enabled me to give up my teaching job and remain home with my growing family. It opened another world to me. It enabled me to make a comfortable living out of my imagination. What more could anyone ask of life?
Q: What do you want readers to remember and carry with them after reading your novel?
A: Basically, I would like readers to heave a great sigh of satisfaction at the end of the book and think, “How romantic! How absolutely lovely!” I would like them to feel convinced that love really is a powerful enough force to heal all the wounds of life that can prevent people from realizing their full potential and stop them from finding happiness in a committed relationship. I would like them to believe that love is a powerful enough bond to carry a couple through what remains of their lives no matter what obstacles the future might hold.
Q: Do you have plans to write another book?
A: I always have plans to write another book! I have just completed a quintet of books about the Huxtable family—three sister, their brother, and their male second cousin. The first four books were out during the spring of 2009. The fifth, A SECRET AFFAIR, Constantine’s story, is set to be released in hardcover at the end of June, 2010. Next up will be two “left-over” books from other series—a prequel to MORE THAN A MISTRESS and NO MAN’S MISTRESS featuring Lady Angeline Dudley and Lord Heyward, and a story for Gwen, Lady Muir, a minor character in ONE NIGHT FOR LOVE, A SUMMER TO REMEMBER and a few other related books.
Q: Would you care to share with us how the virtual book tour experience with Pump Up Your Book Promotion has been for you?
A: It hasn’t started yet except that I have been answering questionnaires like this one and preparing short essays for blog discussions. I am thoroughly looking forward to the whole experience. A tour from the comfort of my own office chair!
Q: Where can readers find a copy of your book?
A: Everywhere books are sold, I hope. The “Buy a Book” page at my web site ( www.marybalogh.com ) will take readers to numerous on-line bookstores in various parts of the world.
Q: Do you have a website for readers to go to?
A: Yes – www.marybalogh.com. Among other features there, readers will find an excerpt from A PRECIOUS JEWEL.
Thank you, Mary Balogh for sharing your book and characters with us today. It has been a pleasure and I hope you have had a successful virtual book tour.
MARY BALOGH is the New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Slightly series and Simply quartet of novels set at Miss Martin’s School for Girls, as well as many other beloved novels. She is also the author of First Comes Marriage, Then Comes Seduction, At Last Comes Love, and Seducing An Angel, all featuring the Huxtable family. A former teacher, she grew up in Wales and now lives in Canada. To learn more, visit the author’s website at www.MaryBalogh.com.