Welcome, Joanna Bourne!
The amazing Joanna Bourne is here with us today to talk about her new release The Black Hawk. She'll also be giving away a copy to one lucky commenter! If you're like the rest of us, you're addicted to Jo's very special world of intrigue, and you're chomping at the bit to read Adrian's story...
Attacked on a rainy London street, veteran spy Justine DeCabrillac knows only one man can save her: Hawker, her oldest friend . . . her oldest enemy. London's crawling with hidden assassins and someone is out to frame Hawker for murder. The two spies must work together to find who's out to destroy them...
Black Hawk is set during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. That's from 1794, running to 1818. Is there any particular reason you chose these years? How did you become interested in this time period? What you love about it?
Romance genre was my gateway drug to the Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Century. I'll point to Georgette Heyer and her light-hearted Regencies and to Sergeanne Golon's sprawling Louis XIV world.
There's a fifty or sixty year period in the Eighteenth Century when our whole view of how people should live, and interact with one another, and be governed changed irrevocably.
When the Declaration of Independence talked about 'all men are created equal,' and 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,' and 'deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,' they are not stating old, well-established truths. These were hot new ideas.
What do you like least about this period? Anything that constrained you or that you had to plot carefully around? Anything you flat-out altered or “fudged”? If so, why?
There's the usual lack of washing and opportunity to pick up personal wildlife. I think anybody writing fiction in the past has to deal with this.
You want to know little thing that drives me nuts?
Hats. And gloves.
Anybody respectable was walking around with a hat on their head most of the time and pretty much universally gloves. And I refuse to picture my characters wearing hats. Especially my male folks. I do not think it is manly and heroic to wear hats, and I know this is narrow minded of me and I am sorry.
So generally I don't talk about this. Or think about it. And I just wish it would all go away.
Any gaffs or mea culpas you want to fess up to before readers get their hands on the book? I know I always seem to find one after the book has gone to press. *sigh*
I think I make mistakes all the time and mostly the readers are too polite to bring these to my attention. I know I did once put a reference to a 'kept woman' living in St John's Wood in London about thirty years before this would have been common. And I made at least one mistake in the timing of some backstory once.
The most impressive Black Hawk gaff is something I didn't do myself and didn't even know about till it was far too late to prevent. It's on the stepback cover, and I'll let folks have the joy of discovering it for themselves.
Tell us a little about your hero. Something fun, like his favorite childhood pet, or his first kiss.
Adrian has a cat. What happened was this:
When he was young and working for the King Thief of London -- that was a position of some prestige where he came from -- he had occasion to break into British Intelligence Service Headquarters with the intent of removing papers therefrom.
He got caught at it. This is one of those hazards of the thieving profession. And while he stuck knives into several Service agents, in the end he got subdued. His kneecap was dislocated in the process and it never did get entirely right again, which no doubt served as a reminder to avoid physical confrontation where possible. For anyone who's read some of the other books, Doyle's the one who did that to his knee.
In any case, Adrian ended up in a secure room in the attic where the Service put people they hadn't decided what to do with yet. It had a flap on the door for passing food in.
Adrian was laid up on a mat with his leg strapped to a board. This was tedious for him, even though he had the excitement of waiting for the Service to turn him over to the hangman. A bumbling six-week-old kitten pushed through the door flap every day. Adrian called it 'Cat' and started feeding it the best of his food and teaching it to fetch and so on.
It was Adrian's treatment of Cat that told the British Service the boy was worth keeping alive.
What sparked this book? Was it a character? An historical event? A scene you just couldn’t get out of your head?
I had some readers mention that they'd like to see a book with Adrian as the main character. I guess I was responding to that, initially. But when I started thinking about it, I got excited by the idea of giving Adrian his own happy ending.
I really like him as a character.
Did you have to do any major research for this book? Did you stumble across anything really interesting that you didn’t already know?
I always have to do major research.
Research on the Louvre building. There was a lot of that.
Research on assassination attempts on Napoleon. People just kept doing this, did you know? Going after that man with poison and pistol. I had no idea.
So I sat down and asked myself how one would go about killing the man and it turns out somebody or other had tried just about everything under the sun, so I was authentic no matter what I did.
I guess what surprised me most was that one of the earliest fire extinguishing pumps ever was installed in the Louvre just before my story takes place. So cool.
What/Who do you like to read?
I mostly read nonfiction, when I'm kicking my feet up and relaxing. I do enjoy journals and letters of the period I'm writing in. My fiction is a pretty mixed bag. Some Romance, some Fantasy, and the occasional mystery.
Right now I'm reading Stephen King's On Writing, Thomas Allen's George Washington, Spymaster, (Spymaster. Now that's a good title,) William McNeil's Plagues and People, and Alfred Cobham, Aspects of the French Revolution.
In fiction I've been doing a bunch of YA lately. Recently finished Julie Kagawa's The Iron King, Mary Stewart's Merlin trilogy, and Mercedes Lackey's The Fire Rose. I'm in the middle of Mary Jo Putney's Kiss of Fate. Next on the fiction bookshelf are Joann Ross', Out of the Mist, Emma Bull, War for the Oaks and Rhys Bowen, Her Royal Spyness.
Care to share a bit about your writing process? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you write multiple drafts or clean up as you go?
I have been trying to outline more and plan more so I don't end up doing these multiple drafts. I hate to write my way down a blind alley and then have to throw out lovely writing.
So you could call my method, 'in transition.'
What are you planning to work on next?
This book that's coming out now is Black Hawk. It's Adrian's story, as I say.
In Black Hawk, we have a spy for England and a spy for France, one each. Adrian Hawkhurst and Justine DeCabrillac. In the small spy community of Europe, everybody knows everybody else. These two have been friends and enemies and cautious allies and sometimes lovers.
But they can't be together. They can never wholly trust each other. This business of being on opposite sides in a long war is a complicating factor of great magnitude.
Now, after the war is over, someone's out to kill Justine . . . And frame Hawker for the deed.
The story after this, getting to your question, is Pax's story.