Hello, and Happy Easter to all celebrating! Though Jennieke Cohen's debut Dangerous Alliance came out in December, I think that a quarantine is no better time to send out a quick, how-did-you-do-it interview with the author herself.
But first, a summary!
Lady Victoria Aston has everything she could want: an older sister happily wed, the future of her family estate secure, and ample opportunity to while away her time in the fields around her home.
But Vicky's comfortable, idyllic life is overturned in the course of one night. Her sister's husband is a terrible cad and now Vicky must marry--or find herself and her family destitute. Armed only with wisdom she gained from her beloved Jane Austen novels, she enters society's treacherous season.
Sadly, Miss Austen has little to say about Vicky's particular circumstances: whether the gorgeous and roguish Mr. Carmichael is indeed a scoundrel, if her former best friend--the much-grown and very handsome Tom Sherborne--is out for her dowry or her heart, or even how to fend off the attentions of the foppish Mr. Silby, he of the unfortunate fashion sensibility.
Most unfortunate of all, Vicky's books are silent on the topic of the mysterious accidents cropping up around her...accidents that could prevent her from surviving until her wedding day.
And now, the questions:
1. Aside from Jane Austen (and similar writers), which writer inspired you to write Dangerous Alliance?
Austen and authors of other classics really were the biggest influences on Dangerous Alliance, but when I was in college, I also fell in love with the historical romances of Lisa Kleypas, Julia Quinn, Jo Beverley, and Eloisa James. I also really enjoyed Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily mysteries and wished I could do something similar. I wouldn’t say any single one of those authors directly influenced me to write Dangerous Alliance, but I think they collectively gave me something wonderful to strive for.
2. Who or what was the biggest inspiration for Vicky, and how did you use the world around you to develop her character?
Originally Vicky was very loosely based on me, and in earlier versions, she was snarkier and more bitter about the end of her friendship with her childhood friend Tom Sherborne. As I revised the novel, I spent time making Vicky into a more sheltered and naive teenager who was far more trusting of others, and much more obsessed with escaping into the worlds of her favorite books. From a young age, I loved immersing myself in all forms of media, and as a kid and young teen I had my fair share of times where I’d enact things from novels (which sometimes led to consequences I wasn’t too thrilled with) or I’d hope life would turn out like the movies. So it really wasn’t a stretch to imagine a sheltered girl who really believes her life should turn out like the novels she loves.
3. What would you do differently now that you are published, so that future writers can learn from any mistakes?
I would say that writers should always take chances when submitting their writing. Let me stress that you should always be polite to anyone you ask to read your material—even when you get feedback that you don’t think is helpful—but you also shouldn’t be so mindful of other peoples’ time that you talk yourself out of sending things.
When I started querying Dangerous Alliance, I had recently finished working with a literary agent, so I knew how much time went into going through the slush pile, and I didn’t want to be the person who was constantly asking for status updates (on non-requested material) or resubmitting queries in the hopes of getting an agent to read faster. I wanted to be polite and professional (which I was), but in the process, I also started to talk myself out of submitting to people for reasons such as: “They don’t say anywhere that they actually like historical books.” In reality, you can never truly judge if someone will like your writing. Now that my book is out, I am constantly reminded of this—so many people I know who I never would’ve imagined would like my book have told me how much they’ve enjoyed it, and there are those who I might have expected to like it who haven’t. So always let others make their own judgements about your work and keep (politely ;)) sending it out into the world.
4. Are you a plotter or a pantser when drafting/writing?
I’m mostly a plotter. Having a good plot is important to me, so I usually write out a general outline so I know the story follows the basic three act structure, but I don’t necessarily make my outline long or super detailed. When I’m writing a scene, I find it helpful to know what needs to happen in that scene before I start, but often I don’t know how I’m going to get from point A to point B until I’m in the midst of writing it.
5. How has being published changed your writing?
I don’t think it’s changed much yet, except that I feel a bit more confident that I (kind of) know what I’m doing and that now that I’ve gone through the whole process once, I can do it again. Process wise, I’m giving myself “permission” to write drafts that aren’t necessarily as fully fleshed out as I know it eventually needs to be/will end up being, and so far that’s been freeing.
Thank you so much Ms. Cohen and congrats on over 4 months of Dangerous Alliance's place in the world!
Got a book you want me to read? Send me a DM (@maevesbookshelf) or an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with a recommendation and why you think I should read it. Thanks for reading!