I love attending romance conferences for many reasons, one of which is that I get to (lovingly) accost my favorite authors. It’s so much fun! So you can imagine my delight when I got to sit down with Pennyroyal Green’s very own creator, Julie Anne Long, at the Romance Writer’s of America conference last week in New York. We discussed Lyon and Olivia’s story — The Legend of Lyon Redmond will be with us September 29 — Julie’s new series and more!
How did you know it was time to finally write Lyon and Olivia’s story?
I just think the arc progressed that way naturally. I had told the stories, the main stories, that I wanted to tell, and every little piece of it fit into the arc leading up to this moment. It was time.
Did you have everything plotted ahead of time? Did you always plan to sow the final seed in It Started in a Scandal when [SPOILERS!] Lavay sends Lyon the info on Olivia’s upcoming wedding?
I knew that was going to happen. I knew I was going to use Lavay that way, too. I sort of fell in love with Lavay in I Kissed an Earl, and a lot of readers did too. I knew he was going to be the connection between those worlds. He’s not an Eversea or a Redmond, but he’s the emissary that sort of sets that final story in motion.
Will Lyon and Olivia’s story be the final Pennyroyal Green title?
I’m leaving my options open right now. When you read the story you’re probably going to sense what could happen next. This wraps up the primary story and readers who are looking for resolution with the Lyon and Olivia situation will be happy with the outcome — I hope. But I left a few hints of things that could happen and I have some novella ideas that I’ve developed. I know readers have favorite characters that I’d like to give stories to.
How do you feel when readers ask for you to tell the story of a particular secondary character?
I’m surprised at who people respond to, like Seamus Duggan in It Started with a Scandal. As I was writing him, I didn’t realize he was going to become as interesting to me as he did. And I’ve had umpteen emails from readers saying, Are you going to do Seamus’s story? And it hadn’t occurred to me because he’s doesn’t seem to be a typical hero, but one of the fun challenges of making a book truly romantic is taking someone who may not be a typical hero, and turning him into a hero for a particular woman. And I have an idea for Seamus. Sometimes I hear what they’re saying and if a seed … it’s whatever I’m feeling. You sort of sit with it awhile and be like, can I feel their story unfolding? Him I can, and there are a few others I can too.
How was it writing The Legend of Lyon Redmond?
It’s bittersweet. It was a very emotional book to write, very involving. It was grueling. I’ve finished it quite a while ago, I’ve read it like 42 times since then, it feels like. I know that readers will be happy to read that book, as to how they respond to it … I hope they’ll be happy! You can’t predict that, but I’m accustomed to that with any book, you can never predict how it will be received.
Was it difficult to tie up all the storylines and loose ends?
It’s fun to do that, that little latticework that goes on through a particular series, I like that stuff. I’m fairly analytical, I have a pretty good strange memory for those things, so I think you’re going to find all the threads wrapped up — and if I don’t I’m sure I’m going to hear about it!
Do you have a series bible to keep track of it all?
I just remember! I didn’t think that was unusual before until someone said, REALLY? I just do. Part of it is because they feel real to me. You don’t forget your brother’s eyes. You know who they are, you know their personalities. If someone asks what your mother’s eye color was, you’d have that answer on the tip of your tongue. It’s kind of like that.
What will you be writing next?
I’m doing a contemporary series. I’m really excited about it. I’m having so much fun writing it, and I think that the same things people like in Pennyroyal Green they’ll find here — rich characterizations, unusual situations. It’s a small town but we’ll be able to move out of the confines of that town, like in Pennyroyal Green — you’re on the high seas or you’re in London.
Tell us more!
It’s a small-town series, set in the Gold Country in California. It’s an idealized small town. In that particular area it’s the Sierra Nevadas, we’re talking forests and craggy mountains and hills and rivers, it’s very wild. You have interesting contrasts between extreme poverty and some extreme wealth. There are a lot of land owners from the Bay area who have immense properties there. There are wineries. There are meth labs. And I find there are a lot of rich stories to be told in contrast. There are people who have solid family values, there are people who are a little bit dangerous. So I’ve set up a town that’s small and cozy but in contrast, there’s also the bad part of town, which is truly scary and where all the trouble originates, usually.
How was it writing a contemporary?
It wasn’t any challenge at all. It was fun because I have more access to metaphors, like I could use Muppet flailing. Research is more accessible. Like if I wanted to research the stitch of a side saddle, that took take me a long time to find that out, but if I wanted to find out who owns a billboard or how you get something put on a billboard, it was easy to find that information, so they go faster in some ways.
And also what’s fun is you can have different kinds of relationships, because people can have pasts. They can have sex pretty rapidly, and they can have previous marriages, and I think those relationships, they take you on your journey. So you still have similar conflicts, you have class conflicts, but you can also have more dynamic conflicts, too. You can have more modern situations. You can have someone who’s had a difficult marriage and has been divorced, there’s no stigma in that. You can have someone who’s hasn’t had sex in a long time and would really like to do that and you don’t have to be as careful around that, so you can launch them on a sexual journey that can be part of their character growth more rapidly than in a historical.
It’s a different way to write, it’s like a palette cleanser. I don’t feel like I’m leaving historical behind, but this is really fun to do and I’ve always wanted to do it.
I certainly can’t wait to read Lyon and Olivia’s story — out September 29 — or Julie’s new contemporary series, which is as yet untitled (believe me, I asked). As we wait, why not check out our Everything Romance page?