‘How to Dance with a Duke'! (Ugly Ducklings #1- Book 1, St. Martin's Press) I am so happy to have you here!
FBL ♥: Can you tell me and the readers how it feels and what it means to you to have your debut novel hitting the shelves tomorrow?
Manda: It’s almost indescribable. I’ve been waiting for this day for a very long time. I only started writing seriously a few years ago, but I’ve been toying with the idea since I was in college many moons ago. And I’ve been reading romance since I was thirteen years old. So it’s pretty amazing to know that I’m finally going to see a book I’ve written on the library or the bookstore shelf.
FBL ♥: Tell us about the day of “The Call". Was there Dancing? Screaming? Champagne popping?
Manda: I got the call and missed it! I was brushing my teeth and I thought I heard my cell phone ring, but I thought it was just wishful thinking on my part. So I finished getting dressed and went off to work. Two things told me that I was about to get big news. One was an email from my agent with the subject line: CALL ME!!! And the other was the Twitter notification that my editor had started following me. I called my agent, she told me the good news, and there was much quiet squeeing. (I work as an academic librarian by day so I couldn’t give in to the urge to really shout out my joy until later in the car.)
FBL ♥: Your debut novel is such a wonderful blend of historical fiction, romance, and mystery. What inspired you to take on such a layered project?
Manda: I’ve always been a big fan of mysteries and romantic suspense, so when I started writing it was always with a mystery as well as a romance in mind. I was a huge fan of Nancy Drew when I was growing up, so I wondered what would happen if I created a trilogy around three cousins with a similar dynamic to Nancy’s with her friends Bess and George only set during the Regency era, and without all of the social cachet Nancy seemed to have. What you end up with is The Ugly Ducklings, three cousins who fall in love and solve mysteries over a three book arc.
FBL ♥: The book has a rather unique theme centered around Egyptology. How did you come up with that (story, angle, idea)?
Manda: The Regency is well known for its Egyptian craze. During the Napoleonic wars there were competing expeditions between the English and the French in a race to see who would uncover the most antiquities and bring them back to Europe. When I was brainstorming about Cecily, I knew that she had to be a bluestocking, and since languages were a field that a lady could study without too much scandal befalling her, I made her a linguist. In turn, I needed a reason for Cecily and Lucas to need to work together. Having his brother serve as her father’s secretary on expeditions to Egypt was a useful way to do that. I also needed her to have a skill that Lucas would need to help him find his brother, so being able to translate her father’s journals would give her that. The rest, just fell into place.
FBL ♥: How do you develop your plot & characters? Do the characters come to you looking for their story to be told or do you get an idea and then find the right characters to tell it?
Manda: I started off thinking in terms of the entire trilogy first. Which meant I would need three very different heroines and three very different heroes. Cecily was the one who came to me first. I knew that I wanted to write a bluestocking. And I knew that she would need a hero who was, in the immortal words of Sheryl Crow “strong enough to be her man.” Who better to match wits with a woman who knows she’s smarter than most of the men she meets, than a former military hero? And the chemistry took off from there.
FBL ♥: While reading the book, you gave the readers a quick hint of something brewing between Lord Deveril and one of the Cecily’s cousins, “I have an interest in one of Miss Hurston’s cousins.” Can you give us a preview of what’s next in the Ugly Duckling series?
Manda: The next of the Ducklings to get her story is Juliet. Though I won’t say just yet who her hero is. You can figure it out if you check out my website;) Juliet has had a difficult time of it these past few years. Her mother is terrible. Her father doesn’t pay her very much attention. And though she’s a gifted musician she would rather fade into the background than shine in the spotlight. And she never, ever, likes to ask for help. But when her musical mentor goes missing, she’ll have to accept help from someone she never thought she’d talk to, much less join forces with.
FBL ♥: Get to Know You… Can you please tell us a little-known fact about yourself?
Manda: When I was in middle school, the TV show THE MONKEES was enjoying a renaissance. And I was one of it’s most adoring fans. Only problem was that they were all pretty old at that point, so I was totally crushing on the 1960s era Monkees and not their 1980s selves. My favorite? Davy Jones, because, natch he was British ;)
Where you can find Manda Collins: Website | Facebook | Twitter
To celebrate the release of 'How to Dance with a Duke', Manda is giving away a copy of this wonderful book to one (1) lucky winner. Open to US and Canada only. You must use the Rafflecopter form to enter to win.
In 'How to Dance with a Duke', Cecily was not your typical lady of the "ton", she was well educated and independent; she was a strong heroine but real enough that she had her own flaws. To be believable to me, the heroine is someone who she has faults, but must also have the strength to overcome the obstacles and ordeals they have experienced.
What do you guys think? Do you like stories with strong heroines? Why? I would love to hear from you!