Ten years ago he was a boy, given the name Thomas Paxton and sent by Revolutionary France to infiltrate the British Intelligence Service. Now his sense of honor brings him back to London, alone and unarmed, to confess. But instead of facing the gallows, he’s given one last impossible assignment to prove his loyalty.
Lovely, lying, former French spy Camille Leyland is dragged from her safe rural obscurity by threats and blackmail. Dusting off her spy skills, she sets out to track down a ruthless French fanatic and rescue the innocent victim he’s holding—only to find an old colleague already on the case. Pax.
Old friendship turns to new love, and as Pax and Camille’s dark secrets loom up from the past, Pax is left with a choice—go rogue from the Service or lose Camille forever…
Jo: In this era -- from a bit before the American Revolution to the Battlefield of Waterloo -- most of what we take for granted about how we run governments and how we think about personal freedom was decided. This was a time of Big Ideas clashing. People were fighting over the right to vote. Freedom of religion. Equality under the law. Fair taxation.
Folks on both sides were passionate. People of Good Will disagreed. What better time and place to spy?
ZM: What draws you to the romance genre? Have you ever written any other genre?
Jo: I’m Historical Romance all the way, though I wrote nonfiction for years before I started writing fiction.
I want happy endings. I want heroes and heroines. I want brave, clever, principled characters who behave well under difficult circumstances. So I write Romance. Romance is, by definition, generally optimistic and with an upbeat ending.
ZM: As I said earlier, your characters are full and three-dimensional. Do you have any certain techniques for discovering them?
Jo: I think the answer to creating rich characters is to give yourself time. Sit and think about them. Go for long walks and imagine them. When you’re falling asleep, dream about the scenes of the book.
And then write the story. When you’re writing the characters will reveal themselves by their actions.
ZM: Many craft books stress that writers must read and read a lot. Who is your favorite author, or what is your favorite genre? What draws you to a book you read for enjoyment?
Jo: I don’t actually read much Romance genre. I have no idea why this should be the case. Maybe I’m scared that I’ll find myself picking up ideas from other writers. Maybe when a story is similar to my own it comes to jostle in my head too much.
So what do I read? I read strong stylists in any field. They have lots to teach me if I can only be sharp enough to pick it up. Dunnett, Sayers, Peter S. Beagle, Bujold, Douglas Adams ...many others.
But mostly what I read for fun is nonfiction. A good bit of that is the diaries and journals of people in my era of interest. I also read just off-the-wall stuff about the weird, unusual corners of reality. I’m re-reading Plagues and People right now, with its somewhat off-beat version of history. And I recently finished Travels With Charley. I’m a sucker for road books.
ZM: Are you already working on the next book, or is it time for a break? What do you do after the final rush of publication is over?
Jo: What do I do to celebrate the completion of a manuscript?
A nice meal at a good restaurant. Out for coffee with my betas and my friends and I buy everybody chocolates. And maybe I raise a glass of wine.
No time for a long break though.
As to the next work ... I’m frantically plugging away on the next manuscript. This will be the Severine story.
I’m at the stage when it seems impossible to write and nothing is fitting together and I am totally certain I will never be able to get it right. This stage starts when I realize I have another manuscript due and I don’t know what it is. It continues until I get the galleys of the book and know it is now Too Late To Change Anything.
ZM: Finally, what questions do wish interviewers would ask, but they never do?
Jo: I want interviewers to ask -- Do you have a Writer’s Cat?
And I will say that I have a Writer’s Cat who contributes bushels of fur to my efforts and lies across my keyboard when I am particularly brilliant and filled with ideas.
Everyone should have a Writer’s Cat.
ZM: ;-) My toy poodles are filling that function at the moment. Thank you for a lovely conversation and for such wonderful reads!